The 10 best artsy PC games

You can tell that videogaming has come of age. On the one hand, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 is selling millions of copies and appalling people with its brazen meatheadedness, and on the other, there was a recent symposium that took place at the Woodruff Arts Centre in Atlanta called ‘The Art History of Games’.

Games might have become a bigger moneymaking industry than movies or music, but they’re also enabling the bohemian elite to be provocatively radical and weird in ways that could not previously have been imagined.

Following on from the Woodruff Art History event, we thought it might be time to tweak our own fashionable haircuts, insouciantly slip a copy of Camus into our blazer pockets, and head down to the gallery to see what’s hanging on the wall of hip. No one today would dream of being so gauche as to ask “are games art?” – we all know they are. But which are the artiest? To find the ten most artistic offerings in PC gaming, walk this way.

The Void

Find it here on Direct2Drive

“Ukrainian existentialism is so 2009, don’t you think?”

From the same developers as the equally surreal Pathologic, The Void puts you in purgatory: a grey world of truly horrible creatures and weird ecosystems. It revolves around colour: you gather it from the world, process it in your body, then daub things with it to manipulate your surroundings. Since each game day brings with it a splash of a different colour, it’s an art game in both a superficial and a real sense.

Every hue has a different purpose, both when it’s inside your body and when it’s splashed onto the world. Then there are the characters and beasts you meet: weird amalgams of limbs, boobs, and spiky metal and nightmarish viscera. It’s the weirdest vision of a virtual world you’ll find in modern PC gaming. 

Art moment
Bringing a dead tree back to life by giving it some of your colour, then returning to find it thriving later. Then taking all its colour.

The Marriage

“Poignant playful deconstruction, or a case of bad graphics?”

The gentleman (for he is a gentleman) in charge of the The Sims franchise at Electronic Arts, Rod Humble, also makes games that he says are intended to be art. Most talked about is The Marriage, an abstract game of shapes and colours. There are two squares, a pink one and a blue one. These represent the masculine and feminine elements of a marriage. The objective is to get these two elements to ‘kiss’, which they have to do to sustain the ‘marriage’. However, mousing over them to move them together also reduces them, until a square vanishes, and the marriage is over.

Art moment
Humble says that this game is meant to represent “how marriage feels”, and if there’s an art-moment within this strange little game it’s the point at which you understand what he means. It makes you wonder what other abstract or complex feelings games could represent.

The Path

“For a game called The Path, it’s surprisingly non-linear.”

Tale of Tales, Belgian self-proclaimed art games developers, have been rubbing the games community up the wrong way for several years now, with comments about the lack of innovation and meaning in games. The Path is their most effective work: a sinister take on growing up, told through the activities of a number of girls who are walking to grandma’s house, down the titular path. Referencing Red Riding Hood, there is a ‘wolf’ waiting off the path for each of the girls, and meeting it changes the end of the game. Bleak and beautiful, this is a true art game with some deeply disconcerting themes.

Art moment
The art moment in The Path comes when you experience the difference between Granny’s house at the end of the path before and after interaction with your wolf. Meet the wolf and things go very badly indeed.


“Judith is a game about control, because you don’t have any.”

An extremely low-res first-person adventure game about two couples: in the past, Judith moves into her new husband’s castle and explores its dark secrets by night. In the present, a man searches for his missing lover in the same now abandoned castle. There’s a steadily rising atmosphere of unease, a sense that the simple text and images are hiding something sinister. Sure enough, it gets dark fast. Each new room you explore in the castle’s dungeon is stranger and darker than the last, until the final ominous door. Controversially, the game wrests control from you at key moments, forcing you to deal with the consequences of actions you didn’t choose to commit.

Art moment
Judith dreams of a man who’s lost his wife between each of her segments, and the dreams start to seem increasingly prophetic of her own probable fate.


  • zaldar - May 14, 2010 6:58 p.m.

    So what about sleep is death? I played some of the creators other games (passage) after looking at them on this site and they were disturbing but wonderful experiences. He really is somewhat of a nihilist, but man does he make great games...
  • Apollomon - May 11, 2010 10:20 a.m.

    I wouldnt say the twist at end makes Braid art, however the way the game plays and the story unfolds would be considered plays through like little sense as that makes... best thing about art though? everyones opinion can be different- biggest reason why video games as a category cant be discouraged as an art form...i had to write loads of reports on different topics with issues such as this, indcluding one on games as art...the amount of evidence that stacks up to games being art against them not is uncanny
  • number1hitjam - May 9, 2010 6:21 a.m.

    mondo medicals is messed up.
  • crumbdunky - May 9, 2010 3:34 a.m.

    Braid is NOT art. One twist doesn't make a little platformer with an overrated gimmick into a work of art. No, it just allows you press guys to bring up a game that most people thought was OK at best and creepy at worst. TBH the little fella reminds me of the bloody childcatcher in CCBB!
  • CH3BURASHKA - May 8, 2010 7:20 p.m.

    The makers of The Path also have made a game about an old woman which would totally fit in this category. Check it out.
  • TyeTheCzar - May 8, 2010 5:31 p.m.

    Why haven't you mentioned Yume Nikki? That's pretty much one of the most bizarre and disturbing freeware games out there.
  • denyeverything - May 8, 2010 2:48 p.m.

    Ehhh. I have to disagree with Bioshock/Braid being on the list. Great games. Cool ideas. But artsy? I think that's more commentators making them out to be more than they are. Of course, what should take their spots I have no idea, so maybe they're a "best we can do" kind of thing.
  • philipshaw - May 8, 2010 10:31 a.m.

    Have to agree with Bioshock being on the list
  • J0NO99 - May 8, 2010 5:54 a.m.

    @TheGodEmperor You see Bioshock gets the praise because of the Ayn Rand ideals, the philosophies and the Art Deco (all among other things) involved. Rapture is an entire game based on exploring a world where the philosophies of ethics are stretched (and in that lies the art of Bioshock). Lets also not forget that one moment where the words "would you kindly" meant something a lot more than a polite way of saying "please" and what that meant for choice in video games. So I can see why it would be included over System Shock. Sadly I haven't play Deus Ex so I refuse to comment on a game I know nothing about but Bioshock is right up there as an artistic game that can throw dow with the best of them.
  • DaBadGuy - May 8, 2010 4:04 a.m.

    This goes to show that art does exist in video games, at least to me, maybe not everyone. I had never heard of the Void, and it looks awesome. Re-Captcha: cuss inequality......really?
  • JohnnyMaverik - May 7, 2010 10:57 p.m.

    > TheGodEmperor Because it deserves the praise, but your not wrong, Deus Ex and System Shock two deserve their share aswell, and dont get it as often as they should. Don't hate on the inclusion on Bioshock, hate on the lack of Deus Ex and SS2. @ Channel4 This is a list of pc games, MGS2 on the PC was a completely rubbish port of the title.
  • JohnnyMaverik - May 7, 2010 10:54 p.m.

    > Where is TalkRadar 100?! Yea because Jim Rossignol of PC Gamer UK, writer of a nearly one month old article that's just been recycled onto GR is really guna know where TalkRadar 100 is...
  • PurplePancake - May 7, 2010 10:22 p.m.

    Oh man, Every Day is the Same Dream has some awesome music. And you can jump.
  • Ded - May 7, 2010 9:53 p.m.

    Nice article :) I've actually played half of these games too.
  • Channel4 - May 7, 2010 9:44 p.m.

    I feel MGS2 should be on this even though it's mainly a PS2 game. Bioshock's plot twist is almost exactly the same as MGS2s but nowhere near as interesting or powerful, Fission Mailed.
  • TheGodEmperor - May 7, 2010 9:12 p.m.

    So here's a question.... why is everyone overrating Bioshock so much but not oh.. Deus Ex or System Shock. The games that this game had a lot of foundation in (really System Shock). Man I hate people who think Sci Fi isn't artistic. Sci Fi has some really artistic statements made in the genre. :\
  • zer0hvk - May 7, 2010 9:01 p.m.

    awesome article, a lot of these games I didn't even know about, so, thanks a lot for that! :)
  • TURbo - May 7, 2010 8:41 p.m.

    Where is TalkRadar 100?!

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