While many games are content to give players a stimulating challenge or a means to live out their wildest fantasies, others have something on their minds. What sets gaming apart from other mediums is its interactivity, which allows players to experience a story in a way that’s distinct from a book or a movie.
As the medium grows and becomes more inclusive, many artists experiment with it to tell personal stories that couldn’t be done justice in a linear medium. While there are plenty of quality titles that don’t aim to tell an Aesop, many games have been lauded for their ability to inspire and uplift.
Spoilers for several games follow. Proceed with caution.
10 Little Big Planet Demonstrates The Power Of Creation And Unity
In Little Big Planet, players take control of a sack person as they traverse through creative platforming levels and learn how to craft their own. While the first game is light on plot, the sequels thrust players on an adventure where they encounter other eccentric and creative artisans to overcome adversity.
Through a little cardboard ship known as the pod, players can discover all sorts of wonderful levels from players all around the world. The ethos of The Little Big Planet titles is that while not everyone has the patience or desire to be a great designer or creator, these artists can come from anyone and from anywhere.
9 Parappa The Rapper Tells Players To Believe
The Parappa titles put players in control of the eponymous young pup and his friend Lammy as they channel their musical talents to confront the problems of everyday life. In the first game, Parappa is smitten with the lovey Sunny Funny, but feels that he doesn’t measure up to another admirer named Joe Chin.
However, by retaining a sense of positivity and reminding himself that he’s, “gotta believe,” he’s able to win her affections by being himself. Lammy is a guitarist who lacks the confidence for an upcoming concert. Fortunately, with the help of her friends and mentors, she gains the confidence to face the crowd and her struggles.
8 Thomas Was Alone Shows What’s Possible With Friends
Thomas Was Alone‘s visuals are about as minimalist as a 2D platformer can get. Players control several geometric shapes as they traverse through a series of challenges accompanied by a story narrated by Danny Wallace. Each of the characters has different jump heights, weaknesses, and abilities that are instrumental in solving each of the puzzles.
Chris can’t jump very high and is resentful towards most of the cast, while John is vain and simply wants an audience to admire his height. When they learn the true nature of their existence, they put aside their baggage and make a considerable act of self-sacrifice for the sake of the other AIs.
7 Night In The Woods Shows That Growing Up Is Different For Everyone
Night in the Woods is essentially a coming-of-age story that’s part platformer and graphic adventure. Players control Mae, a 20-year-old who drops out of college and moves back in with her parents to sort things out. After settling back in, she finds that her old friends, while still essentially the same people she knew, have become more independent and grown up in ways she hasn’t.
Few are willing to empathize with Mae to address the problems that she’s running from. Although everyone has to grow up sometime, it doesn’t mean they have to abandon every aspect of themselves that’s silly or even idealistic.
6 Oddworld Shows The Importance Of Standing Up To Overwhelming Odds
Heavy ecological and social themes permeate each entry in the Oddworld series. The protagonist of the first two games, Abe, is a slave Mudokin who’s completely willing to turn a blind eye to the mass extinction and subjugation that surrounds him until his species become the next treat at Rupture Farms.
Abe then makes his escape to liberate his brethren and thwart the efforts of the industrialists who ravage the lands to accumulate more wealth. The series preaches the importance of addressing social injustices and confronting those in power who are willing to exploit others for profit.
5 Spiritfarer Preaches The Importance Of Small gestures
In Spiritfarer, the player controls a girl named Stella who has been given the task of escorting souls to their final resting place on her ship. Over time, players will get to know the passengers’ likes, dislikes, and bits about their past. Seeing them light up when they’re presented with a specific dish they like or given a hug makes it all the more heart-wrenching when it’s time for them to go.
It serves as a reminder that gestures of kindness aren’t unimportant just because they’re small, and that even if loved ones won’t be around forever, the lessons and guidance they provided will never leave.
4 Final Fantasy VI Clings To Love In A World Of Chaos
Final Fantasy VI thrusts players into a world where kingdoms of magic and technology vie for control over the World of Balance. Kefka, a court jester who lacks the capacity to love, puts an end to the war by plunging the planet into chaos.
The end of the game sees the main cast return to what’s left of the world that he ravaged while one of the teenagers that Terra was protecting is in the process of giving birth. It’s a reminder that while those who were lost to the forces of hate may be gone, life will continue to go on as long as enough people care.
3 The Psychonauts Games Give Players A Means To Deal With Their Emotional Baggage
Many titles dehumanize those with mental illness to rationalize why they’re acceptable enemy fodder. The Psychonauts titles reject this approach entirely, featuring a wide cast of characters who have their own inner struggles, but are still redeemable. No matter how hostile and unhinged a character might seem at first, players get the opportunity to plunge into their mind and realize that they’re just a person who needs help.
Many titles address mental health, but Psychonauts gives players a means to deal with their baggage in a way that’s tasteful and lighthearted.
2 Undertale Is A Subversive Morality based RPG
Moral choices in games are really nothing new in games. Players are used to reloading prior saves to undo a choice they regret or even committing unthinkable moral acts in subsequent playthroughs “just to see what would happen.” Undertale gives players the power to determine the fate of every character they encounter and then delights in subverting it.
Prior experiences with humans have made the monsters that inhabit the underground fearful and distrustful, but the protagonist can appeal to their better nature through diplomacy and mercy. Players can learn that even those who lash out have redeeming qualities that can be unearthed through empathy and compassion.
1 The Earthbound Trilogy Is Peculiar, Fun, And Kind
The Earthbound (or Mother in Japan) series consists of JRPGs famous for making players laugh one minute and then bawl their eyes out the next. Creator Shigesato Itoi described the games as “peculiar…and fun… and kind.” Indeed, the virtues of showing kindness to others is a prevalent theme in Mother 3 especially. Unfortunately, despite its poignant tale of grief, utopia, and forgiveness resonating with so many players, Nintendo remains steadfast in declining a Western release.
In the years that have passed, Mother 3′s message of retaining compassion and hope during troubled times has only become more relevant.
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