Games are a relatively young narrative medium, and plenty of them boil down to punching and/or shooting the bad guys. But wherever you find a canvas, a painter can’t be far behind to turn it into a masterpiece. The App Store is no exception, and creative minds have already used the platform to tell their own interactive stories on the ubiquitous iOS devices. We’ve compiled a list of games to satisfy the story itch, from the playful to the spooky and downright bizarre.
Sometimes atmosphere is the best storyteller. The haunting The Room ($1.99/iPad, Free/iPhone) confronts you with a series of mysterious puzzle boxes, each full of hidden drawers and complex locking machinery. Each layer gives way to another, and the messages left behind grow increasingly dire as you unravel its mysteries.
Based on Swedish folk lore, Year Walk ($3.99, Universal) takes you on a puzzling journey through the dark forest. Its focus on exploration and bizarre imagery gives way to clever puzzles that take advantage of iOS devices in unique ways. A separate app, Year Walk Companion (Free, Universal) provides context for the foreign setting and themes, and provides a few hints to help you through.
Steve Jackson's Sorcery! ($4.99, Universal) carries all the appeal of a classic Choose-Your-Own Adventure mixed with some light RPG elements. It tells its tale through a series of small vignettes, which constantly thread themselves into the story as new elements are added. As a result, it creates a very distinct conversation between the player and the storyteller in a way that few games match.
The zombie apocalypse may be old hat, but nothing illustrates the impact it has on real people like The Walking Dead (Free, Universal). This five-part episodic series follows a man named Lee as he befriends (and grows increasingly committed to protecting) a young girl whose parents have gone missing. Throughout the journey, the player is faced with terrible choices, showing just how far humanity can be pushed.
Would you believe that this courtroom drama, frequently involving murder cases, is one of the most light-hearted on the list? Phoenix Wright ($4.99, iPhone) tasks the player with finding inconsistencies in testimony or evidence to prove their clients’ innocence. The humor creates a connection with the lovable characters, making us really care when events take a turn for the serious.
Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP ($4.99, Universal) begins in an unassuming fashion and then winds quickly into its own complex, unique mythology. Throughout the lengthy quest, it finds its own ways to make interacting with your iOS device a part of the storytelling experience. On top of that, it has been lauded for its music, which sets just the right mood for the proceedings.
Murder mysteries are a classic trope, but Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective (Free, Universal) puts you in the unique position of solving your own murder case. As the ghost of a man named Sissel, you need to manipulate the environment to point those still living towards clues. Despite the macabre premise, it has a playful spirit that never gets too self-serious as he unravels the mystery.
A recent addition to the App Store, Jacob Jones and the Bigfoot Mystery ($0.99, Universal) makes for a nice showpiece, as the adorable animations and voice acting would be at home in a children’s cartoon. The first episode is already full of colorful characters and brain-scratching, contextual puzzles as little Jacob adjusts to life at Camp Eagle Feather.