The hidden object genre is deceptively simple and—for the thousands of people buying them on Steam—ironclad. You travel through an array of varied, usually brightly colored scenes, finding items, searching detailed setups against a random list (hammer, boots, compass) and solving simple logic puzzles. These games are even for those of us who pride ourselves on our kill/death ratios. And they are legion.
Whether you’re a connoisseur of objets cachés or someone ready to subject their eyes and narrative sensibilities to a wild ride, here are ten of the best. Trust me—I've played literally hundreds of them.
Think of this as your artisanal, hand-knitted socks and rye bread kind of hidden object game. It's an indie that owes a lot to Where's Waldo but brings with it a hipster, hand illustrated sensibility that hides a brutal difficulty curve. Sure, it's easy enough to find a monkey or a figure in a fancy dress, but a worm? A hair brush? You'll need to open doors, peek into tents and toggle switches to conquer this one. The scenes move from the compact jungle to the sprawling, frenetic world of the Hidden Folks factory where every cupboard and corner just begs to be explored. It's already had one free update. Fingers crossed for many more.
Stray Souls: Dollhouse Story
Almost certainly the work of a game designer in a very dark place, Stray Souls features a clown that looks like Pennywise from It developed a drinking habit, lost his job as a manifestation of childhood fear and now hires himself out for casual gaming opportunities, smelling slightly of schnapps. This is the standard mix of hidden object scenes and mild puzzling, but they've skipped the usual fairytale or pseudo-historical inspiration and gone all-in on spooky dolls, amusement parks and graveyards. If you're clicking on hundreds of random objects, doing it for a bat shit storyline helps keep things interesting.
Eventide: Slavic Fable
Hardcore HO fans know that publisher Artifex Mundi knows how to deliver the goods, and it's not scared to go into a really deep Wikipedia spiral to keep churning out new plots. Slavic Fables goes all European with a forest demon called Boruta, who you’ll defeat with a mix of keen eyes and a habit of mixing dodgy potions from leaves. Slavic Fable aims for the triple threat of cute animals, a kidnapped grandma and demons to keep you clicking, and the whole experience is a deliciously smooth slide down the freshly waxed bannister of addiction.
Rocks the look of your favorite childhood storybook, and for the seasoned object finder it has about the same difficulty level. What it lacks in complexity though it more than makes up for in bright, meticulous watercolor artwork and a calming, gentle aesthetic. It can get tricky in the simple way that looking for green lizards on an entirely greenish background is tricky, but the only thing standing between you and victory is ocular strain. Like dunking your frontal lobes in a short and sweet lavender bubble bath then fluffing them dry with a towel made of angel feathers.
Space Legends: At the Edge of the Universe
Kick-ass space lady Elizabeth Campton is here in a "just different enough from Star Trek jumpsuit" to explore the inky depths of the universe. Perhaps fairytales, cultural appropriation or terrible horror plots don't twiddle your Twinkie, and you're wondering if the delights of hidden object games are still for you. Space Legends is a rare science-fiction take on the genre, even if the developer has still managed to mash space together with medieval settings and steampunk. It's heavy on the puzzles and one of the better looking hidden object games on the store... if space opera romance book covers are your thing. And why wouldn't they be?
Nightmares from the Deep: The Cursed Heart
Everyone knows that if you’re fiddling with the corpse of an infamous dead pirate, in a storm, in an abandoned museum, and you decide to replace his jewelry, you’re asking for trouble. With a pirate-based storyline that is somehow more convincing than Pirates of the Caribbean has been in years, this offers a twist for the fatigued object hunter. Once your eyes grow tired of scraping elaborate scenes for random items, you can switch to mahjong puzzles for as long as it feels necessary. Because undead pirates love mahjong right? Again, that would still make more sense than Captain Jack Sparrow's narrative arc.
The Enigmatis Collection
You'll realize you're a HO professional when you dispense with the pleasantries and go all-in with the bundles. This is technically three games, but the bundle is a bargain as they’re all classics in the genre. I’m not sure hidden objects game have a Half-Life 2, but if they did, the Enigmatis Trilogy—The Ghosts Of Maple Creek, The Mists Of Ravenwood and The Shadow Of Karkhala—would be contenders. An immortal and nefarious preacher, a relentless detective, giant bloody great birds, and that’s before you even get to the ancient and secluded monastery.
New York Mysteries: High Voltage
A 1950s female detective rocking serious knitwear and a case involving executions and the ol' Sing Sing penitentiary. Yes, here High Voltage isn’t anything to do with a particularly complex series of wiring puzzles, but actual human beings getting executed. Don’t let that stand in the way of you enjoying vintage-themed puzzles involving miniature toy cars and fishing things out of aquariums, though. Purists might struggle with the hidden object scenes—instead of the classical list you have to find objects using silhouettes—but the crime theme and not-absolutely-terrible cutscenes should help them deal.
Grim Legends: The Forsaken Bride
It’s a fairytale, as if scripted by the people behind The Bold And The Beautiful, with added kittens. Seemingly a tragic tale of doomed romance and having to do all sorts of shit for your twin sister, this is actually about rescuing a cat and then forcing it into a life of servitude. Just click your little cat icon on something out of reach for your humanoid limbs, say, on a high branch, and Mr Whiskers has no choice but to risk his life scrambling through a twisted magical world. Come for the drama, stay for the cute.
A step up from the similar Under Leaves in complexity, but with the same natural themes to promote that "trying LSD at the garden center" feeling. The art is more detailed and intricate, and it’s easy to get distracted from hunting for petals by a particular attractive looking bee. There are simple puzzles here too, but none of the screaming and hollering that infests the human centric hidden object games. I mean, maybe the bee is a villain intent on kidnapping children, but it least it has the respect to keep it on the down low and go about its business attractively.