6 Great Games That Are Much More Than Meets The Eye

Never judge a book by its cover. That’s a great lesson in general, especially for video games, but even more so for a select batch of games that are far more than they appear on the surface. While many games feature narrative and mechanical twists, these particular titles go the extra mile to hide their true natures, intentionally so, to surprise players. 

I love games that subvert expectations like this, but they can be hard to seek out or suggest to others. For one, they may initially appear out of your wheelhouse. If you don’t play visual novels, then Doki Doki Literature Club, for example, may pass you by even if the things it’s really going for would be up your alley. That also makes these sorts of games hard to pitch to skeptical friends without giving away what truly makes them special. Plus, if you decide to investigate these games before playing them, you may expose yourself to blatant spoilers. So how to discuss? 

Here’s my solution. Each game listed will have two entries: The Premise and The Twist. The premise explains what the game appears to be on the surface. After all, simply popping up on this list indicates that something’s up, and that might be enough to spark your curiosity to give it a shot. 

The Twist, which will be obscured with spoiler tags, is the section for those wanting to know how the game changes. Though it won’t blatantly reveal every single thing that happens, it will provide a general overview of a game’s true form, if you will. However, you’ll still have to play it yourself to get the whole picture. 

The Messenger

The Premise

Do you enjoy old-school Ninja Gaiden? The Messenger is a great love letter to that series and other hard-as-nails action sidescrollers. You play a ninja tasked with delivering an important scroll to the top of a mountain to help stop an invading Demon King. The 8-bit action sees you cutting down all manner of threats while platforming across various deadly environmental traps.

The Twist

The Messenger’s shift isn’t as dramatic as the other games on this list, but it’s still a cool one. Midway through, the game transforms from an 8-bit 2D sidescroller into a Metroid-style 16-bit game. Although developer Sabotage Studio revealed this style change before launch (which is why I’m saying it here) it still surprised many players. However, what wasn’t disclosed ahead of time was The Messenger’s surprisingly fleshed-out narrative that features a fair share of mind-bending twists. It also packs an unexpected amount of well-written humor that reveals it doesn’t take itself nearly as seriously as you’d initially expect.

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