Video games to play if you like solving mysteries

Isn’t every video game about solving a mystery? Some of the earliest computer games, those based solely on text commands, used the same concepts of investigation, clue-gathering, and deductive powers that are similar to the day-to-day activities of a police officer or private investigator. Nowadays, however, things are much more complex.

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Games that focus on solving mysteries can and often do cross over into other genres that include adventure, action, or role-playing. The genre has always been popular, so there are plenty of new games to choose from, as well as vintage titles that have been released or remastered. It’s also easy to find a variety of games for any port or format, including phones, tablets, and consoles as well as conventional desktop games. Gamers who like to play detective should check out these titles.

9 Disco Elysee (2019)

Disco Elysee

The art style of this game, which mimics a surreal oil painting, is one of the defining characteristics Disco Elysee apart from other RPGs. It also features an unconventional progression system that includes skill checks and dialogue trees determined by perception and pain threshold, which experienced RPGs might call Fortitude.

The setting is a city in the aftermath of an apocalypse, and the main character is in the depths of amnesia, so there are a few more mysteries here other than the murder he’s trying to solve. Despite missing most of their past, each main character still has a distinct set of character traits and a thought cabinet, which unlocks more story based on the player’s dialogue choices.


8 The 7th Guest (1993)

Screenshot of The Seventh Guest dinner scene

The 7th guest is a point-and-click classic originating from the CD-ROM era that was remastered and re-released as a 25th Anniversary Edition in 2019. It was one of the first “haunted mansion” games, and also the one of the first to integrate video graphics into a video game in a way that actually contributed to the plot, rather than just being silly.

It was also at a time when horror games were starting to emerge as a genre, and The 7th guest was not afraid of the sordid or the mysterious. This game looks fun and colorful, and it is, with the graveyard cake puzzles and goofy characters. But as the story unfolds, it becomes clear that this is not a game for children.

seven The Disappearance of Ethan Carter (2014)

Screenshot of the tent and skull from The Vanishing Of Ethan Carter

A more recent addition to the point-and-click style, just to prove that this type of game lives on, this one relies on stunning artwork and an engaging story to entice budding sleuths. This is combined with an open-world environment that provides the player with little guidance on how the mechanics work, and it’s actually part of the game.

The player follows a mystery through an impressive collection of artistic settings and immersive locations. It is the atmospheric quality of The disappearance of Ethan Carter which most people cite which elevates it from other mystery solving games.

6 Grim Fandango (1998)

Sepia image showing Grim Fandango by LucasArts.

An adventure game first and foremost, because it’s LucasArts after all, sinister fandango it is also solving a mystery. On a technical level, it was one of the first times a 3D-rendered video game looked good, using an unconventional animation style that mixed film noir with squid-like characters. The main character is a travel agent, but one who dwells in the afterlife and helps transport souls.

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Despite the critical acclaim that sinister fandango received, it was a commercial failure. The game was re-released in 2015 with improved graphics, a new orchestral soundtrack, and director’s commentary.

5 Sam and Max Hit the Road (1993)

Cover of Sam and Max on the Road

Sam and Max, also known as Freelance Police, have many wacky adventures solving crimes and this title is still one of their most popular. The plot is set in motion when a Sasquatch disappears from a carnival. The fearless heroes must use their perception and deduction skills as they visit a number of popular American tourist attractions in search of clues.

Sam and Max hit the road is part of the impressive library that LucasArts amassed when point-and-click adventure games were all the rage. It stands out for its humor, clever dialogues and the best voice talent for games at the time.

4 Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishments (2014)

Screenshot of Sherlock Holmes Crimes & Punishments Ruined Mansion

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s portrayal of Sherlock Holmes was partly autobiographical. His use of forensics was novel for his time, but the modern age has the same fascination with his skill in finding and interpreting clues. Many games in this series could also be likely candidates, but this game also includes moral choices that affect gameplay.

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On a more technical level, it is the first game from Frogwares sherlock holmes who uses the Unreal Engine 3 to create an intense and immersive first-person POV. The written parts are meant to resemble the novels, and each game includes a variety of cases to solve, from murders to robberies to disappearances.

3 LA Noire (2011)

Coverage of the real cases of LA Noire

Another game noted for stunning artwork and a realistic storyline, The black is set in Los Angeles in 1947. The protagonist is Detective Cole Phelps, and the story follows his rise through the LAPD. When Phelps takes charge of a case involving the distribution of morphine and some of his former World War II cronies, the plot thickens.

Aside from the main plot which focuses on solving the case, there is plenty to keep the player busy in the form of car chases, shootouts, and hand-to-hand combat. Motion capture technology was used to capture realistic human expressions for the interrogation sequences.

2 Professor Layton and the Curious Village (2008)

professor layton art

Solving a mystery doesn’t always have to be about sordid crimes and dark alleys. For those looking for something lighter that is also suitable for children, there is the Professor Layton franchise. It has a familiar format that includes finding clues and solving puzzles.

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There are a total of seven games in this series, and this is the first one. Professor Hershel Layton and his apprentice Luke Triton search for an artifact called the Golden Apple in a quaint but enigmatic little hamlet called St. Mystere. It’s not just for fun and profit either – the holder of this special item will inherit the vast fortune of a local lord.

1 The Return of the Obra Dinn (2018)

Screenshot of the return from the lower deck of the Obra Dinn

A game based on investigation, information and deduction, The return of the Obra DinnThe distinctive style of it sets it apart from other games in the indie games category. The year is 1807 and the protagonist is an East India Company agent. Their mission is to determine what happened to the passengers and crew of the Obra Dinn, using a mysterious pocket watch.

The ship disappeared off Good Hope, and after no sight or communication for some time, the ship drifted back to port with no soul on board. It’s not exactly a roller coaster ride, but for players who enjoy a story filled with suspense, mystery and a touch of psychological horror, The return of the Obra Dinn is an ideal choice.

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