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Top 10 Games That’ll Make You Think

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Script written by Kurt Hvorup Woah...like...just like...woah dude. These are the games that will have you scratching your noggin and expanding your mind as you play em - the smartest of the smarty pants games that make you really ponder the some of the most existential of questions...or just begin to hate humanity. Welcome to http://WatchMojo.com and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Games That’ll Really Make You Think! Special thanks to our user “Dan Paradis” for suggesting this topic using our interactive suggestion tool at http://WatchMojo.comsuggest
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Top 10 Video Games That Will Make You Think

Every medium has its works that provoke nuanced discussion and reflection, and gaming’s no different. Welcome to WatchMojo.com and today we’re counting down our list for the top 10 Video Games That Will Make You Think.

Here we’re looking at games, which are, by design, intended to persuade their audience to contemplate a deeper meaning or grand philosophical quandaries. Our focus is not on games that challenge its audience by way of puzzles – thus we must exclude the likes of 2007’s “Portal”.

#10: “Deus Ex” (2000)


Conspiracies and toppling of fascist governments, oh my. The original “Deus Ex” arrived on the scene bearing a deeper emphasis on philosophy and socio-political theory than many of its peers, but it handled such subject matter with great aplomb. Players took on the role of fresh-faced United Nations operative JC Denton, whose role shifts from loyal government employee to resistance fighter as the winding narrative unfolds. Denton’s status as an outsider slowly drawn into world affairs allows “Deus Ex” to explain and expand upon themes of government overreach, the threat of unchecked corporate machinations, and the necessary extremes of revolutions.

#9: “Braid” (2008)


Built to resemble the classic side-scrolling platformers of yore, Jonathan Blow’s “Braid” uses player fondness for the genre to his advantage. The game’s examination of how time manipulation can be implemented in a variety of puzzles serves to draw players in, leaving them receptive to the game’s deeper themes. “Braid” fixates on the efforts of a man named Tim seeking to rescue a princess, with each step of the journey accompanied by allegory and snippets of backstory. Each new piece of information slowly clarifies the game’s true intent: to highlight and critique the Damsel in Distress narrative device that was a significant part of early game storytelling.

#8: “Spec Ops: The Line” (2012)

At first glance, there doesn’t appear to be much remarkable about game studio Yager Development’s 2012 reboot of the “Spec Ops” series. It’s initially framed as a typical military shooter set in Dubai… and then the curtain drops to reveal a much nastier, more pointed game. “The Line” uses extreme violence and familiar action game beats to slyly comment on a number of issues, from modern American interventionism to the problems inherent in its own genre. The game doesn’t hold back on criticizing and deconstructing the interests of its audience, either, and doubtlessly left players reeling from the nature of its revelations.

#7: “DayZ” (2013)


Never before has the true nature of humanity been more clear. Starting out as a mod for “Arma 2” before spinning off into its own separate game, “DayZ” takes the concept of a zombie-caused apocalypse to a logical extreme. The game’s setting of Chernarus is a harsh landscape of abandoned towns and barren terrain, occasionally interspersed with the undead. Most of the time, though, players must contend with the selfish and often cruel instincts of their peers, driven to violence by their experiences. “DayZ” is very much a game about the flaws and failings of humanity, and it conveys that theme in brutal fashion.

#6: “Prey” (2017)


Arkane Studios’ reimagining of the “Prey” series noticeably deviates from the original 2006 game in a great number of ways, most notably in its philosophical intent. 2017’s “Prey” uses the freeform role-playing design of works like “System Shock” to craft a world and a narrative rooted in questions of identity, the limits of human morality and other existential crises. Be it in the choice of upgrades or in deciding between compassion or contempt, “Prey” centers itself on exploring player interpretations of the lead character Morgan Yu. We may not have necessarily been asking for this game, but we’ll never forget the ideas and imagery it left us with.

#5: “Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty” (2001)


Whatever else can be said of Hideo Kojima, he’s certainly no stranger to toying with intriguing ideas and inspiring important conversations. “Metal Gear Solid 2” opens with a seemingly straight-forward mission undertaken by series protagonist Solid Snake, setting up how the game uses convention to throw off audience expectations. Little by little, the story reveals itself to be an act of willful subversion, aiming to showcase how limited information can be used to control both the characters and the audience. From the usage of widely-recognized tropes as part of misdirection, to questioning the notion of objective reality itself, “Metal Gear Solid 2” doesn’t lack for meaningful subject matter.

#4: “BioShock” (2007)


Many a game wants you, the player, to believe that you have choices in what to do. Electing to defy that illusion of freedom - and expose its status as an illusion – is part of what makes “BioShock” such a powerful and thoughtful experience. Every moment spent in the decrepit ruins of the underwater city of Rapture reinforces a sense of manufactured liberty, of a more restrictive and controlled world lying in wait. Important questions about player agency in games and the manner in which narrative is used to manipulate an audience take center stage, especially as “BioShock” builds to its famed twist. Nothing can ever be quite the same after this.

#3: “This War of Mine” (2014)


Inspired by the Siege of Sarajevo during the Bosnian War, “This War of Mine” evokes feelings of horror and dread at every turn. It puts you in command of a group of survivors and asks you to keep them alive, be it by digging for useful items or raiding homes for supplies. Every moment and every choice has to be weighed carefully against the needs of the survivors, with personal morals crashing up against issues of resource management and the cost of survival. Experiencing the pain of losing allies amid an increasingly desperate situation isn’t exactly fun, but it does help to raise awareness for what real wars do to our fellow humans.

#2: “The Stanley Parable (2013)


Sometimes having fun and having a point are goals that can operate hand-in-hand. Such is the case for “The Stanley Parable”, which opts to target and tear into the notion of player-guided storytelling in bizarre yet witty fashion. A variety of story paths await the player, changing how the game progresses based on one’s decision to follow or break off from the single-minded narration. Yet these paths consistently result in intentionally underwhelming or off-kilter conclusions, which underline the game’s message: the player ultimately has no meaningful freedom, and is at the mercy of the game maker. It does wonders to illustrate how important the creator-player relationship is to our experience of games.

#1: “Papers, Please” (2013)


Riding the line between compelling and deeply disturbing is a tough act, but somehow this game was up to the task. “Papers, Please” asks the player to run a border checkpoint for a fictional nation not unlike real ex-Soviet states, complete with escalating security measures and violent resistance efforts. It’s deliberate and unrelenting in its desire to provoke discomfort, made all the more apparent as the surrounding nation reveals itself more and more to be a totalitarian state. The lengths to which “Papers, Please” goes to inspire its audience to think critically about the tension of such an oppressive existence are as bold as they are quietly horrifying.



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