More often than not, Noire is just a sub-genre and there are a good few games that can be categorized as having strong Film Noire elements. These tend to vary from style to substance, thus some colorful-looking games might still have quite dark tones. So here’s a list of (mostly) contemporary games that you could categorize as having ‘Noire’ influence.
NOTE: I’ve knowingly left out the Tex Murphy and Dick Tracy games as most of them are from a few decades ago and don’t really fit the overall aesthetics of this list.
A game with great story and gameplay ideas, that didn’t quite cut it. A title that tries to be more of a movie than an actual game. As far as the narrative goes, it doesn’t quite qualify as a blockbuster, tangling more on the lines of a late night TV B-movie. It has all the right pieces, but doesn’t really know how to put ’em together. Regardless of it’s at times choppy presentation, the game is still a worthwhile and interesting experience.
A text-heavy point and click adventure game. Sporting a contemporary aesthetic look with late 80’s early 90’s sprite graphics, the plot actually revolves around two characters in a foreign star system in the 23rd century. This is one of those modern titles that is trying to revitalize the classic point ‘n click genre & I’m sure a lot of people will be surprised how easily this game can suck you in. The plot is simply Noire gold!
I can only speculate why this title never got the attention it deserves. It’s an open-world action-adventure with stealth elements and a variety of missions, each feeling unique and original, so there’s very little repetitiveness. It did leave some loose ends with the plot and again the ending seemed a bit sudden. But just roaming around Nazi-occupied Paris and causing chaos in your wake is a ton of fun.
An older entry from the makers of Heavy Rain. Compared to its next-gen brother, I actually believe it to be the better game, from a story perspective at least. However, the plot gets more Z-class apocalypse sci-fi and less of a Noire themed crime-thriller around the second half. It plays mostly like a classic adventure game, tied together with Simon Says styled QTE’s.
The Wolf Among Us
A title from the people at Telltale, a little company that skyrocketed in fame after the release of their Walking Dead game series. This one is at least of the same caliber, if not even more-so and desperately yearns for a follow-up season. Just goes to show that extremely talented and creative people can make even the weirdest of ideas work perfectly.
A WWII title made by Germans, if you can believe that! This stealth game is all about style and atmosphere that will give you a whole different perspective on the later years of the war as the areas you visit have a deeply depressing and hollow, almost sickly feeling to them while at the same time looking very beautiful. Your enemies have often been driven to near madness as hearing their random bantering makes the whole experience all the more horrid, as these are not the Nazis we are accustomed to seeing.
A game that is usually Top 1 on similar lists, this classic 3D adventure game from the 90’s is not only hilarious but has an intriguing plot, excellent puzzles and a really interesting art style and setting. Be warned however, it is probably one of the more difficult games on this list. Luckily a remastered version came out recently, which now makes it playable on the more modern gaming rigs.
L.A. Noire: The Complete Edition
This open-world adventure game hits the bullseye with its aesthetics and characters. Each case you undertake feels like a separate episode of some high-budget TV series with an over-arching plot that just keeps pushing the suspense. To get the worthwhile L.A. Noire experience, I recommend picking up The Complete Edition.
Blues & Bullets
At the time of writing, only the first three episodes have been released and as things stand, it seems ever more unlikely that the season will be finished, but this is definitely a title with a lot of potential and it might be a good idea to still keep an eye on it. It’s got an alternate history comic-book style plot with elements taken from real-world events. Hopefully there will be a happy conclusion to this but if not, then what little there is, is still an interesting game to play.
Murdered: Soul Suspect
Another underrated game, Murdered: Soul Suspect has since become a somewhat cult hit with certain reviewers giving it surprisingly high scores. Maybe the biggest drawback for many was the lack of a classical combat system, but if a paranormal mystery with a dead detective trying to solve his own murder is something that seems interesting, then I highly recommend it.
Max Payne series
The most epic of Noire themed 3rd person shooters. The first two are especially loved, with the second being, in my opinion, one of the best games of all time. Max Payne kind of brought John Woo’s bullet time into the gaming realm back in the early 21st century, so this is a perfect series if one is planning to get into these kind of games. It is also very interesting to see how the series itself has, as the third game was developed by a different team than the original and released quite a few years apart from its predecessors.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution
A long-awaited sequel-prequel to an extremely loved series, Human Revolution copies a lot from Blade Runner and takes the formula even further. This is a game that allows the player to tackle each obstacle in which ever fashion they desire, so if you’re not an action junkie, feel free to stealth-sneak your way through most levels without ever firing a shot.
Hotel Dusk: Room 215
A Nintendo DS exclusive that makes great use of the handhelds unique touch-screen functions. This is a puzzle-heavy title with an enthralling plot, which for example, makes for a perfect companion on long commutes. There’s a sequel that picks up a year later from where the first one left off. There’s no real blood, gore or violence to speak of, so if that’s a turn off, skip it… then go consult a psychiatrist.
The game actually features lots of colorful sunlight filled parts with perversely comedic characters but apart from that it’s still a neatly paced dark noire action-drama about a Hitman who’s trying to protect a young girl from his former employers and this journey takes him across the States.
Burial At Sea (Bioshock: Infinite DLC)
This actually ties directly into Infinite’s plot, so bear that in mind. This DLC duology might seem like a shallow cash-grab but actually brings the whole narrative of Infinite to a close. Even if tackled before playing the actual core game, it will probably give You the necessary jolt of curiosity to want to experience the entire franchise.
This puzzle-heavy survival-horror adventure game is stylistically Film Noire through and through. It went under a lot of people’s radars and I think that should be amended. It strongly plays on the light vs darkness and uses that analogy to great effect. The game is reminiscent of the early days of survival-horror, for example with the use of fixed camera angles.
A 6th generation gem that can easily be considered a cult hit. This is a weird and eccentric title with an irregular approach to first person shooting. Other than that, it also stands out for its quaint art style and silly plot. One of the creators is Suda51, the madman behind the No More Heroes series, which makes it an interesting look back at his earlier projects.
A non-combat environment-puzzle art-house type game that feels kinda like those weird children’s movies that were meant for kids but also have some deeper meaning that only adults could understand and in that process evoke some long-forgotten emotions. Yeah, it’s like a Tim Burton flick.