It’s Earth Day, everyone, and what better way than to honor our great Mother Earth than to keep the heck out of her way and stay inside to play some video games. Here are our picks for the top ten games to play on this environmentally conscious holiday, if you aren’t going to go outside and plant a tree or something.
Spore isn’t the best game out there, but in terms of showing how important a planet can be, it’s certainly better than most. You get to play through the entire evolution of a species from protozoan to sentient spacefaring civilization, and while out there in space, you get to see how few planets are actually able to sustain life. With an interplanetary scourge going around and blowing planets up, you may very quickly find yourself alone in the galaxy.
There isn’t a particularly strong environmental message in Chrono Trigger , but much of the game does take place in a withered future. The land is brown, the sky is black, and cold winds blow dust around a barren landscape. Everyone huddles inside, unable to farm or produce food in any meaningful way. It’s a bleak view of the future as opposed to the verdant green time period you come from. This environmental destruction was caused by a giant green space porcupine and not pollution, but hey, close enough.
One of the things that we are urged to do on Earth Day is to get out there and plant a tree, or flowers, or any plant that shows how wonderful our planet can be at sustaining life. But planting stuff is haaaaaard! You have to get in the dirt with all the bugs and worms. We live in a more sophisticated age where all your planting can be handled digitally. That’s what Harvest Moon is for. Plant those crops, milk those cows, and maybe get married to a harvest goddess or something. Can you get married to a harvest goddess in real life? Didn’t think so!
Unlike Chrono Trigger , Terranigma ’s environmental message is a bit more clear. You get to play through the entire evolution of Earth, from the creation of land masses, to the first plants and animals, to humankind building technology and worshiping gods. The final act of the game asks a difficult question: what is more important, this planet or your life? In a way, that’s the question we ask ourselves every day when we struggle with environmental issues. Of course, Terranigma never came out in the U.S., but there is an English language ROM floating about the internet. Break out those emulators!
Another way to appreciate our planet is by appreciating how hard it is to make a planet that can sustain life. In Reus , you control godly giants that have to terraform a planet in order to sustain human populations. Each giant controls different aspects of the world, from oceans to forests to mountains. You need a combination of all land types to successfully maintain a population, and that’s much harder than you’d think.
Yes, Captain Planet had his own video game on the NES. This game isn’t good at all. It has horrible controls, it’s easy to die, and you spend more time shooting things down in a jet than you do actually saving the environment. But it does teaches you an important lesson. Pollution isn’t caused by normal people being slightly irresponsible, but rather by supervillains who are polluting just because it’s fun. Yeah, that’s the ticket.
What happens when we screw up the world enough that humans go extinct? Tokyo Jungle is what happens. This very weird game puts you in the shoes of an animal in a world after human extinction. Your goal, of course, is to eat, survive, and spawn. It’s very interesting to see cute house pets, like Pomeranians become absolutely lethal killing machines when their owners are no longer around. So remember, protect this planet, because if you don’t, little Benny the dog will start ripping throats out.
A lot of times we look at the very big when we think about our planet, but earth is home not only to humans and elephants, but also tiny bugs as well. Sim Ant was one of the first games that let you experience being a bug, trying to make your colony survive against natural threats. It was engrossing and just as addictive as any other game from Maxis. Just think, if we didn’t have the Earth, we would have never enjoyed the simple zen-like pleasure of building an ant colony. Also, you know, we’d be dead.
Fate of the World
Speaking of death, Fate of the World has a rather heavy-handed message. Global warming is killing us all. It’s up to you to stop it before we all die. The game is supposedly built on scientific patterns in current day global warming. Your goal is to protect the planet but also meet the world’s needs for food, power, living space, and more. It’s a lot harder than you’d think, especially because sitting in your computer chair playing a video game probably isn’t going to stop climate change any time soon.
Finally, no joke, I cannot think of a better game on Earth day to play than Flower . This game is a truly meditative experience. You get to play as a gust of wind, breathing life into the world around you. You slowly rejuvenate the world from a grey landscape to a thriving wilderness. There are subtle tones of environmentalism in the game, but it’s not heavy-handed about it. Instead it just lets you relax and see how absolutely beautiful the world can be. That alone is reason enough to protect our planet.