Editor’s Note: If you’re looking for something to fill you days (and nights!) with, why not try one of these games that literally let you play god?
God games have come and gone over the years, but the genre continues to have great appeal whenever it appears. These games give you control over a large-scale simulation filled with autonomous people or creatures that your action influence. Some games straddle genres to borrow some elements, but these eight games show off just how great god games can be when they’re done right.
Think we missed one? Tell us what it is in the comments!
Reus is one of the more recent entries in the god game genre, having been released in 2013 by indie studio Abbey Games. You control four elemental giants who have the power to shape the land. You use these powers to encourage a civilization to grow, and through your actions, help it prosper. But giving your ardent settlers too much may result in making them greedy, and you’ll watch almost helpless as they go to war. It’s a game that looks simple, but gets surprisingly deep as you play.
Part platformer, part god game, ActRaiser hit the NES in 1991. As “The Master,” a god-like being fighting against “The Evil One,” you’ll progress through the game fighting the lieutenants of your foe and rebuilding the civilizations of your people. You’ll transition from top-down simulation that requires the use of your god powers to encourage the growth of your civilization to the platforming segments where you control an animated statue that you send into battle. It’s an interesting hybrid that just happens to include a great soundtrack.
Few games are as widely debated as Spore. For every person I know that loved it, there is a corresponding person who hated it. You start out creating organisms from primordial ooze, then you evolve a creature to live on land, and the focus gets wider. You’ll control a tribe group, and then a civilization. As your civilization grows, you’ll move into the space stage, which has you spreading your species throughout the galaxy. Although it had some technical issues and missed the mark in some areas, it’s still a robust god game that should be on any genre fan’s must-play list.
Ubisoft described From Dust as a “spiritual successor” to Populous, and it’s easy to see that influence in the game. You’ll move around an archipelago and control the environment in an attempt to save a nomadic tribe that lives there. You can manipulate certain things, like lava, soil, and water, to re-shape the environment, forestall natural disasters, and otherwise benefit the tribe. The game also offers a challenge mode that is usually more difficult and faster-paced. There were a number of problems with the PC version of the game, but the console versions were well-received.
Regarded by many as the game that birthed the entire god game genre, Populous was also once of the first game released by the legendary Bullfrog Productions. You’re cast as a deity and tasked to use your divine powers to grow a civilization by directing and manipulating them. As the civilization grows, so does your power, and eventually, you will send your followers into battle against the followers of another deity.
Another Bullfrog game, Dungeon Keeper straddles the line between god game and strategy title. While you don’t control a character in the game, you interact with the world using a hand. You can slap minions to speed them up, use the hand to torture prisoners, or even trigger traps. You’ll also place objects to construct a dungeon that can protect itself from the heroes it will inevitably draw from the outside world. Peter Molyneux’s final project at Bullfrog is a must-play for pretty much any gamer.
The Sims may be a life simulator, but it also puts players in the shoes of an omnipotent god overseeing the lives of the poor little Sims. Depending on the player, you may be benevolent or vindictive, and your Sims will have to deal with your approach. Will you satisfy their every desire, or will you trap them in a featureless room until they expire? The choice is yours, and The Sims franchise has sold countless millions of copies to folks who want to make that choice.
Black & White
Probably the very first game that pops in my head when someone mentions god games is Black & White. Both the original and the sequel were phenomenal experiences that put you in the role of a newly born deity. You must use your divine abilities to convince a tribe of islanders to worship you. You do this by using your powers, as well as directing your beast sidekick. You can choose to be benevolent and aid the tribesfolk, or you choose to be cruel and have them fear you. Your beast will assist in either path you choose, with the ultimate goal of going to war against other deities. The world and your creature will reflect your approach to the game. It’s one of the very best god games ever made.