Weekend Hot Topic, part 1: Best non-violent video games

GameCentral readers discuss their favourite games that feature little to no violence, from Unfinished Swan to Flower.

The subject for this week’s Hot Topic was suggested by reader Ishi, who wanted to know whether you play non-violent games as a respite from other games or as a way to relax. Or if when playing violent games you try to avoid hurting people unnecessarily.

We had lots of letters in on the subject but were surprised how strict most readers took the concept of non-violence. We had only expected to feature games that don’t have violence as the primary gameplay focus, but many ruled out everything from racing games to Portal as not being pacifist enough.


Revisiting the world

My favourite non-violent game has to be Unfinished Swan by Giant Sparrow.

I know it originally came out on PlayStation 3, but I didn’t get around to it until it was released for PlayStation 4. I loved the feeling of discovery and serenity it conveyed, and even though the driving force of the story is quite melancholy, the level of positivity the game instilled was very calming.

The idea of literally opening up a pure white world by throwing balls of ink to expose the three-dimensional world was a master stroke. The beauty of the partially-shown world invoked times when I used to visit my grandparents in their countryside home and go exploring. And slowly as your character discovers more about his lineage, the world starts to become more colourful but still leaves you, the player, to discover so much and all without resorting to violence.

A fantastic little game that I revisit every now and again when I want to decompress from the more frantic side of gaming.
Phil Spearpoint


Peaceful hero

My initial thoughts on this were: ‘Oops, I’m a very violent person!’ as all my games involve some form of combat!

I have noticed that over the last few years I’ve given up playing games like Grand Theft Auto – where you’re just a criminal out for all you can get – as I want to play more heroic characters now… but they’re all still very violent!

However, over the past couple of years I’ve been returning to my older games to challenge myself with Trophies that I never bothered with before, e.g. hard difficulties and I am currently playing Dishonored again. I’m just about to attempt to play it through without alerting or killing anyone…so for a little while I’ll be a peaceful little gamer for a change!!


Nobody dies

Since I applaud GC’s continued attempts to bully Game Freak into making Pokémon Snap 2 I am going to nominate the original as my favourite non-violent game. I would’ve anyway though because the thing I admire about it is that it’s basically a lightgun game, except instead of a gun you’ve got a camera.

But rather than just a lame attempt to make it family friendly this changes the gameplay enough that it’s deeper and more interesting than an actual lightgun game. Getting a perfect shot and all the little Easter eggs and secrets, it’s just a great game.

It’s also an approach Nintendo take with a lot of other major genres, even if they don’t always take the violence out entirely. Splatoon is third person online shooter but where nobody dies, Pikmin in a real-time strategy but with bugs and flower people instead of tanks, and they even got Ubisoft to do a XCOM knock-off where nobody dies but everyone has guns. Nintendo are great.


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Non-violent and non-relaxing

Violent and non-violent games might share similar mechanics but the difference on screen could be night and day. Call Of Duty requires you to fill your human enemies full of hot lead, resulting in depictions of screaming and blood. Whereas in Child Of Eden you’re still shooting enemies but said enemies are vibrant non-humanoid representations of a computer virus and you’re gunning them down with neon hued anti-virus beams… or something. All this results in a spectacular hypnotic light and sound show.

Also, just because a game doesn’t feature or depict violence doesn’t automatically mean it’s a relaxing experience and vice versa. The first games that came into mind to suggest were Flower and Journey, which are very pretty and ethereal respectively and quite gentle in their gameplay and the feelings they promote when playing them.

For some reason though (probably because I like it) the next game to pop into my head was Crazy Taxi. There is no enemy to be violent towards and it’s impossible to harm your passenger or any pedestrians despite the frequent and outrageous collisions with scenery and other vehicles that occur. But playing the game is a far from relaxing experience, rather a more heart-pounding one. So after very little deliberation that gets my vote.

I guess in respect of the length of time I spent considering this Hot Topic before deciding on Crazy Taxi a casual observer might exclaim, ‘Wow, you’re really fast!’ Ahem…
Meestah Bull
PS: I invoke Inbox magic to make Ubisoft get together with Tetsuya Mizuguchi and make a Child Of Eden VR re-release happen!

GC: You have our sword on that one.


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