Moving on from my previous post, I thought I’d keep on with more little-known family-friendly games, games that break the mold of what people think about with video games. This time, some of the listed games do have some form of combat, though I’ve still striven for ones where the combat is very minimal and benign.
This is my favorite puzzle game to relax to. In theory, it’s about creating subway systems that access all the potential railway stops in a city, taking into account the most popular destinations, places for railroads to intersect, and the amount of time commuters are willing to wait for their trains.
In practice, that amounts to connecting a series of dots on a city map with various colored strands representing different subways. I’m not sure whether this would hold a child’s attention, but it’s good for a couple quiet minutes when you just need a break and don’t want to jump into some alien-battling game with global stakes or whatever.
Simple puzzle game. Navigate circular mazes that turn as you move your tiny block through them. Mostly about hand-eye coordination, but has a great soundtrack and makes the most of its concept.
Minesweeper, but with hexagons and an array of trick-spaces that throw wrenches into the usual calculations. Surprisingly engaging, with two sequels that expand on the concept
Thomas Was Alone
Theoretically, this is a story about an AI gaining sentience. In terms of gameplay, it’s a minimalist platformer/puzzler where your colored blocks, each of which the game gives personalities and special abilities, navigate across block platforms and through gaps to make it to the exit. It’s surprisingly engaging, thanks to a charming soundtrack and the narrated accompanying story.
You are an extremely cute tiny robot who’s fallen from a very great height, and who needs to jump around the tiny island he’s stuck on to find resources to grow the plants tall enough to reach the next floating island in his journey to get back to the original place he fell from. A perpetual climbing game.
This one will be too challenging for kids. Honestly the time-manipulation mechanics are more than I could handle the first time around, but unlike with other “too hard for me” games, I stuck with this one because of how engaging it was–and oh man was it worth it. I mean, creepy, but worth it. The final level is a surprise like any other in gaming. It’s a bit full of itself, with obscure lines hinting at some sort of vague metaphor regarding (depending on what theory you follow) either stalking or the creation of the atom bomb, but it’s still fun and really bends your mind in satisfying ways.
The ultimate in cute kidsy games. You’re a kid with a magic tablet that can create anything. You type in the object, and it gets spawned in the game space for you to use. It’s a big world, but it’s very low pressure and endlessly adaptable. There’s no real narrative to speak of, just a general quest to obtain all the “starites.” Most of the missions are honestly “create a bunch of things/meals/animals for this nursery/restaurant/zoo.” Good for developing creativity and imaginative problem-solving.
Bizarre game with a surprisingly large world. You hop around strange environments, getting new tools that give you access to new areas, and interacting with different quirky blob characters. Reminds me a lot of the low-production but high-engagement flash games there used to be everywhere on the internet. Cute, innocent, with some bosses and enemies that you fight with a paint gun, but nothing too intense.
This is a very pretty platformer, with a very contemplative atmosphere. There are some enemies, in the shape of . It’s a wordless game, with no particular story apart from some general suggested themes regarding dealing with depression and trauma, with a singing mechanic and crumbled statues of the protagonist all around.
Full disclosure: I never finished this game. There was a very challenging jump onto an invisible platform that I couldn’t make, and as is my tradition, I simply gave up and moved onto a different game. I’d say it’s probably too difficult for most kids to handle, but then, replaying Secret Agent recently made me aware that kids can overcome even clumsy mechanics through sheer stubbornness.
There are lots, and I mean LOTS of other puzzle/platformer games out there. Just in my library I saw things like Refunct, BEEP, and Airscape: Fall of Gravity, which are games I haven’t played enough to recommend but sure looked cute and innocent when I bought them. Puzzle games, especially, aren’t really my thing as much so there’s probably TONS out there that I’ve never played but which are reallly great games.
I want to do at least two more of these; one for cute VR games, another for story-driven and miscellaneous games. But before that I want to do a blog on Death Stranding, because hoo boy guys that game is something else.