Like any other entertainment medium, games can take many forms. They can be stark and gritty and hold up startling mirrors to reality- but at the same time, they can also be fantastical and gleefully over-the-top. And there’s just something about an experience that lets you let loose with unnatural, awesome powers that can take several different forms. Here, we’re going to talk about games that do just that.
Remedy’s Control adheres to the “new weird” aesthetic from beginning to end, and that, of course, manifests in gameplay as well. From force pushes to being able to levitate, from picking up and flinging objects using telekinesis to controlling enemies’ minds, from ground slams to creating shields out of things in the environment, Control lets you use some truly incredible powers.
Of course, Control isn’t the first time that a game by Remedy let players do wildly over-the-top stuff with unique abilities. Quantum Break takes its central time-related shenanigans and gets really weird with powers and abilities related to that, from dashes and being able to slow down time to creating time bubbles and even freezing enemies solid. What helps is that from a visuals perspective, all of it looks absolutely amazing.
This one was sort of obvious. The inFamous games may have fallen off the map in recent years, but it’s hard not to immediately think of them when speaking about games that give players a whole host of unnatural abilities. Sucker Punch’s superhero series not only lets you enact incredible power fantasies, they also throw an engaging morality twist on the whole concept. And sure, that morality is a bit too binary- but simply zipping around open world environments and blasting away with powers feels about as great as you’d expect.
Coming out around the same time as inFamous, Prototype was yet another solid superhero title that gave players some excellent abilities to play around with in an open world environment. And the main hook here was the sheer destructive capability of those powers. Prototype may have had its issues, but when it comes to being able to gleefully wreak havoc in an open world environment, that game still holds up.
LIFE IS STRANGE
Life is Strange is much more story-driven than most (if not all) of the games on this list, but even so, in terms of both story and gameplay, it uses its unnatural powers to great effect. Being able to turn back time isn’t exactly the most novel idea you’ll ever see, but Life is Strange makes excellent use of it, whether that’s for solving puzzles or for setting up excellent narrative scenes or even leading to heart-wrenching choice and consequence mechanics.
Prey is probably one of the best immersive sim games you’re ever going to play, in terms of how much freedom it affords in letting you play how you want. And if you want to focus on exotic alien powers, well, there’s more than enough to sink your teeth into. Manipulating gravity, creating electric blasts, being able to morph into inanimate objects, using psychic attacks, creating phantasmal clones of yourself- the list goes on and on, and Prey lets you use all of these powers in endlessly creative ways.
Prey isn’t the only time Arkane has created a game of its kind. Crafting excellent emergent gameplay sandboxes is kind of what the studio does best, and they’ve also done it multiple times in the Dishonored games. Dishonored is all about mixing and matching supernatural stealth abilities that range from simple teleportation to being able to summon swarms of rats to even turning into a shadowy cloud that creepily crawls around at great speeds. Here’s hoping we get to see more of the series in the not-too-distant future.
Surprise! Another immersive sim- but unlike, say, Dishonored, in the Deus Ex games, all the abilities and powers that you use all come from sci-fi body modifications and augments. And there’s so many of them. The Deus Ex games allow you to apply all kinds of enhancements to each individual part of your body, and then use those abilities to navigate stealth, combat, and exploration in an endless amount of combinations. There’s really nothing else quite like it.
Mass Effect’s biotics are essentially space magic. They’re Star Wars’ Force abilities in all but name, except even more fantastical in several ways. Playing as a biotic in Mass Effect is a real treat, too. Charging at enemies from massive distances, constricting them in magical singularities, levitating them up into the air from behind cover to then shoot them dead- biotic abilities bring so much to the table where Mass Effect’s combat is concerned, and they’ve only gotten better with each new game.
STAR WARS JEDI: FALLEN ORDER
Oh, speaking of Force powers- how about using actual Force powers? Given just how many Star Wars games there are out there, there’s no shortage of games that allow you to let loose with Force abilities, but there are some, of course, that do it better than others. Respawn’s Fallen Order, for instance, makes excellent use of its Force abilities not just for methodical and deliberate combat, but also for slick traversal and engaging metroidvania level design and exploration. Sure, it’s not as bombastic as some other Star Wars games, but it’s still an example of brilliant execution.
STAR WARS: THE FORCE UNLEASHED
If you do want a Star Wars games that implements Force powers in a much more explosive fashion, look no further than The Force Unleashed. Playing as a Force user who can choose between Light and Dark abilities, choke enemies, fling them across chasms, and do everything else Star Wars fans have been dreaming of doing for decades- The Force Unleashed is all about that. It’s the ultimate power fantasy, and sure, it’s a little rough around the edges, but very few Star Wars games use Force abilities as well as it does.
Oh look- more space magic! Outriders might be a cover-based third person shooter on paper, but as anyone who’s played it will tell you, its combat lives and breathes by the magical abilities that you acquire and use throughout the game. From manipulating time to lighting everything you can see on fire to literally ripping the earth apart, across its classes, Outriders grants you some excellent abilities that are a blast to use.
We can’t possibly talk about space magic and not mention Destiny– Destiny is basically Space Magic: The Game. Powers and abilities are core aspect of the game’s combat and progression, and using these fantastic abilities in combat is half the fun of the entire game. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that the unnatural abilities you use in Destiny are as crucial to the combat as the weapons themselves. And sure, there’s plenty of balancing issues to speak of that Destiny fans can write entire books about, but when they work, they work incredibly well.
You must have seen this one coming. The Persona series makes its titular personas vessels for magical abilities, and the breadth and variety it displays across those rosters in terms of visual design and utility cannot be praised enough. Their application is different than most other games on this list, of course, owing to the fact that combat in Persona is turn-based, but that doesn’t mean that using those powers is any less satisfying. What deserves special praise, however, is how Persona’s urban fantasy aesthetic with its with paranormal hooks always manifests in each game through unique and distinct powers in their protagonists. Now only does these powers constantly reinforce the series’ central themes of individual and collective subconscious, they also add a lotto the themes of each individual game.
SUPER MARIO ODYSSEY
Alright, this one is just weird. But it’s so good. You’d never think a Mario game would do anything like this, but Super Mario Odyssey’s possession mechanic is absolutely genius. Super Mario Odyssey is full of things you can turn into, from mundane (like an actual tree) to the ridiculous (like a frigging t-rex), and it constantly builds exciting sandboxes that let you use those endlessly creative power-ups in ridiculously enjoyable ways. And as good as it is, it still doesn’t scratch the surface of the possibilities of this mechanic! Just give is Super Mario Odyssey 2 already, Nintendo!