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In a world of technology, it’s easy to become disconnected or forgetful of the people we live with and the places we live in. Video games can be a part of this dislocation as screen time diminishes engagement with the real world. But they can also offer ways to reconnect with those around us and find a fresh (helpfully disruptive) perspective on our neighbourhoods.This list has been created with the help of Cormac Russell, Managing Director of Nurture Development. For 25 years Cormac has helped communities, agencies and governments solve urban and rural development problems not by focusing on the deficiencies of neighbourhoods, towns, and villages but by understanding that people, their families and communities, have unique competencies in building community. As Cormac puts it. “Communities can’t know what they need from outside sources until they know what they have themselves internally. And we get this the wrong way round.”The video games here offer a range of experiences that reshape and challenge our thinking in this direction:
Release Date: 25/04/2020
Out Now: Switch
Skill Rating: 9+ year-olds
Components: 3D Third-Person, Cartoon, Day and Night, Open World, Persistant World and Weather
Animal Crossing: New Horizons is a role-play collecting game where you live on a small island teeming with life. Insects, fish, trees, vegetation and fossils are represented with cute cartoon visuals. Rather than the scale or grandeur of other game...
Release Date: 26/02/2016, updated in 2018
Out Now: Amazon Fire, Android, Mac, PC, PS Vita, PS4, Switch, Xbox One and iOS
Components: 2D Overhead, Day and Night, Grid, Open World and Pixels
Stardew Valley looks like a farming simulator. That’s partly what it is, but you also develop relationships with the other townsfolk and delve deep into the mines. Its quirky labyrinthine attention to detail is inviting for young players to try their...
Release Date: 30/06/2020, updated in 2021
Out Now: Android, Mac, PC, Switch, Web, Xbox One, Xbox X|S and iOS
Skill Rating: 6+ year-olds
Components: 2D Overhead, Blocks and Hand-Made
Townscaper is a creative town-building game where you pick colours from the range available and click to put down a house in the sea. As you continue to add houses of different colours the game automatically orientates the architecture for you.
Release Date: Coming soon
Coming Soon: PC
Components: 3D Third-Person, Cartoon, Day and Night and Open World
Mythwrecked: Ambrosia Island is a friend-making adventure game where you help the Greek gods remember their past and unravel a mysterious curse. As you explore the tropical island, you encounter rare treasures and interact with the gods, helping to...
Release Date: 21/03/2017, updated in 2019
Out Now: Mac, PC, PS4 and Switch
Skill Rating: 3+ year-olds
Components: 3D Third-Person and Open World
Everything is an unusual game that simulates a world where you can become any object. It sounds strange and not much fun, but the enjoyment is in discovering how small or how big a thing you can become. From tiny atoms to whole planets and everything in...
Release Date: 14/09/2004
Out Now: Mac, PC, Xbox, Xbox 360 and Xbox One
Skill Rating: 11+ year-olds
Components: 3D Third-Person, Day and Night and Open World
Fable is an adventure role-playing game set in a fantasy world where your interactions with the world and villagers, and decisions about your use of magical power, substantially alter the story and the environment.
Release Date: 06/12/2018
Out Now: Android, Mac, PC, Switch and iOS
Skill Rating: 7+ year-olds
Components: 2D Overhead and Cartoon
Conduct Together is a strategy game where you control toy trains along overlapping train tracks. Each train can be started and stopped with a specific button. Other buttons change different points. The aim is to transport people from one station to the...
Release Date: 06/01/2015
Out Now: Android, Mac, PC, PS4, Switch and iOS
Components: 2D Overhead and Grid
Mini Metro is a sequencing strategy game where you create an ordered, efficient underground train system. It sounds like hard work, but the simple Tube-map visuals, calm music, and streamlined interactions make this relaxing, like sudoku. Dip your toe...
Components: 3D Third-Person, Day and Night, Hand-Made, Open World and Weather
Wood and Weather is a simulation game where you play god in a wooden toy city. You interact with the world using your floating blue hand to change switches and control the weather. It's an intriguing game that offers all manner of ways to play but...
Release Date: 28/03/2023
Out Now: Mac, PC and iOS
Components: 2D Overhead, Grid and Open World
Terra Nil is a strategy game where you use clean technology to bring back life to a barren world. It's a city-building game where you aren't building a city at all, but a clean thriving ecology. It raises interesting themes of how humanity plays an...
Release Date: 07/10/2019, updated in 2022
Out Now: Apple TV, Mac, PC, Switch and iOS
Components: 2D Side-On, Cards, Cartoon and Hand-Made
Pilgrims is an adventure game where you collect cards to help the characters you meet. As you progress you assist them to complete their little stories by offering the right cards to the right people. It's a little like Scribblenauts but with less focus...
Release Date: 03/12/2015
Out Now: PC
Skill Rating: 13+ year-olds
Orchids to Dusk is a short wandering adventure. You are an astronaut stranded on an alien planet, with only a few minutes of oxygen. You explore the world and discover fantastic gardens on the planet.
Release Date: 03/10/2023
Components: 2D Overhead, Blocks and Pixels
Station to Station is a railway-building puzzle game about connecting commerce and community to create a beautiful rail network. Play is about making connections between buildings to move materials and people around the world efficiently. It stands out...
Coming Soon: PC and PS5
Components: 3D Third-Person and Cartoon
Sword of the Sea is a traversal game where you are a Wraith resurrected to restore life to a desolate world. Play involves exploring submerged ruins to discover the cultures that built them. It stands out for the flowing movement and beautiful vistas...
Release Date: 16/11/2023
Out Now: Mac and PC
Skill Rating: 8+ year-olds
Components: 3D Third-Person, Cartoon and Open World
Loddlenaut is an ecological adventure where you are sent to clean up a polluted ocean planet. You explore the sea, cleaning up waste products and repurposing marine debris while taking care of friendly alien creatures. It stands out for its laid-back...
Coming Soon: Android, Mac, PC and iOS
Components: 2D Side-On and Pixels
Rootown is a traversal strategy game where you guide tree roots down through the soil. You play by planting a tree and then steering its roots to find good soil and avoid stones. The better you do the bigger the tree and the more resources you have to...
Release Date: 08/11/2012, updated in 2016
Out Now: 3DS and 2DS
Components: 2D Overhead, Cartoon, Day and Night, Open World, Persistant World and Weather
Animal Crossing: New Leaf is a life simulation game where you design your dream village in a world filled with anthropomorphic animals. Like other Animal Crossing games, you design and decorate your home, collect and sell items, chat and play with...
Release Date: 16/04/2019
Out Now: PC, PS4 and Switch
Skill Rating: 10+ year-olds
Components: 3D Third-Person
Heaven's Vault is a communication adventure game you play an archaeologist translating an ancient alien language whose decrypting weaves through an unfolding drama. While doing real linguistic work you interact with companions and locals. Your choices...
Release Date: 28/09/2022, updated in 2023
Out Now: Mac, PC and Switch
Skill Rating: 14+ year-olds
The Excavation of Hob's Barrow is a point-and-click horror adventure where you unravel a dark mystery in the Yorkshire moors. You investigate locations for clues, talk to the strangely hostile locals, and solve puzzles to gain their favour. It stands...
Release Date: 27/02/2018
Out Now: Android, Mac, PC and iOS
Components: 2D Overhead, Hand-Made, Open World and Persistant World
One Hour One Life is a civilisation survival game where each player lives a whole life in an hour of play and then passes away. Born as a baby into the care of anonymous other online players, you initially depend on them for food. Quickly growing, you...
Release Date: 30/07/2020
Components: 3D First-Person, Hand-Made and Open World
Thousand Threads is an open-world game of consequences. You are free to interact with the world, animals and people however you like, give, take, save, kill, inform, hide, befriend, and betray. But how you do this will have ongoing and unavoidable...
Release Date: 23/11/2005, updated in 2016
Out Now: DS and Wii U
Animal Crossing: Wild World is a quirky life simulation game where you live in a small village and build your dream home. You develop relationships with the animal townsfolk, collect fossils, fish and insects and build a home to help the village grow...
Release Date: 06/02/2018
Components: 3D First-Person, Blocks, Day and Night and Open World
Eco extends the resource-collecting and building of Minecraft by introducing environmental implications to your actions. Using resources like trees will erode the soil; mining might pollute the river; and each animal depends on another.
Release Date: 06/09/2022, updated in 2023
Out Now: Mac, PC, PS4, PS5, Switch, Xbox One and Xbox X|S
Disney Dreamlight Valley is a world building game about restoring a broken Disney world. You interact with famous Disney Characters and decorate the valley with a wide variety of items and famous locations. Like a cross between [link to...
Release Date: 22/04/2021
Out Now: PC, PS4, Switch and Xbox One
Components: 2D Side-On, Hand-Made and Open World
Buildings Have Feelings Too is set in a city where buildings can walk and talk. Not only that, but each has aspirations, hopes and fears. Your job is to create a city that works for all the buildings, a task that will see your city planning pulled in...
Release Date: 13/08/2020, updated in 2022
Out Now: PC and Switch
Components: 2D Overhead, Day and Night, Grid and Weather
Parkasaurus is a strategy simulation game where you create a dinosaur park for people to visit. You need to construct well-designed exhibits, research specialised technology and maximize profits so you can expand with more dinosaurs. It combines pet...
Release Date: 22/09/2022
Components: 2D Overhead, Day and Night, Grid and Pixels
Potion Permit is an adventure game about a chemist working to help village inhabitants get better from various ailments. You explore the world for ingredients and craft medicine by completing puzzles and mini-games. It stands out for the tension it...
Release Date: 27/04/2023
Out Now: Mac, PC, PS4, PS5 and Switch
Mail Time is a running and jumping adventure where you play a novice Mail Scout on their first delivery. With only a name to identify the recipient, you explore the wild Grumblewood Grove, helping the animal inhabitants in exchange for clues. While the...
Release Date: 26/05/2020
Components: 2D Side-On
Dépanneur Nocturne (which means Nighttime Convenience Store) is a short narrative adventure about the value of conversation and local shops. You explore a store late at night, to find a gift for your partner. What unfolds is a gentle search-and-suggest...
Release Date: 08/05/2020
Out Now: Mac, PC, Switch, Xbox One and Xbox X|S
Skill Rating: 12+ year-olds
Components: 2D Overhead, Day and Night, Grid, Open World and Weather
Before We Leave is a city building simulation and strategy game. Humanity has been living in bunkers after a great calamity, and are emerging to start a new life by building farms, industry and trade routes throughout the solar system. It's an unusual...
Release Date: 08/09/2023
Fae Farm is a simulation game where you build a farmstead, harvest your crops, and go adventuring. It's an increasingly common set-up for a game. Here though, you use magical spells to grow your plants, defeat enemies and interact with a varied cast of...
Release Date: 01/02/2019, updated in 2021
Components: 2D Overhead
Foundation is a city-building simulation game where you create networks of supply and consumption in a medieval village. You not only develop structures, gather resources and create your own unique settlement, but also manage the individual needs of...
Out Now: PC, Switch, Xbox One and Xbox X|S
Components: 2D Side-On and Hand-Made
Beacon Pines is a storybook adventure game where you play as a small fawn named Luka trying to solve a mystery in a creepy town full of intrigue. You play by collecting words that change the story, so you can go back through the book to play out...
Coming Soon: PC, PS4 and PS5
Revenant Hill is a narrative adventure set in 1919 where you play a cat called Twigs where animals and people lead lives next to each other. Play involves making connections and earning friendships from interactions, social deduction and some light...
Release Date: 12/09/2022
Components: 2D Side-On, Pixels and Text
Roadwarden is a narrative text-adventure where you work as a sheriff trying to keep the peace (and trade) on the central roads of their community. What you do is similar to other adventure games (explore a dark fantasy world, interact with locals) but...
Release Date: 11/05/2022
Components: 2D Overhead, Hand-Made and Open World
Lost Nova is an adventure game where you explore an alien planet searching for resources to fix your spaceship. With no enemies or time limits, you take your time interacting with the local sentient vegetables, completing side missions, and exploring...
Release Date: 12/05/2015, updated in 2022
Out Now: Android and iOS
Skill Rating: 5+ year-olds
Components: 2D Overhead, Cartoon, Day and Night and Weather
Seabeard is a simple adventure game where you follow in the footsteps of the great sea captain to explore and civilise. Play involves working on each island, tapping to move around, collecting items, talking to locals and developing your economy. It's...
Release Date: 01/12/2023
Out Now: PC, PS4, PS5, Switch, Xbox One and Xbox X|S
Steamworld Build is a strategy simulation game where you build and manage a city and underground mine with monsters lurking in the deep. You place buildings, fortify defences, lay roads and then direct civilians to do jobs above ground and in the mines...
Release Date: 30/07/2019
Components: 2D Side-On, Day and Night and Pixels
Oxygen Not Included is a creative strategy game where you build an underground colony for survivors of a spaceship crash-landing. You need to manage everything, placement and planning for oxygen distribution, energy, plumbing and living arrangements. It...
Release Date: 29/02/2012, updated in 2022
Components: 2D Overhead, Grid and Pixels
The Simpsons: Tapped Out is a city-building game based on the popular and long-running cartoon. After Homer causes the destruction of Springfield, you complete quests to earn money, unlock buildings and characters, and rebuild the town. The free to...