Republished from July, 8th, 2016 in light of recent news
I was going to write about something else today but it is difficult to think about anything but the events we’ve watched all week on the news. This has been an extremely dark and violent week. This is definitely a weekend in which we’d could use some escapism but not escapism into a world where we need to hunt or shoot other people. If you’re as despondent as we are today, you’re looking for a game to distract yourself with. The problem is that it’s hard to find a game in which you’re not asked to kill someone else (or lots of people). To help you out, here’s our second list of nonviolent video games to play when you don’t feel like shooting anybody (also make sure to check out last year’s list).
I talked about Botanicula earlier this week; this is the cutest puzzle game I’ve played in a very long time. You control five friends with different abilities trying to escape an army of invading spiders and plant an enchanted seed to create a new world to live in. The puzzles are thoughtful and interesting (really you haven’t seen puzzles like these in any game anywhere). The music and graphics and distractingly charming. The whole experience is beautiful and memorable. I grew really attached to my little team of heroes with their various abilities. I’d happily watch this game as a Pixar movie (heck I’d probably like it better than some of their recent movies). If you need to escape unhappiness at any time, this is the game for you.
If you’re looking for a game that actually rewards de-escalation and choosing a non-violent play style, Undertale is the perfect game for you. This classic-style RPG places you in a mysterious underground kingdom that you have to escape. You engage in turn-based battle but absolutely everyone you face can be overcome peacefully (and often hilariously). You may need to flatter a creature, make a clever joke, or engage in any one of dozens of actions (each unique to that particular battle) to overcome the enemy. The game’s ending is also truly spectacular. It breaks through the world the game has painstakingly built to provide a really remarkable conclusion (you just have to see it). The game is a hilarious exploration of RPG cliches while also providing a fascinating story itself. Check out our full review here.
De Blob and De Blob 2
When it comes to fun, cute, non-violent adventures, it’s hard to top the De Blob series. In the game, you play as a blob leading a rebellion against a totalitarian state (largely led by Minion-looking villains) and your weapon of choice is paint. You convert drab, colorless neighborhoods into vibrant communities and inspire the population to spill into the streets to celebrate. The music is particularly fun and engaging, particularly when you get into the flow of bouncing and painting in through the neighborhood. The platforming is pretty strong. The music is vibrant. The levels are nicely varied and (of course) colorful. Not many games let you use art to lead a non-violent (or at most cartoonishly violent) rebellion against a totalitarian state.
Prune is a game that was well-loved in 2015 because it married simple, addictive gameplay with a beautiful presentation. In the game, you simply grow a tree towards the sunlight, trimming unneeded branches as you grow (as you trim the unneeded ones, the others grow farther). The game never provides a story. However, the desolate landscapes and abandoned (but still working) machinery made us think of nature returning to a post-apocalyptic world (or at least an over-industrialized one). It’s a simple but beautiful game with enough variety to keep you playing through it’s several levels. Check out our review here.
Nom Nom Galaxy
We never quite completed it, but we definitely enjoyed the cooperative mining experience of Nom Nom Galaxy. In the game (and this is gonna sound a little weird), you and a buddy mine a planet for resources to make cans of soup to rocket back to your homeworld. The various resources on the planet enable you to create a variety of soups to send. Meanwhile the various indigenous creatures and corporate rivals often fight you for those resources. Fortunately, upgrading your base with defenses and creating some robot assistants makes the process much easier. We really enjoyed Nom Nom Galaxy’s unusual premise, bite-sized gameplay (each planet we visited can be mined in about an hour), and variety of environments and puzzles. If you’re looking for some escapism, mining distant planets to make a variety of soups is about as escapist as it gets.