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Rearrange Your Mental Furniture

We are used to books, films and radio programs challenging our assumptions on subjects. Adam Curtis, Louis Theroux and David Attenborough have powerfully used film to change perspectives and values.

Less well known is how many video games tread a similar furrow. These are games that not only tackle difficult subjects, but get beneath the usual binary perspectives to create new ways of thinking about these themes.

This list includes 66 games from the last 27 years, with 1,404 likes. They come from a range of different genres and play-styles and are all good games if you want to re-think your assumptions.

DetailsList Details

PEGI Ratings: PEGI 3 to PEGI 18
ESRB Ratings: ESRB EVERYONE to ESRB MATURE 17+
Australian Ratings: G to R 18+
Genres: Action, Adventure, Brain Game, Collecting, Communication, Fighting, Narrative, Open World, Platform, Point-and-Click, Puzzle, Rhythm, Role-Play, Sequencing, Shooting, Simulation, Sports, Stealth, Strategy and Traversal
Total Likes: 1,404
 

 

Iris and the Giant

Release Date: 27/02/2020, updated in 2020

Platforms: Android, Mac, PC and Switch

Skill Rating: 12+ year-olds

Pieces: Cards

Iris and the Giant is a narrative strategy card game about a young girl named Iris who braves an imaginary world to tackle her inner demons and face her fears. It's a game about depression and anxiety and shows Iris coping with her life with escapism,...

Orchids to Dusk

Release Date: 03/12/2015

Platforms: PC

Skill Rating: 13+ year-olds

Orchids to Dusk is a short wandering adventure. You are an astronaut stranded on an alien planet, with only a few minutes of oxygen. You explore the world and discover fantastic gardens on the planet.

Hindsight

Release Date: 04/08/2022

Platforms: Mac, PC, PS4, Switch, Xbox One and iOS

Skill Rating: 8+ year-olds

Hindsight is a narrative point-and-click game where you revisit the past by finding objects that trigger memories. Play involves exploring each scene, locating objects and listening to the story as you move the camera to look within what you've found...

The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening (Series)

Release Date: 01/01/1999, updated in 2019

Platforms: Game Boy and Switch

Skill Rating: 8+ year-olds

The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening is an adventure-puzzle game in the Zelda series and universe. A remake of the 1993 Game Boy game of the same name, this one is set on Koholint Island and follows Link after he is stranded and must find a way back to...

Bury Me My Love

Release Date: 26/10/2017, updated in 2020

Platforms: Android, Mac, PC, Switch and iOS

Skill Rating: 12+ year-olds

Don’t be put off by the name and theme of this intriguing game. Bury Me My Love is an adventure played by choosing responses in what looks like a messaging app. You take the role of the husband of a Syrian migrant travelling to Europe. As the game...

Everything

Release Date: 21/03/2017, updated in 2019

Platforms: Mac, PC, PS4 and Switch

Skill Rating: 3+ year-olds

Everything is an unusual game that simulates a world where you can become any object. It sounds strange and not much fun, but the enjoyment is in discovering how small or how big a thing you can become. From tiny atoms to whole planets and everything in...

Night in the Woods

Release Date: 10/01/2017, updated in 2017

Platforms: Android, Mac, PC, PS4, Switch, Xbox One and iOS

Skill Rating: 11+ year-olds

Night in the Woods follows college dropout Mae Borowski returning home to the crumbling former mining town of Possum Springs. But the place is different now her friends have grown and changed. There’s something suspicious happening in the nearby...

Rainbow Billy

Release Date: 05/10/2021

Platforms: PC, PS4, Switch and Xbox One

Skill Rating: 8+ year-olds

Rainbow Billy: The Curse of the Leviathan is a role-play adventure where you save the world from a colourless darkness. Unusually, battles are won through listening and conversation rather than traditional attacks. It combines the excitement and...

Unpacking

Release Date: 02/11/2021

Platforms: Mac, PC, Switch and Xbox One

Skill Rating: 9+ year-olds

Unpacking is a meditative puzzle game where you unpack belongings into a series of spaces, each representing a stage in life. You get to know the owner of the objects by their possessions and circumstances. To finish a level you need to work out where...

There Is No Game

Release Date: 06/10/2020

Platforms: Android, Mac, PC, Switch and iOS

Skill Rating: 9+ year-olds

There Is No Game: Wrong Dimension is a comedic adventure with a strange twist. From the outset the game’s narrator insists that there is no game to play. As you inevitably ignore his instruction you go on a journey through silly and unexpected video...

Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice

Release Date: 08/08/2017, updated in 2018

Platforms: PC, PS4 and Xbox One

This is a dark fantasy adventure, drawing on Norse and Celtic mythology, where you play a young female Pict warrior, Senua. You explore and fight your way to Helheim to rescue the soul of her dead lover. As you play, though, you hear multiple voices in...

The Last Of Us

Release Date: 14/06/2013

Platforms: PS3 and PS4

Skill Rating: 16+ year-olds

You play a father, Joel, whose daughter was killed during the early stages of a deadly fungal outbreak. It’s now 20 years later, and he has clearly suffered from the loss. When Joel is given charge of a girl, Ellie, about the same age his daughter...

Outer Wilds

Release Date: 11/12/2018, updated in 2022

Platforms: PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S

Skill Rating: 11+ year-olds

Outer Wilds is an exploration space mystery about a solar system trapped in an endless time-loop. After 20 minutes of game time, you must start again – but each time brings a new opportunity to learn how you ended up on the planet and solve the...

Portal (Series)

Release Date: 10/10/2007, updated in 2011

Platforms: Mac, PC, PS3, Switch, Xbox 360 and Xbox One

Skill Rating: 8+ year-olds

You are in a science laboratory where you seem to be being tested. Watched by the artificial intelligence GLaDOS, you have a gun that can create a pair of magic portals on any surface: one is an entrance and the other is an exit. Through a series of...

Spiritfarer

Release Date: 18/08/2020

Platforms: Android, Mac, PC, PS4, Stadia, Switch, Xbox One and iOS

Skill Rating: 7+ year-olds

Spiritfarer is a boat building exploration game. Unusually though, you play Stella, ferry master to the deceased and the boat you manage takes them to the next life.

Thousand Threads

Release Date: 30/07/2020

Platforms: Mac and PC

Skill Rating: 10+ year-olds

Thousand Threads is an open world game of consequences. You are free to interact with the world, animals and people however you like, give, take, save, kill, inform, hide, befriend, betray. But how you do this will have ongoing and unavoidable...

Detroit: Become Human

Release Date: 25/05/2018

Platforms: PS4

Skill Rating: 12+ year-olds

This is a branching narrative game from Quantic Dream, the studio behind Heavy Rain and Beyond: Two Souls. This is the third game in the series and offers a more refined version of the filmic branching experience.

Inscryption

Release Date: 19/10/2021, updated in 2022

Platforms: Mac, PC, PS4, PS5 and Switch

Pieces: Cards

Inscryption starts as a card-based adventure where you build a deck of cards to take on adventures and battles. To this, it adds escape-room style puzzles, both in the card game and in the room in which you are playing. The result is a psychological...

Before I Forget

Release Date: 01/07/2020

Platforms: Mac and PC

Skill Rating: 10+ year-olds

Before I Forget is an exploration adventure, where you play Sunita, a woman alone in a house with early-onset dementia. As you wander from room to room, you discover mysterious objects, each holding a fleeting, fragmented memory. Examine faded...

Sid Meier's Civilization (Series)

Release Date: 21/10/2016, updated in 2019

Platforms: PC, PS4, Switch and Xbox One

Skill Rating: 10+ year-olds

Civilization is a long-running strategy game where you develop a society from hunter-gatherer to space travel. There are many ways to approach this challenge; socially, militarily, politically or perhaps by building wonders to impress other nations.

Papers, Please

Release Date: 08/08/2013, updated in 2017

Platforms: Mac, PC, PS Vita and iOS

You play the role of a border-crossing immigration officer in the fictional dystopian Eastern Bloc-like country of Arstotzka. You review each immigrant’s and returning citizens’ passports and paperwork according to an increasing list of changing...

Heaven's Vault

Release Date: 16/04/2019

Platforms: PC, PS4 and Switch

Skill Rating: 10+ year-olds

In Heaven’s Vault you play an archaeologist translating an ancient alien language whose decrypting weaves through an unfolding drama. While doing real linguistic work you interact with companions and locals. Your choices can open or close vast swathes...

Her Story

Release Date: 24/06/2015

Platforms: Android, Mac, PC and iOS

Solve the 1994 mystery of a murdered man by searching an old police computer archive of interview videos of his wife. The game presents a retro computer interface but the interviews themselves are short films with real actors. Although there are only...

Psychonauts 2 (Series)

Release Date: 25/08/2021

Platforms: Mac, PC, PS2, PS4, Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S

Skill Rating: 8+ year-olds

Pieces: Dice

Psychonauts 2 is a running, jumping and puzzle solving game where you play Raz who has psychic abilities that let him delve into the minds of others. In the game, you control Raz as he enters their mental worlds and uses other Psi-Powers (telekinesis,...

Wytchwood

Release Date: 09/12/2021, updated in 2022

Platforms: PC, PS4, Switch and Xbox One

Skill Rating: 10+ year-olds

Wytchwood is an adventure in a land of gothic fables and fairytales. You are an old witch of the woods and must explore the countryside, collect magical ingredients and brew enchantments. That much is relatively common, here though, your role is to pass...

Disco Elysium

Release Date: 15/10/2019, updated in 2021

Platforms: Mac, PC, PS4, Stadia, Switch and Xbox One

Disco Elysium The Final Cut is a role-playing game set in the fictional city of Revachol where you play Harrier "Harry" Du Bois who must solve a complex murder. Unusually, your choices and actions not only determine how the story unfolds but affect...

Photographs - Puzzle Stories

Release Date: 03/04/2019

Platforms: Android, Mac, PC and iOS

"Have you ever made a mistake, or hurt people you care about?" Asks the Photographs trailer. It's a puzzle game that aims much higher than to distract you while on the way to work.

LOCK (Dreams)

Release Date: 17/10/2020, updated in 2021

Platforms: PS4 and PS5

Skill Rating: 9+ year-olds

LOCK is a puzzle game about escaping rooms. LOCK stands for Logic Operated Combination Keep, referring to a digital password protected door lock. You must discover secret four letter word clues by exploring each space, in order to unlock panels, collect...

Through the Darkest of Times

Release Date: 27/05/2020, updated in 2020

Platforms: Android, Mac, PC, PS4, Switch, Xbox One and iOS

Through the Darkest of Times is a strategy game that conveys the sombre mood of the dark period of history between January 1933 and May 1945. With interactive drama, it tells the story and the struggles of average people living in the 3rd Reich.

Closed Hands

Release Date: 05/03/2021

Platforms: Mac and PC

Closed Hands is a text adventure game set in the lead-up and aftermath of a terror attack in a fictional UK city. You follow five core characters brought together by the same event. It's a branching story that you discover and influence as you read and...

Persona (Series)

Release Date: 20/09/1996, updated in 2022

Platforms: 3DS and 2DS, DS, PC, PS Vita, PS3, PS4, PS5, Switch, Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S

Skill Rating: 14+ year-olds

Persona 5 (also known as Shin Megami Tensei: Persona) is the latest game in a series of role-playing games that focus on a group of students. You explore the world and take on enemies like other role play games. Here though, you manage relationships...

Genesis Noir

Release Date: 26/03/2021

Platforms: Mac, PC, Switch and Xbox One

Genesis Noir is a narrative-driven puzzle game. It's a time travelling mystery to save your lover, by intervening through the history of the world to ultimately stop the expansion of the universe. Although it sounds bizarre, existential and confusing,...

Headliner: NoviNews

Release Date: 05/10/2019

Platforms: Mac, PC, PS4, Switch and Xbox One

Headliner: NoviNews is a narrative-driven simulation game where you play as the person in charge of the headlines and stories that are released to the public. Each article you approve from your office has a direct impact on the world outside. Which news...

HoloVista

Release Date: 11/09/2020

Platforms: iOS

Holovista is an adventure game where you play by taking and sharing photographs. You play as Carmen an up-and-coming architect who is tasked to live in and take photographs at mysterious mansion. Your job is to take photographs of specific objects and...

Where the Heart Leads

Release Date: 13/07/2021

Platforms: PS4

Where the Heart Leads is an adventure game where you make life-choices and then see their impact. You play Whit Anderson, as he revisits and alters his past, present, and future. It's a game that creates a surreal dream-like narrative, but one that is...

South of the Circle

Release Date: 20/10/2020

Platforms: Apple TV, Mac, PS4, Switch, Xbox One and iOS

Skill Rating: 10+ year-olds

South of the Circle is a narrative adventure game about, Peter, a Cambridge academic who finds himself fighting for survival in Antarctica during the 1960’s Cold War. You must cross desolate terrain to reach British, Norwegian and Soviet Antarctic...

Sunset

Release Date: 21/05/2015

Platforms: Mac and PC

Sunset tasks you with cleaning a large apartment in a fictional 1970s South American city. But outside the apartment, there is unrest and rioting. The chaos of the country and the repetitive daily chores grate against one another to create a meditative...

Treachery in Beatdown City

Release Date: 31/03/2020

Platforms: PC and Switch

Treachery in Beatdown City is a fighting game with a retro pixelated art style. It combines the popular beat'em up mechanics from games like Double Dragon, where you take on enemy characters with fists, kicks and weapons, with role play elements....

Cart Life

Release Date: 25/04/2019

Platforms: PC

Cart Life is a simulation game where you play one of three street vendors. You attempt to run their shop whilst looking after their health, interests, and families. It has simple visuals, but depicts the realities of the thin-end of life.

Melatonin

Release Date: 15/12/2022

Platforms: PC and Switch

Melatonin is a rhythm game where you press buttons in time with surreal pastel scenes. You play by deciphering the animations and sound cues to know when to press buttons. It stands out as a rhythm game that manages to keep you in time without any...

Taming Gaming Book Written by parents for parents, the database complements the in-depth discussion about video game addiction, violence, spending and online safety in the Taming Gaming book. We are an editorially independent, free resource without adverts that is supported by partnerships.

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