Video games are the ideal platform for solving mysteries. Taking a look at the full breadth of all the video games ever made, there really aren’t as many murder mystery games as you’d think. As kids, the board game Clue introduced us to the basics of detective work, and video games give us the tools to expand our investigative skills even further with unique stories and puzzling gameplay. There’s just something special about collecting clues, questioning suspects, and figuring out the culprit.
That’s why we’ve put together a list of the 20 best murder mystery games available right now. This list is in no particular order — we just want to share some of our favorites. It’s surprising how varied these games are. You’d think we’d only have adventure games to choose from, but the murder mysteries on our list range from action-shooters to pure puzzlers. There’s bound to be one game on our list you absolutely shouldn’t miss, no matter what your tastes.
Return of the Obra Dinn
Not exactly a murder mystery in the traditional sense, but a mystery all the same. The good ship Obra Dinn has returned home but without its crew. Armed with a logbook and a mystical device to look back in time to view a snapshot of the events that transpired, you have to figure out the fates of every single crewman to complete your investigation. The fun of Return of the Obra Dinn is figuring out what happened using incomplete and very limited information. Using the crew log book, you need to write the cause-of-death for everyone, and it gets pretty wild. No spoilers here, but only a handful of deaths were caused by human hands. The Return of the Obra Dinn is one of the most inventive puzzle games of the last decade.
Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Trilogy
The Phoenix Wright games are finally available for everyone thanks to the Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Trilogy collection available on PS4, Xbox One, and PC. The package includes the original three games, where you play as rookie lawyer Phoenix Wright, getting caught up in one impossible case after another. The games are like an interactive novel where you read along with the story, stopping briefly to gather clues before the trial. The trials are truncated down to three days, with the trial itself really putting your attorney on his toes. During the trial, you’ll have to smartly use clues and your own intuition to point out logical inconsistencies and find the lies in crooked testimonies. It helps that these games are brimming with colorful characters and funny writing. If you’re in the mood for less-than-serious mystery-busting, these games are the perfect pick.
L.A. Noire is one of the most ambitious games ever made, featuring dozens of face-mapped actors and a fully-realized 1940s Los Angeles setting. As Detective Cole Phelps, you’ll move through the ranks starting out as a simple beat cop and moving up to Traffic, Murder, Vice, and Arson. No matter what desk you’re sitting at, you’ll usually have to deal with murder in some form — and to solve mysteries, you comb through realistically rendered environments for clues, question suspects, and finally make a choice on who the culprit really was. Usually these mysteries follow a set narrative path you can’t miss, but sometimes you’re free to select your own culprit. Whether you made the right choice is entirely up to you. The fun of L.A. Noire comes in the sumptuous story, the in-depth period detail, and the exciting gunfights that often end each case.
The Wolf Among Us
Following Telltale’s breakout hit The Walking Dead, The Wolf Among Us seemed like a weird choice for adaptation. Based on a series of comics about fairytale creatures living in New York secretly, The Wolf Among Us is about Bigby Wolf, the sheriff of Fabletown. Like other Telltale games, you follow an interactive narrative journey through cutscenes, making choices that can branch the narrative or change how other characters feel about your protagonist. Despite being about fairy tales, this is probably the most adult Telltale game — the murders are violent, and there’s some pretty disturbing content you’ll have to deal with before the story is over. If you’re looking for less puzzles and more narrative, this is one game to sink your teeth into.
We’ve finally hit our first true adventure game on the list. Blade Runner is an adaptation of the 1982 Ridley Scott film — you play as a different detective, but you’re still hunting down escaped replicants on a murder spree across futuristic Los Angeles. What makes Blade Runner unique is how the story changes. Each time you start a new game, certain characters will be selected to be replicants — synthetic machines that look exactly like humans. During your investigation, you’ll have to figure out who is a replicant, who isn’t, and dismantle the network of criminals however you see fit. What makes this game special isn’t just how open-ended the story is, but that you can literally make “wrong” decisions if you don’t investigate deep enough.
Blade Runner is now available and much easier to play on modern PCs thanks to the recent GOG.com rerelease.
A new classic in the genre that’s almost impossible to categorize. Disco Elysium is a weird, weird game — and that’s what makes it special. As an amnesiac detective, you decide how to build your character’s mental map, including their political beliefs, as you navigate a fictional city’s strange realities. At its core, you’re trying to solve a murder, and the game plays out through extended dialogue as you try to outwit (or not) your opponents. There are no easy answers in Disco Elysium, and there’s no combat to speak of. It’s like a CRPG, and the battles are determined by your wits and your dialogue choices. It’s also the best written game since Planescape: Torment — if you’re into that game, you have to play Disco Elysium.
Disco Elysium: The Final Cut is out now on Steam, including new quests and full voice-acting. It’s a free download if you already own the game.
Persona 4 Golden
For the JRPG lovers, there’s one game that’s all about figuring out the identity of a serial killer — a perfect choice for our list. Persona 4 Gold is a fan-favorite in the JRPG genre, and it’s now available for everyone on PC through the Steam store re-release. This is about as far from a regular murder mystery as you can get.
Playing as high school transfer student, you form a party and harness the power of “Personas” — demon-like entities with magic power, to fight in an alternate mental universe. The game is both a high school simulator and a JRPG with battles, bosses, and leveling up. Between delving into the mysterious TV World to discover the truth about certain people in your school, you’ll follow a strict schedule, take tests, study, and choose who to spend time with. Everything culminates in the big choice of the game that determines your ending — who is the killer. That makes this a murder mystery in my book.
We’re back to dialogue-heavy (and extremely weird) indie games. Paradise Killer is a surrealist puzzle game with an absurd Killer7 / Suda51 style. You play as an immortal detective investigating a fully-realized open-world, trying to find who pulled of an impossible murder. The fun of Paradise Killer is just how much you can investigate this weird world. You can end the game at any point by initiating the “trial” — but to truly understand what happened, you’ll have to dig deeper, talk to everyone you can, and investigate every clue on the huge island. The most rewarding part of a murder mystery game is figuring out the “correct” answer, and Paradise Killer makes you work for it. Thankfully it’s so bizarre, we’re up for checking out every corner of this world.
Life Is Strange
When a girl disappears in a sleepy Pacific Northwest town, two friends team up to find her. Life Is Strange is structurally very similar to the type of games Telltale made for many years — you’ll explore areas between cutscenes, talk to people, and make choices that change the outcome of the story. These are narrative adventure games, but Life Is Strange puts more emphasis on the puzzles. You play as a girl with the ability to reverse time, and you’ll need to use those powers to escape some of the dangerous situations you’re thrown into. Life Is Strange takes awhile to get going, but the payoff is worth it. This might seem like a gentle indie game about budding LGBT love, and it totally is, but there are some big events waiting for you. Try not to change the future too much.
The Sexy Brutale
Another creative indie murder mystery that’s all about reversing time — except The Sexy Brutale is in the pure puzzle genre mold. In The Sexy Brutale, you’re invited to a strange mansion with a murderous host. As the night progresses, each of the guests is murdered in a different brutally creative way. Using a mystical timepiece, you can rewind time several minutes before each murder takes place. By carefully following the suspects (and murderer) you can figure out the means of each death, and how to prevent it. This is the rare murder mystery game that’s all about stopping murders in the first place. It’s like Groundhog’s Day meets Saw with a jazzy soundtrack.
A deceptively simple investigation game that’s wildly unique. In Her Story, you’re trying to figure out an old crime — what that crime actually is? That’s also one of the mysteries you’ll have to solve. The gameplay consists of an old police database UI as you search for videos of a woman’s extensive interrogation sessions across multiple years. The only way to access the video files is by searching for keywords that appear in the videos. By listening carefully and following the rabbit hole of keywords, you’ll eventually find critical (or baffling) confessions that just might explain what’s going on. To say more would be to spoil it.
In the vein of Phoenix Wright, Danganronpa is another light novel series about investigations, murder, and trials — just with a lot more weird little mini-games. These popular puzzle games drop fourteen students into a sadistic Battle Royale scenario. Trapped, the only way to escape is to kill and get away with it. As an innocent student, you’ll have to investigate each murder and select the correct culprit. If the murderer gets away, the rest of the class will be killed… so the stakes couldn’t be higher.
This is a darkly comedic series of games about ridiculously convoluted murder scenarios. If you’re hungry for more Phoenix Wright with a sadistic twist, you might want to give this series a spin.
The most traditional adventure on our list is literally a throwback to the days of classic LucasArts games. Created by Ron Gilbert, who also wrote Maniac Mansion and The Secret of Monkey Island, Thimbleweed Park is a love letter to those retro games — complete with pixel graphics and comical stretches of logic to solve puzzles. In a setting inspired by Twin Peaks and X-Files, your pair of FBI investigators explore a weird town full of quirky characters. In Monkey Island fashion, the story takes a pretty bizarre turn towards the end and goes down plenty of weird tangents. At its heart, you’re still here to solve a mystery — by combining rubber chickens and wheels.
Ace Attorney Investigations 2
One of the best games in the Phoenix Wright series is actually a spin-off — and a spin-off that’s only available in English thanks to emulation. Ace Investigations is a more puzzle-heavy offshoot, putting you in direct control of prosecutor Miles Edgeworth as he works with detectives, explores crime scenes, and determines the culprit all before any trial takes place. Instead of going through light novel dialogue segments, you’ll actually move around each environment, search for clues, then complete chess-like dialogue battles against each suspect. It’s a unique, fun game that’s one of the best in the series — you’ll just have to use this incredible fan translation to play it.
Sherlock Holmes: Crimes & Punishments
The developer Frogwares made many Sherlock Holmes adventure games — including some wild ones like Sherlock Holmes versus on Jack the Ripper and Cthulhu! Still, Crimes & Punishments is the best of the bunch. Set in 1884 London, Sherlock Holmes is tasked with investigating six different cases based on the original Sherlock Holmes stories by Arthur Conan Doyle. Each case is a piece of the larger puzzle as you uncover a plot by an anarchist terrorist group called the Merry Men. As far as adventure games go, this is probably the most advanced on our list. If you need a guide, we won’t blame you for this one.
More action-simulation than mystery, Deadly Premonition won’t test your puzzle-solving skills too seriously. It will test your patience.
Fans will go to bat for this singularly weird open-world game. Playing as Special Agent Francis York Morgan, you arrive at a small Pacific Northwest town to solve a grisly murder — and the murders are stacking up. Between shootouts with strange ghost-like beings only your character can see in RE4-lite (and we mean extremely lite) combat sections, you’ll spend most of your time interacting with the off-the-wall locals. There’s nightmarish other worlds, bad cooking story arcs, and log ladies galore. If you don’t take a shower for too long, you’ll become a “Stinky Agent” with flies swarming around you. It’s just that type of game. If you haven’t heard of Deadly Premonition yet, you’ll just have to try it for yourself.
The streaming hit of 2020 is, at its essence, a murder mystery game. Everyone knows Among Us, but here’s a quick synopsis — in Among Us, you and your friends play as a spaceship crew just trying to keep your craft running. One (or more) players are randomly assigned to be traitorous aliens with the goal to kill everyone else. As the crew, you try to survive and figure out which wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing is the traitor. At any time, players can call a timeout to talk over the clues and vote to send suspicious crewmates into the airlock. It’s a tense game with an incredibly simple premise — the fun is all in the social aspect. As a traitor, you can sow chaos not just with kills, but also by throwing accusations at your innocent friends.
Blacksad: Under The Skin
Based on the Spanish comic series Blacksad, this narrative adventure game is another in the Telltale lineage — featuring choice-based gameplay and quick-time events as you investigate a series of crimes in an alternate-universe 1950s New York City. In this world, everyone’s an animal — and Blacksad is a cat detective with heightened senses, allowing you to perceive leads others might miss. During investigations, you’ll hunt down clues and combine them into conclusions to resolve cases. Your decisions change the story significantly too. Your average Telltale-like game has two or three endings and Blacksad has a whopping six. That’s a lot of weight to your choices.
Zero Escape: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors
Danganronpa isn’t the only dark Japanese narrative adventure game on our list. 999 is an inventive visual novel / adventure game, where nine people are trapped in a sadistic game of survival. Unique to 999, there’s an extensive branching story that changes wildly depending on your decisions — and you’ll have to run through each choice to finally uncover the true ending, using knowledge previously learned on failed attempts to overcome some of the impossible traps. The game is structured like an elaborate timeline with branching paths after each choice, and you’ll have to experiment to find the correct choices and finally escape. For a game that’s meant to cover 9 hours, a typical complete playthrough takes 32+ hours.
The Dagger of Amon Ra
The Laura Bow series, as developed by Roberta Williams, is an adventure game meant to break the usual mold. The Dagger of Amon Ra was meant to challenges you to think like a real detective. Trapped in a museum with a killer picking off the attendants one-by-one, you’ll have to investigate each crime and make logical inferences to figure out the true identity of the killer. Still, this one is only slightly less silly than your typical adventure game from the 1990s — you’re still hunting down objects, combining them, and using them on the environment. The real test is at the end of the game, where the police question you on your knowledge of the case. If you get the answers wrong, you’ll get a clue to help on future playthroughs. If you get all of them wrong, the killer just might come for you next.
The murder mystery genre is surprisingly varied, and we’re always hunting for more games to scratch that mystery itch. Let us know all about your favorite murder mystery games!