15 games with their own simulated operating systems

If you’re a PC gamer you probably spend a lot of time sitting at a desk with a mouse and keyboard, which the following games have been cleverly designed around. There are plenty of examples of interactive computers in games, whether you’re hacking terminals in Fallout, reading emails in Deus Ex, or punching turkeys in Doom 3. But in these examples the game IS the computer, and it can make for a uniquely immersive experience.

Introversion Software / Out now / Website
Become a hacker for hire, breaking into secure computer systems, stealing top secret data, and selling it to rival corporations. There’s a certain lo-fi charm to the original visuals, but the Introversion-approved Uplink OS mod (pictured above) makes it a lot easier on modern eyes.

Her Story

Sam Barlow / Out now / Website / Review
A unique detective adventure where you piece together the details of a crime by searching through a fragmented video archive. It’s surprisingly atmospheric, and everyone who plays it will take a different path through the story depending on which keywords they type in.

Orwell

Osmotic / Out now / Website / Review
As a citizen spy for a dystopian government, you must pry into the lives of people suspected of crimes against the state. You unearth details about their relationships, history, and personality to profile them, and doing so makes you feel increasingly uncomfortable and intrusive.

Emily is Away

Kyle Seeley / Out now / Website
This interactive story takes the form of an early 2000s instant messaging program, which is more than a little similar to AOL Instant Messenger. If you were ever a confused, moody teenager who spent far too long talking to strangers on AIM, you’ll get an extra kick out of this.

DEFCON 

Introversion Software / Out now / Website
Orchestrate a devastating global thermonuclear war from the safety of an underground bunker, sending orders via a stylish WarGames-inspired interface. The sound of a woman weeping as the planet is hopelessly destroyed by nuclear warheads is a particularly macabre touch.

Hypnospace Outlaw 

Jay Tholen / Q1 2018 / Website
The next game from Dropsy creator Jay Tholen is every bit as wonderfully bizarre. Set in an arcane operating system that looks like a vaporwave Geocities, it sees you—a so-called Hypnospace Enforcer—chasing down criminals on a dazzling, colourful cyber-highway.

Duskers

Misfits Attic / Out now / Website / Review
This sci-fi roguelike sees you scavenging wrecked starships with remote control drones. The command line interface and lo-fi aesthetic give it a wonderfully tactile, retro-futuristic feel, and encountering an enemy in these eerie, abandoned ships is always nerve-racking. 

Cibele

Star Maid Games / Out now / Website
Cibele is a partly autobiographical game about a developing relationship between a 19-year-old girl and a man she meets in an online game. As well as playing the game, a simple RPG, you can also dig through private files on the main character’s PC to get a sense of her personality.

Kingsway

Andrew Morrish / Summer 2017 / Website
In this imaginative RPG you use a mock operating system to control every aspect of your adventure. Enemies and traps are pop-up windows, you store your inventory in file folders, and quests are sent as emails. It’s a clever twist on the genre and I love the clean, colourful pixel art.

 Pony Island

Daniel Mullins Games / Out now / Website / Review
A journey through the inner workings of a surreal arcade game called Pony Island that was apparently designed by the Devil himself. Trapped in this digital limbo, you have to repair broken code and explore the depths of his cryptic software. Man, videogames are weird.

Digital: A Love Story 

Christine Love / Out now / Website
Set ‘five minutes into the future of 1988’, this imaginative visual novel tells the story of a couple’s online relationship and their quest to solve a mystery surrounding the deaths of several artificial intelligences. Interaction is limited, but the story and writing have been widely praised.

Hacknet 

Team Fractal Alligator / Out now / Website
In this hacking sim you use a command line interface to sneak into computer systems, snoop around, and generally cause computer-based mischief. There’s a story to follow involving a mysterious benefactor called Bit, which throws up a few memorable surprises as you hack the planet.

Mainlining

Rebelephant / Out now / Website
This point-and-click mystery takes place entirely within a fictional OS. You play as an MI7 operative who has to hack the computers of suspected cyber-criminals. But the game also questions the ethics of a government organisation having this much power over people online.

Beglitched

Hexecutable / Out now / Website
According to the developers, Beglitched is a game about “insecurity in our computers and ourselves.” In its vivid, pastel-coloured computer world—where hacking is a magical art—you play as the notorious Glitch Witch, who’s described as “the most premium archmagi of the net.”

SUPERHOT

SUPERHOT Team / Out now / Website / Review
Although SUPERHOT is mostly a game about having incredible time-bending Matrix-style gunfights in a stylish red-and-white digital void, it’s also accompanied by a cool metanarrative in which a friend sends you various builds of the game through a retro DOS-style interface.