Spending some time in a digital world either solo or with your friends can be a great way to decompress and relax. Most games also tell you a story.
As is often the case with stories, many have underlying meanings that may be hidden from you at first glance. It may take some looking, but these themes may become clearer after a playthrough or two. Whether it be a parable that connects you with humanity at large, or a more pointed argument about society today, there are quite a few games with some pretty deep meanings.
What may seem at first like a cute 2D puzzle-solving game may actually surprise you with how it approaches its moral dilemmas.
Choices in a video game may seem simple enough, though the choices you make in Undertale will not only alter your character, but show your own morality. Learning about and then defeating enemies leads you to a choice, do they die for their actions, or do you forgive them? A tough moral dilemma when faced with some of the enemies' reasoning, and not to be expected from a game so cute.
This game takes the concept of a walking sim to a whole new level. While it may seem like a simple game to show off some impressive graphics, the setting actually tells quite a story with a pretty deep meaning behind it.
The story in itself draws parallels with that of heroic odysseys. A sole character has one goal in mind and must cross seemingly endless expanses to reach it. The shifting sand and ruins make the character think about life, and how it too, like a journey, comes to an end at some point. Goals, life, death, age, and what is meaningful to us all come up in this silent walk across the sands.
Horror is often a genre full of underlying meanings, no matter what media the genre comes in. Video games are no exception, and Bioshock is perhaps one of the most poignant examples.
As your character unravels the nearly endless horrors that took place in Rapture, this FPS horror game becomes more and more meaningful. What does power do to people? Who should have power? As you meet the different faces of Rapture's hierarchy and what drove them, you also see what sins they've committed as power has corrupted them almost entirely.
8 Red Dead Redemption 2
This game on the surface is a fun look into life on the frontier during the times of the wild west. As you play through the game, you will run into moral choices though, and those choices influence what the story has to say about Arthur Morgan.
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Ultimately, Arthur's choices as you enter the game are behind him. Every horrible thing he has done has begun to weigh on him, and he feels cut-off from the rest of his gang. From there you get the choice: do you double-down on your misdeeds, or try and make a new name for yourself? Either way, your actions catch up to you. But, did the people who come after you look up to you, or were they afraid of you?
6 God Of War (2018)
The reboot of the classic series took things a little more seriously when it came to a storyline. Gone was the bloody revenge tale dotted with erotic quick-time events, and in its place is a story about fatherhood.
Kratos has come a long way when we meet him in the PS2-era God Of War. Losing his wife, he is now the sole caretaker of his son. A son that he really doesn't know how to connect with. What follows is some classic hack-and-slash, but with undertones of fatherhood, love, and how far someone will go to protect their loved ones. Even from themselves.
Fallout has won a place in the hearts of gamers everywhere. From its wacky quests, all the way to its FPS-meets-RPG qualities.
"War never changes." Fallout goes into heavy detail showing you what war gets humanity, and especially war where nuclear weapons are concerned. This is not to mention the anti-capitalist and anti-xenophobic themes throughout the game when it comes to McCarthy-era views on communism and non-Americans.
4 Layers Of Fear
A horror exploration game that sees you take control of a painter who has lost his family. The details of your character's life aren't revealed to you until you begin to delve into the game.
On the surface, the game is full of tension and eeriness similar to that of other games in its genre. But, below that, there are a series of deep meanings and moral choices. You find out that your character is in his current predicament because of his own faults. From there you have the choice to come to terms with your guilt or drive yourself further into loneliness and madness.
3 The Last Of Us
Zombie games may at first seem like a plot that is overdone and maybe even shallow to some. However, The Last Of Us takes the genre and elevates it far beyond just your typical zombie survival game.
Protagonist, Joel, has gone through a lot. The loss of his daughter has turned him stoic and hard-edged. However, the job of moving teenager Ellie across the ruined United States changes him drastically. What follows is a story about family, fatherhood, and learning to love again. Not to mention what people will do when their loved ones are in danger.
2 Darkest Dungeon
This cosmic-horror game is a dungeon-delver not suited for those who like an easy time. Leading your group of adventurers on one horror-filled dungeon after another not only adds stress to you, but also your characters.
Every journey you take your characters on, the more they come back altered from the experience. Madness, disease, injuries, and so many more things can affect your characters. This means they need downtime to recover. This all goes to show the dangers of pushing your boundaries and forcing people to go beyond their limits.
1 Disco Elysium
Disco Elysium is a detective RPG with a uniquely interesting art style. But, that's not all it is. Underneath, there is a moral story that deals with mental health, grief, relationships, and what it means to be a person.
We meet the protagonist, Harry, at one of the worst moments in his life. From there the choices you make reflect how Harry lives his life, not only in regard to his job, but also how he treats others and himself. This is one of the most accurate and heart-rending portrayals of mental health struggles in gaming.
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