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 40 games from the last 25 years, with 305 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.
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Content Rating: PEGI 12
Release Date: 10/01/2017, updated in 2017
Platforms: Android, Mac, PC, PS4, Switch, Xbox One and iOS
Genres: Adventure, Narrative and Puzzle
Players: This is a single player game
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...
Content Rating: PEGI 18
Release Date: 19/06/2020
Price: 36% off
Genres: Action, Adventure, Fighting, Narrative, Role-Playing and Shooting
Accessibility: 48 features
The Last of Us Part II is an action-adventure game set five years after The Last of Us. You control two characters in a post-apocalyptic United States. Ellie is out for revenge after suffering a tragedy, and Abby is a...
Content Rating: Not rated by PEGI
Release Date: 30/07/2020
Platforms: Mac and PC
Genres: Action, Adventure, Narrative, Open World, Role-Playing and Simulation
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...
Release Date: 18/08/2020
Platforms: Mac, PC, PS4, Stadia, Switch and Xbox One
Genres: Action, Adventure, Narrative, Open World, Platform and Simulation
Accessibility: 7 features
Players: You can play with 2 players in the same room
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.
Content Rating: PEGI 7
Release Date: 06/10/2020
Platforms: Mac, PC, Switch and iOS
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...
Skill Rating: 6+ year-olds
Release Date: 10/10/2007, updated in 2011
Platforms: Mac, PC, PS3, Web, Xbox 360 and Xbox One
Genres: Action, Narrative, Platform, Puzzle and Simulation
Accessibility: 27 features
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...
Release Date: 14/06/2013
Platforms: PS3 and PS4
Genres: Action, Adventure, Fighting, Narrative and Shooting
Accessibility: 22 features
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...
Skill Rating: 12+ year-olds
Release Date: 26/10/2017, updated in 2020
Platforms: Android, Mac, PC, Switch and iOS
Genres: Adventure, Narrative and Turn-Based
Accessibility: 30 features
Don’t be put off by the name and theme of this intriguing game, 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 unfolds in real time,...
Release Date: 21/10/2016, updated in 2019
Platforms: PC, PS4, Switch and Xbox One
Genres: Fighting, Open World, Strategy and Turn-Based
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 building wonders to impress other nations.
Release Date: 01/07/2020
Genres: Adventure and Narrative
Accessibility: 9 features
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...
Release Date: 03/04/2019
Platforms: Android, Mac, PC and iOS
Genres: Narrative and Puzzle
"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.
Content Rating: PEGI 16
Release Date: 27/05/2020
Genres: Narrative, Role-Playing and Simulation
Accessibility: 15 features
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.
Expected Content Rating: PEGI 12
Release Date: 05/03/2021
Accessibility: 26 features
Closed Hands is an 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...
Content Rating: PEGI 3
Skill Rating: 3+ year-olds
Release Date: 21/03/2017, updated in 2019
Platforms: Mac, PC, PS4 and Switch
Genres: Adventure, Narrative, Open World and Simulation
Accessibility: 3 features
This 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 between.
Release Date: 08/08/2017, updated in 2018
Platforms: PC, PS4 and Xbox One
Genres: Action, Adventure, Fighting and Narrative
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...
Release Date: 25/05/2018
Accessibility: 6 features
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.
Release Date: 11/09/2020
Accessibility: 14 features
In Holovista is an adventure game you play by taking and sharing photographs. You play as Carmen an up-and-coming architect tasked to live in and take photographs at mysterious mansion and share your thoughts via in-game social media. Your task is...
Release Date: 11/12/2018, updated in 2018
Genres: Open World and Simulation
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...
Release Date: 08/08/2013, updated in 2017
Platforms: Mac, PC, PS Vita and iOS
Genres: Narrative, Puzzle and Turn-Based
Accessibility: 19 features
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...
Release Date: 31/03/2020
Platforms: PC and Switch
Genres: Action, Fighting, Role-Playing and Turn-Based
Treachery in Beatdown City is a fighting game with a retro pixilated 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....
Expected Content Rating: PEGI 7
Release Date: 25/04/2019
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.
Release Date: 05/10/2019
Platforms: Mac, PC, PS4, Switch and Xbox One
Genres: Adventure, Narrative and Simulation
Accessibility: 18 features
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 of the world outside. Which news...
Release Date: 04/12/2020
Genres: Role-Playing, Simulation and Strategy
Suzerain is a role-play strategy game where you are the president of the fictional country, Sordland. By choosing conversations and life path you use your skills of persuasion and political values to reform your country after the downfall of a dictator.
Release Date: 16/04/2019
Platforms: PC, PS4 and Switch
Accessibility: 20 features
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...
Release Date: 24/06/2015
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...
Release Date: 20/09/1996, updated in 2017
Price: 60% off
Platforms: 3DS and 2DS, DS, PC, PS Vita, PS3, PS4 and PS5
Genres: Adventure, Narrative, Role-Playing and Turn-Based
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...
Release Date: 20/10/2020
Platforms: iPhone, iPad
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...
Release Date: 25/08/2021
Platforms: Mac, PC, PS2, PS4, Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S
Genres: Adventure, Platform and Puzzle
Accessibility: 24 features
Psychonauts 2 is a running and jumping 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 use other Psi-Powers (telekinesis, pyrokinesis, and...
Release Date: 19/08/2021
Platforms: PC, Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S
Genres: Narrative, Puzzle and Role-Playing
Twelve Minutes is an adventure thriller game about a single apartment building. You view things from above and can interact with a simple click and drag interface. What starts as a romantic evening with your wife turns into a nightmare when a police...
Expected Content Rating: PEGI 3
Release Date: Coming soon
Unpacking is a mediative puzzle game where you unpack your belongings into a series of either spaces, each representing a stage in life.
Release Date: 13/07/2021
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...
Release Date: 18/10/2017
Platforms: PC and iOS
A Mortician's Tale is a management game where you play as a mortician, Charlie, working in a funeral home. As you play, you handle bodies of the deceased, including cleaning and beautifying them, as well as dealing with embalming and cremation. The dead...
Release Date: 15/10/2019, updated in 2020
Genres: Adventure, Narrative, Puzzle and Role-Playing
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...
Hindsight is a narrative puzzle game where you memories combine with objects to transport you into the past. Rather than a fantastical adventure, this is a gentle game that asks you to slow down and pay attention to the little things left behind. Piece...
Expected Content Rating: PEGI 16
Genres: Adventure, Narrative, Puzzle and Turn-Based
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...
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,...
Release Date: 27/10/2016
Genres: Puzzle and Role-Playing
Orwell is narrative game where you play a fictional research using a surveillance program called Orwell. Through a series of episodes you are tasked with using Orwell to help solve mysteries like the bombing of a public plaza. To do this you trawl...
Release Date: 21/05/2015
Genres: Adventure, Narrative and Role-Playing
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...
Release Date: 01/10/2015
The Beginner's Guide is a narrative game where you explore a series virtual environments while the game's creator tells a story about the person who made each space. This introspection presents a raw and at times heart breaking look into the mind of the...
Expected Content Rating: PEGI 18
Immortality is a mystery horror game where you investigate the lost movies of Marissa Marcel to unravel the mystery of her disappearance. As you paw through the footage, you uncover a story that spans three decades in unnerving and horrific ways.
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