Split image of characters from games about the environment

Devolver Digital’s upcoming reverse city builder Terra Nil, which has the player restore natural life to a ruined environment, is only one of many new releases that discuss environmental issues. With increasing concerns regarding climate change and humanity’s impact on the world, it’s not surprising that many upcoming games continue to explore these problems.

Because these issues have been acknowledged by some since the 1800s, all art forms, including video games, have a long history of incorporating environmentalist themes. Some of these games, like the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise, especially focus on these concerns.


Sid Meier’s Civilization (1991)

The original 1991 turn-based strategy game Sid Meier’s Civilization is often known for establishing the 4X genre, but this game was also one of the first to incorporate climate change into the gameplay. When players start developing modern cities and technology, the resulting pollution can cause certain tiles to become corrupted and unusable, and too many of these dud tiles can lead to global warming.

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Although climate change mechanics would remain in Civilization II and III, the most recent installments have sadly left it out, though it returned within the DLC Civilization VI: Gathering Storm. While environmental issues are not the focus of these games, their significant inclusion within these and other old titles such as SimCity show that these concerns have always had a strong presence in games, which has continued with other franchises such as the Horizon and Fallout.

We Are The Caretakers (2021)

Inspired by challenging turn-based strategy RPGs like XCOM, We Are The Caretakers is an Afrofuturist science fiction squad management RPG that was released in early access in 2021. Set within the fictional African nation called Shadra, the player manages squads of arcane protectors known as Caretakers who fight to protect the rhino-like creatures called Raun from poachers.

Besides already being a fun and polished gameplay experience, the game not only focuses on the importance of protecting the environment and the living creatures that inhabit it but also looking at these issues through a non-western perspective. Along with showing the morally gray struggles surrounding wildlife conservation, the game also directly impacts the real world by donating 10% of its revenue to the Wildlife Conservation Network’s Rhino Recovery Fund.

Fate of the World (2011)

Developed by Red Redemption, who had also made the 2006 game titled Climate Challenge, Fate of the World is a 2011 turn-based strategy game where the player controls a fictional global organization known as the GEO, which is in charge of solving the world’s economic, social, and environmental problems. Using the money from various regions, the player is able recruit agents who can be used to implement policies, which are represented by cards.

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Though the game’s main focus is on climate change, the experience also teaches just how difficult it is to balance the Earth’s issues because each policy has its own unintentional consequences. For example, something that may seem like an obvious solution for global warming could also lead to wars or financial ruin.

A New Beginning – Final Cut (2012)

Created by Daedalic Entertainment, who are currently working on the upcoming action-adventure game The Lord of the Rings: GollumA New Beginning – Final Cut is a point and click adventure game. Because the Earth’s ozone layer is ruined due to catastrophic climate change, an approaching solar flare is about to wipe out the rest of humanity in two weeks, so a young woman named Fay is sent back in time to change the future.

In 1982 Finland, she meets a retired bio-engineer named Bent Svensson who might be the key to this “new beginning,” but there’s also an energy tycoon who plans to use Bent’s research for his own financial gains. While the voice acting is extremely dry, the game makes up for it with its beautiful comic book-like art style and accessible gameplay mechanics.

Lumino City (2014)

Created as a sequel to 2011 game Lume, Lumino City is a 2014 award-winning puzzle adventure game where the entire in-game world was hand-made using paper, cardboard, miniature lights, and motors, which resulted in a 10-foot-tall model city. After Lumi’s grandfather is attacked and abducted by an intruder, Lumi goes to Lumino City to find him.

With the help of grandad’s Handy Manual, Lumi must solve various point and click item puzzles to progress through the city’s gorgeously crafted locations. All of the locations utilize renewable energy technologies, which players are able to learn about by solving the puzzles and reading about the mechanisms in the Handy Manual.

Deliver Us The Moon (2019)

With the sequel Deliver Us Mars scheduled to release on Sept. 27 of this year, now is the perfect time to play the original 2019 award-winning story-focused puzzle adventure game Deliver Us The Moon. Set in a near future where humanity has drained the Earth of its natural resources, the World Space Agency discovered an energy resource on the moon and established lunar colonies to process it.

Though this worked for a while, humanity was once again put in dire circumstances when Earth lost contact with the lunar colonies. As a last-ditch effort, they send the protagonist to the colonies to uncover what happened and if there’s still hope. Besides having a well-written narrative that addresses important issues, the game’s puzzles are also engaging.

Alba: A Wildlife Adventure (2020)

Developed by Ustwo Games, who are best known for their award-winning Monument Valley series, Alba: A Wildlife Adventure is a 2020 open-world game that mixes the gameplay of Pokémon Snap with the plot of the 2005 film Hoot. In this gorgeous feel-good title, the player controls a young girl named Alba Singh who visits her grandparents in the fictional island town of Secarral.

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When the town’s mayor announces that the local nature reserve will be turned into a luxury hotel, Alba and her best friend Inés decide to work together to gather enough signatures to stop this, which is done by helping locals, cleaning liter, and taking photos of local wildlife. Each download of the game leads to one tree planted in real life.

Endling – Extinction is Forever (2022)

Released on July 19 of this year, Endling – Extinction is Forever is a 2.5D survival adventure game where the player controls the last mother fox on Earth who has just given birth to four adorable cubs. When one of the cubs is abducted by a mysterious man, the mother fox embarks on a quest to find her child before it’s too late.

As she searches for the missing cub, she will also need to find food for her three cubs, avoid dangers, fight against enemies, and make sure they all make it back to shelter before each night ends. Throughout the experience, the player will witness the gradual destruction and pollution of the natural environment by humans as well as the changing of seasons.

Sonic the Hedgehog Franchise (1991-present)

Although most players may not know about it, the Sonic the Hedgehog series has always had environmental messages at its core. In almost every entry, Sonic and his other animal-inspired friends are fighting against Dr. Robotnik and his robots, which shows the conflict between nature and the destructive force of modern technologies.

During a 2010 interview with the franchise’s creator, Yuji Naka, by This Is My Joystick!he even confirmed these themes by saying that Dr. Robotnik is meant to be a “radical representation of all humanity and the impact humanity is having on nature.” Since Naka couldn’t speak out about his environmental opinions in 1991, he instead used video games to covey how modern technology and pollution harms nature.

Eco (2018)

Released in early access in 2018, Eco is an award-winning open-world simulation game where the player must save the in-game world from an impending meteor strike by developing technology to the point where the meteor can be destroyed before it arrives. But, players have to be careful because their actions will impact the world around them.

As the player constructs civilizations, they have to monitor the world’s plants, animals, and climate to avoid killing the world while trying to save it. Every detail within the game’s world will impact the in-game graphs and heat-maps, which the player can use to see how their actions affect the world and what laws should be implemented.

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