Finding Exploration Games

I’ve been researching PS4 titles in order to find my next game after I finish LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens. I love the LEGO video games because they’re silly fun, but I’m interested in checking out some of the more story-heavy games out there. After finishing Uncharted 4 last week, I also knew that I wanted something along the same lines, but ideally, light on the violence.

I started composing a post about violence in video games, how so many games feature it just cause, how I wish there were more games without it so customers could have options, and then I trashed it because my research showed I was wrong: there are options already.

In making a mental list of what I was looking for, I was reminded of Myst, which I played way back in the day. It was interesting, full of puzzles, exploration, beautiful to look at, and unlike other video games out at the time. While I don’t necessarily want a new version of Myst (although there’s a new game from the same studio called Obduction that is its spiritual successor), I’d love to play something along those lines. Looking around the PlayStation Store I found a few games that seem to be just what I’m interested in playing next.

The first I came across was What Remains of Edith Finch, a game self-described as “a collection of strange tales about a family in Washington state.” You explore the nooks and crannies of the Finch household, learning about various past members of the family and about the day they died, slowly piecing together the story of what could be a family curse. The description and trailer grabbed me immediately, and it’s currently my number one choice for next game.

From there I found The Vanishing of Ethan Carter, a mystery story in rural Wisconsin inspired by early 20th-century detective and macabre fiction (think Raymond Chandler and HP Lovecraft). That description alone piqued my interest. The fact that the protagonist is a detective that can see past events and memories, and uses that ability to gather clues to solve the mystery cemented this game’s place on my To-Buy list.

Along the same lines, I also found Submerged, in which you play a young woman exploring the submerged ruins of a city in search of something, anything, that will help her sick little brother; Gone Home, which has a premise somewhat similar to What Remains of Edith Finch in that you explore a house to find out the story, though this time it’s your own house to which you’re returning after a year away; and Dear Esther, probably the most experimental of the bunch, described as “a book written by a dying explorer,” featuring no puzzles, but the experience of discovering the character’s story as you explore.

I’m excited to try these games out, to see what storytelling tricks these developers used to tell these interesting tales. It’s great to know that there are games out there that stretch the boundaries of the home consoles beyond the traditional styles we’ve come to know.




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