This jam is now over. It ran from 2024-04-04 05:00:00 to 2024-05-06 04:59:59. View 25 entries

What is Mystery Gamedev?

Mystery Gamedev is an exclusive community dedicated to connecting and supporting fans and developers of mystery-themed video games. We provide tools, information, and resources for mystery game development, and we promote mystery games to fans searching for their next favorite game.

If this sounds exciting, please join our Discord and our weekly newsletter!

What is the Mystery Game Jam?

Starting this year, we will be hosting mystery game jams at least once per year to encourage and support the development of mystery games! During this time, you can work in a team or by yourself to create a mystery game within a strict time limit.

This jam will take place from the start of April 4th to the end of May 5th. The timer on the itch.io site (this page) is the official timer for this jam. Don't miss the deadline!

Why April? It's to honor Murders in the Rue Morgue, published in April 1841 by Edgar Allan Poe. Known as the first modern detective story, it invented many key elements and tropes featured in all our favorite detective games. And April 4th is my birthday!

Mystery games are complicated and hard to make, so a month should give you plenty of time. You might also be surprised how much you can get done when you set your mind to it. Try to keep your scope small -- if your game idea is really big, you should submit what you can, and then feel free to expand upon it after the game jam ends. 

One notable example is The Darkside Detective, which was made as a demo for a game jam, and 2 years later the full game was released to massive success.  You can also read the full story of how we made the award-winning Reaplaced in under 30 days.

Why Make Mystery Games?

Mysteries are more popular than ever!

  • True crime videos are getting millions of views on YouTube
  • Mystery shows are getting hundreds of millions of views on Netflix
  • High-profile courtroom trials are livestreamed and talked about everywhere
  • Real-life escape rooms are literally booming in popularity

But mystery games are in incredibly short supply.

Out of the ~900,000 games on itch.io:

  • ~8,700 are tagged "Mystery" (0.9% of all games)
  • ~3,600 are tagged "Escape Game"  (0.4%)
  • ~1,800 are tagged "Detective" (0.2%)
  • ~900 are tagged "Crime" (0.1%)

Other mystery subgenres don't even have tags! And these numbers include games that are half-finished or abandoned.

The truth is, we can do so much better!

What Are Mystery Games?

Mystery games are a unique combination of story and puzzle, in which players make deductions to pursue the truth.

For the sake of this game jam, we'll use these working definitions of mystery-themed subgenres:

  • Detective games, where a detective, either professional or amateur, investigates and solves a crime.
  • Courtroom games, where the story involves conflicts in court between characters in the legal profession.
  • Death games, where characters are forced to participate in a survival game where elimination means death.
  • Escape games, where characters are trapped in a confined space and must solve puzzles to get out.
  • Ontological mysteries, where characters in an unfamiliar environment seek to understand the nature of that environment.
  • Battles of wits, where characters must outwit each other, especially in a game of intelligence or cat-and-mouse struggle.

If your game fits into at least one of the above subgenres, then we'll consider it a mystery game. Feel free to blend subgenres together to make an even more unique experience.

Examples: When They Cry, Ace Attorney, Danganronpa, Zero Escape, Her Story, Return of the Obra Dinn, The Case of the Golden Idol, Paradise Killer, The Darkside Detective, Jenny LeClue, Disco Elysium, Among Us, Outer Wilds, Life is Strange, Paranormasight, AI: The Somnium Files, Your Turn To Die, Spirit Hunter: Death Mark, Scene Investigators, Overboard!, Vaudeville, The Past Within, Shadows of Doubt...

...and many, many more! You can find a list of more examples here.

Frequently Asked Questions

What kinds of games can I submit? Your game can be any genre, as long as it meets the criteria of mystery game (see above section) and also does not include any explicit sexual or adult content. Blood, death, violence, and so on are allowed due to the nature of mysteries, but try to avoid glorifying any acts of crime. Excessive gore should be marked as such on the game page.

Can I submit a fan-game?  No. We want to encourage the creation of original games with this jam, while also respecting the rights of copyright holders. If in the rare event a copyright holder allows for their assets or IP to be licensed for use, then you must follow all terms of that license. If you aren't sure if you can use certain material, and feel the need to ask for clarification, you should probably just go with something else. Simply put: if your game could not be uploaded to Steam, then it will not qualify as an entry for this jam. 

Can I work on the game before the game jam starts? No, but you may brainstorm, outline, and create rough sketches of ideas. 

What can I use to make my game? Any game engine, pre-made libraries, third-party assets, or tools you have the legal rights to use. This includes anything free or paid that a copyright holder has licensed for the general public, such as royalty-free asset packs or open source code, but you must always follow the rules of each specific license.

Will I be able to submit after the deadline? No. Please don't wait until the final hour when mistakes can happen. There is no penalty for submitting early, and then updating the game right before the deadline, if you really must.

Will there be voting or prizes? Not this year. For our first game jam, making the game is its own reward! But if your game is especially outstanding, we might choose to feature it in our newsletter, so give it your best shot!

Will there be a theme? Not this year. There is no required theme, so long as it is a mystery game.

Can I submit a demo or unfinished game? Yes, and you are encouraged to do so. The point is to motivate you to just do something, even if it's not perfect or not even finished. You can continue working on it after the jam is over.

Can I work alone or in a team? You can work alone or in teams of any size, and you may join as many teams as you want.

Rules for AI Generated Content

We will adopt the same policy as Steam regarding AI generated content for this jam. This means you must honestly disclose on your game page all the ways your game uses generative AI to create pre-made content and/or live-generated content and how you have made sure it does not generate any content that is illegal or infringing.

We also ask that if you use generative AI, please do so with honest effort in a creative manner. Do not simply use it to create uninspired spam, but rather leverage the power of AI to enhance your own creative skills and explore innovative game mechanics.

Additional Help

If you're new to mystery games, start by reading this ultimate guide.

If you need any kind of help or you're looking to form a team, feel free to join our 200+ member Discord server. We offer free Q&A sessions every Saturday during the jam where you can ask this jam's host for help with specific problems you are facing related to your submission, or you can book a private session at a time that is more convenient.

One of our goals at Mystery Gamedev is to give developers the tools, information, and resources they need to make mystery games. We also promote developers and their games to mystery gamers. We will help you every step of the way, from clueless to creator.

Legal

Anything you make during the Mystery Game Jam is your property. Mystery Gamedev claims no rights or ownership of your game. 

It is your responsibility to make sure you are legally allowed to upload your game. If a violation is brought to our attention, we will take appropriate action.

By submitting your game, you agree that Mystery Gamedev may show all or part of your submission for promotional or informational purposes, including but not limited to YouTube videos and newsletter articles, without your express permission.

Submissions(25)

All submissions
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Browser playable (15)
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Windows (15)
macOS (6)
Linux (7)

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Card based, casual, mystery adventure game where choices matter
Card Game
Play in browser
A case worth undying for
Visual Novel
Play in browser
Translate an ancient language to solve an impossible seeming death in this mystery game!
Puzzle
Play in browser
Ace Attorney knockoff ft. a robot detective! Made in RPGmaker for the Mystery Game Jam 2024.
Visual Novel
Play in browser
Can you answer Enigma's questions and solve their Case Rooms?
Visual Novel
enter the spiral
Visual Novel
Reese Urchin wakes up in an unfamiliar room, greeted by a robotic voice. How did he get there, and will he escape?
Visual Novel
Play in browser
DEMO: A virtual death game becoming real
Role Playing
"This is why you always read the paperwork."
Visual Novel
But if you do...
Interactive Fiction
The introduction to my first ever game and submission to the Mystery Game Jam 2024, The Cookie Jar!
Visual Novel
Play in browser
Can you find her in time to make it home?
Visual Novel
Play in browser
visual novel game try to escape...
Visual Novel
Play in browser
An introduction to the mysterious case of The Sniper of Ryme.
Visual Novel
A harmless quiz develops to unforeseen consequences.
Visual Novel
Lilith is a shadow that wants to become a light. Will you help her?
Adventure
Play in browser
Step into a detective's shoes in "Echoes of Deceit," a narrative-driven mystery game set at a grand museum gala.
Play in browser
Solve a crime, question other cats, rest your toe beans.
Puzzle
5 Teens. 1 Van, and a Locked Warehouse. What will happen?
Visual Novel
Play in browser
[Trivia Game]
Educational
Play in browser
Action
Play in browser
The name's Bon, Bonbon.
Interactive Fiction
Play in browser
you take on the role of an intrepid detective tasked with uncovering the dark secrets of an old factory
Puzzle
Puzzle
Play in browser