Top 10 Best Mystery Games of All Time
Do you want to feel like a modern day Sherlock Holmes? Then these modern mystery games for the PC, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 will have you donning your detective hat and peering through the lens of a master detective.
by Ian Miles Cheong on 17th Jun, 2013
Best Mystery Games
Ah, mystery. That hard to define, catch all genre for titles that feature plots in which something is strangely... off. It all started in the 1990s when nobody had any idea what genre to stick the X-Files TV show into. Ever since then, every show, movie, book or video game that featured some sort of supernatural element, that was a bit spooky without being outright horror, was classified as just that: Mystery.
Also, in the 1990s, there were a ton of adventure games that ended up populating the mystery genre. Those were usually adventure games for older people, for more adult audiences, that deemed themselves too grown up, too mature to deal with the kiddie stuff of the popular, cartoonish adventures. During the heyday of the graphic adventure genre in the early 90s, there was an outright deluge of weird, more mature themed titles, the worst of which heavily featured one of 90s video games worst sins in full motion video (FMV) sequences.
So on this list you will find a selection of the best of those old titles, alongside some modern mystery adventures from the last few years. Here we will not deal with horror games of any kind, for those games we have some other lists. And now without further ado, let’s descend into mystery.
10: Alan Wake
A long time in the making, this game, originally a timed exclusive for the Xbox 360, was developed by Remedy, of Max Payne fame. Alan Wake features the eponymous writer, who has to unravel the dark secrets lurking beneath the surface of Bright Falls, a small town in the Cascade Mountains of the Pacific Northwest. Things go bump at night, Alan’s wife goes missing, and he finds himself on the wrong end of a police manhunt. And maybe inside one of his own novels. While the game’s plot is steeped in mystery, the gameplay is strongly focused on action, making it an outlier on this list.
Platform: Xbox 360 & PC
9: Black Mirror
Developed by Czech studio Future Games, Black Mirror is a game that gave hope to many of the old school adventure fans that the genre wasn’t completely dead in the water yet, back in the early 2000s. The game features an expansive story, a ton of intricate puzzles, a great soundtrack and very beautifully rendered scenes to explore. It’s something of a rough little forgotten gem that adventure fans still praise today.
8: Heavy Rain
Oh what a game this could have been. David Cage’s masterpiece. A long time before the game was anywhere close to going gold, the developers started showcasing their - admittedly astounding - technology. It was supposed to allow for truly emotional performances by the digital actors. The final product didn’t prove to be too convincing for a lot of people, however the multi-protagonist hunt for the Origami Killer succeeded in finding a lot of fans nonetheless. Even if the game’s story is a bit flat, at least it’s a game that tries some new ways of doing things. And as The Walking Dead proves, it succeeded in starting off a new way of doing adventure games.
Platforms: PS3 [Exclusive]
7: 7th Guest
Starting off the big era of CD-ROM games, this creepy adventure game tasks the player with solving an array of twenty one puzzles in a mysterious old mansion, unveiling the secrets the place holds. Revolutionary at the time, the game featured intricately rendered graphics and real actors in full motion video sequences that told the story of the mansion. The game proved to be a big factor in boosting the sale of CD-ROM drives, and kicked off the FMV driven interactive movie adventure game genre of the early 90s.
Platforms: PC, Mac OS & iOS
Delivered on no less than seven CD-ROMs, Phantasmagoria was the embodiment of the mid-90s interactive movie fad. Controversial due to its sexually loaded horror content, the game stirred a lot of discussions about harsher age restrictions when it was released in 1995. Launched with a lot of surrounding hype, Phantasmagoria proved to be a best-seller. Experienced today though, almost twenty years later, it has aged quite badly, the script being rather weak, the acting wooden and the gameplay not very inspired. Nonetheless, the game was one of the biggest success stories of Sierra’s star designer Roberta Williams.
Platforms: PC & SEGA Saturn
5: Gemini Rue
Heralded by many critics as a return to form of the venerated graphic adventure genre, this noir cyberpunk story should prove a breakthrough success for indie developer Wadjet Eye Games. Released in 2011, Gemini Rue features a deliberately retro style throughout, from environments to gameplay mechanics. The game tells an expansive science fiction story with a lot of twists and turns, set in the 23rd century.
Platforms: PC & iOS
4: The Beast Within: A Gabriel Knight Mystery
Another Sierra FMV title, this second entry to the Gabriel Knight series sets the eponymous investigator of the supernatural on the tracks of a werewolf, that is on the prowl in quaint Bavaria. The game delves in Bavarian history and folklore, featuring locations as Neuschwanstein castle, itsplot revolving around a lost opera from German composer Richard Wagner and the famed Bavarian King Ludwig II. Gameplay takes place with actors filmed on a set, performing all the actions, which required the game to take up a whopping six CD-ROMs, making it an enormously huge title at its time of release in 1995.
Platforms: PC & SEGA Saturn
3: LA Noire
Another game with quite the troubled production history. Originally developed by now defunct Australian developer Team Bondi, the project was eventually taken over by none other than Grand Theft Auto developer Rockstar, who helped finishing the game, adding a lot of typical Rockstar elements to the mix. The game takes place in post-war Los Angeles, starring rookie cop Cole Phelps, who advances through the ranks of the LAPD as the player advances through the missions, solving a number of crimes before eventually finding himself forced to face the horrors he experienced during the Second World War another time. The game features ground breaking facial capture technology that allows for the central interrogation mechanics, that requires the player to read the facial gestures and tics of his interrogees. Mired through its long production process, the game wasn’t a big hit, although it certainly did give the adventure genre some new impulses.
Platforms: PC, PS3 & Xbox 360
Advertised as “the most violent adventure game of all time”, Harvester sure did what it could to stir controversy back in 1996. Another FMV title, the game prominently features a large cast of quirky and outlandish characters, a ton of violence and gore, as well as a very very strange, dark and quirky sense of humor. The story revolves around a young man who wakes up in the strange town of Harvest in the year 1953, having to figure out what the hell is going on. Harvest’s gameplay was a novum for adventure titles, due to its largely open ended nature. While there are a few key objectives the player must fulfill to advance the plot to the next day, there are few restrictions on the actions outside of those key actions, with even most of the characters in the town being quite mortal and killable.
1: Bad Mojo
The goal of the game is rather simple. The protagonist has been transformed into a cockroach, and wants of course to end this predicament. To do that, he has to face his own past and solve a ton of strange puzzles in his home, which is situated above an abandoned bar. Bad Mojo had a reputation for not just being a plainly weird game, but for also featuring some of the least sensical puzzles of all mid 1990s adventure games. Nonetheless, it sold quite well and has become something of a cult classic ever since, and also has seen a re-release in 2004.