FMV games – that’s full motion video games – have seen something of a resurgence in recent years. Replacing animated cutscenes, 3D visuals or pixelated graphics with real-life camera footage, FMV games are nothing new. In fact, they’ve been around since the 1980s in some form or another. The earliest FMV games go back as far as 1983, where the technology started popping up in arcade games. SEGA’s Astron Belt and Thayer’s Quest from RDI Video Systems are two early examples, both utilising laserdisc technology to play video footage rather than in-game graphics.
One of the most notable examples is Night Trap, a game released on Sega CD in 1992. It’s over-the-top and cheesy, thoroughly in B-movie territory, but that’s exactly what made it popular.
With only a smattering being released throughout the 90s and 2000s, the market for FMV games has remained small. But over the last few years, there’s been a resurgence in the medium. A number of titles have found success in a niche market, and so have inspired other developers to follow suit.
Read on to see our picks of the best FMV games from recent years. If you’re interested in the interactive movie genre of video games, we heartily encourage you to seek them out. Each game on this list has something special to offer the artform, and they all come recommended by us.
This list was first published in 2017 and has been kept updated with new titles since.
1. The Centennial Case: A Shijima Story
- Available on PS4, PS5, Switch and PC
Published by Square Enix, The Centennial Case: A Shijima Story is a murder mystery spanning 100 years. Split over different chapters, you’ll jump between time periods to unravel a mystery that’s been plaguing the Shijima family for more than a century.
You’ll use powers of deduction to work out what’s really going on, pointing the finger as the correct person in order to move forward and uncover the truth. The Centennial Case: A Shijima Story has a mixture of scenes to watch, with some choices being thrown in to keep you engaged, and a deduction board-style room for you to sort between clues and theories before you put together a hypothesis. If you enjoy solving mysteries, then this is one of the best FMV games you can play.
2. Ten Dates
- Available on PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S Switch, PC
While many of the other games on this list of best FMV games deal in the horror or thriller genre, Ten Dates is instead a dating simulator. That’s right: it’s all about finding love! Set in London, it’s a sequel to Five Dates – another FMV worth playing – and after choosing either a male or female character to follow, you’ll accompany them on a speed dating outing.
Five Dates was filmed during lockdown, and so all of its dates took place over Zoom. But back in the free world, Ten Dates lets us date out in the wild. After speed dating and choosing a couple of people to see again, you’ll follow through on a second (and hopefully third) date, seeing where things go. The choices you make and things you say matter, so be on your best behaviour!
3. Night Book
- Available on PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, Switch and PC
Another game made entirely under Covid-19 lockdown restrictions, Night Book is a very interesting prospect. It follows Loralyn, an online interpreter, as she signs in for a night shift at work. But this shift will be no normal day at work for her; her client wants her to translate some text from an ancient language – one she’s privileged enough to understand – but doing so has some very dire consequences indeed.
Cue a 90-minute tense romp filled with scares, possessed fathers, enraged husbands, evil entities and a whole lot more. Yes, it’s over the top – aren’t all FMVs? – and its story may be a little clichéd and cheesy, but it’ll keep you gripped for its run time. It’s about the length of a movie, so it’s perfect for spending an evening with.
4. The Infectious Madness of Doctor Dekker
- Available on PC, PS4, Xbox One and Switch
The Infectious Madness of Doctor Dekker is a murder mystery from D’Avekki Studios, a company that has previously specialised in creating murder mystery experiences in the shape of more traditional dinner party games. This may be the company’s first foray into a video game-shaped medium, but it doesn’t make it any less worth your time.
The main story of the game is a classic whodunnit; you’ll spend your time unravelling the mystery of who killed Doctor Dekker. But there’s more to it than meets the eye. It seems that Dr. Dekker isn’t your usual victim, and he’s left behind a lot of strangeness that needs to be dealt with.
Unlike the other games on this list of best FMV games, Doctor Dekker allows you to input text to ask questions. You can type in whatever you like, adding freedom to how the game is approached and how investigations play out. Of course, there’s only a finite number of options available, but there are multiple endings to unlock. There’s also multiple storylines and side quests to complete.
5. Her Story
- Available on PC
Released in June 2015, Her Story might just be the one single FMV game that kickstarted a new era of the genre. Developed by Sam Barlow, Her Story puts you in front of a police database, loaded with random video clips from a series of interviews. The interviews are all with the same woman, and concern the disappearance of her husband. Using the very basic search tools on the 1990s-era database, it’s up to you to piece together the information given in the interviews, paint a full picture of the events, and decide whether the woman is guilty or innocent.
Her Story is perhaps one of the most intriguing titles on this list, and is one of the best – yet most simple – uses of the FMV style of videogame making. The video clips aren’t interactive; you simply watch them through and form your thoughts and assumptions around it. It’s brought to life by the fact that Viva Seifert, the actress featured in each of the video clips, does a fantastic job of creating a believable, emotive character.
If you’ve never played an FMV game before, Her Story is a brilliant place to begin, and will make you ache to play more games as creative and original as this.
6. The Shapeshifting Detective
- Available on PC, Xbox One, PS4 and Switch
The Shapeshifting Detective is a fine case for how the FMV genre has developed over the last couple of years. The player has more freedom than in other titles like The Bunker, but over-the-top acting and a gripping mystery plot still provide the main facets of the game.
As the game begins, you’ll find yourself in the shoes of figure known only as ‘Sam’. After a mysterious introduction, you arrive in a small town called August, where a local woman has been murdered. You’ve been brought in as a detective to help uncover what’s happened, and you have a unique skill to help you: you can shapeshift.
When you meet a new character, you develop the ability to shapeshift into their form. That means you can interview suspects not only as yourself, but as their friends and neighbours, too, as a curious means to find new information. The Shapeshifting Detective is all about asking the right questions to provoke an interesting response. With a town filled with suspicious characters – of course – there’s plenty of suspicion, and it’s up to you to narrow down the perpetrator.
7. Telling Lies
- Available on PS4, Xbox One, Switch and PC
The latest game from Her Story developer Sam Barlow, Telling Lies plays out very similarly to his first game. Though rather being put in front of an old-fashioned PC database, you’re in front of a woman’s home computer. She’s been given access to some very sensitive videos, and it’s your job to sift through them and work out what’s going on.
Just like Her Story, you’ll be tying in keywords in order to search the database and bring up videos including those words. The game purposefully gives you no real direction to begin with: other than the word “LOVE” typed into the search box, you have no real idea of what you’re looking for in Telling Lies, or why. The majority of videos you watch are one side of a webcam conversation, with a separate video file often containing the other person in the conversation. Occasional videos are from a ‘hidden camera’ perspective, showing multiple people in conversation at once.
While you don’t know exactly what you’re looking for, it’s clear from early on that Telling Lies weaves a captivating and intricate tale. Its mystery compels you to keep searching, digging further, and every tiny piece of information you uncover adds to a rich narrative tapestry. Its acting calibre – starring, among others, Logan Marshall-Green, of Upgrade fame – is second to none; the performances of its cast only helping you become further invested in Telling Lies’ magnificent narrative web.
- Available on PC
A murder mystery from developer Baggy Cat Ltd, Contradiction follows the story of Inspector Jenks, a theatrical detective sent to Edenton, a small (completely fictitious) English village, to solve the case of a mysterious murder. Just like any good FMV game should be, Contradiction is extremely over the top, but in a delightfully cheesy way that’s hard not to like.
Jenks’ character is impossible not to like, and even the dodgiest residents of this little village will keep you hanging onto their every word. Contradiction plays out like an interactive movie; you can choose prompts for Jenks’ dialogue, and then a conversation will play out. Pay attention, because clues could be anywhere, and it’s up to you to catch out the suspects in their lies. It might not be quite Inspector Morse, but it’s more entertaining than any Channel 5 daytime mystery programme, that’s for sure.
9. Late Shift
- Available on PC, PS4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch
Released in 2017, Late Shift tells an action-packed story in the crime/thriller genre. It has many branching paths, and the decisions you make will drastically change the outcome. There are a number of different endings, and a plethora of different scenes to witness. If you want to see everything on offer, then, you’ll have to play it through a number of times.
Late Shift is all about making quick, spur of the moment decisions. You don’t get time to sit and ponder the best course of action; the footage keeps on rolling, giving you just a couple of seconds to decide which path, out of two possible options, to take.
With a talented cast and extremely high production values, there’s a lot to like about Late Shift. It’s written by Michael R. Johnson, the author of the 2009 film Sherlock Holmes, and his experience certainly shows. It plays out like a high quality film rather than a FMV video game; indeed, when the game was first released, it was played in a select amount of cinemas for the true cinematic experience.
10. The Bunker
- Available on PC, Xbox One, PS4 and Switch
Nuclear fallout and the ‘end of the world’ is something that’s explored in many a piece of media, be it a TV programme, film or video game. The Bunker from Splendy and Wales Interactive, tells the story of John, a man who’s spent his entire life in an underground bunker, while the world above the surface is inhospitable and deadly.
The Bunker is an interactive movie in the most traditional sense of the word. Made up completely of film footage and starring a cast of familiar faces (including Adam Brown from The Hobbit and Sarah Greene from Penny Dreadful), gameplay consists of simple point and click sections, dialogue choices and exploration interspersed between high quality cutscenes.
Although only a short experience, The Bunker is a gripping one, with its story keeping you hooked from start to finish. It’s helped in part by the high production value and the great acting from the cast; The Bunker lacks the typical ‘hamminess’ that you’d usually expect from an FMV game. It’s a little longer than the average movie, and is just as gripping – if not even more so – than a run-of-the-mill blockbuster. As with any FMV game, don’t expect to be completely in control of the action; rather, the thrill is watching it unfold as you experience each scene.