A Hidden Object Game (often abbreviated HOG) is a subgenre of Casual Video Games where the player has to find a series of objects in a cluttered scene, which are almost always photorealistic. Basically, the "gameplay" consists of staring at the screen until you find something and clicking on it.
In most cases, expect objects that have no business being anywhere near the scene pictured and a good helping of Anachronism Stew (a jumbo jet inside the depths of an ancient Egyptian tomb, for example). After getting the objects, you'll be given one of them to take with you for use in your exploration of the game's setting (for instance, if you get an axe, expect to find a door with a busted lock somewhere).
A subgenre of this subgenre are Interactive Hidden Object Games, or IHOGs. In these, the regular hidden object screens are mixed with other types of puzzles. There's usually some connection between the hidden object parts and the puzzle parts. For instance, you may collect a set of items by finding them in hidden object screens, then assemble them to get through a puzzle screen. Nearly every HOG has puzzles to solve.
Fragmented Hidden Object Games (FROGs) are another subgenre. Each item to be found is broken into several pieces. Fortunately, there usually aren't as many items to search for as in a "straight" HOG. Normally each item will automatically reassemble once all the component bits have been found.
Most current games are primarily horror games, although there are a few mystery ones (sometimes, they're both). Basically, they're Survival Horror titles with hidden object levels replacing the monsters. Although most of them have subtitles, they're either a standalone game or part of a long series.
The hidden object scene is dominated by Big Fish and Alawar, but other, smaller companies are starting to make names for themselves. All games on the top 5 list of 2012 HOGs on Gamezebo (the website for HOGs), are available at Big Fish. (It's worth noting that Big Fish distributes many games for other developers, in addition to the ones they personally produce.)
Notable games in this genre include:
- Where's Wally/Waldo?: Trope Maker, or rather the Ur-Example.
- The NES game adaptation (1991) may be one of the earliest video games in this genre.
- Alice in the Mirrors of Albion
- Amazing Adventures: The Forgotten Ruins
- Cate West: The Vanishing Files and the sequel, The Velvet Keys
- Criminal Case
- Dana Knightstone
- Danse Macabre
- The Dark Parables belong to the FRoG subgenre. This is also true of both of its short-lived sister series, Cursery and Fabled Legends.
- Dark Tales started out as this; as the series has continued, the games contain fewer hidden object puzzles and more of the point-and-click variety.
- The video game adaptation of Agatha Christie's Death on the Nile
- Dead Reckoning
- Detectives United is a blend of this and Point-and-Click Game.
- Diner Town Detective Agency, co-starring Flo and featuring many characters from the Dash series of games.
- Dracula's Legacy
- Dream Chronicles
- The Enigmatis trilogy is a blend of this and Point-and-Click Game.
- Escape The Museum
- Fear for Sale
- Final Cut
- Grim Facade
- Grim Legends
- Grim Tales
- Haunted Halls
- Haunted Hotel
- Haunted Legends
- Hidden Agenda 2013
- Hidden Expedition
- The House of 1000 Doors series: Family Secrets, The Palm of Zoroaster, The Serpent Flame, and Evil Inside.
- I Spy, which began as a series of children's books and later became computer games, is probably one of the earliest games of this type. note
- Immortal Love
- Living Legends
- Mortimer Beckett
- Mystery Case Files
- Mystery Of Mortlake Mansion
- Mystery Trackers
- Mystery Manor
- Nightmare Adventures: The Witch's Prison and its sequel The Turning Thorn: Notable for having no hidden object levels at all. (Basically, the exact opposite of Travelogue 360.)
- Nightmare Realm
- Off The Record
- Reflections of Life
- Rite of Passage
- Sable Maze
- The Samantha Swift series with its archaeological storylines.
- Season of Mystery: The Cherry Blossom Murders
- Shadow Wolf Mysteries
- Shrouded Tales
- Stray Souls: Dollhouse Story
- Spirits Of Mystery
- The Tiny Bang Story
- Travelogue 360 note
- Trauma: You are searching for small photos inside levels that are themselves a collection of photos, and also need to draw signs on the screen with your cursor at certain points in order to receive certain endings.
- The Twisted Lands trilogy: Shadow Town, Insomniac, and the prequel story Origin.
- Vampire Saga
- Vermillion Watch
- Witches' Legacy
The non-electronic counterpart has been around for ages, those little "spot the difference" puzzles typically in newspapers, especially the "kid's section", or on TV , where they show two almost identical pictures next to each other and you have to find the little differences.
- Hidden Pictures of "Highlights" fame is a variant: here, the scenes are cartoony, and the items you're looking aren't just part of the scenery, but rather hidden inside the picture!
- Adult magazine version: finding the hidden bunny logo on the covers of Playboy has become a game with readers.