Every man at the bottom of his heart believes that he is a born detective. Those words were penned by John Buchan in his anarchist thriller, The Power-house, a century ago. It is still relevant and incisively describes our inner detective sentiments. There is something inherently satisfying about connecting missing dots, at least when you get it right.
Video games are perhaps the best medium to simulate that very desire. After all, it is entirely up to us to solve the case, unlike movies and books, where we are more or less bystanders watching someone else’s genius at play.
So, here are the 50 best detective video games that’ll let you live the detective fantasies:
In this Article:
List of 50 Best Detective Games
For this list, we’ll be focusing on mostly detective games on Steam. If you have a decent computer, you should be able to run all of these games.
1. Return of the Obra Dinn
Story Premise: Sailed to dock at the Southern tip of Africa, a merchant ship was set adrift by an unknown calamity and was five years later found on the shores of England with all voyagers dead. You’re an insurance inspector assigned to perfectly picture the befall and find what went wrong.
Gameplay: It takes place entirely on the ship, Obra Dinn, with the gameplay centered around investigating things and later establishing coherence from the clues you find. Aiding you in your search is a unique pocket watch that allows you to relive the moments right before the death of the person.
Return of Obra Dinn is a pure detective game and doesn’t fancy itself with any pseudo-detective tropes. No guiding you through tips or cuffing the progression until you figure out the right answer. In the beginning, you’re given a book and a watch. The book is where you’ll piece everything together, that is, the fate of all the dead passengers. Once you have them jotted down, you can exit the boat and end the game. At no point do you hit a “mission failed” screen.
The game also sports a distinctive art style. There are almost no colors and the tethering style is reminiscent of older 1-bit games. No colors elevate the game’s overarching theme. After all, the incident is grim so the choice of a colorless palette comes off as most prudent. Other color grades are available too, in case you don’t find the base version pleasing to the eye.
2. Disco Elysium – The Final Cut
Story Premise: An alcoholic detective whose own memory has led him astray about his past is appointed to track a cruel murder mystery case. Sounds simple, just look for clues and interrogate a bunch of peeps, right?
Gameplay: Disco Elysium does not feature any combat, you’ll have to rely on your conversational skills. There is a massive catalog of skills to choose from. How you allot those skills will shape how the character engages in a verbal confrontation with suspects and commoners within the city.
As you start, you quickly fill in the shoes—although he has nothing but undies at the beginning—of a mucky and bloated detective. Almost looking like a chunky turd surrounded by rubbish and lots of empty alcohol bottles. His soul seems departed as is the tidiness of his room and his memory. In short, Disco Elysium is a mess.
And also a gorgeous rendition of failures of ideas. Not just the ideas that are in constant conflict inside the brain of our amnesic detective, but also the world at large. Politics. Best not talk too much, you’ll be doing a lot in the game anyway. Disco Elysium – The Final Cut is an upgraded version of Disco Elysium and adds voice acting and several quests.
3. L.A. Noire
Story Premise: In L.A. Noire you play as Cole Phelps, a former war hero who now endeavors to quell crimes across the metropolis of Los Angeles. Your goal is to climb among the ranks and uncover wider conspiracies, all by judging people’s expressions.
Gameplay: L.A. Noire is similar to Grand Theft Auto—city, guns, cars, side quests, crimes—and everything is slow and methodical. Only catch is that here you’re a sleuth instead of a thug. Of course, the gameplay is entirely designed to accommodate your sleuthy adventure.
Most of what you’ll do in the game is talk to suspects, with every detail noted by Cole in his notebook. After a series of questioning you have to choose whether they’re being honest or not.
L.A. Noire is a story-driven detective game developed by Team Bondi and published by Rockstar. Given the publisher’s obsession with details, the game didn’t fall short of breaking new ground within the industry. It used a brand new motion scan technology that added life to every raised brow, wrinkle, pursed lips, grimace, scowl, and all those dozens of facial expressions your face subconsciously makes when interrogated for a crime you definitely didn’t commit.
While it was richly detailed and ahead of its time (first released in 2011), the detective part might not be as appealing. Regardless of the dialogue you pick, you’ll still be able to solve the case. The outcome will be the same, the difference will be how cleverly you reach it. The forgiving nature could be a plus or a negative, depending on what sort of experience you’re after. In any case, you’re still playing a very good game.
4. The Wolf Among Us
Story Premise: Mythical beings from a distant fairyland now seek refuge in New York under the facade of human appearance. You fill the shoes of their sheriff who is currently investigating a murder.
Gameplay: Being developed by Telltale Games, the gameplay is relegated to walking, interacting with objects, and quick-time events. The emphasis is on the choice and consequence narrative.
The Wolf Among Us is based on the Fables comics and takes place two decades before the events in the comics. Not that there were any guesses needed, the cel-shaded graphics are enough to hint that it was in some form inspired by a comic.
The game consists of five episodes and takes roughly 2 hours to complete each of them. In all those hours—typical to any of Telltale’s adventures—is a great narrative that so often puts you in a dilemma.
5. Heavy Rain
Story Premise: An origami serial killer abducts young victims and drowns them to the rising rainwater. Our detective’s son has fallen prey, but three days are left before the rain turns heavy enough for the kid to drown. Can you save him?
Gameplay: Heavy Rain’s gameplay is largely point-and-click. You walk, look for clues, interact with objects, with some quick time events here and there.
While you could say that there is a main guy in Heavy Rain, Ethan Mars, the game features multiple playable characters. Each of them has their own fate and your choice will shape them. One slip and they might as well die. You also don’t have to be much of a gamer to play Heavy Rain, it is laid-back in terms of gameplay and can be played entirely as a visual novel.
On a side note, if you enjoy Heavy Rain, also give Detroit Become Human a go. It has a quasi-detective feel and you play as three robots who are rallying behind an army of bots fighting for their rights to co-exist with humans.
6. Batman: Arkham Knight
Story Premise: You play as Batman.
Gameplay: Again, you play as Batman.
It wouldn’t be fair to leave out the game about “the world’s greatest detective” in a list of the best detective games. Arkham Knight is primarily an action-adventure game with a focus on stealth, combat, and detective work. Because of Arkham’s richer emphasis on both stealth and combat, it isn’t only the detective part of the game that makes you feel like a detective.
The synopsis is what we already shared—you play as Batman. Arkham is true to the Batman identity so your general objective is to take out the bad guy. So is the gameplay, where you can glide, use gadgets, ride batmobiles, and punch bad guys. Arkham Knight is among the handful of good superhero video game adaptations. As for its detective side, it is more of a fantasy than a simulation.
Story Premise: In Backbone you follow PI Howard Lotor, a raccoon detective who lives in a run-down apartment located in a postcard dystopian version of Vancouver, Canada. It is a post-noir detective tale, and the game begins as Lotor is approached by a wife seeking detective service for her cheating husband.
Gameplay: Despite featuring furry detectives and criminals, Backbone is still very much human-like. The anthropomorphic adventure has you do routine detective stuff like investigating, interacting, talking, and solving puzzles.
The world of Backbone is very well personified, which means there is also a presence of segregation, hate, racism, hierarchy, bigotry, and dystopian tropes. Other animals will never let Lotor forget that he is a Raccoon by slurring him “striper,” which is a not-so-nice word to call a Racoon. Other societal issues are commented on as well.
Plenty of people are iffy on the non sequitur narrative turn Backbone takes as the game nears its conclusion. It is, however, so absurd (like really absurd) that you might end up liking it.
8. Sherlock Holmes Chapter One
Story Premise: A young Sherlock Holmes returns to his home after the death of his mother, only to realize there are more things shrouded in mystery about her death than it initially seemed. Sherlock, being young, needs to hone his penchant for doubting everything and always being cynical, as he is to uncover the conspiracy.
Gameplay: Sherlock Holmes Chapter One is an open-world game, and the general gameplay is what you’d expect from a modern third-person game. The game doesn’t hold your hand towards clues, and all the deduction is to be done by players. You walk, talk, interrogate, interact with objects, look for clues, and move forward.
As the name will have you already foretold, Chapter One is supposed to be a prequel act before Sherlock becomes, well, Sherlock. The game sets you up as Sherlock discovering himself but he already possesses all he needs to be a detective. You could say that, even when young, Sherlock has already become Sherlock.
The gameplay might be overwhelming and frustrating because of the game’s lack of effort to teach you things. But when has a detective ever needed a guide? In that case, you’ll surely find the 12 hours of trip to Cordana worth scratching your head for.
9. Her Story
Story Premise: Browse through a labyrinth’s worth of video archives about a woman who was once investigated for a case concerning her missing husband. You’re tasked with sitting and watching all those videos, ranging from seconds to minutes, trying to establish something.
Gameplay: The gameplay of Her Story is just watching videos. That’s it, really.
Her Story isn’t a game per se. It is an “interactive movie” which is essentially a movie but you can interact with it. Everything is largely just point-and-click when it comes to the video game aspects. In Her Story, there is a catalog of videos that you’ll have to watch, and you do so by searching for them yourself with keywords.
You’re playing a game on your PC about someone on their PC watching a bunch of videos. That sounds absurd enough to try it on the merits of the concept alone. Ironically, Her Story is best enjoyed on a PC because of all the menus that you’ll have to navigate. Nonetheless, this is an excellent and one of those rare good interactive games. Suspense, acting, plot, mystery—it has them all.
10. The Vanishing of Ethan Carter
Story Premise: A 12-year-old sends our detective, Paul Prospero, a fan letter beseeching him to pay a visit to his hometown of Red Creek Valley, Wisconsin. Unsurprisingly, on arrival, Paul discovers that the boy has been long missing and now tries to find out about his family and unravel the story.
Gameplay: The Vanishing of Ethan Carter is a first-person game set in a small but dense open world. The core of gameplay revolves around exploration and using paranormal abilities to figure out what happened.
Just as you open the game, a message reading “This game is a narrative experience that does not hold your hand” intimidates you. The 4 or so hours of experience does keep true to the message, which means you’ll have to figure most of it out by yourself.
Paul Prospero has unique paranormal abilities that can recreate past events. You’ll have to find all objects of the scenes, perfectly place them, and then you can paranormally peek into the past.
11. The Sinking City
Story Premise: A city sequestered in Massachusetts, Oakmount, has been drenching with floods. It inhabits rather complicated folks, plenty that live here are well-versed in the alchemy of occultism. But what exactly causes the curse of perpetual rain drain?
Gameplay: For all its eerie narrative, the gameplay is traditional to any third-person detective game—walk around and find out.
The Sinking City is inspired by H. P. Lovecraft’s work. If you’re familiar with them, you’ll notice the obvious inspiration within minutes of booting up the game. Playing in the drowning shoes of the games still makes you feel alien with all of its mysteries and the creeping fear that lurks in the city.
Frogwares are the mind behind The Sinking City. They are also the developers of the Sherlock Holmes series (which we have already discussed in the list), so you’re going to like this one if you liked the previous one.
12. Gemini Rue
Story Premise: In a sovereign system of stars, a syndicate has subverted autonomy with the help of “juice.” Amidst all the chaos, you follow two people who each have their own independent goal in this post-noir graphic adventure.
Gameplay: The gameplay in Gemini Rue unfolds from a 2D perspective. It features what you’d expect from a detective game, talking with people, solving puzzles, interacting with the environment, and a little bit of gunplay.
There are two playable characters in Gemini Rue—Azriel Odin and Delta-Six. Odin has a relatively straightforward motive, looking for his brother Daniel. Delta has amnesia and has just recently woken up from his slumber in a rehabilitation center. Whoever he is and whatever his purpose, he quickly realizes he has to set his sights on escaping first. That’s all we can say. The rest is up to you, detective. No spoilers.
13. Ghost Watchers
Story Premise: In Ghost Watchers, you and your buddy are on a hunt for ghosts. Boo.
Gameplay: You look for clues about the ghost and identify them before you catch it. Ghost Watchers is a co-op game, so it’ll startle you and your friend together.
Ghost Watchers is in early access, but there is still plenty of content, or shall we say, ghosts to hunt. Creepy. In the current version, there are 8 different types of ghosts and about 20 different tools. Sorry, we should be a bit more elaborative about our experience with Ghost Watcher, but we are resisting it because even thinking about it creeps us out.
14. Lost Judgment
Story Premise: In Lost Judgement, you play as Takayuki Yagami, a detective solving a series of crimes in the streets of Kamurocho, Japan. It all begins as a straightforward whodunnit case about the suicide of a schoolboy, but absurdly laces into a seemingly unrelated case of sexual assault and murder.
Gameplay: Lost Judgment is a third-person open-world game. The combat features hand-to-hand boxing style fights with a focus on racking combos. Though the core gameplay loop remains quotidian to the genre, players roam around, talk, look for clues, and combat.
Judgment as a series started as a spinoff of Yakuza games, both also share the same timeline. While traditional Yakuza game tones were frivolous and playful, Judgement pretends to have a less flippant style. Right in the opening hours, the game touches on sensitive topics like sexual assault, bullying, and other crimes.
As is the tradition of the open world, Lost Judgement has different side activities and mini-games. This is where the game shines, like its neon-soaked streets. Kamurocho is filled with stuff to do, and the environment is drop-dead gorgeous if you happen to have a kink for the aesthetics.
Story Premise: A disappearance of a star who had once worked on three films has now raised eyebrows. The films never found screens, and all that remains are several scattered fragments of footage. If you’re to piece this missing puzzle, weave the clips together, orderly, and figure out the truth.
Gameplay: Nothing. Just watch and arrange them.
If you didn’t doze off in the middle of reading this one elaborative article about 50 detective games, you’ll get a deja vu reading the premise and gameplay of Immortality. This sounds awfully similar to Her Story, right? We’re pretty sure your detective’s brain has already guessed that both of these games were developed by the same people.
Yes, Her Story and Immortality were both created by Sam Barlow. Like Her Story, it tells a touching and thought provoking tale. While it might not feature traditional gameplay, the storytelling does compensate for it well.
16. Cyber Manhunt
Story Premise: Pry into a random internet person’s digital life to glean enough information that you could access their accounts.
Gameplay: All you have to do is stalk people’s social accounts. Oh please, don’t pretend that you’ve never done this, although there is a less benevolent intent in the game.
In Cyber Manhunt, your main objective is to gain access to random profiles on the internet. The game sports some real-life tropes and displays our clumsy steps on the internet that leave massive footprints, enough to trace us. A general playthrough will have you do web searches, analyze pictures, try some phishing, and even chat with the suspect. All in a normal day at work for a detective.
All of that scouring works on the game but is, unfortunately, less than likely to bear any fruit if you were to try to replicate it. Regardless, the game does a good job of making you realize how we need to be a little bit cautious about what we share online.
17. Call of Cthulhu
Story Premise: Edward Pierce, a seasoned private investigator has been eternally tortured with nightmares, with alcohol and sleeping pills holding his sanity at bay. The sleuth is later contacted to investigate a missing family and now has to traverse an eerie environment where something is lurking, if he is to solve the case.
Gameplay: Call of Cthulhu is a role-playing game, and the general gameplay is the same as you’d see within the genre. There are multiple skills and playstyles, all helping you look for clues and progress.
As a horror game, Call of Cthulhu borrows pages from HP Lovecraft’s work of the same name while also being an adaptation of another horror game that was released in 1981 and shares the same name as well. So there are three Call of Cthulhu at play here.
In this one, you’ll be hunted in first-person mode, and the nightmare will last somewhere around 10 hours. For people with volatile BP (blood pressure), we suggest you don’t play this HP’s adaptation at night unless you want to risk losing your real-life HP.
18. The House of Da Vinci (series)
Story Premise: Inside the house of Da Vinci is a maze, wherein lies a note the great master left himself after he disappeared. You’re his most promising apprentice, and naturally, you ought to investigate and find out what all the fuss is about.
Gameplay: The House of Da Vinci is a puzzle and escape game. As you’ll expect, it has rooms that are filled with different puzzles that you’ll solve to fulfill the goal.
There are three games in the House of Da Vinci series, with all of them being made available on Android as well. All three games are essentially a trilogy and conclude the entire arc. It is recommended that you play through the series in order, and you’ll be treated to lots of enjoyment and scratching your head.
19. Pathologic 2
Story Premise: Heeding his dads adjure about an approaching grave threat, a son returns to his hometown. On his return, he finds the town ravaged by a plague and has his objective set on cleansing the town back to health.
Gameplay: The game features first-person combat and a day-night cycle that has gameplay implications like some shops being closed and streets being empty at night. Other things remain classic to the genre, investigate, make choices, progress, and attain the objective.
The main character in Pathologic 2 is a healer who is responsible for blending a medicine that cures the affected. Like any period of great medical crisis, the clock ticks down, and you have no more than 12 days to set things right.
There is a part one to Pathologic 2, obviously. In the first iteration, there are three playable characters. One of them is common between games. The second version itself started development as a remake of the first but was later morphed into an entirely new project.
Story Premise: In the quaint medieval town, a traveling artist who doodles through its boulevard has embroiled himself in a murder case. You will be the one portraying his journey, responsible to paint everything perfectly.
Gameplay: Most of the gameplay involves talking to some town folks in pursuit of your investigation.
Other than its detective charm, Pentiment also put forward a postcard history tour. It radiates the liveliness of the era that you’ll never be able to see alive. It is developed by a small team at Obsidian and is very humble in scope. On the gameplay side, you’ll largely talk to people, and after you’ve had enough gossip and searched enough, you pass on your judgment i.e. accuse them.
21. Paradise Killer
Story Premise: In Paradise Killer, you play as an “investigation freak” lady who was previously exiled from the island. But now she is summoned as the island looms near its end and those responsible for resurrection have been murdered.
Gameplay: Paradise Killer doesn’t have any linear path progression. You’re quickly let loose in the open world where you have to, on your own, find the clues. Once you feel you have enough, you can set up a trail.
In a traditional detective game you have a core objective and missions more or less lead you straight into it. There is a little room to play here, but Paradise Killer gives you the entire paradise. No general objective or log reminding you what your core purpose is. All you do is solve a series of crimes, some of which may be related to why you are here and some may not.
The open world of Paradise Killer is blooming with colors but is also seemingly shallow should you dig a bit deeper. But it is distinctive, oozing with wit and personality. Overall, you’ll cherish your stay here.
22. Grim Fandango Remastered
Story Premise: This one is a little epic, so we will keep it short. In Grim Fandango, you play as a travel agent of the underworld whose duty entails him to guide the departed soul to the gate of Ninth Underworld.
There are several passages, some quicker and some requiring years of tedious journey. Each of these journeys is assigned based on the deeds of the now-dead souls. Our travel agent, Manuel “Manny” Calavera, discovers there is something wrong with how these passages are assigned.
So, the journey begins.
Gameplay: Nothing much. Mostly point and click. What else can dead people do anyway?
Grim Fandango is a timeless classic, in fact, it is often hailed as one of the greatest titles from ancient times. It was released in 1998, initially. A fairly wise man once said that a human’s flesh will be fleshed over time, but their good memories will always remain fresh. For Grim Fandango, it still charms us.
23. Hypnospace Outlaw
Story Premise: Hypnospace Outlaw is a community moderator simulator, i.e., you filter through the filth that gets posted by the users every day. Making sure no one infringes copyright, shares illicit content, or cyberbullies good people.
Gameplay: Ever volunteered as a Discord, Reddit, or any other platform mod and stomped down users with the infamous ban hammer? That’s what you’ll do here. Only difference, this is a lot cooler than being a basement dwelling narcissist like irl moderators.
Browsing through edgy teenager posts and smashing DMCA takedowns to pirated materials sounds fun. The premise, though, isn’t as simple. Hypnospace Outlaw has its quirks. For starters, the internet and all the parallels related to social media of the game are present in a person’s dreams. That very space of dreams is called Hypnospace (the game’s version of irl social media).
You might think, what part of all that sounds remotely detective-y? When stalking and quelling down absurd posts of social dreamscapes, you need to make deductions to track down the perpetrator. So, not really a simple mod sim. Anything that requires a brain is already different from being a Discord and Reddit mod. No offense.
24. Telling Lies
Story Premise: It is created by Sam Barlow. We hope you get the gist. If you do not, we are not sorry. Shouldn’t have slacked off and skipped two good games on this list.
Gameplay: Same, Sam Barlow.
Telling lies is all about catching who is telling lies. All in a signature Sam Barlow style—watching videos. It is a “desktop thriller,” and your purpose is to watch unorganized footage of conversations between four people.
25.Chicken Police – Paint it RED
Story Premise: In the twilight of his career, Sonny Featherland, is solving his last case accompanied by his estranged wife. Unfortunately, the relationship between our illustrious cop and his wife is so bitter, that he finds more sweetness in the alcohol he devours so very often.
Gameplay: The game of Chicken Police is point-and-click. You investigate and then conduct a trial later.
Chicken Police – Paint it RED is the second anthropomorphic game on our list. It’s sad that there aren’t many. They make for hilarious and adorable premises. In Chicken Police, you’re not entirely human, only your head is. Human heads are overrated anyway.
10 Best Anime Detective Games
Anime has some unique takes on the detective genre which is appealing to a large number of people. Here are the best anime detective games:
26. Whispers of the Luminaries
Story Premise: Dive into the dark side of the idol entertainment industry.
Gameplay: Free-time events where you select where to hang out. Relationship meter with character side stories like in Persona 5. Dialogue choices which matter.
Whispers of the Luminaries is a detective mystery visual novel which combines the vibrancy of idol games with the grit of detective mysteries. Explore the corruption of the idol entertainment biz – behind the scenes backroom deals, drugs, mental health and corruption.
27. AI: The Somnium Files
Story Premise: A corpse is found tied to a merry-go-round horse after being stabbed multiple times and having the left eye ripped out. You, Kaname Date, have been assigned to unravel the case and chase the barbaric murderer.
Gameplay: AI: The Somnium Files features point-and-click gameplay. The emphasis is on dialogue and occasional puzzles.
AI: The Somnium Files takes place in a near-future cyberpunk version of Tokyo, Japan. You’re on the trail of a serial killer who trademarks his kill by gouging out the left eye of the victim. The main character is a part of the Advanced Brain Investigation Squad whose modus operandi is “psyncing.”
Kaname is also well versed in psyncing, a power that grants you the ability to delve into the dream—or, as the game calls it, Somnium—of the person. With limitations, of course. The ability is available only for six minutes. A sequel, with the same name but suffixed with “Nirvana Initiative,” was released in 2022. It is a worthy successor.
27. Person 5 Royal
Story Premise: A bunch of high school teenagers have taken it upon themselves to put an end to the distorted desires of adults by stealing their hearts and making them nice people. You’re the pioneers of this gang—known as The Phantom Thieves—and you go by the moniker “Joker.”
Gameplay: Persona 5 is a dungeon crawler and has a turn-based combat system. The game is a role-playing simulation, so you’ll also be doing what a teenager does in their daily routine besides general combat.
The highlight of Persona 5 is how it goes on about the mundane everyday tasks of a teenager, like studying for exams, making friends, and doing a part-time job. It is a tiringly long journey, taking you around 100 hours to finish the main plot. Do not tie your laces and dress for this school unless you have that many hours to commit.
Persona 5 isn’t about mindless questing and side questing. Being a teenager, you’ll have to manage your time by setting your priorities straight. For example, you have to choose whether you want to spend time with your friends, study, or do something else. Time is limited, and you’ll have to make the most of it. In case you have lots of time available,also try Persona 4. It is a good game. Why stop there? Give the entire series a go.
28. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Trilogy
Story Premise: You’re a lawyer.
Gameplay: You solve cases in the courtroom.
There is quite literally nothing to say about Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Trilogy other than the fact that the game is the anime version of Law & Order. By anime version, expect the quirkiness, humor, and similar tropes found within the medium. The general gameplay loop is that you first investigate for clues and then court day arrives, where you resort to rhetoric.
Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Trilogy consists of the first three Ace Attorney games, which date as far back as 2001. The series is best played as a visual novel. You won’t be sweating much when it comes to gameplay. It is available on many platforms including mobile.
29. The Silver Case
Story Premise: Heinous Crimes Unit has dispatched two detectives after reports of a series of bizarre murders. The incident is later ostensibly linked to a former well-known serial killer, who was previously assumed to be dead. Fill in the details and unravel the person behind the murders—that’s what you’ll be doing.
Gameplay: Like several other games on the list, The Silver Case is a visual novel and has point-and-click gameplay. A higher priority is given to the narrative, which is intended to steer the entire experience.
The Silver Case features a parallel narrative of two people, a journalist and a detective. Meaning, there are two playable characters. Both run independent of each other, and you switch between them as the game progresses.
It is fairly old, perhaps even older than you. A long time ago, in 1998, the game first found a platform to release and was made available for PlayStation 1, only in Japan. Shortly after, we mean two decades later, it was made available for PC in 2016. A PlayStation 4 version was released in 2017. It is an ancient souvenir.
30. Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc
Story Premise: Crème de la crème students from all over Japan have all been called to Hope’s Peak Academy. Unbeknownst to them, a cute robot bear later holds them captive and tells them that if they’re to escape, they must kill their classmates without getting caught.
Gameplay: All mysteries unfold inside a school, and players assume the role of Makoto Naegi. The general gameplay premise is similar to the Ace Attorney series, an investigation followed by a trial.
Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc is not all just murder and figure out; it is also a dating sim. In school, there are two types of lives, daily and deadly. In daily life, you date other people as well as have friendly chats. Meanwhile, Deadly Life is all about the murder side—you get to be a detective and investigate for clues.
The game is open world, and the world is basically the entire school which is free to roam, chat, date, solve cases, and blame others. There are six chapters in the game. Each of those will last somewhere around two hours depending on how slow you enjoy your games.
31. Return to Shironagasu Island
Story Premise: San Iked, a detective from New York, and his resourceful but shy assistant have a trip to an isolated island, Shironagasu Island. The visit was requested by a millionaire’s son after the death of his father. Surely this is just a general investigation, and they’ll be back quickly, right?
Gameplay: Like so many of the games on this list, Return to Shironagasu Island is a visual novel. Clues are often identified by clicking on the objects, similar to hidden object games.
Return to Shironagasu Island is what you’d expect from an anime detective. Lots of quirky humor, a shy girl, and a fluctuating tone. The main character, San Iked, is always serious and hard-boiled. While her assistant has superpowers and an amazing memory but is unreasonably reserved and shutters when speaking.
It is still worth your time, as the game is available for less than $5 and could provide you with 8 hours of enjoyment. The visual aspect of it is neatly done. Although the translation from Japanese to English could be a bit better, it is good enough to make your experience enjoyable.
32. Raging Loop
Story Premise: A bike accident sees our protagonist, Haruaki Fusaishi, for a stay at Yasumizu. As he looks to pave his way out, a strange, thick mist cloud has hemmed him in. The only way to escape is to solve a wolf folklore that has a villager turn into a wolf and is destined to kill one of the inhabitants of the village.
Gameplay: Ranging Loop is a visual novel. Some choices have consequences.
Inspired by Japanese folklore, Ranging Loop mixes lots of, obviously, folklore and werewolves. While there isn’t anything big to take home when it comes to gameplay, with everything being point-and-click, the narrative, writing, and translation are all brilliant.
Since the game’s emphasis is on choices and different outcomes, you can play again from any point in the game and see what could have happened if you were to pick a different choice. There is a new game plus as well, neat.
33. Zero Escape: The Nonary Games
Story Premise: Abducted to only later find themselves in an unfamiliar location, 9 people are pitted on a series of bizarre games. Look for clues and solve puzzles unless you fancy staying in foreign places.
Gameplay: Zero Escape: The Nonary Games includes several games from the Zero Escape series. As for gameplay within these games, they feature visual novels and traditional escape-type experiences.
The Zero Escape series started with
“Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors,” way back in 2009. Initially, it was made available only on the Nintendo DS and featured escape room gameplay. You play as Junpei, who, like other people, was kidnapped and is forced to play Nonary Games that have life-and-death scenarios.
The Nonary Games bundle includes Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors, and Virtue’s Last Reward—the first two games of the series. It is available on all platforms (consoles and PC).
34. Buried Stars
Story Premise: A poorly constructed reality series set is crumbled into debris at the tail end of the show. This has five of the finalists, including our main hero, and several staff members trapped inside the wreckage. As you await help, a murder mystery ensues within.
Gameplay: Buried Stars’ gameplay loop doesn’t boast anything distinctive that hasn’t been mentioned in other anime detective games on this list. Plenty of your time will be spent having conversations, with tools like a watch coming to your aid.
Buried Stars is a charming yet relatable experience. Sure, being a finalist in a popular music show only to find yourself trapped under a collapsing building and later discovering a dead body, which means there is murder among you, is a little cinematic for a regular day. But the cast is diverse and incredibly relatable.
The narrative also attempts to touch on profound and meaningful subjects, although the game doesn’t make anything insightfully bold that you haven’t read elsewhere. No matter what message or statement you make, it’ll all fall flat without presentation. The 2D and 3D mix, along with a good-looking backdrop, elevates the overall feel of the game.
Story Premise: A delusional president of a school newspaper club, Takuru Miyashiro, has stumbled upon a massive scoop relating to a series of murders. The events occurred after a town has been rebuilding since an unrelated earthquake, which has awakened some people with psychic abilities that allows them to spot lies.
Gameplay: Chaos;Child is a choice-based detective thriller. There are multiple routes and endings, and they unlock only after you’ve finished the main campaign.
Choices are very much the emphasis of the Chaos;Child. The main character, Takuru Miyashiro, has multiple delusions, and after a certain amount of progression, you have to choose whether you want him to have a positive or a negative one. A good one obviously makes a good impact.
The game also encourages players to play beyond the completion of the main campaign. There are lots of secrets not revealed within the campaign. It requires you to do stuff after completion.
7 Best Free Detective Games Available On Steam
If you’re not looking to spend money, then these free games are for you:
36. Escape Memoirs: Mini Stories
Story Premise: You’re inside a cell and you have to escape.
Gameplay: Look out for things around you and, with the help of them, pave your way out.
Escape Memoirs: Mini Stories is a free-to-play game and features co-op gameplay with up to 5 people. It is hard and confusing. Don’t trust us? Here is what several people wrote about the game on Steam:
“stupid stupid dumb game. made me want to cry. even albert einstein wouldn’t know what to do. i had a midlife crisis playing this game. this game made me hate colors” TayBee
“Not to be dramatic but whoever created the rotating puzzle deserves capital punishment.” Long Long Man.
Guess that intimidates or provokes you enough to take on the challenge. For a head start here is a neat little but extremely helpful tip: the game has you locked up in a prison as a thief and you’re looking for an escape. There are multiple different levels of puzzles, with more scheduled to arrive at a later date.
37. Unsolved Case
Story Premise: A cryptic killer has found his way out of Anagram Asylum. His identity, however, remains uncertain—is he the same person, or the one held captive wasn’t even original to begin with? You’ll have to figure this out with your friend.
Gameplay: There are a series of different co-op puzzles that have to be solved to progress. All of them require good communication and teamwork.
Unsolved Mystery isn’t a full game but a quasi-demo-like experience that serves as a prequel to Cryptic Killer, an escape room game by the same developers. Of course, if you like Unsolved Case you can give it a go as well. A couple of hours long experience will leave you wanting more anyway.
38. Cube Escape: Paradox
Story Premise: Cube Escape: Paradox follows Dale Vandermeer, a detective who finds himself trapped in two different universes. One universe is usually too much to handle in itself, so why would anyone want to be a part of two of them? Escape, immediately.
Gameplay: A tie-in to films, the gameplay is “visual novel-esque,” which means more or less point and click.
Again, Cube Paradox on its own isn’t a full game, just one chapter that is available for free. The second one is premium but will only cost you a couple of dollars. So there isn’t a huge chunk of your wallet to let loose should you find the first chapter entertaining.
Even beyond this game about a detective trapped inside by an old foe, the developers—Rusty Lake—have a slew of detective and mystery games in their repertoire. As always, we recommend you go through them and try the ones you find interesting. Yes, yes, we’re recommending lots of games on top of the 50 already on the list, but has any number of games ever been enough?
39. Adventure Escape Mysteries
Story Premise: There aren’t one or two but twenty different types of mysteries bundled in this game, each with its own accompanying story. From a brutal murder mystery to plundering an island in search of riches, there is a lot here to keep you occupied.
Gameplay: Gameplay in Adventure Escape Mysteries is mostly solving puzzles and other shenanigans that you usually see. Though there is a wide variety of stories, the gameplay is point-and-click.
We really don’t want to parade your excitement, but there is a catch to the free aspect of Adventure Escape Mysteries. While the entire game can be enjoyed without having to throw a dime, there is an “energy” type mechanism—the game calls them keys—that you usually see in mobile games. Without keys, you can’t play any levels.
They do, however, refresh over time which means you can’t run through the levels and will have to often go outside. Maybe touch some grass during that time. No offense. Conveniently, you can pay to lose the restrictions. It is a fair trade, to be honest. The game is available on almost all platforms, including mobile.
40. Locked In Mind
Story Premise: Locked In Mind doesn’t have any noteworthy synopsis to write.
Gameplay: Nothing noteworthy here either; the only thing to mention is that it is an escape room game.
Locked In Mind is best for someone who just wants to exercise their brain muscles, although this doesn’t mean it is easier. Unlike a general escape room game, there isn’t a ticking clock or any other stuff that coerces you to finish the level before sunset or before the top of the hourglass replenishes.
The game is in early access and works as an initial course of the meal, as developers continue to cook the full plate. It will take you just about an hour, or maybe two, depending on how laid-back you get—but does feature several quality puzzles that’ll get your brain running.
41. The Monster Inside
Story Premise: Inside the eerie world of strange beasts, and mystical powers, lies a deeper and even dangerous secret about an unknown killer. What’s next is pretty self explanatory—you trail the murderer.
Gameplay: It is a visual novel so expect the expected.
Hey, wanna play the game but bored to open Steam to download, and then boot the game? Play the game by clicking here: The Monster Inside. You heard it correctly, the game can be played entirely on any browser. Probably the least power hungry game in this entire list.
No, that doesn’t mean it is any sort of content to enjoy. There are seven story chapters and “Two-packs-a-day smoking habit,” in terms of what the game offers. It is modest in scope and fairly short but with a banger soundtrack and eye-pleasing visuals.
Story Premise: On a regular work day, a construction worker observes his site is torn apart filled with violence. He is trapped inside and now has to construct the clues, brick by brick, if he is to escape.
Gameplay: Blameless is a first-person game with a heavy emphasis on horror and detective elements. The game does not feature any distinctive mechanic and has predictable and familiar sets of combinations for gameplay.
Blameless is yet another game on our list that doesn’t ask you for your entire weekend. It is a good appetizer—in fact, more than good. It is already short, which means fewer things to figure out, so we best not share too much that leaves nothing for you to see for yourself.
Best Detective Board Games
When thinking of a detective game, board games are usually the last ones to ring. Not only do they overwhelm you with new sets of rules exclusive to the very game to rehearse, they also rarely tire out your brain like their fantasy or puzzle counterparts. All resulting in players not caring as much about them.
But games like Cluedo have shown us otherwise. If you still can’t reason with yourself, here are 10 points to why you should care about detective board games.
- Improves your foresight. Visionary.
- Makes you a better decision maker, especially for split-second decisions.
- Your math skills will get better, over time.
- Get good at risk management. Should I sacrifice this pawn as bait so I could save my other three?
- Lowers blood pressure. This is a proven science with one underlying assumption—you’re having fun.
- Excellent opportunity to get social and improve bonds, even for non-gamers. Since we all at some point played board games, everyone knows the gist.
- Improves your reasoning and intuition, which is what you need to be a detective.
- Board games are less GPU intensive, those that have digital versions.
- Blast with friends, and it makes for great co-op games.
- May ruin friendships for a day or two. Cheater!
Hopefully, that does convince you to at least try. And, conveniently, we have 8 board games on our list to complete the count to 50.
Here are the 8 best board detective games to play.
43. Cluedo (Clue)
Story Premise: Cluedo is a simple whodunnit. No significant premise to write of.
Gameplay: In Cluedo, you look for clues by navigating between rooms. Each player picks a role and rolls dice to move forward.
Any list of detective board games is incomplete without Cluedo. It is hailed as one of the very best and has been around for 70 years. Because it is held so highly, there are both physical and digital versions of games available. You don’t have to worry if there aren’t many visitors at your house. No need for friends with digital versions either.
There are six roles that can be picked by each player. Objective of every game is to find out who the murder was and what weapon was used for it. Cluedo has plenty of different iterations featuring unique and different twists, but the original ones are always marked as “Classic Detective Game,” should you want to play the originals.
Story Premise: Long ago, a servant was murdered by his industrialist employer. His ghost still lingers around the mansion, and he has now taken it upon himself to indicate to psychic investigators who, when, and how he was murdered.
Gameplay: In Mysterium, one player assumes the role of a ghost while others are investigators. In each round, the ghost will bring the investigators closer to their objectives—i.e., finding who killed him, the location of the murder, and the weapon used—by drawing cards on the board.
Mysterium is another board game available in a digital as well as a physical version. You can grab one directly from Steam. The digital versions do have bots in case you have social anxiety, or don’t buy into the idea of meeting and talking to people. If you’re a very social person, you and six of your friends can play, with the minimum friend count being one.
Story Premise: Set in the Medieval Era, full of fantasies and mysteries, Destinies is a co-op board game. Heroes are pitted against each other, tussling to find their destiny.
Gameplay: It is, umm, complicated.
Destinies is a blend of tradition and modern. You’ll need a companion app, which is free, as well as a physical version to enjoy all the sagas on a next level of immersion. Companion apps also bring new things to the table that aren’t possible in physically bound board games.
The companion app for Destinies—you can nab this directly from Steam too, by the way—has all the complicated rules laid out and cool interactions in store. Plenty of items from the physical version have QR codes that can be scanned to learn more about them. Want to know how cool things can get? The companion app will play music based on the moment of the game. Orgasmic, isn’t it?
46. Chronicles of Crime
Story Premise: Catching the criminal is the only logical premise of a game called Chronicles of Crime.
Gameplay: The game follows the same sets of familiar rules that you’ll see in any other similar board game.
This is another board game on our list that follows the gimmick of the companion app. In fact, it goes a little further, and there is a VR mode. Although the VR bit is completely optional, it is only meant to spice things up a bit. Sometimes you want to do more than just slam a card at the table or roll a dice, so now do it with a big headset wrapped around your eyes for a change.
While the “crime” part of the title makes it obvious that it is a crime solver, the “chronicles” angle should also do the next bit of description. In Chronicles of Crime, there are multiple scenarios, each playing out a bit differently than the others. They’ll take somewhere around 40–60 minutes each from start to finish.
47. Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective
Story Premise: In labyrinths worth of stories, play as one of Sherlock’s sidekicks and uncover all obscure criminal cases in Victoria, London.
Gameplay: There are a series of cases scattered throughout the streets of London. As you approach solving one, you’ll be guided by booklets of information, which will lead you to new clues, and eventually to the answer.
No other brand, perhaps other than Batman, is as widely associated with the word “detective” as Sherlock. And this tabletop co-op board game can make 2-8 players feel like Sherlock. It has been adapted to digital video games as well. But there isn’t one, but plenty of different ones.
It isn’t a simple board game, though. There are no pawns to switch, cards to match, or dice to throw. You’ll have to read through newspapers, booklets, and a map to navigate—all to deduce information and trace the criminal.
48. MicroMacro: Crime City
Story Premise: MicroMacro: Crime City takes place in a Crime City which hides umpteen amounts of horrible atrocities.
Gameplay: There is a massive map that hides several points of interest—i.e., the crime scenes—and you’ll be looking for them based on clues provided.
Crime City is a slightly different type of board game. Here, you’ll use a magnifying glass to scour through the map based on clues and find the spots of crimes. If you think this is not the type of game you’re after, there’s a demo available for you to try. It is an online version that gives you a taste and doesn’t require any download.
49. Deception: Murder in Hong Kong
Story Premise: There is no significant premise to write of. As the title suggests, it takes place in Hong Kong.
Gameplay: A murder has happened. Obvious at this point, isn’t it? Players will try together to solve the case, but among all the investigators, there is a suspicious person.
Deception: Murder in Hong Kong requires a minimum of four players and can fit up to twelve. Among all those players, one will assume the role of murderer, one will be a scientist, and others will be investigators.
In the beginning, everyone will close their eyes except scientists. Later, the scientists will ask the murderer to open his eyes and ask him about the weapon and clue. Now, while the scientists do have a clue and know who is susy among them, they cannot reveal it directly. Indirectly, as scientists attempt to guide others, the murderer, acting as an investigator, will try to mislead others.
50. Tragedy Looper
Story Premise: A trio of protagonists seeks to deduce information to arrive at the answers. Pushing them back is the all-knowing mastermind, who has to do their best bidding in ensuring none of the three heroes finds the answer.
Gameplay: Everything here remains fairly standard to what you’ve seen in other board games. It is 1v3, and the elements used are cards. And a board, of course, which you move around and progress on. At a certain point, should the three heroes fail, the game will reset.
There isn’t much to discuss about Tragedy Looper. It is a perfect game for a group of four friends. Rules might sound very complicated at first, but the physical version comes with a very detailed how-to guide that’ll help even a toddler understand how to play the game.
Mastering the game will require a considerable amount of effort and skills. Which also means you’ll be rewarded if you’re a seasoned player. Mastermind in Tragedy Looper has an even higher skill gap, a good one can make all protagonists look like clueless NPCs, having them eternally trapped in a loop.
And that’s a wrap.