Noir games are a unique way to glimpse into the past or visualize a world with a filter of classic old-school aesthetics. If players are looking to enjoy carousing a little cynicism or maybe fancy themselves delving into the seedy underbelly of the human condition, then the noir genre is perfect for them.
A number of games have translated the classic noir atmosphere into the video game world to varying degrees of success. Here are five of our favorite games that beautifully recreated the retro noir world.
5 games that create a gorgeous retro noir world
1) L.A. Noire
Developed by Team Bondi and published by Rockstar Games, L.A. Noire is a quintessential game of the noir genre. But that is obvious with the name of the game. It helped shape an entire generation of games with its ground breaking graphics and facial animations.
The title was among the very first video game projects to utilise motion capture to create in-game cinematics and gameplay animations. Best of all are the life-like facial animations that were borderline uncanny.
The protagonist of the game, Phelps, is a classic hero, with human emotions and flaws, making him all the more relatable. Driving around L.A. and doing the usual detective shenanigans, players get ample opportunity to connect with Phelps. And by the end, they become emotionally invested in his journey.
2) Disco Elysium
Disco Elysium is a very dark and abstract yet beautiful role-playing game. The game takes heavy inspiration from Infinity Engine-era games like Planetscape Torment.
Disco Elysium lets players lose in the shoes of an amnesiac detective, trying to piece together their past, all while being tasked with solving a murder mystery. Throughout the runtime of the game, as more is revealed of the world and the protagonist himself, players start to form a deep connection with both.
Since its launch, Disco Elysium has become somewhat of a cult classic. Its world and inhabitants, as well as its tragic, drunk and seemingly pathetic protagonist, gradually grow on the players throughout the narrative.
With a beautiful soundtrack to complement its moody atmosphere, Disco Elysium makes for the perfect noir adventure for players.
3) Max Payne
Max Payne is the first title that pops into anyone's mind when they think of a noir and hard-boiled detective story. Developed by Remedy Entertainment, Max Payne is the story of a tragic detective on the run from the law, while hunting for the people responsible for his loss.
It's a very personal story fueled by the vengeance and faltering morality of the protagonist. The narrative is presented in an old-school comic-book aesthetic. The atmosphere of the game is macabre, with enemies trying to hunt Max every step of the way.
Max Payne was also the pioneer of the 'bullet time mechanic', which is heavily used in most modern shooter games. The gameplay here is standard third-person shooting, with occasional time bending thrown in for good measure.
Max Payne also has a couple of sequels that further enhance the gameplay side of things, while giving Max new reasons to go on a shooting rampage.
4) Mafia Definitive Edition
The original Mafia is one of the best story-driven open-world noir games ever made. The Mafia Definitive Edition is a faithful remake of this very beloved classic, with modern enhancements in graphics and gameplay.
Mafia Definitive Edition oozes the 1930s atmosphere with its beautifully recreated city and characters. The gameplay here usually involves driving from one point to another and shooting a bunch of guys in suits, but the character interactions and world building between the brisk third-person cover shooter mechanic is enough to look past the tedium of that.
Mafia Definitive Edition might not be a groundbreaking video game, but the heart-felt story and memorable characters that players get to interact with is something only possible here.
5) The Wolf Among Us
Telltale games are gems that most people have probably played at some point, be it Game of Thrones, the smash hit Walking Dead games or maybe the Batman Telltale series.
The Wolf Among Us is amongst the very few obscure titles that Telltale has developed. The game's central narrative is based on Fables' comic series. Here, characters from classic fables and fairy tales live their daily lives in an enclave in the underbelly of Manhattan. It's a really unique premise for a Telltale game to be set in.
Players assume control of Sheriff Bigby Wolf (also known as Big Bad Wolf) as they investigate murder cases of several fabled creatures. The story does sound admittedly vague, and that's intentional. By the time the story concludes after its five episodes, it all makes sense, akin to a true noir mystery.