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10 Great Obscure Adventure Games

Adventure is one of the oldest and largest genres in video games, which includes any game that primarily focuses on telling a story by having the player explore and solve puzzles. Since these games are narrative-focused, the gameplay is often simply a tool to help the player get immersed in the story and to progress through the plot.

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With how widespread this genre is, there are plenty of adventure games that have been overlooked and lost in the sea of new releases, but, many of these obscure games have interesting aspects that make them worth a look.

1,000 Heads Among The Trees

Showing a photo to one of the townspeople in the obscure adventure game 1000 Heads Among The Trees

While there are plenty of great indie horror games on Itch.io, none of them are as mysterious and thought-provoking as the 2015 experimental game, 1,000 Heads Among The Trees. Based on the developer’s experience living in Cachiche, Peru, the player controls a photographer who explores a virtual recreation of that real-life desert town at night.

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In order to find the answers the player seeks, the player will need to take photos and show those photos to the townspeople, who will all react differently. It quickly becomes clear that some mysterious things are occurring in the town. Although the main character is a tourist, this game teaches the player that there is no such thing as being a passive observer.

Off-Peak

A screenshot from the adventure game Off-peak.

One of the many interesting free experiences available on Itch.io and Steam is Off-peak, which is a surreal exploration game that seems inspired by ’90s 3D adventure games. Sometime in the future, the player gets stuck at a large train station and needs to find a ticket so that they can travel out of town.


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Within this station, the player can encounter various strange characters, hidden rooms, and intriguing secrets. Instead of being led around, the player can choose where they want to go and how they react to the world around them.

Shadow Of Memories

A screenshot from the game Shadow of Memories

Known as Shadow of Destiny in North America, Shadow of Memories is a mystery game originally released for the PS2 in 2001, but it was also later ported to Xbox, PC, and PSP. Taking place in the fictional German town Lebensbaun, the player controls a 22-year-old man named Eike Kusch, who gains the ability to travel through time.


After Eike gets stabbed in the present by an unknown murder, a supernatural being known as Homunculus resurrects Eike and gives him a time-traveling device. Using this device, Eike travels through time in order to try to prevent his own murder. As he explores the different periods, he meets different characters and solves various puzzles that change the course of history. But, he eventually discovers that there is more to his journey than he originally thought.

Rain

A screenshot from the PS3 game Rain

Similar to previous eras, the seventh generation of video game consoles had their own aesthetic. To try to appear more futuristic and mature, the colors were dull, the textures appeared weirdly wet, and screens were filled with tons of different video effects to hide the fact that programming still needed more time to create realistic 3D environments. Even though the visuals of this era tend to be looked down upon, some games were able to use this style to their advantage, which includes the PS3 game Rain.


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Originally titled Lost in the Rain, the game follows a young boy who is trying to find a young girl in a large city inspired by Paris. The catch, however, is that the young boy, the young girl, and the strange enemies in the game are all invisible unless they are standing in the rain.

The Longest Journey

Zoë Castillo with wind blowing on her face

Developed by Norwegian studio Funcom, The Longest Journey is a series of adventure games that focus on two parallel universes and the protagonists who can travel between them. Our universe is called “Stark” and is dominated by science and technology, but there is also a parallel universe called “Arcadia,” which is dominated by magic and has a medieval setting.


The main protagonists must travel between the two worlds to help keep the balance, while various antagonists try to disrupt it. While the first game follows a young woman named April Ryan and is a point-and-click game, the sequels focus more on Zoë Castillo and are third-person exploration games.

Tex Murphy

A screenshot from the 1998 game Tex Murphy: Overseer

Starting with the 1989 game Mean Streets, the Tex Murphy franchise is a series of detective games that have had a total of six entries with the latest installment, Tesla Effect: A Tex Murphy Adventure, having been released in 2014. Similar to other mystery games where the player can solve cases, the player controls the titular character, Tex Murphy, as he solves mysteries as a Private Investigator in a post-apocalyptic San Francisco.

The series combines the film noir aesthetics of well-known stories like The Maltese Falcon and The Big Sleep with a cyberpunk setting. Besides the intriguing plot, the games are noteworthy for usually being ahead of their time in terms of graphics, sound design, and gameplay elements.

Still Life

A screenshot from the 2005 game Still Life

Beginning with the 2002 murder mystery game Post Mortem, the Still Life trilogy follows several different characters as they try to solve gruesome murders. In Post Mortem, the player controls former New York City detective Gus McPherson as he accidentally stumbles into another mystery in Paris.

The sequel, Still Life, has the player switch between Gus in 1920s Prague and his granddaughter Victoria, who is an FBI agent, in 2004 Chicago. They are both trying to track down a serial killer, and the two cases seem related even though they occur many years apart. Then, Still Life 2 continues this gameplay aspect by having the player switch between Victoria and a journalist named Paloma Hernandez as they uncover the truth about the killer from the previous game.

Flower, Sun, And Rain

A screenshot from the DS version of the game Flower, Sun, and Rain

Loosely connected to the 1999 PS1 game The Silver Case, the 2001 game Flower, Sun, and Rain is one of famous video game creator Goichi Suda’s most obscure titles. While the original PS2 version remains one of the many Japanese games that have never been officially translated, the Nintendo DS port was released internationally. In this game, the player controls Sumio Mondo, who is a “searcher” or a person who makes a living finding things that people have lost.

At the start of the game, Mondo has been hired by the manager of a hotel called “Flower, Sun, and Rain” on the Micronesian resort island of Lospass to defuse a bomb. But Mondo fails this mission and finds himself in a Groundhog Day situation where he keeps reliving that same day. While in this time loop, Mondo must use his skills to help the local residents and eventually stop the bomb.

Anodyne

A screenshot from the game Anodyne 2: Return to Dust

Heavily inspired by The Legend of Zelda series and the influential horror game Yume Nikkithe Anodyne duology has the player explore Zelda-like dungeons within a surreal world. Released in 2013, the original Anodyne is a 16-bit-era inspired action-adventure where the player controls the protagonist named Young as they explore Young’s dream world, solve puzzles, defeat enemies, and collect cards.

In 2019, the sequel Anodyne 2: Return to Dust was released, which has the player explore PS1-styled 3D environments along with 16-bit dungeon sections. For this installment, the player controls a young woman named Nova, who is tasked with saving the island of New Theland from a substance known as Dust.


428: Shibuya Scramble

The character select screen in the game 428: Shibuya Scramble

Originally released exclusively in Japan in 2008 for the Wii but later released internationally in 2018 for the PS4 and PC, 428: Shibuya Scramble is a visual novel adventure game that combines text, live-action stills, and video sequences. Set in Shibuya, Tokyo, the game follows five main characters who each must work together in order to solve a mystery within 10 hours. But, the catch is that these characters are each acting separately with no knowledge of each other.

While the main characters are each following their own parallel stories, their actions directly affect the other characters. This means that the player will have to switch between the characters and figure out how each choice will affect the others. Since every character has their own plot and choices, there are hundreds of different paths and 87 possible endings.

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