Elementary, My Dear Posters: Detective + Deduction + Mystery Games

What are the best games about detecting, deduction, and solving mysteries? Or, to put it more simply, what are the games that make you go…………………………………… OH!!! OH SHIT!!! AHA!!!

I believe that this is a *very hard* kind of game to write, because it's tough to write a mystery that straddles the lines between overly esoteric and overly simple, or handhold-y when expressed through gameplay and tough to express through gameplay even if the solution is something you understand.

I pretty much always want to play games like this, but, as I‘ve alluded to, it’s tough to find good ones, with well designed mystery solving mechanics. Mark Brown of Game Maker's Toolkit can explain why better than I can.

I think these games can be really beautiful because you play them largely inside your own mind. The art of it is how that makes it into a game is the real challenge for developers. You don't want to just basically have a visual mystery novel... you want the players to feel like they're the ones investigating and deducting.

Should go without saying, but please use spoiler warnings liberally if discussing any element of the games you're talking about!! To create spoiler hidden text

Shortlist of some of my favourites:

  • Gyakuten Saiban series a.k.a. Ace Attorney

My first love of this kind of game. One of my fondest memories of playing any game ever is being up way too late on my DS having a genuine moment at the climax of the last case of the first game when you SPOILER FOR THE HYPEST MOMENT IN THAT WHOLE SERIES: find the bullet lodged in von Karma’s shoulder using a metal detector.

  • Return of the Obra Dinn

So much aesthetic commitment, and brilliant design for how you piece together the whole narrative. This is a game I wish I could forget having played to play all over again.

  • Pentiment

A game where, really, solving the mysteries isn't exactly a required objective of the game. But, trying to is a huge part of the experience. Some exquisite writing and an impressive commitment to historical verisimilitude.

  • Disco Elysium

The social CRPG aspects of it kind of end up overshadowing the investigation angle but it's still pretty damn good in this regard too.

  • Pathologic 2

A game that is intermittently on sale and is good enough to be purchased at full price, but also, when it’s on sale you have no excuse!!


I could keep going but I don't want to just be talking to myself. I'm always on the lookout for games that make me feel like I'm investigating things and trying to solve mysteries. What are some of your favourites, and why? What are some games that have really clever narrative structures and gameplay mechanics for making you feel like Sherlock Holmes?

Also this doesn't necessarily have to only be visual novels or adventure games about being a detective or a lawyer or something like that. I am interested in any game that incorporates deduction or mystery solving as part of the experience, maybe to some degree things like environmental puzzles too.

For example I think _La-Mulana 2_ is more of a metroid-like than an archaeology game, but damn, those puzzles are crazy. A little on the esoteric side for me, but, hey, I can't help but respect it for being like that.

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Some SHAMELESS self promotion:

Our game Paradise Killer is an open world free form murder mystery game. There is a locked door murder which you are tasked with solving. A suspect is already in custody but are the facts and the truth the same. You can find all the evidence and testimony in any order and it is up to you when you trigger the end game trials and which evidence you present in them. You can finish the game in 10 minutes by just prosecuting the established suspect or you can spend 15 hours scouring the island for new evidence and choosing which of the island inhabitants to accuse of the crime to end all crimes.

Thank you for your time.

https://youtu.be/fSprpzYzHKg

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Case of the Golden Idol fits the bill and was thoroughly enjoyable.

Gemini Rue is a point-and-click adventure game that is worth looking at also if you're after this sort of thing.

The Professor Layton games are all about deducing things, where those things are solutions to puzzles.

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@“Gaagaagiins”#p119979 what are the games that make you go…………………………………… OH!!! OH SHIT!!! AHA!!!

_Nier_, but not because it is a detective game but rather as a reaction to the game revealing itself to the player over the course of the journey.

Her Story

I still haven't played any of the other Sam Barlow games, but this one sticks with me as a game that turned me into a notebook and search term fiend for a few hours.

_Hypnospace Outlaw_
Similarly to _Her Story_, this is a game where all the information is there from the start and your deductions propel you deeper.

_Loom_
Loom makes deduction a part of its magic system by never telling you what spells do or how they work, leaving you to experiment with them to gain an understanding of what they do.

The DS is a great system for detective games

**Hotel Dusk** and **Last Window** are all time bangers

**Time Hollow** has recently really impressed me by being a visual novel that I didn't immediately bounce off of. I think a lot of that has to do with the quality of the writing. It is a time manipulation story that handles that element with care and precision. Your protagonist really feels like a detective trying to work out what is going on.

Man I wish I liked those early **Jake Hunter** games though, the writing there is just so dry and the game play feel so on rails.

I haven’t gotten around to many of the classics. I played Ghost Trick but not phoenix wright, because I want to play those on GBA, and it unfortunately won’t happen in English most likely, so I could play with a translation guide, like I did for mother 3 in 2006 lol.

Anyways my faves in this genre are _Thimbleweed Park_ and _Deadly Preminition_. The clearly twin peaks / x files inspired setting really puts me in the mood and gets me invested right away, draws me in and immerses me without any friction whatsoever.

AI: The Somnium Files and its sequel, Nirvana Initiative are really really good.

The full series of the Nonary Games: 999, Virtues Last Reward and Zero Time Dilemma.

Isn't Persona 4 Golden a Detective game too?

My favorite “detective” games are the ones where you may not even know from the start that there's a puzzle to solve, even the rules are up to you to discover. What is Outer Wilds but a big crime scene investigation, you know?

Here are some games in this very nebulously defined subgenre!

[TUNIC](https://store.steampowered.com/app/553420/TUNIC/)

[First Land](https://fotocopiadora.itch.io/first-land)

[MyHouse.wad](https://www.doomworld.com/vb/thread/134292)

I also love [Petscop](https://www.youtube.com/@Petscop) for similar reasons.

I was gonna post this on the currently playing thread but then I saw we already have a dedicated one!

I play detective games with my girlfriend, pen and paper in hand. it’s fun! but I feel like by now we’re kinda scraping the bottom of the barrel in terms of quality. There really aren’t that many detective games overall, much less great ones, compared with other genres. it’s a tricky format because, unlike most others, if it doesn’t have both great writing and great mechanics, it falls completely flat.

anyone got any recs? I am open to anything as long as they don’t veer too much into the horror genre.

of wot I played recently:

  • great: Frog Detective, Pentiment, Norco, Her Story, Obra Dinn, The Forgotten City, Disco Elysium.

  • decent: Tangle Tower, Gemini Rue, Subsurface Circular,

  • not so good: Frogware’s Sherlock Holmes, Poirot ABC Murders, The Flower Collectors, Heaven’s Vault, Telling Lies, Nuts…

  • backlog: Paradise Killer, Ace Attorney, Immortality, Pathologic 2.

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I have been really hankering for a game like this and I just found that Hyp’ is 75% off on Steam.

I feel I’ve said this about it before but I hope I don’t do the same thing I did with Her Story, where I accidentally stumbled on a clip that honestly gave me The Gist of The Twist on, literally, my second search query. So the majority of my time spent with that game was less “what is going on here?” and more “…is that’s all that’s going on here…?”

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Actually unfortunately I watched the trailer for this and now I’m just not that interested in it anymore…? It looks cool but it suddenly doesn’t interest me. IDK I’m feeling fickle today. Still in my Final Fantasy VII Rebirth afterglow and not knowing why other videogames exist.

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If you haven’t played it, you may also think that Quarantine Circular is decent.

Strong recommendation from me to check out Case of the Golden Idol.

If you’re ok with the vague horror-ness of Obra Dinn then you will probably be ok with the small(ish) amounts of the same in Excavation of Hobb’s Barrow.

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cross-posting this upcoming game from the adventure game thread

Also: I want to recommend World Of Horror because it is excellent and has mystery-solving, but it’s not really deductive if that matters

Tunic is my #1 “wish i could erase it from my brain so i could play it again”

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Paradise Killer was a nice surprise. I knew it looked great aesthetically, but for some reason I was expecting something much smaller and simpler. This is a full scale, complicated, juicy mystery in a vast island full of evidence to find. It is set in a bizarre and stylish futuristic universe, so you are not just trying to understand what happened, but also what the fuck this place is, what are their beliefs, what is their conception of time, or power.

You have a robust menu system with a timeline, a log of people’s testimonies and alibi’s, and the usable evidence related to each crime committed. You can build trust with someone so they will tell you more and you can cross-reference what they said with someone else. The mystery is multi-layered to such a degree that basically everything you find ends up being relevant in terms of painting a complete picture of what happened. And best of all: It is all addressed in the end. It is probably possible to simply collect stuff and improvise an accusation, but if you go to the trial having thought everything through, the granularity of the system allows you to build the case exactly as you want and it is so fucking satisfying.

There is a bit of first person 3D platforming, which is somewhat finicky as one would expect, but it’s half broken in an ultimately pleasant way; sticky friction if you will. Same with the clash of art styles; you have these 2D characters in 3D environments, and menus that feel like anime title cards. There’s a light layer of vaporwave over everything, but none of the story deals with the frankly boring nostalgic themes of that genre, and the soundtrack is way too lavish and funky to be elevator music. This using something familiar to do something unfamiliar is present in many facets of the game, and it’s very tasteful.

Since the menus are so detailed, when they did omit something, it was a bit of a shame: I still used a pen and paper to note things down because I realised not everything was going to be clear in the in-game notes. And I do wish the world traversal options were a bit more varied.

But overall, it’s a wonderful addition to this genre, with a great level of care put into the parts that matter the most, and clever artistry making the rest of it work.

@Chopemon you made a really cool thing! I hope you are very proud!

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Thank you very much for playing! I’m glad you liked it so much.