Games without Frontiers: 10 games that break the rules

Shoot this, jump on that, collect the other... Computer games may be the media of the 21st Century but players have been pursuing the same objectives since Pong and Pac-Man.

On the very periphery of the industry are some pioneers though - developers attempting to move beyond the Pavlovian paradigm of simple goal pursuit. Some tell stories, others deliberately set out to bewilder, but all make you question what constitutes a computer game. We've picked ten of the best for your PC.

10. Nestlings

Get it here:

Price: Free

A gentle introduction into the world of interactive fiction, Nestlings is Lewis Denby's second foray into the genre. The first of four Half Life 2 mods in this run down, it's a short and creep story.

Though thematically slight, it's a brave mod that challenges your preconceptions. You can't shake the fear that NPC foes will emerge at any turn, pulse rifles blazing, but the final pay off is far more subtle.

9. Minotaur in a China Shop

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Price: Free

Games are all about following rules, aren't they? In most, a failure to stick to them results in one of two outcomes; death or a distinct lack of response. Minotaur in a China Shop plays with that assumption. You're a bullish shop assistant tasked with looking after an antique pottery emporium.

And, though you can amass rewards by sticking to the rules, quietly selling crockery to customers while avoiding breakages, it soon gets boring. Start smashing the place up instead though, and suddenly you're in a different game...

8. Coil

Get it here:

Price: Free

You begin Coil as a single sperm trying to fertilise an ovum. We're not in Super Mario World any more, that's for certain. Coil describes itself as a game "without instructions or directions". There are objectives though, which are revealed through playing and experimenting with simple controls through a series of short levels.  Finishing each unlocks a new section of a parallel story.

7. Small Worlds

Get it here:

Price: Free

Deceptively uncomplicated, Small Worlds takes the exploration component of the common or garden platformer and makes that the entire point. A unique game dynamic enables the world you explore to be revealed one piece at a time, until you can see the entire map. It doesn't look like much and, with nothing to collect and no points to score, it seems curiously aimless, but it's every bit as addictive as playing Tetris on six espressos.

6. Every Day the Same Dream

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Price: Free

Get up, get dressed, drive to work, sit at your desk. Repeat forever... In Every Day the Same Dream you're locked in an eternal cycle, with no escape. Or are you? What happens if you turn left instead of right? What will the boss think if you arrive at the office in your underpants? What if you walk straight past your cubicle and keep going? Again, there's nothing to collect or shoot - but there's a story that reveals itself through a persistent breaking of the rules.


  • Slaanash - November 17, 2010 5:23 a.m.

    The fact that Every Day the Same Dream was mentioned shocked me. O.o
  • 4fromK - April 13, 2010 11:35 a.m.

    wow, coil now wins my honourable award for substance-less piece of artfaggotry bullshit that I shudder to think is being called a videogame. thanks a lot, GR.
  • philipshaw - April 10, 2010 11 a.m.

    Must check these out
  • c1nd3rcell - April 10, 2010 4 a.m.

    I absolutely loved The Path.
  • RebornKusabi - April 9, 2010 11:40 p.m.

    I've seen a "Let's Play" of The Path and it's an extremely unique game and incredibly creepy and insanely unnerving during parts of the game.
  • MEGANEWB - April 9, 2010 10:48 p.m.

    mynotar in a china shop is being played NOW
  • TyeTheCzar - April 9, 2010 3:31 p.m.

    The molleindustria guys who did Every Day the Same Dream also did McDonalds: The Video Game. Despite that game's "disclaimer", none of what happens and needs to be done in the game seems to be really false, which makes it even more disturbing. can tell you more, though.
  • KarlHodge - April 9, 2010 12:32 p.m.

    Copy and paste this link for Every Day the Same Dream:
  • wickedwill19 - April 9, 2010 12:24 p.m.

    Nice feature. The link for Every Day the Same Dream doesn't work though.
  • FrozenImplosion - April 9, 2010 10:21 a.m.

    ^Oh yea! I forgot about Knytt, that was a great game.
  • Rama3392 - April 9, 2010 10:17 a.m.

    What, no Knytt Stories ? I'm disappointed...
  • hardcore_gamer1990 - April 9, 2010 9:57 a.m.

    I'd heard of all but 3 of these... And I personally love The Path :) Off to smash things up as a minotaur then....
  • Andy_Summers - April 9, 2010 9:56 a.m.

    These all look pretty cool. Gmod Idiot Box by DaBoSchitt shows some of the wonders you can make with Garry's Mod.

Showing 1-13 of 13 comments

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