games / Columns

The Top 8 Nature Games: No Man’s Sky, Firewatch, More

November 17, 2020 | Posted by Marc Morrison
No Man's Sky

Welcome all to another edition of The 8 Ball. This week I’m here to talk about nature games, either games set in the natural world or about the idea of nature itself. There’s a few games I should mention that aren’t in this list, either because I haven’t played them at all or have only played them for a short time: Afrika, Abzu, Untitled Goose Game, and Deadly Creatures. I tend to find nature games relaxing, but not always, as this list will show. Enjoy:

#8: The Vanishing of Ethan Carter

I’ll admit that I didn’t really play a ton of Ethan Carter. I found the basic gameplay to be dull. I know it’s supposed to be really open-ended but that’s a double-edged sword because in my time playing it, I didn’t really find anything to do. Still, the game is very gorgeous to look, even now. It does a great forest area and is still beautiful to experience.

#7: Mister Mosquito

This is odd because Mister Mosquito is a robot and you are in an artificial house. Still, there are few other games that make you feel as much an animal would than Mister Mosquito. Terrorizing the family, as you suck blood from them is always great, while trying not to make them too stressed so they start attacking you back. While the game isn’t really based in reality, it does provide a sense that it does, especially if you’ve ever gotten a mosquito stuck in your own house.

#6: Firewatch

Firewatch has a great sense of place. Set in a Wyoming forest, everything about the game makes it seem real and lived in. When you’re up in the tower and the sun is setting, it is truly an epic sight. The reason it’s so low on this list though is due to the abrupt time jumps/non-open ended gameplay. This is a narrative game, not an open-ended one, so that takes precedence. If there was a mode where you could just wander around and see everything the map (might) have to offer, it would be way higher on this list.

#5: Subnautica

This is more like it. Even though Subnautica takes place on an alien world, there is a lot of tranquility and beauty in the ocean as you explore. While there is a narrative for you to do, and the usual survival game elements, I loved that you can just elect to turn all that stuff off and explore to your heart’s content. The ocean is teeming of life, from small crabs to huge, alien water beasts, and all of them are worthy of exploring and seeking out. I hope the Below Zero game can get finished soon, as walking around a polar environment is something I like, as you’ll see below.

#4: Flower

Flower is just fun to mess around in. It’s obviously not the deepest game but making the world brighter by blooming flowers is a nice bit of visual beauty. Other games do this as well, notably Okami or Shaun White’s: Skateboarding, but it’s always cool when you have a drab environment that is changed to vibrant color. The only downside is the motion controls, I’m just not a fan of them in most games, but even I played this game, in spite of them.

#3: No Man’s Sky

No Man’s Sky launched incredibly rough but has been worked on since then to become a really great game. While some of the ultimate goals (then) were to uncover the alien language, gain new parts for your ship, or make your way to the center of the galaxy, I never cared for much of that stuff. What I did like was just collecting minerals and scanning the local plant/animal life on a given planet. I would try to scan as much as I could and then jet off to another planet, hoping to see something new and interesting. Given the updates this game has had over the years, I should really try and get back to it someday.

#2: Tokyo Jungle

God, I love the conceit behind Tokyo Jungle. In a world where all humanity has disappeared one day, animals are left to roam and the story takes place in a version of Tokyo that is pretty wrecked. Still, it’s up to you to survive with your chosen animal and that means keeping them fed on either meat or grass (depending on what they actually eat), battling against other predators or trying to hide from them, and finding a mate so you can have kids and let the generation continue on. Unlike with most games on this list, Tokyo Jungle really isn’t relaxing. It’s a tense game where the slightest mistake can really wreck things badly, but its mix of animals with modern civilization is one that is still unique to this day.

#1: The Long Dark

In terms of structure, The Long Dark is very similar to Subnautica. The general difference being that Subnautica takes place on an alien ocean and The Long Dark takes place in the Canadian wilderness that has been wrecked by an EMP from space. In other words, it takes place in the current time when it comes to Canada. Kidding aside, you have to forage around for gear, keep warm, fed, hydrated and rested, all while contending with wildlife, injuries that can occur, and other dangers. It’s just a real pretty looking game though, with a cel-shaded look that is cool to look at.

For comments, list you favorite nature game and why.

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