Steam's rise has been pretty meteoric in the past five years or so. It's gone from some annoying thing you had to install if you wanted to play Counterstrike, to a surprisingly open digital distribution service, to an unstoppable lumbering behemoth who not only dominates the PC market by a huge margin but is making frightening inroads into console space.
It's still kind of weird (to me) then that I periodically run into people who haven't got the first idea of what Steam is.
The easy explanation for it is “Like iTunes, but for games”. That sums it up pretty well, generally. Pay for your thing online, it'll get attached to your account, and you're free to download and play it as much as you want on whatever you own that can play it.
Steam's famous for erring on the side of customer and developer satisfaction. Unlike practically every other online-only service (iTunes included) whose default action is to treat everyone like a would-be criminal until you've spent some money on the service, Steam is almost comically user friendly...And cheap.
By cheap, I mean staggeringly inexpensive relative to virtually every other storefront for any kind of hobby ever in the history of electronic entertainment in any form. Amazon will generally try to charge you $2-$4 per episode for a TV show in high-def. iTunes will give you an album for maybe $12, a season of a TV show for, I dunno, like $25. Meanwhile, full-price AAA games usually cost between $40-$60 depending on what you're getting.
Steam, meanwhile, can cough up a rather distressing number of extremely good games for dollars at a time. These aren't App Store purchases meant to waste time at the drug store while you're waiting for a prescription or anything either, we're talking full-size, real games. Five bucks can net you a game that will easily last many hours and be incredibly entertaining; by the same token there's tons of smaller indie titles that can be played in brief spurts. Quite a few games are completely, 100% free.
So we got that out of the way. Steam's awesome. Surely, though, once something gets that big, it takes a big 'ole hit right in the Indie Cred, yeah? If you're the primary distribution service for big names like Assassin's Creed IV or Call of Duty, well, that doesn't leave a lot of room for smaller, artier, more interesting things, yeah? A Walmart that focuses on flash sales and rock-bottom prices and places a big-ass feeding trough designed to serve as many people as possible simultaneously can't also be a Mom and Pop Curio Shoppe where you can find some lovingly handmade videogame crafts to take home to your solar powered free-range eco farm commune. Right?
Well, yes and no. It's perhaps easier to think of Steam as a console, a comparatively open platform in and of itself that you just happen to need a PC to run, as opposed to a digital service run by a video game company. While there's a few people clamoring for using (admittedly pretty great) services like GOG.com on the grounds of (take your pick) No Digital Rights Management or Sending Money to the Little Guy, Steam's also managed to build up a sizable library of pretty damn underground cuts for those with their heads hopelessly up their ass (i.e. me) to peruse and select and be snotty over like we're sampling the season's finest brie.
Which is what I'm doing here.
Also: Because apparently being raised on a steady diet of late 80's/early 90's horror movies, violent video games, and weird 3rd party Dungeons and Dragons books has forever corrupted my taste in popular culture, most of these games are not what you'd consider “happy” games. Call me a child of the 90s but bright shiny happy things never really did it for me. I like crunchy dark things with a few liberal splashes of comedy as a chaser.
I'm not just going for bleakness though. A lot of these are games I'd consider “important” for one reason or another, either for what they managed to do or what they represent, and all of them serve as a good jumping-in point for people who haven't bothered to start turning over logs on the internet and poking at whatever's underneath them to try to find something cool. This goes doubly true if you consider yourself an artist or a writer, professional or otherwise.
Basically: You know that scene in High Fidelity where Jack Black's character is rummaging around the racks handing this guy a bunch of vinyl and admonishing him with lines like “You've never heard Dylan's Blonde on Blonde!?” Picture me doing that, except the store is Steam and instead of Blonde on Blonde I'm handing you a bunch of early 80s punk and/or Norwegian black metal albums. And the vinyl is a bunch of digital rights getting attached to your account for videogames.
Less exciting I know but it's a hell of a lot easier than showing up in your apartment with a bunch of carts, okay? Bear with me here and let's drop down the e-isle, and hopefully you'll see something that will catch your fancy. I won't bother embedding trailers in here, but the links below the banner image will take you directly to the Steam Store page, which will have a full trailer to check out.
Probably the least “arty” game on this list, but one of the most impressive both in what it is and what it does. Also it's the cheapest by default. As in it doesn't cost anything. I'll get to that in a sec though.
So: Remember Diablo II? That game with randomized maps where you run around clicking on stuff to kill it then collecting gigantic piles of loot and sifting through them all like a crazy person? Remember when Blizzard put out Diablo III and it had a real-money auction house and the graphics and voice-acting were half-assed and it had given up going full Grimdark™ in favor of a sort of half-assed M-Rated World of Warcraft quasi-cartoonish aesthetic? Did you look at that and go “What the fuck happened to my Diablo game!?”
Well, so did a bunch of guys in New Zealand, as it turns out. So they formed a company named Grinding Gear Games and set out to make the Diablo game everyone wanted but Blizzard didn't seem too keen on actually delivering. By some weird miracle, and what I can only assume was a hell of a lot of hard work, they managed to pull it off. Path of Exile is the result. It's everything Diablo III should have been, and is even more impressive when you consider that a tiny team in New Zealand was somehow able to put together something with significantly higher production values than a multi-billion dollar company with years of experience managed to crank out in almost twice the amount of time.
The only “compromise” seems to be the omission of the admittedly-very-impressive CGI cutscenes Blizzard splatters all over their games. None of that here, it's all in-game. And you know what? It works fine. Everything else is on par with or superior to Blizzard's offering. The voice acting is ENORMOUSLY better, the graphics are significantly more detailed, and there's extremely little hand holding or anything else getting in the player's way.
Including price, as it turns out.
So getting back to what I was saying before: This game is free. Like, 100%, do not need to pay a single cent free. Legally. They're giving it away. You can fire up the Steam client and play it without so much as making a weak gesture at your credit card. And unlike shitty mobile games whose idea of “free” is “we'll let you play for 5 minutes before annoying the living crap out of you with wait times and a teeth-grindingly-irritating 'energy' mechanic to try to get you to pony up some cash”, Grinding Gear's idea of “free” is “here is the entire game with absolutely nothing cut out, and we'll support ourselves through optional purchases you can make that have a solely cosmetic effect on the game and nothing else.”
Got Windows on your machine? Then you have absolutely negative reasons to not try this game. If you don't like it, you're out exactly nothing. You'll like it though.
Platform: Windows, Mac, Linux
Shadowrun is the premiere Dystopian Future pen and paper RPG that basically nobody played because it always meant having that one smelly misogynist guy in the group that nobody wanted to talk to because he'd make a bunch of vaguely racist/sexist jokes that nobody laughed at until everyone was sufficiently uncomfortable enough that they mysteriously stopped showing up to weekly games. So, imagine if that guy didn't exist and the game was played on PC, and you've got Shadowrun Returns.
It's sort of Dungeons and Dragons meets Neuromancer, and it's every bit as cool as that sounds once you divorce it from the playerbase those kinds of games usually attract in their pen and paper form.
Up until...Well, now, I guess(?), there hasn't really been any solid video game versions of the setting. There was a couple of games for the Sega Genesis and the Super Nintendo back in the day, and they've got a bit of a cult following even now, but they weren't particularly close to the source material and a lot of the appeal back in those pre-Final-Fantasy-VII days was that it was an RPG that starred gun-toting cyberpunks instead of long-haired prettyboy swordsman and elves.
With Shadowrun Returns, we get a new (and very modular) game designed to take the feel of playing the game in a tabletop, add some graphics, and let the computer handle the roll of the GM. It works fantastically well and sticks closer to the tabletop's rules than most computer games bother to even attempt while still keeping things moving along at a good clip and maintaining the amusement level.
The best thing about this game is that it's about as open as its pen and paper variant. There's a built in browser for perusing other user-generated modules to play through, and it comes with an extremely powerful editor to make your own adventures as well. Publishing them to the internet is as easy as clicking a button, so if you've ever had a gaming adventure you've wanted to have players try out, you can get it down in digital form here and send it online for anyone to try.
The number of really excellent fan modules for the game is already very high, meaning this game has a LOT of value for the $20, and theoretically is going to keep generating them for a long time. And, you get to personally vet who you play the game with, if anyone at all, and that's always a good thing.
Platform: Windows, Mac, Linux
It's a bit challenging to even call this a game; it's more of an interactive story. If Howard Phillips Lovecraft made videogames, this is probably close to what he would've coughed up in between making racist posts on Foxnews.com's comments section and collecting his own pee in jars.
You control a wealthy industrialist at the turn of the 20th century who wakes up in his bed with a vague feeling of something being horribly wrong, but that's about it. He's an amnesiac, and so he knows about as much as YOU know. Together, you poke around his enormous, disconcertingly poorly lit estate and try to figure out where his kids have gotten off to, what that horrible noise coming from under the floorboards are, and whether the two are related (hint: probably).
Things only get darker and more interesting from there, as some fairly horrific truths reveal themselves, made all the more worse because instead of just reading about some protagonist going through these unpleasantries on the page, you've got your hands inside theirs and have to follow them down the proverbial rabbit hole – which at times is in fact a literal hole.
If you read Shadow over Innsmouth but thought to yourself “Wow I'd really like to experience this pants-shitting terror myself in the first person instead of just reading about it” then this is the game for you! Play with headphones on for the preferred experience, especially if you're one of those people who is easily scared of pig-shaped things lurching out of the darkness and taking swipes at you.
Weird side note: Kids love this game! (seriously, they do, it's very strange)
Platform: Windows, Mac, Linux
Imagine if you took the biblical story of the Binding of Issac (you know the one, where God demands that Abraham sacrifice his son, and he's about to go through with it, and then God sends a lamb to sacrifice instead, etc. etc.) and then took the collected works of Jhonen Vasquez, and then took an NES cart of the original Legend of Zelda, and you stuck them all in the teleporter from The Fly.
The thing that would come crabwalking out the other end on cancerous limbs and spend the rest of the day attempting to eat your cat would be this game.
Proving blasphemy as filtered through 4Chan can be a hilarious source of comedy and good cheer, everything about this game is designed to poke fun at either the trappings of Old Christian Biblical Myth or Internet Memes (take your pick). It's also a very competent randomly-generated dungeon crawl with a lot of hidden secrets to discover and has a decent challenge curve to boot.
Don't show it to your parents or small children, though. Or I mean hey, go ahead and do, I'm not the thought police. It would however probably be kind of uncomfortable to do so unless your parents/kids/both are either A) Satanists or B) Have kind of a dark sense of humor.
Funfact: This game was originally developed with Nintendo's DS console in mind; they took one look at the game and denied it a publishing code so fast that Marylin Manson became popular again, so now it's on PC instead where nobody gives a fuck and you can put up whatever you want while telling Middle America to suck it. Hooray!
Platform: Windows, Mac
Ever had the urge to work as a faceless government drone for an east-European communist country whose economic and social isolationism has turned them into a totalitarian hell on earth? Good! Apparently so did a bunch of other people because this game has gotten insanely popular in certain circles, enough so that Ars Technica named it their Game of the Year for 2013.
At its heart this is really a memory puzzle game. You're tasked with staffing the immigration booth of said country, and there's a lot of people who want to get into your country because amazingly yours seems to be an improvement over theirs, which is a bit distressing if you consider it.
You're given an ever-increasing list of regulations to follow from your faceless government overlords, as well as an incredibly low salary that will be docked at a moment's notice should you screw up. The twist is that human drama becomes an unexpected element. Do you play the Nice Guy and maybe give someone a wave through the gates because they're trying to visit their sick, dying parents to bring them medicine but don't have all of the incredibly complicated paperwork to go through? Or do you coldly tell them they've been denied entry and send them back out into the snow and too bad about nanna and pawpaw? After all, you've got mouths to feed yourself, and your meager salary already has you choosing between things like “Keep the heat on” and “Eat more than once a day” for you and your family.
If this sounds fun to you, uh. I mean I think you're missing the point, it's not supposed to be fun in the conventional sense. It's damn interesting, though, seeing what you're willing to contort into over the course of duty, even if it's a fictional videogame one. Also the game is, like, incredibly addictive. Which is disturbing to consider, but there you go. Worth $10 just for that “oh god what have I become” feeling, in any event.
Platform: Windows, Mac
Probably (well, arguably) the least “bleak” game on this list, this is a heartwarming game about the inevitability of loss, emotional devastation and the pain it can cause, and the desire to suspend pleasant moments in time so that they don't vanish forever. Which they do. All the time. Until you're dead, and then nothing matters anymore anyway. All is vanity, etc. etc.
Also it's about something a lot less ephemeral, i.e. the invention of a particular thing that irrevocably changed the face of the modern age for the worse, and I won't spoil what that is here (no, it's not the iPhone). Good luck digging through the 50 layers of metaphor for it on your first pass, but credit where credit's due: When I finished this game and it finally struck me just what it was about (and yes it's one of those games where “what it's about” is not apparent until waaaay into it), it very much left me stunned. All bad jokes aside, this is a deeply personal game made by a man with something to say, and it's beautiful and a hell of a brain teaser to boot.
The core mechanic relies on the manipulation of time. At any point in the watercolored, 2D platforming stages, you can rewind time. Your character, Tim, will dutifully un-jump all the jumps he's jumped, climb back down ladders, enemies will pop back to life, all of it. You can rewind all the way back to the beginning, or just a bit. Sometimes things are immune to this time bending power, sometimes the power itself changes slightly. If you've played Portal, it's kind of like that just with a different mechanic. I suggest hitting the link above for a trailer to see it in action, it's really quite something.
This is also a game that shows a remarkable amount of respect for your time (which is apropos of the subject matter, I suppose). There's no filler, no “grind”, no time wasters of any sort. If you want to move on with the story and skip a particularly troublesome puzzle, you're free to do so. Levels can be approached in any particular order, and there's never any insistence or artificial forward push imposed by the game. It says “Here's what I'm putting out there, and I hope you'll be interested enough to want to play to the end”.
You will be. Of all the games on this list, this is the one I hope people pick up the most, if they haven't.
Platform: Windows, Mac
One of the most surreal, disturbing, and affecting games I've ever played. This is even more impressive given that it looks like a Gameboy game.
Sure doesn't sound like one, though. Do me a favor: Click on the store page link up there below the banner for this game, and make sure the sound is on for the trailer.
And just watch it. It's like two minutes long and just trust me. It's worth it. This article isn't going anywhere and you've already gotten this far into it so it's not like you were doing anything important, so go ahead.
The soundtrack to this game is absolutely fucking amazing, isn't it? It is exceedingly rare to find a game where the soundtrack pretty much makes the atmosphere by itself, but Lone Survivor pulls it off.
And this game was made by one guy! My crowning achievement for like the past few months has been finally coughing this article up, and meanwhile there's people out there churning out incredible little experiences like Lone Survivor. I can't decide if the game is more depressing than just the fact that someone is so much more productive than I am or not.
Anyway: If you've ever played any of the Silent Hill games, Lone Survivor might look just a wee bit, uh, familiar. This is very much intentional. The creator is a self-professed Silent Hill nut, and it certainly shows. The plot to this game could've easily been lifted out of one of the games from that series, but that's a good thing. It's genuinely concerning, and you want – and eventually NEED – to know what happens next. There's quite a bit of text and reading involved, but it's all used very effectively, and the game silently keeps track of a lot of your actions and uses them to change the plot subtly (at first).
It also maintains the curious scare factor usually native to Silent Hill. There's nothing resembling “jump” scares. Nothing ever flies out at you and goes “boo!” (it'd be pretty hard to accomplish this due to the graphics anyway). The scares are much more of the cerebral, question-your-own-sanity variety and are far more effective because of it. If you never thought a 2D game with blocky graphics could suck you in and make you paranoid and tense, Lone Survivor will be more than happy to prove you wrong.
Platform: Win, Mac, Linux
Another un-bleak game. Cave Story is a throwback in all the right ways. It's what's coloquially known as a “Metroidvania” game. Everything's on a 2D plane, there's a huge map, and the whole idea is to explore and discover the hows, whats, and whys of the world you've been plonked down in. Along the way you gain powerups, meet NPCs, and generally figure out your place in the grand scheme of things.
Don't let the cute graphics fool you, though. This game takes some surprisingly dark turns, the kind of stuff those old Nintendo games always hinted at but were never allowed to show. It never really breaks character to do it – things don't suddenly cut from Hayao Miyazaki to Takashi Miike without warning or anything like that – but it's still some heady stuff into the late game, and it keeps it interesting until the credits roll. If you enjoyed Super Metroid, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, or any of the spinoff games thereof, then you'll feel right at home here.
Also worth mentioning: This game has the SINGLE CATCHIEST THEMESONG IN THE HISTORY OF VIDEOGAMES. It's incredible.
Like, okay: Hum the Legend of Zelda theme (in your head, if you must). Even if you haven't played Zelda in like 20 years, you can still hum that theme, right? Now do the Super Mario Bros. one. Ditto, yeah?
Okay so here: LISTEN. Listen all the damn way through.
There's also a remixed version that's good (I somewhat-blasphemously like this one better). Also a metal version. Many more. Ask YouTube about it. You get the idea.
Either way you'll now be humming that song for the next 15 years. Enjoy.
Platform: Windows, Mac
Another not-really-a-game game, but an excellent one nonetheless.
You still occasionally see some assholes out there who think it's real fucking clever to pop up on NPR or one of the more desperate news segments on TV and ask the insipid question: Can games be Art™? Dear Esther is a game you could throw directly into the face of just such a person like a brick, while shouting Yes, games can be and in fact ARE art you goddamn clown now would kindly go leap ass-first onto a saguaro and spin all the way down because oh man everyone is tired of hearing that dumbass assertion like it's some kind of question with merit.
It's irrefutable, though. You have a good collection of people who are still on the fence about the whole games-as-art thing, because apparently anything that requires direct action on the part of the observer (or, “player” in our case) can't be true art for some incredibly nebulous reason that I suspect has a lot to do with the fact that older people who for some reason get to quanitfy what “art” is generally don't have the kind of hand-eye coordination necessary to appreciate something that requires it and/or because technology in general is different and scary and things were better back in the 50s when a man knew his place in the world and you could buy an ice cream for five cents. Video games are not like a painting; they are much scarier in their complexity and thus cannot be afforded the same kind of appreciation as the more classical forms.
And yeah fuck that. Dear Esther is really nothing else if not a painting that you move through, and that speaks to you as you do so.
It's a gentle, cool, salty whisper of a game that tells a fractured tale of losing a loved one in a car crash, and what happens to your life afterward. All this is revealed as you wander around what seems to be a deserted, small rocky island. You're not even told who you are; are you the narrator, talking to himself? His ghost, maybe? His dead wife's ghost? Just some passing observer? It's never made clear, and it doesn't need to be.
The game is also breathtakingly gorgeous, everything arranged with a painter's eye and laid out so that it sweeps your vision across the cliffs and skyward as you press on. Few games manage to have such a sense of open, airy space as this one does, and the maturity it brings to the medium is welcome.
This is a good one to show people who “don't really play videogames” but enjoy good art. It's part of a rarefied orbit that doesn't have many inhabitants yet, but it's circling new areas in the medium that simply didn't exist before. Worth experiencing for that alone.
Platform: Windows, Mac, Linux
Price: $10 each
In Asia, particularly Korea and Japan, there's a type of videogame that's exceedingly popular that you don't see much of in the West. It's what's called the “Visual Novel”.
It's pretty much what it sounds like. It's a story told primarily through text and still images with minimal animation, which occasionally posits choices to the player to decide on a particular action, then goes from there. There's usually some music and sometimes some sound effects or voice acting, but mostly it's text. An interactive novel, essentially.
There's been a few fumbling attempts at this sort of thing in the West, but by and large Westerners want some Game in their Videogames, so the genre has largely died on the vine over here while becoming a serious entry into the medium in the East.
These two games (written by the same person) slot themselves neatly into that style of gameplay and manage to be totally engrossing despite their chosen delivery system. They've gotten popular enough to even spawn copycat games attempting the same VisuNovel approach in the West, which is pretty high praise.
The story can't be discussed much without giving anything away, but the short of it is: You, the player, are tasked with discovering why a huge generation spaceship never reached its intended destination. To help you, there are two A.I. personalities you can work with to uncover the mystery; as things progress, you learn a lot about the people who lived on this ship, what happened to them, and why these two A.I. characters were left behind.
It's like the plot to a few given Star Trek episodes, but expanded into a novel-length story. As with pretty much everything else on this list because apparently I have problems, the story takes some pretty dark turns at about the halfway point, then says “fuck it” and makes a hard left directly into “What the shit did I just read” territory. It's clever in that it waits until you're pretty emotionally invested before making the move to twist the knife. It only bothers to point out that you actually care until it's pretty sure that you do, in fact, actually care, so extra points to the author for writing discipline alone.
Analogue: A Hate Story is the first game, whereas Hate Plus is the sequel that wraps up the loose ends from the first game and puts forth a bunch of new ones because like hell you're ever getting any closure with this thing.
Platform: Windows, Mac, Linux
Imagine if you took the movie Drive, stuck it in one end of the Large Hadron Collider, stuck Reservoir Dogs in the other end, filled the entire space in between with coke and acid, set the resolution to “What good graphics looked like in the late 80s”, and then flipped it the switch.
While that mental imagery settles: Hotline Miami is a gore-soaked top-down puzzle/action game that is way, way more violent and weird than anything you've ever played up until now. The plot is a boozy neon nightmare that only vaguely strings together to make sense. You're ordered on murderous rampages by hissing men wearing animal masks, assisted by what appears to be a teleporting hobo who knows more than he lets on, and you get around in a DeLorean while the acid-washed sounds of chiptuney 80s New Wave wash over you.
It's also enormously challenging from a dexterity point of view. You'll die often, and die brutally, and the game just instantly snaps you back to where you were to push you forward to try again. It becomes muscle memory after a while, smashing through doorways and doing your best to kill everyone in the room before they can stand up and fire back.
It's unsettling, deeply disturbing, and extremely entertaining. You'll know exactly what's going to happen next (you're probably going to have to kill some dudes) and still be completely in the dark as to why, even as the game drops cryptic hint after hint that there is indeed some kind of machinations going on just outside of your visual range.
Not one for the kiddies or the weak of stomach, but if you like arcade action and visceral kicks, pretty hard to go wrong here. This game took a lot of people very much by surprise when it came out, especially in the current climate of games actually moving AWAY from overtly violent imagery (hence all the comparisons to the movie Drive). Gaming websites are still trying to crack the game's code to this day to figure out what it's getting at, if anything. It's nothing if not a memorable experience.
You like Twin Peaks, right? Everyone likes Twin Peaks.
America's weird mass descent into good taste didn't last very long (mostly because the show went from Awesome to Shitty halfway through Season 2) but it still left an indelible mark on a lot of people's pop culture sensibilities in 1990.
A little shy of 25 years later and we've got this game, which is for all intents and purposes Twin Peaks: The Unofficial Videogame.
There's enough here to set it apart as its own thing. The characters are different, the town is different, and the story moves at its own pace instead of following the TV show, but there's an awful lot of similarities.
You play a “quirky” FBI agent named York Morgan, who talks to an imaginary friend (a cipher for the player) throughout the game. He heads up to a small Pacific Northwest town called Greenvale to investigate the murder of a woman by apparently supernatural forces. Along the way he bumps into the town's gallery of characters, many of whom are even weirder than he is, and as the story moves forward finds himself being pulled into a strange paralell dimension where he receives dire warnings from the spirits that live in the woods about the nature of the killer.
So yeah, it's Twin Peaks. The game makes a sort of token attempt to hide it, but that's all. Mostly it just runs with it, and the result is David Lynch's intensely strange vision as filtered through the equally fucked-up mind of this game's Japanese director, a man who goes by the nom de guerre SWERY65, which should tell you a lot about the kind of headspace he inhabits. I'm not sure how popular Twin Peaks actually was in Japan (although my spider sense tells me “extremely”), but this guy was all over it. Deadly Premonition had been in development for years, originally under the name “Rainy Woods” (you can actually see NPCs throughout the game wearing name tags with this still written on them). At one point they actually had to restart development on the game because apparently it resembled Twin Peaks a little too much; if what we wound up getting is the toned-down version, then the original game must've just been clips from the show cobbled together with some quicktime events in there because I'm not sure how much closer you can get to “homage” before it becomes “outright ripoff”.
The game itself plays out as a weird mix between almost Grand Theft Auto style freeroaming missions, plot-heavy cutscene sections that advance the story and set up the next part of the “case”, and Resident Evil style shooting missions that usually involve York trying to escape from the Other World.
To say this game is intensely odd is a hell of an understatement, but that's also one of the things that makes it so interesting. It is virtually impossible to tell what's going to happen next, and even if you guess correctly, chances are things aren't going to play out in quite the way you thought. It gets quite thought-provoking in spots, but even at its dumbest (and there's plenty of dumb scattered through the game) it never fails to be entertaining on at the very least a sort of “HUH?” level. You'll get more amusement and genuine surprise at this game's plot than most TV shows can offer up nowadays.
Word of advice: Use DPFix to make the graphics look good if you have a reasonably competent Windows machine. Otherwise the entire game looks kinda poopy.
So there's my list for now. Hopefully you found something interesting in there; even if you're not a gamer normally, there's plenty on that list that might prove to be to your liking, so give it a shot. Then you can impress/annoy your friends and loved ones with all the extra indie hipster cred you've obtained by playing these, and eventually, if you're lucky, turn into some insular weirdo who writes about it on the internet instead of doing more productive things with your life.