Do you ever get that feeling, when playing games, that you really should be doing something more edifying with your life. I do, usually at about three in the morning after a marathon session of slaughtering undead in Sacred 2.
It is a sad fact that most the computer games I play are about as intellectually stimulating as a fart. But, thankfully, not all. Here, I present five games I've found that force you to think a little - in some cases even get a bit philosophical.
It is very rare - nay, impossible - for a game to reduce me to tears. And this one didn't. But, I can tell you, it was damn close. A more poignant and profound game you are unlikely to find. On the surface, the point of Passage is to open as many treasure chests within the allotted time. But that's not what Jason Rohrer's award winning game is really about. What it is really about is love, the passing of time, saying goodbye to youth and freedom, grief - ultimately life itself.
Passage can be played on Mac OSX, Windows and Linux and can be downloaded here. Make sure you have some tissues handy before you start playing.
2The Majesty of Colors
"Last night I had a dream". So begins The Majesty of Colors - a sparklingly innovative Flash game by Gregory Weir. But this is no ordinary dream, And "I" - you - is no ordinary person. You are a terrifyingly ugly sea monster - basically a giant squid with one enormous spiked tentacle with which you interact with the world. Despite your fearsome appearance, you start the game as an innocent creature, curious about the world. But your interactions with humanity threaten to corrupt you. Feeling rejected and persecuted, do you turn bad and use your considerable powers for evil purposes, or do you strive to do good? The choice is yours.
The Majesty of Colors is a game that can be played multiple times - the decisions you make during the game determine between the many different endings. Play it here. Read an interview with the game's creator here.
The Game starts by telling us that there are no rules, just play. But what does it mean by that. Is it lavishing praise on anarchy or is it saying that life's just a game. The truth is nothing so trite. The Game takes you on a voyage of philosophical exploration like none you will have experienced before. You will find yourself committing suicide beneath clouds bearing Einstein's legendary equation, suffering under the totalitarianism of communisim, getting your heart shot to bits by a lover - all the time accompanied by the wittiest commentary I've seen in a game. And the more you progress into The Game, the deeper - and funnier - it gets.
Trust me, The Game will change your perception of what games are about. Play it here but not for too long because it might blow your mind.
Gray is a riot - quite literally. In this cerebral, experimental game, you play the part of a lone dissenter, trying desperately to win a seemingly never ending horde of rioters over to your cause. It seems like a helpless task but one by one you manage to woo the rioters until eventually you have the majority following you. But what does any self-respecting rebel do when they are a member of the majority, well in this game, they switch to the other side of course, and repeat the whole process again but from the opposite direction.
Gray raises some interesting questions about the individual and the possibility of one person changing the course of history. It is also great fun to play. Play it here
This supreme reinvention of the platform genre forces you to dwell on the nature of life, the utter futility and pointlessness of it, that is. But rather than getting depressed about this fact, Super Karoshi wants us to celebrate the worthlessness of existence, by splattering ourselves into oblivion in a variety of highly imaginative and blood spurting ways. Ironically, given that the point is to die, I feel more alive playing this game than virtually any other platformer. The brilliant music (by Jake Almond) and devilishly clever puzzles probably have something to do with that.