Everyone loves a good mystery, including gamers, which is why there are so many mystery games for players to test their detective skills on. While not every game out there needs a mystery to solve, these games use that format to their advantage, slowly unveiling the unknown over time. Here are our picks for the best mystery games of all time to test your inner Holmes.
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The best mystery games ever – our top ten picks
A good mystery needs to have a few key traits. It needs to slowly deliver the information to the player over time, allowing them to uncover the answers on their own. On top of that, the question that the player is solving needs to be compelling enough to drive the plot forward on its own. Some games that focus on the mystery fail to deliver on these points, leading to a frustrating or unsatisfying ending.
10) Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishments
It is impossible to create a list of the best mystery games without including a game featuring the world’s most famous detective. While it isn’t the most faithful take on the Sherlock Holmes mystery out there, it is easily one of the best games based on the character, which will send players through detailed environments seeking clues. The interrogation scenes are particularly fun and there are great moments where the game challenges you to stay in character as Holmes and leave your morality at the door.
9) The Wolf Among Us
Telltale Games managed to deliver consistent mysteries for players to uncover, but the best of them was in The Wolf Among Us. Set in a world where fairy tale characters had come to live in New York City, it followed none other than the Big Bad Wolf in a prequel story to the critically acclaimed Fables comics. This game delivers on a murder mystery format perfectly and uses its cel-shaded style to create memorable characters.
8) Beyond Two Souls
While Heavy Rain focused on the classic whodunit format, Quantic Dream’s follow-up, Beyond Two Souls, gave us a more focused, supernatural story. In it, a young woman grows up with an entity following her around, protecting and watching over her from her earliest memories. The story focuses on the mystery of who or what this entity is and how it is used both by her and by the shadowy government officials in her life. The payoff is a twist ending that feels earned and offers an emotional climax that stuck with us for ages afterward.
7) Until Dawn
Many horror games focus on a mysterious curse, but Until Dawn managed to use that formula to keep us guessing throughout. A group of teens is brought together at a dark cabin by an invitation from their friend, only to be hunted by a deadly creature of the night. Few horror games are as cinematic as Until Dawn and player choices directly influence the ending, deciding which characters live and die well before the final climax.
6) L.A. Noire
L.A. Noire delivers not just one but several mysteries to unravel in 1940s Los Angeles. The game recreates the classic detective-noir genre in the form of a police procedural story, giving players the chance to interrogate criminals and choose their approach to uncovering the truth. While the world isn’t as open and engaging as other Rockstar titles, it is still a deeply fun and engaging mystery story to uncover.
5) What Remains of Edith Finch
This game manages to blur the lines between interactive fiction and video game, touching on themes such as loss and mortality in a beautiful but haunting way. What Remains of Edith Finch is a tough game to get stuck into but if you’re in the mood for a mystery that doesn’t pull its punches and will leave you reflecting on it for days after you’ve finished it, this is a great game to try out.
While the gameplay is focused heavily on recreating the classic Resident Evil formula, Signalis’ story is focused on the mystery of what evil has taken over a deep-space mining station and the connection between Elster and Ariane. This is a shorter game than most on this list and it is better for it, delivering its plot in a tightly paced package that can be unwrapped within 10 hours. If you liked Twin Peaks, you’ll enjoy the surreal atmosphere of Signalis’ mystery.
3) The Vanishing of Ethan Carter
Casting players into the role of paranormal investigator Paul Prospero, The Vanishing of Ethan Carter sets up a brilliant mystery from the first few moments of gameplay. This short game offers a perfectly paced mystery into the disappearance of a young boy as well as a string of murders that have haunted a small town. The puzzles included in the game work well to advance the mystery and there are enough twists and turns to keep players guessing until the final curtain.
2) Chaos; Child
There are countless visual novels out there that lean into mysteries to tell their stories, but Chaos; Child is easily one of the best. Recently rereleased for the Switch, this game follows a series of gruesome murders that are haunting the city of Tokyo. As is often the case with these games, the only one capable of solving these murders is a high school student and his friends. Chaos; Child is a deeply disturbing but unmistakably engaging mystery game that uses sound and visuals to build tension throughout.
1) Disco Elysium
This game has amassed multiple awards since its release and has gained a passionate following due to the way it mixes the classic murder mystery format with a touch of black comedy. Disco Elysium is a deeply fun, unique take on mystery games, letting players level up their detective skills and personality traits based on how they interact with characters. A lot is going on beneath the surface here but this mystery game is worth playing just for how unique it feels from start to finish.