We know why we gravitate to mysteries. It’s that perfect union between curiosity and solvency. A great mystery lures us in for an often hectic, twist, and red herring-laden narrative that causes us to constantly guess and make new predictions. The rush of seeing the mystery unfold, the truth coming out, is why we fell in love with them in the first place.
Now imagine being able to directly interact with the investigation. The best mystery/thriller video games are like the most effective mystery narratives but they offer one additional perk: they drop you right in the middle of the intrigue. It’s a great time to dive deep into the well of mysteries the interactive medium has to offer.
If you’re new to the world of video games, we've got you covered. Consider this a list of among the best mysteries for hardcore sleuths as much as it is a primer on what exists in the world of interactivity.
What Remains of Edith Finch
Considered by many hardcore gamers as a strong candidate in the “videogames as art” discussion, What Remains of Edith Finch is a narrative-focused “walking simulator” (gameplay second, story first) focusing on the eponymously named Edith returning home to the eccentric Finch house to come face-to-face with the mysterious family curse.
Each member of the family gets its own self-contained inspection, a slow reveal through gameplay mechanics of the nature of their own death. It’s a masterfully told mystery that demonstrates how gameplay doesn’t need to dictate the story; it can be the other way around.
Paradise Killer is absolutely bonkers. If you’re looking for something that merges sci-fi with mystery elements, this just might be the game for you.
In the game, players dive into a “pocket universe” where immortal alien beings try to build what they think is a perfect society, populated by alien abductees. Tall order and impossible, perhaps, because they have tried this before, the 24th version being the society players experience. A murder occurs and puts a hold on the next iteration.
Players are at the center of the intrigue in a dizzying Clue or Knives Out investigation built around mission objectives. It’s quite unlike anything you’ve likely experienced and once you begin piecing together clues, you won’t be able to leave “paradise” until you figure out why it can only end in failure.
One of the most acclaimed role-playing games in recent history, Disco Elysium prioritizes narrative choice amid a narrative involving the typical drunken and down-and-out detective waking up in the throes of a crime. Add in some amnesia and a murder case and the game accurately portrays hardboiled noir while also allowing players to feel even more like the writer of the story due to the reactive and expansive dialog choices.
A slow burn at first, this is perfect if you’d like to lose yourself in the grimy world of deception and double-crosses.
Easily one of the best indie games of 2022, Norco is a retro-fitted point-and-click adventure mystery set in a (sadly) realistic depiction of what the future likely holds for us. The title comes from its setting: a small dying town in Louisiana and a representation of mid to small towns in America dying in the face of ecological disaster.
Norco introduces players to Kay, a nomadic twentysomething returning home after she finds out that her brother has gone missing. The tip of the iceberg, Kay discovers that her mother, along with a strange cult built on social media, may have something to do with her sibling’s disappearance. Though the game plays a lot like point-and-click adventures of the past like Maniac Mansion and Full Throttle, Norco manages to take the gameplay and make it clever enough for players to skim every screen for information.
Along with What Remains of Edith Finch, Firewatch stands as among one of the best representations of what a compelling narrative-driven game can be.
The game follows Henry, a man running away from the terror and responsibility of his terminally ill wife. He takes on a job in the Shoshone National Forest as fire watch intentionally to be alone and apart. He meets Delilah, who is his supervisor and also a fire watch agent in a nearby tower. They soon form an emotional bond while they discover that their walkie-talkie conversations are being surveilled and the surrounding forest may contain a few prying eyes.
The reveal is so deftly woven into the gameplay, and you’ll find yourself invested in Henry’s plight (even if you think he’s an asshole for fleeing his responsibilities). Firewatch is tantamount to a breezy mystery thriller that you can’t put down.
The Wolf Among Us
Set in the popular Fables comic universe, The Wolf Among Us takes place in Fabletown, a haven for fables fleeing a domineering regime.
The fables don something they call “glamour” to pose as human to remain inconspicuous to the “mundys” or human population. Players are introduced to the lone, gruff Bigby, quite literally the Big Bad Wolf, who acts as a detective for Fabletown. When fables show up murdered, Bigby must figure out why and whether or not Fabletown may have an anti-fablist serial killer.
It’s Telltale Games at the height of their skill and is one of the best mysteries gaming has to offer. Oh, and the world is still (im)patiently waiting for the sequel!