5. Spec Ops: The Line
Agency within video gaming is often something we take for granted; performing the objectives set so we can progress. Spec Ops: The Line is a fine example of how gaming can create a narrative that completely contradicts what the player is choosing to do.
Set in Dubai following a natural disaster, players experience a series of horrific set pieces and truly harrowing decisions (most notably, the white phosphorous section). All this is done in the name of completing a specific objective bestowed by a vague army colonel on a walkie talkie. Towards the latter sections of the game, the situation becomes more and more morally ambiguous, becoming a statement on how agency works in gaming. On top of all this, the adventure ends in the lead character’s mental illnesses becoming evident and the guiding voice on the phone being all in his head, basically altering the perspective so the main character was the bad guy all along. Spec Ops actually makes the player into antagonist without it being obvious.
~ Joseph Hetherington
4. Amnesia: The Dark Descent
Very few games have managed to achieve horror in the same means as Amnesia: The Dark Descent. Not only did it jump-start a survival horror renaissance, but it also proved just how terrifying an experience is when it is interactive.
Amnesia took the idea of horror to a novel direction, pushing the character into insanity the more he ran from monsters and into the darkness. This was a refreshing take on the idea of sanity which had been toyed with a few times before. The game actively encouraged players to stay away from the enemy, preventing desensitisation to the various antagonists found within Amnesia.
Also, this game will force you to check behind you a lot during a play session
~ Joseph Hetherington
“Would you kindly?” Those three words are engrained into your head as you wander the world of Rapture in Bioshock. You don’t pay them any attention at first, ignoring it as simply a phrase that your companion Atlas seems to enjoy. But when he reveals himself to have been controlling you all along by means of hypnotic suggestion with the phrase “would you kindly,” it suddenly changes the whole meaning of the game. You realize that you should have paid attention to it all along, but by this point, it’s too late. You were manipulated into doing everything you did in the game, and you never even knew it. That’s the power of Bioshock – it punches you in the gut with a revelation that forces you to think about everything you’ve done so far, and wonder how much of it was of your own free will. It suddenly transforms your understanding of what your time in Rapture has been – a series of actions that you were forced to participate in without ever knowing it.
~ Daniel Hein
2. Silent Hill 2
Games that focus on story and characters are some of the most effective out there for twisting the players’ mentality. Enter in Silent Hill 2. You are James Sunderland, an average every man who becomes part of something bigger than he thought when he realizes the world around him is a dark and cruel place. One where nightmares and subconscious terrors, thought since long passed, have risen in order to confront you and James as you both search for a truth that you’re not entirely sure you want to find. Silent Hill 2 captures the player’s sense of fear and need so effectively that when all is said and done, the experience of it all leaves such a lasting impression. The subtle hints, the notion of being alone, it all forms a bigger picture that James and the player are an integral part of, one that twists the idea of you being the actual player, instead of the game playing you…