Video game violence has been a topic of controversy since the early 90’s. After games such as Mortal Kombat and Grand Theft Auto emerged in the 90’s, many have argued that children of all ages are becoming desensitized to gun violence and loss of human life. While there is no scientific evidence to say that violence is directly caused by such video game experiences, I cannot deny that some games are not for certain audiences, particularly young ones. Our ESRB rating system serves as a general guideline for this, and organizations such as our own Geeks Under Grace work hard to deliver reviews to warn the unwary of the content they may be interested in.
While science has debunked the idea that video games inspire people to commit violent acts such as mass shootings in America, it is still a talking point reiterated, recently even by President Trump, himself. However, not all of gaming deserves the bad rep the violent ones give, even under false pretenses. With that in mind, I have decided to compile a list of 10 video game franchises and genres that break the mold, and give fun, solid experiences for everyone, without any need to worry about such deep psychological consequences.
10. Genre: Text Adventures
Text adventure is one of the least thought-of genres of modern gaming. In the early days, however, they were much more popular. Similar to books, text-based adventures requires the player to read and imagine the world they are in. However, the difference is that the player can choose what will happen in the story to a certain extent.
Often with little to no images or sound, games such as Zork immerse players into the middle of huge world environments with nothing but a handful of commands such as “climb,” or “go north.” Alternatively, a popular award-winning text-adventure named Creatures Such as We by Lynnea Glasser philosophically explores humanity and love in a sci-fi setting. Amazingly, these open-world precursors are available to try for free online here.
Likely the most basic of genres on this list, text-based adventures have a lot of violence-free options through genres such as comedy and sim, similar to books. That said, there are very graphic and mature books out there too, and being so heavily based on reading, many consider these types of games not really video games, and more as interactive e-books.
9. Genre: Rhythm/ Music
While maybe not as popular now as they were in the early 2000’s, rhythm games are still a blast to play. Several different types exist, from pressing buttons to a beat in Parappa the Rapper to stepping on arrows in Dance Dance Revolution. It would also be impossible to forget the Guitar Hero trend that rocked the gaming world and impressed so many people with the dream of learning guitar.
As a whole, rhythm games are not typically known for having many violent themes. Sure, Guitar Hero’s avatars could get a little crazy, but most of the time the gameplay is so focused on the music that the player would hardly even notice. Dance Dance Revolution has an added benefit of being an excellent workout, and the entire genre helps with the skill of identifying rhythm and sound. If you are looking for great games to play without violence, this is a genre that can’t be passed up in the search.
8. Genre: Hidden Object
A casual gamer’s friend, the hidden object genre is an easy one to start and stop playing at any time. Its premise is simple. Like I Spy books, hidden object games give you a list of items to find and click on, usually in the middle of a cluttered area on screen. Often being about some sort of heist or mystery, this genre typically has the player searching for these items for clues as to where to go next. These game screens aren’t moving in any way, so it is next to impossible for these games to be violent, unless there’s a story between each activity or a cutscene.
That being said, hidden object games aren’t for the impatient. It usually takes a decent amount of time, and a very sharp eye, to find the items required to pass each challenge. Also, there are quite a few series, such as the Mystery Case Files, whose stories take place in paranormal investigation. Such challenge and setting is not for everyone, but there are many examples are be a great way to relax without worry of violence. My personal recommendations for this genre include Amazing Adventures: The Caribbean Secret and Mystery PI: Vegas Heist, which both take place in non-violent settings, and mix in puzzles to break up the monotony of object- finding!
7. Genre: Sports Games
The sports genre is an unique one in the gaming community. While many gamers may prefer platformers, RPGs, or adventure games, sports games have a wider appeal to those who may not be as interested in gaming as a whole, loving to play the game they’re simulating instead. In addition to that, there is another thing I have to give sports games credit for: most of their games don’t have violent intent, or at least, aren’t supposed to, much like our real life sports.
Sports games series like Madden and FIFA are insanely popular for representing athletics that many people love. For those who aren’t as interested in sports, they can also be an educational look into how each game is played. Obviously, those wary of violence should also steer away from sub-genres such as wrestling and demolition racing, as well as from people who might think themselves as a little too good!
6. Franchise: Super Mario Brothers
There are few, if any, game franchises as popular as Super Mario Brothers. Since the dawn of gaming, Super Mario Bros. has been routinely named a classic for all audiences, and one will be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t recognize Mario’s infamous red cap.
There is a reason why these games are so popular. Nintendo intentionally designs them for all audiences to enjoy. While there may be some more violent themes through fighting Bowser and his minions, such as dumping them into lava pits in order to save the princess, they are really neglectable when one realizes that Mario still invites them to his parties and kart races. He’s a good guy.
5. Genre: Simulation Games
Simulation is a broad genre. Cooking Mama and SimCity are examples of the cooking sim and city builder sub-genres respectively, though there are many more sims that share a similar vein: they are not made with any intention in violent themes. Combining many sims into one, The Sims series involves taking care of and watching your own created people live out their lives. The entire genre is made to simulate real life activities, events, and relationships.These games can be innocent as a kid trying to share a wet Cheeto.
Though there are stories of people being horrible to their “Sims,” only people who have had to go great lengths to do so discuss those unique circumstances. Notwithstanding, there are great lessons that children can learn from playing sims, such as the responsibility and upkeep of taking care of animals in pet sims, or learning how to manage money and resources in city builders. This is another genre highly recommended to all audiences.
4. Franchise: Harvest Moon
While technically being able to fit under the “simulation games” genre, Harvest Moon is a franchise of farming and life simulation at face value. What isn’t typically seen, however, is the character of the games. Trying to be a simulation of real life, one can live in some of these fantasy worlds, working on a farm, getting married, having life events, raising animals, and more.
Harvest Moon is a franchise in which a lot of effort was put in to feel satisfying and enjoyable to play. Combining the benefits listed in playing the Sim genre, Harvest Moon allows for gamers of all ages to live our their fantastic life—without violence.
3. Franchise: Animal Crossing
Wherever Harvest Moon is listed, there also must be Animal Crossing. While Harvest Moon is a few console generations older and has more of a structured life-based story, Animal Crossing is the cutesy little brother with real-time mechanics. Animal Crossing doesn’t have life events per se; there is marriage or pet-raising. However, running on a real time clock, the player can visit special events and celebrate holidays programmed on the console’s clock to trigger in-game. Similar to Harvest Moon, one can do chore-based tasks such as fishing, collecting, and selling goods.
The benefits of Harvest Moon and Animal Crossing are similar; they both teach the player how to manage time and resources efficiently. One difference with Animal Crossing is that the player must also learn to be punctual, else they could miss their very important timed events. Lastly, there’s no violence in Animal Crossing. Hard as one might try, they’re really not going to hurt anyone.
2. Franchise: Wii-____
When thinking of gaming designed for literally anyone, it’s hard to pass up the Wii series. Originally designed to show off the motion-control capabilities of the Nintendo Wii system, Wii Sports has won multiple awards and is one of the best-selling games of all time. No matter the audience, no matter the age, Wii Sports is a fun game to play, and is absolutely harmless (Unless you accidentally let go of the controller!)
After the Wii’s massive success with Wii Sports, the series was fleshed out to include games such as Wii Sports Resort and Wii Fit. All well-rounded and entertaining to play, the Wii franchise was one that everyone with electricity has played at some point, and likely even more than that.
1. Genre: Puzzle Games
In terms of violence, puzzle games really can’t go wrong. Casual game hits such as Bejeweled, Tetris, Dr. Mario, and Candy Crush all have had overwhelming success over the years, and for good reason. Puzzle games give people the chance to flex their brain a bit and still be granted satisfying rewards for their efforts. They work anywhere and in any setting, which is why they are so overwhelmingly popular on mobile platforms.
In a way, puzzle games are on the opposite side of the spectrum from the games quoted to be “violent and desensitizing.” While violent games are accused of negative attributes, puzzle games are often seen as making people smarter. It’s actually more likely that puzzle games aren’t actually making you smarter, but only better at the puzzles you’re doing. Still, puzzle games are worth playing, and unlike the accused games, these games can only help one’s brain if anything. Puzzles are generally an easy win for a wholesome gaming experience.
So there it is: a list of ten game topics, for anyone who is interested in non-violent gaming. It is worth noting that this list is not all-inclusive, and there can be exceptions in each genre category. As with anything in this world, innocence can be corrupted, and innocent intentions can be twisted.
There are a myriad of inappropriate/adult “puzzle games” out there for mature audiences, but those are easily filtered out by ESRB ratings and online store filters. Any competitive game, when mixed with pride, trigger conflict between players. However, these are typically human errors. At any rate, ethical decision to play a game rests on your shoulders as it always has. Are you going to give video games another life? Or are they lost to Fatality?