(This post reprinted from Facebook.)
# Unemployment Quest. You are a jobless guy living with your parents. You go on a quest fighting enemies named things like "Self-doubt" so you can achieve resume-ness. Something about it captures the unemployment experience. Graphics: RPG Maker anime. Gameplay: Click on the dialogue, turn-based combat.
# First Person Tutor, the flash game. You are a TA with a $200,000 student loan debt. Your horrible, spiteful professor boss will pay you to fail students he hates. Gameplay: Click on grammar and spelling errors in student essays as fast as possible. This is now a phone app called The Grading Game, apparently.
# Proteus. You are dropped on a procedurally-generated island. Wander around and view flora and fauna that make gentle twinkling noises. Figure out how to advance through four seasons on the island to end that game. This is a bizarre thing. Apparently, the developer was interested in seeing if beauty could be generated with an algorithm. The graphics are too garish and cutesy for me to call it beautiful.
Games that Are Pretty Much Just Fighting
# Guacamelee! In an Aztec-inspired setting, you are a burly farmer who dreams of being a luchador. Fight skeletons who are attacking the town plus the occasional chicken. Also has puzzles. You can also play as a girl, but in the cut-scenes you will still be referred to as "Juan." I got "Tales from Space: Mutant Blobs Attack!" for free with this one. It is one of those games where you move to the right and collect dots. Seems cool, but it's impossible to play on a keyboard.
# Word Realms. At some point during the semester, I was like "my vocabulary is getting worse by the second!" So, I started visiting Free Rice, and I also bought this game, which is speed scrabble with RPG elements. It was fun until the ending, which was the most thematically inappropriate ending I've ever seen. Also, there is no ability to continue free playing to practice scrabble.
# Torchlight 2. I got this one for $5. It turned out to be a mistake. So. Many. Collectibles. I had to delete this one due to me having an irrational need to collect things. It is fun, but I can't play it for a sensible amount of time.
# Half-life 2. I keep trying to play this because I love the machinima series Freeman's Mind, but the gameplay is just shooting endless things and moving boxes, so I am always disappointed. Among people who like shooting games, this is a perennial favorite.
# Costume Quest. Your twin has been captured by candy-eating monsters on Halloween, and the police don't believe you! Collect and wear different costumes to use special abilities and battle monsters in turn-based combat. It is amusing.
Games that Are Pretty Much about Puzzles
# Portal and Portal 2. You are the captive test subject of a sadistic computer. You are in possession of a "portal gun" that allows you to link any two surfaces. You have to figure out a way to exit each puzzle room. All the narrator characters are very interesting, and the puzzles are challenging. I love these!
# The Swapper. You are an astronaut with a device that allows you to make duplicates of yourself that move in sync with you. Later, you obtain the titular device, which allows you to trade places with your duplicates. This one suffers from nonsensical writing (like many games), but the puzzles are fun. The graphics were apparently made with miniature sets and stop-motion animation.
Games that Don't Have Interactive Gameplay?
# Dear Esther. You are on a spooky island. One to eight crazy people narrate things about stuff as you walk along the trails. You may be one or more of them. It is possible you are dead. I get the feeling this game was trying to say something, but the writing is too nonsensical to communicate much to me. The graphics are cool. Lots of phosphorescence and gently waving grass.
# Gone Home. You are a college-age girl arriving home from a trip to Europe, but no one is home. As you wander your house, you discover clues to everyone's whereabouts and the troubles they have been having. Very thorough character development with distinctive voices for all the characters despite none of them actually appearing. Story line is pretty cliche, though.
# To the Moon. You are one of two terrible people working for a company that alters the memories of the dying to make them feel as if their dreams have come true. The story could have been interesting in other hands, but the dialogue is truly awful. There are "puzzles" in this game, but they are very much an afterthought. Anti-recommended.
# The Stanley Parable. An exercise in depth-first tree traversal. Contains British humor.
Point-and-Click Adventure Games
# Stacking. You live in a world of stackable wooden dolls. Stack with larger dolls and use their special abilities to solve puzzles. I like this game, but the very modern dialogue combined with the "silent movie" aesthetic was quite jarring for me.
# Botanicula. You are sort of a bug? Click on things to cause effects. Keep clicking until you win? Reminds me of a Miyazaki movie...I don't really like his movies. Graphics are very pretty/cute.
# Kentucky Route Zero. This seems to be set in an episode of the Twilight Zone. I haven't finished it yet, but I like it so far.
# The Walking Dead (Seasons I and II). In the first game, you play as Lee, a former history professor with a troubled past. You must take care of a little girl named Clementine while everyone around you is going crazy from fighting zombies all the time. There are a few puzzles, but your main job is defining Lee's character arc by selecting from conversation options (you are not allowed to pick more than one option). In the second game, you play as Clementine, and society has degenerated to the point where it consists of small wandering groups that kill each other on sight. Both games are really cool. Playing these games is the closest I've ever been to being in a holodeck.