Like many other artforms, video games are capable of offering narratives that comment on life and the human condition. When they are crafted well, video games can be an emotional experience that leaves an impact on gamers long after they have put the controller down.
The indie game industry is teeming with creative and experimental works. However, it can be hard to find good titles as indie developers do not have the big marketing budgets of AAA studios.
The following list discusses five indie video games that will play with your emotions as much as you play with the game. All the games listed are available on Steam.
*It should be noted that some of the games below deal with themes of self-harm and suicide.
Missed Messages is a short indie game developed by Angela He. It features a watercolour art style that makes the game feel dreamy.
Missed Messages tells the story of a girl who discovers that her roommate, May, has been feeling down. The player is then given several options for dealing with the situation.
There are four endings to Missed Messages, and each of them demonstrates the potential outcome of the choices players make.
The scenario presented is realistic, and is made relatable by the believable dialogue between the protagonist and May.
Emotions can be difficult to deal with, and it can be hard to understand how to support someone who is struggling with depression. Mixed Messages demonstrates that compassion, understanding and being a good listener is the best approach.
The Suicide of Rachel Foster
The Suicide of Rachel Foster is another indie game that hits many emotional notes. Developed by One-on-One games, The Suicide of Rachel Foster centres on a woman named Nicole who returns to an old hotel which used to be owned by her father.
However, after her arrival at the hotel, she finds herself trapped alone following a heavy snowstorm. In the days she spends in the old hotel, she uncovers dark family secrets that shake her to her core.
The Suicide of Rachel Foster is primarily a first-person psychological horror game that makes its emotional impact by allowing players to identify with Nicole before exposing her to all the skeleton in her family's closet. Players feel the same pain that Nicole does as she comes to learn that the people that she loved are far from perfect.
If you are looking for a narrative-driven story that can be completed in a single afternoon, The Suicide of Rachel Foster is a pick you will not regret.
This award-winning game was released in 2014. People who are not fans of reading will probably want to skip this title because it is a text-based game. Players are put in the shoes of someone suffering from depression and are tasked with making daily choices and interacting with her friends and family.
Choices made have an impact on the story, and decisions made in the past will affect what options are available in the future.
Depression Quest is effective at demonstrating the challenges somebody living with depression goes through. This is done in a way that anyone can empathise with regardless of whether they have experienced depression or not.
For instance, it illustrates how important seeking help and speaking about problems are, and how well-meaning people can often have misconceptions about depression and how to deal with it.
The game is simple yet effective at getting its point across. Despite its themes of depression, Depression Quest still carries a strand of hope by demonstrating how friends and family can help us during our darkest times.
Perhaps the most emotional game on this list, Actual Sunlight is an indie game that deals with sensitive topics, such as suicide, self-loathing and feelings of worthlessness. The main character of Actual Sunlight is Evan Winter, a man who is unsatisfied with his life and has unrealised dreams of being a writer.
In the few days players spend with Evan, they discover his insecurities and go with him down his spiral of depression which eventually leads to self-destruction.
Actual Sunlight is impactful because it deals with many common feelings that people struggle with including loneliness and a lack of fulfilment. It illustrates how these feelings can destroy your life if they are left to fester.
Actual Sunlight has a morbid ending and serves as a cautionary tale to all who choose to lay down and rot instead of fighting the darkness.