35 Perspective-Bending Games That Will Flip Your World Upside Down
Fez demands close attention. You navigate its intricate world by rotating your perspective of the platforms you stand upon, but it doesn't stop there. The game is also steeped in cryptic symbols. Once you unlock them, everything you saw before communicates new levels of meaning.
2. Rez HD
Rez is an on-rails shooter that defies simple explanation. It's at once a rhythm game, a synesthete's delight, and an impassioned treatise on human evolution and the technological singularity. You won't emerge from its pulsing corridors the same.
3. Castlevania: Symphony of the Night
Symphony of the Night has a pile of secrets that are anything but miserable. It initially appears to be a quick trek through Dracula's castle, before a midway twist turns everything you played before on its head. Its expert integration of action, RPG stat building, and Metroid-like exploration remains peerless.
4. Super Mario Galaxy
Just when you thought Mario had run out of ideas, Nintendo EAD unleashed a blast of crystallized platforming ingenuity. As Mario runs circles around planets with localized gravity, the game's designers run circles around every stale conceit that had plagued the 3D platformer for years. An unmissable experience.
echocrome comes off like M.C. Escher with a fever and a head wound. Densely stacked geometries and impossible objects combine to create puzzles that shift along with your perspective. A sequel for the PS3 allowed you to combine 3D glasses with motion control for a true mind warp.
6. Super Paper Mario
When Super Paper Mario released for the Wii, it marked a departure from the series' RPG roots the franchise has yet to recover from. Taken on its own merits though, Super Paper Mario's central mechanic (toggling between 2D and 3D views on the fly) allowed for a fascinating exploration of the Mushroom Kingdom.
It may seem like old hat now, but Tempest was revolutionary. Its initial design began as a 3D remake of Space Invaders, but it quickly evolved into something greater. While it shares the vector graphics of Asteroids, Tempest implemented them with panache, creating a tube from the future that seemed to suck you into the screen.
8. Papers, Please
Games can offer new perspectives beyond their visuals, and Papers, Please is the premiere candidate for this task. You're thrust into the world of an immigration official, and as ethical conundrums arise, what once seemed like a mundane task blossoms into moral complexity.
Crush builds an entire puzzle game out of Super Paper Mario's simple transposition of 2D and 3D views, iterating on the mechanic until your brain has turned inside out from spatial reasoning overload. Delightfully overwhelming.
Nier received lukewarm reviews upon its release, but it definitely merits a closer look. It requires multiple run throughs of the main story before you encounter devastating character revelations that change the way you look at the game.
Britain's contributions to game development remain undervalued. When Elite arrived for the BBC Microcomputer in 1984, it was like nothing that had come before. Using wireframe graphics to create unparalleled 3D objects (enhanced by hidden line removal), Elite was a technical showpiece. You can even trace open-ended games like GTA and No Man's Sky back to this groundbreaking game.
12. LSD: Dream Emulator
While many games let you navigate psychedelic dream worlds, few take that concept quite so literally as LSD. The Japan exclusive game has recently garnered a cult status due to its popularity with YouTube Let's Players, making it easy to peek into its visionscape of celestial nymphs and abyss demons.
Terry Cavanagh's brilliantly stripped down indie game gets its title from the shape of the game's trillions of spikes, which you'll inevitably smash into countless times during your quest to reunite your spaceship's crew. Unlike most platformers, your character cannot jump to safety. You only have your wits and a gravity switch to aide you through this ravenous cavern of tricky traps.
14. Spec Ops: The Line
Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness has wormed its way into games. Spec Ops even features its own Kurtz stand-in named Colonel John Konrad. What begins as a standard military shooter based in a sand-storm sunken Dubai, devolves into a wrenching tale of chaos that subverts the bravado so common in its genre.
15. The Unfinished Swan
The Unfinished Swan gives you a blank canvas: an infinite white space with no definition. Until you unload globs of paint onto its shrouded geometries, exposing baroque structures that were hidden within plain view. It's a fascinating experiment in re-evaluating your surroundings for hermetic secrets.
This Commodore Amiga game (also referred to as Tower Toppler) featured a graphical innovation where your main character scaled cylindrical towers that rotated with your movement, lending an impressive sense of depth to its 2D world. It required no new technology to pull off - it merely required a unique perspective no one had yet attempted.
17. Killer 7
Killer 7 remains a revelation: a screaming bullet of stylistic verve and pitch-black surrealism. While it has an adventure game pedigree, it still remains its own sublime beast. With talking decapitated heads, a cultish terrorist group named Heaven Smile, and a masked luchador assassin, no game has yet matched Killer 7's fiercely original vision.
18. Virtual Boy Wario Land
While the Virtual Boy probably should have never launched as a consumer product, its micro library of 22 games featured several noteworthy innovations, chief among them Wario's 3D adventure. With dangerous objects swinging to the foreground, you had a real sense of the physical dimensions your anti-hero inhabited. You can see many of the design tenants explored here in more successful 3DS games.
19. Zeno Clash
You can always count on Chilean indie developers ACE Team to deliver something strikingly original. Zeno Clash is ostensibly a first-person brawler, but its setting may be one of the most unusual worlds you'll encounter in a game. Imagine a depressed Terry Gilliam on mescaline and you're halfway there.
20. Hard Drivin'
Hard Drivin' was one of the very first racing games to feature 3D polygon environments, as opposed to scaled 2D sprites. Throw in stunt loops for your car to race through and it felt like an arcade cabinet from the future had transported itself to 1989. It even featured instant replays of crashes, pre-dating Burnout by two decades.
21. Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker
Captain Toad features concentrated miniature worlds for you to flip over in your hands like a Rubik's cube. Because your character can't jump, you're forced to examine your surroundings from new perspectives, hunting for secret levers and platforms that allow you to navigate its labyrinthine dioramas.
22. And Yet It Moves
Borrowing its title from Galileo's famous snarky retort, And Yet It Moves is a platform curiousity that bucks tradition. You rotate the ripped paper collage world until the floor beneath your feet becomes the ceiling. As the game progresses, the sense of confined caverns loosens until you find yourself in wide-open vistas.
23. Super Mario 3D Land
It may have taken a couple decades, but Nintendo finally found a way to make the inventive level design displayed in Virtual Boy Wario Land into a successful game with mass appeal. With spectacular 3D effects and a razor sharp distillation of Mario's history, Super Mario 3D Land singlehandedly justifies the purchase of a 3DS.
24. A Mind Forever Voyaging
The pinnacle of Infocom's text adventures, A Mind Forever Voyaging is mind-bending interactive fiction at its best. Set in a dystopian future where kids commit suicide due to overstimulation in Joybooths, this PC game explores complex existential themes, artificial intelligence, and nuclear destruction.
25. Portal 2
The first Portal game deserves a nod for its original breakthrough, but Portal 2 brings its trademark physics and spatial manipulation puzzles to dizzying heights. You'll often encounter obstacles that seem insurmountable. Moments later you'll laugh in delight as you whiz past them in a flurry of hard light bridges and propulsion gels.
26. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Trials and Tribulations
The Japanese title for the Phoenix Wright games is Turnabout Trials, a moniker the series lives up to. Trials and Tribulations is the Rashomon of video games, constantly playing with your assumptions about characters. Once you learn their true motivations, you'll find yourself alive with empathy for even the most dastardly villains.
27. 3-D WorldRunner
Space Harrier certainly marked this territory first, but 3-D WorldRunner for the NES upgraded its forward-scrolling platforming with the inclusion of 3D glasses, making it one of the very first stereoscopic 3D video games. It's still absorbing to play today, and it's also one of the early works by the team that went on to create Final Fantasy.
Tearaway doesn't just break the fourth wall; it takes a bulldozer and demolishes it, letting you push and prod at its world's inhabitants, or even leer at them through a window in the blazing sun above.
Pushmo was an early download title for the 3DS that really played to the system's strengths. Collapsible platforms interlock in complex ways, and the 3D view allowed you to truly wrangle with the depth and shape of the game's towering puzzles.
30. Museum of Simulation Technology
If you've ever taken a wacky picture where it looks like you're holding a giant building in the palm of your hand, then you're familiar with the concept of forced perspective. Museum of Simulation Technology takes this premise and builds an entire game out of manipulating objects to become larger (or smaller) than they first appeared.
31. Picross 3D
Picross is one of Nintendo's best long-running puzzle series. Picross 3D took the imaginative leap of bringing its Sudoku styled brain teasers into three full dimensions. It works surprisingly well, making you feel like a sculptor and a brain surgeon as you rotate a mathematical cube and chisel it down to its core surprise.
32. Monument Valley
Like echochrome which preceded it, Monument Valley extrapolates the surreal stairways of an M.C. Escher sketch into a beautiful game filled with winding pathways and sacred geometry. It's simply one of the best uses for your cell phone.
Before Wolfenstein 3D, there was the cyberpunk masterpiece Interphase. Inspired by the sci-fi novel Neuromancer, you play a hacker breaking into a corporation's defense system to stop it from destroying people's minds. You can see early glimpses of games like Doom, StarFox, and Rez in its polygonal virtual environments.
34. The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds
A Link Between Worlds is more than just a throwback to the classic days of Zelda, it's also the inverse side to Super Paper Mario's perspective tinkering. Instead of expanding the world you explore, you compress Link to a thin 2D object, allowing him to slink through secret crevices and crawl along the walls of dungeons. Link would be right at home in Edwin Abbot's Flatland.
Many debate whether Proteus deserves to be called a "game," but as a work of art, Proteus succeeds magnificently. You explore a procedurally generated world that seems both alien and oddly familiar, only to be whisked away to a new location filled with surprises. It's a fractal experience that invites reflection on life itself's randomness and procedural generation.