It’s a Friday night, and you’ve got some friends over to hang out and kill a few hours. You’ve got a PC or game console hooked up and someone suggests playing something. You could put on a fun party game, like a Jackbox party pack, or a competitive mainstay like Smash Bros. Maybe you have a game with a compelling story like Portal 2 or Mass Effect that your guests are willing to watch one person play through.
Or you’re like me, and you exact joy out of exposing your friends and loved ones to video game equivalents of The Room. If so, I’ve crafted the following list for you. These games will confuse and bewilder your friends. They might even ask you what possessed you to buy them in the first place. But for each of these games, a first time player is highly likely to either A: have their mind blown a little, or B: have a laughing fit. And since they’re mostly designed around simple control schemes, they’re great for non-gamers too.
The Stanley Parable
Probably the perfect game to start this list. The less you know about the game going in, the better. TSP is a game that explores choices and instabilities, and which plays with the tropes and stereotypes of adventure games. You can even learn a bit about your friend depending on how they instinctively navigate the myriad decision points the game throws at them. This paragraph is light, but trust me: You really ought to play this game.
Brought to infamy by a Game Grumps play through, House Party is another choose-your-own-adventure game, this time taking place over the course of a night at a, well, house party. You can pursue conversations and relationships with every person at the party, and eventually have sex with most of them. House party has a comically juvenile and sometimes absurd sense of humor, and most of the fun comes from making fun of the game as you play it. It’s also pretty explicit, so consider the crowd before you jump in.
First, the bad news: It’s almost impossible to get this game running on any modern machine. It’s 15 years old, the graphics consist of compressed JPG cutouts, and it takes ages to load each time you start over.
But if you can make it work, Façade is a deliciously awkward game where you play the role of a mutual friend of a couple on the rocks, who have invited you over for drinks and conversation. Your conversation runs in real time, and you type in what you want to say back to them. There are no pre-created dialog selections. You just type what you think you’d say in real life.
Because of its age and the enormous challenge of such a project, Façade is far from perfect, and it doesn’t pick up well on nuance or complex ideas in your speech. But it’s pretty good at comprehending your opinions and judgements, which Grace and Trip quickly start demanding as their tense conversation devolves into an all-out fight.
Façade is more than a game. It is a painfully accurate simulation of the dysfunction that arises between couples who desperately try to one-up each other but have forgotten how to communicate their needs and wants.