Detective Game Recommendations?
December 9, 2017 4:14 PM   Subscribe

Please share with me your recommendations for good detective games to get caught up in! Details under the fold.

I enjoy games of the detective, adventure, puzzle, mystery, and character-based single-player variety. I used to enjoy them a lot and would like to play good games like this again.

Similar games I have enjoyed in the distant past and would like to find more of are: Other games less explicitly in the detective genre that I have played recently and enjoy:
  • Life is Strange - I enjoyed the stories and gameplay and setting, I appreciate the diversity of the characters
  • Night in the Woods - Good writing
  • Kentucky Route Zero - Just fantastic and engaging in nearly every way
  • Hidden Folks - so lovely!
Games I might like but have not played:
  • L.A. Noire
  • The Stanley Parable
There are some games that I thought would fit the bill but ended up a real disappointment. These games generally lacked the charm, cohesiveness, and pacing of the experiences above.

Games I have played and did not enjoy:
  • Crimes & Punishments: Sherlock Holmes for PS3 - Immersive 3D spaces and realism at the expense of quick load times and an easily-navigable world.
  • Dear Esther - Graphics over actual gameplay puzzles. Really slow.
  • What Remains of Edith Finch - I couldn't handle the first-person camera.
  • Her Story - It’s biggest downfall was not making it clear when the game was “over”.
  • Gone Home - The real story seemed to be about the parents, which was sidelined for the kids’ stories. The playable character was laughably out of touch. Gameplay was tedious. First person camera was extremely uncomfortable.
  • Antichamber - Too much abstract puzzle designed to be clever, too little narrative engagement.
  • The Witness - to be fair, I haven’t played The Witness. It was described to me as a cold puzzle game which does not appeal to me.
  • Firewatch - I also have not played Firewatch. It’s seeming lack of meaningful player choice does not appeal to me.
I am also looking to avoid anything explicitly gory/horrific. Mild spooks are fine. I stay away from “Action” and “Action-Adventure” because I enjoy focusing on exploration and discovery over dexterity and fast response times.

I have easy access to a PS3, PS4, Mac, Android phone, Nintendo Wii and Nintendo DS. Also a Windows machine and an iPhone in a pinch, but those are less easily-accessible to me.

Thank you for your recommendations!
posted by Goblin Barbarian to Media & Arts (12 answers total) 32 users marked this as a favorite
You might be interested in Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors. It's really more of a puzzle game than a detective game, but if you enjoyed Phoenix Wright you will probably enjoy it, too. It also has a sequel which I have not played but which I've heard might actually be better than the original.

A series I've never played but which is a cult favorite and might interest you: the Danganronpa games.

You might be interested in Analogue: A Hate Story- I generally like Christine Love's work but for some reason have never been able to finish Analogue. There's a trial so you can see if it's your thing before buying.

All of these are 'anime' to varying degrees, but that's because you've pretty much already listed all the Western recommendations I had in mind, hah.

I agree that you will probably like LA Noire and The Stanley Parable.
posted by perplexion at 4:28 PM on December 9, 2017 [1 favorite]

This sort of game is totally my jam right now!

There was a sequel to Hotel Dusk! It's called Last Window: The Secret of Cape West and although it was never released in the US, the DS is region free and a European copy will play just fine on your DS. The only problem is that copies go for a pretty penny on eBay.

On that note, the same studio also made another mystery game called Again (DS), but the investigation segments are a bit tedious so I hesitate to recommend it. I'm halfway through and I find the mystery mildly interesting, though I don't know yet how it ends...

I highly recommend playing the rest of the Phoenix Wright games -- most, if not all, should be available for Android now!

The Professor Layton series (mostly on DS, some on 3DS) is basically a light, charming mystery story + brainteaser type puzzles. I'm not sure if it's on the same level as the sort of stuff you're looking for, but it's definitely worth a look.

I second the recommendation for 999; there is now a PS4 compilation called The Nonary Games that has the first two games in the series (999 and Virtue's Last Reward). The third, Zero Time Dilemma, is available for PS4 as well. (PLAY THEM IN ORDER! This is non-negotiable!)

Another hearty second for the Danganronpa series, which is also on PS4 now, and although it can be a bit gruesome, it's very cartoony and not gross and horrific. I am squeamish and not a fan of horror games and I did just fine with DR but others may have different tolerance levels. Play Danganronpa 1, 2, and v3 in that order (also non-negotiable).

I recently played Jake Hunter: Memories of the Past (DS) and it reminded me of a much more linear Phoenix Wright. It's fairly hand-holdy in that you can't really screw up.

Lastly, I have one tangentially related suggestion: Steins;Gate (PS4). It's a mystery/scifi/thriller visual novel, so there really isn't much of a gameplay element to it, but the characterization and narrative are very strong. It's one of the most compelling stories I've ever encountered in a video game, and it even ranks up there with some of my favorite fiction. If you think you'd be down for a lot of reading, I recommend going into the game as blind as possible to avoid spoilers. Steins;Gate 0 is the sequel, despite the name, so make sure you play them in the right order again!
posted by phatkitten at 4:53 PM on December 9, 2017

Ghost Trick? (DS and IOS, unless it's no longer supported)
posted by lmfsilva at 4:54 PM on December 9, 2017

OMG how could I forget Ghost Trick you must play that one immediately
posted by phatkitten at 4:58 PM on December 9, 2017

Oxenfree has a strong kinship with your “other games less explicitly[...]” list.
posted by a box and a stick and a string and a bear at 8:12 PM on December 9, 2017

The Blackwell Chronicles games are classics, and have great pixel art.
posted by ohkay at 8:38 PM on December 9, 2017 [1 favorite]

The Turing Test is a PC game where the player is entering a mining station on Jupiter's moon, Europa, to investigate the loss of contact with the researchers there. The player-character discovers quickly that she's being tested by the puzzles that someone designed into the station, and that it's a Turing Test, which would allow a human to get through the puzzles, but not Tom, the AI assistant that guides the player-character into the maze. As the story is revealed, there's some low-grade existential horror that comes in, but no gore. It's comparable to "Portal," perhaps without quite the polish.

It's primarily a puzzle game, but set in the midst of an SF mystery.
posted by Sunburnt at 8:38 PM on December 9, 2017

Broken Sword
posted by KateViolet at 11:09 PM on December 9, 2017

Are you open to something not digital? The Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective reprints are amazing, and can be played by yourself or with other people. A review.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 1:00 AM on December 10, 2017 [3 favorites]

There are FMV versions of some of the same Sherlock Holmes cases on Steam for PC - some of the world's hammiest acting, but good fun, if you're not looking for the paper version. (I have both and still enjoyed playing the PC version second.)

Contradiction is weird and funny - a series of video 'interviews' where you work to spot the lies and inconsistencies in order to solve the murder. It was pretty satisfying and I've craved more mysteries like that since finishing it, so don't let some of the goofy acting put you off initially. I think it's available for Mac and PC.
posted by carbide at 1:09 AM on December 10, 2017

I came in to say Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective. I've played a ton of video and board games, and nothing else has come closer to capturing the feeling of being a classic detective-fiction detective.
posted by Ted Maul at 6:05 AM on December 10, 2017

Oh yeah absolutely play Ghost Trick. It's by the creator of Phoenix Wright! Lovely animation, too.
posted by perplexion at 10:25 AM on December 10, 2017

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