“Walking simulators” for quiet exploration

No action, no superhero reflexes; you have to rely on your intellectual and observational abilities in these games that prefer linear storytelling.

Welcome to the world of so-called “walking simulators”. A subgenre of adventure game, and now a genre in its own right, “walking simulators” offer “gamers” an oasis of calm and a great breath of fresh air, far from shooting games and other adrenaline-inducing apocalyptic scenarios.

“In the vast majority of games, your strength is combat. But in Oxenfree, your ability to speak is your superpower,” Sean Krankel, co-creator of the cited game series and co-founder of Night School Studio, acquired by Netflix in 2021, explained in Salon. “Oxenfree” puts the player in the shoes of Alex, a teenager who finds herself with four of her peers on a deserted island, thinking they are attending an unforgettable party. The quintet accidentally releases the perfume and then wants to leave the place as soon as possible. But how to do that? By interacting with the environment and carefully choosing character dialogue.

A concept thought out to the smallest detail

According to Nina Freeman, “riding simulators” have the advantage of being able to serve as a gateway for non-gamers due to their accessibility. In fact, there is no need to spend hours and hours on mastering combat techniques, the emphasis is on the ease of handling the character and the linearity of the scenario. This is a case of “Swept Home” in which a young woman returns to the family’s mansion in Arbor Hill, Oregon and must explore the premises in order to advance this unspecified story.

“We want our games to be accessible to people who don’t normally play games,” says Freeman, who also worked on several levels of Tacoma, a sci-fi game set in the year 2088 in which you have to discover what happened to the crew of the space station.

In This Dragon, Cancer, Amy and Ryan Green’s autobiographical game about their child’s cancer, the player is introduced to mini-games to develop a touching and inspiring story. “We want our game mechanics to enhance the player experience, not get in the way. Some users told us that the mini-games weren’t great, but that wasn’t the point. We were not trying to create the best mini-games, but to present our story in a richer format than the usual video game chains, ”the creators say.

On the contrary, “To the Moon” was developed on the Unity platform, like “Oxenfree” and … “Among Us”. But no battle awaits the players, as “To the Moon” tells the story of a man who, on the eve of his death, wishes to be implanted with false memories.

The storyline is of paramount importance in a “riding simulator” as it is the element that will keep the player’s interest. In five episodes of Kentucky Route Zero, you’ll dive into the caves beneath Kentucky to meet the people who travel this underground highway, all in an ethereal atmosphere to soothing soft music.

And what about the excellent “Stanley’s Parable” – don’t forget to look in the broom closet, the longer you stay there, the more you’ll laugh – in which you explore offices while listening to a narrator in a completely British accent explain to you with ironic humor the various actions that can you perform?

And finally, “Walking Simulator” is a parody of the very popular “Death Stranding”. Set in a world devastated by World War III and COVID, the player finds themselves in Antarctica and must deliver packages through icy expanses. Yes, we walk – a long time – before we qualify for a truck, but it’s humor and… it’s free.

“Oxenfree”: https://nightschoolstudio.com/oxenfree/ for Windows, macOS, PlayStation, Xbox, Switch, Android and iOS.

Gone Home: https://gonehome.com/ for Windows, macOS, Linux, PlayStation, Xbox, Switch and iOS.

Tacoma: https://tacoma.game/ for PlayStation, Xbox, Windows, macOS and Linux.

This Dragon Cancer: https://thatdragoncancer.com for Windows, macOS, Android and iOS.

To the Moon: https://freebirdgames.com/games/to-the-moon/ for Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, Switch and iOS.

Kentucky Route Zero: https://kentuckyroutezero.com/ for Windows, Linux, MacOS, Switch, PlayStation and Xbox.

Stanley’s Parable: https://stanleyparable.com/ for Windows, macOS, Linux, Switch, PlayStation and Xbox.

Walking Simulator: https://store.steampowered.com/app/1214280/Walking_Simulator/ for Windows via Steam.