Whenever you think of Surrealism, the natural reaction for anyone is to think of Dali. He was a master in his field and undoubtedly a well-known Surrealist artist. However, there are many pieces of art and literature outside of the master that fall into this category. Video games also have Surrealist tendencies.
Surrealism isn't just for art or literature. The combination of everyday objects in weird places or in different sizes creates a surreal piece of art. Video games and their capabilities are certainly able to hit this checklist as well.
We have compiled a list of the best games that feature a Surrealist art style, where to buy them, and for how much. You can experience the weird juxtaposition of objects against one another on your all-time favorite platform.
Buy it on: Steam
Fran Bow is an incredibly creepy and horrifying game in which you are stuck waiting for the next horrific scene to play out. The story is about a girl who tragically lost her parents and was left with her only friend, Mr. Midnight, who so happens to be a cat. Fran is continuing to battle with mental health issues, and this is present throughout the game.
Fran Bow exudes a sense of trauma through the imagery and set pieces present throughout the game. Large insect people, a tree with faces and hair, and deformed children are some of the pieces you will see in the game. The menacing twists and violations of everyday items continue to remind you of Fran’s childhood trauma. All these pieces within the game represent items we would see in our world, but here they are twisted into this frightening, surreal set piece that has ultimately been influenced by Fran’s mindset.
Alice: Madness Returns
Buy it on: Amazon
The game centers around a girl named Alice Liddell, who has to deal with the loss of her family in a tragic fire. After the loss of her family, she is thrust into the wretched conditions that beset many people in industrial Britain. Her world becomes a whirlwind of horror as she struggles to deal with her family’s death. Alice continually swaps backwards and forwards between England and Wonderland, a place that easily represents her world, but in an incredibly strange fashion.
Anything related to Alice in Wonderland is undoubtedly going to have surreal elements throughout the story. The original tale written by Lewis Carroll is full of ordinary and otherwise uninteresting items that have become extraordinary and peculiar because of their odd, surreal twist. Madness Returns takes these pieces from the original tale and merges them with its own depiction of Alice Liddell. Combining this depiction with a Gothic/steampunk vibe creates a completely unmissable experience.
Plug & Play
Buy it on: Steam
Our previous selections have been very story-based games that instill surrealism in their imagery through the mental instability of their protagonists. Plug & Play isn’t that kind of game at all. It is surreal to the max, with no real purpose or distinct end goal.
The basic idea is to fit the plugs together through different scenarios. As you progress through the game, these scenarios become odder, and part of what you’re doing is hidden until you have put the plugs together. Plug 7 Play takes what we know about a very basic item and alters it in so many different lights. It’s an incredibly strange game that has this enchanting way of compelling you to play it more and more.
Buy it on: Steam
Limbo is an incredibly classic game, and many fans rant and rave about how incredible it is. Its successor Inside is incredibly similar and is also worth checking out. Limbo follows a boy who is making his way through a 2D forest in which there are many creatures and things that want to kill him.
It requires some thought to make your way through the game, and as you progress, it becomes harder and harder to realize what will harm you. The ending is phenomenal: It’s not in your face, but it makes your heart drop. I won’t spoil it for anyone who hasn’t played the game, but Limbo shouldn’t just be on a top surrealism list, but also on a top video games in general list.
Buy it on: Steam
Contrast is one of those games that got mixed reviews when it first came out, but for me, I found everything about it to be incredibly stunning. The game is relatively short, so if you’re looking for a quick fix, it is a brilliant game. It follows a little girl who has an imaginary friend that appears to represent an older version of herself. As you travel through the game with them both, you learn things about the girl’s life with regards to her parents and her situation.
Contrast challenges you to think about perception, and it uses light to achieve this. You predominantly play as the older self and traverse the area using shadows. By angling light and your camera, you can change what platforms you can get up to. Furthermore, most of the story is delivered by shadows, placing further emphasis on light. It takes an aspect of life you may never have thought about that much and transforms it into an integral part of the game.
Available Q1 2018
You venture out on a cross-country road trip that ultimately leaves you stranded in a town in the middle of nowhere. Before you know it, you’re traversing time and space in some incredibly well-designed but odd places.
0°N 0°W is incredibly minimalistic, but it contains bright neon colors that form the scenes you see in front of you. Sometimes they form objects and cityscapes, and others are just a collection of lines that still give you a sense of direction. This is a game that shows the player that you don’t need incredibly well-rendered, realistic set pieces to create a scene that is recognizable to the player. The use of color and the simplicity of the game create really stunning scenes that match the game's intent.
These were just some of the top Surrealist video games out there. There are plenty of other options to explore, with a lot of indie developers coming out with more and more content like this.
What did you think of the games listed? Are any of these games ones that you really want to play? Let us know in the comments below!