Lists

12 Best Adult Games of All Time

August 5, 2018
10 min read

We have a laundry list of misconceptions about our world and what goes on within it. One of our biggest such mistakes has to be the fact that we traditionally consider video games to be meant only for children and teenagers. As an art form, the merits of video games have been long discussed and indeed, the medium has come a long way in becoming a familiar way of expression in the present. From depicting pressing issues such as depression and societal corruption to their unparalleled innovation, video games are perfect for adults, who discern complexity better, and can appreciate video games much more for their nuanced and honest storytelling. Here is the list of top adult games that you can play on PS4, Xbox or Nintendo Switch. These fun adult games can bring out the best in adults, hackneyed by a dreary, routine-oriented world but also enriched by their multilayered experience:

12. Bayonetta 2 (2014)

While the stylish hair and seductive action poses of the eponymous protagonist point to typically titillating Japanese mainstream culture, the seamless gameplay mechanics and rewarding progression system make ‘Bayonetta 2’ one of the most important games in recent memory. The game consists of a deep combat system, and incorporates a variety of moves, from gunshots to slo-mo dodges. It’s almost impossible to believe that Nintendo publishes the series, given how it’s seen as mainly offering family-oriented fare, but we are certainly not complaining.

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11. Limbo (2010)

One of the most hauntingly beautiful video games to have ever graced our screens, Playdead’s ‘Limbo’ is a bona fide masterpiece. We embark on a deadly journey to save a little boy’s sister in, as the title suggests, the world of limbo. The game’s breathtaking black-and-white visuals convey the horror wonderfully and an overarching sense of loss painfully. From dilapidated hotel signs to drops of water that reverberate across the dreary expanse of limbo, the setting does a consummate job of convincing us how real all of it is. From thoughtful stretches of exploration to gripping chases away from giant spiders, ‘Limbo’ has it all, and its all may well be suited to more adult minds to appreciate its remarkable ambiguity perhaps slightly more.

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10. South Park: The Fractured But Whole (2017)

The obscenities of the latest ‘South Park’ game start from the name itself, and doesn’t let up, making it a remarkably accurate rendition of the celebrated, irreverent television show. The game changes the formula, with players playing as superheroes in this lewd and satirical role-playing game. While the crass humour isn’t that surprising, given its source material, what is however is its detailed combat, which of course has a whole bunch of great super abilities, but also contains deep grid-based fights. For fans of the show, the fact that most of the game, especially the cut scenes, look exactly like the show can only make it better.

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9. Night in the Woods (2017)

One look at ‘Night in the Woods’ and it’s perfectly normal to those who haven’t played this, to think how it gets up on this particular list. But don’t get taken in by its vibrant, animated visuals and the most adorable feline characters. ‘Night in the Woods’ is a gem of a game that belies the crucial themes it expounds upon. We follow in the footsteps of a 20-something college dropout who returns to their hometown and sees how it seems to have progressed without them. There’s a poignancy in our protagonist’s disillusionment that speaks to us on a primal level, and indeed the nuance would be missed by younger gamers who’d rather be awed by the game’s visuals, which of course, are stunning in their own right.

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8. This War of Mine (2014)

Gamers all over the world have a very different understanding of war, with years of ‘Call of Duty’ up their sleeves. This isn’t to bash such games, instead they have been quite important in conveying the general sense of war being futile in every sense of the word. However, the emphasis on action set-pieces that appear as the epitome of cool perhaps takes away the seriousness of it all. Influenced by the Siege of Sarajevo during the Bosnian War, ’This War of Mine’ is in a vein completely opposite to such mainstream games. Its focus lies in helping a group of survivors to survive by using the materials available. The majority of the action takes place during nightfall, because of sniper fire under the sun. Players would need to obtain supplies, befriend or kill other survivors, all to improve their shelter, heal other survivors, and make food. ‘This War of Mine’ is a deeply personal and poignant take on war, and provides adult gamers with a grounded, bleak and honest perspective of something that most of them will never have to experience.

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7. Outlast (2013)

While horror games have historically relied on the same techniques and used the same tropes to bring some fear into our rooms, ‘Outlast’ bucked the trend and deservedly became arguably the most innovative and more importantly, the most effective horror game of this generation. The game puts us in the trembling shoes of a journalist armed with just a camera as we look around a haunted psychiatric hospital. Where this game is most effective is its abandonment of action mechanics. Instead, it focuses on surviving, raising the stakes and giving us significant goosebumps. ‘Outlast’ is not for the faint-hearted, and adults might just get scared a fraction of a second later to ‘enjoy’ it more.

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6. Mortal Kombat X (2015)

The ‘Mortal Kombat’ franchise has been a mainstay in the fighting genre for a long time. Its proclivity towards violence stands apart even in its genre. The latest offering from developer NetherRealm Studios offers a short but brutal story that offers players to play as various characters dishing out some vicious punishment. There’s a plethora of characters at hand, each with their unique skillsets that are the very paragon of ferocity, hitherto unseen in such a popular video game. With all this on the plate, adult gamers might as well hear Scorpion’s famous cry, “Come here!” as they begin playing.

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5. Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots (2008)

Hideo Kojima has lent his masterful touch to several games across the years, but the one series for which he will remain a legend in gaming history is ‘Metal Gear.’ With the fourth main instalment, the focus is on an older Snake who ventures on a seemingly last mission to eliminate his nemesis Liquid Snake. The game was universally praised, for its improved stealth mechanics, detailed character sketches, and new elements such as the Drebin Points System. The main star was the emotionally compelling story that saw Snake deal with grave themes such as depression, and death. Much more than an action shooter, ‘Metal Gear Solid 4’ had a mature and thought-provoking plot that engaged adults more all across the world.

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4. Dys4ia (2012)

Frustration. Perhaps the one medium where this is captured most is video gaming. Where players regularly fail levels and replay them to progress further. Where one attempt isn’t enough to finish all that a game has to offer. Now imagine a game that exemplifies this very frustration, but at its most heartrending and real. Anna Anthropy’s ‘Dys4ia’ is a remarkable commentary on the distress of people who suffer as a result of the sex and gender assigned to them at their birth. ‘Dys4ia’ employs an abstract aesthetic and sets you up for failure to mirror the unfathomable dejection faced by people who are transgender. It is telling, brutally honest and soars high in its pain, and is a game all adults should play everywhere.

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3. The Tearoom (2017)

Developer Robert Yang delivers a blistering game in the form of ‘The Tearoom’, a free public bathroom simulator which attacks the policing of men who have sex with men, which has historically had terrible consequences. On the game’s website, Yang cites a 1962 incident in Ohio when the local police department setup a surveillance camera behind a two-way mirror in a public bathroom to secretly film men engaging in sexual intercourse with other men, and then imprisoning them for at least a year under their draconian sodomy laws. In today’s so-called ‘modern’ times when surveillance, policing, attacking those who don’t fit the binary still very much exist, Yang’s game is a novel and necessary take on the issue. In a brilliantly innovative effort that is a tight slap on censorship standards, penises are swapped out for guns, because as Yang himself puts it, “…the only thing that the game industry will never moderate nor ban— guns. Now, there’s nothing wrong with guys appreciating other guys’ guns, right?”

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2. Passage (2007)

The legitimacy of video games as an art form has been much discussed in academic circles, and even mentioned in this very article before. The issue has steadily gained currency in recent times, and one game that has been instrumental in initiating this crucial discussion is Jason Rohrer’s ‘Passage’, a highly experimental game that lasts for just five minutes.

What could any game say in just five minutes? Turns out, a lot actually. For ‘Passage’ is a depiction of a person’s entire lifetime to devastating effect. The side-scroller follows a treasure hunter who can either pursue his vocation and remain alone, or choose to marry for intimacy and affection and forgo his treasure hunting. While players can make choices, the game’s limited nature is a brutal weight on its narrative, and its inevitability only serves to highlight its representation as the human condition. Whether ‘Passage’ is a game or a work of art, after adults take away its breathtaking sense of existence, that question won’t really matter.

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1. Fez (2012)

When Phil Fish appeared in ‘Indie Game: The Movie’, an inspiring documentary on the struggles of four independent game developers to release their games, he stood out. With his maniacal passion spanning across five years, he created ‘Fez’, arguably the most unique platformer game to have ever been released. Appearances are deceiving here, with the game’s retro visuals not revealing the intricate workings underneath at first glance. Fish’s unique twist was just that, being able to twist the entire world via four axes. This revealed new ways to cross levels and finish arenas, with players making Fez leap and then twist the world to get Fez on a previously unseen area before getting down, being just one example.

‘Fez’ is a work of relentless dedication and staggering genius, with its complexity and attention to detail unrivalled by most of its competition and even beyond. Adults would be able to grasp the game better, owing to how hard it can get, but the reward is too large. For to be able to play ‘Fez’ serves as a reward in itself.

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