Sucker punches. Moral dilemmas. Psychological terrors. These games will mess you up. We love games that inspire a strong emotional reaction.
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We mean games that leave you breathless and confused, hurting and betrayed, cowering and whimpering. Games that linger in the mind — or blow it entirely. The games below all have the capacity to affect the player deeply. Please note that there will be massive, weighty, egregious SPOILERS in the discussion, so please skip straight past any title you want to experience for yourself; these games are most successful when you go in clean.
Meanwhile, the meaningless red herring moral dilemma of whether to harvest the Little Sisters or not keeps your attention away from the questionable nature of the rest of your actions.
And then the punch: it turns out that none of your actions and choices mattered a jot. You were being controlled all along, and you never even knew. Papers, Please is not any easy game. The escalating security requirements of your overlords, the increasingly desperate attempts of the populace to cross the border and the genuinely stressful management of your time and money while juggling the possibility of assisting revolutionaries all add up to a game experience that cannot be described as comfortable.
Papers, Please leaves you exhausted, conflicted and questioning. One scene in particular sticks out: the player fires white phosphorous into a building, which is shortly thereafter revealed to have been full of civilians. What in the heck.
Take my money. Talltale is skilled enough that everyone else is reasonably likely to be strongly affected, but there are huge groups of gamers out there for whom the story of Lee and Clementine is damn near unplayable. By episode three the pressure to protect, cherish and teach Clem weighs down like millstones.
The failures of other parents, despite their very best efforts, is a constant theme throughout the season but really begins to bite in this one. And nobody can protect you. Another very famous twist ending, Heavy Rain really does a on the player with its red herrings, false trails, and seeming contradictions. Tasked with tracking down the Origami Killer, the player is more than gently nudged into wondering whether one of the multiple playable protagonists is responsible for the kidnapping of his own son.
The game deliberately highlights chunks of missing time and asks you to consider what the character was doing during these periods. This makes the reveal much more awesome, because you were half right. In fact it almost feels impossible, and many players considered the solution unfair.
A repeat play through, in the knowledge of what comes next, can make you feel stupid; the clues are there all along. You are free to explore in any direction you choose, switching to an alternate path if you get hopelessly stuck, but each twist of the corridors throws up a new kind of challenge, requiring you to bend your brain in yet another new direction.
Escher-like tricks of perspective and unreal architecture must be accepted and incorporated into your mental landscape in order to proceed. The act of getting your head around the puzzles feels like physical effort; you push and push and push and suddenly squeeze on through to emerge on the other side of a gestalt switch that leaves you disoriented. As an adventure game it is reasonable; as a horror experience it is extraordinary; as marketing it is phenomenal; as a combination of all three it is a work of genius.
Unforgivingly inaccessible, PT left many players confused and bored, seemingly stuck in a dull loop. But for those who worked out how to get further, its mysteries are still being discussed.
What makes the baby give its final laugh? What does the dialogue refer to? What do the s mean?
PT is deeply, profoundly scary. Go in cold and play in the dark.
If not, at least Resident Evil 7 took some cues from this greatly mourned project. Nier is a game that gives back what you put in, and therein lies one of its greatest strengths. Which turns out to be: really fucked up things.
The final villain, an unceasing antagonist, turns out to be the original from which Nier is cast as a shadow or reflection — and that hurts.
What women actually mean when they say that
What do you expect from a Drakengard spin off? In Dragon Age 2 the first character to express feelings for Hawke is Anders, a mage first met in Origins expansion Awakenings who shares his body with a spirit of Justice. At the end of Dragon Age 2, Anders commits an act of terrorism; he had severe provocation, and his cause was just, but the means are probably unforgivable to most players. If you had any affection or sympathy for the cat-loving mage, this end to the romance or friendship or rivalry is in itself jarring and can leave you shaken up, but the journey itself is also extremely interesting.
As this terrific blog post details, Anders as a romance-able character breaks all the rules, aggressively manipulating the player and pushing them into no-win situations. Sometimes shit just gets a little bit too real, you know? As they journey, the environment gets darker and darker, and some sort of nameless, faceless evil comes out of the shadows, taunting and manipulating them. You might need a little breather from all this horror in order to calm yourself down.
But in this instance that option is not available. Doors are blocked.
Your butler, an otherwise ever-present companion, is missing. And the sounds of the darkness do not stop.
Metal Gear Solid is a series that loves to mess with the player, breaking the fourth wall to acknowledge its daddy screw me up game existence as a game and even building questions about the difference between reality and simulation into its themes. This last is especially prevalent in MGS 2: Sons of Libertywhich turns out to have been one big simulation all along, deed to see if Raiden could be shaped into a successor for Snake — among other goals.
In one of the creepiest and most effective uses of faux glitches, the player is faced with game over screens, audio discrepancies and weird visual effects. Hours later it all resolves in a boss fight and one of the longest, dullest cutscenes in the history of gaming, which makes you feel a bit better, if even less clear on what on earth was going on. From about half way through BioShock Infinite turns into one unceasing mindfuck, the delights of which need more unpacking than this small space allows for. As you find out later on, there are actually two scientists called Lutece — a man and a woman — and the game is deliberately vague about which one is the celebrated genius responsible for the flying city.
Did I imagine that? Was that a bug? Much of its impact is related to its place within the rest of the series. It was the first in the series to feature voice acting. It sticks out by not having a numeral attached to the title. The themes were a bit darker and more serious than and later games. It just feels… anomalous, somehow, and weirdly so.
In this context, the player was encouraged to treat it seriously, engaging with the characters and plot. To then find out that a helpful companion is not just a bad guy but the bad guy — well. It left us stunned.
The Silent Hill series as a whole is an absolute no brainer for this list, having scared and even scarred so many gamers. But Silent Hill gets to you in more ways than just being scary.
For : do you want to fuck me daddy
The various teams who have worked on Silent Hill have interpreted it in different ways, often to the disgust of its fanbase, but the series has always been most successful when it taps into primal horrors, eschewing spectacle and gore in favour of the kinds of fright that feel like they could have come from your own brain.
All three original Thief games contain supernatural elements and all of them can be very eerie. This level of close engagement leaves you wide open, emotionally, and Thief 3: Deadly Shadows in particular capitalises on this masterfully with its penultimate level.
In Robbing the Cradle, you explore Shalebridge Cradle, an abandoned orphanage and mental asylum a nice double whammy, there. The third Ken Levine entry on this list fourth, if you stretch the Thief entry to cover the first game and the spiritual precursor to the Bio Shock games that followed. In typical Levine style, things are never quite what they seem, and SHODAN manages at least three shocking reveals as the cyberpunk thriller unfolds.
The action of Clock Tower is all about horror.
Nothing exists in it to do anything but inspire feelings of fear, helplessness, inevitable capture and narrow escape. Clock Tower fans are still having nightmares. There are plenty of other games that leverage sadness to get to you. Cart Lifenow available for free, is one of the few games to worm its way into your brain and unlock a depression.