Firewatch is a visually stunning game, with a brilliant soundtrack to match. What’s fascinating is that most of the gameplay involves you talking on a handheld radio with your supervisor.
You don’t run around shooting people or slaying monsters. Instead, the choices you make in dialogue shape the narrative. And there are branching storylines, so you can get different outcomes based on how you behave.
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Many people call these types of games interactive movies or walking simulators, but that doesn’t mean they are boring. Quite the opposite, in fact. Playing a game like Firewatch is similar to reading a book while relaxing on the couch, completely disconnected from the world.
The story and characters are what draw you in, everything else is secondary. Luckily, Firewatch isn’t the only type of game to present this kind of experience. I have come up with a list of 15 games like Firewatch that have a similar theme, focused on narrative with environments that feel hand-drawn and lively.
So, if you’re a brand new fan of this genre, you’ll definitely want to check out my list. Let’s get started!
1. What Remains of Edith Finch
If you want to relive your childhood memories of reading a pop-up storybook, this game is just what you need. It has a setting that feels both realistic, yet fantastical/ magical at the same time.
You play as a woman named Edith Finch, the last of an unfortunate family line. Every single one of your predecessors has died, and you visit your family mansion to learn more about the history of your family. Possibly to avert your own demise.
Every piece of this house feels real, like a place somebody would actually live in. There is so much detail in the mansion, within each corridor and room that you feel like you could spend hours just walking around and exploring stuff.
Finding memoirs and artifacts unlocks interactive cutscene segments that tell the story of how each of your predecessors died. Is it because the Finch family is cursed? Or are they just extremely unfortunate? Will you be able to solve the mystery before your own death?
The entire game is a roller coaster of emotions, as you gradually reveal what happened in the final days of different Finch family members. Each family member has their own unique personality and history, it is like one chapter after another in a storybook. I highly recommend this game if you’re a fan of Firewatch.
2. The Witness
Looking for the ultimate puzzle game? On the surface, this is simply a collection of problems in maze form that you solve to progress through a plot (or whatever passes for a plot).
However, as you delve deeper you realize that the game isn’t just throwing puzzles at you so you can solve them to advance across the map. The narrative, the purpose, it’s all hidden within the very puzzles that you solve.
And the environment itself is brilliantly designed, a bright and colorful 3D island with all sorts of mysterious caves and mountains to explore. A very unique take on puzzle games, The Witness ranks high on my list of indie games. Not just a good game for Firewatch fans, but a game that pushes the bar higher.
3. The Long Dark
A first-person open-world survival game, The Long Dark is certainly similar to Firewatch but also very different. For starters, it lacks the graphical refinement and inspired art style that makes Firewatch so memorable.
And it is more of a survival game than a mystery/ thriller with deep branching storylines. However, the environment and atmosphere remind you of Firewatch.
You get the same sense of loneliness, desperation, and anxiety. There is a barren snowy wasteland instead of a lush green forest, but the theme of survival is present in both Firewatch and this game.
4. Gone Home
You play the role of a young woman who has just returned home from an overseas trip to her rural Oregon house, only to find everyone missing. Now you must piece together clues and look for evidence as to what happened while you were away.
There are diaries, closets, books, and other memorabilia/ personal belongings which give you an idea of how each family member spent their days. The story is told in a non-linear fashion and you can explore different parts of the home at your own pace.
5. Everybody’s Gone To The Rapture
Out on the English countryside lies a small village, populated with people going about their daily lives. However, they start disappearing one by one. All in the same fashion- and you are going to find out the mystery behind what’s happening to this little settlement within Yaughton Valley.
Set in the 1980s, Everybody’s Gone To The Rapture is a mix of several things. It is a “walking simulator” with a rich and deep story, plus an environment that feels eerie yet familiar at the same time. There is a bit of sci-fi thrown in, and events unfold in a non-linear fashion.
Made by Fullbright, the same developers who gave us Gone Home, Tacoma is an entirely unique experience unlike anything else on this list.
For some reason, it didn’t sell nearly as well as the developers expected (sold fewer copies than Gone Home). Tacoma is set aboard an abandoned space station in the year 2088, you are playing the character of Amy.
Your primary tool is an augmented reality headset that lets you view the actions and conversations of previous crew members. You can rewind, fast-forward, etc. just as if you’re watching a movie.
By watching the crew members you get clues as to what happened on the ship, and you also get things like entry codes for doors which let you explore various locked-off sections of the ship.
The end goal is to figure out what happened to everyone on the station, and the ending involves a pretty amazing twist.
7. The Vanishing of Ethan Carter
This is a kind of game that leaves you thinking about it for several days after you’ve finished the story. Maybe even talk about it with friends because the narrative is so engaging and immersive. There are no action sequences or physical confrontations.
Instead, you play the role of a detective who is obsessed with the occult. You get a letter from a boy called Ethan Carter, and it mentions imminent danger from some ancient evil force. You reach his home only to find him missing, but he vanished right after a brutal murder took place.
And that wasn’t even the only murder in that locality, there are a series of mysterious deaths taking place. You solve puzzles and use your supernatural ability to communicate with dead spirits to find out what’s really going on.
Most interactive story games on this list have you playing the role of detective, exploring derelict and often abandoned areas in search of clues on what happened. But Kona adds a second system- survival.
It is set in 1970s northern Canada, around a lake that has been frozen solid by a blizzard. Not only are you investigating the weird events around the village near this lake, but you’re also trying to survive this freezing weather in the middle of a furious blizzard.
9. Dear Esther
It is classified as a horror game by some, but it isn’t scary in the traditional sense. Unsettling? Eerie? Yes, but not something that will make you jump up from your seat. There are no jump scares, or monsters.
Dear Esther puts you in the shoes of a wanderer on a desolate island. As you walk around, you listen to randomized audio clips of a narrator reading out letters to some woman named Esther. You don’t know who she is or what your relationship with her is.
The island itself feels otherworldly, and there is something weird about it. Gradually you unfold a narrative that is dark and brooding, filled with emotions of loss and grief. This interactive movie barely takes a couple of hours to play through, but it will keep you glued to your seat the entire time.
10. Ether One
You are a “restorer”, kind of like a doctor but with certain special abilities that let you reconstruct memories using 3-D recreations of thoughts.
Your patient is a 69-year old woman diagnosed with dementia, and you must use your powers to restore her memories. She only remembers bits and pieces of her life in the town of Pinwheel and you have to solve puzzles/ riddles in order to make sense of this broken information.
If you want, you can progress through the narrative without solving puzzles. The game gives you that option. There is also a lot of exploration to do in the town of Pinwheel, and the entire narrative is focused on the troubles associated with dementia. It shows you how fragile the human mind is.
11. Scanner Sombre
Scanner Sombre was inspired by Dear Esther and Gone Home. It too is a first-person exploration game with an eerie setting and macabre themes, but the way everything is presented will surprise you.
In most games you have eyes, and you see stuff like a normal person. Well, in this game your eyes aren’t much good because you’re in a pitch-black cave without a flashlight.
Your only way of navigating is a lidar scanner which gives you a 3D scan of your immediate surroundings. It is nothing like actually seeing stuff, so you have to rely on approximations and sounds you hear.
12. Layers of Fear
A master painter is out to create his magnum opus, a painting so good it will shock the whole world. But he is gradually consumed by his own insanity as he starts hearing voices and seeing things.
Layers of Fear is a psychedelic horror, there is no obvious danger or ghost hunting you in the dark. However, your own home seems to be alive with a mind of its own.
A Victorian-era mansion filled with paintings, fireplaces, piano sounds- the interiors shift their appearance, people on the paintings look at you when your back is turned. Layers of Fear gradually haunts your mind and wears you down as you explore deeper and deeper.
13. Stanley Parable
It is a game, yet not a game. You play as Stanley, yet not as Stanley. What is it? The Stanley Parable is a really weird experience, one you must play because it is hard to describe in words.
You are Stanley, a lowly office worker. One day your co-workers mysteriously disappear and a narrator shows up. He starts narrating instructions. You follow said instructions. He tells you to drink a glass of water. You drink it. He tells you to go through the right door. But wait… there are two doors.
You go through the right one, you get a predetermined outcome. You go through the left one… and something totally different happens. This is a game that you can complete in 15 minutes, but if you go for all the different endings it can take an hour.
Ghosts, demons, and everything in between are set free when you and your friends accidentally open a rift to a dark dimension. Stranded on an old military base out on an island, how you and your gang fare is entirely up to your choices.
You gradually explore the area and learn more about its past, while also trying to stay alive. There is a relationship system between you and your friends, how you react and which decisions you take will shape the emotional bonds you have with them. The voice acting is amazing and the art style is very creative.
Like many other games of its kind, Miasmata puts you in the shoes of a troubled person exploring a desolate place. You are a plague-infected scientist looking for a cure, your journey has landed you on a distant island.
It used to be inhabited by a race of humans who were completely cut off from the rest of civilization. Now there is a research base on this island. But something really bad has happened, everyone has gone missing.
And you realize that you’re being stalked by a deadly creature that lurks in the shadows and hides behind trees while following you for miles across the island. You can use stealth to avoid confrontation but if you do face it head-on, you’ll probably lose.
I hope this list of games like Firewatch inspired you to go and try at least a few of them. Most of these are indie titles available for a couple of bucks on Steam or GOG.
If you want something casual, I recommend Gone Home. Or Tacoma. Both of these are games that can be played in your spare time when you just want to experience a narrative without worrying too much about pressing buttons.
In fact, most of the games on this list are like that. They are either interactive movies (Dear Esther) or open-world exploration games (Miasmata).