The world is in a dark place right now. Billions of people around the world are locked in their homes on quarantine, not to mention those actually suffering from COVID-19. Previously I suggested that playing games involving pandemics would help gamers to cope with world events, especially by simulating a situation in which the player could halt the virus. This approach isn't the right one for everyone, and I think we could all use a little determination right now to stick together and remember what makes humanity so powerful. The following games will renew your faith in the human spirit and remind you that no matter what, we will persist. This article will be free of spoilers unless indicated otherwise.
Nier: Automata is a third-person action-adventure RPG set in a post-apocalyptic open world. You may be rolling your eyes and thinking, "I've never heard of that one before," but Platinum Games' seminal work is absolutely unique in its approach to storytelling. Long after humans have abandoned the crumbling husk of Earth, androids 2B and 9S are sent back from the moon base to help us reclaim the planet. As the story slowly unfolds, the pair of androids will travel across a series of distinct series of areas including a forest, desert, ruined city, and haunted theme park to uncover the truth about the end of the world. As to not spoil the game, I won't get into details about the ending. There are five endings to reach (A, B, C, D and E), one after another, and during the course of Ending Eb the true nature of humankind will be revealed to you. Could you give up everything in the world as it crashes around you? Accompanied by the beautiful and devastating track Weight of the World, the end of Nier: Automata will bring tears to your eyes, a smile to your face, and hope to your heart.
Nier: Automata is available on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC via Steam.
(Light Spoilers below)
Journey took the world by storm in 2012, earning numerous Game of the Year awards and changing millions of lives in the span of just two hours. Journey is entirely wordless; there is no spoken or written communication of any kind in the game. Your journeyman, for lack of a real name, has two actions: jump and chime. In order to sell this game to you, I feel it necessary to reveal to you that it is a secret co-op experience. As you're dropped into the beginning of the game, you'll be pared with another journeyman controlled by someone else in the world. The game will never reveal to you who you're working with, and you have no method of communication with each other besides jumping and chiming. In this way, That Game Company has brilliantly whittled the human relationship down to the barest bones: simply being there. Over the course of your adventure, you will learn with finality that human kindness pervades; when all is lost, your partner, a complete stranger, will come back for you. And you will sure as hell go back for them. And when it is over, you will say goodbye to a dear friend you will never know. But that's the beauty of it, isn't it? It could be anyone at all.
Journey is available on PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, iOS, and PC via the Epic Games Store.
Life is Strange
If you've opened up Tumblr in the last five years, it's likely that you have heard of Life is Strange. If you're familiar with the Telltale, choice-based adventures that change the story depending on your decisions, this is a more robust version of that thanks to Dontnod Entertainment. Choices matter much more than in similar games like The Walking Dead and The Wolf Among Us, in that the player will see almost immediately the ramifications of their decisions. The player will take control of Max, a senior living on campus at a prestigious arts school in the Pacific Northwest. Max wakes up one day with superpowers, able to turn back time about 30 seconds. After witnessing and reversing a murder, her whole life falls into disarray as she falls headfirst into an investigation with her childhood friend Chloe to stop whoever has been kidnapping young girls in Arcadia Bay. Life is Strange invokes love, trust, betrayal, confidence, depression, and hope through its complex cause-and-effect decision-making mechanics, and it ends with a singular choice that will define the 15 hours the player spent literally racing against time to stop a true force of evil. The central theme is my personal favorite: Are you willing to tear apart time and space, the laws of nature and reality, for the people you love?
Life is Strange is available on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Mac and PC via Steam, iOS, and Android. The sequel, Life is Strange 2, is also available.
If you're familiar with Steins;Gate it's likely because of the critically acclaimed anime based on the game. However, before the anime, this visual novel was a cult hit among fans of the genre. Those who haven't tried visual novels or who are perhaps averse to anime in general may want to skip over this section, but bear with me. Steins;Gate follows a group of high school students headed by Okabe Rintataro, a self-styled "mad scientist." The Future Gadget Laboratory, almost by accident, creates a time machine that can be activated by sending triggers from a cell phone via text message. As the FGL grows and the power that these students wield becomes too heavy of a burden, military organizations and private cells from all around the world begin to search for the most coveted invention in the history of humankind. The gameplay involves navigating conversations and dialogue trees with a vast array of colorful and memorable characters and making decisions about when and how to utilize the Phonewave (Real Name TBD) to save your invention, your friends, and all of reality. This is another story in which someone is willing to tear reality apart and build it back up again an infinite number of times, over and over every day, to save one friend. Watching these realistically written teenagers work together to bear the weight of inventing time travel will fill your heart with something powerful.
Steins;Gate is available on Xbox 360, PSP, iOS, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita, Android, and PC via Steam.
In fall 2015 a musical composer for the webcomic Homestuck self-published his debut game, Undertale. By the end of the year, Toby Fox's notoriously humble pixel-art game was sitting on dozens of accolades and perfect reviews almost across the board and has continued to dominate internet culture to this day. A young child falls into the Underworld, a sunless land where monsters have built a civilization of their own. Adopted and instructed by a loving goat mom, the child makes their way across the world and meets enemies and friends alike, including the infamous Sans. The entire draw of Undertale is that it is a turn-based combat RPG (similar to old school Pokemon in many ways) where you don't have to kill anything. There are three endings to the game: the pacifist run where the player kills no one, the neutral run where the player kills at least one monster, and the genocide run where the player kills every single creature in the underworld. All three yield a drastically different ending; the lore of Undertale is deeper than many long-lived franchises. Most importantly, Undertale will serve as the greatest showcase that all you need is determination. Determination is what separates humans from the animals and defines the human spirit. We all have the ability to persist. Undertale will make you laugh, cry, scream, and slam your controller on the ground in frustration. With characters as real and lovable as these, and real stakes on the table, will you become the murderer they believe you to be? Or is your determination enough to save the world?
Undertale is available for Mac and PC via Steam, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation Vita and PlayStation 4.
In these difficult times, we need to keep our eyes on the horizon. We need to listen and offer help where it is needed. And we must never lose our determination. Believe in what we as humanity have to offer, look at the best and brightest of what we create, and know that we will persist.
Any other games that fill you with hope and determination? Let us know in the comments below!