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Judgment 1 (2) detective games

The Best Detective Games on PS4

Time to go sleuthing

This list was first published in August 2019 and has been updated and reposted since.

In one sense, the detective genre is a natural choice for games.

Being a detective is one of those things that many of us would surely love to experience, but don’t want to have to deal with the reality of it; the stress, the long hours, the often boring work and, of course, the horrors you’d have to see first-hand.

Detective work, by its very nature, requires skills that run contrary to the straightforward solutions found in most video games. In the best detective games, solving a problem or progressing the plot is usually more complicated than shooting someone in the face or completing a fetch quest. It’s perhaps this which often prevents many of these games from truly gatecrashing the mainstream.

In considering the best detective games on PS4 then, we end up with an interesting collection of titles. Some are pure detective sims and some mix more cerebral activities with traditional videogame staples of shooting and beating up enemies. Either way, they’re all very much worth your time if you enjoy a bit of detective work.

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Agatha Christie – The ABC Murders

We start with a game that’s definitely a pure detective sim. The ABC Murders places you in the patent leather shoes of world-famous Belgian detective Hercule Poirot as you pit your wits against a fiendish killer known only as ABC.

To solve the case, you travel from crime scene to crime scene, observing people, interrogating witnesses and solving puzzles. There’ll be plenty of Sherlock Holmes-style deductions to be made from your observations, too. Having gathered the requisite information, you then use Poirot’s famous little grey cells and mentally reconstruct how the murder must have happened.

None of this is exactly revelatory in a gameplay sense, but it’s beautifully executed. The voice acting is strong, the plot compelling and the whole thing is rendered in a gorgeous, slightly cartoonish art style which really brings to life this vision of 1930s England. The cleverest touch in this detective game, though, is ego points; the game rewards you for acting like Poirot and gently encouraging you to forge a deeper relationship with the character.

Read our review of The ABC Murders

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Sherlock Holmes – Crimes and Punishments

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From one infamous literary detective to another, Crimes and Punishments is the most accomplished title in Frogwares’ long-running series of Sherlock Holmes games. In terms of gameplay, the approach is similar to The ABC Murders but the tone is rather different. Sherlock Holmes – Crimes and Punishments has a more realistic visual style and this really brings home the brutality of some of the crimes you investigate.

As well as deducing, observing and interrogating, you’ll also be playing dress-up, with the game often requiring you to virtually go through Mr Holmes’ wardrobe and find outfits that suit particular circumstances. Many of the cases are based on the original tales written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle; as such, your investigations are varied and exciting. They cover everything from a former whaler who’s been impaled by a harpoon, to a train that’s mysteriously vanished. This is one of the best detective games on PS4, with a truly compelling protagonist, and there’s a real satisfaction when you figure out the key to the mystery.

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Murdered: Soul Suspect

How’s this for an elevator pitch? In Murdered: Soul Suspect, you play a ghost detective investigating his own murder. Okay, the game doesn’t quite live up to the billing; its pretty much linear nature doesn’t give the opportunities for the paranormal sandbox fun you might expect. Despite that, this is still one of the best detective games on PS4 there is.

Incorporeally walking the mean streets of Salem, Massachusetts, you’ll do all the standard detective stuff but your ghostly abilities are far more interesting. You can possess people and read their minds, teleport, and use your poltergeist capabilities to make vending machines spew out coke cans and send papers flying off desks. You can even possess a cat and slink around for a new perspective on the world.

In tone, the whole thing feels like a supernatural noir B-movie, with a gruff-voiced protagonist uncovering all sorts of seedy goings-on. There are demons to fight and souls who need a bit of help getting to the after life; distractions that provide a nice change of pace from uncovering the identity of the mysterious bell killer and the circumstances that led to your death. Murdered: Soul Suspect is not a masterpiece, but its unique ideas mean it’s well worth seeking out.

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Detroit: Become Human

Detroit: Become Human is far more than a simple detective sim. Its wide-ranging plot confronts issues about the nature of humanity, and its branching storyline often forces players to weigh up emotion vs logic and choose accordingly. There are three different characters to play as, but in the shoes of android policeman Connor is when Detroit feels most like a detective game. You’ll investigate crime scenes, analyse evidence and reconstruct timelines. The whole thing has been given the sort of high-end sheen that makes you feel you’re in your favourite sci-fi movie.

There’s also a beautiful sense of atmosphere to these scenes. Whether you’re trying to talk down a rogue android who’s taken a child hostage, or looking for clues at a grisly murder scene, the lighting, sound and often dazzling graphics combine to produce stunning sequences. You’ll also use what you learn in the environment when you confront suspects and the branching story means that there’s a real sense of jeopardy in these conversations. A wrong move leads to not a game over screen but, in many cases, the death of a character and the removal of a set of possibilities. Detroit: Become Human may be more than a detective game but when it wants to be, it’s one of the best detective games on PS4.

Read our review of Detroit: Become Human

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Judgment 1 (2)

For our next entry, we head to the land of the rising sun. Judgment is produced by Yakuza devs Ryu ga Gotoku and the game practically pulses with Yakuza DNA. That means spectacularly over-the-top fight scenes, wacky minigames and a plot focusing on the Japanese underworld. However, this time, you’re not a yakuza but private detective Takayuka Yagami. Alongside his regular caseload, Yagami is trying to track down a serial killer who’s bumping off high-ranking members of Tokyo’s criminal fraternity. Of course, in grand Yakuza tradition, he uncovers a grand conspiracy along the way.

To make you feel like a private eye, you’ll spend lots of time doing detective stuff. Judgment‘s main story is epic and serious, drawing you in and keeping you gripped until the dramatic conclusion. The side cases, though, are what really make Judgment feel like one of the best detective games on PS4. In keeping with the varied workload of a private eye, you never know quite what to expect; from finding a missing cat to dealing with a perverted panty stealer and keeping track of unfaithful husbands, it’s all here. It’s a wild ride that thrills from start to finish.

Read our review of Judgment

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Batman: Return to Arkham

best detective games

The World’s Greatest Detective? If you ask DC Comics, that’s Batman. The Arkham trilogy of games does three things superbly; they let you fight like Batman, they let you fly like Batman and they let you detect like Batman. While Arkham Knight is the only one made for PS4 and is therefore the most technically accomplished of the three, it’s also the least cerebral, with long sections even involving the batmobile shooting down drones which sometimes feels more Call of Duty than Caped Crusader. It’s for this reason that Batman: Return to Arkham, which combines remastered versions of Arkham Asylum and Arkham City is on this list.

Asylum is relatively linear while City opens up the whole of Gotham, but they share an emphasis on exploration and deduction. Batman’s detective mode not only turns the world blue and lets you see enemies through walls, but also allows you to follow footsteps, track odours and figure out puzzles involving cables and code. And then there are the Riddler trophies. For example, Arkham Asylum features 240 to collect, with the key generally being to locate objects that match the cryptic clues. It’s in these endeavours that you’ll need to prove that you can match Batman’s legendary detective skills and earn that famous title.

Read our review of Batman: Return to Arkham

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The Wolf Among Us

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Fairy tales are real and they live in New York City. That’s the first thing you should know about The Wolf Among Us, a Telltale game adapted from the Fables comic book series. As Sheriff Bigby Wolf, you’re tasked with keeping order in this hidden community and, as ever, bringing a murderer to justice.

Despite its unusual premise, The Wolf Among Us is noir to its core. Bigby is a hard-drinking, smoking, scowling tough guy who often lets the stress of being the personification of law and order get to him. There’s plenty of investigative work to be done too, with every inch of the gorgeous cel-shaded environments just begging to be explored, both for information on suspects and just to learn more about this unique world. Engage fully and The Wolf Among Us delivers an exceptionally vivid detective game. It powerfully illustrates the power and duty involved in occupying a position of such authority. Its story might be rather linear, but that doesn’t stop it being one of the best detective games on PS4.

Read our review of The Wolf Among Us

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The Vanishing of Ethan Carter

best detective games

Compared to the other titles on this list, The Vanishing of Ethan Carter is a minor game; a narrative adventure made by a small Polish studio. What makes it stand out, though, is the extent to which it forces you to figure things out for yourself.

At the outset, the game explicitly informs you that it won’t hold your hand and it lives up to this promise. There’s nothing telling you where to go, no HUD, and no map. You’re simply plonked in the middle of Wisconsin and told to investigate. This almost brutally minimalist approach really does make you feel like a detective; you’re given the odd hint but it’s up to you where you go when you find a clue. Early on, for example, you encounter a railcar standing on a track. An inspection reveals that it needs a crank to get moving but you’re given no indication where this might be; you simply need to go and look for it. This minimalistic approach gives a sublime sense of atmosphere and makes the story’s gradual plunge into the paranormal genuinely unsettling.

It won’t be for everyone, but The Vanishing of Ethan Carter is the purest distillation yet of what it actually feels like to be a detective. That alone makes it one of the best detective games on PS4.

Read our review of The Vanishing of Ethan Carter

Heavy Rain

Heavy Rain PC 2

There may be times when Heavy Rain shows its age a little, but it’s still one of the best detective games on PS4. On the hunt for the infamous origami killer, you’ll play as both an ageing private investigator and a fresh-faced FBI agent. You’ll spend your time interrogating witnesses, tracking down suspects, looking for clues at crimescenes, and gaining multiple perspectives on the hunt for the killer.

It’s probably the FBI stuff that’s the most fun; you’ll don some snazzy AR goggles that give you a fancy way to track footprints and the like. There’s also a strange AR filing system that, should you so desire, lets you change your office so it looks like you’re on the surface of Mars. The best bit, though, is the way that the plot adapts to the choices you make in order to give a satisfying conclusion. No matter what you do, it’s never game over. Ultimately, there are multiple endings, ensuring that even once you’ve finished playing through this absorbing and genuinely emotional adventure, you’ll no doubt be itching for another playthrough.

Read our review of Heavy Rain

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LA Noire

best detective games

LA Noire is one of the best detective games on PS4 for two reasons. One, it’s genuinely great and shows a very different side to its developer, Rockstar. And two, it’s one of a tiny number of games where you actually play as a cop. While it eventually gets pretty gun heavy, it’s amazing how much of this game feels grounded in a believable reality.

You’re Cole Phelps, WW2 veteran turned rookie cop in a gorgeously recreated 1947 LA. As Cole, you’ll climb the ladder from being a traffic cop to investigating serious and occasionally horrific crimes like homicide and arson. You’ll spend a lot of time searching crime scenes and observing key objects; all of which have a beautiful attention to detail and can be rotated for thorough examination. What really makes it stand out, though, is the interrogation scenes. Face scan technology was used to convey every nuance of the actor’s performance to help you work out whether they’re telling the truth or not. It’s a decision you’ll need to make after every answer you get; the game continually asks whether you want to believe, doubt or outright accuse whoever you’re talking to of lying.

You’ll also have to deal with side missions, like stopping a bank robbery or tailing a suspect to their hideout. But it’s LA Noire‘s main story that really pulls you along. It’s full of great performances (Phelps for example is played by Mad Men alumnus Aaron Staton), a lively cast of well-written characters and some truly atmospheric settings; like a recently burned down family home or the notorious La Brea Tar Pits. If you’re looking for a great detective game on PS4, they don’t come much better than this.

Read our review of LA Noire

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