10 Walking Simulators In Fantastical Settings
The gaming landscape is so often dominated by frantic shooters and painfully difficult third-person slashers that all demand your undivided attention and quick reaction times. Walking simulators instead give you a chance to absorb a game’s world at a much slower pace.
Walking simulator games usually tend to have a compelling narrative that covers thoughtful and provocative human stories. Many of them take place in grounded and realistic settings, though there are some that are in fantastical locales that make journeying from point A to point B an absolute delight.
After the critically acclaimed Gone Home, Fulbright decided to expand upon their narrative-driven gaming repertoire with Tacoma. Rather than spend time in an abandoned family home, this time around you must explore an empty space station set in the near future and unravel the mystery of what happened to the once-populated and bustling high-tech facility.
You must observe the surveillance holograms of the station’s previous inhabitants by fast-forwarding and rewinding these echoes of the past in a fully explorable 3D space. The narrative is deeply compelling as it offers poignant commentary on the nature of humanity and the progression of advanced technology in the not-so-distant future.
9/10 Night In The Woods
The anthropomorphic animals you meet and talk to in Night in the Woods are brimming with personality and play a huge role in the unfolding story of this whimsical and touching narrative 2D exploration game.
You take the reins of Mae Borowski, a college dropout who returns to her hometown to reconnect with those she left behind. There are light platforming mechanics and minigames to get stuck into, but you will be mainly walking around the town getting in touch with friends and talking with a whole host of friendly characters. It’s a great time, with a surprisingly painful and melancholic message within.
8/10 Into A Dream
Into A Dream is another 2D side-scrolling adventure that includes heavy themes and sensitive subject matter. You must enter into the mind of Luke Williams in an attempt to save him in a time of personal crisis and free him of his severe clinical depression.
You explore memories and dreams that hint at what caused Luke’s suffering and must talk with the people of his past to gain access to darker and more impactful memories in order to piece it all together. The visuals are simplistic, yet colourful and blend well with the beautifully ethereal soundtrack that all makes for an unforgettable and unique experience.
A walking sim with puzzle-solving elements, Discolored is short and sweet – it’s what you’d get if you combined the intriguing 1998 movie Pleasantville with the thematically unsettling puzzle-solving escapades of a Portal game.
You find yourself investigating a lonely roadside diner that has lost all its colour, and it’s your job to figure out why and how to bring it back. You must unearth what has happened to this quaint little eatery by gathering and piecing together various clues and secrets. There is a clever colour-based puzzle system to reveal new parts of the level to explore. It’s rewarding to unravel the head-scratching mystery within, and it’s a fun and abstract take on the genre.
6/10 Death Stranding
Hideo Kojima’s post-apocalyptic world in Death Stranding is strangely beautiful and dangerously serene. You play Sam Bridges, a glorified delivery boy played by Norman Reedus, who must deliver packages to connect disparate communities separated by vast distances.
You must maintain a fine balance between carrying as many boxes as you can while managing your footing and composure when navigating through vastly unpredictable and uneven terrain. There are more game mechanics on offer here other than walking, including stealth and combat involving the invisible monsters that roam the lands, and a story that is up there with Kojima’s finest.
Eastshade is a wonderfully relaxing and slow-paced game where you walk around a beautiful and colourful world, creating charming art of picturesque surroundings. As a travelling painter, you will stumble upon idyllic and lush scenery where you can magically transfer what you see onto a blank canvas.
From there you can sell these fantastic creations to a variety of colourful characters, who are all animal-human hybrids with delightful personalities. It offers a more peaceful type of experience than your usual fantasy offerings, and the vibrant vistas are enchantingly beautiful and a treat for the eyes.
4/10 The Unfinished Swan
Before they made the fantastic What Remains of Edith Finch, Giant Sparrow came out with The Unfinished Swan, a weird and wonderful narrative exploration game that takes place on a literal blank canvas. As a ten-year-old orphan, you must chase a magical painted swan into a fairytale kingdom while discovering a story filled with grief and loss.
The mechanics are delightfully unique, requiring you to slosh around large quantities of black paint to reveal the barren environment, which at first is just a plain white void of nothingness. As you progress and discover new surroundings, you’ll unlock more traversal options and meet interesting characters. Its serenely simplistic gameplay is accompanied by wonderful visuals and a beautiful musical score.
Journey often comes up in conversation when debating whether games can be considered art. Ahead of its time in many regards, Journey gave gamers a refreshingly unique way to interact and explore its world, and boy, what a beautiful world that is.
The objective is simple – head to the top of the looming mountain on the horizon. There’s plenty to get up to on this quaint little adventure. Solve puzzles, collect symbols and glyphs, and explore every nook and cranny to uncover the game’s fascinating secrets. It’s a surprisingly emotional experience that makes you appreciate the here and now. It is the journey and not the destination, after all.
Abzu has the same art director as Journey, and it shows. Rather than bright and sprawling desert landscapes, you instead descend into the vast deep underbelly of an endless ocean. There isn’t much of an objective here, other than to delve ever further into the depths to see what you can discover.
You can gently interact with the aquatic wildlife and move with the motion of the sea as you discover collectables, solve minor puzzles, and discover subtle hints of environmental storytelling. It may be hard to keep focus as it’s a graphical treat, with eye-poppingly gorgeous vibrant visuals.
1/10 What Remains Of Edith Finch
Despite being set in a somewhat ‘normal’ family estate, there is much more than meets the eye in What Remains of Edith Finch. The game is probably one of the most critically acclaimed and celebrated walking simulators ever made and merges a richly fascinating narrative with fantastical environmental storytelling.
The game tells the story of Edith, a young woman who returns to her family home to reveal who has fallen victim to the family’s unfortunate generational curse. You will go through each family member’s individual stories in unique reality-bending ways, such as navigating a comic book-style horror movie, taking control of various wildlife, and even a nice reference to isometric RPGs. It’s one of the most beautifully told stories that’s ever been told in a video game.
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