Arthouse is a funny genre of games that’s pretty similar to the casual genre. In fact, the line can be kinda blurry, based on what you consider “artsy.” Basically, if a game feels like it was made by a portlander, then it’s arthouse. These are a few that I’d recommend:
Gravity Bone is best compared to an arthouse take on a James Bond game. Except without any shooting. Although the game was made by a single person, it features some good game design techniques. Instead of forcing an out-of-character tutorial or an inane series of rudimentary tasks, information is given to the player by a series of instruction cards placed throughout the level. While this may sound inane and rudimentary, it’s refreshing to see a developer use a subtle method to speak to the player like that. The story is short but engaging, and includes some of Blendo Games trademark weird humor. The biggest flaw is the game’s length. At the end, players are left wanting more. Still, Gravity Bone is a little-known gem that should be played by all.
See Gravity Bone and all of Brandon Chung’s games at http://www.blendogames.com/
Small Worlds is a small flash game with a simple objective: explore. The game consists of jumping through pixilated environments, uncovering new parts of the map as you go along. Although it isn’t very exciting, and there’s no element of danger, Small Worlds has a charm and sense of wonder to it that not many games have nowadays. The music is also worth special mention, as it sets the mood of the game quite well.
Every Day The Same Dream:
EDTSD is “a beautiful game with a very bleak outlook.” Players control an unnamed, faceless, man who works in an office. Although the game is really more of an interactive story, there is an end. This game is probably the epitome of arthouse, with the author, Paolo Pedercini, describing it thusly:
“a slightly existential riff on the theme of alienation and refusal of labor. The idea was to charge the cyclic nature of most video games with some kind of meaning (i.e. the “play again” is not a game over). Yes, there is an end state, you can “beat” the game.”
Play it at http://www.molleindustria.org/everydaythesamedream/everydaythesamedream.html
Sleep Is Death:
Sleep Is Death is probably one of the most artsy games, in that it challenges players to tell an interactive story with accompanying visuals. SiD is played by two people: a storyteller and a character in the story. The game has no single player and is based only on people creating stories for each other and then reacting to their actions. SiD is like improv: it’s best when you never say no. Although SiD isn’t free, It only costs $1.75 and is worth far more than that.
Find it at http://sleepisdeath.net/
American Dream is a silly game that focuses on the important things in life; i.e. designer furniture, money, and wild cocaine parties. Originally conceived by the authors as a game “an assassin who spent all his money on designer furniture,” The American Dream is a simple stocks game that’s quite addicting and can be finished in under an hour. The parties of the game are slightly NSFW; you have been warned.