Gaming has a lot to offer us as an art form, and sometimes it’s worth reaching out and trying something new not because it’s good, but because it’s different. If you’re a fan of weird games, games that push boundaries, or games that just offer an experience unlike anything else you’ve tried, then you should definitely take a moment to check out these.
Weird Games Disclaimer
I will fully and freely admit that this idea comes from a show called Extra Credits I watched almost endlessly while in college. The team at Extra Credits puts out some of the best made and most interesting topics surrounding gaming and game design, with other projects that branch into literature and historical topics. If you’re a fan of learning or just looking to broaden your horizons, please make sure to check them out.
1. Pathologic 2
Difficulty: 5/5 Uniqueness: 5/5
Pathologic 2 is more of a soft remake of Pathologic 1 rather than a true sequel, so it’s perfectly possible to play this game without having played the first. This game has the player taking on the role of a communal doctor who’s just returned home at his father’s request. However, before you get to him, you find out he’s been murdered, and a plague has just hit the town.
You’re given the job of both investigating his murder and fulfilling his obligations as a doctor. All the while you experience strange visions of death and fears that you’re failing both your tribal and medical obligations as you make an attempt to navigate the town’s response to the plague even as the town slowly descends into anarchy.
This game is difficult and doesn’t let up. Failure only puts further restrictions on your ability to play, and it’s entirely possible to end up dying in a loop until you can’t progress any further. Additionally, just because you have rendered medical aid to someone doesn’t mean they’ll survive the plague.
And all the while you’re doing this, you also have to juggle your own needs for food, water, sleep and hopefully not catching the plague yourself. The game can sometimes drag on, and losing could mean repeating some long sections, but you can’t experience this game vicariously. If you want to feel the dread, panic and struggle of a gothic horror, you need to play it yourself.
2. Crusader Kings 2
Difficulty: 3/5 Uniqueness: 3/5
This game is a bit of a pet favourite of mine, and as a result, it is actually a tough one to talk about. I’ve given it 3s for both difficulty and uniqueness because, although it seems hard at first, it is actually really simple to play once you’ve accomplished the first hurdle.
Uniqueness is likewise varied. Fans of 4X or Grand Strategy games will likely have already sunk thousands of hours into games like this one. However, If you’ve never played one of these kind of games, Crusader Kings is a great place to start.
Crusader Kings 3 just came out a few days ago, but Crusader Kings 2 is free to play on Steam. So if you’re curious about the genre, there’s no reason not to give it a shot.
Players choose a character to play from an array of historical and fictitious characters. The game you play is largely dependent upon the type of government, your religion and the rank you have.
Without any DLC, you have access to all Christian Feudal characters, but you can expand that to include Republic, Tribe and Nomadic government types, and Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist and Pagan religions with the appropriate DLCs.
Once you're in the game, your goals are whatever you want them to be. You may conquer your neighbourrs, attempt to govern your kingdom, go on a crusade, become a wealthy merchant, seduce your rival’s wife, reform your religion, or become an emperor.
It’s fairly difficult to lose the game once you get started, so feel free to try out new things.
3. To the Top
Difficulty: 1/5 Uniqueness: 4/5
'To the Top' might be a hard game for some of you to get your hands on because it’s a VR title, but if you do have access to VR, you should definitely try this game. The game is simple and addictive and is also one of the only VR titles that may not give you motion sickness.
Using their arms alone, players climb through various obstacle courses: climbing, sliding, bouncing and throwing themselves to the top of each course to find their goal, all while listening to a very relaxing soundtrack.
In general, you begin each course learning the route and picking up a few extras here and there while ending up trying to complete each course as quickly as possible. The game does throw in a few tricks here and there, like making some surfaces crumble on touching or introducing spikes and other hazards.
However, the game is very relaxing and fun to play if you’re looking for a VR game that actually benefits from being a VR.
4. Disco Elysium
Difficulty: 2/5 Uniqueness: 4/5
Disco Elysium is a game made for fans of pen and paper RPGs and their digital counterparts, but where it really shines is its writing. As is typical of these kind of games like Shadowrun: Dragonfall and Tyranny, Disco Elysium gives you unparalleled player freedom to play the game the way you want to.
You play as a cop, but the type of cop is entirely up to you. You may choose to be a dirty cop who doesn’t play the rules, a genius detective on the lookout for clues, a by-the-books cop who values good police work or a sorry drunk spiraling into depression while attempting to solve a murder.
Listen to or ignore the primeval thoughts of your lizard brain while you make choices that determine how your story will play out, how you’ll impact the world around you and what the characters you interact with think of you.
While attempting to solve the case, players have to navigate the intense world of corrupt unions, exploitative international interests and nationalist tensions. Fair warning: this game deals with some heavy and heady topics. So brush up on your political theory and ethics classes if you’re interested in engaging with it along those angles.
Or, if not, just make sure you’re quick on the draw, cowboy.
5. Hardspace: Shipbreaker
Difficulty: 2/5 Uniqueness: 3/5
Hardspace: Shipbreaker is probably the best game to end this list with because out of all the games listed above, this one is the most relaxing to play. Even when compared to 'To the Top', this game doesn’t require you to stand up or move your arms too much.
Players take on the role of a Shipbreaker whose job is to disassemble obsolete and inoperative spaceships for spare parts and scrap metal. They'll need to navigate zero-g and use highly specialised equipment to help cut into and scrap giant spaceships to pay off the massive debt the company saddled them with when they were hired.
You’ll have to be careful when cutting into those ships though, as one wrong cut might mean hitting a fuel line or electrical cable and causing some unwanted trouble. You’ll also want to be fast because you can only rent the scrapyard for a few minutes at a time because there are other shipbreakers waiting too.
You’ll also want to be extra careful when you get to the most valuable part of the ship: its core. Nuclear engines are difficult to build. So salvaging them will net you a sizeable paycheck, but one slipup could mean blowing up a lot of scrap, and with it, you as well.