Sure, games that let you blow up helicopters and stab enemies in the neck can be fun — and you have a wide selection if that’s your cup of tea. But sometimes we want to play something a little less, well, combative.
If you’re looking for a vacation from violence, you could always pick up a puzzle or sports game. But for this list, we dug a little deeper to find games that don’t even give you the option to attack. Without further ado, here are eight games that don’t make you act like a psychopath on a killing spree. Enjoy.
1. Journey (PlayStation 3 & 4)
For many who play Journey, the game can be something of an emotional or religious experience. You begin the game as a cloaked figure walking toward a high, shimmering mountain in the distance. As you make your way there, you encounter cryptic monuments, strange structures, and flowing pathways. You also find a scarf that lets you glide through the air, which helps you explore the beautiful landscape.
While there’s more of a “game” here than the developer’s other titles like Flower and Flow, the point is the journey, not the destination (although that’s pretty intriguing, too). There are few other creatures in the game world, and no combat at all. Journey offers a beautiful, mostly relaxing experience. Leave your weapons at the door.
2. Animal Crossing: New Leaf (Nintendo 3DS)
If you want to kick back and relax in a stress-free environment, Animal Crossing: New Leaf is your game. You play the new mayor of a town populated with talking animal characters. Each has his or her own house and is always more than happy to shoot the breeze. Most of your time is spent wandering around, digging up fossils, collecting bugs, reeling in fish, and tidying up the place.
Everything you find is recorded in your log book, so you can strive to complete your collections of everything the game has to offer. You can sell items and use the money to buy new clothes, upgrade your house, or fill your domicile with all manner of furniture and wallpaper. The game takes place in real time, and if you play on a holiday, you’ll see special seasonal events. It all adds up to a very cute, strangely addictive game. No violence necessary.
3. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies (Nintendo 3DS, iOS)
The closest thing to combat in this game of cartoonish justice is cross-examining witnesses. Like the rest of the series, the game is composed of a handful of separate court cases. Once a call comes in, your first step is to investigate a crime scene, interviewing witnesses and seeking out clues for what went down.
Then you bring all of that knowledge into the courtroom, where you try to poke holes in the witnesses’ testimonies. The trials are always full of twists and turns, and the cases involve all manner of colorful characters. There’s lots of yelling — particularly of the word “objection” — but there’s no actual fighting. When a game is this enjoyable, however, you’ll never miss it.
4. Portal 2 (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC)
In all likelihood, the Portal series represents the single most inventive use of the first-person shooter genre to date. Instead of running around with a loaded firearm in your hands like in every other FPS game, you have a gun that shoots two kinds of portals, orange and blue. Shoot one of each at a wall, floor, or ceiling, and you hop into one and pop out the other.
Portal 2 is all about navigating from point A to point B, but the number and variety of puzzles the game offers is astounding. Best of all, every inch of it is fun. This is a puzzle/shooter that makes you feel like a genius for figuring out how to progress through the game. No bullets required.
5. Device 6 (iOS)
This interactive novella tells an intriguing story about a woman who wakes up locked in an unfamiliar room. She escapes and finds herself in a very strange and mysterious place. The book-like text of the “game” doesn’t follow the traditional page-after-page format. Instead, lines of text branch out in various directions, and you have to follow it by swiping along. The lines also do odd things like turn corners, go upside-down, and retreat back to the main chunks of text, requiring you to flip your device this way and that.
The reason it’s a considered a game instead of a novella is because the text is littered with sounds and videos and clues that you have to put together to solve puzzles to progress through the story. To reveal too much would spoil the fun. If Device 6 sounds like something you might like, give it a shot. There’s nothing else quite like it.
6. Amnesia: The Dark Descent (PC)
Just because a game has no combat doesn’t mean it can’t offer a terrifying, bloodcurdling experience. In fact, the lack of any way to attack your assailants in Amnesia is the very reason this game is so effective at scaring the pants off of you.
You play as a man who wakes up in a dark castle with — surprise — no memory of who he is or how he got there. You find a note scrawled in your handwriting, telling you to kill the master of the castle. So you start exploring, trying to figure out what’s going on and why you would want the master dead.
The gameplay is based around solving environmental puzzles, but it’s also important to stay in the light to maintain your sanity. Sometimes when you run out of lantern fuel, an enormous beast will round a corner and claw you to death. There’s no way to fight back, and no telling when or if a monster will appear. It’s that kind of tension that keeps you on your toes. If you could fight back, the game just wouldn’t be the same.
7. Limbo (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PS Vita, PC, iOS)
Another dark, unsparing game that gives you no way to fight back is Limbo, a side-scrolling platformer with silhouetted graphics that’s filled with all the things that go bump in the night. The game stars a boy searching through a truly desolate world for his sister. Spikes, giant spiders, traps, and more lie in wait for you to come near.
There are a million ways to die in this game. Really, the only way to persevere is to die, re-spawn, and learn from your mistakes. It’s a bleak little game whose lack of combat adds to the feeling of being a helpless child in a hostile world. You can’t engage the darkness. You can only try to avoid it.
8. Gone Home (PC)
Like Portal 2, this game uses first-person shooter controls in an entirely novel way. You play as a girl whose family has moved since you’ve been away at college. You’ve never been to their new home, but you’re just arriving to visit them when the game starts. Only no one is home.
So you make your way through the house, reading letters and finding items that reveal what your family has been up to since you’ve been gone. The end result is like a really beautiful interactive short story that handpicks aspects of traditional games to say what it has to say. Play this game if you’re up for a mysterious, spooky, but ultimately heartfelt tale of love and family.
Follow Chris on Twitter @_chrislreed