Top Four Gothic Video Games
When looking for goth media, there is a source that is often ignored. Video games. Many great gothic worlds have been constructed that allow their players to experience something a little bit different than the normal, action packed AAA titles.
Some of the absolute best, across all platforms, are:
American McGee’s Alice
Possible the first game that comes to mind when thinking about how a video game can make a dark and twisted world come alive.
Although almost all of the other American McGee games have fallen out of consciousness (Scrapland anyone? Bad Day LA?), and that’s probably became they could not catch up to the cheek and perfect art direction of this.
Imagining Alice as growing up slightly, but ending up in an insane asylum, American McGee’s Alice takes place in her fantasy world where all of the citizens of Wonderland have become twisted, warped versions of her various delusions, and as representations of the people and treatments in the metal asylum. Oh yeah, mental asylum? To be more horrifying, a Victorian mental asylum.
The styling of the Chester Cat in the game has potentially become the most iconic image associated with it. A brown, trampish, troubled, twisted version that is far removed from all other imaginations of the character.
Gameplay wise? Eh. There is nothing to write about here. It’s your standard third-person adventure game. But the atmosphere? In this game, it is truly everything.
The best throwback to the old adventure games of yore online.
For the setting, imagine London, covered in the veil of H.P. Lovecraft, written by a Neil Gaiman possessing the spirit of Terry Pratchett. Every word written in the game is dripping with the “Fallen London” style.
You play the whole game within your browser, being able to select choices that your character can do in the world. At the moment, I’m playing a rising member of the Victorian elite who just so happens to also write erotic novels while being addicted to drugs, which he funds through a side-line business of selling other peoples’ soles to the various hell-demons who just casually hang out in London these days.
Perhaps the only problem IS how immersive the world is. You will want to spend all day in it, uncovering as many of the mysteries as you can (Just why is it called Fallen London? What are all of these references to the great “Zee” and it’s “Zalors”? Why can you just walk into a shop and buy Souls?). However, the game limits how many actions you can do. You get one “Action point” per ten minutes, and can only store twenty at a time. As every action you choose to do requires you to spend an action point, you tend to have to wait at least ten minutes before clicks.
Additionally, the game part comes in leveling up different qualities of your character. With too low of a quality in a certain skill, the action might fail. So for example, because my character’s “Persuasive” skill was quite low, I failed in being able to seduce a spy (why, I thought she’d let me know where to get more drugs from). Thankfully, the story wasn’t locked out, but I still had to wait another ten minutes of long salivating, wanting to find out what the next twist or quirk in the story was going to be.
Fallen London is completely free to play, with the option to spend a little bit of money to get additional action points, and unlock some stories that don’t require you to spend these action points.
One of the biggest games, in terms of pure text content, that exists. Planescape Torment is an amazing piece of gothic architecture.
This isn’t anything like Dragon Age, Skyrim, or any other action-orientated role playing game. Instead, everything is about the text in it. A gothic plot reaches across the whole thing.
You play as a character who can not die. The whole game is actually searching for a way to allow him to finally pass on, to enter the afterlife. Of course, you manage to do this through dialog options and through actions such as ripping out your own entrails to find clues and hints that one of your previous lives have left behind.
If you don’t like reading, this isn’t the kind of game for you. The amount of writing in the game ranges to the millions of words. And each word is oozing with atmosphere. Imagine an Edgar Allen Poe channeling the spirit of Terry Pratchett, and you are close to the style of Gothic Horror that the game likes to give.
One of the best examples is the twist on the three wishes that is found in Planescape Torment:
An elderly man was sitting alone on a dark path, right? He wasn’t certain of which direction to go, and he’d forgotten both where he was traveling to and who he was. He’d sat down for a moment to rest his weary legs, and suddenly looked up to see an elderly woman before him. She grinned toothless and with a cackle, spoke: ‘Now your third wish. What will it be?’
‘Third wish?’ The man was baffled. ‘How can it be a third wish if I haven’t had a first and second wish?’
‘You’ve had two wishes already,’ the hag said, ‘but your second wish was for me to return everything to the way it was before you had made your first wish. That’s why you remember nothing; because everything is the way it was before you made any wishes.’ She cackled at the poor berk. ‘So it is that you have one wish left.’
‘All right,’ said the man, ‘I don’t believe this, but there’s no harm in wishing. I wish to know who I am.’
‘Funny,’ said the old woman as she granted his wish and disappeared forever. ‘That was your first wish.’
One of the classic adventure games, Dark Seed might be old, but is the hardest game on this list. And also, in some ways, the most gothic.
H.R. Giger worked on this game, and it shows throughout all of the dark artwork within it. The themes speak of dual worlds, of H.R. Giger’s standard ideas of machinery following human form in a fetisthistic, symbiotic way.
As an adventure game, there are no action sequences, no need to have fast reflexes. Actions take place purely by picking an action word and an item on the screen. For example, “pick up alien equipment.”
If you are not used to playing these style of games, you WILL need some kind of guide to lead you through to experience all of the plot. Hell, even if you are used to these point and click adventure games, you might also need one. Featuring a series of complex, mind-bending puzzles that also must be completed within a certain order, by a certain (in game) time, Dark Seed is hard.
But the rewards for being able to get through it are insane. As well as seeing a large range of, often not seen, H.R. Giger art, you get an amazing story of paranoia. Of seeing things that aren’t there and yet others accept that they are. Of a kind of menace that causes you, in your comfortable, normal, life to still wonder if you too could be pulled into the same kind of world as the one discovered in Dark Seed.
Even if you don’t normally play video games, even if you find them for ‘losers’, if you are interested in gothic styling, this is a game you must play.
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