Living on the weird side of life is often not where you want to be, but let’s be honest, it’s so much more fun. Conforming to the norm is what most of us are expected to do because it’s the path of least resistance in life, but being a part of the cardboard cutout horde doesn’t have that sweet temptation of standing out. We all have that urge to be unique, to not just be Generic Citizen #0938 that walks and talks like everyone else, but often we’re forced into it by it society since being strange is often rewarded with confusion at the least and ridicule at worst.
Games share the same fate in many ways. Being weird is often not something that’s marketable and you’ll hear the term “cult classic” a lot when hearing about games with ambitiously strange ideas and sensibilities. People are content with Man With Gun Walking Toward Camera games with nothing really to say because it’s simple. It’s what everyone else is doing. But when you take a walk on the wild side, you will find treasures that you never expected.
Today we’re looking at five weird games, but it’s important to note that these are games that I have personally played and finished. I know that there are some extremely weird Japanese games out there or the unfathomable strangeness of some extremely low budget indie titles on Steam, but I won’t be able to speak to them at all. These games have some stories to tell and their existence sometimes carries some significance to the industry as a whole. Without further ado, let’s get weird.
Conception II: Children of the Seven Stars
Whenever I think of strange games, this is the one I usually default to almost instantly. Conception is a wild JRPG series and I learned this when I found myself playing the second instalment. It’s easier if I just give you a summary of the game. You play as a high school student who attends a school that offers both regular classes and is also a training facility for demon hunters. So far, pretty normal, but the male student you play possesses an abnormal amount of ether inside him that he can utilize by, and I’m not kidding, mating with his female classmates to conceive what are called Star Children who can be born to fight for you.
Yeah. You make babies with the teenage girls in your school and then you throw them into battle. It’s literally called “classmating”. This insane idea is played hilariously straight since the game doesn’t really acknowledge just how strange the premise is. It plays a lot like a generic high school-themed JRPG and the relationships in the game are very simple and generic as well. Everyone sort of just acts like it’s another part of life.
It isn’t as graphic as you may think either. Once you go to a church and pick a girl to mate with (again, not kidding), you turn into beings of light who merge together in a featureless void. Once it’s done, your new child appears and they’re ready for battle. It’s a pretty fun if slightly repetitive game as well and after a while, you get used to the idea that you’re basically a sex god with a harem of eligible battle children mothers. I’ll stress again, I am not making this up.
Shadows of the Damned
Shadows of the Damned was my very first brush with Suda51 and it was one that left me with a fair bit of whiplash. This game is just absolutely wild and it’s that fact that makes it so much fun. You play as the demon hunter Garcia F*****g Hotspur who has his girlfriend Paula snatched up by the wicked demon Fleming. It’s like the Divine Comedy but on copious amounts of drugs, hallucinogenic or otherwise.
Your demon sidekick, Johnson, who is a flaming skull, can turn into a motorcycle and a gun called *ahem* the Boner. He can also extend himself to become the Big Boner. The entire game is this fascinating, nearly unsettling and always weird trip through the underworld that you’ll honestly never forget. It’s just full of crazy moments and absolute madness from start to finish and you’ll find yourself in this stew of utter bewilderment and loving it.
Suda51’s games all follow this crazy trajectory and many of his other offerings would have made it on this list as well. Lollipop Chainsaw was another of his games that I absolutely adored that was just full of strangeness since you play as a cheerleader who needs to kill zombies with a giant chainsaw. His games have this irresistible charm and hilarity to them since they often have a crazy premise that just keeps ramping up the more you play.
Goat Simulator almost has a nostalgic vibe to it these days. Initially released on the 1st of April 2014 (brilliant), this was the game that brought in a new and strange age in video games as a whole. The concept was simple, you play as a goat and you walk around town messing stuff up. It was juvenile and slapstick, but people just ate it up as the game soon became a living meme.
Other “simulator” games such as Surgeon Simulator were already making rounds, but it was this game that managed to break into the mainstream. Other developers were tempted by the worldwide success of Goat Simulator and soon after we were just flooded with tongue-in-cheek simulators that tried to capitalize off this weird craze.
It turned sour very quickly as the saturation of these simulator games just became exhausting and the trend soon died down, but it was amazing how much influence a joke game where you played a reckless and vindictive goat had such a massive influence on a whole industry.
The Stanley Parable
The Stanley Parable is a lot more grounded than the other games on this list, but I would probably still classify it as odd. There was an emergence of what are called “walking simulator” games where you casually walk around and get narrated to as you fiddle with trinkets and discover locations. A lot of these games were serious and tried to tell serious stories with serious concepts being explored, but The Stanley Parable tried to go the opposite direction and make something that is both clever and hysterical. It 100% succeeded in that goal.
You play as Stanley, a perfectly normal office worker who gets led through an office building by a sultry-voiced narrator. You follow a path that the narrator takes you on and while you can just do as you’re told, you can also defy authority and go your own way. When you do, all manner of mischief happens. It’s very difficult to talk about the game’s actual content because you simply have to play it for yourself to experience its magic because everything is so tied up in the various hilarious moments you experience as you defy your narrator.
It’s exceedingly clever with some of the best writing you’ll find in video games and since I played it years ago, I’ve never seen anything quite like it. It runs on basically anything, so do yourself a favour and pick this game up and give it a whirl. You’ll not regret it one bit.
Deadly Premonition frequently takes everything you’ve been assuming and suplexes it into the ground. It’s a game of such absolute chaos, of pure reckless abandon of logic, that it turns into something close to a masterpiece. SWERY’s star title has almost no reason to really be considered a classic when you look at it from the outside, but if you play it, you’ll not be able to look away.
The game features an FBI agent called Francis York Morgan who goes to the quiet town of Greenvale that has been ravaged by a serial killer. That all sounds extremely normal, but trust me, this game is anything but normal. York is an absolute character who talks to his coffee and his imaginary head friend Zach and the town is full of people that are even weirder than him. The game is extremely inspired by Twin Peaks, but SWERY takes that inspiration to some of the most bizarre places you can find.
The game sucks in many, many respects. The combat blows, the graphics are awful, the soundtrack is absolutely baffling and there are so many plotholes that you might as well be playing on a block of Swiss cheese. However, it’s just an absolute masterwork of strangeness and hilarity to the point where its incompetence turns into pure comedic genius.
During the later parts of the game, things turn into what can only be described as a clusterf**k. It reaches such a height of strangeness that you will be simultaneously laughing yourself into a coma and be hooked to this absolutely beautiful trainwreck. Heavens know what the sequel is going to do, but let me tell you, I am fully on board.
And so concludes the list of five of the strangest games I’ve played yet. I love these games that go outside the norms and try something completely different. I’ll take a janky weird mess over something competent and generic any day of the week. I’ll say again, what’s the fun in being normal? What are some strange games that you’ve come across?