'Adults Only' games

Heavy Rain

There is little that can compare emotionally to the death of one’s child, especially if that loss is due to a moment of ordinary carelessness. Ethan turns his back for just a moment and his son Jason wanders off, as kids do. The scene where Ethan desperately searches for his young boy at the mall is the stuff of many an internet joke, but the emotion driving it is all too real. That same desperation drives Ethan through the rest of the game as he tries to rescue his second son after he’s kidnapped by the Origami Killer. It’s not hard to tap into the headspace that Ethan needs to cut off his own finger to satisfy his son’s captor. What would you do to rescue your son? Hell, what wouldn’t you do? But themes of parental sacrifice aren’t really what make Heavy Rain better appreciated as an adult; it’s the contrast between Ethan’s life before and after Jason’s death that does it. The anguish with which he tries to have a normal conversation with his surviving son, the despair of knowing that his life has been destroyed because of one moment’s simple mistake. Our happiness is such a fragile thing, and our lives can change forever in minutes. -Susan Arendt 

D2

Kenji Ito clearly looked at the 1980s films of Sam Raimi and John Carpenter and thought, “I can do that!” His last big game, Dreamcast’s D2, is chock full of the bananas gore and body horror that populated Evil Dead 2 (where folks are also trapped in cabins with monsters) and The Thing (trapped in an arctic setting with monsters.) Nudity and violence don’t make D2 an adult game, though. Awkward and stilted as it is all these years later, Eno’s game earnestly explores issues of trust between its characters Laura, Kim, and Parker. As the game unfolds, its crazy story about human cloning and alien invasions is just a surface facade for a weird meditation on what it means to be alive, a creature that is likely to outlive its parents. Pretentious and overwrought it may be - Laura literally has to destroy a womb-shaped supercomputer with the mind of her own mother - D2 aims high and comes close to serving the lofty themes it’s reaching for. -Anthony John Agnello 

SOMA

Horror in games is usually pretty straightforward - there’s a monster, it is scary, it wants to eat your face, oh yes, there is also some blood and a ghost and perhaps some spiky traps and spiders. Simple, but effective. The horror of SOMA, however, is much less direct. There are a few monsters shambling around the underwater research base in which you distressingly find yourself after an extinction-level event on the Earth’s surface, but they’re just boogiemen. The really terrifying parts of SOMA have to do with questions identity and isolation. If I make a copy of you, right now, which one of you is the “real” you? If the original you dies and the copy lives on, is the copy now the “real” you? The truth about how those boogiemen came to exist is creepy, but nowhere near as chilling as the realization of your fate in SOMA’s final moments. -Susan Arendt 

It's not just that the gore in the latest Mortal Kombat features grotesquely lifelike intestines and skeletal structures being repeatedly smashed, sliced, and incinerated in full view of the camera. Beyond all the stomach-churning visuals, Mortal Kombat X is a fighting game that actually gives a damn about story - and it's a shockingly mature one at that. Against all odds, NetherRealm Studios managed to tell a layered tale about uncomfortable relationships with estranged parents, all while showcasing an interdimensional fighting tournament that adheres to the series' lore. It may be one of the few games on the planet to feature a butt-kicking mother in her 40s, and only adults will be able to truly appreciate all the references to late '80s / early '90s action cinema that are overflowing from every fight scene. -Lucas Sullivan 

Gone Home

The Greenbriar home is painstakingly real in Gone Home, and not just in how it recreates a teenager’s bedroom in 1995. While Kaitlin Greenbriar, who you control in the game, is the only character in the house, the lives of her family practically bleed out of the walls. Her father’s struggle to be a good father, husband, and to overcome the traumas of an emotionally abusive parent and failure as an artist comes out as you explore. Her mother’s fight to keep her family together while also resisting the temptation of an extramarital affair also comes to light. Finally, Kaitlin’s sister Sam is coming to terms with her sexual awakening in a less than tolerant community. All of this family history is absorbed by a character who is returning home for the first time after more than a year away, grown into her own independent experience. The entire freaking game is a dissection of adulthood, its responsibilities, and challenges. -Anthony John Agnello 

Silent Hill: Shattered Memories

Every game in the stellar Silent Hill series deals with mature, complex themes embedded in a truly horrifying atmosphere with immaculate sense of place. But Shattered Memories is worth singling out for the way it wrestles with ideas about reconstructing your past and coming to terms with loss. The framing device is brilliant, where your answers (and even your gaze around the room) during psychiatric evaluations will inform certain events and details in the ominous environments. It's a game that blurs the line between commentary on you, the hero, and you, the actual person playing, which was years ahead of its time and makes all the scares feel that much more personal. -Lucas Sullivan 

Hotline Miami

Drugs, hookers, wanton death and destruction, repeated instantly and endlessly, all set to a throbbing neon-drenched soundtrack. Even with its pixelated, retro look, Hotline Miami is not for the faint of heart, as it thrusts you into one of a dozen or so murder rooms, sprinkles in a few weapons and enemies, and asks you to go to town. The pulsing colors, the four-on-the-floor tunes, the alluring die/repeat cycle of its puzzle-violence - all of this combines to draw you in, hypnotize you, desensitize you, until you finally bash in the last guard's head with a lead pipe and everything comes to a screeching halt. The room is dead silent, blood is splattered everywhere, and you're forced to walk back through your handiwork and reflect on how your actions led you here. As brash and loud as it is, Hotline Miami is also brooding, sinister, and contemplative; an existential crisis on the dance floor of a club owned by John Carpenter. -David Roberts