There’s a sense of calmness and relaxation to playing games that focus on exploration and story more than frantic combat, where the key to survival is solving puzzles rather than flicking onto opponents while you try to outrun a physically impossible gas bubble.
Games like Night In The Woods have seen a reemergence with the coming of powerful, more than capable portable computers we like to call smartphones. However, there is more appreciation towards innovation than graphical content since it’s not feasible to play them on smartphones and more opportunity for indie developers to get their work out there.
Night In The Woods is a beautiful 2-D platformer with an emphasis on exploration and story. As a player, you’ll be mastering the game’s mechanics to explore the town rather than dodging missiles and conversing with people more or less following their storyline. The game is a narrative-driven experience with gameplay taking a backseat.
There are plenty of games that focus on a narrative experience, but I’ll list games that share similarities in the explorative gameplay.
I played Oxenfree quite recently, and the similarities to Night In The Woods start at the surface and run throughout. They are benchmarks for the niche genre; both focus more on narrative style gameplay while mixing exploration into the mix as their core gameplay loop.
Additionally, both have multiple endings style structures and require the players to build relationships with the various characters. However, I should point out while Night In The Woods is a more character development centric narrative, Oxenfree focuses more on the plot.
Depending on your tastes, you might find Night In The Woods to be far more replayable than Oxenfree.
Related Read: 10 Scariest Games Like Oxenfree
Oxenfree has a more horror-esque setting and features a mix of dark tones with techno glows, making it aesthetically pleasing and an exciting narrative that can keep you just as hooked as the adrenaline rush from a more action-oriented title.
2. The Darkside Detective
A pixel-art game with no voiceovers and a point and click gameplay might not be appealing to everyone, but if you like Night In The Woods, this one might be up your alley.
Players assume control of a detective in the pixel world of Twin Lakes as you go from case to case. But, of course, it’s your standard point and click adventure game; just because you play a detective doesn’t mean you will get the chance of going all Dirty Harry on someone.
The game shines when it comes to narrative and character development. These characters are well written, including the protagonist and his partner and the side cast or people you will meet while you investigate the cases.
The game also focuses on fantasy-like elements in its narrative dealing with gremlins and ghosts. It doesn’t take itself seriously, though, and I think the game’s humor is its strongest suit.
3. Thimbleweed Park
Thimbleweed Park was released in 2017, and this title is honestly a true throwback to the era when point and click games used to be the dominating genre and 3-D graphics didn’t exist yet. It’s comparable to games released in the early ’90s but does share enough similarities with titles on this list.
The game focuses on narrative while featuring a puzzle driven exploration gameplay, each area you visit will have a puzzle to solve. Some might be more obvious than others, and I should warn gamers looking to get into the genre that they’ll have a better time with the titles before it; this title is more for the initiated.
There are loads of expansive and dense areas to explore, filled with puzzles and sidequests. The atmosphere is akin to older games from a time gone by with a more tongue in cheek attitude, and the game doesn’t take itself too seriously.
In my opinion, this is one of those games you should play if you’ve played other point and click games before, or it might seem tedious or even boring to some players.
Oneshot is another point and click adventure that was released around the same time as Thimbleweed Park. It has a similar approach gameplay-wise focusing on a puzzle, point and click gameplay focusing on an overarching narrative.
Featuring retro-style graphics and melancholic vibes, Oneshot manages to leave players both happy and sad at the same time, as it brings the player’s morality to question by offering decisions that are neither all good nor all bad.
It might not feature intense personalities for the characters, but still, they managed to connect to me on an emotional level. My respect has grown for the more simple style of storytelling that still managed to be as effective that when I was done with the relatively short gameplay of 8 hours, I was left pondering on the decisions I made.
The game dwells on the philosophical aspect of life effectively. If you’re looking for narrative-driven games, this one is undoubtedly for you.
5. Broken Age
There’s something about hand-drawn graphics in video games that make me instantly gravitate towards them; it allows the visuals to be far more expressive than any RPG maker or Unity asset, bringing more personality and, as a result, emotion to the game.
Broken Age is a point and click adventure title that doesn’t have only hand-drawn graphics to offer but also a unique take on the gameplay wherein players control two characters with different stories and are allowed to choose which one they’d like to follow first.
The graphics are the main takeaway here. While the puzzles are fun, they are sometimes not as obvious and a little confusing; additionally, some puzzles require the use of the other character, which again is not always obvious. But on the plus side, the game does randomize puzzles every run, so at least there’s added replayability.
It’s a unique experience taking control of 2 characters and getting to know their perspective on things and the narrative. The game is worth it for the graphics alone, to be honest, but it doesn’t fall short when it comes to story, and while the puzzles could have been more precise, it’s a great experience overall.
6. Finding Paradise
This one is a little more touchy and feely kind of game that might bring you to tears. For perspective, this game revolves around two doctors who work in a company that’s in the business of fulfilling their clients’ last wishes via some matrix-esque computer simulations hooked onto their brains. They give their clients another chance in the world inside their heads to right their wrongs and say their goodbyes.
It’s a highly emotional peek into a man’s life, and I couldn’t help but introspect a bit after putting down the title. Finding Paradise is a sequel to a game called To The Moon; both feature similar gameplay and story, although I’d have to point out that Finding Paradise is slightly on the light-hearted spectrum while still giving a profoundly reflective and at times melancholic narrative.
While not following the same aesthetical or gameplay choices of other titles on the list, Firewatch is not a first-person shooter. It’d be more accurate to call it a first-person point and click adventure, but I am unsure if that’s what the genre is called. Technically Firewatch is a narrative-driven first-person experience with elements of puzzles sprawled out.
Firewatch was released in 2016 and garnered good reviews both from critics and users who praised its visual style and story. Honestly, the only things that separate this title and Night in the Woods are the replayability and the first person perspective.
Players are placed in the shoes of Henry, a fire lookout in Shoshone National Forest about a year after the non-fictional Yellowstone fires in 1988. As an ominous figure starts appearing and things start going missing in Henry’s tower, it’s up to him and his walkie-talkie away supervisor to get to the bottom of it.
The game has captivating visuals and a day-night cycle that adds life to the world. The character development is on par with some of the titles on this list. The exploration aspect is up to the mark; with players finding various items in the wild that might serve some purpose in the future, you could always ask your supervisor.
The choices players make directly affect their relationship with the only human being they can rely on in the wilderness, making character development impactful and meaningful and even adds some replayability to the title.
This title is more geared towards the newer generation of gamers who wish to experience the feel of the older adventure games.
I will not lie and say this wasn’t the first game that didn’t pop in my head when I was drafting titles. The similarities and parallels are obvious, except, of course, for the RPG layer that perhaps makes Undertale a best of both worlds kind of game.
Undertale doesn’t falter in gameplay while exploring an increasingly engaging narrative, a poster child for subverting expectations at least as far as video games are concerned.
Unfortunately, while I hold the title in high regard, I sometimes do not understand the bandwagon fans who insist on calling it a masterpiece set to change the standards for video games, yet it could not. Cause honestly, as much as I love it; the community managed to make it perhaps the most overrated game I have ever seen.
So if you’re a new player and are about to search about the game, take reviews with a grain of salt, or like me, you will launch the game with high expectations only to be let down. I had to stop playing the game altogether and only finished it recently and thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
It has a nice story to it, and the RPG mechanics aren’t bad for the style the game is going for (or at least what I thought the game was going for). It doesn’t make compromises like other titles on this list, keeping both gameplay and narrative in the front seat with colorful and sometimes psychedelic visuals.
So pick this up, and don’t read the reviews until after you’re done with it; that will provide an excellent perspective on the industry’s ability to blow anything out of proportion, even if it’s just a nice innovative game with a unique take on the RPG genre.
It’s always fun to play titles where it’s not about inventory management or hit points but just to sit back and ponder on puzzles or moral choices that have to be made.
Games that are intended more for the grey matter and not for dopamine release or instant gratification; in some cases try no gratification. I launch these adventure and explorative type games when I want to wind down and relax after a long day.
They are not looking to be the next best photorealistic shooter with realistic physics and competitive gameplay. No, they just want to tell their story, and they excel at that like none other.