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If you’re one of these fans, perhaps you’re looking for similar titles for a similarly immersive experience.Selecting Games Like Firewatch
Firewatch is a short but smooth experience. A completionist run takes no more than 5 hours, so it’s not really a complex or bloated title.
Lastly, I must focus on the game’s quality, even though it’s an indie title. That’s because there’s talent from every corner behind the title. It includes Mad Men and The Walking Dead writers, a Bioshock 2 developer, an illustrator from the Ori franchise, etc.
Overall, Firewatch is short, simple, immersive, cinematic, and rich in characters, environments, and storytelling. Also, I realized mystery is a key part of Firewatch, so most of our selection features thriller-like storytelling.Games Like Firewatch Outer Wilds
Developer: Mobius Digital
Publisher: Annapurna Interactive
Release Date: May 2023
Platform: PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, Windows
You play as a recruit of the Outer Wilds Ventures space program. Your mission is to explore a solar system trapped in a time loop. You’re also alone, as there’re just a handful of NPCs and no enemies to beat. There’re, however, many puzzles to uncover.
So, the gameplay is about exploring various planets in the system on land, with ships, mechs, and multiple vehicles and suits. You’re to gather as many clues as possible to solve the time loop.
Yet, you go back to the beginning once the time runs out, and only the info you have gathered remains.
Because of the setting, Outer Wilds is also a sandbox. You can complete the quest in many ways and explore dozens of mysteries around the map. These include alien ruins, stranded ships, lost artifacts, and more.
Lastly, the game doesn’t have markers or in-game menus for actions. You’re to manage your various systems in real-time, like taking pictures, repairing ships, driving, flying, landing, etc.The Long Dark
Developer: Hinterland Studio
Publisher: Hinterland Studio
Release Date: August 2023
Platform: Windows, macOS, Linux, SteamOS, Xbox One, PS4, Nintendo Switch
After a geomagnetic disaster, you play as Mackenzie in a post-apocalyptic world. The episodic campaign starts when the character agrees to help Dr. Greenwood deliver a mysterious package. Their flight has an accident, and Mackenzie wakes up alone in the mountains.
Alone, in the cold, you’re to face the cold, wild animals, hunger, thirst, and fatigue. That forces you to hunt and gather materials to build the tools you need to stay alive and find Dr. Greenwood.
The title is also immersive. There’re almost no tutorials, markers, or guides. You have to think and explore for yourself to complete the five chapters of the story mode, Wintermute.
Like Firewatch, there’s a great deal of talent behind the campaign, like Mass Effect’s voice actress Jennifer Hale as Mackenzie.
Unlike Firewatch, though, the campaign can take up to 30 hours, so it’s a long and fully-fledged game. Also, there’s a free-form survival sandbox mode. Here, the deal is surviving as long as you can while making up your own story – there’s permadeath in Survival Mode.Death Stranding
Developer: Kojima Productions
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment, 505 Games
Release Date: November 2023
Platform: PS4, PS5, Windows
Many would say Death Stranding is, like Firewatch, a walking simulator. Both games rely on walking and interacting with the environment and NPCs to tell the story.
You play in third-person perspective as Sam Bridges (Norman Reedus), a delivery guy in a post-apocalyptic future. A mysterious experiment opened the doorway between the dead and the living. Afterlife creatures are roaming the world and destroying society.
Your mission is to connect survivor settlements across America. That includes a lot of walking, trekking, driving a bike, and staying away from contamination. So, although gameplay mechanics evolve over time, the highlight is the story.
Moreover, as a delivery guy, you’ll need to micro-manage weight and packages.
There’s also an apparent lack of menus, interfaces, and map markers. You’re alone in the world with a few tools to help you avoid the strange. The story is rich, twisted, and sad.
There’s combat as well, as you’ll be fighting with melee and sci-fi weapons to protect the cargo. However, action is a minor part of the title.
Lastly, the title comes from legendary video creator Hideo Kojima (Metal Gear). However, unlike his espionage/mecha series, Death Stranding doesn’t focus on action or stealth.
You will enjoy it because of the setting, the plot, the characters, the story, and the ending -which reveals the truth of the experiment.Call Of The Sea
Developer: Out of the Blue
Publisher: Raw Fury
Release Date: December 2023
Platform: Windows, Xbox One, Xbox One X/S, PS4, PS5
You play in first-person perspective on an open-world island. The gameplay loop revolves around walking to gather clues in the environment and interacting with other items. It’s a lonely story, though, as there’re no other NPCs.
You’ll find most clues on items like radios and letters. Finding the clue itself, as well as understanding what these mean, requires puzzle solving. There’re many puzzles in the game, most challenging but intuitive.
Then, the story also has a fantastic setting across ancient ruins, temples, magic, and artifacts.
Along the way, you’ll understand this is a character-driven story, exploring Norah’s true identity and purpose. The character, story, visuals, and music have high standards. Most of all, the theme is very adult as it deals with growth and acceptance.
Lastly, there’s no combat system and no crafting. The experience is pretty straightforward, and the story progresses linearly. Because of these reasons, Call of the Sea is a very short experience, as it can take you up to 4 hours to complete the game.Everybody’s Gone To The Rapture
Developer: The Chinese Room
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Release Date: August 2023
Platform: Windows, PS4
The story happens in a small English village in the 80s. All of the inhabitants disappeared mysteriously, and you’re to explore the area in first-person to discover what happened.
The experience has a mysterious narrative, gorgeous countryside, and atmospheric storytelling. For example, you’ll find quarantine flyers around the town. Only you remain, you don’t know who you are, and you don’t know what’s going on.
So, your clues will be newspapers, leaflets, radios, and other information traces.
You will also find strange guiding lights across the village. These are your “map markers,” as there’re no other clues or indicators. That said, the story is non-linear, and the setting is open-world. It means you can discover the plot in any order, at your own pace.
Overall, this is a fascinating and eerily thriller with a great main character and brilliant voice acting. Lastly, the pacing is slow, which may be boring, but helps soak every detail of a meticulously-crafted setting.The Vanishing Of Ethan Carter
Developer: The Astronauts
Publisher: The Astronauts
Release Date: September 2014
Platform: Windows, PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch
The Vanishing of Ethan Carter is a detective exploration game with horror elements. It’s also a first-person game with a story-driven mystery, and the gameplay revolves around discovery and exploration.
There’s no combat and no explosions as many games on the list. Instead, your playtime as detective Paul Prospero is about finding clues. Your job is to find out what happened to Ethan Carter, a missing boy who disappeared after sending disturbing letters.
The setting is macabre and weird. It’s akin to old shows like Twilight Zone or similar to Xbox 360’s classic Alan Wake. That said, it leans on its immersive elements to tell a story through the environment, the atmosphere, the music, and the dialogue.
As a detective of the occult, the game offers various mental challenges. That’s not to say it’s a puzzle game, though, as these are few and often easy. Still, you need to use various supernatural skills to discover the trail of clues.
Lastly, the game is open-world, and the story is non-linear. It is up to you which paths to follow and how to use your skills to unlock clues. The main mechanic is to communicate with the dead to piece out how they died and gather information about Ethan.Dear Esther
Developer: The Chinese Room
Publisher: The Chinese Room
Release Date: February 2012
Platform: Windows, macOS, PS4, Xbox One
The setting is a fictional island in Scotland. You’re to explore the area as you hear a troubled man read letters he sent to his deceased wife, Esther. As you continue the story, the clues and the narration will reveal the mystery of her death.
The world is stunning, immersive, and remote. There’s no one with you, only the voice of a grieving widow. The journey is complete without puzzles, combat, and gamey mechanics. Instead, it’s all about discovering the story.
And yet, Dear Esther is barely a game. You use the WASD keys to walk, but there’s nothing else you can do. Rather, it’s an immersive, interactive, and cinematic experience. You explore and wander around scenarios where panic, desperation, and beauty collide for a masterful and unique experience.Tacoma
Release Date: August 2023
Platform: Windows, macOS, Linux, SteamOS, Xbox One, PS4
The year is 2088, and you play as contractor Amy Ferrier. Your job is boarding space stations to investigate how the crew lived. You use special holographic technology to know the crew as individuals.
Moreover, you can explore the station to find clues. For example, you search their personal quarters, lockers, desks, etc. So, the gameplay revolves around walking around to interact with items or hearing conversations.
But the core mechanic is the “digital surveillance system” of each station. These are the 3D recordings of the crew. You need to explore to find these recordings, and you can rewind and fast-forward these videos to learn as much as you can.
And as you journey through each station, you’ll uncover an overarching plot. The narrative is memorable, the characters can leave an impression, and the music is stellar. Most importantly, the relationships are very relatable.Life is Strange
Developer: Dontnod Entertainment, Deck Nine
Publisher: Square Enix
Release Date: January 2023
Platform: Windows, SteamOS, PS4, Xbox One, Google Stadia, iOS, Android
Life is Strange is a cinematic and interactive experience with choices and consequences. What you do is what the “show,” take key decisions, and see how the story unfolds.
You play as Max Caulfield, a photography senior who has the power to rewind time. He intends to use it to save his friend, Chloe Price. However, changing the past opens devastating futures, like a bigger mystery threatening his town, Arcadia Bay.
Like Firewatch, the story happens as a series of days jumping forward in time. It also occurs in episodes -there’re 5 episodes you have to download separately, but the first one is free on Steam. After you finish the episodes, you can also try the 2023 sequel Life Is Strange: True Colors.
Lastly, using the time-traveling mechanic is the game’s main mechanic. It’s what you need to solve puzzles and see the different outcomes of your dialogue responses.Detroit: Become Human
Developer: Quantic Dream
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment, Quantic Dream
Release Date: May 2023
Platform: Windows, PS4
The story is episodic, and each episode jumps forward or backward in time. Moreover, each level happens in a different place in the world, with one of the three characters with in-depth stories and personalities.
For example, one of the protagonists is Connor, a high-tech detective android without clear allegiances.
However, the stories are not set. Your choices and the success of your quick actions determine the fate of Detroit, the protagonists, and the side characters. There’re over 80 different endings, and the story can even continue if one of the main characters dies.
These elements make the game intense and the choices heavy. Lastly, here’s a complex web of interconnected branching paths, as the story of the three androids intertwines at various parts of the campaign.The Forest
Developer: Endnight Games
Publisher: Endnight Games
Release Date: April 2023
Platform: PS4, Windows
Also, it’s an immersive title. The game uses minimal icons on the screen to guide you and no map markers. Moreover, crafting and building work through in-game interfaces, like browsing through a manual with your hands or setting up your materials atop a carpet to build.
Then, the story follows a plane crash survivor. You wake up in a strange forest after the accident and find humanoid mutants are living around you. Your goal is going back to society, but there’s a day & night cycle that will make things difficult.
For example, you can explore, gather materials, craft weapons, and build during the day. Then, at night, you must defend yourself from mutants and animals. These systems work from a first-person perspective.
Lastly, because of its elements, The Forest is a more complex game than Firewatch. For example, it has survival horror elements and offers a sandbox experience. Still, it provides a compelling story, complex villains, and a well-put-together set of mechanics.Kona
Publisher: Parabole, Ravenscourt
Release Date: March 2023
Platform: Windows, Xbox One, PS4, Nintendo Switch, Linux, Stadia, Android
You play in first-person perspective as detective Carl Faubert, and the setting is in Northern Canada. You’re to explore surreal events in the village. It’s 1970, and a mysterious blizzard is ravaging Atamipek Lake.
The mechanics are interactive and easy to learn. You drive snow bikes, run, walk, pick up items, see the map, and use things like dynamite. Moreover, you have to solve various puzzles, find clues, and manage survival stats as you explore.
These gameplay elements are immersive and work without interfaces or tutorials. Therefore, they won’t get in the way of a narrative-driven experience. Like Firewatch, it’s short, simple, interactive, and goes along with a chillingly atmospheric soundtrack.
Lastly, the map is open-world, and the story happens in a non-linear manner. You can complete the game at your own pace. However, we left the game for last as it has obvious performance issues like not saving your game, frame drops, or crashing in some areas.
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