19 votes

Looking for suggestions of investigation-based games

Hi all, can anybody recommend any games that are mostly investigation-based with little to no combat? A few that I've really enjoyed were Outer Wilds, Return of the Obra Dinn, and The Sexy Brutale. (Two of these have time loop mechanics, and even Obra Dinn has something very similar, but I guess that's not strictly a requirement.) Each one is very story-driven, with complex worlds and events meticulously crafted, and it's your job to figure out exactly how each one works.

34 comments

  1. [8]
    Adys
    Link
    The Witness and The Talos Principle would both fall in that category. I have to justify that though: They're both just puzzle games. The Witness has very, very little story of its own but a ton of...

    The Witness and The Talos Principle would both fall in that category. I have to justify that though: They're both just puzzle games. The Witness has very, very little story of its own but a ton of environmental storytelling. If you enjoyed Obra Dinn, you'll likely enjoy exploring the environment and figuring out what's what.

    The Talos Principle is on the other hand heavily story-oriented. Figuring out the story is not your goal, but it's a ton of fun, and it is very much piecing together the information you get like an investigation.

    Given your post, I believe you will enjoy both of them deeply.

    PS: I'm not making this recommendation out of nowhere; IME these two games aren't just "fun". The Talos Principle was life-altering for me, and The Witness is the game I generally put in the "best game of all time" slot for a host of reasons. YMMV.

    10 votes
    1. [5]
      Adys
      Link Parent
      Oh, adding to this (and I feel bad for forgetting about it), if you want to go retro you can get back to the classic that inspired The Witness: Myst

      Oh, adding to this (and I feel bad for forgetting about it), if you want to go retro you can get back to the classic that inspired The Witness: Myst

      2 votes
      1. [4]
        CrunchyTabasco
        Link Parent
        Thanks for the recs! I've actually played part of The Witness before. Interestingly, I didn't love playing it, but after I decided I was done with it, I had an amazing time learning all about the...

        Thanks for the recs! I've actually played part of The Witness before. Interestingly, I didn't love playing it, but after I decided I was done with it, I had an amazing time learning all about the game's secrets by reading about it and watching other people play it. But The Talos Principle sounds really interesting, I'll probably check it out! Myst has been somewhere on my list for some time too, maybe I should bump it up.

        1 vote
        1. [3]
          joplin
          Link Parent
          Just know that it's a bit dated. It holds up OK, but not great, in my opinion.

          Myst has been somewhere on my list for some time too, maybe I should bump it up.

          Just know that it's a bit dated. It holds up OK, but not great, in my opinion.

          1 vote
          1. [2]
            CrunchyTabasco
            Link Parent
            It looks like the website lists a few updated versions. Do you have any experience with those, or just the original?

            It looks like the website lists a few updated versions. Do you have any experience with those, or just the original?

            1 vote
            1. joplin
              Link Parent
              In addition to the original, I've played Real Myst on my iPhone. There were a few spots where it was slightly difficult to control things on the iPhone, but nothing too bad. I think they may have...

              In addition to the original, I've played Real Myst on my iPhone. There were a few spots where it was slightly difficult to control things on the iPhone, but nothing too bad. I think they may have fixed those issues in a recent update, though. (For example, I know there was one control for like, game settings or something, that was difficult to reach because you needed to swipe up from the bottom, and the OS reserves that gesture for returning to the home screen, so it only worked about 50% of the time. But it didn't affect game play. I'm pretty sure they addressed that in a recent update.)

              1 vote
    2. [2]
      culturedleftfoot
      Link Parent
      Glad to see you've settled into your position on The Witness :)

      Glad to see you've settled into your position on The Witness :)

      2 votes
      1. Adys
        Link Parent
        Ha, i did say generally 😉

        Ha, i did say generally 😉

        3 votes
  2. [5]
    rkcr
    Link
    I love these sorts of games, especially when they are more open-ended (like Outer Wilds). Unfortunately I don't feel like "open-ended investigation" is a genre that has a large library yet. That...

    I love these sorts of games, especially when they are more open-ended (like Outer Wilds). Unfortunately I don't feel like "open-ended investigation" is a genre that has a large library yet. That said, here's a few good ones I've played recently:

    Paradise Killer - Murder mystery with absolutely wild world-building and aesthetic. Not particularly challenging, but a fun investigation.

    Disco Elysium - Technically an RPG, but it's a murder mystery with a fantastic story and there is very little combat (and even that is just role-played).

    The Stanley Parable - Not so much a game as a philosophical exploration of game design, but it's still got branching paths and you're "investigating" the game mechanics.

    Subnautica - Okay, admittedly this one is a bit of a stretch as it's not much of a puzzle game, but it's a fantastic exploration game. There is some combat (though most of it involves running away).

    Also, +1 to The Witness, Talos Principle and Her Story. I've played all and enjoyed them greatly.

    8 votes
    1. [2]
      rkcr
      Link Parent
      It's also worth mentioning that there are some time loop games on the horizon: Twelve Minutes looks real promising in this genre, and Deathloop could be fun (though that's going to be combat-based).

      It's also worth mentioning that there are some time loop games on the horizon: Twelve Minutes looks real promising in this genre, and Deathloop could be fun (though that's going to be combat-based).

      3 votes
      1. CrunchyTabasco
        Link Parent
        I'm planning on checking out Deathloop, but didn't know about Twelve Minutes! Thanks for the rec.

        I'm planning on checking out Deathloop, but didn't know about Twelve Minutes! Thanks for the rec.

    2. [2]
      CrunchyTabasco
      Link Parent
      Paradise Killer: haven't heard of it, but sounds neat! Disco Elysium: played about an hour of this last year, and I'm planning on diving deep into it after school wraps up this semester. Two of my...

      Paradise Killer: haven't heard of it, but sounds neat!
      Disco Elysium: played about an hour of this last year, and I'm planning on diving deep into it after school wraps up this semester. Two of my roommates are HARDCORE fans, so I'll have decent guides for it.
      Stanley Parable: played it, loved it. I love most meta, rule-bending media like this.
      Subnautica: I know I'd love it, it's also been on my list for some time.

      Thanks for the recs!

      2 votes
      1. hook
        Link Parent
        Paradise Killer is really something else. A big part of what makes it special is that you can accuse (and prove to have prosecuted) anyone and everyone of the main characters. To the extend, that...

        Paradise Killer is really something else. A big part of what makes it special is that you can accuse (and prove to have prosecuted) anyone and everyone of the main characters. To the extend, that you can finish the game right away by just having the most obvious suspect prosecuted and be done with it. …or, you interrogate everyone and search for clues everywhere in the 3D environment and uncover more and more of the truth.

        Ultimately, even after you gather enough proof to satisfy you (as said, game is fine with you just accusing the main suspect), you can start the trial and then you need to present the evidence. So it’s up to you who you accuse (even falsely, if you decide so) and which evidence you bring for that.

        Than after the the trial, you can still navigate the world and continue your interaction with the characters and how they lives changed after the trial.

        Ultimately, there may be one truth in the sense how things played out before you started investigating, but there is no right or wrong ending – the truth is what you make of it. And the “true” ending is the one you’re most pleased with.

  3. [2]
    rogue_cricket
    Link
    Heaven's Vault is available on PC and on Nintendo Switch. It's a game where the main mechanic is figuring out how to translate a language. I played it with a friend and enjoyed it a lot, and it's...

    Heaven's Vault is available on PC and on Nintendo Switch. It's a game where the main mechanic is figuring out how to translate a language. I played it with a friend and enjoyed it a lot, and it's also a game that can benefit from multiple playthroughs - I only realized how differently things could have gone after going through it again, because in the first playthrough everything flowed very naturally.

    7 votes
    1. CrunchyTabasco
      Link Parent
      Hm, that sounds interesting! Actually, the three games I listed seem like they don't have much replay potential at all to me, so it's cool to hear of one that you did enjoy replaying. Thanks!

      Hm, that sounds interesting! Actually, the three games I listed seem like they don't have much replay potential at all to me, so it's cool to hear of one that you did enjoy replaying. Thanks!

      1 vote
  4. [4]
    grahamiam
    Link
    If you want something really weird, try out Her Story - basically Database Search: The Game.

    If you want something really weird, try out Her Story - basically Database Search: The Game.

    6 votes
    1. [2]
      CrunchyTabasco
      Link Parent
      Haven't heard of it but that looks really interesting, thank you!

      Haven't heard of it but that looks really interesting, thank you!

      1 vote
      1. grahamiam
        Link Parent
        I will say it's a very unique experience, but doesn't really have much "gameplay." It's usually on sale very cheap so it's definitely worth the price. It's probably closer to the Black Mirror...

        I will say it's a very unique experience, but doesn't really have much "gameplay." It's usually on sale very cheap so it's definitely worth the price. It's probably closer to the Black Mirror choose your own adventure episode than a video game.

        2 votes
    2. Adys
      Link Parent
      Oh, I've not played it but that's a fantastic suggestion with really unique gameplay that fits the "investigation" theme really well. Seconding.

      Oh, I've not played it but that's a fantastic suggestion with really unique gameplay that fits the "investigation" theme really well. Seconding.

  5. [2]
    protium
    Link
    Not sure if they're strictly considered games but a lot of visual novels have detective elements. If you're okay with point and click style games the ace attorney games can be pretty fun. If you...

    Not sure if they're strictly considered games but a lot of visual novels have detective elements. If you're okay with point and click style games the ace attorney games can be pretty fun. If you want something that leans more heavily on the story I found the life is strange series pretty enjoyable. The first game seems to be the most well received.

    6 votes
    1. CrunchyTabasco
      Link Parent
      I kind of collaboratively play the Ace Attorney games with my friends sometimes, and we've had a great time with them. I might check out Life is Strange too, I don't have a ton of experience with...

      I kind of collaboratively play the Ace Attorney games with my friends sometimes, and we've had a great time with them. I might check out Life is Strange too, I don't have a ton of experience with visual novels but I'm definitely not opposed. Thanks!

      1 vote
  6. [2]
    joplin
    Link
    In the developer's log for Return of the Obra Dinn, it's mentioned that The Vanishing of Ethan Carter has a similar mechanic. I've not played it, so can't comment on how good it is.

    In the developer's log for Return of the Obra Dinn, it's mentioned that The Vanishing of Ethan Carter has a similar mechanic. I've not played it, so can't comment on how good it is.

    5 votes
    1. CrunchyTabasco
      Link Parent
      Thanks for the rec! I poked around the Obra Dinn devlog a bit, but didn't completely read through it, so I missed this.

      Thanks for the rec! I poked around the Obra Dinn devlog a bit, but didn't completely read through it, so I missed this.

      1 vote
  7. gpl
    Link
    I enjoyed LA Noir many years ago when I played it. IDK how it holds up though, but at the time I felt it did capture the spirit of a noir film.

    I enjoyed LA Noir many years ago when I played it. IDK how it holds up though, but at the time I felt it did capture the spirit of a noir film.

    5 votes
  8. Grendel
    Link
    It does have some combat, so It may not be up your alley, but LA Noir is a fantastic investigation game

    It does have some combat, so It may not be up your alley, but LA Noir is a fantastic investigation game

    3 votes
  9. [2]
    moocow1452
    Link
    If you have already played Portal or Portal 2, there's a pretty good mod scene for both of them that can get you all sorts of inventive and mind bending levels. Portal Stories: Mel and Portal:...

    If you have already played Portal or Portal 2, there's a pretty good mod scene for both of them that can get you all sorts of inventive and mind bending levels. Portal Stories: Mel and Portal: Reloaded are available in Steam for no fuss installation. If you haven't touched the original games already, you're in for a treat.

    3 votes
    1. CrunchyTabasco
      Link Parent
      Some of my favorite games of all time! I played about half of Portal Stories Mel, but never tried reloaded. I'll have to give it a shot. Thanks!

      Some of my favorite games of all time! I played about half of Portal Stories Mel, but never tried reloaded. I'll have to give it a shot. Thanks!

      1 vote
  10. Pistos
    Link
    Backbone: Prologue : I didn't play very far through this, but I liked what I did get through. My not finishing it is not a knock on the game, it's just I have other priorities in my game queue....

    Backbone: Prologue : I didn't play very far through this, but I liked what I did get through. My not finishing it is not a knock on the game, it's just I have other priorities in my game queue. From the Steam store description:

    Backbone: Prologue is the first act of an upcoming noir roleplaying detective adventure. Step into the shoes of Howard Lotor - anthropomorphic raccoon and private eye - and explore the beautifully rendered 2.5D pixel art environments of dystopian Vancouver.

    Currently rated "Overwhelmingly Positive" on Steam. This early access prologue is free to download.

    1 vote
  11. PhantomBand
    Link
    How about the Danganronpa and Zero Escape series?

    How about the Danganronpa and Zero Escape series?

    1 vote
  12. Weldawadyathink
    Link
    I know you are searching for video games, but I would like to suggest a board game. 221b Bakers Street is a fantastic game that includes all the things you want (except time loops). It can...

    I know you are searching for video games, but I would like to suggest a board game. 221b Bakers Street is a fantastic game that includes all the things you want (except time loops). It can absolutely be played solo, but it is better with other people (either competitively or cooperatively). Each scenario is designed, not generated, and there is so much variety. There is a deluxe version of the game that includes 200 scenarios instead of the default 20. You can think of it as Clue for adults, with hand-written scenarios and clues.

    1 vote
  13. teaearlgraycold
    Link
    The Vanishing of Ethan Carter has only deductive gameplay - no combat at all. Although I should warn you, it’s more of a tech demo than a game. An absolutely gorgeous tech demo, but there’s only a...

    The Vanishing of Ethan Carter has only deductive gameplay - no combat at all. Although I should warn you, it’s more of a tech demo than a game. An absolutely gorgeous tech demo, but there’s only a few hours of gameplay there at most.

    1 vote
  14. hook
    Link
    A tiny bit on the light side, but great audio-visual package and I enjoyed it quite a bit is Fé

    A tiny bit on the light side, but great audio-visual package and I enjoyed it quite a bit is

    1 vote
  15. [2]
    asoftbird
    (edited )
    Link
    Myst! They're old games but some still hold up well (others absolutely don't) and they're pretty good at both puzzles and storytelling. Make sure you have pen & paper nearby as you'll need them. I...

    Myst! They're old games but some still hold up well (others absolutely don't) and they're pretty good at both puzzles and storytelling. Make sure you have pen & paper nearby as you'll need them.

    I can highly recommend Myst: Uru, which is one of the games that isn't point and click but a first-person walking simulator instead, where you can visit many different worlds to explore and solve puzzles in. Really good soundtrack as well.

    If you don't mind a little older games, try Myst II: Riven and III: Exile as well; they're basically interactive low-resolution slideshows but imo the storytelling and gameplay hold up pretty well.

    If l recall correctly some of these games like Myst: Riven are also available as official mobile ports, which work pretty well and are decent games to play while not near a PC.

    Also, Cyan's most recent puzzle explorer game is Obduction, which is much more modern than their prevoous games and involves similar themes in a different setting (and it still has live-action actors as well!).

    Here's my personal ranking of the games, ordered by fun factor / playability / production quality:

    1. Uru (VI-ish)
    2. Riven (II)
    3. Exile (III)
    4. Myst I (or RealMyst or similar remakes)
    5. End of Ages (V)
    6. Whatever Myst IV was called (honestly the worst game from the series).

    Second, give Superliminal a shot. It's not as much investigative as it is explorative, but it's still a very fun game similar in tone to games like The Stanley Parable mentioned earlier in this thread. It's originally a glorified tech demo, but the developer crafted a very decent story around that demo, integrating gameplay with storytelling.
    It's also got a huge wow factor; ready your "what the actual fuck just happened" voice lines!


    Finally there's Quern: Undying Thoughts (not sure about that subtitle) which is again more similar to Myst / The Witness; you're on an island and have to find out What Happened™️ through solving puzzles. I'll say it's not as good as Myst in terms of level design; it feels as if it really is trying hard to be Myst but it's never quite getting there. The story also isn't as strong, but l think the visuals and general mood of the game can compensate for that.

    1. hook
      Link Parent
      To add to Myst, I’m currently playing something similar – The Eyes of Ara. Intriguing story that you uncover and some of the puzzles are quite challenging. Some of them have in-game ways how to...

      To add to Myst, I’m currently playing something similar – The Eyes of Ara. Intriguing story that you uncover and some of the puzzles are quite challenging. Some of them have in-game ways how to skip them as well, if you don’t fancy them.