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We are used to books, films and radio programs challenging our assumptions on subjects. Adam Curtis, Louis Theroux and David Attenborough have powerfully used film to change perspectives and values.

Less well-known is how many video games tread a similar furrow. These are games that not only tackle difficult subjects but get beneath the usual binary perspectives to create new ways of thinking about these themes.
 
This list includes 73 games from the last 28 years, with 1,826 likes. They come from a range of different genres and play-styles and are all good games if you want to re-think your assumptions.

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Unpacking

Release Date: 02/11/2021

Out Now: Android, Mac, PC, PS4, PS5, Switch, Xbox One and iOS

Skill Rating: 9+ year-olds

Components: 2D Overhead, Blocks, Hand-Made and Pixels

Unpacking is a meditative puzzle game where you unpack belongings into a series of spaces, each representing a stage in life. You get to know the owner of the objects by their possessions and circumstances. To finish a level you need to work out where...

Rainbow Billy

Release Date: 05/10/2021

Out Now: PC, PS4, Switch and Xbox One

Skill Rating: 8+ year-olds

Components: 3D Third-Person, Cartoon and Hand-Made

Rainbow Billy: The Curse of the Leviathan is a role-play adventure where you save the world from colourless darkness. Unusually, battles are won through listening and conversation rather than traditional attacks. It combines the excitement and strategy...

Everything

Release Date: 21/03/2017, updated in 2019

Out Now: Mac, PC, PS4 and Switch

Skill Rating: 3+ year-olds

Components: 3D Third-Person and Open World

Everything is an unusual game that simulates a world where you can become any object. It sounds strange and not much fun, but the enjoyment is in discovering how small or how big a thing you can become. From tiny atoms to whole planets and everything in...

Night in the Woods

Release Date: 10/01/2017, updated in 2017

Out Now: Android, Mac, PC, PS4, Switch, Xbox One and iOS

Skill Rating: 11+ year-olds

Components: 2D Side-On and Hand-Made

Night in the Woods is a narrative adventure which follows college dropout Mae Borowski returning home to the crumbling former mining town of Possum Springs. Play involves exploring the town, interacting with the locals and working out what has happened...

Outer Wilds

Release Date: 11/12/2018, updated in 2023

Out Now: PC, PS4, PS5, Switch, Xbox One and Xbox X|S

Skill Rating: 11+ year-olds

Components: 3D First-Person, Day and Night and Open World

Outer Wilds is an exploration space mystery about a solar system trapped in an endless time loop. After twenty minutes of game time, you must start again – but each time brings a new opportunity to learn how you ended up on the planet and solve the...

Bury Me My Love

Release Date: 26/10/2017, updated in 2020

Out Now: Android, Mac, PC, Switch and iOS

Skill Rating: 11+ year-olds

Components: 2D Side-On, Cartoon and Text

Bury Me My Love is a narrative adventure game where you play the husband of a Syrian woman, Nour, travelling to Europe. Play involves receiving and sending simple messages where Nout tells you how she is getting on and you influence her choices. It...

Hindsight

Release Date: 04/08/2022

Out Now: Mac, PC, PS4, Switch, Xbox One and iOS

Skill Rating: 8+ year-olds

Components: 3D Third-Person and Hand-Made

Hindsight is a narrative point-and-click game where you revisit the past by finding objects that trigger memories. Play involves exploring each scene, locating objects and listening to the story as you move the camera to look within what you've found...

The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening

Release Date: 01/01/1999, updated in 2019

Out Now: Game Boy and Switch

Skill Rating: 8+ year-olds

Components: 2D Overhead, Hand-Made and Open World

The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening is an adventure-puzzle game in the Zelda series and universe. A remake of the 1993 Game Boy game of the same name, this one is set on Koholint Island and follows Link after he is stranded and must find a way back to...

Iris and the Giant

Release Date: 27/02/2020, updated in 2023

Out Now: Android, Mac, PC, PS4, Switch and Xbox One

Skill Rating: 10+ year-olds

Components: 2D Side-On, Cards and Cartoon

Iris and the Giant is a narrative strategy card game about a young girl named Iris who braves an imaginary world to tackle her inner demons and face her fears. It's a game about depression and anxiety where Iris uses escapism to cope with her life. More...

Orchids to Dusk

Release Date: 03/12/2015

Out Now: PC

Skill Rating: 13+ year-olds

Components: 3D Third-Person and Open World

Orchids to Dusk is a short wandering adventure. You are an astronaut stranded on an alien planet, with only a few minutes of oxygen. You explore the world and discover fantastic gardens on the planet.

Citizen Sleeper

Release Date: 05/05/2022

Out Now: PC, Switch, Xbox One and Xbox X|S

Skill Rating: 11+ year-olds

Components: 2D Side-On, Cartoon, Dice, Grid and Text

Citizen Sleeper is a role-play game set in the ruins of interplanetary capitalism. You are an escaped worker exploring a lawless space station, making friends, and (ultimately) trying to escape your past. Each cycle you roll dice and decide how to spend...

Portal

Release Date: 10/10/2007, updated in 2022

Out Now: Android, Mac, PC, Switch and Xbox 360

Skill Rating: 8+ year-olds

Components: 3D First-Person

Portal is a puzzle game where you manipulate the world around you to move through increasingly complex chambers. By creating two connected portals- if you walk into one, you walk out the other- you must move yourself around the rooms to escape. It...

The Last Of Us

Release Date: 14/06/2013

Out Now: PS3 and PS4

Skill Rating: 16+ year-olds

Components: 3D Third-Person and Weather

The Last Of Us is an action-adventure where You play a father, Joel, whose daughter was killed during the early stages of a deadly fungal outbreak. It’s now 20 years later, and he has clearly suffered from the loss. When Joel is given charge of a...

Sid Meier's Civilization (Series)

Release Date: 21/10/2016, updated in 2019

Out Now: PC, PS4, Switch and Xbox One

Skill Rating: 10+ year-olds

Components: 2D Overhead, Day and Night, Grid and Open World

Sid Meier's Civilization is a long-running strategy game where you develop a society from hunter-gatherer to space travel. There are many ways to approach this challenge; socially, militarily, politically or perhaps by building wonders to impress other...

There Is No Game

Release Date: 06/10/2020

Out Now: Android, Mac, PC, Switch and iOS

Skill Rating: 9+ year-olds

Components: 2D Overhead and Pixels

There Is No Game is a comedic adventure with a strange twist. From the outset, the game’s narrator insists that there is no game to play. As you inevitably ignore his instruction you go on a journey through silly and unexpected video game universes.

Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice

Release Date: 08/08/2017, updated in 2018

Out Now: PC, PS4 and Xbox One

Skill Rating: 15+ year-olds

Components: 3D Third-Person

Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice is a dark fantasy adventure, drawing on Norse and Celtic mythology, where you play a young female Pict warrior, Senua. You explore and fight your way to Helheim to rescue the soul of her dead lover. As you play, though, you...

Cart Life

Release Date: 25/04/2019

Out Now: PC

Components: 2D Side-On, Pixels and Text

Cart Life is a simulation game where you play one of three street vendors. You attempt to run their shop whilst looking after their health, interests, and families. It has simple visuals, but depicts the realities of the thin-end of life.

Immortality

Release Date: 30/08/2022, updated in 2022

Out Now: Android, Mac, PC, Xbox X|S and iOS

Skill Rating: 12+ year-olds

Components: 2D Side-On and Filmed

Immortality is a mystery horror game where you investigate the lost movies of Marissa Marcel to unravel the mystery of her disappearance. As you paw through the footage, you uncover a story that spans three decades in unnerving and horrific ways. It's...

A Mortician's Tale

Release Date: 18/10/2017

Out Now: PC and iOS

Components: 2D Side-On and Hand-Made

A Mortician's Tale is a management game where you play as a mortician, Charlie, working in a funeral home. As you play, you handle bodies of the deceased, including cleaning and beautifying them, as well as dealing with embalming and cremation. The dead...

Viewfinder

Release Date: 18/07/2023

Out Now: PC, PS4 and PS5

Skill Rating: 8+ year-olds

Components: 3D First-Person

Viewfinder is a puzzle adventure game where your camera doesn't just take pictures but reshapes the fabric of reality around you. By taking and holding up pictures you create new ways to traverse the world and solve environmental puzzles.

Alan Wake II

Release Date: 27/10/2023

Out Now: PC, PS5 and Xbox X|S

Skill Rating: 14+ year-olds

Components: 3D Third-Person and Filmed

Alan Wake II is a survival-horror shooting game where you play two intertwining lives in a dark psychedelic story. Across two worlds, one real and one nightmarish, you use your flashlight to stun hideous monsters, then kill them with your limited...

Spiritfarer

Release Date: 18/08/2020

Out Now: Android, Mac, PC, PS4, Stadia, Switch, Xbox One and iOS

Skill Rating: 7+ year-olds

Components: 2D Side-On, Day and Night, Hand-Made and Open World

Spiritfarer is a boat-building exploration game. Unusually though, you play Stella, ferry master to the deceased and the boat you manage takes them to the next life.

Inscryption

Release Date: 19/10/2021, updated in 2022

Out Now: Mac, PC, PS4, PS5 and Switch

Skill Rating: 14+ year-olds

Components: 2D Overhead, Cards and Hand-Made

Inscryption starts as a card-based adventure where you build a deck of cards to take on adventures and battles. To this, it adds escape-room style puzzles, both in the card game and in the room in which you are playing. The result is a psychological...

Detroit: Become Human

Release Date: 25/05/2018

Out Now: PS4

Skill Rating: 12+ year-olds

Components: 3D Third-Person

Detroit: Become Human is a branching narrative game from Quantic Dream, the studio behind Heavy Rain and Beyond: Two Souls. This is the third game in the series and offers a more refined version of the filmic branching experience.

Thousand Threads

Release Date: 30/07/2020

Out Now: Mac and PC

Skill Rating: 10+ year-olds

Components: 3D First-Person, Hand-Made and Open World

Thousand Threads is an open-world game of consequences. You are free to interact with the world, animals and people however you like, give, take, save, kill, inform, hide, befriend, and betray. But how you do this will have ongoing and unavoidable...

Before I Forget

Release Date: 01/07/2020

Out Now: Mac and PC

Skill Rating: 10+ year-olds

Components: 3D First-Person and Hand-Made

Before I Forget is an exploration adventure, where you play Sunita, a woman alone in a house with early-onset dementia. As you wander from room to room, you discover mysterious objects, each holding a fleeting, fragmented memory. Examine faded...

Disco Elysium

Release Date: 15/10/2019, updated in 2021

Out Now: Mac, PC, PS4, Stadia, Switch and Xbox One

Skill Rating: 14+ year-olds

Components: 2D Side-On and Hand-Made

Disco Elysium The Final Cut is a role-playing game set in the fictional city of Revachol where you play Harrier "Harry" Du Bois who must solve a complex murder. Unusually, your choices and actions not only determine how the story unfolds but affect...

Papers, Please

Release Date: 08/08/2013, updated in 2017

Out Now: Mac, PC, PS Vita and iOS

Skill Rating: 12+ year-olds

Components: 2D Side-On and Pixels

Papers, Please is a narrative puzzle game where you play the role of a border-crossing immigration officer in the fictional dystopian Eastern Bloc-like country of Arstotzka. You review each immigrant’s and returning citizen’s passports and paperwork...

Her Story

Release Date: 24/06/2015

Out Now: Android, Mac, PC and iOS

Skill Rating: 12+ year-olds

Components: Filmed

Her Story is a narrative puzzle game where you attempt to solve the 1994 mystery of a murdered man by searching an old police computer archive of interview videos of his wife. The game presents a retro computer interface but the interviews themselves...

LOCK (Dreams)

Release Date: 17/10/2020, updated in 2021

Out Now: PS4 and PS5

Skill Rating: 9+ year-olds

Components: 3D First-Person

LOCK is a puzzle game about escaping rooms. LOCK stands for Logic Operated Combination Keep, referring to a digital password protected door lock. You must discover secret four letter word clues by exploring each space, in order to unlock panels, collect...

Heaven's Vault

Release Date: 16/04/2019

Out Now: PC, PS4 and Switch

Skill Rating: 10+ year-olds

Components: 3D Third-Person

Heaven's Vault is a communication adventure game you play an archaeologist translating an ancient alien language whose decrypting weaves through an unfolding drama. While doing real linguistic work you interact with companions and locals. Your choices...

Psychonauts 2

Release Date: 25/08/2021

Out Now: Mac, PC, PS4, Xbox One and Xbox X|S

Skill Rating: 8+ year-olds

Components: 3D First-Person, 3D Third-Person, Cartoon, Dice and Hand-Made

Psychonauts 2 is a running, jumping and puzzle-solving game where you play Raz who has psychic abilities that let him delve into the minds of others. In the game, you control Raz as he enters their mental worlds and uses other Psi-Powers (telekinesis,...

Wytchwood

Release Date: 09/12/2021, updated in 2022

Out Now: PC, PS4, Switch and Xbox One

Skill Rating: 10+ year-olds

Components: 2D Overhead, Hand-Made and Open World

Wytchwood is an adventure in a land of gothic fables and fairytales. You are an old witch of the woods and must explore the countryside, collect magical ingredients and brew enchantments. That much is relatively common, here though, your role is to pass...

Photographs - Puzzle Stories

Release Date: 03/04/2019

Out Now: Android, Mac, PC and iOS

Components: 2D Side-On and Pixels

Photographs - Puzzle Stories is a narrative puzzle game where you witness the lives and memories of five different characters. You investigate old photos for memories that advance the story and solve simple puzzles that reflect their lives. It stands...

Through the Darkest of Times

Release Date: 27/05/2020, updated in 2020

Out Now: Android, Mac, PC, PS4, Switch, Xbox One and iOS

Components: 2D Side-On and Hand-Made

Through the Darkest of Times is a strategy game that conveys the sombre mood of the dark period of history between January 1933 and May 1945. With interactive drama, it tells the story and the struggles of average people living in the 3rd Reich.

Persona (Series)

Release Date: 20/09/1996, updated in 2022

Out Now: 3DS and 2DS, DS, PC, PS Vita, PS3, PS4, PS5, Switch, Xbox One and Xbox X|S

Skill Rating: 14+ year-olds

Components: 3D Third-Person and Cartoon

Persona 5 (also known as Shin Megami Tensei: Persona) is the latest game in a series of role-playing games that focus on a group of students. You explore the world and take on enemies like other role play games. Here though, you manage relationships...

Closed Hands

Release Date: 05/03/2021

Out Now: Mac and PC

Components: 2D Side-On and Text

Closed Hands is a text adventure game set in the lead-up and aftermath of a terror attack in a fictional UK city. You follow five core characters brought together by the same event. It's a branching story that you discover and influence as you read and...

Headliner: NoviNews

Release Date: 05/10/2019

Out Now: Mac, PC, PS4, Switch and Xbox One

Components: 2D Side-On and Text

Headliner: NoviNews is a narrative-driven simulation game where you play as the person in charge of the headlines and stories that are released to the public. Each article you approve from your office has a direct impact on the world outside. Which news...

Orwell: Keeping an Eye On You

Release Date: 27/10/2016

Out Now: Android, Mac, PC and iOS

Components: 2D Side-On and Text

Orwell: Keeping an Eye On You is a narrative game where you play fictional research using a surveillance program called Orwell. Through a series of episodes, you are tasked with using Orwell to help solve mysteries like the bombing of a public plaza. To...

Genesis Noir

Release Date: 26/03/2021

Out Now: Mac, PC, Switch and Xbox One

Components: 2D Side-On and Hand-Made

Genesis Noir is a narrative-driven puzzle game. It's a time travelling mystery to save your lover, by intervening through the history of the world to ultimately stop the expansion of the universe. Although it sounds bizarre, existential and confusing,...

Taming Gaming Book Written by parents for parents, the database complements the in-depth discussion about video game addiction, violence, spending and online safety in the Taming Gaming book. We are an editorially independent, free resource without adverts that is supported by partnerships.

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