Some Favorite Hard-boiled Noir or Retro Future Inspired Video Games

Lisa Tate

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As I hinted last week in my list of noir and pulp inspired music videos, I wanted to continue my Noirvember fun with some favorite video games.

There are plenty out there from which to chose, but I’ve narrowed it down to my four personal favorites:

L.A. Noire (2011)

Well, this one couldn’t be more obvious, but it is a fun game. Detective Phelps of the LAPD (played by Aaron Staton) faces corrupt cops, hooks up with a sultry singer and takes on a seedy drug trade, only to have his reputation and life come to a crashing, dark conclusion.

What’s cool is players get to meander about the world and see some familiar sites inspired by 1940s Los Angeles landmarks. There were talks of a second in this series, but Team Bondi who created it for Rockstar Games disbanded, so years later and it might not happen. It did, however, get a virtual reality subset in 2017.

Here’s a look at the game’s nifty character motion capture:

Fallout 4 (2015)

Part of Bethesda’s exceedingly popular Fallout franchise, you get to be the Sole Survivor from Vault 111, setting off to avenge the death of your husband (or wife, depending on which character you chose) and find your long lost son. Lots of interesting characters, side missions and bloody, creepy battles lay ahead.

Okay, technically you could categorize this post-apocalyptic game as a kind of mid-century “retro future” with a 1940s and 1950s vibe, like its predecessors such as Fallout: New Vegas. But there are plenty of gangster style companions and elements in this one. Most notable is fan favorite Nick Valentine, Diamond City’s robotic Private Eye, who bears quite a bit of resemblance to Humphrey Bogart’s Sam Spade, of Maltese Falcon fame.

We learn that Nick’s memories include his past human life as a Chicago detective with a tragic backstory, a perfect set up for any noir character. Even the game’s trailer reveals him strolling under a moody streetlamp:

Max Payne (2001)

The first in Remedy Entertainment’s Max Payne series is a perfect example of neo-noir, and certainly draws some inspiration from the classic Mickey Spillane detective stories. As with most worthy noir stories, our hard-boiled title hero had to have a horrific tragedy befall him to help propel him in his journey. Former NYPD detective Max Payne has faced the worst: the murder of his wife and child. As he works to solve it, he gets himself caught up in a big messy otherworldly conspiracy. Personally, I think the graphic novel style cutscenes are this game’s coolest element.

This game was so popular it led to two sequels and afeature film starring Mark Wahlberg, which I admit I haven’t seen so I have no idea if it was any good. There has also been talk of a Max Payne 4 for a few years, but nothing is for sure.

Meanwhile, here’s the violently intense trailer from the original game:

Grim Fandango (1998)

I’m going to confess flat out this multiple award winning LucasArts project is one of my favorite video games of all time. It combines a little classic Casablanca shoutouts in a colorful Dia de los Muertos afterlife, plenty of humor, and an artistic style that will make you want to start a fanart notebook.

The game follows the adventures of Land of the Dead “travel agent” Manny Calavera and his big blue collar demon pal Glottis on a journey to bring a lovely soul to her “final destination.” The soundtrack ranges from big band to mariachi, and Manny’s voice is provided by actor Tony Plana.

Here’s the trailer for a remastered re-launch in 2015:

My Noirvember adventure ends next week where it should: with some great noir short films.

Header Image from L.A. Noire © Rockstar Games.

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