Often, when people refer to a video game as “kiddie” what they are actually saying is that it lacks the prerequisite of musclebound bozos. This is funny because I distinctly remember being 11 years old and thinking musclebound bozos with big guns were just about the coolest thing ever. In reality, games appeal to grown-ups by offering mature storylines with actual relatable characters and a distinct lack of blowing away people in other countries. Gaming doesn’t have too many of these but it does have some. Here are examples of the best and brightest video games for grown-ups.
1. 'Persona 4' (PS2/Vita)
This JRPG, first released for the PS2 and recently remade for the Vita, navigates some surprisingly adult themes. Teenagers coming out as gay, children dealing with the loss of a parent and how to cope with major depression all count as some of Persona’s many themes. The game is a year in the life of a Japanese high school that just happens to sit near the entrance to a netherworld filled with demons. If you are thinking Buffy the Vampire Slayer, you wouldn’t be too far off.
2. 'Heavy Rain'(PS3)
This game features multiple protagonists, a gnarly serial killer that drowns people and enough daddy issues to make even Freud take pause. In other words, it could very easily appear on AMC and nobody would be the wiser, except for the whole ‘you can’t control television characters’ thing.
3. 'Red Dead Redemption' (PS3/360)
Sure, this game may let you kidnap people, tie them up and place them in front of train tracks to be run over, but beneath the open world mayhem lies an intricate tale about the roots of family and how far people will go to protect that. Plus, you can hunt Bigfoot.
4. 'Journey' (PS3)
Is this a video game? Is this art? Is it a little bit of both? Who knows, but Journey tasks you simply to reach the top of a distant mountain. There is no story. There is no dialog. There is only you and the journey. It’s the video game version of meditation.
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5. 'Papers Please' (PC)
Ever want to work as an immigration inspector, with the power to turn away whole families from entering your country? Of course you haven’t, because you are a person with a soul. However, thats what this game tasks you to do. It’s a harsh lesson in the realities of intra-country dynamics.
6. 'I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream' (PC)
This PC classic goes all the way back to 1995 and yet, in many ways, is still ahead of its time. Its a point-and-click adventure game written by the venerable Harlan Ellison. As such, it deals with some heavy sci-fi themes including genocide, AI gone awry and the human capacity for redemption.
7. 'Catherine' (PS3/360)
Finally, a video game sim that illustrates the pitfalls one goes thru when they cheat on their significant other. These pitfalls, of course, are interspersed with an extremely strange and dream-like puzzle game but what do you want, Catherine wears its Japanese influence on its sleeve.
Follow Lawrence Bonk on Twitter @sidescrollers