Perhaps more than any other medium, video games allow interested developers to realize and transmit psychedelic imagery, ideas and events. Here are five games that get the job done.
Grand Theft Auto V
Weed is ubiquitous in GTA V. Franklin smokes j-bones and a polychromatic haze briefly colors his vision. Michael rips his son’s bong and complains that no one loves him. And Trevor…Trevor prefers meth. Perhaps the best moments in the game occur when Michael, for one reason or another, starts tripping balls. I don’t want to give anything specific away -- after all, the game only came out a week ago -- but I will say that Rockstar has created the most rewarding, enjoyable and outlandish representation of drug use ever actualized in a video game. Kudos.
Most people know Earthbound’s protagonist, Ness, from Super Smash Bros., but his original SNES game is a must-play. Recently re-released on the Wii-U Virtual Console, the game features a young boy destined to save Earth from an evil alien monster-thing. Where does the trippiness come in? Where doesn’t it? Fight almost any foe and a swirling visualizer will appear. Or sleep in the wrong place and this will happen. Zombies talk. Characters incessantly break the 4th wall. And Mr. Saturn is Mr. Saturn.
Another underplayed cult classic, Psychonauts features Raz, a young dude with a variety of badass psychic abilities. Here’s a video showing one of the game’s more surreal moments. The game essentially involves infiltrating various minds and destroying the demons held within. The concept alone, then, is fairly psychedelic, and the execution perfectly realizes the game’s potential. Originally released for the Xbox, PS2 and Windows, Psychonauts can now be bought on the Playstation Network or for Mac or Linux.
LSD: Dream Emulator
Yes, that really is the name of a 1998 Playstation game. Osamu Sato created the game based on Hiroko Nishikawa’s detailed dream journal, and dream imagery figures heavily into the gameplay. Pterosaurs attack, eyes watch from walls, dreams fade to dreams, and…well, just watch this or one of the million other annoyingly-narrated videos to get a better idea of what the game is like. Words can’t do it justice.
Silent Hill 2
The list needed a survival horror game. The Playstation 2’s Silent Hill 2, unlike the above games, does not combine any level of euphoria with its psychedelia. The titular town vivifies and gives tangible, horrifying shape to the mental demons of protagonist James Sunderland. At once a form of self-torture and cosmic reconciliation, Konami’s Silent Hill forces old wounds -- the questionable disappearance of a lover, for example -- to the fore of conscious experience. Most terrifying and surreal of all the town’s creations are the pyramid heads, symbols of James’ feeling of guilt for his wife’s death.