Top 10 Best Non-Violent iPhone Games

December 14, 2011

Here is my Top 10 List of favourite non violent video games for the iPhone.  I compiled this list because, while there is a huge variety of different types of video games, the testosterone driven, shoot em up style tends to dominate discussions about “serious gaming” and can feel exclusionary and alienating to a lot of other people who may be interested in exploring alternative forms of gaming. Plus these games are loads of fun to play!

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Transcript

It’s no secret that the gaming industry is still unfortunately a very male dominated, male centric place (from the developers to the storylines to the in-game characters).

So it’s important to note that “realistic-looking” first-person shooters and other games that employ graphic violence and sexist imagery are not the only games out there even though they do tend to get most of the attention when it comes to talk of “serious” gaming.

Because I’m often frustrated with the male dominated, blood and guts, testosterone driven shoot em up games that seem to dominate the xbox and ps3 platforms, it’s refreshing to see so many games on Apple’s iOS that focuses on puzzle solving and creative storytelling.

iOS is the shorthand for Apple computer’s mobile operating system which is used on their iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad devices.

Even with (or perhaps because of) its limited graphics and processor capabilities the iOS platform has managed to expand the scope of what gaming can be. We’ve seen a flood of highly imaginative and engaging games that borrow from 80’s era classics as well as breaking new ground with simple and innovative gameplay.

Having so many creative, simple, intuitive and non-traditional games available right in our pockets has really helped bring gaming to a wider range of people (including to more women) who may never have considered themselves gamers before.

These are some of the reasons why I find myself playing games on my phone much more than I do on the more traditional gaming platforms. My iPhone is always there for me when I’m waiting in a long line, riding the subway, or sitting in a boring meetng.

With somewhere in the neighborhood of 100,000 games currently available for iOS it’s not an easy task to pick out the best of the best. So for this particular top ten list I decided to narrow the field a bit. While I really love games like Angry Birds and Plants vs Zombies, I’m reserving this list for games that are based on non violent problem solving. Of course I recognize that Angry Birds uses an adorable and comical form of cartoon violence – plus those damn pigs really do deserve it!

I want to make absolutely clear that I am in no way saying that games that involve violence are always bad or have no value.

What I am saying is, at their best video games can promote problem solving skills, critical thinking, creative mathematics and confidence building.

One of the things many feminist movements have advocated for over the decades is non-violent conflict resolution and creative ways to solve both domestic and international disputes – so while these games might not be explicitly feminist per se, they do focus on problem solving.

So with that, here’s my top 10 favorite (mostly) non-violent games for the iPhone that don’t involve beating anything to death with a stick.

Tiny Wings is an adorable game about a little bird whose wings are too small to fly.  It’s a simple one touch button but don’t be deceived by its simplicity, getting that little bird to fly can be tricky.

World of Goo was originally created for a PC platform and was formatted to fit the iPhone and I’ve got to say, it was an incredibly fun game on the computer but it’s even more compelling on the iPhone which is touch screen.  This physics based puzzle game involves building bridges, towers and other structures to move the goo balls from one place to another.

Groove Coaster is an audio/visual game that tests your rhythm.  You have to tap on the screen every time a bubble appears on the track, which corresponds to the beats of the music.  It’s not that complex but the combination of the geometric visuals and rhythmic music make the experience compelling and engaging.

Cut the Rope is a physics based puzzle game where you have to feed a piece of candy to a frog, in addition to the main goal you have three stars to acquire before feeding the frog in order to get a high score. And you really want to pass each level because he looks so sad when you don’t feed him.

Whale Trail is a whimsical and simple game where you help Willow the Whale fly through the rainbow sky dodging the Thunder Brothers, collecting bubbles and making friends.

Bumpy Road is a cute cartoony game that follows a family traveling through their car along the bumpy road while collecting things on the way.  You control the movement of the car by manipulating the bumps in the road.

drop7 is a number puzzle game that at first seems simple but gets complex during game play.  You drop numbered discs into rows and columns to match the number of discs in that row or column or a disc with that number in the row or column, and you have to clear out discs before the board maxes out.

Flight Control is a simple and compelling game where you have land different  aircrafts without crashing into each other.  However it’s a questionable inclusion on a Feminist Frequency list because of it’s sexism.  While the game play only includes planes and helicopters, the menu exploits a retro sexist style image of a woman dressed up in various costumes.

Edge Extended is a puzzle game that involves rolling a cube around a maze as quickly as possible.  But to reach the end of each level you have to avoid falling off the edge as well as traveling along moving floors and walls.

Contre Jour is a stunningly beautiful physics game where you have to manipulate the world around the hero Petit as opposed to moving the hero himself.  To move Petit to the objective you have to nudge the ground and manipulate various environmental elements. Plus, fun fact, the protagonist is named after the classic french children’s book Le Petit Prince.

Just like television, movies and music, video games are part of our pop culture landscape and as such play a role in the way that we come to understand and engage with the world around us. They are a part of our social development and at their best they can do more than entertain (though they do that too).

Some of these games are also available on Google’s Android as well as other mobile operating systems, so go play them, have fun and be sure to tell me what your favourite games are!

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14 Responses to “Top 10 Best Non-Violent iPhone Games”

  1. Thanks for posting this. You often say things that I feel, but have a hard time expressing myself. As a child I loved playing video games on rainy days with other boys and girls on my street. My favorites were Pac-Man, Tetris, Super Mario, and the uber-colorful Sonic the Hedgehog. There was something satisfying in solving a puzzle, or in the case of Sonic the Hedgehog, playing a level over and over until my hands had a memory for it. The first video game I didn’t like was Golden Eye, a first person shooter. My best friends in the neighborhood (boys) all loved it, and I didn’t. I found other things to do. Games that followed were along the same lines and I found them uninteresting as well. After awhile, I told people that I didn’t like video games anymore. I assumed it was because I had out grown them, not that the gaming industry had abandoned me.

    “We’ve seen a flood of highly imaginative and engaging games that borrow from 80′s era classics as well as breaking new ground with simple and innovative game play.”

    I’m not saying that all women will have experiences similar to mine, I’m just glad there are games now that embrace the things I originally loved about gaming.

    And thanks for the suggestions, I’ll be sure to check them out.

  2. Let me just say that I agree with you big time on one point: the depcition of women in games is deplorable. When games aren’t simply not featuring any female characters, it’s not very often we get to see women being either turned into cheap stereotypes or into hyper sexualized oggle fodder. Yes there are some games that do it right. Beyond Good and Evil, The Clock Tower series, The Longest Journey games, & The American McGee’s Alice games just to name a few. Still, there are far too few, and that needs to be rectified NOW. Games cater far too much to males, which is woefully unfair when you consider how many female gamers are out there.

    That being said, I did have two points that I wanted to raise. First, while there are far more non-violent games that I love than violent ones, I see no real problem with violent titles. many violent games do have compelling narratives, and many of them are also challenging, fun and even intellectually stimulating. And, one point that I would love to hold in Jack Thompson’s face, the violence isn’t real. It’s fictional. It isn’t real. In practice, in my day-to-day life, I’m a non-violent man. Real world violence actually digusts me, in fact it makes me a ill, but when I can make the distinction of something being not real, it no longer bothers me, and I feel that as long as one can make the distinction between fiction and reality and between right and wrong, there’s nothing wrong with violence in a game. Also, and while I’m sure that this wasn’t your intention, it sounds to me like like you’re saying men are inherently violent, or only men are violent or that only men enjoy violent games and stories. Plenty of women enjoy violent stories and games and other forms of media that contain violence. For example, I’ve been a fan of professional wrestling for 20 years now, specifically the WWE (formerly the WWF). Recently, the WWE put out statistics showing that nearly 48% of their audience, which totals in the tens of millions, are women. So, what of the women that enjoy this sort of
    game? Even though I dislike the games, I was dragged to the midnight release of *ugh* Modern Warfare 3 by a friend, and waht seemed like nearly half the people in attendance were women who were purchasing the game for themsleves. So again, what of the women who enjoy this content?

    Max Reply:

    Having gone back and re watched your video, I must offer my apologies. I’ve had this sort of arguement before, in which I was essentailly attacked. Much of what I said, IE, “Also, and while I’m sure that this wasn’t your intention, it sounds to me like like you’re saying men are inherently violent, or only men are violent or that only men enjoy violent games and stories”. I did not mean to be so defensive; I guess I’m just so used to basically being verbally attacked on this issue that I have become paranoid. Please accept my apologies for my neurotic, rambling, and bloated comment. I stand by what I said in the first paragraph, but the second was just…not well considered. Again, I am sorry. Thank you for the video, it was very informative.

    Anita Reply:

    I’m kind of starting to feel like a broken record… but I never said men are inherently violent, and I never said women don’t enjoy and play violent video games. And I did explicitly state in the video for this very reason, that I’m not in anyway saying all violence in video games is bad.

  3. A few games I enjoy on my iPhone and iPad are Trainyard, Crayon Physics, and Carcassonne. In Trainyard, you have to configure the train tracks to get the trains to the appropriate places without crashing – a lot harder than it sounds! Carcassonne is a version of the board game where you build towns, roads, and fields to score points. Crayon Physics involves drawing simple shapes and using physics to catch a star.

  4. Great post as always.

    I just wanted to comment to thank you for always providing a transcript with your videos. So much content online has gone to video only that it’s often frustrating to someone who, at times, simply prefers reading an article rather than watching it.

    Thanks again.

    Max Reply:

    Like I said, I went back and re-watched the video, and I understand were I was wrong. Again, please accept my apologies.

  5. Love this post. I’m a gamer myself, but I’m always frustrated at the lack of a variety of games to choose from. I rarely play on a traditional platform (my Wii) unless I’m playing the new Zelda game (which even then…when will Zelda save her own kingdom for once?).
    So I do find myself playing on my iPhone or iPad. My favorites are Muddled, Fruit Ninja, and Spider. Most recently, when Bjork came out with her new album, she also made an App, where you can visualize and experience each song within an individualized game. It’s really neat. Apple has also been coming out with the Myst games on both devices, which I’m enjoying playing again after so many years.
    I love your suggestions, though. The Contre Jour game in particular sounds right up my alley. Thanks! And I love your videos! :D

  6. Thanks for this; I enjoyed your list. When I had the iphone I also played a game that I believe was called “Cat Physics.” It was similar to “Cut the Rope” where you use physics to get an object (maybe it was a cat treat?) from one side of the screen to the cat on the other side. I’ve always enjoyed the problem-solving games with entertaining graphics.

    I also wanted to comment on your description of violent video games as being “testosterone driven.” I believe that the connection between testosterone and aggression is largely inconclusive in research, although it is certainly perpetuated in cultural lore. I think we need to go beyond the testosterone=aggression/estrogen=nurture dichotomy as descriptions for what we associate with women and men.

  7. [...] Feminist Frequency discusses the Top 10 Best Non-Violent iPhone Games: It’s no secret that the gaming industry is still unfortunately a very male dominated, male centric place (from the developers to the storylines to the in-game characters). [...]

  8. This is a great post. I grew up playing games on my friends’ Atari 2600s, segued into my own NES, then SNES, then Playstation and X-Box (I sorta stopped there), with PC games being the constant in the background. I’ve certainly played the hyper-masculine violent FPS games, though it takes a particularly well-crafted entry in that genre to stir me to play. Despite the budgets and artistry and craft in most of the Modern Warfare or Battlefield or Gears of War or God of War or Warfield of Wargods of War IV: WARTIME, the games themselves are of little interest to me.

    That said, I’ve still been guilty of dismissing puzzle games as “casual” or “not serious” or, in my embarrassing teen-aged years, as “girl games.” That’s right, I’ll own up to it. My male gaming friends and I had disdain for puzzle games. Not because they weren’t violent, but because they didn’t involve narratives, and because they were the type of game that attracted non-gamers (a term which — to us at the time — loosely meant anybody that wasn’t a boy between the ages of 9 and 18). I hope I’ve advanced my critique since then, but I figure I might as well admit to the fact. Particularly, since implicit in the label “girl games” is the assumption that all other games are somehow “boy games” or that an “everybody game” is still male-normative.

    Anyway, I think it’s important for so many reasons to highlight games which do not fall into the category of these 14-year-old-adolescent-boy-fantasy-of-destruction-and-misogyny games. Be they violent or non-violent. From the point of view of male, today’s young men and boys have many more games to choose from than I did at their age, but the biggest and brightest stars are all entries featuring muscle-bound soldiers shooting ish up. Overshadowed are the quest games with rich stories and storytelling, which were essentially puzzle games, but with the puzzles contextualized. Or the RPGs that centered not on slaying monsters (though that was definitely a part) or rescuing princesses, but on moral choices and virtue. These games were a huge influence on my world view as a kid, and I can’t imagine that Gears of War won’t be an influence on 10-year-old boys today, and how they interact with women.

    I love your videos, they’re always poignant and sometimes they challenge me, reminding me that as a dude, I don’t just get to carry a “feminist card” and stop working at this stuff. Thanks for doing these.

  9. Thanks for your recommendations. I knew about half of the games you mentioned and I’m already checking out the rest.

    In case you don’t know it yet (maybe you do but it didn’t make the cut to TOP10), my all-time favorite non-violent iOS game is Halcyon.
    Halcyon’s premise is simple: you’re given some harp cords, “currents” (i.e. arrows) appear and you must link them by color. It starts off very easy but the difficulty ramps up quite a bit, so expect a challenge.

  10. No Crayon Physics (http://crayonphysics.com) or Katamari Damacy (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Katamari_Damacy)?! For shame!

  11. Osmos is another great physics one.

    I adored World of Goo but I have to say the ‘beauty school’ section with the female goos was just insulting (in terms of themes not gameplay, which was as awesome as ever). I’m really amazed that no one ever mentions this at all, it’s like I’m the only person who saw those levels or something :/ They seem pretty blatantly terrible to me.