15 Great But Simple Games With Intriguing Gameplay Mechanics
For all the games with complex control schemes, economies, balance changes, and loot, it’s nice to sit down with something that isn’t too complicated. Whether you’re looking for something easy to control, or experiences to hop in and out of with minimal fuss, these 15 titles and their shockingly simple mechanics will pull you in. Let’s take a closer look at each and explain why.
A Plague Tale: Innocence
A Plague Tale: Requiem introduced new gameplay options like controlling rats, a crossbow, larger environments for more opportunities and so on. But it’s easy to forget just how straightforward Innocence was. For the most part, you would be running, sneaking around, bonking enemies with the slingshot, solving small puzzles to progress past the rats, and so on. Not to say that any of this was bad. It’s smaller scale than Requiem and a perfect introduction to the world.
It all starts so simple in Mini Motorways – you have to build and maintain a network of roads between similarly colored buildings. You get new upgrade choices each week, from Traffic Lights and Roundabouts to Bridges and Motorways, and must plan ahead of time. Though it sounds stressful, it’s fairly zen-like and incredibly addictive, as your city steadily grows, and you discover optimal layouts for roads.
When talking about simple gameplay mechanics, poncle’s viral hit Vampire Survivors is perhaps the epitome of the same. No aiming, no shooting – just walk around while your weapons fire automatically, collect XP and level up. The complexity comes from the different starting characters, passives and upgrades, with some crazy builds to be had. On top of being amazingly fun, it also highlights many other bullet hell-style survival rogue-lites like Brotato, 20 Minutes Till Dawn, and so on.
Witch Beam’s Unpacking is as simple as it is meditative and narratively rich. The premise involves unpacking the protagonist’s belongings over the many years of her life. Each object tells a story, and the overall story – without any dialogue – is beautifully conveyed. There are some limitations on where objects can be placed, lending a bit of a puzzle aspect, but it’s still very easy to get into and play.
As a follow-up to To The Moon and Finding Paradise, Impostor Factory doesn’t star doctors Eva Rosalene and Neil Watts. Instead, it’s centred on Watts’ father Quincy, who becomes involved in a murder during a party hosted by the Yu-Haynes Foundation. Eventually, he comes across a bathroom sink that can rewind time, and things get even crazier. The visuals are minimalistic, while the gameplay involves walking around, conversing and interacting with people. But the writing and overall story are incredible and well worth the journey.
Telltale’s The Walking Dead
Though the formula eventually wore thin, Telltale’s The Walking Dead was revolutionary. As Lee Everett, a convict caught up in the zombie apocalypse, players navigate the remnants of the world, protecting the young Clementine. Different decisions and quick-time events do a great job of creating the illusion of choice, and ultimately, its narrative is capped off in one of the most heart-breaking endings yet. It’s essentially an adventure game with a more cinematic presentation, one that would be used in several future narrative titles like Life is Strange, Until Dawn, and so on.
Before The Pathless, Giant Squid Studios was known for ABZU, an underwater adventure where a single diver explores various environments. Eventually, she navigates the ruins of an ancient civilization, occasionally crossing paths with a great white shark. The player can accelerate and interact with other marine life, or latch onto larger marine life for a ride. It’s a very linear experience, but utterly gorgeous to behold.
Thatgamecompany’s breakout hit, Journey, is acclaimed for its atmosphere, aesthetics and soundtrack by Austin Wintory (who also composed for ABZU). It sees two players as robed figures, starting in the desert and advancing towards a large mountain. There’s no verbal communication, and you can only use a chime to progress forward or your scarf to fly for a short time. Failure to finish a section together connects you with other players. For all its brilliance with seamless multiplayer and atmosphere, Journey only takes a handful of hours to complete.
Campo Santo’s debut hit seems little more than a walking sim with gorgeous visuals, and in terms of controls, you wouldn’t be wrong. However, the range of choices and conversations that fire lookout Henry can engage in, especially as he gets closer to supervisor Delilah, lends complexity to the experience. There’s also the core mystery to solve, as a mysterious entity seemingly shadows the two and knows their every move. Overall, a worthwhile story that doesn’t ask too much of you.
A Short Hike
What starts as an exploration title opens up into a beautiful and emotionally endearing open world. Hawk Peak Provincial Park is full of little details, quests, collectibles, and loveable characters, and while protagonist Claire needs to reach the summit, you can take your time. Glide around, fish, play beachstickball – it’s all up to you, and involves minimal complexity.
What the Golf?
What the Golf?’s premise seems to revolve around various experiments to try and “innovate” on the game of golf. As such, it’s a series of inane (and insane) challenges, where you’ll toss golf clubs and people instead of golf balls, platform across areas as office chairs, and much more. The controls involve holding down the putting button and choosing a direction, while the scenarios are quick, light-hearted and more than a little devious.
Deliver Us Mars
Many horror games rely on jumpscares or excessive gore to incite terror, but Shiying Studio’s Firework is refreshingly restrained. As a rookie police officer Lin Lixun, players must investigate a mysterious fire at a funeral. Things aren’t what they seem, which leads to communing with the dead, diving into the past, and exploring Lin’s upbringing. Press left or right to traverse the environment and one button to interact with everything. Nothing too complex, but the presentation and overall story-telling will keep you enthralled till the end.
Deliver Us Mars
Even games with the most simple mechanics can hide an exceptional depth. Here are 15 such titles that are worth checking out.
Inspired by older shooters, Prodeus is super-streamlined with its shooter action. Run through different levels, kill enemies, find keys and secrets, purchase weapons and upgrades, repeat. Some guns are better in different scenarios, like the Arc Rail’s alternate fire for long-distance threats and the Super Shotgun for tankier foes. The level design and variety are amazing, but the visuals are the star, with extensive gore, gorgeous particle effects and an option for more pixelated visuals.
Deliver Us Mars
What Remains of Edith Finch
An anthology of stories on the Finch family, What Remains of Edith Finch sees the player visiting the family home. As they explore the household, they’ll relive each relative’s last moments before their deaths. You’ll swing off a cliff’s edge, escape from a bunker underground, and cut up fish while simultaneously adventuring through a fantasy world. The game’s soliloquy on death and how it affects those left behind form the core of the gameplay and can be extremely emotional.
Deliver Us Mars
The Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe
Stanley’s life in The Stanley Parable is about pushing a button in an office, day in and day out. So once everyone in his office disappears, he begins a journey of self-discovery. Or he tries to spite the narrator of his life. Maybe he discovers the conspiracy surrounding the office, and maybe he goes behind the scenes of the game. A surreal experience with plenty of fourth-wall-breaking, and the Ultra Deluxe version adds to it with its meta-commentary.