There isn't a day that goes by where we don't think of Myst. Specifically, its labyrinth of intricate puzzles and thought-provoking storyline, two important pieces that were coated with a striking level of intrigue. Since its impeccable balance set the benchmark for puzzle games all over the world, like-minded creators have looked to replicate the prowess that only Myst could fashion. Much to our surprise, only a select few have since come close to breaking the very mold from whence it came.
Of course, we share a love-hate relationship with puzzle games even at the best of times. Dare we say that we've abandoned a game once or twice in the past, usually over one specific no-nonsense obstacle that refused to unclog the stud that stopped our brains from churning. On that note, Myst sure had a lot of studs, and it gave them out like candy wrappers in a recycling depot. Yet, we loved it for what it was, much like we love these distant cousins of theirs for all the same reasons.
Riven served as a sequel to Myst, though a great deal of gamers missed it when it came out in '97, partly because it didn't accrue the same level of hype as its predecessor. That said, the point and click game did go on to feature an awe-inspiring setting that boasted an equal amount of fascinating puzzles and plotlines. Similar in design, and yet oddly worlds apart.
Riven takes you to the Age of Riven, a network of stunning isles and cloudy vistas. A network that, under the thumb of Gehn, is on the brink of collapse. Once again assuming the role of the Stranger, you must venture deep into the book to locate old friend Atrus' wife, a prisoner who remains captive under Gehn's impenetrable fortress. Through thick and thin, you'll have to work to uncover a series of clues if you plan on ridding the world of oppression.
Obduction can only be branded as a spiritual successor to Cyan Worlds' earlier works, Myst and Riven. Though, unlike its predecessors, Obduction features a palette of updated visuals and a compelling roster of alienated characters. Gameplay-wise, it flows from an almost identical vein as the other two, and it certainly packs two smoking barrels worth of signature puzzles that only Cyan Worlds can dare fathom.
Like Riven, Obduction asks that players unravel a series of events on an alien planet, a place that holds you captive as you look for a method of escape. Over a lofty amount of time, you'll come to learn of all the world's secrets, as well as the purpose of its existence, and how it plays a part in the downfall of civilization. Heavy stuff, true to Cyan Worlds' usual arsenal of warped creations.
3. The Room VR: A Dark Matter
Oculus Quest users have an abundance of puzzles games to employ into their arsenal, though only few hit as hard as The Room VR: A Dark Matter, a prominent jewel that bleeds unnerving atmosphere and character. And, being a VR-based experience, it ups the ante by providing you with a deeper level of immersion that others fail to conjure.
The Room VR: A Dark Matter blends reality with illusion, using its platform to stage an unusual series of events that can only be solved through persistence and a level-headed frame of mind. As you look to uncover the disappearance of an esteemed Egyptologist, you'll have to unlock and tap into your greatest strengths, using whatever power you have to solve an otherworldly case.
2. The Witness
The Witness was inspired by Cyan Worlds' Myst, and it shows, left, right and center. Both settings ushered in a new wave of captivating puzzles and island secrets, and each employed the same tender loving care that made past works celebrated by the vast majority of puzzle fans. As a result, The Witness wound up becoming a fantastic video game, and stood as further proof that the genre still had a whole lot of life left in it.
Based over a chain of rich and colorful regions, The Witness lays out a thread of intricate puzzles for you to solve. For every code you crack and step you take, another piece of the mystery snaps together to assemble the complete portrait. Understanding that very portrait is a matter of perspective, but it is a fascinating trail to examine, even if you're only collecting the pieces without any context to support them.
1. Outer Wilds
Outer Wilds was a masterpiece that took the world by storm, setting a benchmark for each and every aspiring creator that knelt before it. Although relatively compact and elementary, its story was one that none had ever told before, and it bled through an ocean of memorable characters and visually stunning vistas.
As an overambitious astronaut with a head locked on exploring the faraway planets, you find yourself ready to embrace a selection of new worlds and otherworldly creations. However, when mankind is wiped out after the sun goes supernova, you find yourself back at square one, initiating what can only be described as a 22-minute time loop. To put a halt to the impending doom, you'll have to accumulate enough knowledge in each passing time loop, using your memory as a way to navigate through the labyrinth of clues. No pressure.
So, what's your take? Do you agree with our top five? Let us know over on our socials here or down in the comments below.