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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 35 games from the last 25 years, with 227 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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DetailsList Details

PEGI Ratings: PEGI 3+ to PEGI 18+
ESRB Ratings: ESRB EVERYONE to ESRB MATURE 17+
Genres: Action, Adventure, Fighting, Narrative, Open World, Platform, Puzzle, Role-Playing, Shooting, Simulation, Strategy and Turn-Based
Total Likes: 227
 

 

Thousand Threads

Rating:

Release Date: 30/07/2020

Platforms: Mac and PC

Genres: Action, Adventure, Narrative, Open World, Role-Playing and Simulation

Developer: @ThreadsGame

Players: This is a single player game

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...

The Last Of Us Part II

Rating:

Release Date: 19/06/2020

Platforms: PlayStation 4

Genres: Action, Adventure, Fighting, Narrative, Role-Playing and Shooting

Developer: @Naughty_Dog

Players: This is a single player game

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...

Game image Portal

Portal

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Portal (Series)

Rating:

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

Platforms: Mac, PC, PlayStation 3, Web Browser, Xbox 360 and Xbox One

Genres: Action, Narrative, Platform, Puzzle and Simulation

Developer: @ValveSoftware

Players: You can play with 2 players in the same room

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...

There Is No Game

Rating:

Release Date: 06/10/2020

Platforms: Mac, PC and iOS

Genres: Adventure, Narrative and Puzzle

Developer: @ThereIsNoGame

Players: This is a single player game

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...

The Last Of Us

Rating:

Release Date: 14/06/2013

Platforms: PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4

Genres: Action, Adventure, Fighting, Narrative and Shooting

Developer: @Naughty_Dog

Players: This is a single player game

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...

Spiritfarer

Rating:

Release Date: 18/08/2020

Platforms: Mac, Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, Stadia and Xbox One

Genres: Action, Adventure, Narrative, Open World, Platform and Simulation

Developer: @ThunderLotus

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.

Photographs - Puzzle Stories

Rating:

Release Date: 03/04/2019

Platforms: Android, Mac, PC and iOS

Genres: Narrative and Puzzle

Developer: @LucaRedwood

Players: This is a single player game

"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.

Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice

Rating:

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

Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One

Genres: Action, Adventure, Fighting and Narrative

Developer: @NinjaTheory

Players: This is a single player game

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...

Papers, Please

Rating:

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

Platforms: Mac, PC, PlayStation Vita and iOS

Genres: Narrative, Puzzle and Turn-Based

Developer: @Dukope

Players: This is a single player game

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...

Through the Darkest of Times

Rating:

Release Date: 27/05/2020

Platforms: Android, Mac, Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One and iOS

Genres: Narrative, Role-Playing and Simulation

Developer: @Paintbucket_de

Players: This is a single player game

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.

Treachery in Beatdown City

Rating:

Release Date: 31/03/2020

Platforms: Nintendo Switch and PC

Genres: Action, Fighting, Role-Playing and Turn-Based

Developer: @aNuChallenger

Players: This is a single player game

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....

Everything

Rating:

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

Platforms: Mac, Nintendo Switch, PC and PlayStation 4

Genres: Adventure, Narrative, Open World and Simulation

Developer: @DavidOreilly

Players: This is a single player game

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.

Before I Forget

Rating:

Release Date: 01/07/2020

Platforms: Mac and PC

Genres: Adventure and Narrative

Developer: @3foldgames

Players: This is a single player game

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...

Cart Life

Expected Rating:

Release Date: 25/04/2019

Price: Free

Platforms: PC

Genres: Narrative, Role-Playing and Simulation

Developer: @RichardHofmeier

Players: This is a single player game

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.

Closed Hands

Expected Rating:

Release Date: 05/03/2021

Price: Free

Platforms: Mac and PC

Genres: Narrative

Developer: @PassengerGames

Players: This is a single player game

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...

Sid Meier's Civilization (Series)

Rating:

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

Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One

Genres: Fighting, Open World, Strategy and Turn-Based

Developer: @Sid_Meier

Players: This is a single player game

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.

Night in the Woods

Rating:

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

Platforms: Android, Mac, Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One and iOS

Genres: Adventure, Narrative and Puzzle

Developer: @NightInTheWoods

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...

Headliner: NoviNews

Rating:

Release Date: 05/10/2019

Platforms: Mac, Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One

Genres: Adventure, Narrative and Simulation

Developer: @UnboundCreation

Players: This is a single player game

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...

HoloVista

Expected Rating:

Release Date: 11/09/2020

Platforms: iOS

Genres: Adventure and Narrative

Developer: @AconiteCo

Players: This is a single player game

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...

South of the Circle

Expected Rating:

Release Date: 20/10/2020

Platforms: iOS Apple Arcade

Genres: Adventure and Narrative

Developer: @State_of_Play

Players: This is a single player game

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...

Bury Me My Love

Rating:

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

Platforms: Android, Mac, Nintendo Switch, PC and iOS

Genres: Adventure, Narrative and Turn-Based

Developer: @BMMLgame

Players: This is a single player game

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,...

Outer Wilds

Rating:

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

Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One

Genres: Open World and Simulation

Developer: @Mobius_Games

Players: This is a single player game

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...

Detroit: Become Human

Rating:

Release Date: 25/05/2018

Platforms: PlayStation 4

Genres: Action, Adventure, Fighting, Narrative and Shooting

Developer: @Quantic_Dream

Players: This is a single player game

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.

Heaven’s Vault

Rating:

Release Date: 16/04/2019

Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PC and PlayStation 4

Genres: Adventure, Narrative and Puzzle

Developer: @InkleStudios

Players: This is a single player game

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

Rating:

Release Date: 24/06/2015

Platforms: Android, Mac, PC and iOS

Genres: Narrative and Puzzle

Developer: @MrSamBarlow

Players: This is a single player game

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...

Persona

Rating:

Release Date: 20/09/1996, updated in 2017

Platforms: Nintendo 2DS|3DS, Nintendo DS, PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5 and PlayStation Vita

Genres: Adventure, Narrative, Role-Playing and Turn-Based

Developer: @Atlus_jp

Players: This is a single player game

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...

Disco Elysium

Rating:

Release Date: 15/10/2019, updated in 2020

Platforms: Mac, Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, Stadia and Xbox One

Genres: Adventure, Narrative, Puzzle and Role-Playing

Developer: @StudioZAUM

Players: This is a single player game

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...

A Mortician's Tale

Rating:

Release Date: 18/10/2017

Platforms: PC and iOS

Genres: Adventure and Narrative

Developer: @Laundry_Bear

Players: This is a single player game

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...

Unpacking

Expected Rating:

Release Date: Coming soon

Platforms: Mac and PC

Genres: Narrative and Puzzle

Developer: @WitchBeamGames

Players: This is a single player game

Unpacking is a mediative puzzle game where you unpack your belongings into a series of either spaces, each representing a stage in life.

Sunset

Rating:

Release Date: 21/05/2015

Platforms: Mac and PC

Genres: Adventure, Narrative and Role-Playing

Developer: @TaleofTales

Players: This is a single player game

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...

Twelve Minutes

Rating:

Release Date: Coming soon

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

Genres: Narrative, Puzzle and Role-Playing

Developer: @FacaElectrica

Players: This is a single player game

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...

Orwell

Rating:

Release Date: 27/10/2016

Platforms: Android, Mac, PC and iOS

Genres: Puzzle and Role-Playing

Developer: @OsmoticStudios

Players: This is a single player game

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...

Where the Heart Leads

Rating:

Release Date: 13/07/2021

Platforms: PlayStation 4

Genres: Adventure, Narrative and Simulation

Developer: @ArmatureStudio

Players: This is a single player game

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...

The Beginner's Guide

Expected Rating:

Release Date: 01/10/2015

Platforms: Mac and PC

Genres: Adventure and Narrative

Developer: @HelloCakeBread

Players: This is a single player game

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...

Genesis Noir

Rating:

Release Date: 26/03/2021

Platforms: Mac, Nintendo Switch, PC and Xbox One

Genres: Narrative and Puzzle

Developer: @FellowTravellr

Players: This is a single player game

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,...


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The information on this database is designed to support and complement the in-depth discussion and advice about video game "addiction", violence, spending and online safety in the Taming Gaming book. If you have any concerns or questions in these areas, email our editor who is quick to respond or can arrange for a one-to-one conversation.

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