Detective fiction has been around for over a century. Initially starting out as a subgenre of mystery-adventure and crime-drama, detective fiction quickly gained popularity in the mid 19th century. The time period saw notable work pertaining to the genre from novelists such Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Mary Elizabeth Braddon. Later during the 1920s and 30s, a time period which is also known as the Golden Age of Detective Fiction, the world saw several other detective fiction novels from authors such as Agatha Christie, Ngaio Marsh, John Dickson Carr, and many others. With time comes evolution and detective fiction eventually made it’s way into movies and T.V shows. Then came the evolution of gaming and over the past two decades, the world saw quite a few number of games featuring detective fiction.
Games belonging to this genre usually feature one or more protagonists who is either a policeman, a professional detective, a private investigator, or merely a character who is trying to solve a mystery. Most of these so-called “mysteries” are usually cases of murder, theft, or other peculiar situations. Players are generally tasked with uncovering the mystery by searching for clues, solving puzzles, or as in some games, interviewing NPCs.
Even though there are numerous detective games out there, here are three of them which you should definitely try out.
L.A. Noire is developed by Team Bondi and published by Rockstar Games. The game was released in 2011 for Microsoft Windows, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3. It was later released for Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Nintendo Switch in November 2017. A VR version of the game titled L.A. Noire: The VR Case Files was released in December 2017 which consisted of some of the game’s cases.
The game is set in Los Angeles in the year 1947 and follows the story of L.A.P.D detective Cole Phelps. As a detective, Phelps is tasked with various cases which he needs to solve. Players can investigate a crime scene and take a look at all evidence scattered around, including dead bodies and their possessions. Most of the evidence can be discovered with ease as they are marked with numbers by police officers.
Players are also required to interrogate witnesses and suspects. The interrogation feature of the game was highly appreciated as it used MotionScan technology which allow players to observe the facial expressions of characters in the game. The player has the freedom to believe statements made by witnesses, doubt them, or accuse them of lying, in which case he needs to put forward a valid evidence. The player must pay close attention during investigation and interrogation sequences as it directly affects the case rating. Not finding enough evidence or performing unsuccessful interrogations will result in lower scores. In some cases, the player can choose between multiple suspects and condemn one of them, based on statements and evidence.
L.A. Noire also features chase sequences and combat, both melee and gunfights. Not all suspects give up easily and may make a run for it. It may be a foot or a car chase, either way, the player is tasked with apprehending the suspect. Some suspects will fight back. In case of melee combat, players can block and counter-attack the opponent to eventually knock him down. Some situations can be intense and will lead to a gun battle. Players can make use of covers to protect themselves. In a gunfight, the player will need to take down all shooters in order to proceed. The game has a free-roam mode and features plenty of side missions. Side missions mostly include robberies and shootouts, with some involving lesser crimes.
L.A. Noire is, without question, one of the best detective games out there. Even though it’s been 8 years since the game’s initial launch, it is still worth playing. The game’s story is well written and anyone who likes to play detective games will definitely enjoy it. L.A. Noire features certain gameplay elements which are rare to find, even in other detective games. It is less likely that we’ll get to see a sequel of the game but in the meantime, we can surely give it another go.
Sherlock Holmes: The Devil’s Daughter
Sherlock Holmes: The Devil’s Daughter is developed by Frogwares and published by Bigben Interactive. It was released for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One in 2016.
Sherlock Holmes is evidently the most famous character in detective fiction. This character is the central protagonist of several novels, short stories, and movies. The Sherlock Holmes video game series allows players to take control of their favorite “consulting detective” and solve mysteries. Sherlock Holmes: The Devil’s Daughter features 6 cases which the player must solve. As is the norm for detective games, players need to examine evidence in a crime scene to help them with the case. One of the unique features provided in the game is the player’s ability to build up a character analysis of witnesses or suspects. Sherlock Holmes can simply look at a character he is interviewing and make certain observations based on their appearance. The game also allows players to interrogate suspects. In certain situations, the player can interrupt a suspect if he is lying and then counter his statement with credible evidence.
Sherlock Holmes: The Devil’s Daughter can be considered as a “true detective game”. The game is known for giving players the freedom to draw their own conclusions to cases. All information gathered from statements and evidence can be combined together to form deductions. The deduction board allow players to merge different deductions and come up with multiple conclusions. Selecting the right conclusion is up to the player’s intuition as all of them are convincing. The game allow players to refer to an Archive at Holmes’ apartment, in case they need help with certain evidence. The apartment also features an Analysis Table where players can use chemicals to process forensic evidence.
Sherlock Holmes: The Devil’s Daughter, is without a doubt, one of the best detective games in the market. It’s deduction board feature gives players full freedom to process all the case evidence manually and link them with one another. Even though the game was criticized for it’s rigid action sequences, it’s detective elements were met with positive reviews.
Murdered: Soul Suspect
Murdered: Soul Suspect is developed by Airtight Games and published by Square Enix. The game was released in 2014 for Microsoft Windows, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4.
Unlike other detective games, Murdered: Soul Suspect greatly relies on supernatural abilities. That is because Ronan, the game’s protagonist is a ghost who is trying to solve his own murder. The game is set in the town of Salem where a serial killer known as the Bell Killer is apparently on a killing spree. While trying to apprehend the killer, Ronan is killed in action. Since Ronan is a ghost, he can walk through walls, cars, and even people. The player can investigate crime scenes, where most evidence are labeled, similar to L.A. Noire.
Players cannot directly interrogate witnesses but can possess their body in order to make them remember incidents. Players can draw conclusions from gathered data and find out what exactly happened at that place. The game features certain stealth elements as the protagonist is prone to be attacked by demons. Certain situations requires the player to possess a person or an animal. Players cannot directly interact with the environment since the protagonist is a ghost but can do the same by possessing a living being.
Murdered: Soul Suspect received criticism for it’s poor combat system and short story length. But anyone who is into detective games, will enjoy the game’s plot as the entire story is about finding the player’s own killer as a ghost by investigating other similar cases.
All of the above three games are quite a few years old. However, they are still worth playing as each of them possess certain gameplay features which cannot be found in most other detective games. Therefore, if anyone’s interested in experiencing detective fiction in a video game, they can surely try these out.
I've been in love with video games ever since I developed consciousness and that love is what drives me. I enjoy playing games that have good narrative and gameplay, and occasionally join in for co-op sessions with friends. My goal is to become a QA Tester for any AAA game development company and I hope to make it there someday.