Hey, I’m actually doing one of the lists I promised way back. Anyway, the most common critique of video games as an art form is the abundance of violence in the medium. While the display of violence doesn’t negate artistry in a piece, the heavy reliance on it does make the medium look one-note. Imagine if all films were reliant on action scenes and how mundane that would become. This week, we’re going to keep it peaceful and look into the games that avoid combat. To qualify, the game can’t include any manner of a combat system that the playable character can perform, including commanding others to attack on their behalf. It was surprising to consider how many games don’t qualify for the list, including such charming titles as Portal and Mario Kart. Just to make things even harder, I’m also going to refrain from including highly abstract games like Tetris and Dance Dance Revolution and instead focus on games that possess some level of a storyline (although, don’t feel that you need to play by the same rule when making your own suggestions in the comments).
I’m already bending the storyline rule I set a little, but there is an underlying narrative of your band working its way up to the big time and that’s good enough for me. Rhythm games in general are great sources for addictive gameplay that can endlessly be enjoyed with friends. The flashy visuals, accessible controls, and wide selection of classic rock and metal tracks make for an experience that can liven up any party. Feel free to count the Rock Band series as an honorable mention here, but I’ve only played the Guitar Hero games for myself so far. Still, it’s the same basic concept and appeal.
Again, I somewhat cheating the rules with this entry as the SimCity series does allow players to manually trigger disasters in their cities for the sake of just watching the carnage. Still, I count that more as an Easter egg than a mechanic. The core joy in the SimCity series has always been and shall always be building and maintaining the city of your dreams. Seeing the city that you built from scratch prosper and grow gives the feeling that you could not only run the world but make it a better place.
One part text adventure and one part point-and-click, the Ace Attorney series is a cult classic collection of games that have brought players a large number of memorable stories and characters. As a criminal defense attorney, you investigate the innocence of your colorful array of clients and solve many engaging mysteries. The one big problem is that each game has the replay value of a book, which is still worth revisiting now and then, but will never earn as much mileage as more mechanics-based games.
I’ve already discussed this game at length on Wandering Monsters, but there is still plenty of praise to offer it. Papers, Please is unlike any game I’ve even conceived of before and it carries with its one-of-a-kind concept with grace. Anyone who thinks that a game needs galleons of blood to be hardcore needs to test their skills and spirit against the merciless bureaucracy that comes with stamping passports for Arstotzka’s border-patrol. Every action requires precision and every mistake weighs on you like a ton of bricks. Throw in a heaping supply of moral dilemmas and you have a must-play game.
The Professor Layton series has everything you’d want from a game without combat: good story, fun and varied gameplay, and hidden secrets and minigames to keep you coming back. It makes it look easy for games to drop the fights and find alternative methods of conflict. Rather than brawn, the Layton games focus entirely on brains with a vast array of puzzles. If you want to see how games can deliver high-quality experiences without relying on violence, then there is no better place to look than these puzzling adventures.
What nonviolent games are among your favorites? Leave a comment below and you may see it featured on a follow-up article next week. The next 5+ will arrive on May 1st.