Surrealism was defined, back in 1924 by Andre Breton, as “Psychic automatism in its pure state, by which one proposes to express — verbally, by means of the written word, or in any other manner — the actual functioning of thought. Dictated by the thought, in the absence of any control exercised by reason, exempt from any aesthetic or moral concern.”
I think we can all agree: that’s a trip.
The overall mindset of surrealism is both thought-provoking and a bit confusing, and it lends itself very well to video games. Some of the best games out there make you look at life in a different way and confuse you just enough to remain interesting. These top five games are guaranteed to please any surrealist-leaning mind.
In fifth place is Genesis Noir, a stunningly rendered universe-exploration game from Feral Cat Den. This black and white mystery across the universe follows you as a detective attempting to save the one he loves from, well, the expansion of the universe. The game mixes the creation of the universe with the charm of an old film noir mystery. The more you read into the story and discover all it’s trying to tell you, the trippier of an experience you’ll have. Walking the border between surreal and old-fashioned mystery, Genesis Noir is a great place to start if you want to jump into games that will mess with your mind.
For number four we have Rusty Lake Hotel, an intriguing option from the Rusty Lake & Cube Escape series from Rusty Lake. Rusty Lake Hotel is a point-and-click adventure game with a morbid twist. I don’t want to give away the true nature of this game; to learn its intricacies, you’ll have to play through it yourself. That being said, the game’s first, immediate appeal is the animal-nature of the characters. With friendly faces like “Mr. Deer,” how could you not fall in love with this surrealist masterpiece? Overall, this game is fairly straightforward for a mysterious puzzle game, but there’s something about it— a certain twist of perspective— that grants it its space on this list.
Right in the middle at number three is Papetura, a puzzle game crafted entirely out of paper from Petums. Papetura is exceptional and doesn’t rely on only one aspect of the creation of the game for that exceptional nature. The gameplay itself is wonderful, as you point-and-click your way through a puzzle to save a magical kingdom from dark threats. The visuals, however, really bring this game to life. Made entirely out of paper, this is one of the most visually impressive games in existence. It’s hard to put into words just how beautiful this game is; you really just need to play for yourself to enjoy the surreal nature of Papetura.
In second place is the delightfully abstract puzzle Manifold Gardenfrom William Chyr Studio. Manifold Garden is a puzzle game where you’re within the puzzle. At times, your viewpoint makes it feels as though you’re shrunk down to the size of an atom, and at other times, it feels as though you’re looking at the game from far above. The puzzles you solve as you make your way through this maze of a game will have you questioning everything you know about what is up, down, and all around.
And coming in at number one is the superbly mind-bending adventure Superliminalfrom Pillow Castle. Superliminal is one of the most creative, boggling games ever made. In the game, you play as a person undergoing a type of sleep study where you have the freedom to act out scenarios that would be impossible in your waking life. In particular, you go through a series of rooms with a mix of objects in them, and your perception and manipulation of the objects has a direct effect on how those objects appear. If you’re looking for a game that will mess with your head and plunge you into a work of art, Superliminal is the title for you.
If you’ve always wanted to step into a work of surrealism, any of these games will be a great place to start. Any one of them will mix up your mind and give you a new way of looking at the world. And, after all, that’s what surrealism’s all about.