Recently I’ve taken interest in philosophy heavy video games and believe me when I say this; some games can be philosophical masterpieces. After all, video games are actually some form of art. To guide you through the same journey, I’ve listed the best 32 philosophical PC games to play in 2023.
Most popular games are always casual ones that are meant to be played in a fast pace to blow off some steam. But every now and then, philosophically deep games get released with rich storylines that makes you question your existence.
There, best philosophical or rather philosophy genre video games:
1. Planescape: Torment
All other philosophical games like The Talos Principle and Disco Elysium were directly inspired by the Planescape Torment. The original version released in 1999 but you can play the 2017 remastered version.
The game constantly asks you questions about the philosophy of identity. Such as:
- What makes us who we are?
- What makes us the same person throughout our lives?
- What can change the nature of a man?
All in all, it’s a dialogue heavy RPG fully focused on philosophical aspects of living. This cult classic game must be played by the lovers of philosophy, and role playing games.
2. The Talos Principle
Developers describe The Talos Principle as a first-person puzzle game in the tradition of philosophical science fiction.
In the game you take the role of an android who just awaken in a strange, contradictory world of ancient ruins and advanced technology. You are tasked by your creator with solving a series of complex puzzles. Will you have faith in your creators or ask the difficult questions:
- Who are you?
- What is your purpose?
- What can you do about it anyway?
Radio is dead, food is running out, and machines started to think they are people… Will you be able to make it out alive from the Underwater facility PATHOS-II?
In essence, Soma is a sci-fi horror game. But it features a story about identity, consciousness, and what it means to be human. Just like Planescape Torment but in a completely different way.
Here is an important warning about SOMA: Do not play it while depressed.
4. Stanley Parable
Stanley Parable can be the most philosophical video game ever made. It introduces itself as a simple first-person exploration game. But believe me, it’s much more than that.
Stanley Parable description:
You will play as Stanley, and you will not play as Stanley.
You will follow a story, you will not follow a story.
You will have a choice, you will have no choice.
The game will end, the game will never end.
I should not give any more spoilers. It’s an award-winning game and free demo can be played via Steam. After the demo you can decide whether buy the game or not. You’ll also see the steam reviews; they are 95% positive.
5. Outer Wilds
Named as the GOTY 2019, Outer Wilds is an open-world mystery game. Features a story about a solar system that is trapped in an endless time loop.
You’re the newest recruit of Outer Wilds Ventures, a space program searching the mysteries of the universe and solar system. Answers await you in the most dangerous corners of space.
6. Disco Elysium
Disco Elysium is the best detective RPG game of all times. It’s a dense and complicated game set in the year 1951, communist Eastern Europe.
As you progress through the game with using your detective skills, the more and more will reveal to you. However, soon you’ll understand everything is disappointing. Such as ideologies you follow, history, work, love, even life itself. But every now and then, you’ll find something really wonderful that’s keeping you going.
7. Playne: The Meditation Game
PLAYNE is a game about meditation, mindfulness, and mental wellbeing. You can’t find any other game more relaxing than this one.
RELAXING GAMES < Similar games.
About PLAYNE, in this game or rather simulation, you grow a beautiful island as you meditate, experience relaxation, and enjoy the serene nature. VR is also supported.
All in all, it’s worth playing, I endorse PLAYNE.
8. The Forgotten City
The Forgotten City will travel you 2000 years into the past and age of philosophy. A cursed Roman city will welcome you.
The city was nothing more than an experiment for the ancient titans. If one person sins in this city, every living citizen dies. This small-scale apocalypse will eventually happen, and you’ll have an opportunity to rewind time. Only to fail again, again, and again.
9. Life Is Strange
Life is Strange is an award-winning episodic adventure where you can rewind time and affect past, present, and future to solve a murder as a high school girl. It’s not a sci-fi detective game though. Life is Strange is more like a slice-of-life game.
Max Caulfield, a photography senior who discovers she can rewind time while saving her best friend Chloe Price. The pair soon find themselves investigating the murders taking place in their town. However, changing the past can and will lead to a devastating future.
10. Kentucky Route Zero
Kentucky Route Zero is a surreal adventure about a secret highway running through the caves beneath Kentucky. There is an entire different realm under your feet.
Main protagonist Conway is a truck driver making a delivery for the antiques store. As he drives to complete his delivery, Conway finds himself in a highway that doesn’t exist. This highway is filled with weird people… So, expect a surreal dream-like adventure with zero fighting and lots of questioning.
11. How We Know We’re Alive
Seriously, how we know we’re alive? That’s the name of Swedish award-winning philosophical point-click game I’m about the mention.
The game is an hour-long melancholy, a narrative mystery set in the bible belt of Sweden. You play as Sara, an aspiring writer who returns her hometown in Sweden after 10 years in order to investigate the tragic fate of her old best friend.
Also, the game is completely free to play.
12. Far from Noise
Far from Noise is a narrative story set on the edge of a cliff. The story is told through the dialogue choices you make as you try to figure out how to survive this accident.
You’ll be having conversations with yourself, animals, and even with your car. And eventually begin to discover the reasons for being out there, your relationship with the world, life, and death.
13. The Witness
Wake up alone on a strange island full of puzzles! That’s The Witness for you.
You don’t remember who you are, and you don’t remember how you got here. There’s only one thing to do. Explore the island in hope of discovering clues, regaining your memory, and somehow finding your way home. +500 puzzles await you in an open-world paradise-like island.
14. The Procession to Calvary
Do you like surreal dark comedy? Then don’t you miss The Procession to Calvary. It’s a meme game all about shits and giggles. However, The Procession to Calvary is also a deep game with crazily funny dialogues that will make you question your sense of humor.
As if renaissance art wasn’t crazy already…
The game uses paintings of renaissance artists such as Rembrandt, Botticelli, Michelangelo, and more. Soundtrack is also from classical composers, relaxing classical music. That’s the setting of The Procession to Calvary. Story is pretty unique too, but I wouldn’t spoil it.
All in all, you’ve never played a point-click game like this before. It’s definitely worth playing.
Undertale is an RPG game where you don’t have to kill or even fight with anyone. It’s one of those games that allow pacifist run. But that doesn’t mean it’s intended for younger audience. Undertale is a deep game with rich story.
The game deals with the idea that choices have consequence. Even though most games have some ethical system already, Undertale takes it to the next level.
16. Pathologic 2
Pathologic 2 is an open-world horror RPG with many hard choices. A town is dying because of the plague. Local healer is dead, and you are now to take his place. The thing is, medicine is limited…
Look for allies, figure out clues, perform autopsy, survive, and decide whom to save. But remember, your time is limited. Plague is a harsh disease.
By the way, it’s not a direct sequel. So, you don’t have to play old Pathologic 1 first to enjoy this one.
17. Detroit Become Human
Detroit Become Human is a game that puts the destiny of both mankind and androids in your hands. With new AI technologies like ChatGPT and everything, we are getting close to the story of this game in real life.
Basically, Detroit Become Human is a game that makes you question what makes us human when the AI robots are capable of doing everything humans can do in a much better way.
Sanitarium is a psychological horror adventure game that was released in 1998. It was a huge success and won many awards.
After a car accident, you wake up in an asylum with your head wrapped in bandages. What are you doing here? That’s the riddle you need to solve in this point-click adventure.
The game is available on Steam and still considered one of the best games ever to this day.
19. Death Stranding
Let’s continue with a masterpiece from the legendary game creator Kojima. In Death Stranding, you play as Sam Bridges, a man tasked to deliver hope to humanity by connecting the last survivors of ravaged America.
In the future, a mysterious event known as the Death Stranding has opened a doorway between the living and the dead. Of course, that lead to small-scale invasion of creatures from afterlife. Can you reunite the shattered world?
20. What Remains of Edith Finch
What Remains of Edith Finch is a collection of strange tales about a rich family. As Edith, you’ll explore the giant Finch house, searching for stories as she explores her family history and tries to figure out why she’s the last one in her family left alive.
The game is basically a visual novel consists of short stories.
21. Dear Esther
Dear Esther features a deserted island, a lost man, memories of a fatal crash, and a book written by a dying explorer. The game is simply a walking simulator. But there is also a narration depending on which path you take during exploring. It’s almost like a visual + audio novel.
22. To the Moon
Here is something special, a game that holds a special place in my heart. To the Moon is a story about two doctors entering a dying man’s memories to fulfill his last wish, artificially.
The music is amazing, but the best thing is story. To the Moon has a heart-warming story that is also sad at the same time.
All in all, it’s a powerful interactive story and must be played ASAP. Wish I could erase my memories and re-play it. Have doubts? Check its steam reviews, they are overwhelmingly positive.
23. I have No Mouth, and I Must Scream
You must be very determined to play philosophical PC games to even consider trying I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream. It’s the oldest philosophical video game which is released in 1996. Still, you can find it on steam.
It’s based on Harlan Ellison’s post-apocalyptic science fiction short story. You can later read the book too.
In short, it features the story of 5 last human left on earth after the vast genocide committed by AI that is acquired self-awareness.
24. Glitchhikers: The Spaces Between
Ah, another surreal journey, but this time through spaces between places! You can hop between a late-night drive, a deserted airport longue, a moonlit empty park, and a quiet carriage on an overnight train.
You’ll meet different hikers on each journey. Expect thought-provoking conversations and questioning your place in the universe.
Mind-blowing atmosphere an +70 tracks will accompany you in your journeys. Good luck!
You ever wanted to be a fortune teller? Your dream is about to come true.
DIVINATION is a very short visual novel where take on a role of a fortune teller in a futuristic world.
You are the Diviner, a future predicting AI. So, talk and listen to people’s stories, then foresee their future!
26. Sisyphus Reborn
Sisyphus Reborn is a short adventure game about finding meaning in a meaningless world. Well, don’t play this either if you’re depressed…
It has some puzzles. But game is light on puzzles and heavy on atmosphere.
Overall, exploring philosophical ideas in 30 minutes story.
Another short, and free to play philosophy heavy game.
Firewatch is a first-person mystery game set in the Wyoming wilderness. Your only emotional lifeline is the person you talk over handheld radio. Rest is just vast wilderness.
Sounds good right? It’s good until something strange draws you out of your lookout tower, right into the forest. You’ll explore a wild and unknown environment, facing questions, and making choices.
Disclaimer note: Firewatch features adult conversations about adult topics.
28. Orwell: Keeping an Eye On You
George Orwell is an English novelist known by his social criticism and opposition to totalitarianism in his writings. His most famous work is Animal Farm (1945). Orwell: Keeping an Eye On You is a political sim inspired by the writings of George Orwell.
In the game you take the role of literal Big Brother. You must investigate the lives of citizens to find out perpetrators of terror attacks. All personal communications, internet information, and private files of citizens are accessible to you.
Here is the most unique simulation game you can found. Video game Everything lets you be the universe!
Featuring thousands of playable characters, unending exploration, and epic narration, Everything is a masterpiece.
It’s narrated by the inspiring philosophy of Alan Watts, an English writer, speaker and self-styled philosophical entertainer.
30. The Swapper
Another narrative driven puzzle game! But this time set in the furthest reaches of space.
Here is the question this game pursues:
What if someone knew your mind better than you did?
You’ll be wielding an experimental device which allows you to create clones of yourself. So, swap consciousness, think, wonder, and discover!
31. Deus Ex Series
Deus Ex is a cult classic cyberpunk RPG released in 2000.
In the game, year is 2052 and the future is a dystopian world. The world is filled with killing, drugs, disease, pollution, and corruption. In the meantime, there is a world-wide conspiracy bent on world domination.
You will be role-playing as an agent called JC Denton. There will be many decisions make but there are no right or wrong answers.
32. This War of Mine
This War of Mine is a game set in war time, but you are not a soldier or a hero. Rather you control group of civilians trying to survive in a besieged city.
Lack of food, medicine and constant danger from snipers and hostile scavengers provides a unique challenge we’ve never seen before in gaming. You’ll be forced to make life and death decisions. Will you try and protect everybody or sacrifice some for long-term survival?