5+: Nonviolent Games

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).

Guitar Hero Series

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.

SimCity Series

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.

Ace Attorney Series

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.

Papers, Please

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.

Professor Layton Series

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.

Nick Connor

I'm an English major and History minor at UW-Parkside. I'm a big fan of Mega Man, Deus Ex, Okami, Civilization, Kingdom Hearts, and Team Fortress 2.

More Posts


2 thoughts on “5+: Nonviolent Games

  1. Frogger. The story is simple: find all the baby frogs scattered throughout the level. But that’s not as easy as it sounds. Frogger has to cross the street to reach them, and has to dodge numerous obstacles along the way, ranging from cars, crocodiles, and snakes. Even the water is hazardous. A PC game released in 1997 went on to include extra levels, making Frogger evade bees, squirrels, spiders, and even spiky industrial machines. What can you do to fight back against these threats? Nothing. You’ll have to run away from, or outmanuver them. The levels in the PC version are large and elaborate, so players will have to be quick on their feet to avoid getting killed. Chances are, they’ll die a lot anyway, but that never made the game any less addicting.

  2. LEGO Island has a story, but playing through it is entirely dependant on choosing a specific character, and doing certain actions. If you play through the main story, you don’t commit any acts of violence. Even if you don’t play the main story, you’re free to wander through a vast island, building LEGO vehicles, driving said vehicles, delivering pizzas, racing, interacting with the locals, etc. The closest you get to violence is being able to bump into some characters and cause them to fall apart, but they don’t have much of a reaction to this when the reassemble themselves. They act like it never even happened. LEGO Island was the first LEGO game ever made, and it was less about action, and more about what LEGO is known for: building things and exploring a strange world.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *