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78 Great Games Like Valheim

Our experts have spent time searching for great games similar to Valheim and have found the following:

Valheim is a Viking inspired strategy game for up to 10 players. You build, survive, conquer, and explore the world. It's popular because it combines strategy of building your town stronghold with tough adventures and encounters with the enemies of the world.

Unfortunately, Valheim is not available on Android, Mac, PS4, PS5, Switch, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S or iOS. However, we recommend the following games that offer a similar experience or theme, and at a lower age rating:

DetailsGame Details

Expected Content Rating: PEGI 16

Skill Rating: 12+ year-olds

Release Date: 02/02/2021

Platforms: PC

Genres: Action, Adventure, Fighting, Open World, Role-Play and Strategy

Accessibility: 17 features

Developer: Valheim Game (@ValheimGame)

Players: 1 (10 online)

Costs: Purchase cost

61 Hand Picked Video Games Like Valheim

These are our hand-picked Video Game games similar to Valheim. This doesn't use automatic matching, instead, we hand-pick games that are good to play if you have enjoyed Valheim, or as younger rated alternatives for players not ready for PEGI 16 or ESRB TEEN games. These selections also include Video Game games that offer a different experience but address a similar theme or topic.
 

Elden Ring

Skill Rating: 14+ year-olds

Release Date: 25/02/2022

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

Elden Ring is a role-play game set in a fictional world created by fantasy novelist George R. R. Martin, with a focus on combat similar to Demon's Souls and an open world with real time and weather like Zelda Breath of the Wild.

Sea of Thieves

Skill Rating: 12+ year-olds

Release Date: 20/03/2018

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

Sea of Thieves is an online game where you are a pirate searching for treasure and adventure. Cast into a large open sea you work with other online players to crew your ship and find treasure. The game has a main story but really focuses on creating...

Subnautica (Series)

Skill Rating: 10+ year-olds

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

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

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

Skill Rating: 14+ year-olds

Release Date: 18/02/2022

Platforms: PS4 and PS5

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...

Go Vacation

Skill Rating: 3+ year-olds

Release Date: 01/10/2011, updated in 2018

Platforms: Switch and Wii

This is a resort exploration game where 50 mini-games can be discovered and played. The mini-golf, skating, surfing, volleyball, car racing, tennis and other games use the Wii and Switch motion-sensitive controllers and are simple fun for youngsters....

The Legend of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild

Skill Rating: 10+ year-olds

Release Date: 03/03/2017

Platforms: Switch and Wii U

This game departs from the previous Zelda formula with the scale and depth of its world. You walk, fly, ride and climb your way through a landscape that varies in climate, terrain, inhabitants and vegetation. Weather and the passage of the sun and moon...

Assassin's Creed Valhalla

Release Date: 10/11/2020

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

Assassin's Creed Valhalla is the twelfth game in the Assassins Creed Series, an open world action-adventure that takes place over several main story quests as well as many optional side missions.

Minecraft

Skill Rating: 6+ year-olds

Release Date: 23/11/2017, updated in 2019

Platforms: 3DS and 2DS, Amazon Fire, Android, Mac, PC, PS Vita, PS3, PS4, Wii U, Xbox 360, Xbox One and iOS

Although Minecraft – where players place blocks to build structures, sculpt the landscape and create adventures – is the best-selling game of all time, some of the best aspects of it are little known. Along with the exploration, building and...

Raft

Skill Rating: 8+ year-olds

Release Date: 23/05/2018

Platforms: PC

Raft is a survival game where you work to build a raft while stranded at sea. You start the game on a small raft with only a hook made of old plastic, with which you use to pull in floating barrels and planks of wood.

Ark: Survival Evolved

Skill Rating: 10+ year-olds

Release Date: 08/08/2017, updated in 2018

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

This game offers hunting-and-harvesting gameplay in a primal setting. Although not as polished or streamlined as a game like Horizon Zero Dawn, this is a more ambitiously open world where you can choose your own way to survive. With crafting and...

Genshin Impact

Skill Rating: 10+ year-olds

Release Date: 27/09/2020

Platforms: Android, PC, PS4 and iOS

Genshin Impact is a role-playing adventure set in a fantastical open world you explore by walking, climbing, swimming and gliding as necessary. Like the Zelda games, you can collect items, and craft new weapons. However, in this game to create a party...

Rust

Skill Rating: 14+ year-olds

Release Date: 08/02/2018

Platforms: Mac, PC, PS4 and Xbox One

Rust (also, Rust: Console Edition) is an online survival game set the wilderness. You explore, gather and craft materials to manage hunger, thirst, health and protection. The preparation is to ward off the threat of bears, wolves and (more commonly)...

Satisfactory

Skill Rating: 10+ year-olds

Release Date: 19/03/2019, updated in 2020

Platforms: PC

Satisfactory is a factory building set on a foreign planet. Like the popular Tycoon and Factory games in Roblox, you start with humble beginnings, you harvest what you can by hand but steadily you build a sprawling empire of automated harvesting...

PixArk

Skill Rating: 8+ year-olds

Release Date: 31/05/2019

Platforms: PC, PS4, Switch and Xbox One

PixArk is an adventure game similar to the more complex (and violent) game Ark: Survival Evolved. With a simpler interface and Minecraft=style block building, it's a survival game that never gets too scary while also inviting ambitious play and...

The Forest

Release Date: 30/05/2014

Platforms: PC and PS4

Forest is a survival horror game where you are the only passenger to live after a plane crash. You explore a mysterious forest to find food, shelter and safety but soon have to battle strange cannibalistic people.

House Flipper

Skill Rating: 10+ year-olds

Release Date: 17/05/2018, updated in 2019

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

House Flipper is a simulation game where you renovate old broken houses to make money. It's a blend of money management, detailed interior design and repair right down to the electric circuitry. It fosters a sense of creativity and imagination in how...

Subnautica Below Zero (Series)

Skill Rating: 10+ year-olds

Release Date: 30/01/2019, updated in 2021

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

Subnautica: Below Zero is an open-world adventure game that follows the original game, Subnautica. You play a scientist on an alien planet searching for clues about the research team that vanished there. What develops is a light...

Paralives

Skill Rating: 10+ year-olds

Release Date: Coming soon

Platforms: Mac and PC

Paralives is a simulation game where you build houses for people and then control how they live. It's inspired by games like the Sims, however, you have complete control over every aspect of the design of the house and its residents. Its balance of...

Outward

Skill Rating: 12+ year-olds

Release Date: 26/03/2019

Platforms: PC, PS4 and Xbox One

Outward is a fantasy adventure focused on an ordinary character surviving against the odds. There's a focus on realism rather than superpowers or magical abilities. You have to look after your warmth, hunger, fatigue, illness, and thirst as well as the...

Book of Travels

Release Date: 30/08/2021

Platforms: Mac and PC

Book of Travels is a role-playing game. It's an unusual online game that focuses on the small rather than the massive. You explore an open world to find others to travel with, gather resources, craft items and learn abilities. It's a game that invites...

We Kill Monsters

Release Date: Coming soon

Platforms: PC

We Kill Monsters (in early development) is an adventure set in a land lost in a deep valley. You explore on foot through forests, mists and moors with the sole goal of reaching the bottom. The world is huge and labyrinthine and invites you to lose...

Dwarf Fortress

Release Date: 08/08/2006

Platforms: Mac and PC

Dwarf Fortress is a longstanding strategy game set in a fantasy world where you control a group of dwarves wanting to construct a wealthy fortress. It's unusual not only for it's text-based appearance but for it's expansive scope, and intricately...

Monster Hunter

Skill Rating: 12+ year-olds

Release Date: 26/03/2021

Platforms: 3DS and 2DS, PS2, PS4, PSP, Switch, Wii, Wii U and Xbox One

Monster Hunter is a series of action role-playing games where you hunt, kill and trap large monsters through wide-ranging landscapes. Each successful hunt rewards you with materials that accrue to slowly upgrade equipment that in turn enables you to...

Deep Rock Galactic

Skill Rating: 12+ year-olds

Release Date: 13/05/2020

Platforms: PC, PS4 and Xbox One

Deep Rock Galactic is shooting game where you play a team of dwarves in a totally destructible world. You explore caves and battle enemy hordes that are different each time you play (like Left 4 Dead).

Demon's Souls (Series)

Release Date: 04/10/2011

Platforms: PS3 and PS5

Demons Souls is first a series of fighting and exploration games recently re-released on PlayStation 5. From third-person perspective you navigate interconnected locations while fighting enemies with weapons and magic. Larger boss enemy encounters...

Core Keeper

Skill Rating: 12+ year-olds

Release Date: 08/03/2022

Platforms: PC

Core Keeper is a life-simulation strategy game set in a vast cave system where you construct a sprawling base. It crosses the exploration and discovery of Stardew Valley with the camaraderie and adventure of [link to...

Horizon Zero Dawn The Frozen Wilds

Release Date: 07/11/2017

Platforms: PC and PS4

Horizon Frozen Wilds extends the Horizon Zero Dawn 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...

Climber: Sky is the Limit

Skill Rating: 12+ year-olds

Release Date: Coming soon

Platforms: PC, PS4, Switch and Xbox One

Climber: Sky is the Limit is a survival climbing adventure, where you scale the peaks of the highest and most famous mountains in the world. Plan the best route, select the correct equipment and avoid dangerous hazards as you ascend. It's a unique blend...

I Am Alive

Skill Rating: 15+ year-olds

Release Date: 07/03/2012, updated in 2013

Platforms: PC, PS3 and Xbox 360

I Am Alive is an action adventure in a post apocalyptic future where an event has reduced cities to rubble. You traverse the country to find your wife and child. It draws on end of humanity fiction like The Road, and stands out for its commitment to...

Unto The End

Release Date: 09/12/2020

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

Unto The End is a cinematic combat-adventure where the fighting is modelled in a read-and-react style. It requires time to master the unusual system but offers many ways to take on foes. Tactics and intelligent decisions are as important for survival as...

Back 4 Blood

Release Date: 12/10/2021

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

Back 4 Blood is a multiplayer shooting game where a team of four players work together to survive zombie-infested areas.

Baldo: The Guardian Owls

Release Date: 27/08/2021, updated in 2022

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

Baldo: The Guardian Owls is an adventure into a magical world. As you explore the overworld and solve the intricately puzzling dungeons you discover new towns, fight ferocious foes, locate hidden temples, and collect magical objects and weapons.

Eidolon

Skill Rating: 12+ year-olds

Release Date: 01/08/2021

Platforms: Mac and PC

Eidolon is a narrative game where you slowly explore a massive, post-human Western Washington. Unlike other action-oriented adventures, here you navigate an open world without threat. It's simply been reclaimed by nature, so your task is to discover...

Icarus First Cohort

Release Date: 01/12/2021

Platforms: PC

Icarus is an adventure survival game where up to eight players work together to endure the wilderness. Your task is to survive the brutal environment as you explore, harvest, craft and hunt. Like Ark and Minecraft, but this stands out for the level of...

Outriders

Release Date: 02/02/2021

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

Outriders is shooting game with a focus on collecting loot and upgrades with a role-playing edge. You create a character and choose from four classes with unique abilities: Tricksters who can manipulate time, Pyromancers who can manipulate fire,...

Against the Storm

Skill Rating: 12+ year-olds

Release Date: 18/10/2021

Platforms: PC

Against the Storm is a construction-based strategy game where you build outposts, towns and villages in an eternally rainy world. Unlike other city builders, this is a game where you attempt and fail over and over. Each run you use intricate gameplay...

Aliens: Fireteam Elite

Skill Rating: 15+ year-olds

Release Date: 24/08/2021

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

Aliens: Fireteam Elite is a cooperative shooting game set 23 years after the original films. Unlike the stealthy Alien: Isolation, Fireteam Elite draws on Aliens: Colonial Marines' breathless shooting and racing pulse.

Days Gone

Release Date: 26/04/2019, updated in 2021

Platforms: PC and PS4

Days Gone is a survival adventure game set in a post-pandemic Oregon. You roam an open world pulsing with life (and zombies). It's unusual for its scale and sheer number of enemies. Add to that the changing light and weather and Days Gone creates a...

Void Bastards

Release Date: 29/05/2019

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

Void *!@?* is a tongue-in-cheek shooting game, where you control misfit prisoners out of the Sargasso Nebula. You decide which shops to investigate, what to do and who to fight. When you die, you start again with some of the loot you've collected...

Wizard With A Gun

Release Date: Coming soon

Platforms: PC and Switch

Wizard with a Gun is a survival game where you play a wizard in a magical wilderness wrought with dangerous creatures and arcane mysteries. Either alone or with other players online you embark on a journey to collect, craft and outfit your wizard to...

Conan Exiles

Release Date: 30/01/2017

Platforms: PC, PS4 and Xbox One

Conan Exiles is an online survival game, set in the lands of Conan the Barbarian. Similar to games like Ark or Green Hell, you start with nothing and must use resources you find in the open-world sandbox. On your own or with friends, you build a base...

Fallout 76 (Series)

Skill Rating: 14+ year-olds

Release Date: 14/11/2018, updated in 2021

Platforms: PC, PS4 and Xbox One

Fallout 76 is an open world adventure. You are a survivor of a nuclear war from Vault 76, which was designed to contain the best and brightest people, trained to restart society once the radiation levels were safe to do so. Unlike other [link...

Kenshi

Skill Rating: 15+ year-olds

Release Date: 06/12/2018

Platforms: PC

Kenshi is a single player role-play game where you have complete control over your character and how they live their life. With no central story, it allows you to go anywhere and play however you like, be that as a city dweller who never ventures into...

Lucen

Release Date: Coming soon

Platforms: PC

Lucen is an action adventure game where you play young Lucen, after his village is mysteriously shrouded in darkness and fellow villagers won't wake up. Armed with your sword, bow, and legends passed down by generations, you set out on a quest for help.

Tails of Iron

Release Date: 17/09/2021

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

Tails of Iron is a role-playing adventure game with a focus on brutal combat. You play Redgi, heir to the Rat Throne, who must restore your broken Kingdom by banishing the merciless Frog Clan. It's a hand-drawn adventure equally endearing and...

Ashwalkers

Skill Rating: 12+ year-olds

Release Date: 15/04/2021, updated in 2022

Platforms: PC and Switch

Ashwalkers is an adventure survival game where you play a small group facing the aftermath of an apocalyptic volcano. You journey through a wild landscape, encountering dangers and strangers. It's a challenge of survival notable for its understated...

Crashlands

Skill Rating: 8+ year-olds

Release Date: 20/01/2016, updated in 2018

Platforms: Android, Mac, PC, Switch, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, iOS and iPhone, iPad

Crashlands is a world-building game where you fight monsters, craft resources, and build a base on an alien planet. As you explore, either on your own or with a friend, you encounter locals, complete quests and missions, and meet strange new enemies. It...

Divinity: Original Sin II (Series)

Release Date: 14/09/2017, updated in 2019

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

Divinity: Original Sin II is a role-play adventure series. You head out with up to three other characters, each with backstories and personalities.

Dread Hunger

Release Date: 26/01/2022

Platforms: PC

Dread Hunger is a strategy survival game where you venture into the arctic wastes to find coal and food to keep your ship running, while trying to uncover the players who are two secret killers. In many ways like the hugely popular [link to...

Palworld

Skill Rating: 12+ year-olds

Release Date: Coming soon

Platforms: PC

Palworld is a role-play game where you befriend and collect Pal creatures in a vast open world. It takes the Pokemon formula in a new more violent (gun-touting) and bizarre-capitalist direction as you put your pocket monsters to fight, build, farm, and...

V Rising

Release Date: 17/05/2022

Platforms: PC

V Rising is an survival adventure game about vampires. You wake as a weak vampire and must hunt for blood whilst evading the sun to slowly rebuild your castle. This is played out in a living open world full of mystery. Gain allies online and conquer...

Gotham Knights

Skill Rating: 14+ year-olds

Release Date: 25/10/2022

Platforms: PC, PS5 and Xbox Series X|S

Gotham Knights is an action-adventure game where you fight criminals and bring vigilante justice to the streets of Gotham City. Playing as one of the four Knights, you travel the city by land and air, finding criminal gangs and supervillains, using...

Lost Ark

Release Date: 14/12/2019, updated in 2022

Platforms: PC

Lost Ark is an online role-play fighting game set in the mystical realm of Akrasia. You work alone or in teams to fight enemies, complete dungeons and upgrade your characters. It combines Lord of the Rings (and Indiana Jones) fantasy adventures with...

Skull and Bones

Skill Rating: 12+ year-olds

Release Date: 08/11/2022

Platforms: PC, PS5, Stadia and Xbox Series X|S

Skull and Bones is an action game where you play a pirate captain in the 17th century Indian Ocean. You complete missions alone or with other players and grow your fleet on a quest to become the most infamous on the seven seas. It's the way it combines...

Skye

Release Date: Coming soon

Platforms: PC

Skye is an open-world survival game set in Viking times. You explore a vast 1:4 scale map of the Isle of Skye as you barter with locals, survive the brutal weather, grow crops and hunt animals. The varied and detailed ever-changing world and the expanse...

Stellaris

Release Date: 09/05/2016, updated in 2021

Platforms: Mac, PC, PS4 and Xbox One

Stellaris is a strategy game where you play a space-faring empire seeking to expand your territory. It offers complete customisation of your civilisation, with different sets of ethics and morals to choose from that change how you play, from limiting...

Wibble Wobble (Dreams)

Skill Rating: 7+ year-olds

Release Date: 10/01/2022, updated in 2022

Platforms: PS4 and PS5

Wibble Wobble is a running and balancing game. A bit like a super-hard egg-and-spoon race, you manoeuvre a bowl through a timed obstacle course while balancing a ball inside. The twist is that the bowl can pass through some obstacles that the ball...

Contraband

Release Date: Coming soon

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

Contraband is a four player co-op stealth game about smuggling in a fictional Southeast Asian 1970s Bayan. It's a heist/smuggling challenge where you are in a team of players. The play loop will include planning and preparation before heading into the...

Dying Light 2 (Series)

Release Date: 04/02/2022

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

Dying Light is a pair of role play survival games set in a zombie infested city. Following in the line of Dead Island and Call of Juarez, you explore a dynamic open city, scaling buildings and hunting for rescues. Combat is not only gory but punishing...

Sons of the Forest

Skill Rating: 14+ year-olds

Release Date: Coming soon

Platforms: PC

Sons of the Forest is an open-world survival game where you build a base, gather resources to survive, and fight off cannibals and Lovecraftian monsters. It follows up The Forest and you similarly explore, hunt wildlife for...

The Bloodline

Skill Rating: 11+ year-olds

Release Date: Coming soon

Platforms: PC

The Bloodline is an action adventure game where you play a descendant of the Harbinger Bloodline with foresight of an impending invasion. You must unite the land and regain respect to reform bonds between kingdoms, recruit an army, rebuild a stronghold...

2 Board Game Alternatives to Valheim

These are our hand-picked alternatives to Valheim. This doesn't use automatic matching, instead, we hand-pick games that are good to play if you have enjoyed Labyrinth. These selections also include games that offer a different experience but address a similar theme or topic.
 

16 Video Games Like Valheim Based on Genre

These are games of a similar genre mix to Valheim. This includes games from the Role-Play, Action, Adventure, Open World, Fighting and Strategy genres. We pick out games of a similar PEGI rating to further hone these generated suggestions.
 

16 Video Games With More Documented Accessibility Features than Valheim

If you like the sound of Valheim but it doesn’t offer the accessibility you require, the games in this section offer a similar experience but with more Accessibility Features. You can view a full breakdown in our Valheim Accessibility Report.
 

Valheim is in These Lists

In addition to the similar games listed above, which have been linked to this game specifically in the database, you may find games with a similar theme to Valheim in the following lists:

Game Has Changing Weather

Video games create worlds and then invite us to play in them. These worlds are sometimes nothing like our own. Others, however, look to recreate life-like spaces, or take the real world and bend it in interesting directions.

Weather is a big part of the experience of a video game. It can create a particular mood, a sense of changing time, or can be used to change the mechanics of your interactions.
 

Survive The Night

Surviving in games is often a key element. Some games, however, make it the main focus. With minimal resources and little light can you make it through to the morning? Can you prepare a shelter as the daylight dwindles in time for you to cope with the lurking creatures of the dark?

Whether this is as simple as closing the door to keep the zombies out in Minecraft or as complex as crafting food, clothing and medicine to cope with the freezing blackness of The Long Dark, these games are exhilarating as they pose a strategic puzzle with personal consequences.

Many of these games offer an open world in which to survive, which opens up more ways of preparing for and then making it through the night time. This, of course, leads to another day where you need to spend time and resources wisely while exploring your surroundings.
 

Create D&D Stories

Dungeons and Dragons casts its creative, communicative shadow over adventure video games, much like chess does over puzzle games. Some games try to recreate that D&D feeling with fantasy adventures and grand epic tales drawing on Tolkien-style characters. Others put you in charge of creating the sort of stories that arise during D&D role play sessions.

The games in this list are emergent ways to tell stories. Some of these, like Sea of Thieves and Valheim, put you in worlds that offer opportunities for adventures. Others, like Loop Hero, task you with setting up a challenge for adventurers to take on. Then there are games like Wildermyth and Road 96, that have near-magical algorithms that let you influence and evolve adventure stories by the choices and performance of your characters.
 

Game Time Has Day-Night Cycle

Games use the spaces they create to tell stories. Some games do this by locking you in a key moment where the time of day doesn't change. Other games let you explore and revisit places at different times of day.

These day-night cycles invite players to explore at different times not only to find different things to do but to see how different locations change visually and audibly at different times of day.

Some games, like The Long Dark, do this to offer a different environmental challenge at night, when the sun is in and the cold wind really affects your character. Other games offer more unusual ways to tie in-game light levels to the real world, like Unmaze that uses your smartphone's camera to determine how much light there is in the game.
 

Exuberant Games For Pre-16 Year-Olds

There's a gap when children are starting to outgrow PEGI 12 rated games but aren't necessarily ready for PEGI 16 rated shooting and fighting experiences. The games in this list offer some options that are genuinely exuberant and exhilarating but with lower levels of violence.

It's important to say that parents should take a close look at the rating information for these games and make their own judgement on appropriateness for their child.

These are intended as good first steps into older rating games, when you think your child is ready. We go through some really good examples of these exciting, fast-action game for a range of ages. They are mostly all PEGI 12 or under, apart from games like Halo or Jedi Fallen Order, which we have included as this is a lower ESRB TEEN rating in the US.
 

Eggplant Podcast's Games of the Years

Eggplant: The Secret Lives of Games, is a podcast that offers a candid conversation with game creators that dives deep into the art, craft, and process of making games. It's an amazing insight into the mind of people who understand and highlight how game/play mechanics can do unexpected, magical and surprising things.

This is the list of games they have picked as their Game of the Year 2018-2021. These awards also include board games, escape rooms and game-like TV series. We have included video games here, where we have them on the database. (And in many cases have added video games to the database after listening to the show.)

It's hosted by:
  • Nick Suttner, an independent game writer/designer/consultant, who has worked on games like Celeste, Bloodroots, and Carto.
  • Andy Nealen, a game creator and scholar, artist and music maker, architect and structural engineer, and professor of cinematic arts and computer science at USC.
  • Sarah Elmaleh, actor, consultant and event organizer with a passion for collaborative creation - both as a seasoned performer and as an advocate for best practices in the games industry.
  • Zach Gage, who makes deep games that are easy to get into, like Really Bad Chess and SpellTower.
  • Douglas Wilson, who is a co-owner of Die Gute Fabrik, a games studio based in Copenhagen, Denmark. He has worked on Johann Sebastian Joust, Sportsfriends, and Mutazione.
  • Laura E. Hall, is an an artist, writer, puzzle-maker, immersive environment and narrative designer focusing on the playful intersections of arts, culture, and technology, especially in gaming.

The team is usually joined by Laura E. Hall for the game of the year episodes. She is an artist, writer, puzzle-maker, immersive environment and narrative designer who focuses on the playful intersections of arts, culture, and technology, especially in gaming.
 

Age-Appropriate Alternatives To GTA When 'All Their Friends Are Playing GTA'

There are some games that seem inescapable. Children tell parents that there's nothing else like them, and "all their friends are playing" this one game. However, you don't need to feel pressured to letting a child play a game. Check out our page for the game and if you don't think you they are ready you can suggest one of the great alternatives.

An enduring example is Grand Theft Auto V. It's rated as suitable for adults but younger players do access the game. Children can paint a picture that this is something they need to access or be excluded from friendship groups and playground banter. Here's what to do:

Firstly, It's important to understand the content of the game before you make a decisions. Our Grand Theft Auto guide enables you to do this in a matter of minutes. If you don't think your child is old enough, it's completely fine to say no. Many families don't let children play games until they reach the related Age Rating.

Secondly, with the breadth of video games on offer there are loads of age appropriate alternatives. Understand which is the best fit for your child depends what it is about a game that means they want to play it.
 

Embrace Free Speech

Children talking to people they don't know in a video game rings alarm bells. In fact, even if they do know online friends, it can still feel a bit worrying what might be said. Worrying headlines about these conversations going wrong or being co-opted by adults means we rush to limit them.

While it's important to ensure our children are safe, the rush to lock down communication can limit the freedom they would have had to express themselves and make sense of the world with their peers. With digital spaces becoming increasingly important, the UN has recently stated that the Rights of the Child apply to the digital environment.

Sara Grimes Digital Playground book has a chapter on this topic. "Often safety manifests as programmed design limitations and systematic restrictions on children's freedom of expression. While such mechanisms are described largely as in children's best interests, in any other context they would almost certainly be classified as censorship".

Reading Sara's chapter led to this list of games that avoid the usual curtailment of children's speech with limitations, allowed phrases or the absence of verbal interactions. We wanted to highlight, as Sara puts it, "opportunities for children to construct types of secret spaces that once characterised childhood," rather than "adult-made embodiments of idealised visions of what children's play space should be".

These are games that provide a "forum for engaging with the exceptional, the repulsive, the taboo, the dark, transgressive play" and a break from "the beautiful, the sanctioned, and the sacred". This is uncomfortable ground for parents and guardians, but as Sara puts it, "provides valuable space for processing and rejecting social roles and expectations." "Within the secret spaces of childhood, children exercise their agency and authority, experiment with ideas and social norms."
  • Proximity Chat in games like Roblox, Sea of Thieves and Ark Survival Evolved offer players a way to communicate without censorship, and is usually accompanied by tools to ensure they are actually children talking rather than interloping adults.
  • Text Chat in games like Stardew Valley and Grounded, where it is not heavily filtered for phrases and terms that limit self expression and collaboration. Or games like Valheim that offer both whisper (to players following you on your team) and shout (to everyone and appears above your head) chat options.
  • Letters can be a way for children to speak to unknown others. This can be specific part of the design like in Kind Words, or as a message left for other players in The First Tree or Animal Crossing. Or naming planets for other players to discover in No Man's Sky. Then there's leaving time capsules with items and message for others to discover in Subnautica.

 

Playful By Design

The Digital Futures Commission's A Vision of Free Play in a Digital World report that outlines the key qualities of "free play" for what "good" looks like in a digital world. The team from 5 Rights Foundation and Digital Futures LSE set out ambitious expectations for children’s free play in all contexts. To claim the label ‘Playful by Design’, digital products and services should adopt seven principles:
  • Be Welcoming: Prioritise digital features that are inclusive, sociable and welcoming to all, reducing hateful communication and forms of exclusion and reflecting multiple identities.
  • Enhance Imagination: Prioritise creative resources and imaginative, open ended play over pre-determined pathways built on popularity metrics or driven by advertising or other commercial pressures.
  • Enable Open-Ended Play: Provide and enhance features that offer easy-to use pathways, flexibility and variety as these support children’s agency and encourage their imaginative, stimulating and open-ended play.
  • No commercial exploitation: Reduce compulsive features designed to prolong user engagement or cultivate dependency on games, apps or platforms, so children’s immersive play is intrinsically motivated and freely chosen.
  • Ensure safety: Ensure children’s play in online spaces is safe, including by giving them control over who can contact them and supplying help when needed.
  • Allow for experimentation: Recognise that exploration, invention and a degree of risk taking is important in children’s play and that the burden should not fall on them always to be cautious or anxious, or to follow rules set by others.
  • Be age-appropriate: Respect the needs of children of different ages by providing age-appropriate opportunities for play, while also allowing for safe intergenerational play.

I asked Sonia Livingstone, lead researcher and report author, whether there were many games that already met this criteria. "Children bring a lot to their play that for them is imaginative and sociable. Where it's more difficult is in the voluntary and intrinsically motivated play. Games very rarely leave children to play at their own pace and rate. The freedom for risk taking is sometimes present but here, children themselves take on the safety burden from society at large and limit play themselves."

Inspired and challenged by the report, we searched our database to identify games that came closest to meeting these high standards. Like the report, this aims to concentrate energy on identifying opportunities for free play that should be enriched and expanded to make play online more child-centred.

In the report, children identify their need to play in ways that perhaps adults don’t understand or that some digital designs deny. They don't want a completely "whole-food experience", nor to turn back the clock to an offline world. They want digital products designed to enhance the qualities of play and at the same time want those aspects of design that are exploitative or invasive to be dialled down.

Examples on this list include playful offline video games. Games like Lonely Mountains Downhill and Microsoft Flight Simulator offer open-ended play where you can go where you want and make your own fun. Spelunky 2, Mini Metro and Teardown enable free-play that is intrinsically and experimentally motivated without commercial exploitation. Then games like A Short Hike and Wilmot's Warehouse offer play that is welcoming for newcomers and specifically age appropriate. Risk taking and rule breaking play that doesn't become a burden on the child is found in games like Untitled Goose Game and The Longing.

Examples on this list also include playful online video games. Games like Journey and One Hour One Life offer a welcoming experience by encouraging (in some cases requiring) other players to help newcomers. Phantom Abyss offers an unusual competitive play space that celebrates experimentation and is safe by design through minimal communication. Sea of Thieves and Valheim offer age appropriate play for older teenagers that is built around experimentation and discovery through risk taking that is lead by imagination. Stormworks combines open ended play like Minecraft, but offers a context more age appropriate to ambitious teenagers through its float-mechanics and boat design. Sky Children of the Light combines many of the criteria, offering a welcoming experience for newcomers, imaginative play. It subverts the commercial feel of other app games by focusing purchases on items that are primarily to give away to other players.
 

Inhabit Another World

Whether it’s a simple puzzle grid, a battlefield or a universe of planets to visit, all games create virtual spaces in which to play. Some of these are simply the background to a campaign - the game’s unfolding drama, missions or challenge. But others invite you to invest in the worlds they create, move in, tend to and inhabit in fantastical ways.

The games in this section invite you to spend time in spaces that have a sense of place, life and character. Worlds that hold history and lore in their landscapes, flora, fauna and inhabitants; environments that respond to your presence and invite you to restore them to their former glory.