Detective and mystery games are a great way to flex your problem-solving muscles, but oftentimes the games in the genre are either too easy or too difficult. Every now and then, though, a game comes along with the perfect blend of challenge and intrigue that is able to captivate viewers for the whole journey.
Not all detective games are created equal, though, and different titles approach the genre in different ways. Here we’ve assembled the 30 best PC detective games available to play right now. Some are whacky, some are serious, but all of them will test your investigative know-how. (To skip to the top 10, go to page 3).
30. Tesla Effect: A Tex Murphy Adventure (2014)
Tesla Effect is a good example of how to make a full-motion video game well. The game by developer Big Finish Games follows the story of humorous detective Tex Murphy as he attempts to solve a succession of murders while also piecing together the last 7 years of his life.
Most of the game is seen through full-motion video, but there are also 3D environments that the player must explore in puzzle sections. The choices that you make during conversations with various NPCs can affect the story and final ending, so you’ll want to choose your words carefully.
The cyberpunk noir setting adds a nice finishing touch to the game that fans of the genre will really enjoy.
29. Bohemian Killing (2016)
Set in 1894 in Paris, France, Bohemian Killing is a detective game with a beautiful steampunk aesthetic that touches on a number of challenging topics such as race and societal inequalities. In the midst of it all, Alfred Ethon – the game’s protagonist – is charged with a brutal murder that he didn’t commit.
Or did he? The player’s role is to find out exactly this. Written by lawyers, Bohemian Killing takes place predominantly inside a courtroom and tasks players to solve the case brought against Alfred Ethon using detective work to unravel the true story.
A stylish and thoroughly well-written game, Bohemian Killing is a mystery game that fans of the genre should not miss.
28. Fahrenheit: Indigo Prophecy (2005)
Farenhiet: Indigo Prophecy is an action-adventure mystery game that involves a murder in supernatural circumstances and a subsequent investigation.
The game has been revered for its story and voice acting ever since it was released back in 2005. Fahrenheit utilizes both first and third-person perspectives and allows the player to take control of two New York City detectives and the perpetrator, Lucas Kane. The choices that the player makes while controlling each character influences the narrative and the story, with multiple endings available.
The gameplay in Fahrenheit is like an interactive movie, a la The Walking Dead Telltale series, and it is a worthy entry to the genre. As the characters develop throughout the game, so does the immersion, and it is easy to see why Fahrenheit is considered one of the best PC detective games around.
27. Frog Detective 2: The Case of the Invisible Wizard (2019)
What’s not to like about helping an amphibious detective solving the mystery of an invisible wizard in a wackily charming and vibrant world? Frog Detective 2 is a light-hearted entry into the catalogue of best PC detective games, and it’s one that has some interesting investigative features.
The Case of the Invisible Wizard follows an almost identical gameplay style to its predecessor, The Haunted Island, but has an added notebook feature that creates a nice way to keep track of your detective work progress.
The game does a good job at being slightly goofy without ever being kitsch. The story line is engaging, and the NPCs make for entertaining investigations. This is one of the best PC detective games around if you prefer a lighter take.
26. Zero Escape: The Nonary Tales (2017)
Zero Escape (known in Japan as Kyokugen Dasshutsu) is a series of visual novel adventure games in which players are put in life or death situations and tasked with solving puzzles in order to save themselves from their precarious situation.
Each entry into the series follows nine characters who are imprisoned by an antagonist known as “Zero”. The bulk of the narrative is revealed through an interactive visual novel in which the player can make choices in order to change the course of the story. The other part of the gameplay revolves around escape room style puzzles and minigames that vary in difficulty, with some of them requiring the player to wield a high level of detective expertise in order to progress.
The Zero Escape series is highly thought of in the puzzle and detective game genre, and they are definitely games to try if you are a fan of visual novels.
25. Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers (1993)
Despite being one of the oldest games on this list, Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers still holds up today as one of the best detective games for the PC. This point and click adventure by Sierra On-Line is a classic that, despite not being commercially successful initially, has gained a cult following over the years and is revered by critics in the gaming world.
With great voice acting and impressive graphics (for the time), the story follows aspiring novelist Gabriel Knight as he teams up with the New Orleans police department as he looks for inspiration while researching the “voodoo murders”. One of the main pulls of Gabriel Knight is that it doesn’t hold your hand and you have to do a bit of exploration and investigating before you begin to figure out what exactly is going on.
The story gets quite dark, but it is excellently written and captivating from start to finish. The game is a pioneer in the point and click detective game genre and is a must for aficionados of mystery stories.
24. Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishments (2014)
It’s no surprise to see Sherlock Holmes in a list of the best PC detective games – after all, he’s probably the most famous detective on the planet. There have been several iterations of Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous witty protagonist, and not all of them are able to do the character justice. Crimes & Punishments, however, does not fall into this character.
Along with sidekick Dr. Watson, the player must interrogate and collaborate with various NPCs, building in-depth character profiles as a result. The game is played through first and third-person perspectives, and utilizes various features (case book, puzzles, chemistry lab, etc.) that allows Sherlock to put his incredible analytical brain to use.
If you’re feeling confident enough to step into the shoes of a grandmaster detective, or if you just want a well-rounded mystery game experience, Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishments is worthy of a try and can easily be considered one of the best detective games for the PC.
23. Hypnospace Outlaw (1999)
Hypnospace Outlaw is a seriously good game. The first thing that hits you is its unique art style that is a complimentary blend of simple, elegant, and stylish.
Playing as an Enforcer for the Hypnospace Patrol Department, your task is to hunt down criminals and deviants by scouring a variety of fictional internet websites looking for abnormal happenings.
In this nostalgic representation of the internet, there is a huge variety in tasks and acting as a moderator can yield hours of fun.
Hypnospace Outlaw is a fitting lovestory to 90s internet life and, largely owing to its quirky humor, is a great detective game to test your moderator skills.
22. Sam and Max Hit the Road (1993)
An oldie but a goodie. Sam and Max Hit the Road is a charming graphic adventure game that utilizes elements of detective gameplay as the two eponymous detectives tackle their biggest case so far – a runaway bigfoot.
Developed by Lucasfilm, this animated animal-filled world is equipped with a variety of mini-games and puzzles, quirky, characters, and a twisted humor that leaves it open for all audiences.
Sam and Max Hit the Road is considered to be one of the best point-and-click games of all time, and was one of the first titles to utilize voice talent for the majority of the gameplay.
If you’re in need of a nostalgic kick, check out this game, it won’t disappoint.
21. Blade Runner (1997)
When Blade Runner was first released for the PC back in 1997 it was received well in the gaming community and was lauded as one of the best point and click adventure games of the generation.
Fans of Ridley Scott’s interpretation of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (see our list of the best cyberpunk books) will be well acquainted with the cyberpunk world in which the game takes place, and Westwood Studios did a great job of creating that rainy, neon-lit urban setting that makes the genre so appealing.
Playing as detective McCoy, players are tasked with hunting down cyborg ‘replicants’ that are deemed a threat to the future of humanity.
If you like to solve your crimes in a sci-fi setting, Blade Runner will be one of the best PC detective games for you.
Read more about the Blade Runner video game here.