Hey everybody! Today we’re counting down the Top 5 Mods That Make You Think on ModDB. Whether it be physical puzzles or metaphysical conundrums, these five mods will challenge your perceptions and require a bit of thoughtful energy to reach the finishing line. If you enjoy this countdown, be sure leave a comment down below about what mods made your brain itch!
Amnesia is no stranger to puzzles and deeper moral themes, with the original game having several endings and iconic setpieces that require a good deal of thinking. The Mansion: 1408 is a relatively short but sweet experience, inspired by the works of Stephen King. As you play a horror writer in a supposedly haunted mansion, your initial bravado will give way to a concern that not all is as it seems. There’s a spirit afoot intent on tormenting you, and you’ll either have to outwit it, or perish. Despite being a relatively brief experience, the custom story features numerous endings, lots of custom voice work, and a few puzzles that will test your ability to think under pressure. Failure is an option, and with no checkpoints, it’ll be up to you to see the experience through end-to-end, or learn from your mistakes for a repeat playthrough. With many secrets hidden in the deceptively small environment and many perils to face on your road to the best ending, this custom story will test all the skills and wit you’ve built over the course of The Dark Descent’s singleplayer, and then some! An especially relevant play now we’re coming up on Halloween.
What happens when you take the well-rounded formula that is Portal’s puzzle philosophy and add time travel, present and future interaction mechanics, and puzzles that require thinking in four dimensions? Besides a headache, you get the challenging, ambitious, and exceptionally rewarding Portal: Reloaded. The main tagline for Reloaded is the “three portal device”, which adds an extra layer to all puzzles - time travel. With it, players can travel into the future anywhere within a test chamber. This concept is deceptively simple at first glance, however, as the future can also utilise its own two primary portals, as well as a host of interactions with objects and the environment itself. In the future, certain walls may be broken or gone altogether, allowing or disallowing portal surfaces. Some truly formidable puzzles rear their head in this mod, requiring some of the most out-the-box thinking you’ll ever have to try in any Portal experience. It’s a considerable step-up in difficulty from the mainline games, but when all the pieces click into place and you travel through five portals and two timelines to reach your goal, it’s satisfying, right up until the mod beats you over the head with another exceptionally difficult chamber. Portal: Reloaded is best played by veterans of the franchise - after the twenty minute mark, there’s no more hand-holding. Play it, if you dare - and it might be helpful to have a notebook on hand!
If watching paint dry in real time sounds like your kind of a game, you’ll be hooked from the moment you start this one up. Of course, there’s more to it than that. Touch the paint, the game’s over. You can throw your room into disarray and the door leading out is locked, so...what’s the catch? The catch is that, apparently, paint drying requires quite a bit of supervision - across multiple universes, worlds, and timelines. The moment you make it out of the initial room, the rest of the mod opens up and reveals an exceptional level of creativity and surprising narrative wit. The mod plays with some serious themes and ominous environments in much the same tongue-in-cheek way that the Portal franchise does, and isn’t afraid of throwing a few curveballs your way. Resisting the incessant need of any player (which I wasn’t always able to) to press every button put in front of you is the only way you’ll reach the game’s intended ending. Alternate endings resulting in less positive circumstances are common and regularly put upon players who don’t take a second to think before acting. One button press might simply open a door for another pathway, whereas another can trap you in an endless fight for survival against hordes of undead. The best route to success, until the very end, is to resist instinct and keep a level head. Then and only then will you get to try the full breadth of this sleeper hit.
The Elder Scrolls games toy with worlds and deeper themes in a generally more serious way than their Fallout counterparts. Where the apocalypse wrought in that franchise is treated with a healthy dose of dark humour, Tamriel’s world, laws, and customs are all given a great deal more gravitas. So it is that the award-winning mod The Forgotten City (now turned standalone game) fits handily into Skyrim’s world, telling a rich and thought-provoking story about a community with the constant threat of death looming overhead. Time travel shenanigans once more appear but they are used to great effect by the mod creators. Each cycle is less about getting it right first-time, and more about putting together enough pieces that the next go-around is a little more successful. Players will have limited time to find who is on the cusp of breaking the city’s one sacred law - “The many will pay for the sins of the one” - and spelling downfall for everyone living there. Not only challenging a player’s ability to piece together clues in what amounts to a murder mystery, the player is also forced to reconsider their usual approach to playing the games. Idly picking up someone else’s silverware is all it takes for all hell to break loose and a reset to be necessary, and therefore every supply, every bit of aid, must be earned by the player and given to them willingly instead of taken by force. It gives the NPCs a surprising amount of agency and staying power in a game ultimately dictated by the player’s actions more often than not, and thus, The Forgotten City’s teachings will rub off on you long after leaving the city - and it’s many secrets - behind.
When it comes to sheer scope and scale, The Nameless Mod is an easy recommendation. It benefits from making effective use of Deus Ex’s emergent gameplay sandbox from the moment you start the game, and benefits even more from a less-than-serious tone that permeates throughout. Approaching the story from a parody perspective, you inhabit the character of an ex-internet moderator in a “forum city”, huge environments occupied by denizens of the internet and themed after popular games. Now, though, there’s a conspiracy to destroy the city, and you’ll have to work alongside a varied cast of eccentric people to figure out the truth. Full of meta commentary, tongue-in-cheek (and sometimes not so tongue-in-cheek) humour, and utilising the classic gameplay and branching decision making Deus Ex is fondly remembered for, The Nameless Mod still manages to keep you on your toes. Many alternate endings (which is a running theme for this list!) will require you to be open to clues, searching every corner of the richly detailed and lovingly put together city. Take nothing at face value, as there’s always something waiting to be uncovered. Though it works just fine with the original Deus Ex, it also enjoys total compatibility with the popular Deus Ex: Revision, too, allowing you all the modern-day conveniences of the fan-made overhaul on Steam. The Nameless Mod might not take itself too seriously, but you should definitely give some serious thought to playing it yourself.
We’ll give your brain a rest with the mind-benders today! If you liked the article, be sure to comment down below what mods you think challenge your thinking skills most.