Good story-heavy games to play with others?
June 12, 2017 10:48 AM   Subscribe

I like to play visual-novel-esque games with my mostly-non-gamer girlfriend (and occasionally one other friend), with me "driving" and us all discussing the plot / themes / puzzles / choices as they occur. Looking for other games that do well with this "Let's Play"-meets-book-club type treatment.

My girlfriend and I chewed through the Phoenix Wright series while cuddled up together in bed or on the couch, with me holding the 3DS or phone and us both discussing theories and plot throughout.

A friend of ours also sometimes comes over to my place to play PC games in a similar way, minus the cuddling. Most recently we did "Night in the Woods" together, which we all loved. It was great being able to open theorize and discuss from the same base of knowledge without worrying about spoilers.

For games for just myself and the partner, I have Anrdoid, a DS, and a 3DS. For all three of us, I have a PC, a Nintendo Switch, and my friend has a PS3 I think.

Looking for:
  • Either not a lot of "action" between story drops, or the story is the game. Non-gamer-girlfriend is bored by grinding/game action.
  • A story which has some element of mystery. Really want to evoke that "what's gonna happen next?" feeling, and strong reactions on plot twists etc. (It can get a pass on this if it's really, really funny.)
  • Choices we can argue about.
  • Puzzles are fine, giving preference to "reasoning from clues" puzzles over stuff like "block-pushing" puzzles.
  • We're all queer ladies, so anything with gay stuff gets bonus points.
Stuff we liked:
  • Life is Strange
  • Phoenix Wright series
  • Night in the Woods
  • What Remains of Edith Finch
  • Her Story
Stuff already on my radar:
  • Oxenfree
  • Aviary Attorney
  • Hatoful Boyfriend
posted by one of these days to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (26 answers total) 44 users marked this as a favorite
Kentucky Route Zero
posted by tofu_crouton at 10:54 AM on June 12, 2017

King of Dragon Pass might be worth a look. It isn't very mystery-ish, but it's very well-suited to discussion and has no action to speak of, at least not in the twitch sense. YOu basically play the "guiding spirit," of a clan of viking-esque warriors as they settle in a new land, engage in disputes, war/trade with their neighbors and so forth. The big draw to the game is the 500+ random events, and the bickering, but amusing pool of advisors your clan can pick from. It's a really unique experience, half strategy, half something else.
posted by Alensin at 10:56 AM on June 12, 2017 [2 favorites]

Gone Home should tick a lot of your boxes.
posted by darksong at 11:03 AM on June 12, 2017 [7 favorites]

I think you might dig Ghost Trick. It's a DS game from the director of Ace Attorney. (There's an iOS port as well that lets you play the start of the game for free, but it's sometimes broken for extended periods after new iOS versions. Looks like it's been updated for iOS 10.) It has the twist-packed story and charming characters you'd expect from Ace Attorney, rendered with a lovely cartoon visual style.

Avoiding spoilers, all I'll say about the plot is that you wake up as a ghost and over the course of one long night discover the mysterious and bizarre circumstances around your death.

It has a fair number of puzzles, typically one or two major ones per chapter. Ghost Trick's puzzles are Rube Goldberg machines, where you play with the objects with a scene to see what they do, then find some way to combine them to do what you need. This sometimes requires timing, but I remember it being fairly generous.
posted by skymt at 11:26 AM on June 12, 2017 [3 favorites]

+1 to Gone Home

I would also recommend The Beginner's Guide (trailer).
posted by Zephyrial at 11:35 AM on June 12, 2017 [1 favorite]

Wolf Among Us and Firewatch are story-heavy mysteries that ticked the same boxes for us as Life Is Strange. Highly recommend both.
posted by lilac girl at 11:37 AM on June 12, 2017

Seconding Kentucky Route Zero, Gone Home, and Wolf Among Us.

2064: Read Only Memories
+ Almost entirely story with a bit of point-and-click but little puzzling
+ Murder mystery
+ Choices in how you treat the characters
+ Super hella queer

Blackwell series
+ Mostly story with a little bit of point-and-click reasoning puzzles
+ Lots of mystery
- No choices as far as I remember?
/ Nothing openly queer but given certain dialogue I'm FIRMLY CONVINCED Joey Mallone is bi

Dreamfall Chapters
+ Almost entirely story
+ Less mystery but still elements of "what's going to happen next"
+ Lots of choice that affect gameplay!
+ Openly queer characters
(This is the third in a series, but it's not super necessary to play the previous games. If you do, be warned that they're old-school adventure point-and-clicks, so expect a lot of puzzling and the general "what the fuck kind of solution is that" experience that tends to come with the genre.)

The Vanishing of Ethan Carter
+ Largely story, though it's the walking simulator slowly-piece-together-what-happened type
+ Mystery coming out of every crack
- No choices
- Nothing queer that I remember
posted by brook horse at 12:01 PM on June 12, 2017 [1 favorite]

Read Only Memories runs on Android and PC and is so good. (And it's made by MidBoss, the people who run GaymerX.)
posted by wintersweet at 12:03 PM on June 12, 2017

Ladykiller in a Bind?
posted by juv3nal at 12:07 PM on June 12, 2017

Are you interested in text adventures/interactive fiction? These come in a wide range of plot/theme/puzzle sophistication/focus and can be very fun to co-play. Download an interpreter for your PC and then you can play the "zblorb" or "z8" files of any of the below, freely downloadable at links.

Lost Pig is a fun, funny one with puzzles that aren't too frustrating -- a very good one for text adventure newbs.

With somewhat tougher puzzles, Anchorhead is a classic with a Lovecraftian vibe, and Savoir-Faire is a neat one with a clever magic mechanic that my partner and I enjoyed co-playing. Varicella is also one we enjoyed co-playing; well above average in terms of interesting character/plot/theme stuff happening, though the puzzles are very challenging.

Most of these have walkthroughs or hints accessible at the links, so if a puzzle is stumping you just hit the walkthrough!

Interactive Fiction Database for more (and here is a list of their top-rated games).
posted by anotherthink at 12:43 PM on June 12, 2017 [5 favorites]

Kathy Rain was pretty incredible. Great story-based, point-and-click adventure game with strong female characters and challenging puzzles.
posted by princeoftheair at 12:45 PM on June 12, 2017

Everybody's Gone to the Rapture sounds like a possible box-ticker for you.
posted by DrAstroZoom at 1:39 PM on June 12, 2017

A friend of mine did similar style of play-throughs with his wife for The Last of Us. It may be a little too "action"-y for what you are looking for. They played on a PS3.

If everyone likes Star Wars, the Knights of the Old Republic RPGs are classic. Again, may be a little too much action between story/dialogue for your tastes.

Nth-ing Firewatch.

Crafting-type games like Don't Starve could be fun to look into as well. It has the overall mystery of how the character ended up in the strange world, and a lot of walking around collecting resources and making things to survive, with plot twists of accidentally walking too close to a mating beefalo herd and getting trampled.

Portal 1 and Portal 2 are good puzzlers to work through with friends.
posted by jraenar at 1:54 PM on June 12, 2017

This sounds like something I need to try with my fiance (he's the gamer, I'm on board but dislike grinding).

Broken Age would be perfect for this. And yes, Gone Home should be at the top of your list.
posted by natabat at 2:25 PM on June 12, 2017

Going in a little different direction: can I recommend the wild and wacky world of board gaming?

Granted, 3 people is on the low end for my enjoyment of them (4 is the sweet spot, I think, but plenty of people play with 3), but here are some co-op (or at least non-competitive/story heavy) games that might scratch that itch.

Pandemic: you're a team working to prevent a global pandemic. Better yet, Pandemic: Legacy has a story that plays out over the course of 12-24 gaming sessions, and is regarded in some circles as the best (board) game ever.

Eldritch Horror: you're a team working to prevent some sort of Lovecraftian apocalypse.

Mansions of Madness: more straightforward Eldritch Horror (but similar), has a helper app that aids greatly in keeping things moving.

Dead of Winter: you're holed up trying to survive a zombie apocalypse. (You might have a traitor in your midst; up to you whether you want to run that risk).

Mice and Mystics: a campaign to save the kingdom, only you've been turned into mice. Kind of a scripted RPG.

Tales of the Arabian Nights: not exactly competitive, though not cooperative either, each player embarks on a strange adventure set in the land of 1001 Arabian Nights. Choose your own adventure-ish with a big companion book. Fun storytelling, especially if you embellish the written segments.

That's more then enough to start with.
posted by booooooze at 3:08 PM on June 12, 2017 [1 favorite]

Have you tried point and click adventures? It seems like you might enjoy something like Grim Fandango, and if you do that would open a whole genre.
posted by Lady Li at 3:24 PM on June 12, 2017 [2 favorites]

On my phone, possibilities off the top of my head:
Stanley Parable
Two Souls
Heavy Rain
Little Nightmares
posted by Ursula Hitler at 4:52 PM on June 12, 2017 [1 favorite]

my boyfriend and I played Inside together this way and it was awesome. solving puzzles, the game tells the story, very mysterious and creepy.

others I loved:
the vanishing of ethan carter
everybody's gone to the rapture

I have also played a bit of Kona lately, which is intriguing so far but the interface is kinda clunky and it's been making me feel a bit seasick after an hour or so.

the Witness is great - though heavy on puzzles, light on story. It may be fun with a group if you are good at puzzle solving together, and the scenery you walk through is great to look at. And seconding the portal games. but then I am a bit of a portal nut.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 11:37 PM on June 12, 2017

Seconding Pandemic, and then the extended version. Four of us spent a whole winter of Tuesdays playing out the story, debating and deciding the best courses of action. Super fun.
posted by AnOrigamiLife at 11:53 PM on June 12, 2017

999!!!! Great story and atmosphere, choices definitely worthy of argument. Unfortunately not much queer content that I remember. I haven't played the other two Zero Escape games (yet), though I hear they are just as good.
posted by jeudi at 2:09 AM on June 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

Crap. Not Halo. I meant Portal. Oh what a goose I am.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 2:10 AM on June 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

The Longest Journey (and maybe the sequels) - it's a bit old these days, occasionally annoying puzzles (but can be quickly solved with the internet), interesting (female) characters, an emotional arc and a mystery/thriller plot.

On the board game tack you could also explore the world of tabletop rpgs / literally story games. Sadly there's not a huge amount available for two players but Emily Care Boss' Romance Trilogy is definitely worth a shout although that's not really about mystery.
posted by Erberus at 6:10 AM on June 13, 2017

+1 for Ghost Trick. It's by the same people who made Ace Attorney and has a sort of similar feel. There's a slightly larger emphasis on solving puzzles, and it's possible they'll be too "moving blocks" for what you're looking for, but I greatly enjoyed the game and story.

You might also like Magical Diary? It's a visual novel with some very light RPG elements set in a school very like Hogwarts. The main character is female, and there are male and female friends and romances available to pursue.
posted by ashirys at 6:32 AM on June 13, 2017

I am seconding Ghost Trick and 999. Zero Escape Virtue's Last Reward (the sequel to 999) was good, but I felt it dragged a little. Don't play them out of order!

Hotel Dusk: Room 215 is fantastic and imo one of the best visual novels for the 3DS there is. It's really well done noir with puzzles.

I assume you've also played Perfect Prosecutor / Ace Attorney Investigations (the Miles Edgeworth counterpart to the main Ace Attorney series), but if you haven't, definitely check them out. In particular, the fan translation of Ace Attorney Investigations II is fantastic. It's actually my favorite game of the entire series. (You probably need an emulator for this one, I played mine on a DSTWO flash cart.)

Dangan Ronpa might be fun, although you need a certain sense of humor to really get it, I think. This is a "closed room" mystery where you have to figure out the murderer in each chapter. There are some action scenes at the end of each chapter so I'd play the trial sequences on easy, but it's mostly about the story.

I haven't played Long Live the Queen (PC) myself, but I've heard from friends it is very good. Basically, you are a princess who just inherited the rule of the kingdom with all the responsibility that implies.
posted by angst at 7:01 AM on June 13, 2017

I see upthread talk briefly turned to board games. I'd like to recommend two innovative mystery-themed games: T.I.M.E. Stories, which marries time travel, mystery and cooperation, and Mysterium, which doesn't have much story but is an innovative, co-op mystery-solving game.
posted by DrAstroZoom at 7:17 AM on June 13, 2017

YES, seconding Hotel Dusk! I can't believe I forgot that.
posted by jeudi at 6:35 AM on June 14, 2017

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