Where the Heart Leads 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 Where the Heart Leads in the following lists:
Time in video games is a valuable thing. Unlike in the real world where it proceeds in a linear fashion, in a game it may speed up, slow down or even go backwards. There are some games where controlling time becomes a crucial and fascinating game mechanic. The best of these integrate your time travelling powers with both characters and narrative to create a compelling experience.
Video games often place you in positions of power, saving the world, righting the wrongs and bringing justice. Of course, real life isn't neat and tidy like that. There are many games where you are challenged to make difficult decisions
and some of those put you in situations without power, where the kindest thing to do is to lie.
Whether it's not telling Ellie the truth about her unique response to the infection so she can have a "normal" life in The Last Of Us
, lying about who's drugs they are to save a friend in Life Is Strange
, deciding not to be honest with friends to save their feelings and avoid confrontation in Oxenfree
or rearranging an old man's memory so he thinks he's made it to his dream in To The Moon
, telling lies is sometimes the right thing to do.
The games in this list challenge our neat conceptions of right and wrong. Playing them, we face the messiness of real-world justice and consider the power of withholding the truth. We might not always agree with the reasons or ethics, but we have a chance to revisit our values as we play.
All games offer you agency. You can win or lose. You can complete them or stop at any time. But there are some games that offer a story that genuinely branches. Where you end up will be different from other players. This not only makes your actions really matter but also gives you a reason to play them again.
Setting aside games that evolve through simulation, or games where once you die it's game over, these branching narrative games tell a story that ends in a certain way because of the choices you made.
In a culture that holds up youth as an ideal rather than a stage of life, it can be hard to embrace our ageing lives, bodies and dreams. The games in this list offer a chance to step into the shoes of older protagonists as well as spend time with people coming to terms with the ticking clock themselves.
Being able to discern between reliable sources and unreliable sources of information is an important skill for children to develop. This starts with questions of trust and authority but then leads to decisions about how we use and share information ourselves.
We've worked with Childnet International
on this list of games that help children and young people experiment with what they should trust and the potential unintended consequences. Childnet International is an online safety charity working with others to help make the internet a great and safe place for children and young people. They believe that the internet is a wonderfully positive tool for children and young people. Childnet are also part of the UK Safer Internet Centre and organise Safer Internet Day in the UK every February.
Some of the games, like Thousand Threads
, either put them in a world where what people say and believe impacts the other characters. Other games, like Headliner
, put the player in charge of information so they can see the consequences first hand of its misuse. There are even games, like Papers Please
, that enable the player to police who is and isn't allowed access to information or even access to the country.
As Childnet write, "Critical Thinking is an important skill that we need in order to navigate the internet safely and find the latest news headlines or facts and information. With the amount of content that is online sometimes it’s quite easy to be reading something that is inaccurate without realising."
These games each provide different ways for players to develop critical thinking. They provide a space where trust and authority can be experienced first hand, and where the negative and positive consequences of how we handle these topics play out.
We have partnered with the National Literacy Trust
to create this resource of video games that encourage and enable reading and writing skills.
The National Literacy Trust is a charity dedicated to improving the reading, writing, speaking and listening skills of children and young people who need it most, giving them the best possible chance of success in school, work and life.
Video games have significant benefits for children who are reluctant or struggling readers. They give them access to stories through interaction and world building which they may not have been able to read in print. Video games also have benefits for families where parents may not be confident readers, meaning that sharing stories as a family is still accessible to all. The rise of video games on smartphones and tablets, as well as more affordable game consoles has made the sharing of interactive stories easier.
There are different ways that video games create this kind of collateral reading and aid literacy:
Reading In Games: Video games offer all sorts of reading at all levels. This can be from simple narrative in a game like Florence to dialogue in a game like Mutazione or even just identifying useful items and game mechanics with in-game descriptions in a game like Zelda Breath of the Wild. Then there are games like Thousand Threads that help players think about the power and the consequence of words.
Reading Around Games: Video games create worlds that often spawn secondary texts. This can be official novels that expand the world or guide books that offer instructions and help. Knights and Bikes, for example, has spin off books, a cartoon series and recipes to read.
Routes Into Books: Many popular book series, such as Beast Quest, offer a range of video games as an easy first step into those worlds that lead to then reading the books themselves.
Communication Around Games: As well as reading, games encourage all sorts of creative output. This can be to contribute to the many online forums and message boards to talk about the game. This can also be to write fan-fiction after being inspired about a game world or character. The Sims, for example, has an avid community writing and creating all kinds of content online.
Games include interactions, narratives and characters dealing with all aspects of life (and death). This means that some care is necessary if players are sensitive to losing significant people. But also, games can provide a helpful space in which to process, consider and understand death and loss.
I've come up with some games that explore this topic, along with help and suggestions from Gaming The Mind
), an organisation of UK-based mental health professionals who aim to promote positive mental health within the gaming community. By focusing on the intersection between gaming and mental health, they want to raise awareness of mental health challenges and reduce the stigma surrounding these issues.
"We express grief in different ways depending on our age," they said. "To help children cope with loss, it is important that they receive honest explanations about death, appropriate to their level of understanding. With these games, players may find valuable space in which to acknowledge grief as a completely normal reaction to bereavement."
"The games we have selected don't necessarily offer an ideal way to cope with death but tackle the topic of death openly and with a positive attitude. They can help show the player that they are not alone in what they are going through. Playing these games with young people, and answering questions they might have along the way, can be a useful starting point for important conversations about grief."
We are used to books, films and radio programs challenging our assumptions on subjects. Adam Curtis, Louis Theroux and David Attenborough have powerfully used film to change perspectives and values.
Less well known is how many video games tread a similar furrow. These are games that not only tackle difficult subjects, but get beneath the usual binary perspectives to create new ways of thinking about these themes.
Video games and toys are two separate things in a child's life. Online and in stores they are sold separately. At home, however, children will move from toys to video games without such strong distinctions. This list draws together all the games that cross over with toys in this way.
Very young players are often drawn to games with toy-like play. Whether Toca Boca
or Sago Mini
offer video game interactions but without missions, tasks or scores. They are games that create space, characters, locations and items for children to make up their own fun.
Then there are games that import physical toys into the play-process of the game. Sometimes this is to have a figure unlock items and save progress like in Skylanders
or sometimes this is to create new ways to interact like Tori
, Hotwheels id or Anki
In a culture that often assumes that the route to happiness is with another person, it can benefit us to acknowledge that being alone is not always a bad thing. We teamed up with Courtney Garcia’s Screen Therapy channel
to curate a list of games that give us a chance to experience being alone in different ways.
Garcia’s Screen Therapy
project employs Positive Media Psychology research to highlight and interpret meaningful experiences with games and movies. “With mindfulness, there are even more benefits to gain from intentional consumption of media,” she says, “games can be tools we use to recover or grow, psychologically, and our time with them isn't wasted if they provide us insights or rest we need.”
This list was inspired by the experience of playing the unusually solitary (and long) game The Longing
and the Twitter thread
that followed. In it, you spend 400 elapsed days waiting for the King to wake up and living at a slow pace. The other games offer their own lens on loneliness and solitary seasons of life. These games offer us insight into the benefits of appreciating time alone, such as opportunities for self-reflection, self-discovery, and the chance to curate enriching experiences or environments for ourselves.
Some of the games, like Never Alone
and The Long Dark
place you in a harsh environment that emphasises your diminutive size when faced with the expanse of nature. Other games in the list, like Thomas Was Alone
and Bird Alone
offer you the chance to reflect on friendship and the need to nurture relationships. Then there are games we included like Shadow of the Colossus
that let you get lost in the vastness of its landscape. Finally, a few of the games like The First Tree
invite you to make a connection to other players, once you have come to terms with a journey on your own.
In this list, provided by the LTN
(Love Thy Nerd) editors, we bring together video games that have the potential to offer more than entertainment. It starts with 12 with a challenge us to be a good neighbour, and follows with others added over time. LTN exists to be the love of Jesus to nerds and nerd culture, you can read more about them on their website
"What if video games have more to offer than just an exciting diversion into a digital battlefield, fantasy war, or alien invasion? While these types of games are certainly the loudest and most financially successful, there are a growing number of games asking important questions about life, the human condition, and even God."
"Our list is not 'Christian' games, but rather a list of games that pose important spiritual questions to those who play them. These are games that provide us with the opportunity to consider what a truly 'spiritual' life looks like by encouraging us to have empathy for the suffering, love for our neighbours and our enemies, and an imagination vivid enough to contemplate a better world."Journey's
understated yet deep mythology, lack of guidance and mysterious ways it brings players together will have players thinking about the course of their own lives. Dropsy
is, on the surface, a silly point-and-click adventure game about a creepy but misunderstood clown, dig deeper and you’ll see this a game that challenges players to love everyone, even their enemies. Kentucky Route Zero
is at its core, about rediscovery, of adventure-game mechanics and modernist aesthetics, of a more spiritual outlook on the physical world.Gris
is a platformer about the stages of grief that highlights the indelible impact of our most sacred relationships. That Dragon, Cancer
is a game where Ryan and Amy Green share their grief and their hope by drawing us not only into their lives but into the common grace of the Christian faith. Myst
, one of the best selling titles of all time, is a puzzle game about the beauty and mystery of creation. Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons
is a game about the spiritual impact our most precious relationships have on us. Wandersong
is a game about transforming the world with music. Heroism isn’t measured in bulk or recognition but in the melodic tones of compassion and kindness. The Last Guardian
confronts us with our own self-centredness and challenges us to give rather than merely take.Pyre
is a game about mercy that deconstructs player’s perceptions of winning and losing, encouraging them to see and meet the needs of those who are oppressed. My Child Lebensborn
is a game that challenges players to care for a child born into a fascist regime--this is a game about the power of empathy. Celeste
strikes at the centre of what it means to be a person in all of our messy humanity a wonderful reminder that even when we fall, we are lifted up again through redemptive love, forgiveness, and grace—both for ourselves and for one another.