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September 26, 2021 12:22 PM   Subscribe

I just finished Contradiction and I loved it. I also liked Her Story, Everybody's Gone to the Rapture, and Dear Esther. I loved exploring a mystery, with no urgency or time pressure. I tried Erica, but it was too bloody and horrible. So I am not interested in horror games, but murder as a theme is OK. Beautiful graphics and good acting ideally. Can you recommend others? I'm on a PC. Thanks for any suggestions!
posted by pH Indicating Socks to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (31 answers total) 57 users marked this as a favorite
I love Hypnospace Outlaw!
posted by johngoren at 12:28 PM on September 26, 2021 [1 favorite]

Outer Wilds is a gorgeous contemplative mystery in space. There is little time pressure, but you do have to/get to pilot a spaceship.
posted by february at 12:33 PM on September 26, 2021 [1 favorite]

Firewatch and Disco Elysium
posted by multivalent at 12:33 PM on September 26, 2021 [1 favorite]

Oh and Kentucky Route Zero is good, but a bit varied, some of it really strong, some maybe a bit too try-hard. But the previous two games are some of my favourite gaming experiences of late.
posted by multivalent at 12:34 PM on September 26, 2021

I highly recommend Gone Home, it sounds exactly up your alley.
posted by ejs at 12:46 PM on September 26, 2021 [7 favorites]

I personally found Outer Wilds to be pretty stressful and disliked the time pressure elements in it, so that wouldn't be my first choice given those other games. Very rewarding and interesting though.

I strongly recommend What Remains of Edith Finch because it's a very creative look at this type of game, it combines house exploration with flashbacks that have very different styles and interaction.
posted by JZig at 12:52 PM on September 26, 2021 [7 favorites]

SOMA is a horror/sci-fi game but it has an option to disable the wandering monsters that makes it a lot less stressful. There is definitely an aspect of unraveling a mystery and with the monsters/stealth aspect removed there’s not much in the way of time pressure.
posted by murphy slaw at 2:04 PM on September 26, 2021

If you like Her Story, Sam Barlow's even more ambitious follow-up Telling Lies is an easy recommendation.

Return of the Obra Dinn is one of my all-time favorites, and has you piecing together the events that led to a ship being abandoned by investigating vignettes of the past. There are grim fates involved, but it depict them statically and it isn't particularly gory.

Tacoma is kind of like a sci-fi Obra Dinn, and essentially no violence in it.

Seconding Gone Home, from the same.developers as Tacoma.
posted by subocoyne at 2:35 PM on September 26, 2021 [2 favorites]

I loved exploring the bizarre world of Paradise Killer. There's no combat and you can take as long as you want to solve the mystery and explore the world. (Its aesthetic is quite a bit different from the games you mentioned above and there isn't really any voice acting, though.) Second Hypnospace Outlaw.
posted by microscopiclifeform at 2:36 PM on September 26, 2021 [1 favorite]

Overboard!. (There is time pressure in any individual runthrough, but the whole point is that you play over and over.)
posted by dfan at 2:37 PM on September 26, 2021

Everything mentioned above and I would maybe add Gorogoa, The Beginner’s Guide, and Oxen Free. Think you’ll particularly like the latter.

Also maybe Life is Strange.
posted by iamkimiam at 3:00 PM on September 26, 2021 [3 favorites]

omg this is an awesome thread - I love these kinds of games too, so loving everyone's suggestions.
Night in the Woods and oxenfree are also awesome
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 3:00 PM on September 26, 2021 [4 favorites]

The Vanishing of Ethan Carter has some scary bits, I think, but is otherwise an atmospheric story-driven walking simulator type game like What Remains of Edith Finch (seconded recommendation).

Observation is maybe not that explore-y and more puzzle-y, but it takes place in a space station and you poke around in it to figure stuff out.

Draugen is another atmospheric horror mystery game where you wander around a very beautiful but abandoned Norwegian town in an island.
posted by automatic cabinet at 3:05 PM on September 26, 2021

Also Vanishing of Ethan Carter.

And while I’m here again, I’ll throw in my all time favourite slow rolling game, Journey. It has no dialogue but it’s gorgeous, delightful, and you’re solving the mystery of what happened to an ancient people.
posted by iamkimiam at 3:05 PM on September 26, 2021 [1 favorite]

Simulacra and Simulacra 2. Both are horror oriented "lost phone" narrative. In (1), you found a phone that seems to belong to "Anna". Her last video message was a desperate cry for help. What's wrong with the phone as it seems to be glitching? In (2), an obsessed detective hired you to go through a phone regarding the death of an influencer... by going through her phone. For he suspected, her death was not an accident...

Or for a simpler story, A Normal Lost Phone and Another Lost Phone: Laura's Story. where you simply found this unlocked phone and with a little (simulated) hacking, you unlock a story told from within the messages, emails, and whatnot contained within the phone. Neither are horror based, but both are mystery.

For detective work with a creative presentation, I recommend Unheard... You play a detective asked to solve a case where you can listen to EVERYTHING inside a building, but obviously, not all at once. There are multiple cases, from murder to double-cross to "accident", and there are some shocking twists at the end. There's also a free DLC extra crime you can download.
posted by kschang at 3:26 PM on September 26, 2021

If you're willing to substitute characters and mystery with puzzle-solving in a world you can explore at your own pace, The Witness is excellent. The puzzles end up quite challenging, but are "fair" in the sense that they all build on rules and principles that the game teaches you as you figure out how to play it.
posted by are-coral-made at 4:05 PM on September 26, 2021 [1 favorite]

Strong disagreement about The Witness, but it is at least slow and wander-aroundy. It is not, unfortunately, good.

Beyond what's been mentioned here - Firewatch and What Remains Of Edith Finch are wonderful, and basically anything Annapurna Interactive has touched is precisely what you're looking for - let me add The Stanley Parable, whose creators went on to make Dr. Langeskov, The Tiger, and The Terribly Cursed Emerald: A Whirlwind Heist and the much longer The Beginner’s Guide, both of which are more story-walkthroughs than games.

Homesick and Lifeless Planet are moodier, but also good. Psychonauts 1 and 2 are brilliant.

Put down what you're doing and start playing The Outer Wilds immediately.
posted by mhoye at 4:32 PM on September 26, 2021 [5 favorites]

Seconding Paradise Killer -- I adore that game -- and several of the others above: Firewatch, Outer Wilds, Gone Home, What Remains of Edith Finch. The Forgotten City is another solid mystery. Lately, I've been enjoying Infra. First-person walking-simulator-esque mystery games are one of my favorite categories.
posted by The Great Big Mulp at 4:40 PM on September 26, 2021

Thanks for asking this question - I'm excited to try some of the suggestions from this thread.

Most things I'd recommend were already mentioned here (Hypnospace Outlaw, Gone Home, Obra Dinn, Night in the Woods, Gorogoa, oxenfree)-anything from Annapurna Interactive is probably worth at least trying to see if it hooks you.

I also enjoyed Donut County - it's kind of Katamari Damacy in its mechanics, but it centers around a mystery and lets you set the pace.

If you're enjoying the detective work of Contradiction, you might try the Ace Attorney series - it scratches the same itch of figuring out holes in people's stories. It's fairly silly and lighthearted (even when investigating a murder). There's a great letsplay from the YouTube channel Press Buttons 'n Talk of the first series if you want just a taste.
posted by abry0 at 4:59 PM on September 26, 2021 [1 favorite]

Oh, I forgot: Superliminal is also delightful.
posted by mhoye at 5:06 PM on September 26, 2021 [1 favorite]

I agree with most of the above suggestions (at least the ones I've played).

Some others:

Eastshade: Beautiful walking simulator. Possibly the lowest pressure game I've ever played.
Marie's Room: Short, single room mystery, free on Steam.
What Never Was: Also a short, single room mystery that's free on Steam.
Before Your Eyes: Narrative mystery, similar to What Remains of Edith Finch with an unusual gimmick.

I agree Annapurna has a good track record, although I think their recent "12 Minutes" has too many problems to recommend.
posted by justkevin at 6:12 PM on September 26, 2021 [2 favorites]

I just played Obra Dinn and it’s exactly what you’re looking for.

Outer Wilds is one of my all time favorite pieces of media/art ever. It MIGHT have some scary bits though. But I also can’t recommend googling it at all — it’s AMAZING spoiler-free — there is at least one place with a potential jump scare is all.
posted by caitcadieux at 6:42 PM on September 26, 2021 [1 favorite]

The Outer Wilds has a great concept and execution, but it's main conceit does involve a certain amount of time pressure, which involve a minor spoiler to explain. You do have infinite retries, so you might still like it!

The Witness doesn't necessarily have an overarching mystery, but the puzzles and wandering around the gorgeous world are fun. [Unfortunately the developer has a reputation of being a dick I learned only after having played.]
posted by mrgoldenbrown at 7:59 PM on September 26, 2021

I think it's important to always remind people that the Outer Wilds is a fun puzzle game, while the Outer Worlds is a fun shooting and talking game. People have been disappointed in mistaking one for another. You definitely want Outer Wilds, not Outer Worlds (unless you like sarcastic bright color RPGs).
posted by seasparrow at 9:28 PM on September 26, 2021 [1 favorite]

If you enjoyed Contradiction then take a look at Dark Side of the Moon from the same people. It even features the actor who played Jenks, the most magnificent/camp/terrible part of Contradiction!
posted by Klipspringer at 2:02 AM on September 27, 2021

I second a whole bunch of the above recommendations, especially Firewatch (best voice acting I've encountered in a game); Gone Home (very low key, all about exploration and letting the story unfold); Goragoa (maybe more puzzle-based than mystery based, but a really beautiful experience); and Life Is Strange (great characters.)

I will warn you that Oxenfree (while a great game) is creepy and sometimes scary. It's not bloody or explicit -- more like creepy David Lynchian horror.

Adding on to what has already been suggested:


I loved Tangle Tower. I found the ultimate solution a little unsatisfying, but the experience of getting there was so much fun that I didn't mind at all.

LA Noire came out to tremendous hype, and then got mixed reactions -- players seemed to love or hate the central gameplay mechanic, which involves reading facial expressions to figure out who is lying. I'm in the "loved it" camp. It made me feel more like a real detective than any other game I've played.

I started playing Jenny LeClue, Detectivu and really enjoyed it, but then I saw a bunch of comments from people who complained that the game ended without revealing the solution to the main mystery, so I stopped playing to spare myself future frustration. I will probably return to it if they ever release a sequel that resolves things.

Murder Mystery Machine has a great idea for a mechanic: you draw connections between clues like you're a detective standing in front of a big pinboard. I say "great idea" because I found the implementation frustrating; I found myself knowing the solution to a mystery but not knowing what lines I was supposed to draw to prove that I knew it. But some players have really loved the game, so maybe I just don't think the right way for it.

All of the above are available for PC. But if you also have an iOs device, Tangle Tower, Jenny LeClue, and Murder Mystery Machine are all included in Apple Arcade, so it might be worth signing up and giving them a try.

PS: Thank you for asking this question! I'm excited to discover a whole thread full of people who like the same kinds of games I do, and I've added a whole bunch of new games to my wishlist.
posted by yankeefog at 2:22 AM on September 27, 2021

The Witness is a very clever puzzle game (with beautiful graphics) but not really what OP is looking for.

Second The Return of the Obra Dinn. There are some gruesome deaths but they're only rendered in 2-bit color. The core mystery is magnificent and the game expects you to pay attention and make suppositions. I wish I could erase it from my brain to play it again.
posted by neckro23 at 9:33 AM on September 27, 2021

Oh, if you're in here nodding a long to a lot of this thread, reminder that the first DLC for Outer Wilds, "Echoes Of The Eye", lands tomorrow, the 28th.
posted by mhoye at 1:44 PM on September 27, 2021

Two more suggestions:

The folks who did the Simulacra series did a new game for BBC called Doctor Who: The Lonely Assassins, also a "found phone" narrative game where the Weeping Angels returned. Features some secondary characters in Doctor Who needing your help. ANd it's currently only 2.99

Submerged -- while it's technically a platformer, there is no death, and no enemies in this game. As the big sister in a post-apoc landscape where the cities are flooded, and your little brother had fallen sick, you need to explore the buildings all around you, trying to find a treatment for your little brother. A sequel is coming soon. It's often discounted, so wait for a sale.
posted by kschang at 5:16 PM on September 27, 2021

If you end up liking "Life is Strange", you might also want to try Tell Me Why by the same video game developer.
posted by Julnyes at 8:46 AM on September 29, 2021

Oh, if you're in here nodding a long to a lot of this thread, reminder that the first DLC for Outer Wilds, "Echoes Of The Eye", lands tomorrow, the 28th.
posted by mhoye at 4:44 PM on September 27

I came back to this thread 'cause I was one of those people that i) loved Outer Wilds but ii) doubted that Outer Wilds was a good recommendation for OP, because it had time pressure and jump scares.

I've been playing Echoes of the Eye and without getting into spoilers, suffice it to say that it leans into the horror elements HARD. OP, would not recommend for you.
posted by ZaphodB at 12:24 PM on October 1, 2021 [1 favorite]

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