Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishments (Switch eShop)
The Frogwares Sherlock games are odd little things, but in many ways, they exemplify a very Sherlockian way of detective work. This version of Holmes is strange and offputting, coarse and cold, pulling largely from the BBC Sherlock, but with more puzzles — some of which are deeply silly, like the ones that require you to assemble a picture to figure out what a certain smell is supposed to be.
The best part of this take on the Sherlock genre is the fact that it's entirely possible to muck up a case by failing to investigate an area properly, or even in piecing together the evidence wrongly and making incorrect conclusions. It makes the stakes feel suitably high, and doesn't fall back into the boring old "well, he's a genius, so he can't ever be wrong" pit that detective games often find themselves stuck in.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt - Complete Edition (Switch)
Is The Witcher 3 a detective game? You could certainly argue that Geralt's latest outing is far more of a combat RPG about monster-hunting, but there are just enough detective elements that we think this one's worth a recommendation to anyone who loves the genre.
Geralt's quests often involve him having to use his special Witcher Peepers to determine where a person, monster, or item is, following bloody footprints and scented trails to find his target. It's not nearly as challenging as detective games that ask you to use your own brain — Geralt pretty much entirely relies on Witcher Sense, which makes everything important glow bright yellow — but the detectiving is fun all the same. Plus, most detectives don't get to swordfight the killers.
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Thimbleweed Park (Switch eShop)
If you miss the "Verb The Noun" days of ye olde point-and-click games, then Thimbleweed Park is right up your alley. It's a game that's all about the unsettling weirdness of backwater America, as FBI agents turn up to investigate a murder, and quickly become embroiled in a scheme that's much larger than any of them anticipated.
Co-designed by LucasArts veterans Ron Gilbert and Gary Winnick, Thimbleweed Park is the closest you can get to that '90s point-and-click DNA without cloning Monkey Island, but with the added benefit of 20+ years of game design experience that makes Thimbleweed Park infinitely less tedious and challenging than those old games were. There are difficulty options, and an in-game hint line, which can help you out whenever you like as you explore Thimbleweed Park's various nostalgic locales.
Batman - The Telltale Series (Switch)
We couldn't have a list of best detective games without the World's Greatest Detective, could we? Sure, in Telltale's take on the Bat-story, he certainly does a lot more punching than detectiving, but in-between the fights with Gotham's most crimey lads, Batman has his moments.
And the reason we picked the Telltale Batman, instead of one of the many other Batgames on the Switch? Most of the other ones are just about the punching. At least Telltale games have you making decisions, too!
Sam & Max Save the World (Switch eShop)
Sam & Max are two private investigators with a storied past: First appearing in comics in the '80s, the dog-and-rabbit duo were intended as a loving, self-aware parody of the crime-fighting genre. Later on, the point-and-click heroes LucasArts would begin work on an adventure game starring the two, but when LucasArts cancelled the game and stepped away from adventure games, it seemed to be the end of the road.
But then, former LucasArts employees went on to found Telltale Games, re-acquired the rights to Sam & Max, and made Sam & Max Save The World — Telltale's first foray into episodic games, and the industry's first example of a successful story told in the style of a TV show.
Sam & Max Save The World is not just an interesting bit of video game history, though — it has the witty, irreverent writing that Telltale games would come to embody, with plenty of political satire, extremely stupid jokes, and winking references to pop culture and adventure games in general.
L.A. Noire (Switch)
Many of the games on this list have been quite casual or silly takes on the detective genre, but L.A. Noire plays it straight. You are Cole Phelps — played in voice and face by Aaron Staton — a police officer who quickly becomes promoted up to Homicide Detective in 1940s LAPD, in what is perhaps the Most Noir Setting Possible.
L.A. Noire uses state-of-the-art (at the time) technology to focus its detective work on facial animations, which lets you as Phelps decide if people are lying or telling the truth based on how they react to questioning, or how they act when telling you their version of events. It doesn't work perfectly, as ambiguity and confusion arise from the game's need to categorise your responses as "good cop/truth" or "bad cop/doubt", which are pretty vague, but for the most part, it's a successful, serious take on real-life detective work from Rockstar.
Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Trilogy (Switch eShop)
A glossy HD remake of the original three games in the Ace Attorney series, Phoenix Wright's first foray into the legal system is perhaps less polished than later games, but still utterly fantastic.
Investigation scenes usually take place before the case makes it to court, and while they're largely hands-off — your job is mostly to pick up evidence and gather testimony — it's still a fun twist on the courtroom drama to be able to see it all for yourself. These are some of the best detective/lawyer games in the biz. Not that there's much competition, mind you.
Layton's Mystery Journey: Katrielle and the Millionaires' Conspiracy - Deluxe Edition (Switch)
A spin-off of the surprisingly successful line of logic puzzle games known as the Professor Layton series, Layton's Mystery Journey follows the professor's daughter Katrielle as she solves much smaller crimes and cases than her dad.
Although the Katrielle series has yet to really take off in the same way Layton did, you'll still find the same gorgeous, hand-animated visuals and cutscenes, and the unparalleled localisation that developer Level-5 is known for. Plus, it's the only Layton game on Switch.
Murder By Numbers (Switch eShop)
Combining the investigative chops of Ace Attorney with the satisfying puzzley goodness of Picross, Murder By Numbers is all about finding out who murdered your boss, moments after he fired you... partly to clear your name, but partly because you just found a robot whose sole purpose appears to be murder investigations, and it seems only polite to help them out.
The story takes a while to get going into the Picrossy goodness that you desire, but once you're there, there's plenty to enjoy, between the sassy jokes and the goofy writing. And the Picross! Lovely Picross.
Gnosia (Switch eShop)
What do you get when you combine the social deduction and fear of Among Us, and the killing game-style story of games like Danganronpa and Virtue's Last Reward? You get Gnosia, a visual novel originally made for the PlayStation Vita that's found its forever home on the Nintendo Switch.
Guess what? You're stuck in a time loop, and you have to figure out why everyone keeps getting murdered, and more importantly, who is doing all the murdering. There's an alien presence on board, you see, and that means at least one of your crewmates is secretly a murder-monster hiding in a human body. But with the help of the aforementioned time loop, you can eventually narrow down your suspects!
Also, there's a cat!
Aviary Attorney: Definitive Edition (Switch eShop)
What if Phoenix Wright was an actual phoenix? Or, at the very least, a pigeon? This is the story that Aviary Attorney puts forth in its delightful black-on-beige 19th century take on the genre, in which everyone is a bird. And also a lawyer.
Despite the wacky premise, Aviary Attorney is an extremely well-accomplished game, with genuinely hilarious writing, twisty cases, and so many bird puns that you might laugh yourself cuckoo. Beak-areful.
Overboard! (Switch eShop)
Unlike every other detective game on this list, Overboard is about a crime that you definitely, 100% did yourself. A "youdunnit", if you will. Instead of investigating, clue-finding, and interrogating, you'll be working on a sort of reverse-investigation — covering up your own crime, and finding someone else to pin it on.
Inkle are the narrative masterminds behind this one — you may know their work from 80 Days or the Sorcery! games — so be sure to expect plenty of intricate branching, choices with consequences, and a healthy dose of Very British Characters, who practically bleed English Breakfast. It's a short one, but boy is it fun.
Lacuna (Switch eShop)
Another one for the "noir murder mystery with pixel art" pile, Lacuna offers a new take on the point-and-click adventure, allowing you to WASD around the place instead of pointing and clicking (or, well, use a controller, but you get the point) as well as giving you optional hints for interactive items and multiple endings.
The story branches and ends based on your actions. There's no going back. Sure, you can rush your way to the end – if you don't mind paying the price. Play your cards right, and you might make it out alive.
-cries in Deadly Premonition-
Herlock Sholmes is satisfied with this list.
Famicom tantei are my favorite games from Nintendo!
The great Ace Attorney was also fantastic, except for the fourth case in the first game.
Thimbleweed park was ok, but has an extremely good endibg.
Love the original Phoenix Wright triology.
Ai the somnium files was allright.
Layton mystery journey was not as fun as the anime adaption. Katrielle works better animated. Got the Japanese BDs.
LA Noire had a interesting story but boring gameplay. Turned me of from ever checking out 3D GTA games.
Batman the telltale game is the worst Switch game I own. Unless they patched it later, the save function stopped working at chapter 3!
I never truly realized until I saw this list that this is in fact my favorite game genre. Will have to try out more of these, such as Gnosia
I highly, HIGHLY recommend Return of the Obra Dinn. This game had me constantly thinking between sessions (Basically at work) on how to fill in the blanks. There's also a unique charm to the presentation style.
I recommend going in as blind as possible.
Kate, I love your writing. I've never seen the word "listmate" before, despite being quite the wordmonger, but I see myself using it quite a bit going forward. And the Lovecraft with Poirot angle was genius.
Still though, I think this list concept was mainly another excuse to talk about about Great Ace Attorney Chronicles, haha. But there's nothing wrong with that.
The Suicide of Rachel Foster is a great addition to the genre IMO.
I really like Heaven's Vault, but it's definitely more of a "mystery" game than "Detective". It's also pretty slow-paced if you want to see everything (and will take multiple plays). You can definitely miss things along the way and not be able to go back. But for all of that, you slowly get better at translating the old language and can learn more about the story and universe.
I enjoyed Jenny LeClue and look forward to the sequel. My only small gripe was that it felt a bit short, but it's often on sale for a couple of dollars.
Overall - good list with a lot of options.
I really enjoyed L.A. Noire. It can move slow at times, but the story was cool and the detective work seems more realistic then some of the other games on the list.
How well does Disco Elysium run on the Switch? I know in the NL review they wrote it had "slight" issues. Has it been patched? Does it matter?
I know from experience that when a professional reviewer mentions slight performance issues it is sometimes so minor that I don't care or I hardly notice and I shouldn't worry about it too much. My standards are low.
Will get Gnosia and Heaven's vault soon. Lots of games I love on this list. Great Ace Atorney, Obra Dinn and AI are wonderful.
I'm intrigued by the fact that Damn Can Romping 3 isn't on here when 'your' review suggested that was the best 🤔
Grim fandango is a masterpiece.
@Astral-Grain I feel you...if getting your clues from your morning coffee isn't stellar detective work, then I don't know what is.
@Thomystic if this were an actual interrogation I would be sweatin like mad
@AJWolfTill aw heck, you're right. Maybe I'll add it when I've recovered from writing all 36 entries
Recent update seems to have nixed the performance issues.
Runs without a hitch now
I'm currently playing Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishments and it's turning out to be one of my favorite detective games in quite a while. IMHO a better game than what this article's slightly dismissive write-up seems to suggest.
I think you missed 'Rainswept - A Murder Mystery Adventure'. I personally have not finished it, but so far its alright.
@Rambler Thanks for replying! I'll definitely check it out (eventually lol)
Sherlock holmes, La Noire and the witcher.
Love these games.
Unavowed is a lot of fun! I played it over Christmas - great setting and art, great story (especially if you like eg. Dresden Files) with branching paths, and for me it was at that Just Right point and click difficulty level where it isn't so easy that it feels like I'm playing Powerpoint and mindlessly clicking, but also not so hard that I go look up solutions in frustration.
Edith Finch brought me to ps4 some years ago and that’s still one of my absolutely best games. I have recommended it to many friends and this far everyone have loved it. Giant sparrow games are quality. The best of Annapurna’s games except for Gorgoa which is a nice game from Annapurna which’s not Sparrow’s..
@Fizza herlock sholmes from the great ace attorney?
@Tobiaku "The great Ace Attorney was also fantastic, except for the fourth case in the first game."
The best feature about TGAA was that every case was tied to each other on both games. It was like the writers made the first game knowing already the entire script of the second. That 4th case of the first game was a build up for the 2nd case of the second game. I thougnt that it was the usual filler case like what happens on the previous games, but it blew my mind when all the dots were connected later.
@BananaMetallurgica Elementary, my dear Naruhodo.
@Savage_Joe I know that, I have finished both games, but case 4 was still an absolute stinker. I guessed who actually did and how they did it before the trial and spent the trials hoping they would change it from what I guessed, but it still ended up almost like I guessed it and except for some feminist stuff in the first chapter of the second game it was also the least fun chapter as far as comedy goes in my opinion so ehh. I reallly did not like that particular chapter.
Murder by numbers might be the worst game I've played on the console, suprising to see it here honestly.
I still need to play FDC!
High recommendation for Obra Dinn. It can get hard, but it’s a fascinating and enveloping game. Very original, great premise, and wonderfully unexpected turns as it unravels.
As an Ace Attorney noob, is The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles an ok point to jump in, or is it better to try out the OG trilogy first?
So glad I’m not the only one that considers Witcher 3 a detective game too. Seriously, the Wraith in the Well in White Orchard was my first “holy pies Sam, I’m playing Supernatural the video game…:” moment. So awesome. Could seriously play a series of quests like that on infinite repeat. Whole game and DLC was truly amazing! And Hearts of Stone is likely the best story written for a game….
I just ordered the Paradise Killer physical edition the other day, because you know I need more murder-prone vaporwave drag queens in my life.
This is a great list, I haven't played too many of these games but I love all the ones I have played. Except for Batman Enemy Within. I really didn't get along with that game.
Seems like all the detective games were listed (there’s really not many to begin with) with the exception of ABC Murders and Hercule Poirot: - The First Cases which is weird considering you cracked that HP Lovecraft “joke”. I’ve played both btw being a Poirot fan and they were decent at best.
The fact that Layton's Mystery Journey is the only Layton game on Switch still is a tragedy! I did enjoy that game a lot to be honest, but Professor Layton is one of my favorite series and I hate how dormant it's been since the 3ds ended.
Ai Somnium Files is amazing. So is Obra Dinn.
On the other hand, Katrielle Layton whatever whatever is the only truly bad game in that entire franchise. I grit my teeth and muscled through it. At least the anime is pretty good!
Would LOVE to see a Layton collection on Switch.
No Detective Di on this list? And...and... isn't Overboard the exact opposite of a detective game? Even though is it rather good...
L.A. Noire is one of the best video games of all time. You will never play another game like it. I would also thoroughly recommend it if you are interested in the time period. The game developers do an amazing job creating a faithful recreation of late 1940s Los Angeles.
@KateGray What about Observer? Seems like a decent fit for the list.
My 10 year old daugher loves Jenny LeClue and Tangle Tower.
Great list! Already have a few of these (albeit some on other platforms, like Obra Dinn, Grim Fandango and the Darkside Detective games on Mac) but there's a whole lot that I hadn't ever considered before, that I'm quite keen to check out on Switch, for that "lounging on the couch" comfort factor so important to solving mysteries.
I would say it's an excellent place to start, maybe even the best. Other than a few Easter eggs in the background you wouldn't be at any disadvantage. It's a self contained story that starts and ends strong.
Biggest risk would be loosing the advancements and QOL of TGAA if you then went on to play the original trilogy.
This article is filled to the brim with great information. And there are a few games I was on the fence about that I didn't realize had a demo. It seems I might have some research to do.
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