Best Mystery Games
Ah, mystery. That hard to define, catch all genre for titles that feature plots in which something is strangely… off. It all started in the 1990s when nobody had any idea what genre to stick the X-Files TV show into. Ever since then, every show, movie, book or video game that featured some sort of supernatural element, that was a bit spooky without being outright horror, was classified as just that: Mystery.
Also, in the 1990s, there were a ton of adventure games that ended up populating the mystery genre. Those were usually adventure games for older people, for more adult audiences, that deemed themselves too grown up, too mature to deal with the kiddie stuff of the popular, cartoonish adventures. During the heyday of the graphic adventure genre in the early 90s, there was an outright deluge of weird, more mature themed titles, the worst of which heavily featured one of 90s video games worst sins in full motion video (FMV) sequences.
So on this list you will find a selection of the best of those old titles, alongside some modern mystery adventures from the last few years. Here we will not deal with horror games of any kind, for those games we have some other lists. And now without further ado, let’s descend into mystery, but make note that these games are not ranked in any particular order.
#18 Deadly Premonition 2: A Blessing in Disguise
- Developer: Toybox Inc., White Owls Inc., Now Production
- Publisher: Rising Star Games
- Platforms: NS
- Release: July 10, 2020
Deadly Premonition first launched back in 2010 and while it wasn’t a massive success, it grew a cult following. You can often find this game as being compared to the cult followed drama supernatural detective televised series Twin Peaks. This was a third-person survival horror game that followed a FBI agent into a small town due to a strange murder case. Players are then introduced to this offbeat town where its clear that supernatural entities are at play. Now after ten years we got a new installment released although it’s only available for the Nintendo Switch.
Deadly Premonition 2: A Blessing in Disguise is still a mysterious title and its one that you’ll get to play next month. As mentioned, FBI Special Agent Francis York along with his friend Zach begins to investigate the small town in hopes of solving a murder case that may have ties to a drug ring. Also just as before, the game received some mixed reviews with some truly loving the gameplay and narrative setup. If you feel like diving back into the Deadly Premonition world featuring a younger Francis York Morgan then you can overall expect the same type of gameplay from the initial installment.
#17 The Sinking City
- Developer: Frogwares
- Publisher: Bigben Interactive
- Platforms: PC, PS4, XBO, NS
- Release: June 27, 2019
- Gameranx Before You Buy
The Sinking City was developed by Frogwares as an action-adventure survival horror title. This game takes place in an open-world where players step into the role of Charles W. Reed, an investigator. After receiving a request from a man by the name of Johannes van der Berg to aid in the solution behind the nightmarish visions he’s been having, players venture off to an occult run town known as Oakmont. It’s only when he arrives that he learns that there is certainly more going on in this town than he thought leaving players to carefully maneuver the open-world and uncover the town’s secrets.
#16 Alan Wake
- Developer: Remedy Entertainment
- Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
- Platforms: X360, PC
- Release: May 18, 2010
Originally a timed exclusive for the Xbox 360, the game was developed by Remedy, known for their Max Payne franchise though more recently, Spider-Man on the PlayStation 4. Alan Wake features an eponymous writer, who has to unravel the dark secrets lurking beneath the surface of Bright Falls, a small town in the Cascade Mountains of the Pacific Northwest.
Things go bump at night, Alan’s wife ends up missing, and our protagonist finds himself on the wrong end of a police manhunt. While the game’s plot is steeped in mystery, the gameplay is strongly focused on solving the mystery behind the supernatural events and rescuing our protagonist’s wife. Since the game released, there has been no word on developers on continuing the franchise.
#15 Heavy Rain
- Developer: Quantic Dream
- Publisher: Sony Computer Interactive Entertainment
- Platforms: PS3, PS4
- Release: February 23, 2010
Oh what a game this could have been. David Cage’s masterpiece. A long time before the game was anywhere close to going gold, the developers started showcasing their – admittedly astounding – technology. It was supposed to allow for truly emotional performances by the digital actors.
The final product didn’t prove to be too convincing for a lot of people, however the multi-protagonist hunt for the Origami Killer succeeded in finding a lot of fans nonetheless. Overall, the mystery players are left to solve is the identity of the Origami Killer. This mass murderer is ruthless as he kidnaps children and drowns them through means of rising rain water. For the most part, this game feels like a cinematic experience with not only exploration being a key to solving the mystery but a slew of choices presented for the player. Depending on your actions will determine just what ending your receive and if enjoyed the more recently released Quantic Dream’s title, Detroit: Become Human, then chances are you will definitely want to check this game out.
#14 7th Guest
- Developer: Trilobyte
- Publisher: Virgin Interactive Entertainment
- Platforms: PC
- Release: April 1, 1993
Starting off the big era of CD-ROM games, this creepy adventure game tasks the player with solving an array of twenty one puzzles in a mysterious old mansion, unveiling the secrets the place holds. Revolutionary at the time, 7th Guest featured intricately rendered graphics and real actors in full motion video sequences that told the story of the mansion. Likewise, the game proved to be a big factor in boosting the sale of CD-ROM drives, and kicked off the FMV driven interactive movie adventure game genre of the early 90s.
- Developer: Sierra On-Line
- Publisher: Sierra On-Line
- Platforms: PC, Sega Saturn
- Release: August 24, 1995
Delivered on no less than seven CD-ROMs, Phantasmagoria was the embodiment of the mid-90s interactive movie fad. Controversial due to its sexually loaded horror content, the game stirred a lot of discussions about harsher age restrictions when it was released in 1995. Launched with a lot of surrounding hype, Phantasmagoria proved to be a best-seller.
Experienced today though, almost twenty years later, it has aged quite badly, the script being rather weak, the acting wooden and the gameplay not very inspired. Nonetheless, the game was one of the biggest success stories of Sierra’s star designer Roberta Williams.
#12 Gemini Rue
- Developer: Wadjey Eye Games
- Publisher: Wadjet Eye Games
- Platforms: PC, iOS, Android
- Release: February 24, 2011
Heralded by many critics as a return to form of the venerated graphic adventure genre, this noir cyberpunk story should prove a breakthrough success for indie developer Wadjet Eye Games. Released in 2011, Gemini Rue features a deliberately retro style throughout, from environments to gameplay mechanics. The game tells an expansive science fiction story with a lot of twists and turns, set in the 23rd century.
The game was not only beloved for its gameplay but the narrative storyline and graphics that looked as if it could have been a classic retro adventure title. Gamers will be going through the title as a point-and-click adventure where you’ll navigate your character throughout the map, collect items, speak with NPCs and solve puzzles.
#11 The Beast Within: A Gabriel Knight Mystery
- Developer: Sierra On-Line
- Publisher: Sierra On-Line
- Platforms: PC
- Release: 1995
Another Sierra FMV title, this second entry to the Gabriel Knight series sets the eponymous investigator of the supernatural on the tracks of a werewolf, that is on the prowl in quaint Bavaria. The game delves in Bavarian history and folklore, featuring locations as Neuschwanstein castle along with its plot revolving around a lost opera from German composer Richard Wagner and the famed Bavarian King Ludwig II. Gameplay takes place with actors filmed on a set, performing all the actions, which required the game to take up a whopping six CD-ROMs, making it an enormously huge title at its time of release in 1995. However, gamers can today get it as a single download through GoG and Steam.
#10 L.A. Noire
- Developer: Team Bondi
- Publisher: Rockstar Games
- Platforms: PS3, X360, PC, NS, PS4, XBO
- Release: May 17, 2011
Originally developed by now defunct Australian developer Team Bondi, the L.A. Noire was eventually taken over by none other than Grand Theft Auto developer Rockstar, who helped complete the game while adding a lot of typical Rockstar elements to the mix. The game takes place in post-war Los Angeles, starring rookie cop Cole Phelps, who advances through the ranks of the LAPD solving a number of brutal domestic crimes.
The game features ground breaking facial capture technology that allows for the central interrogation mechanics, that requires the player to read the facial gestures and tics of those who he is questioning. When you’re not questioning suspects, the game will have players dig around crime scenes in order to find clues or potential evidence. For those who are hoping for a true Grand Theft Auto style gameplay then you will be disappointed. Despite not being a clone of GTA, there is still plenty of fun to be had with this game.
#9 Bad Mojo
- Developer: Pule Entertainment
- Publisher: Acclaim Entertainment
- Platforms: PC
- Release: February 29, 1996
The goal of Bad Mojo is rather simple. The protagonist has been transformed into a cockroach and is forced to figure out just how to reverse his situation. To do that, he has to face the past and solve a ton of strange puzzles in his home, which is situated above an abandoned bar. Bad Mojo had a reputation for not just being a plainly weird game, but also featuring some of the least nonsensical puzzles of all mid 1990s adventure games. Nonetheless, it sold quite well and has become something of a cult classic ever since, and also has seen a re-release in 2004. Because the game is pretty dated, gameplay will basically be point-and-click as you solve puzzles along with full motion videos to help tell the story.
#8 Her Story
- Developer: Sam Barlow
- Publisher: Sam Barlow
- Platforms: PC, iOS, Android
- Release: June 24, 2015
Her Story is an indie video game written and directed by Sam Barlow. The video game features live-action police interview footage of a young female and pins the players to solve a murder investigation. Gamers must go through a series of video clips and uncover files that will lead to what really happened to Hannah Smith’s husband just as if you were actually investigating a case.
As a result, gameplay is more of an interactive movie where you’ll watch videos and read files in an attempt to piece this case together. Likewise, this game won’t take players very long with most finishing Her Story within a single sitting of around three hours. After the success of the game, Sam Barlow has begun production of a spiritual successor titled Telling Lies. Supposedly this upcoming release will retain the same overall gameplay mechanics.
#7 Deadly Premonition
- Developer: Access Games
- Publisher: Ignition Entertainment, Rising Star Games
- Platforms: X360, PS3, PC
- Release: February 23, 2010
If you’re a fan of the cult TV series Twin Peaks, then chances are you’ve come across the video game Dead Premonition. It’s quite easy to see where developers Access Games received their inspirations when creating the game narrative as players take on the role of an FBI agent who is sent to a small town within the United States in order to solve a murder. While investigating the murder it becomes obvious that there’s an otherworldly presence taking control of the town.
This title has become a cult hit of its own right. Outside of being an investigative mystery title, Deadly Premonition is very much a survival horror game. Players will have an open world to explore by either foot or through the use of vehicles but you won’t want to drift off too far as there are a few resources the game will require you to manage.
For instance, vehicles will require fuel that must be purchased. Players will earn money by going through the various missions provided in the game or by other daily tasks such as changing suits and shaving. Furthermore, players will need to make sure our protagonist, Agent Francis York Morgan consumes food along with resting otherwise the health gauge will drop.
#6 Kathy Rain
- Developers: Clifftop Games
- Publisher: Raw Fury
- Platforms: PC, Android, iOS
- Release: May 5, 2016
If you enjoyed point-and-click style adventure games then you may want to look at Kathy Rain. This title was created by Clifftop Games which features a young female going through her final year at a university. However, she learns that her grandfather recently passed away. Despite not having any real association with her family in years, our protagonist Kathy, decides to head back for the funeral. It’s only while attending the funeral that she learns something happened to her father years prior which caused him to become mute.
Kathy decides to stay in town a little while longer in hopes to discover what happened all those years ago to her grandfather. In the process she uncovers something sinister within the small town along wiht a few mysteries she never knew about her own family tree.
#5 The Wolf Among Us
- Developer: Telltale Games
- Publisher: Telltale Games
- Platforms: Android, iOS, PC, PS3, PS4, PSV, X360, XBO
- Release: October 14, 2013 – July 9, 2014
Based on the Fables comic book series, The Wolf Among Us is another hit from developers Telltale Games. Overall, the game is set within an American town that that features outcasts from your beloved fairy tale stories. Now hiding in the human world, players take on the role of Bigby Wolf, once known as the Big Bad Wolf, who must keep the fables in check while keeping away from any unwanted attention.
However we soon find ourselves dealing with a string of murders. Someone is targeting the former fairy tale characters and its clearly an inside job. Players are left putting together clues, gathering evidence and questioning a wide cast of characters.
Similar to the other video games put out by Telltale Games, The Wolf Among Us released episodically with there being a total of five parts. Unfortunately, to many gamers disappointment, the sequel to this title which was announced by Telltale Games has since been cancelled due to the closure of the studio.
#4 Fahrenheit Indigo Prophecy
- Developer: Quantic Dream
- Publisher: Quantic Dream
- Platforms: PC, PS2, Xbox, Android, iOS, PS4
- Release: September 16, 2005
Developed by Quantic Dream, Fahrenheit first released into the market in 2005. Now, years later, the video game received a remastered edition and can be purchased for the PlayStation 4, PC, iOS, along with the Android platform.
Farhenheit is set in New York City where civilians become possessed and murder innocent bystanders uncontrollably. Overall, in this cinematic action-adventure title, players will follow the protagonist who is determined in solving these strange murders and ridding the supernatural forces behind the incidents.
We won’t dare spoil much of the narrative for this game because as mentioned this game is created by Quantic Dream. The game development studio is known for delivering fans an in-depth narrative journey full of choices and consequences. Likewise, the gameplay is easy to grasp just like other titles developed under the studio. Players will for the most part be completing a series of quick time event sequences when they are not freely roaming around the world and interacting with the environments.
If this is your first time trying a Quantic Dream game then we recommend looking at some of the more recent works as well such as Heavy Rain and Detroit: Become Human.
#3 The Vanishing of Ethan Carter
- Developer: The Astronauts
- Publisher: The Astronauts
- Platforms: PC, PS4, XBO
- Release: September 26, 2014
The development team known as The Astronauts, currently only has one title out, The Vanishing of Ethan Carter. This an adventure game that follows Paul Prospero who is a paranormal investigator that received a fan letter from a young boy named Ethan Carter.
Inspired by the letter, Paul ventures out into Ethan’s hometown only to learn that something tragic had happened. Now players are left to solve the mystery and find out where Ethan is and what happened during the events that occurred prior to our protagonist’s arrival.
Most of the game will be exploring the open world in search of not only Ethan but clues to help piece together a string of murders. Likewise, there will be a series of puzzles to solve though if you were hoping for a long mystery to keep you playing for days on end, then you may be a bit disappointed with the game taking about four hours to complete.
#2 Thimbleweed Park
- Developer: Terrible Toybox
- Publisher: Terrible Toybox
- Platforms: PC, XBO, PS4, NS, Android, iOS
- Release: March 30, 2017
Thimbleweed Park was an instant hit after it released under Terrible Toybox and as a spiritual successor to the much beloved Manic Mansion. This is an adventure game where players are tasked with investigating a murder within a small town. Similar to Maniac Mansion, players will be going through this point-and-click style adventure game investigating the area, gathering clues and speaking with cast of oddity characters.
Most gamers often compare this title to the cinematic series Twin Peaks along with the humor and art of the lighthearted LucasArts games. This is one title that should not be passed up if you’re a fan of adventure titles with a good narrative mystery.
#1 Tex Murphy
- Developer: Access Software, Big Finish Games, Chaotic Fusion
- Publisher: Access Software, Atlus, Chaotic Fusion
- Platforms: PC
- Release: 1989 – 2018
Tex Murphy is not a particular video game but a series. This is an older PC series in which players take the role of an investigator named Tex Murphy during the 21st century while also being set in the post-apocalypse. As mentioned, the game is a bit older so the gameplay is mainly point-and-click as you explore the world, gather clues and attempt to interact with the environment in order to solve a puzzle.
With that said, the cutscenes are actual full motion video. In fact, there’s a new installment in the works called The Poisoned Pawn which will be the seventh installment to the Tex Murphy series. This upcoming game will still be an adventure title though the in-game immersion is drastically different.