I enjoy games (or at least the idea of them) that are about real animals doing real things. Games like Empires of the Undergrowth and Ancestors: the Humankind Odyssey.
I’ll include Hunter: Call of the Wild because of its extreme attention to animal behavior and just the generally “real” nature it tries to convey.
I guess survival games are ok as long as they are as hardcore about it as Green Hell or (mostly) UnReal World.
Or at a minimum The Long Dark.
Far Cry Primal is right out.
I know about SimAnt, of course, but let’s try to keep it relatively modern.
There were those Shelter games but I don’t know how realistic they ended up being. What else is out there?
There’s Bee Simulator, though I found it both awkward to play and more gamified than I expected for a “simulator”:
And then there’s AWAY, which I actually own–which I actually kickstarted, because the price was so reasonable–which bills itself as an interactive nature documentary in which you control a sugar glider. It’s still sitting in my backlog, but I gather the devs’ reach might have exceeded their grasp.
Going further back, there were the Lion and Wolf games by Sanctuary Woods in the 1990s. Survival games with a realistic bent. I don’t think the gameplay really holds up, though.
What about Tokyo Jungle? Maybe I heard it was actually a very goofy take rather than a realistic one.
Tokyo Jungle is faaaaaantastic.
Of those I’ve only played Empires of the Undergrowth and it kicked my ass.
Tokyo Jungle is anything but about the Nature though. It’s also a stupid buggy game that doesn’t allow you to save until you somehow manage to clear a scenario! Can’t wait for some emulation to make the game more palatable to normal people.
To me, UnReal World is the best in the category, because not only does it depict the nature, but Man’s relationship to it.
I’d suggest Shenmue 2. The game exposes the contrasts of the bland Japanese neighbourhood, the crazy portuary Chinese town, the insanity of Kowloon’s defunct Walled City, to finally sujbect the player in its last act to the astounding beauty of Southern China’s nature. It’s phenomenal a travel.
Going a bit obscure this side of the world, Kawanoshu Tsuri 2 on the SNES and Nushi Tsuri 64 on the Nintendo 64 are fishing games that, while they have advanced behavioural mechanics for the fishes and detailed settings for the fishing, are about the Japanese wilderness, and its silence. It’s also a game with a deep ecological message embaded into all its system, even its classical RPG “fight” sequences. The later games in the series abandonned all this to turn into Pokémon with fishes, sigh.
Although it’s fantasy, older Monster Hunter games like Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate are very much about their phantasmal nature.
Terra Nil is another natural fit, so to speak.It’s also free on tablets for Netflix subscribers.
I clicked on Empires of the Undergrowth and there’s a live stream starting up now. I have to say, growing an underground ant colony and spawning a bunch of soldier ants to go forth and terrorize… triggers me to smile and I want to try it out. Re-linked below.
It’s pretty interesting! Thanks to it I know what a devil’s coach horse is now. 🤮
I haven’t played any of the games mentioned, but I have killed a lot of bears in LOTRO.
I have tried a bit of Empires of the Undergrowth, and I think it’s good enough that I will be returning to it when it’s out of early access, but I have some pretty big issues currently with the scenario-based structure of the game. I don’t know what the best alternative is–randomly generated maps?–but it feels overly scripted and stodgy to me.