Emotional games don’t aim to make you cry, but they build great characters and relatable stories backdropped by environments that stay with you for a long time.
There are super fun games that promise hours and hours of enjoyment, and then there are emotional games that offer that and so much more. These games, some of which are beautifully simple and painfully short, will stick with you long after you’ve finished them because of how relatable they are, and how they’ve managed to create characters and experiences that convey the very human reality of loneliness and grief while journeying towards hope.
Below is a short list of games that deal with things that we often refuse to talk about. Immersing in them feels like a catharsis, and they may just offer you comfort through experiences you never expect.
Gris won’t take you long to finish. Four to six hours is more than enough to go through the entire game, but this platformer tells its story in beautiful splashes of colors backdropped by amazing music that you’ll find yourself coming back to it with a twinge in your heart.
Gris, which means “gray” in Catalan, has you playing as a young woman who has lost her voice, traveling through thematic worlds of color and following ruins of memories to piece together. The goal initially is to learn how to sing again while collecting stars to pass into a new world, but half-way through the game you realize that the stars are just there to help you through your journey of facing your own loneliness and the mortality of the person you love the most. It is an award-winning game about going through loss and depression, until one reaches acceptance and hope.
Ghostwire: Tokyo is a first-person paranormal buddy cop game that initially masks itself as an episodic horror fest filled with traditional Japanese ghost and ghouls. As the protagonist Akito who finds himself possessed by another being named KK, you go through an empty, foggy Shibuya district fighting demons, rescuing kidnapped spirits, and cleansing temples in the hopes of restoring humans that have lost their souls.
The journey, however, takes you through Akito’s own experience with guilt and death, and how he tries to escape them only to realize that he has only been trying to escape his self-made prison. Towards the end, this emotional game is less a ghost detective story and more of a lesson in facing one’s sense of loss and looking back without anger.
Ghostwire: Tokyo is available on PC and on PS5.
Final Fantasy XV
Final Fantasy XV is a controversial title especially since Square Enix dropped a lot of its promised DLCs. Fans are also polarized by its storytelling, especially years after it was initially introduced as an edgier Final Fantasy Versus XIII. Despite this, Final Fantasy XV has managed to keep its characters and their relationship with each other strong. What starts out as a road trip to have Prince Noctis marry the oracle Lunafreya quickly becomes a journey towards maturity and sacrifice as Noctis loses everything in an instant: his home, his father, and is own future.
More than teaching about loss and acceptance, Final Fantasy XV is a lesson in cherishing the present. It’s very easy to move through life without giving the supposedly boring parts a second look, until such a time when one realizes that the “boring” parts are actually one’s best adventures. Final Fantasy XV is story about seeing the mundane as the most memorable times in one’s life, and eventually letting go without regrets.
Final Fantasy is available on PC and PS4.
Journey is less a story about loss and more of a story about realizing that despite darkness in life, there are others willing to help you through it. Journey connects you with other players and you wordlessly accompany each other through deep caves and high mountains in order to reach the peak of light.
The beauty of Journey is the simplicity of its message: you are not alone. You travel together with companions, literally and figuratively lifting each other up to go beat obstacles, and sometimes, just being together for no reason other than to keep each other company.
Journey was released in 2012, and still remains one of the best indie titles of all time. This emotional game is a touching reminder that through grief and loss, there’s always someone looking out for you.
Journey is available on PC, Playstation 3 and 4, and on iOS devices.
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