At the start of this year, we decided to come up with a list of Flash casual games with a philosophical bent. To be honest, we struggled. After days of research, we could only find a handful of games that had the thought-provoking depth we were looking for. Our list (which you can view by clicking here) was therefore only five games long.
Fast forward to now, and it is remarkable how much difference a few months can make. Thanks to the work of pioneers like Daniel Benmergui, Gregory Weir and PixelAnte, there is now an abundance of clever arty Flash games to pique our intellects, and as a result creating this follow-up list of games that make you think has been a doddle.
In a wonderful twist, it seems it is the Flash gaming space - until now known more for the throwaway nature of its games rather than depth - that is leading the way in this exciting new area of gaming, as we hope the following games prove.
The game starts with you crash landing on a planet. It soon becomes clear that you are an alien and the planet is Earth. Exactly where and when on Earth is never spelt out. After pulling yourself out of your space craft, you start to explore the planet. Soon you come across a native - a little girl. She seems excited to meet you and calls on you to follow her. She takes you to her brother, who is picking apples from a tree. He throws one to you. You eat it. You seem to like it. And you let the little boy sit on your shoulders. Thus begins one of the most emotionally-charged games I have ever played. You can play Immortall here.
Take a cursory look at Alexander Ocias's Loved, and you could mistake it for a pretty basic platformer. Look a little deeper and you realise that this unusual game is actually a meditation on the nature of authority and obedience. At least, that was my take on it. Like most cool art, Loved can be interpreted in a multitude of ways, and no doubt you will see it in a completely different light to me. What is not open to debate however is that Loved is one of the most innovative and thought-provoking Flash games around. Loved can be played here.
3I Can Hold My Breath Forever
In this brilliant exploration game by Jake Elliott, you play the part of a little creature who is searching for its friend in an impenetrable network of underwater caves. You can only hold your breath for ten seconds so must find air pockets in the water, before you can dive deeper. As you progress down into the depths, you come across letters dropped by your friend. The letters are beautifully written and imbue your search with an urgency and emotional resonance that are rarely found in gaming. I Can Hold My Breath Forever can be played here.
4The Company of Myself
Bend time in this sad, philosophical platformer to solve the puzzles. The game play is tricky and challenging but it is the story and introspective ambience that really make this game. Play The Company of Myself here.
Coma is not only one of the best looking Flash games around - Thomas Brush having given it a uniquely mysterious and melancholic ambience - but also one of the cleverest. Your task is to help Pete find his way through his mysterious, subconscious world, along the way solving puzzles and marvelling at the dream-like quality of the game. You can play Coma here.
Just like most of us, Jonah - the hunch-back hero of this game - is on a quest to find happiness. Your job is to help him in this timeless aim by solving point and click-style puzzles. It is highly unlikely that Loondon sheds any radical new philosophical light on how to achieve happiness but the game's beautiful design, atmospheric music and fun puzzles certainly gave me a feeling that came close to happiness. Play Loondon by clicking here.
7I Wish I Were the Moon
Daniel Benmergui has become something of a legend in the world of arty games, thanks to quirky gaming gems like Today I Die. Perhaps my favourite game of his is I Wish I Were the Moon. For this game, Daniel drew his inspiration from Italo Calvino's short story The Distance of the Moon about an odd love triangle. Daniel describes the game as follows: "I tried to make it about the exploration of an emotional situation instead of a physical space, without using any text." You can play I Wish I Were the Moon here. A video walkthrough of the game can be found here.
8Every Day the Same Dream
The protaganist in this game reminds me a lot of the Michael Douglas anti-hero in the classic ninties film Falling Down. The game's hero has joined the rat race. His days have merged into one. He does the same thing each morning, does the same thing at work during the day, and in the evening returns home to do the same thing. Then he cracks, and rebels against this insidious routine. Every Day the Same Dream is a meditation on the modern idea of work. The game can be played here.
9Don't Look Back
Terry Cavanagh has a reputation for creating brilliant old-style platform games. His most famous work is arguably vvvvvv, which became a big hit earlier this year. Don't Look Back is one of his more personal games. Inspired by the legend of Orpheus and Eurydice, the game explores the theme of grief. You begin the game standing over the grave of your lover, and then descend into the underworld in the hope of finding the spirit of your loved one and leading her back to safety. The game can be played here.
Gregory Weir is another developer who has made a name for himself for making quirky thought-provoking games, perhaps most notably The Majesty of Colors and Babies Dream of Dead Worlds. He has also recently released Looming, an intriguing and atmospheric exploration game. But for this list we decided to feature one of his lesser-known creations - Silent Conversation - a game that combines platform action with reading great poetry and works of literature. Gaming has never felt so edifying. Slient Conversation can be played here.
We hope you like our list! If you have come across any other games that have made you think, then please tell us all about them in the comments section below.