Using full-motion video to portray characters in a game has been around since the boom of CD-ROM. Since then, developers have created genre-defying titles to celebrate and grow the FMV scene. These games cater to horror, thriller, and investigative narratives, but creators have branched out over time so that no genre is truly free from the potential for an FMV title. To celebrate the variety of FMV games out there, we’ve compiled a list of 15 of the best FMV games of all time for fans to enjoy and broaden their horizons.
Related: The 10 best mystery games, ranked
15 of the Best FMV Games Anyone can Play Right Now
Below, we’ve listed 15 of the best FMV games out there. They’re listed in no particular order because each has its own merits. Fans should read through and find a game that piques their interest so they can jump in and discover what it’s all about.
Immortality is developer Half Mermaid’s masterpiece in interactive FMV storytelling. Players become an archivist that’s been sent various pieces of footage from three films. All star one actress in particular, Marissa Marcel, and it’s down to the player to uncover what happened to her throughout her career and how it ended.
Immortality has a huge twist that we won’t spoil because the revelation that comes in the middle of the game is truly terrifying. The core gameplay revolves around selecting items in certain scenes that link to a similar object in another to ‘unlock’ more scenes to explore. It’s a very different type of FMV game, but one that any fan of the genre will lose themselves in as they attempt to understand what they’re seeing.
2) After Hours
After Hours is an interactive novel where players choose what happens next, but there are moments in the game where it only gives them the illusion of choice. This portrays how mental health can affect one’s actions, leaving players with no more choice in how they wish to respond to triggering events.
The game left a mark on the gaming landscape in ways no other games can by creating an FMV game that shows the harsh reality of living with mental health challenges.
3) At Dead of Night
The seamlessness of the full-motion videos with game interactions in At Dead of Night makes it one of the best FMV games ever. The game meshes the investigative and horror genre — the two most common genres of FMV games. While players need to unravel the dark truth of the creepy hotel before hightailing home, they also have to run away from Jimmy Hall, the front desk man who turns out to be a deranged killer and persistently out to kill them.
At Dead of Night effortlessly captures the essence of FMV games, using full-motion videos to make the gaming experience more immersive. It also creatively uses CGI to increase interactivity, making the horror gameplay experience one for the books.
4) Black Mirror: Bandersnatch
As the developers only made this game available to Netflix, some may think Black Mirror: Bandersnatch is not as accessible compared with other FMV games.
However, this only makes FMV as a genre assert its existence to those who are not yet familiar with it. This way, it also pays homage to the earliest form of FMV games which are interactive movies that users play multiple times to figure out their many endings.
The Black Mirror franchise loves its mind-bending narratives, and Black Mirror: Bandersnatch is no different.
Contradiction is not a typical detective murder mystery game. Players take on the role of detective inspector Frederick Jenks who is sent to investigate a murder in the town of Edenton. By talking to several characters and trying to catch them in a lie while using interactive items in the game, players are in for an immersive gaming experience.
Whether players decide to do all the sleuthing on their own or use an online walkthrough when they get stuck, Contradiction is a game anyone is guaranteed to enjoy for hours on end. Fans hope for a sequel one day, but there’s still not even a whisper on the subject to date.
6) Her Story
Her Story is a very different type of FMV game. It presents players with a set of interview tapes with a woman who is being questioned by police about the disappearance of her husband. Players need to type in words or phrases to scan through the footage and uncover links that will ultimately lead them to the answers they seek. The game was incredibly popular at launch and set developer Half Mermaid on a trajectory to become one of the best FMV-creating studios on the planet.
This game is a fantastic entry point to the FMV genre because it’s quite light on how much FMV footage it’ll throw at players. The gameplay revolves more around thinking about the correct words and phrases to search for over repeatedly watching hours of footage.
Erica combines point-and-click adventures with live video through gorgeous visuals and its high production value. The game flawlessly moves between video to interactive elements and back again. There are no loading screens, and the events happen in real-time, which makes the gameplay a seamless and interactive experience.
The story unfolds slowly, as any good psychological thriller should, but it easily keeps players engaged through its 90-minute run time. With a more laid-back yet still interactive gameplay, Erica flaunts just how a well-crafted FMV game can engross the masses and pull them into multiple playthroughs.
8) Late Shift
An FMV game with an interactive movie format, Late Shift immerses players in its narrative without having to rely on complex gameplay. Its well-written story about the London criminal underground is shown with seamless transitions between scenes, which keep players engaged. FMV fans can clearly see how Late Shift set a new standard for the genre when it was released.
It places high regard on its production value, a narrative that plays out interestingly until its end, and strong acting that we only often see in films. Late Shift is something someone can play multiple times with ease to figure out the different possible endings to its riveting story.
9) Night Trap
Released on Nintendo Switch for its remastered 25th-anniversary edition, Night Trap is undoubtedly of great historical significance to the FMV genre. Although it is not the first game to introduce having to sift through different segments of live CCTV footage, it is the first one to truly make a mark.
A perfect run of Night Trap can take as quickly as half an hour to complete, but players may find themselves playing it many more times to master or “beat” the game. This entry also wouldn’t be complete without mentioning how controversial Night Trap was during its original release in 1992, even being brought before the US Congress during a 1993 hearing that led to the creation of the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB).
10) Not For Broadcast
In Not For Broadcast, players are tasked with censoring and editing the live footage of a series of television channels, and players have full control over how that happens and the events that unfold.
FMV games started off being known as the quirky and kitschy genre of video games. Since its inception in the 80s, it slowly grew out of its stereotype, with most titles comprising murder mysteries, investigative thrillers, horror, and the like.
Very few FMV games attempt to deviate from this norm, but none ever hit on the same level as Not The Broadcast does. It meets the standards of even the most meticulous players wonderfully, and when it comes to its story writing, gameplay, acting, and replay value, very few titles can live up to the standard it’s set.
11) Telling Lies
Telling Lies is easily one of the best FMV games of all time, perfect for fans of investigative thrillers who want to put their sleuthing skills to the test.
Through non-linear storytelling with believable characters portrayed by effective actors, Telling Lies will make players forget time while surfing through video clips trying to piece the events together. The game also makes a commentary on our self-imagined sense of security and privacy in such a hyper-digital modern world, as it doesn’t really explain where the database of videos comes from.
12) Five Dates
Five Dates is an FMV game set during the pandemic in London. Players take on the role of Vinny, a millennial looking for love at a time when physical touch is no longer possible. This game is more a dating sim than anything else, but the addition of FMV makes it incredibly striking. Branching narrative paths based on players’ choices will define the outcome of conversations and open up new opportunities further down the line. Or close them off.
13) The Infectious Madness of Doctor Dekker
The Infectious Madness of Doctor Dekker turns players into a psychiatrist attempting to solve a murder. They’re treating the patients of the recently deceased Doctor Dekker, and nothing is as it seems as they work through each therapy session, presented in FMV footage. The game doesn’t present players with question prompts to pick from, though. Instead, players need to type out thoughtful questions that they want answers to. However, the patients will also have questions for them, and everyone needs to be careful about what they’re saying if they want to survive.
14) The Shapeshifting Detective
The Shapeshifting Detective is just like any other detective adventure FMV game, except the protagonist can shapeshift into other characters. This means they can access private conversations and new dialogue choices based on the character they’ve shapeshifted into. With a new layer on top of the standard detective adventure tropes, this game pushes boundaries and forces players to think in new ways if they want to solve the case.
15) 428 Shibuya Scramble
In 428 Shibuya Scramble, a hard-boiled detective, former gang leader, and hard-hitting journalist are thrown together when a kidnapping occurs in Shibuya. The game blends live-action footage and camera stills for extremely dramatic scenes that are more absurd than most FMV titles. One of the main differences between this and other games in the genre is that five separate stories are taking place at once, and an innocent decision one character makes can have a disastrous impact on another. Players need to replay this game repeatedly if they want to see everything it has to offer and take in what each character brings to the table.