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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 31 games from the last 20 years, with 384 likes. They come from a range of different genres and play-styles and are all good games if you want to understand ecology.


 

Final Fantasy VII Remake

Content Rating: PEGI 16+

Release Date: 10/04/2020

Platforms: PS4

Genres: Action, Narrative and Role-Playing

Accessibility: 16 features

Developer: @SquareEnix

Players: This is a single player game

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...

Subnautica (Series)

Content Rating: PEGI 7+

Skill Rating: 10-16 year-olds

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

Price: 50% off

Platforms: PC, PS4, Switch and Xbox One

Genres: Action, Adventure, Open World, Simulation and Strategy

Accessibility: 14 features

Developer: @UnknownWorlds

Players: This is a single player game

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...

Pikmin 3

Content Rating: PEGI 3+

Skill Rating: 6+ year-olds

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

Price: 28% off

Platforms: Switch and Wii U

Genres: Action, Fighting, Simulation and Strategy

Developer: @MonolithSoft

Players: You can play with 2 players in the same room

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...

Stardew Valley

Content Rating: PEGI 12+

Skill Rating: 10+ year-olds

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

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

Genres: Action, Adventure, Narrative, Open World, Simulation and Strategy

Accessibility: 24 features

Developer: @ConcernedApe

Players: You can play this with 4 players online

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...

Journey

Content Rating: PEGI 7+

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

Platforms: PC, PS3, PS4 and iOS

Genres: Adventure

Accessibility: 6 features

Developer: @ThatGameCompany

Players: This is a single player game. You can play with up to 2 players online

This is an adventure 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 players, one...

Abzu
PEGI Rating 7+ for Abzu

Abzu

Content Rating: PEGI 7+

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

Platforms: PC, PS4, Switch and Xbox One

Genres: Adventure

Accessibility: 6 features

Developer: @GiantSquidology

Players: This is a single player game

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.

Grow Up (Series)

Content Rating: PEGI 3+

Release Date: 26/08/2016

Platforms: PC, PS4 and Xbox One

Genres: Adventure, Open World, Platform and Simulation

Developer: @UbiReflections

Players: This is a single player game

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.

Astroneer

Content Rating: PEGI 7+

Skill Rating: 10-16 year-olds

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

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

Genres: Action, Adventure, Open World, Simulation and Strategy

Accessibility: 23 features

Developer: @SES_dev

Players: This is a single player game

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...

Viva Pinata

Content Rating: PEGI 3+

Skill Rating: 10+ year-olds

Release Date: 09/09/2006

Platforms: DS, PC, Xbox 360 and Xbox One

Genres: Simulation and Strategy

Developer: @RareLtd

Players: You can play with 2 players in the same room and up to 4 players online

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...

Shadow Of The Colossus

Content Rating: PEGI 12+

Release Date: 18/10/2005

Platforms: PS2, PS3 and PS4

Genres: Action, Adventure, Fighting, Narrative, Open World and Simulation

Developer: @SonyJapanStudio

Players: This is a single player game

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.

Farm Together

Content Rating: PEGI 3+

Skill Rating: 9+ year-olds

Release Date: 25/02/2018, updated in 0019

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

Genres: Open World, Simulation and Strategy

Developer: @Milkstone

Players: You can play with 4 players in the same room and up to 16 players online

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...

The Wandering Village

Expected Content Rating: PEGI 7+

Release Date: Coming soon

Platforms: PC

Genres: Adventure, Simulation and Strategy

Developer: @StrayFawnStudio

Players: This is a single player game

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...

Endless Ocean

Content Rating: PEGI 3+

Skill Rating: 6+ year-olds

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

Platforms: Wii

Genres: Adventure, Open World and Simulation

Developer: @Arika_co_jp

Players: This is a single player game

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...

Horizon Zero Dawn

Content Rating: PEGI 16+

Skill Rating: 13-18 year-olds

Release Date: 01/03/2017

Platforms: PC and PS4

Genres: Action, Adventure, Fighting, Narrative, Open World and Shooting

Accessibility: 30 features

Developer: @Guerrilla

Players: This is a single player game

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...

One Hour One Life

Content Rating: PEGI 7+

Release Date: 27/02/2018

Platforms: Android, Mac, PC and iOS

Genres: Action, Adventure, Creative, Fighting, Open World, Simulation and Strategy

Developer: @JasonRohrer

Players: This is a single player game. You can play with up to 100 players online

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...

Nuts

Expected Content Rating: PEGI 7+

Release Date: 20/01/2021

Platforms: PC, Switch and iPhone, iPad

Genres: Adventure, Narrative, Puzzle and Simulation

Developer: @JoonTurbo

Players: This is a single player game

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.

Beyond Blue

Content Rating: PEGI 7+

Release Date: 22/04/2020

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

Genres: Adventure, Narrative, Open World and Simulation

Developer: @ELineMedia

Players: This is a single player game

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.

Flower

Content Rating: PEGI 3+

Skill Rating: 5-11 year-olds

Release Date: 12/02/2009

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

Genres: Open World, Racing and Simulation

Accessibility: 2 features

Developer: @ThatGameCompany

Players: This is a single player game

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...

Don't Starve

Content Rating: PEGI 12+

Release Date: 23/04/2013, updated in 2014

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

Genres: Action, Open World, Simulation and Strategy

Developer: @Klei

Players: You can play with 2 players in the same room and up to 6 players online

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...

Terra Nil

Expected Content Rating: PEGI 3+

Skill Rating: 11+ year-olds

Release Date: Coming soon

Platforms: Mac and PC

Genres: Open World, Puzzle, Simulation and Strategy

Accessibility: 6 features

Developer: @Free_Lives

Players: This is a single player game

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...

Eco
PEGI Rating 7+ for Eco

Eco

Content Rating: PEGI 7+

Skill Rating: 10-14 year-olds

Release Date: 06/02/2018

Platforms: Mac and PC

Genres: Creative, Open World, Simulation and Strategy

Developer: @StrangeLoopGame

Players: This is a single player game. You can play with up to 100 players online

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.

Pikmin

Content Rating: PEGI 3+

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

Platforms: GameCube and Wii

Genres: Action, Adventure, Puzzle and Strategy

Accessibility: 7 features

Developer: @NintendoUK

Players: This is a single player game

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...

Horizon Forbidden West

Content Rating: PEGI 16+

Release Date: Coming soon

Platforms: PS5

Genres: Action, Adventure, Fighting, Narrative, Open World and Shooting

Developer: @Guerrilla

Players: This is a single player game

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...

Sunlight

Expected Content Rating: PEGI 3+

Release Date: 14/01/2021

Platforms: PC

Genres: Narrative and Simulation

Developer: @Krillbite

Players: This is a single player game

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...

Cloud Gardens

Expected Content Rating: PEGI 3+

Skill Rating: 6+ year-olds

Release Date: 09/09/2020

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

Genres: Creative, Puzzle and Simulation

Developer: @Noio_Games

Players: This is a single player game

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...

Wildfire

Content Rating: PEGI 16+

Skill Rating: 13+ year-olds

Release Date: 26/05/2020

Price: 40% off

Platforms: PC, PS4, Switch and Xbox One

Genres: Action, Fighting, Puzzle and Simulation

Accessibility: 15 features

Developer: @WildfireGame

Players: You can play with 2 players in the same room

Wildfire is a running, jumping and hiding game where you hide from (and distract) enemies to get through levels and complete missions. You have specific powers to start fires, freeze water, and move earth that offer different ways to solve the puzzle of...

Pikmin 2

Content Rating: PEGI 3+

Release Date: 08/10/2004, updated in 2009

Platforms: GameCube and Wii

Genres: Action, Adventure, Puzzle and Strategy

Accessibility: 6 features

Developer: @NintendoUK

Players: You can play with 2 players in the same room

Pikmin 2 is the second in the Pikmin Series, Captain Olimar is joined by his assistant Louie on a mysterious planet. You are collecting treasures consisting of scrap metal, broken toys. You do this by controlling plant like creatures called Pikmin,...

Eastshade

Content Rating: PEGI 7+

Release Date: 14/08/2019

Platforms: Mac, PC, PS4 and Xbox One

Genres: Adventure, Creative, Narrative, Open World and Role-Playing

Developer: @Eastshade

Players: This is a single player game

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...

Fe
PEGI Rating 7+ for Fe

Fe

Content Rating: PEGI 7+

Release Date: 16/02/2018

Platforms: PC, PS4, Switch and Xbox One

Genres: Action, Open World, Platform and Puzzle

Accessibility: 22 features

Developer: @ZoinkGames

Players: This is a single player game

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...

The Stillness of the Wind

Content Rating: PEGI 3+

Release Date: 07/02/2019

Platforms: Mac, PC, Switch and iOS

Genres: Narrative and Puzzle

Accessibility: 10 features

Developer: @StillnessGame

Players: This is a single player game

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...

Plasticity

Expected Content Rating: PEGI 3+

Skill Rating: 10+ year-olds

Release Date: 24/05/2019

Price: Free

Platforms: Mac and PC

Genres: Narrative, Platform and Puzzle

Developer: @PlasticityGame

Players: This is a single player game

Plasticity is a running and jumping puzzle game about a world overrun with plastic waste. You collect and recycle the plastic to transform your environment back to health. It's a short game designed to raise awareness of the long-lasting damage that...


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