Cinematic Video Games to Play Now
Though video games and films are two different mediums, the barrier between them is dwindling. As gaming's storytelling and graphical standards rise each and every year, the art form grows closer to acquiring its cinematic, older brother's talent for telling engrossing stories that transport people to other worlds via nothing but a screen. No games have bridged the gap between mediums quite as well as the ones on this list. Be it for their stellar graphics, crafty camerawork or top-tier writing, these are the best cinematic games that make you feel like you're inside an interactive movie.
Uncharted 4 (PS4)
When it comes to cinematic experiences, none ooze big-budget money and pizzazz quite like Uncharted 4. Featuring some of the best graphics in the industry, a world-class cast of voice actors, and some of the wittiest and most authentic dialogue not just in games but in the storytelling business as a whole, this Sony exclusive raises the bar for cinematic gaming. And we haven't even mentioned the aurally enthralling soundtrack by composer Henry Jackman, which single-handedly elevates this game a few notches on the "Is this a movie in disguise?" scale.
God of War (2018) (PS4)
The God of War franchise is known and beloved for its unparalleled cinematic set-pieces, and the 2018 installment of the series brings those in spades. Never before have Kratos' gory antics looked so lifelike, with each of the game's showdowns further enhanced by fantastic cinematography and smart camera placement. And much like the other God of War games, this one packs a rich, mythology-laden story custom-built to suck you in and make you forget that you're holding a controller.
Until Dawn (PS4, PC via PS Now)
Until Dawn is the exceedingly rare case of actually letting you choose your own adventure, which means that no character is safe; one wrong move can radically alter the outcome of your entire playthrough. Given that gameplay itself is minimal, constantly having to make decisions ensures that the predominantly cinematic, story-focused experience feels satisfactorily interactive. However, with a cast consisting of Hollywood heavy hitters like Rami Malek and Hayden Panettiere, you may as well just grab some popcorn and treat the game as an 8-hour-long movie.
Remember Me (Xbox 360, PS3, PC)
Remember Me nails every tenet of good filmmaking. It features engaging, thoughtful camera angles that tell a story and serve a purpose. It's set in a three-dimensional depiction of future Paris that lives and breathes like a real city. Its orchestral soundtrack is transcendent, and enhances this game's already strong sense of atmosphere tenfold. But the true magic of Remember Me is that it's even richer than the sum of its parts, generating artisanal value from its components' raw synergy. It's the slice of interactive Parisian cyberpunk cinema you didn't know you needed.
The Last of Us (PS4, PS3, PC via PS Now)
While The Last of Us isn't the only game on this list to deal with a father's struggle to raise a child in a violent, cruel world, it's certainly special enough to carve out a place of its own. For fans of gritty zombie movies like 28 Days Later, this is the horror action-adventure to play. The Last of Us' intense focus on its characters' arcs and overarching narrative put it a notch above many other titles that attempt to capture the tension and emotion of cinematic storytelling, and the gameplay manages to hold its own as well.
Late Shift (PS4, Xbox One, PC, Switch)
Games don't get more cinematic than Late Shift, because Late Shift is an actual movie, one with choices and branching paths that technically make it a "game." But make no mistake — 100% of this experience was filmed with real cameras, sets and actors. If you've ever seen a film and thought "Well, geez, that's a dumb direction to take the plot," this movie — er, game — flips the script and lets you fix it yourself, which is pretty damn neat. Plus, Late Shift is a London-based crime thriller, and there aren't too many of those on the gaming market, so that's another big feather in its cap.
A Way Out (PS4, Xbox One, PC)
For a unique gaming experience, you may want to consider A Way Out. The game requires two players, either locally or online (which is free for the second player if one of you owns a copy), and tasks the pair with breaking out of prison together. If you've ever wanted to take part in The Shawshank Redemption while watching it, this is the one and only game for you. Way Out's unpredictable plot, brilliant camerawork and ingenious use of quicktime events easily make this one of the most immersive, and subversive, cinematic adventures in all of gaming.
Detroit: Become Human (PS4, PC)
Developer Quantic Dream knows a thing or two about cinematic experiences since that's its genre of choice, having previously developed games with heavily filmic sensibilities like Heavy Rain and Beyond: Two Souls. Detroit: Become Human continues this trend of bringing cinematic style to a video game, since it's almost entirely focused on telling a story rather than developing gameplay mechanics. Its themes and central plot topics are a bit incendiary and politically divisive, but for those who want a game with a bit more relevance, Detroit's not a bad sci-fi movie in disguise.
Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots (natively PS3, as well as PS4 and PC via PS Now)
Game director and industry luminary Hideo Kojima is known for making stealth games that are thinly veiled military espionage films, and Metal Gear Solid 4 stretches that veil thinner than ever before. This game holds the Guiness World Record for the longest cutscene ever, and all its cutscenes together add up to more than 5 hours of animated film. If you want a cinematic gaming experience that plays out like a weird blend of Japanese pop culture tropes and Tom Clancy fiction, Metal Gear Solid 4 is the admirably bizarre adventure for you.
The Order: 1886 (PS4)
You know a game is trying hard to be cinematic when it has black bars, i.e. letterboxing, overlayed across every second of its runtime. That's not all The Order: 1886 does to make itself indistinguishable from a movie, though. Cutscenes render in the same engine as the in-game graphics for a visually seamless experience, and oftentimes the game omits having a heads-up display (HUD). The Order works overtime to present itself as a historical fiction movie that just so happens to have interactive elements and, on the whole, it succeeds.
Resident Evil 6 (PS4, Xbox One, PC, Xbox 360, PS3)
Not many games let you take part in an action-adventure-horror B-movie, but Resident Evil 6 lets you do it four times over, thanks to its multiple campaigns that interweave stories rife with campy drama, ridiculous voice acting and an abundance of absurd plot twists. This is a game for people who wish they could play through one of Brendan Fraser's Mummy movies, or the equally goofy film Cabin in the Woods. Resident Evil 6's camerawork, stylish visual design and generally lavish presentation exude equal parts money and vision, and its bonkers narrative is just acid-laced icing on the cake.
Bioshock Infinite (Xbox One via backward compatibility, Xbox 360, PS3, PC. PS4 via "Bioshock: The Collection")
Though Bioshock Infinite has a lot of shooting and killing, far more than should be crammed into anything attempting to be cinematic, the merits of the game more than outweigh this singular flaw. Its plot sports the high-concept nature of a Nolan film and the insanity of a Shyamalan production, and its commitment to an alternate-reality depiction of 1912 is infused with a degree of passion nary another game can rival. Infinite feels like an auteur's ambitious, overly long, career-defining faux period piece, and in a sense, that seems perfectly in line with what game director Ken Levine set out to produce.
Max Payne 3 (Xbox 360, PS3, PC)
Max Payne 3 has moody voice-overs, stylish camera angles, and all the goofiness of a Fast and the Furious flick with the restraint of a Martin Scorcese film. Sure, the core gunplay is brutally difficult and can break immersion from time to time. But if you power through the interactive component, there's a deliciously campy narrative underneath that's eager to tell you about an ex-NYPD detective whose life gets turned upside down by a bad Brazilian family. Max Payne 3 has all the drugs, sex, money and hardboiled-fiction tropes you can shake a stick at, delivered in that special way only Rockstar Games can do.
Quantum Break (Xbox One, PC)
Much like Remedy Entertainment's other cinematic franchise, Alan Wake, Quantum Break does a lot to make the player feel like they're taking part in a movie. There's an emphasis on fluid animations and stylish effects, which ensures that each moment of gameplay looks and sounds a little richer than the average current gen release. And with the game starring actors like Shawn Ashmore, Lance Reddick and Aidan Gillen, the story's delivery is top-notch. But Quantum Break takes things a step further by putting its actors in a literal live-action TV show that comprises half the game and is affected by your choices. How's that for cinematic?
Observer (PS4, Xbox One, PC, Switch)
For anyone who has ever wanted to experience an interactive version of the Blade Runner movies, Observer is as close as modern gaming will allow. It's a slow-burn cyberpunk detective adventure that hinges on horror to deliver an unforgettable experience that blurs the lines between movie and game. Observer takes control away from you at just the right moments and puts you back in the driver's seat exactly when you need to be, which gives the game a good flow that feels right in tune with the movies it seems to be drawing heavy inspiration from.
Vanquish (Xbox One via backward compatibility, Xbox 360, PS3, PC)
Vanquish is the sci-fi movie you wish existed. When you couple its "all killer, zero filler" approach to game design with its finely tuned mechanics, the result is something magical: a living, breathing 3-to-6-hour movie that you're the star of. Your character can slow time, dismember robot limbs, rocket-slide at Mach 5, and punch literal holes through enemies – all within 5 seconds. Vanquish's showboating action puts modern blockbuster cinema to shame. If you want a game jam-packed with sexy, stylish, sci-fi spectacle that seems custom-built for a movie of the future, there's no better experience than this one.
Horizon: Zero Dawn (PS4)
Though Horizon: Zero Dawn isn't quite as movie-esque as the rest of the games on this list, what with its HUD elements and very game-like design structure, this game narrowly makes our cut thanks to its central narrative component, fluid animations and gorgeous graphics. There are moments when the lighting, scenery and rich detail of the game's world transport you a million miles from your screen; if that isn't evidence of cinematic magic, nothing is.