Digital versions of Where’s Waldo? or I-Spy, also known as hidden object games, are mechanically simple yet dizzyingly complex. The premise of finding items hidden in crowded spaces can create visual puzzles out of static pages; most of the work in playing a hidden object game happens with the eyes and brain.
In recent years, the hidden object genre has begun to evolve. The core gameplay — spotting things in cluttered rooms — is branching out in new directions: story-heavy dramas, surrealist worlds, even adventure gameplay. There’s never been a better time to seek out the genre.
Video game culture owes a lot to hidden object games
We’ve compiled a list of the best hidden object games you can play across all platforms — Windows PC, Mac, console, and mobile. Some of them may not be considered traditional hidden object games, but all of these selections share the genre’s basic premise.
Polygon Essentials is a collection of persistently updated lists of the best of the best games for each platform — from the hardware’s launch to its end of production — as well as the best entertainment across virtually every medium. For folks new to a platform, think of this as a starter kit. For long-term fans, consider it a list of what to play or watch next. We’ll be updating these lists often, with entries listed in reverse chronological order. To see a collection of other titles we recommend that might not have made the Essentials lists, check out Polygon Recommends.
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Eventide: Slavic Fable
Image: The House of Fables/Artifex Mundi
Eventide: Slavic Fable, made by hidden object game powerhouse Artifex Mundi, is the genre in its purest form. The narrative of Slavic Fable centers, naturally, on Slavic mythology, using these stories as a backdrop for the gorgeous, complex worlds. There are also simple puzzles to accompany the hidden object gameplay.
Eventide: Slavic Fable is available on Android and iOS devices, Mac, Linux, and Windows PC.
Created by a solo developer, Small Life is a short, free game that’s described as “an interactive city discovery game.” Over a set of in-depth illustrations set in Shenzhen, China, players seek out small interactions that string together to create intimate scenes — like a piece of paper that eventually becomes a paper airplane for a cat to swat away.
Small Life is free on itch.io.
Drawn: Dark Flight
Image: Big Fish Studios/Big Fish Games
Drawn: Dark Flight is another classic hidden object game, this time by prolific publisher Big Fish Games. It plays out like a dark fairy tale, filled with beautiful illustrations to stop and stare at.
Drawn: Dark Flight is available on Android and iOS devices, Windows PC, and Mac.
Milo and the Magpies
Image: Johan Scherft/Second Maze
Milo and the Magpies is a gorgeous, hand-painted game by illustrator Johan Scherft. Simply put, it’s a world I want to live in — helping a curious grey cat called Milo find his way home. The game unfolds as Milo travels through various neighborhood gardens.
Milo and the Magpies is available on Mac and Windows PC.
Labyrinth City: Pierre the Maze Detective
Labyrinth City: Pierre the Maze Detective, created by developer Darjeeling, looks a lot like Where’s Waldo?, but it’s not a classic hidden object game. The game is part hidden object, part puzzle maze; each scene is crowded with strange things and people, lots to click on and interact with, and plenty of dead ends to get stuck in. It’s simple — and based on a children’s book — but still plenty interesting to explore.
Labyrinth City: Pierre the Maze Detective is available on Android and iOS devices, Nintendo Switch, Mac, and Windows PC.
Image: Adriaan de Jongh, Sylvain Tegroeg
Hidden Folks, released in 2017 by Adriaan de Jongh, is an indie darling. The charmingly drawn world by illustrator Sylvain Tegroeg is delightful when paired with Hidden Folks’ silly animation and sounds. There’s so much to find in these chaotic black-and-white worlds.
Hidden Folks is available on Android and iOS devices, Nintendo Switch, Mac, and Windows PC.
When The Past Was Around
Image: Mojiken/Toge Productions
A game about love and letting go, When The Past Was Around plays more like a point-and-click adventure game with hidden object elements. It’s got a whimsical art style that’s easy to get wrapped up in, with charming music to set the mood.
When The Past Was Around is available on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Windows PC, and Xbox One.
Image: Something We Made
Toem is also an adventure game, one that’s centered around its in-game photo mode. But like games in the hidden object genre, Toem is a game about simply noticing things in the world around you — which, of course, is magical.
Toem is available on Nintendo Switch, Mac, PlayStation 5, and Windows PC.
Created by Aconite, HoloVista is a weird, surreal world in which you’re an architect named Carmen inspecting a mysterious and dreamy mansion. It’s played in a unique way, adding alternative reality elements on top of the hidden object format on mobile.
HoloVista is playable on iOS devices via the App Store.
Image: Dan Walters, Ceri Williams
More psychedelic than surreal, Morphopolis is full of bright, brilliant art and a playful story. If you haven’t guessed from the name, it’s about bugs — specifically, a grub seeking out metamorphosis.
You can play Morphopolis on Windows PC.
Image: Actoon Studio
Like Hidden Folks, Wind Peaks is described as a searching game with cartoon drawings. Players seek out objects in the world — stuff like hats and shoes and flashlights — as they move through a cute, campy story.
Wind Peaks is available on Nintendo Switch and Windows PC.
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