There is a thriving genre of games that many people haven’t experienced or even heard of – the walking simulator.
The term ‘walking simulator’ is considered derogatory by some, as it originated as a joke or insult to describe games where the only playable mechanic is to walk around a space and lightly interact with objects and other characters. But from my experience of listening to developers talk about their games, they mostly embrace the label. And with an alternative sorely lacking I’m going to roll with it!
You may occasionally think to yourself “I can’t play games. They’re too complicated.” Well walking simulators offer a great alternative to all that running, jumping, and shooting business, being more story-focused experiences. Most run about the length of a film, with a handful stretching to a season of a television series, so they aren’t such a time commitment.
But you could just watch a movie?
Well you could, yes. BUT walking sims offer you the chance to decide the narrative, and sometimes even the ending. Movies barely let you decide anything… no matter how much you wanted Suicide Squad not to suck.
But games are expensive for just a 90-minute romp?
Yep. Totally fair. BUT luckily these titles usually come in under the $60/£50 norm as they’re developed by smaller and often independent teams. Most of my faves now have single-digit price tags as they’ve been out a few years.
But you don’t have a fancy console to play them on?
Okay. First, go back to my post about picking a console, and get on it. OR you could just use your work laptop? Maybe even a mobile device or tablet? Most of these games run on pretty basic machines and don’t require fancy graphics cards to play.
But you don’t know where to begin?
Finally… a good question! See my list of suggestions below. Not a definitive list by any means, but I stand by each of these recommendations as an excellent way to start your new Friday ‘film’ night with your boy/girl/dog/cat/cushion.
(I’ve link them all to their Wiki pages ‘cus I can’t be arsed with writing a synopsis)
To start with…
This is a must-play. Any more info would be a spoiler. Enjoy!
A fun and beautiful game. Runs slightly longer than a film so might require a session or two to get through but a true gem. Incredible voice acting too!
Recommendations from the industry
I purchased this months ago as it was so well-reviewed, but haven’t yet found the time to blast through it. By all accounts it’s a very good example of the genre.
The follow-up from the developers of Gone Home. Not as critically well-received, but I want to check it out nonetheless. And it’s set in space!
A few curve-balls
Add some jumping. Remove some dialogue. You have yourself a Journey. Incredible experience. For many, it’s the first time a game really gave them the feels. A bit more interactive than other titles on this list, but I just had to get it in somewhere. Must-play.
Telltale are a game studio that specialise in episodic adventure* games that take advantage of popular franchises like The Walking Dead, Batman and Minecraft. While not all of them are brilliant, they’re always enjoyable at the very least. Most seasons are comprised of 5 or 6 two-hour episodes that let you make key decisions that shape the story one episode to the next. Very novel if you’ve not played one before!
Not a traditional walking sim by any stretch as it throws in a few mini-games and a 2D perspective. But it’s mostly walking and talking, so still a winner for gaming novices. It’s also very, very well written. Be warned, though – it’s pushing 10 hours so not great if you’re just testing the waters.
Well I hope your curiosity has been peaked by at least one of these – do click through to read more on each! Otherwise I’ve just wasted a good hour. A good hour I could have spent blasting through What Remains of Edith Finch!
Best wishes y’all.
* Adventure games are… erm… I don’t know…? Play one and you’ll get the gist!