Smoke 'n' Play: Top 5 Psychedelic Video Games
Video games take us to entirely new universes where squirrels are crude alcoholics and gods organize cross-dimensional fistfights to the death. Tack on some fat blunts to the face, and there's no limit to just how mind-bending these games can become.
The psychedelic component of gaming can leave players dumbfounded, mystified, and downright flipped out—depending on the venue, of course. Entire games take place in groovy, drug-infused environments. Others contain trippy sequences that put Pink Floyd to shame.
Here are the top five psychedelic games to warp your THC-soaked cerebrum:
5. Batman: Arkham Knight
Quick preface: If you haven’t gotten around to playing Rocksteady Studio’s series, stop reading and go play it. While it’s far from perfect, the final entry is a fitting end to a monumental trilogy surrounding the Caped Crusader. Take your time; we’ll wait…
If you’re still here—or played the game—the psychedelic mind-bending starts early on and rarely lets up. After tracking Scarecrow down at ACE Chemicals, the Dark Knight is subjected to the villain’s infamous fear toxin. The exposure manifests a blood infection in Batman’s system, which leads to intense hallucinations and delusions that threaten to break his mental state.
When you’re deep into a joint of sticky sativa, these scenes of a man’s mind breaking can be decently startling. At any point, you have to question: Does Batman know what’s happening, or is he dreaming this whole thing up? While Arkham Knight doesn’t become Jacob’s Ladder, it provides an unreliable narrator who’s meant to be the most trusted hero in the world.
But don’t get me started on the plot twist, because I’d need an entirely new post about wrenching my brain back on straight…
4. Lollipop Chainsaw
No, this game isn’t a spin-off from Batman, but it’s understandable if you’d think that. Not only does the main character—Juliet Starling—share many qualities and traits with Harley Quinn, she’s also voiced by the same actor in both games, Tara Strong. However, this chainsaw-wielding cheerleader is slaughtering zombies rather than avoiding another stint in Arkham Asylum.
With the help of director James Gunn—yes, that James Gunn—this psychedelic game takes your mind to new and downright weird places. Personally, I break into fits of stoner giggles when Juliet attaches her boyfriend’s still-alive-but-severed head to her belt. This trippy game takes you to psychedelic realms when you’re forced to hack apart some mushrooms with your chainsaw.
The game itself is full of campy, over-the-top scenes of ultraviolence, but the shroom trip sequence is enough to make you wonder if you accidentally laced your joint with acid. It may not be the best overall entry on this list, but Lollipop Chainsaw has earned its place in the annals of weird-as-hell games.
Releasing on the Playstation 2 and oft-forgotten Sega Dreamcast, Rez is a rail shooter with innovative level designs and progressive gameplay that was practically ahead of its time. In fact, one could watch footage from the game and wonder if Jon Favreau gained inspiration from Rez for Iron Man’s aerial fighting style.
What separated this trippy game from other rail shooters was the sound design, which was positioned front and center in the gameplay. Rather than your typical explosions and shatters, objects produce melodic sounds that create electronic dance music as you progress through levels. In fact, playing Rez can lead to mild forms of synesthesia wherein you associate colors with sounds or vice versa. Just imagine smoking a bowl layered with keef and losing yourself in this psychedelic world.
Years later, creator Tetsuya Mizuguchi released a sequel, Child of Eden, on Xbox 360 and Playstation 3. This release took advantage of the motion-sensing cameras from the consoles, adding in new layers of gameplay that kept stoners entertained for hours.
2. Bioshock Infinite
As the final piece in a storied franchise, the last release from Irrational Games solidified itself as one of the trippiest adventures ever made. Taking the setting from underwater Rapture to celestial Columbia gave players new avenues for exploring and fighting.
The Bioshock series is no stranger to psychedelic, mind-bending sequences—I still experience flashbacks to when my brain was obliterated while sitting in a smoke-filled dorm room. Although the third game was arguably the most polarizing, there’s no denying its impact on the gaming genre. What seems like a retrofuturistic shooter turns into a head-scratching sci-fi thriller that’ll leave you questioning everything you just saw happen.
At its core, Infinite tackles the issue of predestination; do we choose our path, or is it picked for us? Are we able to change who we are? Or will destiny always ensure we become who we’re meant to be? Trippy, I know. So grab a fat blunt and lose yourself in Bioshock Infinite.
1. LSD: Dream Emulator
Does it get any more psychedelic than a game with “LSD” in the title? Debuting back in 1998 on the original Playstation, LSD is a deep dive into the dreams of a video game artist. No, literally—Asmik Ace Entertainment employee Hiroko Nishikawa supplied designs from a dream journal he kept for more than 10 years.
With some fresh dabs in hand, you can dive into a psychedelic world where exploration is the name of the game. Bumping into different objects transports you to different worlds within the game, and certain events can cause you to “wake up” at the main menu.
Know those dreams where you’re flying and suddenly fall, only to jolt yourself out of slumber with your hands up? Those happen in LSD, complete with the whole “what the shit just happened to me?” reaction.
This obscure game gained cult status over the years due to its unconventional concept and basic gameplay. Considering the upcoming rise of consumer VR equipment, LSD could see a big return to form from players looking to dive into dream worlds again and again.
Psychedelic games can take us to new dimensions, or leave us wondering if our own realities even exist. Coupled with some dank ganja, players have recipes for eccentric adventures at their fingertips.
Which games have blown your mind? Let us know in the comments!