What’s your favorite non-violent PC game? That’s what we’ve asked the writers of the global PC Gamer team today. As with every edition of our regular PC Gamer Q&A, which is published on Saturdays, we love to read your responses to the same question in the comments thread below too.
When it comes to our choices, expect a cool mix of trucking, underwater exploration, floating through space, a space station, puzzle games, old-fashioned physical comedy and even a quiz series. You’ll also find a couple of responses below from members of the PC Gamer Club.
Samuel Roberts: Jazzpunk
I don’t think Jazzpunk is strictly non-violent, since it features a joke deathmatch mode called Wedding Qake where you fire cake at each other, but the main game is pretty tame. It’s basically a Naked Gun-style comedy adventure, where you prod different parts of the environment or characters to make jokes happen, and it’s extremely enjoyable.
This from the game’s Wikipedia page also confirms it’s not completely non-violent, but damn, I’d download any game that includes this: “a version of Duck Hunt in which the player pelts cardboard ducks with slices of bread from a toaster, [features] prominently in the game’s storyline.” I don’t remember that bit, to be honest, but play Jazzpunk. It’ll make you laugh.
Andy Kelly: Euro Truck Simulator 2
Regular readers will know that I’m forever banging on about this game, but it really is one of the best on PC—and notable for its complete lack of violence. I mean, sometimes I’ll get frustrated and ram my HGV into a slow-moving motorist, but mostly I just trundle peacefully along the motorway listening to German rock radio stations.
American Truck Simulator is a nice alternative. Although I prefer the European scenery, particularly the Scandinavia expansion, the deserts of the western United States make for some atmospheric driving too. Both games are some of the most relaxing experiences you can have on PC, like a lovely screensaver for your brain, and I can’t recommend them enough.
Tom Senior: EVE Online
EVE Online isn’t a non-violent game exactly, but if you keep your head down you can coast around in high-sec space admiring nebulae and bathing in the sweeping synth soundtrack. EVE’s asteroid fields have given me the most peaceful moments in games. I don’t have time to join a corp and get the full EVE experience, but I drop in occasionally and stretch the game across two monitors to make the cosmos feel as huge as possible. Then I just sit back and watch the little mining lasers suck ore out of unsuspecting rocks.
Speaking about non-violent spaces in games, I recently started following The Safe Room on Twitter. It highlights areas designed to give players respite in tense games. The pictures remind me of the sense of relief you get when a game puts the brakes on. Even violent games can deliver moments of reflection.
James Davenport: Proteus
I play Proteus a few times a year now. Something about a pixelated rabbit that makes plinking sounds with each hop gets to me. But it’s not just the rabbits—everything emote and dances and boops and beeps when you walk by on whatever procedurally generated landscape you washed up on this time. Everything from flowers to bees to gravestones has something to say, and they sing it in accordance with the tune of each season. You’ll rotate through them all in Proteus, while the song and its natural instruments change mood with the little deaths of autumn and the vibrant renewal of spring. Proteus only takes an hour or so to finish, and its lack of a clear goal will bother some, but it’s a complete emotional circuit. If you’re looking to contemplate life, death, transcendence, and plinky rabbits without ever pulling a trigger or bashing dragur over the head with an axe, it’s a must play.
Jody Macgregor: Bernbrand
Bernband is an entire alien city right out of a Star Wars movie compacted down to an 11 MB download. Bug-eyed aliens bobble around the streets, flying cars vroom past the walkways, and banging music comes out of every third building. It’s a game about walking around and finding cool spots—the dudes listening to hip-hop in the car park, the aquarium where you can get inside the glass—and that’s enough for me. Your alien feet clip-clop as you walk past glowing buildings, passing from noisy spaces like bars and thoroughfares to quiet alleys and back again, and the contrast makes it feels just like being lost in a real city.
Bernband is free on Gamejolt, and is all the work of Tom van den Boogaart. He’s currently working on an expanded, paid version, and has been posting gifs of the work-in-progress on Twitter.
Chris Livingston: You Don’t Know Jack
I still play You Don’t Know Jack every now and then. It’s still a fun, fast, and silly trivia series after all these years (the first YDKJ game was way the hell back in 1995). It’s one of the few games I stream to the TV using the Steam Link, and party play lets you use your phone as a controller, perfect since my phone is almost always in my hand anyway.
I just looked it up and apparently there’s yet another volume coming out later this year, which makes me happy—though in terms of non-violence I should say some of Cookie’s jokes and puns can be almost physically painful.
Tim Clark: Dear Esther and Lumines
I suppose the expected answer is some sort of elegiac stroll-’em-up, of which my favourite would be the none-more-poetic Dear Esther, which is the right sort of pretentious. But really there’s a ton of stuff I could choose. Pro Evolution Soccer during its glory days, though my last ditch tackling might disqualify it. And how about puzzle games? A remastered version of Lumines is coming out later this month, and the original is on Steam already. It’s super peaceful in a trancey, high energy sort of way. You know what I’m saying.
Bo Moore: Stardew Valley
I’ve put more than 200 hours into Stardew Valley now. It’s the game I’ve gone back to the most in the last few years. I don’t do so in short little bursts, though. Every time I return it sucks me in for a good long while. At this point it almost feels like I’m speedrunning it as I try to min/max my first few seasons, rapidly upgrade my tools, and get my winery operation up and running as quick as possible. I get burned out quicker each subsequent return, and yet I keep going back.
The PC Gamer Club: Subnautica, Abzu and The Talos Principle
We asked the members of the PC Gamer Club to suggest an entry this week through our Discord channel, and we got a couple of great responses. User Mildoze picked both Subnautica and Abzu, noting the former has a little bit of violence. “Subnautica is an amazing story game that forces the player to think for themselves and does it without ever turning you into a powerhouse. You’re always vulnerable (even 40 hrs in), never given offensive tools, and forced to go ever deeper into more dangerous waters. The best choice in every confrontation is to flee, but you can’t always do that when you’re panicking in a cavern 1000m below the ocean without any weapons or enough oxygen to make it to safety.”
And on Abzu: “It’s like playing a living aquarium. So peaceful and beautiful under the sea. It’s a game where there is no threat of dying, no enemies or hostility of any kind. It’s easy to relax and reach a Zen-like state of mind playing Abzu I’ve never fallen asleep playing a game until Abzu. Yet for a couple weeks every night I would turn it on, fighting off the sandman as I made my way to the end of this amazing exploration game.”
Fellow Discord member Ronder opts for The Talos Principle. “For me it would have to be The Talos Principle. Aside from the excellent puzzle setups, the main conflict in the game is generated by the questioning terminals you meet. As they gently prod you and question your sense self-identity as well as your responses to that, the AI unit you pilot vicariously comes to self-awareness through you. This form of intellectual combat is stimulating, especially given the scope of the game, and gifts you subtle questions to ponder long after the closing credits. It’s hard to see how potentially erasing your sense of personhood could be non-violent, but the game achieves that masterfully.”
But what about you, reader? Let us know your choices in the comments.