• The video game mystery genre evolved from early text-based games, offering complex problem-solving experiences.
  • Sought-after mystery games often intertwine with different genres such as adventure, action, and horror.
  • Crime-solving video games like Disco Elysium and The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles offer unique narratives and immersive gameplay.

The mystery, police procedure, or detective genre of video games has an impressive library, and its evolution can be traced to the earliest “walking simulator” games that used only text commands. Players had to explore the area, gather clues, and collect certain important items. Puzzles, mystery solving, and collecting clues were part of the earliest games to exist, right after sports.


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Many of these kinds of games often use the same concepts of investigating, gathering clues, and the powers of deduction that are similar to the daily activities of a police officer or private investigator. Games that focus on solving mysteries can and often do overlap with other genres including adventure, action, role-playing, and even horror.

Updated April 13, 2024 by Kristy Ambrose: Video games about solving mysteries or crime dramas continue to be popular, so there are a lot of new options to choose from along with vintage titles that have been released or remastered for present-day audiences.

Complex problem-solving can be more rewarding than a big explosion or a dramatic boss fight, and the best mystery games can be role-playing, story-based, or adventure games. This library is so vast that it’s easy to find a variety of games for any port or format, and that includes phones, tablets, and consoles, along with conventional desktops.

1 Disco Elysium

Metacritic Score: 89

Disco Elysium cover art cropped

Disco Elysium

October 15, 2019

This video game’s art style, which mimics a surreal oil painting, is one of the features that sets Disco Elysium apart from other RPGs. It also features an unconventional progression system that includes skill checks and dialogue trees determined by Perception and pain threshold, which experienced RPGers might refer to as Fortitude.

The setting is a city in the aftermath of an apocalypse, and the main character is in the depths of amnesia, so there are a few more mysteries here other than the murder he’s trying to solve. Even though he’s missing most of his past, every main character still has a set of distinct character traits and a Thought Cabinet, which unlocks more backstory depending on the player’s dialogue choices.

2 Her Story

Metacritic Score: 86

Her Story interrogation tape

Her Story
Sam Barlow

June 24, 2015
Adventure , Puzzle , Indie Games , Simulation , casual

An interactive film that’s also a video game, and one of the best modern examples of how the genre has evolved from the CD-ROM days. Her Story is independently developed and created by Sam Barlow, who formerly worked at Climax Studios, the same company that made Silent Hill: Origins and Silent Hill: Shattered Memories.

The story is structured around police procedure, using a mix of different kinds of evidence that the protagonist has to examine, sometimes using forensics. The game includes a lot of live-action footage that Barlow created after studying real police interrogation videos.

3 Outer Wilds

Metacritic Score: 85

Pilot sits in cockpit and looks at a planet close to a sun in Outer Wilds

Outer Wilds
Mobius Digital


May 28, 2019

An action-adventure mystery video game that uses deep space as the setting, Outer Wilds is more about exploration and problem-solving than fighting. The premise of the game is that the universe is stuck in a 22-minute time loop that ends in a supernova, which the main character will get caught in several times before they finish the game. Luckily they gain the ability to retain their memories beyond death during the first part of the story.


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The player spends most of the game learning about an ancient race called the Nomai and their ultimate project, planned on a galactic scale, which is the source of the time anomaly. No pressure, but the protagonist has to piece together the clues from various logic puzzles to discover what happened and find a way to save the entire universe.

4 The 7th Guest

Metacritic Score: 68

The Seventh Guest screenshot dinner party scene

  • Platform(s): macOS, DOS, CD-i, PC, Linux, Mobile
  • Released: April 28, 1993
  • Developer: Trilobyte
  • Genre(s): Puzzle, Adventure

The 7th Guest is a point-and-click mystery video game classic originally from the CD-ROM era that was remastered and re-released as a 25th Anniversary Edition in 2019. It was one of the first “haunted mansion” games, and also one of the first to integrate video graphics into a computer game in a way that contributed to the plot rather than just being silly.

This was also at a time that horror games actually started to emerge as a genre, and The 7th Guest didn’t shy away from the sordid or the mysterious. This game looks fun and colorful, and it is, with the graveyard cake puzzles and wacky characters. As the story unfolds into one of the best mystery games ever made, it becomes clear this isn’t a game for kids.

5 Paradise Killer

Metacritic Score: 81

A tropical resort with platforms that lead to skull statues and paintings in Paradise Killer

Paradise Killer
Kaizen Game Works
PlayStation 4 , PlayStation 5 , Nintendo Switch , Xbox One , Microsoft Windows

September 4, 2020

The more concise summary of this game is that it’s a sci-fi adventure with a murder mystery as the focus of the plot. A more detailed description would include that the whole thing is set in a pocket universe called Paradise Island, which has been constructed by aliens to trap and house humans.

It’s used to lull them into a false sense of security before sacrificing their souls to construct the next incarnation of the same island. That’s a whole lot of lore for a game that’s relatively small in comparison, and the detailed narrative of Paradise Killer is what makes it better than average when it comes to mystery-solving games.

6 Signalis

Metacritic Score: 81

games-might-have-missed-2022-signalis screenshot interior

rose-engine, Rose-engine games
Survival Horror , Indie Games , Adventure , Shooter

Nintendo Switch , PlayStation 4 , Xbox One , Microsoft Windows , Xbox Series X/S

October 27, 2022

A survival horror game that includes solving mysteries, Signalis is designed as a third-person shooter and has a two-dimensional perspective. It was critically acclaimed and players gave it high praise, recognizing that it was inspired by similar resource-collecting and puzzle games like Resident Evil.

The sci-fi setting features a spaceship and a mysterious government known as the Nation of Eusan, at war with an even larger galactic empire. The game features androids called Replikas, which the nation of Eusna uses as soldiers, miners, and other grunt work. A few different endings are possible, depending on the progression of the story, and the Artifact Ending is the secret one that requires the player to collect three hidden keys.

7 The Vanishing Of Ethan Carter

Metacritic Score: 82

The Vanishing Of Ethan Carter screenshot tent and skull

The Vanishing of Ethan Carter
The Astronauts


September 26, 2014

The Vanishing Of Ethan Carter relies on stunning artwork and a compelling story to draw in aspiring detectives. This is one of the best mystery video games that combines an open-world environment with little guidance for how the mechanics work, and learning is part of the game.

The player follows a mystery through an impressive collection of artistic settings and immersive locations. It’s the atmospheric quality of The Vanishing of Ethan Carter that most people cite as what elevates it from other mystery-solving games.

8 Grim Fandango

Metacritic Score: 94

Sepia image showing Grim Fandango by LucasArts.

Grim Fandango

October 30, 1998

An adventure game first and foremost, because this is LucasArts after all, Grim Fandango is also about solving a mystery. On a technical level, this is one of the first times that a 3D-rendered video game looked good, using an unconventional animation style that mixed film noir with calaca-like characters. The main character is a travel agent, but one who dwells in the afterlife and helps transport souls.


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Despite the critical acclaim that Grim Fandango received and the fanbase that follows it today, it was a commercial failure in its time. The game was re-released in 2015 with improved graphics, a new orchestral soundtrack, and a director’s commentary.

9 Sam And Max Hit The Road

Metacritic Score: 91

Sam And Max Hit The Road cover art

  • Developer: LucasArts
  • Genre: Graphic Adventure
  • Platform(s): MS-DOS, Mac OS, Microsoft Windows
  • Released: 1993

Sam and Max, also known as the Freelance Police, have a lot of wacky adventures solving crimes and this title is still one of their most popular. The plot is set in motion when a Sasquatch goes missing from a carnival. The intrepid heroes have to use their perception and deduction skills as they visit several popular American tourist attractions looking for clues.

Sam And Max Hit The Road is part of the impressive library that LucasArts amassed when point-and-click adventure games were all the rage. It’s distinctive for its humor, clever dialogue, and the best voice talent for games at the time.

10 Pentiment

Metacritic Score: 86

image showing a grave in pentiment.


November 15, 2022

A narrative adventure that’s mostly text, the 2D animation fits the medieval aesthetic perfectly. Pentiment is the best mystery game for players who are interested in solving a mystery along with those who appreciate a unique and beautiful art style, which is used seriously here as opposed to a cartoony joke like in some other games.

The main character is Andreas Maler, a journeyman artist who gets mixed up in the murderous drama of 16th-century Upper Bavaria. Players can build this character’s skills and backstory through choices they make in the dialogue. Set in the fictional town of Talsing in the Alps, the timeline of the game spans 25 years, and solving these mysteries becomes a lifetime commitment.

11 The Wolf Among Us

Metacritic Score: 80

The Wolf Among Us Bigby facing off against Bloody Mary in his partial wolf form.

The Wolf Among Us

October 14, 2013

Fans of mystery-based video games who also like comic-book adaptations would probably enjoy The Wolf Among Us. It’s intended as a prequel to the Fables comic book series, which was created and written by Bill Willingham and has been running since 2002.

This is a graphic adventure game that mostly works on point-and-click mechanics as the player explores a variety of different settings and environments. The player controls the main character, Bigby Wolf, formerly known as the Big Bad Wolf and now the mayor of Fabletown, who is tasked with solving a series of murders. A sequel to the game is scheduled for launch in 2024.

12 Heavy Rain

Metacritic Score: 87


Heavy Rain
February 23, 2010


An interactive drama and adventure mystery video game, Heavy Rain received numerous accolades from both players and critics for the play style, story, and overall design. There are four different protagonists involved and the player gets to control all of them at different points, and any number of choices causes the storyline to branch off into another direction.

The story begins with a tragedy and goes downhill from there. It’s dark, visceral, and sometimes bloody, so be advised it’s not for the faint of heart. Follow the clues left by a serial killer to save the protagonist’s son before it’s too late. This is a game where the player’s actions do matter, so choose wisely as the dark streets of Philadelphia start to close in.

13 Sherlock Holmes: Crimes & Punishments

Metacritic Score: 73

Sherlock Holmes Crimes & Punishments screenshot ruined mansion

  • Platform(s): PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One
  • Released: September 30, 2014
  • Developer(s): Frogwares
  • Genre(s): Adventure

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s depiction of Sherlock Holmes was partly autobiographical. His use of forensics was new for its time, but the modern age has the same fascination with his skill for finding and interpreting clues. Many of the games in this series could also be likely candidates, but this game also includes moral choices that affect the gameplay.


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On a more technical level, this is the first game in Frogwares’ Sherlock Holmes series that uses Unreal Engine 3 to create an intense and immersive first-person POV. The written portions are intended to resemble the novels, and each game includes a variety of cases to solve, from murders to thefts to disappearances.

14 L.A. Noire

Metacritic Score: 89

LA Noire Real Life Cases Cover

LA Noire
Team Bondi

May 17, 2011

Noted for some stunning artwork and a realistic storyline, L.A. Noire takes place in Los Angeles in 1947. The protagonist is Detective Cole Phelps, and the story follows his rise through the LAPD. When Phelps takes on a case involving morphine distribution and some of his old World War II buddies, the plot thickens.

Aside from the main plot that is focused on cracking the case, there’s a lot to keep the player busy in the form of car chases, gunfights, and hand-to-hand combat. Motion-capture technology was used to capture realistic human expressions for the interrogation sequences.

15 Professor Layton And The Curious Village

Metacritic Score: 85

Professor Layton art screenshot town marketplace

  • Developer: Level-5
  • Genre: Puzzle, Adventure
  • Platforms: Nintendo DS, mobile, iOS, Android
  • Released: February 10, 2008 (North America)

Solving a mystery doesn’t always have to be about sordid crimes and dark alleyways. For those looking for something more lighthearted that’s also great for the kids, some of the best mystery games can be found in the Professor Layton franchise. It has a familiar format that includes finding clues and solving puzzles.


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There are a total of seven games in this series, and this is the first. Professor Hershel Layton and his apprentice, Luke Triton, are looking for an artifact called the Golden Apple in a quaint but enigmatic little hamlet called St. Mystere. It’s not just for fun and profit either because the holder of this special item will inherit the vast fortune of a local monarch.

16 Until Dawn

Metacritic Score: 79

Until Dawn screnshot of three main characters around a ouija board

It’s the “teenagers lost in the woods” trope that never seems to get old, and although it’s primarily a horror game, the main characters in Until Dawn have to hunt for clues regarding the mystery of the dangerous mountain wilderness and stay alive while they do it.

Until Dawn is a narrative and exploration game with little or no combat that relies on scenes and quick time events to progress. The story is intended to mimic the same suspense and terror as a slasher movie, with every decision affecting the future lives of the group, and everyone can live or die depending on what choices are made.

17 What Remains Of Edith Finch

Metacritic Score: 88

Finch House What Remains Of Edith Finch screensot top of stairs

What Remains of Edith Finch
Giant Sparrow


April 25, 2017

The genre is part of a category of adventure games called “narrative-focused walking simulators,” and even though the term is new, the concept is not. Myst was a game like this, and What Remains of Edith Finch has also received critical praise for its artwork and story. The setting is a mansion on an island off the coast of the Pacific Northwest and the time frame is the 1930s, so be prepared for a lot of marine and seaside themes. Although it sounds realistic, even dull, the elements of magical realism in the design keep the game immersive and compelling.

The player is the titular character, Edith, a teenager who is the last surviving member of her family. She is visiting her ancestral home for the first time in years and putting together the clues to reveal what happened in the time that she was gone.

18 The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles

Metacritic Score: 86

ryunosuke naruhodo the great ace attorney promo art

The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles
Nintendo 3DS , Nintendo Switch , PlayStation 4 , Microsoft Windows

July 27, 2021

A wildly successful franchise that gave the whole storybook design some clout, The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles is two of the games in the franchise neatly collected under one title. The Great Ace Attorney 2: Resolve and The Great Ace Attorney: Adventures both use the same courtroom drama and investigative structure as they collect clues and cross-examine witnesses to solve the mystery.


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The game takes place in the late Meiji Period of Japan, which lasted from 1868 to 1912, and the clothing, customs, and environment of the game reflect the overall aesthetic. That gives it a “period piece” charm that adds to the game’s overall audience appeal.

19 Return Of The Obra Dinn

Metacritic Score: 89

Return of the Obra Dinn screenshot lower deck

Return of the Obra Dinn
Lucas Pope
Adventure , Puzzle , Horror

October 18, 2018

The year is 1807, and the protagonist is an insurance agent for the East India Company. Their mission is to determine what happened to the passengers and crew of the Obra Dinn, with the aid of a mysterious pocket watch. The ship went missing off the coast of Good Hope, and after no sight or communication for some time, the ship drifted into port with nary a soul aboard.


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It’s not exactly a rollercoaster ride, but for those players who like a story filled with suspense, mystery, and a touch of psychological horror, Return of the Obra Dinn is one of the best mystery games. It’s based on investigation, information, and deduction, and Return of the Obra Dinn‘s distinctive style has set it apart from other games in the independently-made category.

20 Hotel Dusk: Room 215

Metacritic Score: 78

Hotel Dusk Room 215

  • Developer(s): Cing
  • Genre(s): Adventure, Mystery
  • Platform: Nintendo DS
  • Released: January 22, 2007

It’s not a widely-known title because it’s only available on one platform, the Nintendo DS, but Hotel Dusk: Room 215 is a highly-rated adventure mystery with design and artwork inspired by the film noir genre. Its success prompted a sequel, Last Window: The Secret of Cape West, which was released in 2010.

Kyle Hyde is the main character of the story, and keeping with the usual stereotype he’s a cynical private eye with a five o’clock shadow and a chip on his shoulder. The protagonist has to solve puzzles along with searching for clues to solve, and each chapter of the game ends with an intense interrogation instead of a boss fight.


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