What are today's best avant-garde video games?
April 16, 2013 3:51 AM   Subscribe

What are the most innovative, creatively cutting-edge, yet polished, video games on the market at the moment? Especially in terms of their premise or storyline or story world (not so much their technical capability). For example, the conversation-based game about a bickering married couple called Facade.
posted by dontjumplarry to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (27 answers total) 155 users marked this as a favorite
posted by empath at 4:12 AM on April 16, 2013

Trawling through the RockPaperShotgun archive will probably throw up plenty of examples.
posted by pharm at 4:29 AM on April 16, 2013

Swords & Sworcery
posted by backwards guitar at 4:34 AM on April 16, 2013

posted by seanmpuckett at 4:48 AM on April 16, 2013 [3 favorites]

Antichamber might be relevant here. It's a game designed to subvert your expectations about how the world should work. Extremely enjoyable too.
posted by pipeski at 5:00 AM on April 16, 2013 [2 favorites]

Check out some winners from the Independent Games Festival.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 5:09 AM on April 16, 2013

Seconding Journey. It's not just a game, it's an experience.
posted by Kamelot123 at 5:17 AM on April 16, 2013

posted by EndsOfInvention at 5:22 AM on April 16, 2013 [3 favorites]

Every Day the Same Dream.

And another very strong recommendation for Journey.
posted by jbickers at 6:10 AM on April 16, 2013 [2 favorites]

Cart Life: A retail simulation for Windows.
posted by Nomyte at 6:45 AM on April 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

Most recently I enjoyed Perspective. It's somewhat similar in concept to Fez (which I also recommend) in the combination of 2d and 3d except it's more free-form.

And a little less recently I enjoyed To The Moon. It's the first game I've ever played that made me tear up due to the story. I wouldn't consider the actual gameplay as cutting edge in any way except in how it complements the story.
posted by Green With You at 7:20 AM on April 16, 2013 [2 favorites]

Kentucky Route Zero
posted by hellojed at 7:24 AM on April 16, 2013 [2 favorites]

Hotline Miami was one of my favorite games of last year.
posted by Oktober at 7:31 AM on April 16, 2013 [2 favorites]

Little Inferno
posted by pocams at 7:44 AM on April 16, 2013

Are you looking for a specific platform? PC, iOS, XBox, PS3... ?
posted by jeffamaphone at 7:45 AM on April 16, 2013

Thirty Flights of Loving is great, and a hell of a storyteller. (So's its predecessor, Gravity Bone, though that doesn't seem to have its own webpage.)

Dear Esther is a love-it-or-hate-it title, but it's again pretty interesting.

It's not out yet, but I'm really excited for Gone Home.
posted by ZaphodB at 9:22 AM on April 16, 2013 [2 favorites]

Katawa Shoujo. (Free download)

That means "crippled girls" in Japanese, but despite that it's in English. It's a Japanese-style dating game written by English-speaking fans, based in a special high school for people who are handicapped.

The protagonist boy has a heart condition. Among the girls in the game, one is missing her arms. One is deaf. One had her face burned in a fire. One is blind. One is missing her lower legs. Despite that, it isn't about fetishes.

It's gotten a lot of praise for the writing.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 9:25 AM on April 16, 2013 [2 favorites]

Dear lord, how could I forget: Frog Fractions.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 10:00 AM on April 16, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Oh boy, this might get long.

Puzzlers, platformers, and misc.
No one has to die
Quite a lot of Dejobaan's stuff falls into this category.
Zeno Clash
Much of Anna Anthropy's stuff fits, but especially her amazing dys4ia.

First-person walkers
As mentioned above, Dear Esther. It is also fairly text-heavy.
Bientôt l'été (Soon, the summer/Soon, it will be summer) (also text-heavy, in its own way)
The Stanley Parable
Journey (it also produced two other games, Flower and flOw, which might work with your requirements, but they are nowhere near as good)
Brendan Chung's two masterpieces, Gravity Bone (click the image of a square head at the bottom to DL) and Thirty Flights of Loving.

and, The Path

Twine, Inform, visual novels, and other text-heavy genres

Possibly the yet-to-be-released That Dragon, Cancer, discussed here.
A lot of Porpentine's stuff is the avant-gardest. Seriously, it's hard to recommend a game because she's constantly pushing the boundaries (a text-only farm 'simulator,' for instance).
The work of Emily Short. I especially recommend Galatea, Damnatio Memoriae, and either First Draft of the Revolution or Bee.
The work of Christine Love, especially Analogue: a hate story and Digital: a love story.
Aaron Reed both makes and writes about these types of game.
Shade and other works by Plotkin.
You also might want to look at IF winners (link to 2012 list), including Lost Pig.
posted by flibbertigibbet at 11:02 AM on April 16, 2013 [16 favorites]

Papa y Yo is ostensibly a platformer/puzzle game with elements of magical realism but is better understood to be a bildungsroman featuring a young boy and his alcoholic father who is transformed into a sometimes helpful monster that the boy has to keep pacified by way of a gaming mechanic.

Errant Signal really liked Little Inferno and makes a great case for it.

Spec Ops: The Line has been much celebrated as an effective criticism of the modern military FPS.

Bastion is a really solid offering that seamlessly blends game mechanics with storytelling (not to mention having an amazing soundtrack and an excellent voice actor).
posted by dubusadus at 12:46 PM on April 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

I forgot The Unfinished Swan.

It was a good year for advancing the narrative of video games, between Spec Ops, Bioshock Infinite, and the game I'm about to mention. It's not particularly innovative nor particularly cutting-edge in most aspects, but Telltale's The Walking Dead is profoundly wonderful in the amount of care and time went into creating actual humans who you care about in a game. It and Journey are the only two games to have made me cry, although for very different reasons. (N.B.: there are currently 2 games called 'The Walking Dead' for sale. One is a terrible shooter subtitled 'Survival Instinct', the other an emotional adventure game. I've also heard that if you buy the Telltale version on a disc it suffers from extreme performance issues when compared to the downloaded version).
posted by flibbertigibbet at 1:17 PM on April 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

ANything by Cactus
posted by GilloD at 4:17 PM on April 16, 2013

This came out very recently in beta, but Papers Please is excellent, as are the rest of Pope's games.
posted by flibbertigibbet at 4:36 PM on April 17, 2013

The Papa y Yo story in Buzzfeed's tech section today made me really wish I could play it, as it sounds like nothing I've ever played before.
posted by mathowie at 4:02 PM on April 18, 2013

The games that stick out to me in the cutting edge tend to use atmosphere, environment, and gameplay to tell a story or convey a mood.

Space Funeral - A JRPG that doesn't break the genre too much in terms of gameplay, but the aesthetic consistency and atmosphere are amazing.

Tape Dream - An impenetrable and creepy 3D adventure game. You play as a person investigating a groaning, threatening and mysterious crypt.

Slave of God - You explore a drug fueled night in a club.

Murderdog - An adventure game about a dog on trial in the Hague for his crimes against humanity.

The Knytt Franchise - Giant, beuatiful, well rendered worlds to explore Metroidvania style.

Yume Nikki (Dream Diary) - Is an incredibly creepy and atmospheric exploration of a young girl's nightmares.

Mastaba Snoopy - Insane body horror text adventure.

I can also second Hotline Miami, Porpentine's body of work (start with Howling Dogs, maybe?), Cactus' stuff (especially Keyboard Drumset Fucking Werewolf... it's like you're playing a punk song), and Gravity Bone (I didn't like 30 flights of loving that much since it's like 10 minutes long, costs money, and has weaker gameplay elements).

I've heard that Kentucky Route 0 is very good, and plan to play it myself, but haven't gotten around to it yet.
posted by codacorolla at 7:47 AM on April 19, 2013 [3 favorites]

As previously featured on MeFi, The Gostak - an interactive fiction / text adventure where the language is alien.
posted by Earl the Polliwog at 10:17 PM on April 19, 2013

ZaphodB, aren't you nice! (I'm one of the Gone Home team. I wanted to see what people were talking about in this thread, and gosh!)
posted by zusty at 6:06 PM on April 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

« Older Give me the best hip-hop tracks to kill the...   |   X11 apps on Ubuntu Touch? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.