Xbox Game Pass Just Quietly Released the Best Detective Game of the Decade

Xbox Game Pass Just Quietly Released the Best Detective Game of the Decade

If you want a game that makes you feel very smart and very stupid at the same time, it’s hard to do better than The Case of the Golden Idol. Murder mysteries have been popular in fiction for well over a century, but for as long as video games have existed, they’ve been a bit lacking when it comes to detective work. In 2022, The Case of the Golden Idol showed us what we were missing with a twist on the classic detective narrative that challenges players to play crime scene investigator and solve a series of murders frozen in time. If you haven’t cracked the case yourself yet, it’s now available to play on Xbox Game Pass.

The Case of the Golden Idol revolves around a series of killings all tied to a creepy statue — the Golden Idol. Rather than tracking down suspects and interviewing witnesses, all you have to solve each case is a static image showing the moment they occurred. The first is simple enough: a man has been pushed off a cliff and you need to figure out who did it. But later cases involve cults, conspiracies, poisonings, and all manner of other juicy fodder for a mystery tale.

Anything could be the clue that solves a crime in The Case of the Golden Idol.

Playstack

Your first move in The Case of the Golden Idol is always to observe. Whether you’re looking at a cliffside or an elaborate manor, you’re free to take all the time you need to examine the crime scene. Rendered in a grotesque lo-fi style, each is packed with detail. Everything from the facial expressions of bystanders to scraps of paper on a nearby desk could be crucial to solving the case. As the murders grow in complexity, so too do the clues you’re asked to collect. Just like this year’s Lorelei and the Laser Eyes, The Case of the Golden Idol is a game best played with a notebook close at hand to keep track of it all.

Once you’ve pored over the details of a crime scene, it’s time to put the pieces back together. Everything you find in the investigation phase, whether it’s a list of names, a pool of blood, or the last words of the victim, is tied to a word that gets added to your crime-solving arsenal. Those all come into play to help you put your thoughts in order and solve the case.

Piecing together a crime from scratch is extremely satisfying.

Playstack

When you’re ready, you turn to your trusty in-game notebook to put the pieces together. The conclusion to each case is written out there, with blanks for any information you haven’t quite figured out yet. “[Blank] got into [Blank]’s room through the [Blank],” for example. It’s a system that calls to mind the equally excellent Return of the Obra Dinn, which asks players to identify a ship’s passengers and their fates in a similar notebook based on environmental clues. The same system appears in a simplified way in this year’s Duck Detective, so if you enjoyed that silly caper and want to level up to a more challenging version, you’re in good hands here.

The Case of the Golden Idol is a game that asks players to work for their victories, which makes it all the more satisfying to achieve them. In many games, solving a mystery simply means being led to clues and watching as your character puts them together, but The Case of the Golden Idol is the rare game that actually makes you feel like a detective. There’s no one there to help you if you’re stuck, but that also means the credit is all yours when you finally cut through the noise to piece together what really happened.

The road to solving each case is full of frustrations, and if you’re like me, that means a lot of questioning whether you have what it takes to make it through. But the reward for pushing is a sense of satisfaction that few other games can even approach when you finally reach the “Aha!” moment at the end.

The Case of the Golden Idol is available on PC, Nintendo Switch, and Xbox. It’s included with Xbox Game Pass.

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