There is an ongoing debate between gamers and non-gamers about whether the medium of video games should be considered an art form. It might be hard to see the argument in some more explosion-laden titles, but many video games require players to use creativity, problem solving, and inventiveness, and those seem to make a good case for artistic value. There’s even research that found video games stimulate kids’ imaginations.
Here are six games where designers thought outside the box to create experiences that push players’ creativity and puzzle-solving skills to the max. They may not definitively prove the artistry of video games, but they’ll certainly make you tap deeper into your imagination than most types of entertainment.
Anything is possible in the world of Minecraft. It began as an open-world PC game created by a single Swedish designer. From that first alpha version, the game quickly went viral and soon became an internet sensation. The PC version of the game has three modes: survival, hardcore, and creative. The survival and hardcore modes focus on attending to basic human needs — food, shelter, sleep — while fending off the monsters that spawn in dark places.
There’s plenty of room for wild inventions in those modes, but creative mode is where Minecraft’s full potential shines. In creative mode, you have unlimited resources and no need to watch your health. Enterprising gamers have recreated real-world landmarks, from the Empire State Building to Notre Dame, as well as other pop culture icons such as a replica of the Starship Enterprise from Star Trek, a Harry Potter quidditch field, or the house from Pixar movie Up. Minecraft has even been used to create working computers or even other types of games.
Minecraft is now available in a slightly more limited version for the Xbox 360 that allows for online multiplayer games.
If you’re a new player, check out our Minecraft beginner’s guide on this addictive game.
Possibly the most innovative entry in the field of new games with an old aesthetic, Fez is a beautiful imagining of a physics game. Much like Minecraft, it is meant to look like an old game, with its geometric, two-dimensional world.
The discovery of a third dimension at the beginning of the game is the source of its magic. Perception is reality in Fez. Say that the platform you need to reach is too far for a jump — just turn the level 90 degrees left or right, and you may find that it isn’t so far out of your grasp.
Like many of the games on this list, Fez encourages you to challenge your understanding of space and physics. It has many sub-puzzles that might use only the tiniest of hints, such as the pattern of the vibration in your controller, to lead you to a solution. Only the most creative players will be able to complete every challenge.
What is it about modern 8-bit games that leads to such inspired lunacy? Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP has a darker, more cynical edge than most puzzle games but possesses a similar base concept: to drop you into a strange world with next to no guidance and then send you off on a quest that requires solving abstract noodle-scratchers.
This game was originally designed for the iPhone and the iPad (download Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP for iPhone and iPad), taking advantage of the ability to use those devices horizontally and vertically in clever ways. The touch controls translate well to the PC’s mouse-controlled version, though. Whatever platform you choose, prepare for a unique gaming experience.