Video games have been foregoing the typical run and gun gameplay approach lately. Taking out violence altogether, players are left with a game that’s more about exploring a point of thought or experiencing something, as opposed to destroying point A to get to plot point B. Blockbuster shooters still rule the roost with games like Call of Duty, however, there are more and more “adult” games (i.e. not music or learning sims) coming out with no violence necessary for completion. In the games listed within this article, there are no guns or fist fights. These games take an alternative route to the AAA titles that have become so popular and add exploration, exposition, and thoughtful gameplay mechanics — proving there’s more than one way to move a plot along than with the barrel of a gun.
If you’ve ever read the satirical novel Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions, then Fez’s premise will sound familiar. Gomez lives a peaceful, 2D life, but when an event shakes his worldview, he becomes aware of a third dimension. Platformer, puzzle, and exploration define Fez’s gameplay. There are no bosses, enemies, punishment, or failure. It’s all about solving puzzles and stopping to smell the roses.
Walk along a beautiful deserted island and listen to a story. While you explore a cave or an empty house, audio will cue to explain more about what happened there. Curiosity and love of narrative drive the game forward. There are no enemies or anyone on this island, which gives the game an eerie vibe, but the words of the narrator may keep you company.
You come home on a stormy night after being abroad for a year. Only, no one is home. Where has everyone gone? A lot can happen in a year. As you rifle through your family’s house, you begin to piece together letters, memos, and pieces of your sister’s diary to find out what’s happened while you were away. Alone in the house, you’re free to explore as you wish, and for as long as you like.
You can walk right through this entire game and not do a single thing — just observe. Through this first-person adventure, you are tasked to go into clients’ minds, trying to repair them … or so you’re told. You can either experience the story as a casual observer or be an active participant by testing your wits against the game’s optional puzzles.
Escape the 9-to-5 corporate job in this philosophical first-person comedy. Poking fun at typical gaming tropes, this game gives you control and takes it away as soon as it has been given. It begs the player to ask, “Did I ever really have an option in the first place?” Wind your way through the office halls and decide whether to take the road planned for you from the beginning or a more unconventional route. Listen to the narrator, or don’t.
You are a pilgrim on a journey toward a light that sits at the top of the mountain. As you make your way across the ancient ruins of what was once a prosperous world, you may meet another traveler — another person playing the game. While communication is only possible through little chirps, you will journey with this anonymous player through this world, perhaps even building a relationship through this three-hour game.