Campo Santo and Panic’s 2016 single-player adventure game Firewatch focusing on the Yosemite wildfires of 1988 features elements of intrigue, mystery, and suspense in a narrative package that makes the life of a firewatch tower operator both exciting and compelling.
Presented in a unique graphical style that favors the artwork for forest posters from the 1930s when the service got its start in earnest, Firewatch is praised by critics and gamers alike for its masterful interweaving of dialogue, gameplay, and a complex story.
It is especially noted for its overwhelming attention to detail and high level of quality in these areas.
A game that ostensibly looks like an indie darling actually has the depth of a true triple-A game with both a style that is hard to match and a general thrust that encourages imitation.
In this article we’re going to offer a list of 11 games like Firewatch so that you can expand upon your adventure with something else of a similar flavor. Running the gamut of styles, most do feature a narrative as a core element but there is also a heavy dose of mystery and exploration that make these games perfect on a list together. After all, part of the charm of Firewatch is the slow reveal about its world that occurs over the course of the game and many of the titles on this list share that trait.
Brought to the world by The Chinese Room and SCE Santa Monica Studio, Everybody’s Gone to Rapture sounds like either a Bioshock treatment or a Christian eschatological tale but it is actually a game that has the literary aspirations of the former while borrowing from the apocalyptic concepts of the latter.
Plopped down into a village in which everyone has disappeared for some mysterious reason, Everybody’s Gone to Rapture is a classic adventure game in the vein of Return to Zork or Seventh Guest but with a welcoming overlay that encourages nonlinear exploration and revealing the story at your own pace.
Filled with tons of stuff to interact with both otherworldly and very much terrestrial, Everybody’s Gone to Rapture is a great game for people who enjoyed the wonder and atmosphere of classics like Myst and the above mentioned Firewatch.
This supernatural mystery graphical adventure game from Night School Studio is told from a 2.5D perspective and borrows narrative themes from teen television shows of the Stranger Things variety. Critically acclaimed for its storytelling prowess when it debuted back in 2016, Oxenfree integrates dialogue into exploration and encourages constant forward progression through the in-game world. There are no cut scenes or distinguishable “acts” in Oxenfree – progression is largely at the player’s discretion.
You can interact with non-player characters encountered in the world as well as different objects. There are a series of puzzles that will need to be solved to unlock more of the narrative but the game is largely centered around player choice and the impact of that which gives each playthrough a unique flavor.
A mystery adventure and walking simulator game from Giant Sparrow and published by Annapurna Interactive, What Remains of Edith Finch follows a character of the same name that has returned to her dead parents’ home and who gradually uncovers a shared past during her stay there. Involving a complex intergenerational narrative, What Remains of Edith Finch mainly focuses on forward movement and interacting with objects you encounter in the game. This is the essence of a walking simulator and you won’t see puzzle solving or other elements in a game like this.
Though admittedly not a “linear” game in the sense of a side-scrolling platformer, there is nonetheless a forward-motion to What Remains of Edith Finch that imbues the game with a story quality similar to a novel. Like a book, there is a starting point and, once the journey is commenced, there is an inevitable ending point. The mystery of Edith Finch’s family, while intriguing, only serves to highlight this linear progression and the game, in effect, becomes a powerful metaphor about the passage of time.
Fullbright’s adventure video game taking place in a seemingly abandoned space station circa 2088 involves Amy and her augmented reality device that is capable of recalling the space station’s past while also allowing her to view the events leading up the mysterious abandonment of the craft. In a nod to science fiction masterpiece Minority Report, Amy can manipulate these scenes of history in order to reveal clues as to what to do next.
With a setting that is part Ridley Scott’s original Alien and a mystery all its own, Tacoma never shies away from trying new things out and its puzzle solving elements are incredibly organic while still being challenging. If you’re stuck, there’s a help system built-in to the AR device which has the added benefit of allowing the player to focus in on the amazing story being told here.
Frictional Games science fiction survival horror title Soma probably has a lot more of an intense edge to it than Firewatch but, like Tacoma, offers a sci-fi thriller that needs to be experienced to be believed. Taking place on an underwater research station run by machines that are becoming self aware, Soma is reminiscent of the classic first-person game System Shock, itself a classic and the inspiration for the later BioShock series.
Taking place after a cataclysmic asteroid collision has wiped out all life on the surface, Soma focuses on how the various crew members are overwhelmed by their own ennui while the machines that maintain the facility develop their own personality ticks – all for the worse. The game is about escaping but escaping from what exactly is the mystery the player is charged with resolving.
This single-player adventure exploration game has a lot in common with What Remains of Edith Finch in that it involves returning home to a house bereft of inhabitants but with a mysterious note on the door telling player-character Katie to not investigate any further.
Naturally, Katie does this and the game revolves around this central mystery which reveals itself to be more soap opera than murder mystery in nature so don’t let it’s creepy vibe put you off initially. Intergenerational in nature like What Remains of Edith Finch, Gone Home shares the sense of organic revelation that is Firewatch’s hallmark trait.
Released in five episodes, Life is Strange from renowned role-playing game published Square Enix focuses on time travel as a central mechanic for solving fetch quests, puzzles, and revealing the causes of a superstorm threatening everything the character Max Caulfield could ever care about in a tale that is at times wavering back and forth between pure narrative tale and action sequences.
Complex and nonlinear in structure, Life is Strange is perfect for people who like to do their own thing in an adventure game.
Spurred on to an investigation from 15-year-old fan Ethan Carter, paranormal investigator Paul Prospero sets out to investigate the paranormal activities taking place in Red Creek Valley, Wisconsin that will not only reveal a lot about the town but also about Prospero himself.
Taking heavy cues from Hollywood mystery thrillers, The Vanishing of Ethan Carter is a narrative that works on multiple levels and does an excellent job drawing the player in to its atmosphere – which is critical to the narrative’s success.
Hinterland Studios’ first-person survival game set in the Canadian wilderness is an open-world title that puts you in the role of a pilot who has survived a crash landing caused by a worldwide geomagnetic storm.
Obviously taking place in a snowbound environ, The Long Dark forces you to scavenge for supplies while avoiding environmental hazards such as bears and wolves. Many of the elements of the game are randomly generated which means that no two playthroughs will be the same.
That said, there is a kind of rhythm that the game obtains that makes it something people will want to play again and again. Unlike many of the titles on this list, The Long Dark relies less upon its narrative to make it all work and does a masterful job of giving the player options as to what they want to focus on as their favorite part of the game.
An interactive storytelling game from Galactic Cafe, The Stanley Parable is about being put in an office building that is suddenly empty of other employees.
Not only do you have to figure out what is wrong with your computer but also you need to solve the mystery of everyone else’s disappearance. Developed through interaction with in-game artifacts and objects, The Stanley Parable is heavily story focused and engaging in the same way that Firewatch’s emergent storytelling is.
A point-and-click adventure game that is text heavy and devoid of any other objective outside of unveiling more about the world, Kentucky Route 0 is a throwback to the classic Zork titles of the 1980s and the text-based adventures you’ve probably heard about. As a truck driver who has gotten lost along the way home, you basically make your way back by clicking on things to reveal more about where you are and where you need to be. Of course, not all things are as they seem and there is a mystery about the world to reveal. If you like games that have little else outside of an amazing story, Kentucky Route 0 is your game.
I hope you enjoyed this list, I loved putting it together. If you have any games that I missed please leave them in the comments below.