It’s been ten minutes since you pressed start. The story hasn’t hit home with you. The battle system hasn’t clicked. But you’ve got some things nailed down: you know what items heal you, you know how to navigate the map-and you know who is crushing on the main character. One of these things won’t matter much when you’re down to 1 HP.
Have you ever wanted to play a game that offers a fun and emotional experience that doesn’t revolve around romance? Here are 11 great games about relationships that are not relationships.
Alex is dealing with the loss of her brother, the divorce of her parents and a new relationship with her stepbrother. The last thing Alex needs is to be is alone but unfortunately that’s exactly what’s happening to her in Oxenfree. Just add a mysterious haunted island. In this point-and-click horror adventure, dialogue options change the course of the characters, not the story. Choices can bring people closer or they can drive them away. For good. And that’s bad.
Without the background of Alex and her friends, Oxenfree would be just another teenage horror simulator but it’s hardly that. It’s awesome and it will make you feel things other than just fear.
What makes Journey so special is that it’s so incredibly simple to play-and because of that, the bond with your anonymous partner happens in a snap. In the beginning, it’s just you on your own in the desert but when you finally meet your partner, Journey becomes a lot more.
The lack of communication really makes the experience personal and worth repeating. I still play Journey when I can and there’s always someone there waiting to start another adventure.
Papa y Yo
I don’t know many games that cover the issues of child abuse but Papa y Yo is by far the most powerful example in video games. Playing as a young boy named Quico, you must escape a strange labyrinth while occasionally running into a large beast named ‘Monster’. Monster has a mind of its own and is generally ignorant but it can change and ruthlessly attack Quico. The objective quickly changes from escaping the town to curing Monster’s problem in order to keep Quico safe…and yet it’s more than clear that Monster is made to represent Quico’s father.
Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons
Two sons who have already lost their mother must go out alone and find a cure for their dying father. Danger is everywhere, and the brothers are constantly put to the test.
So what makes Brothers stand out? Like Journey, the story of Brothers resonates universally with players through the simplest means of communication. There is no dialogue and every conversation is understood by basic actions, leaving the minor details up to the player’s interpretation. It’s this small piece of storytelling that makes players feel more in tune with what the brothers go up against…and they go up against a lot.
Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles
Unlike most games listed here about connections happening in a game, this one breaks the wall. And it’s an offline multiplayer (remember those?).
Unlike Mario Party where you’re screaming at each other, Crystal Chronicles bunches your friends into one room and makes players follow a structure somewhat similar to a table top game. One person got the map, one person got the treasure hints and then one unfortunate soul has to carry the chalice that protects everyone from dying. These roles will rotate each dungeon you enter, so everybody gets to be the leader and the pack mule. It’s also worth mentioning that with all the accessories needed to play Crystal Chronicles on multiplayer, you’ve got these friends for life.
Beyond Good and Evil
Jade’s motivation for kicking ass and going ninja against a corrupt government organization isn’t a lover in trouble or an old ex asking for help, it’s a threat to her home, caretaker and a group of orphans. While Beyond Good and Evil captures the open world exploration like Ico, it features an ambitious female lead who doesn’t have a romance to nudge the plot forward.
Instead Jade just takes action-and she’s also got a best friend that’s a talking pig, so that’s kind of amazing right there.
Telltale’s The Walking Dead
Most of us know how this story ends, and most of us can’t explain what makes this game so memorable without tearing up a little. Telltale’s The Walking Dead series is all about the characters, your attachment to them, and the constant threat of losing them. You are trying to survive and while repopulating the earth is something to keep in mind, the much bigger objective here is protecting those you care about-so keep that hair short (you’ll understand that reference soon enough).
You start off dead and all you know is that….you’re dead. Playing Ghost Trick puts you on an emotional rollercoaster as you solve the mystery of who shot Sissel. It’s a lot like watching the film Memento, except Memento wasn’t funny and it didn’t have talking Pomeranians or blue alien hitmen with hearing problems.
But look, this game is crazy amazing fun, and one way or another it’s going to infect your heart because you’re never going to get the opportunity to hang out with a talking lamp and a Pomeranian in real life, so you might as well just play Ghost Trick. You will love it and you will cry.
The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask
All you do in Majora’s Mask is live through other people’s lives and if that sounds creepy, it’s more or less supposed to. In addition to the standard “save the world” objective, Link’s mission is to heal the grief stricken citizens of Termina. Link mostly does this by using the Song of Healing, the ‘Zelda’s Lullaby’ of Majora’s Mask. Not every character that needs Links help gets a happy ending, but they do all get enough closure to move on from their troubles.
Majora’s Mask is one of the most tragic Zelda games you’ll possibly ever play and in my opinion, one of the very best.
The Beginners Guide
This is a bit hard to explain because mentioning even a little about The Beginner’s Guide could spoil the whole experience. The Beginner’s Guide is…best described as a walking simulator where a narrator (Davey) shares a very long story of about his friend and colleague (Coda). Davey talks non stop about Coda as he tours you through all of the games Coda has created. As you explore each level under Daveys watchful eye, you will learn details about Coda and Davey, and what really defines the words loyalty, respect and friendship.
Kirby and the Crystal Shards
When I saw King DeDeDe and Kirby working together in Kirby and the Crystal Shards, I just had to play this game for myself. And I loved it because that’s basically the whole story. Kirby’s former foes teaming up against a more powerful villain. Kirby and the Crystal Shards is just an adorable game. You get cutscenes of character you’re used to seeing beat the crap out of each other-suddenly chilling out and going on picnics. It’s just plain cute wholesome fun but from a different perspective because bad guys and good guys are hanging out and being awesome together.
C’mon, that’s gotta make you go ‘awww’ just a little bit.