Best modern adventure puzzle games

You’ve had enough time to play through my best traditional adventure games of all time list, so now we’ll take a look at the modern ones. Yes, though many sang tales about the apparent demise of the classic adventure genre, the last decade saw it making a tremendous comeback. The genre that had once fallen out of grace due to repetitiveness is now home to some of the most original and gripping gameplay experiences crafted.

8. The Witness (2016)

The successor to Braid might just be the quintessential “modern puzzle game”. I mean that because The Witness sure does feature a lot of familiar puzzles, yes, but there’s so much more to it.

Not everything is as it seems from the beginning, as the game’s puzzles begin to morph and infect the game’s entire setting to create one of the most transformative, unique, and brain-bending experiences you can have in and out of video games. Also, did I mention that its Myst-inspired island is one of the most beautiful and welcoming locations in video game history?

The look from the Obra Dinn
Image via Lucas Pope

7. Return Of The Obra Dinn (2018)

I’ve previously talked about Return Of The Obra Dinn as I believe it is the game that best combines elements of puzzle games new and old.

The game’s premise is simple. Find out exactly what happened to every single one of the missing crew members of the Obra Dinn, a ship that made its way back to shore without anyone on board. This could turn repetitive very quickly, but that never happens.

Expect to do all the detective work with absolutely no hand-holding but in a manner that never fails to feel modern — Obra Dinn always has new tricks up its sleeves. The game’s art style, one that mixes a crisp tri-dimensional look with a B&W color scheme that brings to mind ASCII graphics, tells us all there is to know about this game. This is the perfect gateway for fans of classic puzzle games who want to try something new.

6. Before Your Eyes (2021)

This is probably the most eye-catching title on this list, ha.

Before Your Eyes‘ big and only gameplay mechanic is blinking. The game uses your webcam to track your eyes and see when they blink. This sounds like a possibly creepy gimmick, but it results in one of the most immersive experiences ever made. Webcam skeptics worry not! You can play it only with your mouse.

The premise is simple; you enter a character’s point of view seemingly to witness their life, but that’s not all. Players will soon notice that blinking at different times and while looking around changes the outcomes of that story. It also propels the narrative further into the future, so players will often find themselves fighting their physiological need to blink to avoid skipping beautiful moments. The puzzle that Before Your Eyes asks us to solve here is learning how to enjoy life, and it’s hard not to enjoy this one.

Untitled Goose Game is a part of the Nintendo Switch New Year sale

5. Untitled Goose Game (2019)

I’m sorry to burst the mind bubble that millions of YouTube videos of cute flightless birds have created, but those things are evil. The developers of Untitled Goose Game simply tapped into that golden nugget of forbidden knowledge to make a more or less realistic goose simulator, and the results are beautiful.

The game tasks players with solving many puzzles that always culminate in annoying the innocent residents of a peaceful suburb. It might sound too simplistic, but the results of our actions are invariably so fun that I kind of get why geese do these exact same things in real life.

Viva Seifert in Her Story on our best modern adventure games list
Image via Sam Barlow

4. Her Story (2015)

Even though 2022’s Immortality rocks and likely sits fresher in everyone’s memory, I think Her Story remains Sam Barlow’s finest work.

Her Story tasks players not simply with listening to a woman’s very intriguing tale, but with dissecting it — in a most memorable way. Players need to carefully listen to every word uttered by Viva Seifert’s character, as they’ll have to type select details down to reveal more of the overarching tale. Her Story gets dark and complex, but it never gets boring. Play this one if you want to feel like a person who’s solved an Internet creepypasta.

Modern Storyteller's adventure game began as a mod, before becoming a massive standalone hit.
Image via Modern Storyteller

‌3. The Forgotten City (2021)

The phrase “Great things have small beginnings” is the perfect way to describe this game’s journey into what it is today. The Forgotten City began as a Skyrim mod before turning into one of the best narrative puzzle titles of all time.

This one tasks you with uncovering the dark mystery behind a seemingly idyllic village in the style of ancient Rome. The setting is beautiful, so you might even want to just live there forever, but there’s one catch. If someone goes against any of the place’s confusing rules, everybody dies.

Are you into the Groundhog Day style genre that got really popular in the early ‘2020s, or perhaps into the original Groundhog Day movie? This is easily the second-best offering in that genre — and the best of the bunch is another game. Yes, I believe both Outer Wilds and the #1 on this list beat even the film classic. They improve upon the formula by actually giving players agency, something no movie can ever do. There are no two equal playthroughs of this game. You and every other player will talk about a completely different but equally enthralling experience. Also, it features some of the best writing I’ve ever seen in a game.

The Talos Principle main character, another title belonging on the best modern adventure games list.
Image via Croteam

2. The Talos Principle (2014)

Do you like Portal and Portal 2, two masterful titles that aren’t on this list not because I don’t like them but because they’re already too old for this list? Then give The Talos Principle a shot. This absolute diamond features puzzles as good as those in Portal but also adds an extra layer of philosophical depth that I’ve yet to see in another game.

Interestingly, The Talos Principle, one of the greatest puzzle games of all time, is the work of Croteam. That’s the studio behind Serious Sam, one of the most fun but also least cerebral games of all time. Wait, it gets wilder — TTP might only exist because of Old Man Murray, the same legacy gaming outlet that prophesized the demise of adventure games and later led to the creation of Croteam itself by popularizing the original Serious Sam demo.

There’s no killing the adventure genre.

Outer Wilds easily tops our list of best modern adventure games
Image by Annapurna Interactive

1. Outer Wilds (2019)

Without trying to spoil it or trying to make its campaign feel like too daunting of a task, I have to say that Outer Wilds gives players 23 minutes to save the solar system. Okay, that sounds wild, but what if you could experience those 23 minutes as many times as you need to? That’s what the game does. It gives players an infinite amount of tries to visit every place in the solar system to figure out how to save everything from an exploding star.

The premise seems great as is, but the whole thing reaches masterpiece status by virtue of the game’s marvelous space travel mechanics and its puzzles. Outer Wilds isn’t just one of the best games of all time for puzzle fans, it’s also just one of the best games, period.

Tiago Manuel

Tiago is a freelancer who used to write about video games, cults, and video game cults. He now writes for Destructoid in an attempt to find himself on the winning side when the robot uprising comes.

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