Readers discuss the best video games where nobody gets hurt, from Outer Wilds and Tetris to Overcooked 2.
The subject for this week’s Hot Topic was suggested by reader Gamgee, who asked what’s your favourite game where everybody lives? Is that what attracted you to the game or were you unconvinced it would be fun until you tried it?
Animal Crossing and Tetris were two obvious choices but there was also a number of walking sims, as well as rhythm action games, and simulators.
Home from home
It’s got to be Animal Crossing, or more specifically New Horizons. I never paid any attention to the games before but – and I imagine this is going to be a familiar story to many – I figured I’d order it during lockdown as something for my girlfriend to play on.
She loved it and then so, to my surprise, did I. Maybe not as much as her but it’s a really clever game that gives you something new to do everyday without ever really forcing you to do anything specific. The AI on the animals could be better, as they never really say anything interesting, but beyond that it’s a pretty perfect little non-violent game.
I think The Sims is similar, which I’ve never played, but beyond that I can’t think of anything else like it. Which is a bit odd really considering how popular it is. Why is it we get a million Fortnite clones but EA and Ubisoft never try to copy Animal Crossing? I get it, they probably wouldn’t do it very well, but shouldn’t they see that as problem they need to sort out?
I love music games and I really miss that they’re not as popular as they used to be. Guitar Hero was great with friends but Activision ran that into the ground far too quickly. My favourites though are the Japanese games Gitaroo Man and Ouendan!
I love those games, they’re not too dissimilar – most rhythm action games play more or less the same – but their music is great and they’ve both got such a great vibe and surprisingly good storytelling. Ouendan is probably the most fun to play but Gitaroo Man has a lot of original music, which is really amazing and worth looking out on its own.
I’m a big fan of Dear Esther. It just caught me off-guard so brilliantly, the striking piano music, the off-beat story, and the sombre tone of a Radio 4 play; and I’m talking when the original mod for Source Engine released, before the standalone upgrade.
The peaceful lack of sprint – a simple mechanic – but connected with the protagonist’s injury to slow the pace down and breathe it all in, was pretty brave.
It must of been my first non-violent computer game, and seemed to create the walking simulator genre. Think of the other non-violent games in that genre that succeeded it: Firewatch, Gone Home, Eastshade, and Edith Finch. All wonderfully original and non-violent games.
Lastly, as a mid-thirties gamer I’m really glad non-violent games like these exist. It’s sometimes nice to escape from the world into something tranquil.
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A very tough question – as so much has violence, or action, if you prefer, as a gameplay mechanic. Tetris doesn’t, mind you. Puzzle games are usually non-violent, but they’re not my favourites. Child-friendly platformers are usually full of fighting, even if it’s only bosses. Sonic, Mario, Psychonauts, A Hat In Time…
Weird, huh? Jet Set Radio didn’t have much in the way of violence. Rival gangs and the dogged police captain just get their back sprayed with graffiti. Which, for reasons unknown, gives Captain Onishima pause to reflect on his life choices and straight up defeats your rivals. Perhaps some sort of gentlemen’s agreement is in place?
But then, in the finale, spraying your tags somehow causes a giant, flying rhino to explode? Which then sends some debris flying into the bad guy’s protective casing and smashing it open. Then you can spray some graffiti in his face. And then… he dies? By falling to his death? It is as insane as it is inexplicable.
Super Monkey Ball, however, is completely peaceful. Your monkeys can fall off the course – I don’t imagine a Perspex ball provides much protection from impact at terminal velocity. However, we do know they can open the casing out like plastic wings so maybe they can glide to safety? Let’s hope so – the alternative doesn’t bear thinking about! One of them’s a baby for goodness sake!
There’s a few racing games I could mention here, and special shoutouts are due to F1 2019 and 2020 for playing through an entire season with mates during lockdown. But something I think is more in the spirit of this Hot Topic is Overcooked 2.
I played through it a couple of years ago with my mostly non-game playing wife, who loved it so much that as soon as we finished it, it was her who suggested getting the original. It gets almost everything just right, with the teamwork and communication needed easily teetering over to getting in each other’s way and arguing! The sense of progression is also really good, with both the recipes and kitchen layouts getting increasingly more complex.
It’s not quite perfect – towards the end of the game you need to revisit previous levels to get a higher score. Whilst it’s cool to go back to previous levels to hone and master your teamwork, it does take a little bit too long. That’s the only real flaw though.
I think it’s great that these type of games are becoming more common. As much as I enjoy shooting zombies in the face (or driving at 200 mph), it’s great that gaming has, for a while now, catered to a much wider audience.
Outer Wilds is pretty great. It’s a sort of 3D puzzle exploration game that is really clever and has a Groundhog Day type thing where the solar system keeps exploding and you have to slowly work out how to stop it.
It won a bunch of awards at the time and they were well deserved too. I don’t really like the style of dialogue but the actual puzzles and the way the physics works is really clever. If you get fed up with pressing switches as an excuse for puzzle this is the one for us.
Dual screen experiment
For me it was the mystery game called Hotel Dusk: Room 215 on the Nintendo DS, and yes there was the odd bit of violence within it, but not done by the character you play as. I could not 100% think of anything non-violent, apart from racing or sports games which I don’t play much.
I remember the game used the stylus and DS like a pen and notepad and it was pulled off magnificently. The story was like from a good book, TV series or a great film, captivating you from the start with a complementary soundtrack which fills the game with suspense. This is coupled with engaging characters from all walks of life, with their own backgrounds and suspicious tales.
Another game was released from the same series called Last Window: The Secret Of Cape West, which was in the same style with the animated pencil scratching type drawings and definitely also worth checking out. But Hotel Dusk was definitely an interesting eye opener for me, although the indie games market does have a good few similar games now, some of them are called walking simulators.
The Nintendo DS was a very experimental console and to me had some unique games you could not get on any other system, due to the stylus and touchscreen being so intricate to the way games could be played. Hotel Dusk is definitely a good retro try for an engaging mystery tale.
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