Sherlock Holmes and his distant cousin Batman are two of the greatest dicks of all time, that is, detectives, and they’ve appeared in countless games throughout the years. But what about all those other sleuths?
This is an excuse to write one of those ‘best’ lists so I can change the image of that football one.
- What’s Alan Wake Been Doing With Himself?
- 10 Games That Prove ‘What Kills Us Makes Us Stronger’
- 22 Games I’m Stoked For
- Are Demos Still Important?
Sonny Bonds from Police Quest was a favourite of mine. Manny from Grim Fandango, too. While not officially a detective, but still suitable for this list, we’re focussing on more recent titles in the last year or so – even if the latter was a remastered title on the Switch. So no retros, so no monthly reference to Zak McKraken and the Alien Mindbenders, for the sake of it.
Here’s a list of the BEST detective games, according to me, a.k.a., games I’ve played. If you have any recommendations, let me know!
- Chicken Police
- Song of Farca
- The Darkside Detective 1 & 2
- The Innsmouth Case
- Inspector Waffles
- Dry Drowning
- Who Stole My Beard?
- Jenny LeClue – Detectivu
- Gibbous: A Cthulhu Adventure
- Deadly Premonition 2
- Tokyo Dark Remembrance
- Chronicle of Innsmouth Mountains of Madness
- Sam & Max Save The World Remastered
An instant classic in all the definitions, Chicken Police is a film noir point and click/visual novel featuring two hard-boiled cops – Sonny and Marty pulled out of obscurity to solve one more case.
Cue some of the best ways to mount an animal head on a human body, fantastic storytelling and voice acting, and the perfect soundtrack to accompany it all. The Maltese Falcon of the PC world, and now consoles, too.
Song of Farca
A new one, and perhaps the catalyst for this list. In the fictional city of Farca, you play Izy, a P.I. on house arrest airing the dirty laundry from a network of deceit. How does she do this if confined to her apartment? The interwebs.
If you’re dealing with corruption, you’ll have to be prepared to get your hands dirty, not just your fingertips from all those keyboard crumbs. Izy’s almost an anti-hero, bending what could be considered invasive so she can get her way. Awesome.
Assemble Entertainment have a skill for sniffing out titles with story arcs, and this is set in a volatile future where warring factions are a nob’s length away from war.
As CDI agent Neil Conrad, you must investigate, collate and be decisive on the clues you discover, taking the appropriate action. This is one of those “YES! Choices matter!” games, and though DigiTales’ title appears to be a point and click, they’re learned how to change the rules effectively.
The Darkside Detective 1 & 2
How can you have the BEST detective list if nothing is representing the paranormal? Forget Mulder and Scully, McQueen and Dooley are sci-fi’s Tango and Cash as they explore various phenomenons, even managing to expose a bit of Dooley’s heritage with a trip to Ireland.
Ok, so the above refers to the later release, but the first adventure is just as good, and if you haven’t played it, why not? Entertaining, witty and homage to classic adventures, this detective piece is worthy of your time.
I don’t get why Rainswept doesn’t get as much exposure as it did at the time of release and shortly afterwards. The visuals are a bit unusual at times, and while it might not stand out from the others in the pack, the storytelling is beautiful, if a little poignant.
A murder/suicide has taken place, and it’s your job to investigate, but the further you go, the more that the event resonates with your past. Just who is the detective you play in this compelling narrative?
The Innsmouth Case
Almost like a cut and paste now, The Innsmouth Case is one of my favourite Lovecraft adaptations from one of his best and more popular novellas.
A classic choose your own adventure, with a ton of unique endings to unlock, I was fortunate enough to be able to play this on the Nintendo Switch, carrying it about like a good book. Xbox and PlayStation owners get a chance as it’s out now for the platforms (and PC).
Another animal detective, Inspector Waffles, is about an intelligent cat who likes his drink: milk. This chunky pixel adventure takes a lot of its visual charm from the likes of The Darkside Detective yet stands on its own two feet (insert your own nine lives/cats landing on their feet thing here).
Charming, colourful and errr… cat-like, this detective adventure from Goloso Games is a must if you like pussy… cats, great jazz, and a not-so-hard experience with plenty of hints.
Another film noir experience, but with a twist in that it’s set in the future. Dry Drowning is a visual novel set in the fictitious world of Nova Polemos, a place full of corruption – you guessed it, a dystopian future.
Playing as P.I. Foley, you’re a chain smoker with a high EQ and super-intellect, but he’s not perfect. The results of an investigation into a prolific serial killer ended up with the false imprisonment of two people. Now the killer is back, and only Foley can track him down, hopefully rebuilding his reputation in the process.
Who Stole My Beard?
Not a powerhouse title you might have expected in this list, but I’m all for indie games, especially when the protagonist is called Indie, has a sidekick called Leo, a German Shepherd, and frothing to the brim with dad jokes.
The power of the beard is strong here: you live in a place called Beardsville, where everyone, including the ladies, has a beard. Waking up to find his beard missing, Indie and Leo must find out what happened to it, all the while avoiding the beard police.
Watch out for a review in the coming days.
Jenny LeClue – Detectivu
One of the best-presented adventures in this list, Jenny LeClue – Detectivu is a moving picturebook that sounds a little archaic in my assessment, follows the adventure of teenage sleuth, Jenny.
Following a decline in book sales, author Arthur K Finklestein turns her world upside down by introducing a more mature theme: murder. Wait: Jenny is a fictitious character? Maybe she is, maybe she isn’t?
Gibbous: A Cthulhu Adventure
Speaking (writing) of presentation, Gibbous: A Cthulhu Adventure is stellar. Featuring illustrations on par with a feature film and content to match, we play two main characters in their quest to stop the Necronomicon from getting into the wrong hands.
The Secret of Monkey Islands fans will be in their element here with plenty of nods to the classic, including an early soon with someone representing the voodoo trade. An absolute must.
Deadly Premonition 2
Surreal, absurd, janky, but Deadly Premonition 2 is undoubtedly one of the best stories I’ve experienced on the Nintendo Switch, which co-incidentally is an excellent detective tale, too, for those who are fans of the Twin Peaks…
With characters straight out of The House Of The Dead 2 and a presentation that makes you feel it’s an inside joke at times, the references and dialogue in this opus are excellent and wealth worth greasing your skateboard wheels for a bit of detective work, eh Zach.
Tokyo Dark Remembrance
One of the first titles I bought on the Nintendo eShop, Tokyo Dark Remembrance, is an intriguing tale that teases you with a dark account as you peek further into the rabbit hole.
The first hurdle in your investigation is whether this is a point and click, visual novel or action title. Spoiler: it’s all of them. A bit quirky in places, this is an indie title; you might want to look up an indie title, especially if you’re a Japanophile. Don’t worry; that’s not a derogative term that will put you on a list.
Chronicle of Innsmouth Mountains of Madness
Another Lovecraft game, as if the glue that bonds indie games with a detective vibe together. As Loan Carter, you’ll explore a faithful recreation of two Lovecraft titles, drawing upon the best elements, yet having their own identity.
Well worth the two playthroughs since getting it a few months back; Chronicle of Innsmouth Mountains of Madness takes all the goodness of a detective yarn while spicing it up with the surreal and a bit of sci-fi too. You won’t be stuck behind a desk in this one.
Sam & Max Save The World Remastered
No list should be without a point and click reference, especially if that’s the revered Sam & Max. Revered chiefly by me, these two are among the best duos ever, and this revamp of the original cannot be missed, even if you had the first one.
I missed the first series and understand that this is a faithful recreation of before, but with brighter visuals and some re-recorded sound. Regardless, if you’re a Sam & Max fan, it’s a must. Yep, this isn’t a constructive entry, just a fanboy one.
As always, the above isn’t an exhaustive BEST detective games list, and it’s 100% subjective. Whether you agree or not is irrelevant, but I hope you look some of these up, perhaps read some of the reviews to make me chuckle at the revised interest in older reviews. Inevitably there will be some titles missed from the past year, but I can’t play ’em all. Here are some honourable mentions on my list, which I hope to dip into in the next week or so, taking a break from newer titles.
Everybody raves about Disco Elysium and not being defiant for the sake of it; it wasn’t until fairly recently that I bought this on Steam in a sale before the Director’s Cut being released. A brilliant tale where the case is as open to interpretation as is your character’s origins. What kind of a person are you? How did you get here? Are you the murderer? Brilliant so far, but I’ve not had the time to play.
Paradise Killer is a game I bought last month but haven’t played yet, and Judgment is a game I’ve had over a year but is still in the wrapper. The demo was good, though, and as a Yakuza fan, looking forward to it.
Observer is another title that got a PS5 release, but I got the PS4 one last year but have only managed to play about 20 minutes worth as I haven’t had the time to do so. As a fan of Blade Runner (the original is sitting in my GOG library begging to be played), I was delighted to see the late Rutger Hauer in the lead role.
New titles to look out for: Chinatown Detective Agency One, The Sundew, Man Without Organs and Jennifer Wilde. My hands are tired now. Later.