The 8 Best Detective Games Of All Time
We pick out the best detective games that have come out on PlayStation systems over the years (though we did have to make one exception…).
In a time when Hideo Kojima was allowed to make things that weren’t Metal Gear Solid games (a time to which, coincidentally, we’ve returned now he is leaving Konami) he directed such gems as Snatcher. It is a cyberpunk themed adventure game in which you have to discover what is behind the emergence of the titular ‘snatchers’ that have been killing people and then taking their place. The game was incredibly influential and highly praised for its storytelling. It gains detective bonus points for having its protagonist wear a brown trench coat.
While neither of its protagonists – American tourist George Stobbard and French journalist Nicole Collard – are detectives by profession, that’s precisely the role they play in this classic adventure game released on the original PlayStation in 1996. After witnessing a terrorist attack in a Parisian Café at the beginning of the game, the pair proceed to hunt down clues on who is behind the attack, gradually uncovering a mystical conspiracy being carried out by the shady Templars. Given their penchant for puzzle solving, it’s no wonder adventure games like this and detective fiction have proven such an ideal combination.
The idea of building a detective game around unparalleled facial capture technology that allowed you to see what people where thinking during interrogations was a brilliant one, even if in practice it led to a lot of hammy overacting to telegraph lies to us players. Still, the structure of hunting down evidence and interviewing suspects before pulling in a perp to use all that against them in intense interrogations to extract a confession worked. The fact that it was possible to incriminate innocents by mistake added weight to every choice you made and encouraged you to be a dogged investigator.
You play as an FBI Special Agent who turns up in a small town to investigate a murder that you believe to be the work of a serial killer. Deadly Premonition is basically Twin Peaks the videogame, then, which is reflected in the game’s extravagant surrealism. With its weird deviations, odd psychology and occult undertones, Deadly Premonition isn’t for everyone, but we’re fans of the game and prepared to stake a claim for it as one of the best detective games out there.
Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishments
We had to have a place on this list for the world’s most famous detective. Well, we didn’t //have// to, because even being Sherlock Holmes wouldn’t force us to push a rubbish game onto this list, but fortunately, we didn’t have to. Developer Frogwares has churned out a few decent Sherlock Holmes games over the years, but for our money, it is their latest game that is the best of the bunch. It perfectly captures the experience of being a detective, courtesy of its ‘deduction board’, through which you connect all the evidence you’ve discovered to construct a theory about who committed a crime and how.
One of the titles that comes closest to being exactly what we want from a detective game is Discworld Noir. Protagonist Lewton would write down clues that you obtained in his notebook, which you could combine to make deductions, or use in conversations with other characters in order to extract information or prove that they were lying. The game was a great homage to the hardboiled detective genre too, full of references to the classics and packed with the accruements of the fictional PI, including trench coat, trilby and gravelly voiceover.
Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney
We’ve allowed space for one game that never made it to PlayStation because it is so good that we couldn’t leave it out. In this game, you’re supposed to be an attorney, but the overworked Phoenix Wright spends half his time investigating the crimes his clients are accused of committing. When you do get to the courtroom, you’ve then got to use everything you’ve discovered to find contradictions in each witness’s testimony. It far more satisfying and exciting than a game about being a lawyer has any right to be!
The Wolf Among Us
We’ll be honest, we’d have liked their to be a bit more detectiving to do in The Wolf Among Us, but in terms of capturing the atmosphere and tone of a noir detective tale, the game does a stellar job. And even if the game is a bit light on //actual// detective work, the way the game pulls you along as you try to uncover what’s going on in Fabletown certainly makes you //feel// like a detective following the scent of a criminal.