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Get Children Into The Environment

It’s easy to assume that video games are all about building big cities or running successful economies. There are, however, many games that offer quite the reverse. These games encourage players to consider the impact of their actions on the environment, as well as their interconnectedness to the world in which they live.

The games in this list take inspiration from Alenda Chang’s Playing Nature book. They offer a chance to consider play from an ecological perspective. As she quotes, “games of environmental responsibility animate our capacity to respond, to affect and be affected, to engage with others: other species, other people, and the otherness of our own planet.”

This might be how a game like Terra Nil makes the land itself a character in the experience. Or it can be how a game like Eco establishes the connection between your actions and the other aspects of the environment. Other games, like The Wandering Village underline how our location in the world impacts on us and others. One family told us about Final Fantasy 7 Remake's commentary on corporations and ecology. Then there are games of dire warning that let us step into a future where humanity is all but disconnected from the wider environment and hangs on just by a thread.

Other games let us experience our connection to the environment by adventuring in it. From getting lost in Shadow of the Colossus to finding our way in Journey, games underline the importance of the spaces in which we play. Experiences like Cloud Gardens or Viva Pinata extend this by using play to put us in charge of tending to the natural world. Games like Eastshade or The Long Dark invite us to linger in these places and gain an understanding that is crucial to our survival.

This list includes 84 games from the last 21 years, with 1,486 likes. They come from a range of different genres and play-styles and are all good games if you want to understand ecology.


 

Apico

Release Date: 20/05/2022, updated in 2022

Platforms: Mac, PC and Switch

Skill Rating: 6+ year-olds

Apico is a simulation game where you play a beekeeper and conservationist. You explore environments, breed rare bees and release them into the wild, while growing your business. There are no enemies, time constraints or set objectives so you can focus...

Submerged Hidden Depths

Release Date: 04/12/2020, updated in 2022

Platforms: PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S

Skill Rating: 7+ year-olds

Submerged: Hidden Depths is an adventure game where you boat, climb and explore the ruins of a sunken world. With light puzzle solving and no combat you discover a drowned city, crumbling skyscrapers and deserted villages. It's the sequel to the first...

Nuts

Release Date: 20/01/2021

Platforms: PC, Switch and iPhone, iPad

Skill Rating: 9+ year-olds

Nuts is an adventure game where you play a rookie field researcher. You use your camera, caravan, GPS and map to investigate the depths of the enigmatic Melmoth Forest. As you study the local squirrel population you uncover a strange mystery.

Flower

Release Date: 12/02/2009

Platforms: PC, PS Vita, PS3, PS4 and iOS

Skill Rating: 5+ year-olds

Control the breeze blowing across fields of grass and blow petals into other flowers to make them bloom. Flower is simple and single-purpose in evoking the feeling of the wind. What starts as an awkward struggle to control the breeze soon turns into a...

Kena: Bridge of Spirits

Release Date: 21/08/2021

Platforms: PC, PS4 and PS5

Skill Rating: 11+ year-olds

Kena: Bridge of Spirits is an adventure about a young girl who travels to an abandoned village in the hope of finding a sacred mountain shrine. To get there she must find and grow a team of charming spirit companions called the Rot, enhancing their...

Journey

Release Date: 14/03/2012, updated in 2019

Platforms: PC, PS3, PS4 and iOS

Skill Rating: 11+ year-olds

Journey is an adventure game set in a desert. Exploring the eerie sand-scape, you discover a world abandoned by the race that created it. The sense of space and scale evokes feelings of aloneness and being lost. But then the game pairs you with other...

Subnautica (Series)

Release Date: 11/04/2016, updated in 2018

Platforms: PC, PS4, Switch, Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S

Skill Rating: 10+ year-olds

Subnautica is an open-world adventure where you explore the ocean on an alien planet after crashlanding. You collect resources and fight creatures to survive. This enables you to establish an underwater base, gain new craft and equipment and explore...

Horizon Forbidden West

Release Date: 18/02/2022

Platforms: PS4 and PS5

Skill Rating: 14+ year-olds

Horizon Forbidden West is a post-apocalyptic action-adventure where you explore an overgrown landscape with now-crumbling remnants of modern life. The story of Aloy continues as she sets out to investigate a plague terminating from an arcane frontier...

Fe

Release Date: 16/02/2018

Platforms: PC, PS4, Switch and Xbox One

Skill Rating: 7+ year-olds

You play a fox in a magical fairy tale forest. The world extends in front of you in stylised form, with trees, mountains and streams glistening with sparkles of life. You run, jump, climb and dip your paws in every aspect of the world. But it’s the...

Horizon Zero Dawn

Release Date: 01/03/2017

Platforms: PC and PS4

Skill Rating: 14+ year-olds

Horizon Zero Dawn, and the follow-up game Horizon Forbidden West, has a post-apocalyptic feel familiar from movies like Planet of the Apes. It plunges you into an overgrown landscape with now-crumbling remnants of modern life where animalistic machines...

Don't Starve

Release Date: 23/04/2013, updated in 2017

Platforms: Android, Mac, PC, PS Vita, PS3, PS4, Switch, Wii U, Xbox One and iOS

Skill Rating: 10+ year-olds

This is an open-world survival game. Here it’s the environment and enemies, rather than other players, that you work with. You need to find and develop food, weapons and shelter to survive. It’s enjoyable because it’s hard, so repeat-plays to...

Abzu

Release Date: 02/11/2016, updated in 2018

Platforms: PC, PS4, Switch and Xbox One

Skill Rating: 7+ year-olds

Abzu is an adventure in a lush underwater world. You descend into the heart of the ocean to find ancient secrets and encounter majestic creatures. This combines the beautiful weightlessness of diving with an ancient story of meaning and place in the world.

Stardew Valley

Release Date: 26/02/2016, updated in 2018

Platforms: Amazon Fire, Android, Mac, PC, PS Vita, PS4, Switch, Xbox One and iOS

Skill Rating: 10+ year-olds

Stardew Valley looks like a farming simulator. That’s partly what it is, but you must also develop relationships with the other townsfolk and delve deep into the mines. Its quirky labyrinthine attention to detail is as inviting for young players to...

Shadow Of The Colossus

Release Date: 18/10/2005

Platforms: PS2, PS3 and PS4

Skill Rating: 10+ year-olds

You play a young man who enters a forbidden land to defeat sixteen massive beings to restore the life of a girl he cares about. It sounds like any other video game, although in fact, Shadow of the Colossus stands apart in many ways.

Final Fantasy VII Remake

Release Date: 10/04/2020

Platforms: PS4

Final Fantasy VII Remake is an action role-playing game set in a decaying cyberpunk metropolis. It is the first in a series of games that remake the 1997 PlayStation game Final Fantasy VII. You play the role of a mercenary named Cloud Strife who joins...

Astroneer

Release Date: 16/12/2016, updated in 2019

Platforms: PC, PS4, Switch and Xbox One

Skill Rating: 10+ year-olds

Astroneer is an open-world space adventure where you colonize planets by creating habitable structures, farming and mining resources. There is no specific story, although the challenges of each planet give rise to struggles of achievement to placate the...

Pikmin 3

Release Date: 26/10/2013, updated in 2020

Platforms: Switch and Wii U

Skill Rating: 6+ year-olds

Pikmin 3 Deluxe is the latest in a series of puzzle games where you direct hordes of titular plant-like creatures to navigate garden locations. Different colour Pikmins have different abilities so the challenge is to get enough of the right ones to...

One Hour One Life

Release Date: 27/02/2018

Platforms: Android, Mac, PC and iOS

Skill Rating: 9+ year-olds

This is a civilisation survival game where each player lives a whole life in an hour of play and then passes away. Born as a baby into the care of anonymous other online players, you initially depend on them for food. Quickly growing, you can soon fend...

Farm Together

Release Date: 25/02/2018, updated in 2019

Platforms: Mac, PC, PS4, Switch and Xbox One

Skill Rating: 8+ year-olds

Farm Together is a low-pressure farm simulator. You develop your farm by yourself or cooperate with your friends. Starting with an empty plot you can grow crops, plant trees, take care of the animals, add buildings and facilities, and unlock new items...

Haven Park

Release Date: 05/08/2021

Platforms: Mac, PC and Switch

Skill Rating: 7+ year-olds

Haven Park is a strategy game where you build camping spots in a national park. You play Flint, who is repairing his grandma's park to attract new campers. It's an intricate open island that packs in plenty to discover. As a game made by one person,...

Tchia

Release Date: Coming soon

Platforms: PC, PS4 and PS5

Skill Rating: 8+ year-olds

Tchia is an adventure where you play a young girl (Tchia) who can climb, glide, swim, and sail around a beautiful archipelago. Along with the usual sandbox missions and play the game offers an unusual ability to take control (and become) any animal or...

Grow Up (Series)

Release Date: 26/08/2016

Platforms: PC, PS4 and Xbox One

Skill Rating: 9+ year-olds

Grow Up is a running and jumping adventure. It is the sequel to 2015's Grow Home and extends the real physics exploration that lets you push, pull, climb and direct how plants grow in the world.

Endless Ocean

Release Date: 09/11/2007, updated in 2010

Platforms: Wii

Skill Rating: 6+ year-olds

Endless Ocean (Endless Ocean: Blue World in the US) and its sequel Endless Ocean 2: Adventures of the Deep are versions of a diving adventure game where you explore the Manaurai Sea to identify different fish and recover artefacts. As experience is...

Viva Pinata

Release Date: 09/09/2006

Platforms: DS, PC, Xbox 360 and Xbox One

Skill Rating: 9+ year-olds

This game is a fantasy garden-simulation game where your tending and care encourages one of 60 different piñata animals to make it their home. You use gardening tools to plough, sow seeds, create ponds and sculpt the land. Do this well and more animals...

Beyond Blue

Release Date: 22/04/2020, updated in 2020

Platforms: PC, PS4, Xbox One and iPhone, iPad

Skill Rating: 6+ year-olds

Beyond Blue is an underwater exploration game where you play Mirai, a deep-sea explorer and scientist. You see, hear, and interact with the ocean and the creatures in it as you discover an untouched world.

Garden Story

Release Date: 11/08/2021

Platforms: Mac, PC, Switch and Xbox One

Skill Rating: 10+ year-olds

Garden Story is a role-playing adventure, crafting and farming game similar to Stardew Valley. It also features combat, dungeons and puzzles similar to the Zelda games. You defend your garden-home from an invasion on...

The Wandering Village

Release Date: Coming soon

Platforms: PC and Xbox One

The Wandering Village is a strategy game where you build a city to escape a world made toxic by spores. You seek shelter on the back of a giant, wandering creature called Onbu. It's unusual because as well as building a thriving settlement, you have to...

Eastshade

Release Date: 14/08/2019

Platforms: Mac, PC, PS4 and Xbox One

Skill Rating: 7+ year-olds

Eastshade is a slow exploration game in a world you explore by walking around. Here, though, you play as a painter of landscapes rather than typical hero. Your mission is to paint your deceased mother’s favourite sights, but it's the world and its...

Eco

Release Date: 06/02/2018

Platforms: Mac and PC

Skill Rating: 10+ year-olds

Eco extends the resource-collecting and building of Minecraft by introducing environmental implications to your actions. Using resources like trees will erode the soil; mining might pollute the river; and each animal depends on another.

Terra Nil

Release Date: Coming soon

Platforms: Mac and PC

Skill Rating: 11+ year-olds

Terra Nil is a strategy game where you are using clean technology to bring back life to a barren world. It's a city building game where you aren't building a city at all, but a clean thriving ecology. It raises interesting themes of how humanity plays...

Timberborn

Release Date: 15/09/2021

Platforms: Mac and PC

Timberborn is a construction strategy game where you control a population of beavers, building a civilization and preparing for drought. You build waterways, storage houses, dams and more in a densely packed city as you manage resources, allocate...

Cloud Gardens

Release Date: 09/09/2020, updated in 2021

Platforms: Mac, PC, Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S

Skill Rating: 6+ year-olds

Cloud Gardens is a puzzle game where you grow vegetation over a dilapidated post-apocalyptic world. It's a low-pressure puzzle, from the team behind Kingdom. It has the same pixel-art style, but here you are left to take your time...

Parkasaurus

Release Date: 13/08/2020, updated in 2022

Platforms: PC and Switch

Skill Rating: 7+ year-olds

Parkasaurus is a strategy simulation game where you create a dinosaur park for people to visit. You need to construct well-designed exhibits, research specialised technology and maximize profits so you can expand with more dinosaurs. It combines pet...

Pikmin

Release Date: 26/10/2001, updated in 2009

Platforms: GameCube and Wii

Skill Rating: 6+ year-olds

Pikmin is a real time strategy game where the main character Captain Olimar crash lands on an alien planet filled with strange small creatures called Pikmin. You are able to control and use these creatures to knock down walls, build bridges and attack...

Sunlight

Release Date: 14/01/2021

Platforms: PC

Skill Rating: 6+ year-olds

Sunlight is a short adventure game where you explore an uncharted forest, guided by harmonised whispers. As you move from tree to tree you discover different voices, genders and dialects, speaking as one. Taking artistic inspiration from expressionist...

Wavetale

Release Date: 10/11/2021

Platforms: PC and Stadia

Skill Rating: 9+ year-olds

Wavetale is a surfing and jumping adventure in a world of sunken cities and fog. It wasn't always like this, and you help restore the decaying archipelago as Sigrid, a young girl who befriends a mysterious shadow that provides her with the power to walk...

Arctico

Release Date: 15/02/2022

Platforms: Mac and PC

Arctico is a meditative, exploration and base-building game where you play a lone scientist on a quest to continue your mentor's legacy and grow food in the arctic. You explore the vast frigid wilds of the island of Arctico with your sledge dogs, create...

Orchids to Dusk

Release Date: 03/12/2015

Platforms: PC

Skill Rating: 13+ year-olds

Orchids to Dusk is a short wandering adventure. You are an astronaut stranded on an alien planet, with only a few minutes of oxygen. You explore the world and discover fantastic gardens on the planet.

The Stillness of the Wind

Release Date: 07/02/2019

Platforms: Mac, PC, Switch and iOS

In The Stillness of the Wind you are an old woman who looks after a dilapidated farm. Over the course of a few hours, no matter what your efforts, the farm falls apart as you learn about the woman’s family and have the chance to ruminate on her...

From Dust

Release Date: 27/07/2011, updated in 2011

Platforms: PC, PS3 and Xbox 360

Skill Rating: 10+ year-olds

From Dust is a strategy game. You play as an all powerful God of a primitive people. The land is ancient but devoid of humans. Unusually, you control the landscape rather than the people, moving land and water and lava to give villagers pathways to...

Taming Gaming Book Written by parents for parents, the database complements the in-depth discussion about video game addiction, violence, spending and online safety in the Taming Gaming book. We are an editorially independent, free resource without adverts that is supported by partnerships.

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