80 Of The Best Non-Violent Video Games [Updated For 2021]
by TeachThought Staff
One person’s mushroom stomper is another’s person’s fungus murderer.
So it may not be absolutely correct to say that every single one of these games is entirely free from any matter of violence whatsoever. But for the most part, they are indeed non-violent games, and certainly nothing approaching the reality of many modern ‘shooters.’ Violence is a matter of degrees if not interpretation.
In the past, many non-violent games simply weren’t fun. Today, that’s no longer the case–and the list of qualifying games is growing. Whether you’re looking for the best games for game-based learning or simply games that are fun to play, any of these games represent an impressive design achievement and is definitely worth a play.
Now, if they actually enjoy the game or not–in an era dominated by Fortnite and wildly action-packed, social, and ‘always-on’ gaming environments–depends on their mindset and what they expect from a game. Due to the nature of both video games and what’s popular with kids, this list will need to be updated intermittently, which makes including screenshots and videos and descriptions and animated images more work than makes sense for most teachers.
A Few Notes For The List
Note: The standard here is that you don’t consider games like Super Mario or Minecraft ‘violent’ even though there are technically what could be considered violent behaviors in them. It’s about tone and intent and how that ‘violence’ is framed: playfully and with a minimalist aesthetic, for example. Or almost as an afterthought if it exists at all versus a core game mechanic. This is why none of the games from the excellent Legend of Zelda series make an appearance in the list.
Obviously, check out developer websites or YouTube for gameplay videos to make sure you know what you’re getting if you intend on purchasing any of these games.
We started out with the Nintendo Switch because as of 2021, it’s likely the best major platform for non-violent video games. We also tried to focus on non-sports video games because–well, otherwise the list would likely be dominated by sports games. We did include a few obvious ones like FIFA, MLB: The Show, and NBA 2K though each of those games has bits and pieces you may or may not find issues with as a parent or teacher depending on your context and tolerance.
We also tried to limit each game series (like Pokemon) to one game to ensure a collection of the best non-violent video games that would be usable by a wide variety of players and students.
None of the games are ‘learning games’ or related apps like Sesame Street, Dr. Panda, Toca Life: School, Marco Polo, etc.–meaning these are actual video games with (mostly) traditional gameplay mechanics.
Though this isn’t absolute, the list is created for children ages 8 and older
And finally, for some games available on multiple platforms (like Minecraft). For most, we only included them on one system even though, if available, it’s likely equally as good on another and in some cases below is included on multiple platforms.
Finally, the following links are affiliate links. You can read more about our affiliate policy here.
50 Of The Best Non-Violent Video Games [Updated For 2021]
Best Non-Violent Video Games For Nintendo Switch
3. Splatoon 2
6. Katamari Damacy Reroll
7. Pokemon: Let’s Go Pickachu!
8. Just Dance 2021
9. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe
16. Donut County
20. Kirby Star Allies
21. Paper Mario Origami King
22. Pikmin 3
Best Non-Violent Video Games For PlayStation 4
24. Rock Band 4 (also consider Guitar Hero)
25. Crash Team Racing: Nitro-Fueled
26. Stardew Valley
29. Rocket League
31. The Witness
33. Dear Esther
34. Little Big Planet 2
Best Non-Violent Video Games For Xbox One
Note: As we’ve emphasized, what constitutes a ‘violent’ video game isn’t universal–and that is especially true for the Portal series. If you play the single-player campaign, the ending boss sequence requires the player to defeat a robot/AI, in part by using portals to send its own rockets back at it. That definitely tends towards the definition of ‘violence’ but the overall theme and tone and mechanics of the game emphasize problem-solving, analysis, spatial thinking, cause-effect relationships, and so on. So while it does ‘have’ some violence, it wouldn’t fall under what we would call ‘violent video games.’
You can always check out YouTube for gameplay videos to see and decide for yourself.
37. Cities Skylines
38. Assassin’s Creed: Origins or Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey (Museum/Discovery modes)
These two are radically undervalued in terms of their game-based learning potential and in the above Museum/Discovery modes are simple guided tours through ancient places and cultures (in these cases, Ancient Egypt and Ancient Greece).
39. Disneyland Adventures
40. Zoo Tycoon
41. Bridge Constructor
42. Old Man’s Journey
43. Super Mega Baseball 2
45. Forza Horizon 4
Best Non-Violent Video Games For iOS
46. Super Mario Run
47. Civilization V
48. Sims 4
49. Democracy 3
50. Pokemon Go
53. Never Alone
54. Way Of The Turtle
57. The Gardens Between
58. The Talos Principle
59. SimCity BuildIt
60. The Kids We Were
61. Sky: Children Of The Light
64. Harvest Moon
66. Sonic Dash
68, X-Plane Starship
Cost: $7.99 (one time; no in-app purchases)
Description: Rather than include the developer description, we’ll explain why we included ‘Old Man’s Journey.’ In short, game-based learning is terribly under-utilized, and games like this are perfect examples of how far games have come. We could’ve—and wanted to—include two or three other games in this list, but using a video game for learning is difficult for many to wrap their heads around and/or get on board with, so we limited it to one. Just know that there are 100+ games that could change everything for your classroom no matter the grade level or content area, and this is just one (excellent) example.
Platforms: iOS, Android, Sony PlayStation, Microsoft Xbox, Microsoft Windows, Steam
70-80: Tumble, Amazing Alex, World of Goo, Super Monkey Ball, Puddle, Pid, Ico, Braid, Katamari Damacy, That Dragon Cancer, Inside
80 Of The Best Non-Violent Video Games [Updated For 2021]