In the midst of all of the first-person shooters, action-adventure games, and free-to-play anime gacha titles, sometimes you need a break to play something less… stimulating. Take time to play something that is more of a cerebral experience.
That might be the exact reason why Campo Santo’s Firewatch hit the gaming populace so hard when it was released in 2016. It provided a well-written story, excellent characters with believable voice acting, and a story that stuck with players long after the credits rolled.
If you’ve finished Firewatch and are looking for another game to scratch that particular itch, here is a list of games that can fill that Firewatch-shaped hole in your life.
The Stanley Parable
If first-person puzzlers that’ll make you question the very mechanics of the universe are your thing, then perhaps you should check out The Stanley Parable. The game was originally released in 2013 to critical acclaim for its story, gameplay, and sense of humor, but it was recently rereleased as The Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe.
This new version has extra content that fans of the game will enjoy, which makes it the definitive version of this unique video game experience.
The next game on this list does not take place in first-person. However, it is an exemplary narrative/puzzle experience that is just as affecting as it is unsettling. This is Night School Studio’s Oxenfree, a 2D side-scrolling narrative puzzle game that has a decidedly supernatural bent.
If the ominously unsettling portions of Firewatch engaged you more than the rest of the game, imagine if that feeling stuck with you for the entirety of the game. That’s about what it’s like to play through Oxenfree, so get on it! There is also a sequel coming later this year, so now is a good time to get familiarized with the first game.
Arguably, Firewatch wouldn’t exist if this next game was never created. Dear Esther, created by The Chinese Room, is largely credited with inventing the “walking simulator” genre, a type of game in which there is little action so to speak, but excels in environmental storytelling and narrative.
Dear Esther began its existence in 2008 as a Half-Life 2 mod, but was released as a standalone game in 2012. Its haunting tale has had players return to the game many times over the past decade, and it’s always a good time to experience this ghost story.
What Remains of Edith Finch
Annapurna Interactive is well-known in today’s video game industry for publishing some serious indie game bangers, including Donut County, The Artful Escape, and, most recently, Stray. The game that would begin the publisher’s long history of excellence was in itself, excellent: What Remains of Edith Finch.
Clearly inspired by Dear Esther, the developers at Giant Sparrow took that concept and expanded it into a multi-art style, multi-gameplay experience that is wholly unique and singularly affecting. If you’re getting tired of mainstream games, What Remains of Edith Finch should move to the front of your backlog. There aren’t many games like it.
In its default state, Frictional Games’ SOMA is far more difficult and far scarier than anything Firewatch can throw at you. However, it is an excellent example of the kind of complex narrative with lush environmental storytelling that can be achieved in a first-person video game.
Also, for the players who perhaps can’t handle the nightmarish monstrosities the game will have you avoiding, there is a mode that excises those sections entirely, making it a straight-up walking simulator.
If you loved the vibrant world of Firewatch and enjoy a good head-scratching puzzle, then the critically-acclaimed puzzler The Witness should be on your list. This unique title was created by legendary video game designer Jonathan Blow, who helped on iconic games like Deus Ex: The Invisible War and Thief: Deadly Shadows, and created the innovative experience that was Braid.
The Witness’s unique gameplay includes an entire language that players will have to piece together using cleverly placed clues. There is minimal if any hand-holding, leaving players with only their own brain power to get through the game. Many give up, but the reward at the end of The Witness is more than worth the struggle.
Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture
After their debut with Dear Esther, The Chinese Room went on to release the horror expansion Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs. With that smaller, yet still well-crafted experience down, they began work on their next narrative experience. A game that would take Dear Esther’s core concept and expand it over a large open world.
That game is Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture, an ominously-named walking simulator that features entirely non-linear storytelling. Players can explore a large area and uncover pieces of a narrative that eventually fit together into a much larger story.
In the wake of Dear Esther’s success, there inevitably came a wave of games attempting to use that game’s uniqueness to tell its own story. One of the better-received titles from that influx of games was Gone Home by The Fullbright Company.
Released in 2013, Gone Home takes players back to the wonderful time of the mid-90s for a story that will resonate with players who grew up in that time period, as well as some marginalized members of our society. However, even if neither of these descriptors applies to you, Gone Home is still absolutely worth your time.
Kentucky Route Zero
Like Oxenfree, Kentucky Route Zero is not a first-person game. It is, however, a fine example of a narrative point-and-click adventure game. In fact, the game is so engaging and enduring that it was released episodically over the course of 7 years.
From January 2013 to January 2020, developer Cardboard Computer and publisher Annapurna Interactive released chunks of Kentucky Route Zero’s story until its groundbreaking conclusion wrapped up the saga. If the quality of Firewatch’s story stuck with you, Kentucky Route Zero will be able to sit right alongside it.
Finally, we reach Kona. Created by game development studio Parabole, Kona is a survival narrative adventure that takes place in the frigid wilds of Northern Canada. As a resolute detective, players will explore unsettling locations as they investigate a case that slowly spirals out of control into something that is more ominous than anyone could have anticipated.
As another first-person game that is big on story and low on violence, Kona should sit comfortably on your list of games to play after Firewatch.