50 Of The Best Non-Violent Video Games [Updated For 2023]
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 are 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 on 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 2022, 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 2022]
Best Non-Violent Video Games For Nintendo Switch
1. Animal Crossing
Developer Description: “Escape to a deserted island and create your own paradise as you explore, create, and customize in the Animal Crossing: New Horizons game. Your island getaway has a wealth of natural resources that can be used to craft everything from tools to creature comforts. You can hunt down insects at the crack of dawn, decorate your paradise throughout the day, or enjoy sunset on the beach while fishing in the ocean. The time of day and season match real life, so each day on your island is a chance to check-in and find new surprises all year round.”
2. Super Mario Maker 2
3. Splatoon 2
4. Super Mario Odyssey
5. Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker
6. Katamari Damacy Reroll
7. Pokemon: Let’s Go Pickachu!
8. Just Dance 2022
Tetris Effect: Connected
9. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe
10. Mario & Sonic At The Olympics 2020
11. Yoshi’s Crafted World
12. Super Mario Party
14. Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze
15. Super Mario 3D All-Stars
16. Donut County
17. Spirit Of The North
18. Luigi’s Mansion 3
19. Yoshi’s Crafted World
20. Kirby Star Allies
21. Paper Mario Origami King
22. Pikmin 3
24. Stardew Valley
25. Rocket League
27. Star Wars Pinball
28. Civilization VI
29. Tony Hawk Pro Skater 1 & 2
30. Kentucky Route Zero: TV Edition
Best Non-Violent Video Games For PlayStation 4 & PlayStation 5
31. Gran Turismo Sport
32. Rock Band 4 (also consider Guitar Hero)
33. Crash Team Racing: Nitro-Fueled
34. Stardew Valley
38. Astro Bot: Rescue Mission
39. Tetris Effect
41. Little Big Planet 3
42. MLB The Show
43. Kentucky Route Zero: TV Edition
44. The Witness
45. Civilization VI
46. Night In The Woods
47. FIFA 21
48. NBA 2K22
50. Dear Esther
51. Sackboy: A Big Adventure
Best Non-Violent Video Games For Xbox One & Xbox Series X
1. Portal 1/ Portal 2
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.
2. Cities Skylines
3. 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).
4. Disneyland Adventures
5. Zoo Tycoon
6. Bridge Constructor
7. Old Man’s Journey
8. Super Mega Baseball 2
9. Forza Horizon 4
Best Non-Violent Video Games For iOS
1. Super Mario Run
2. Civilization VI
Developer Description: Students can grow civilizations across millennia as they learn about diplomacy, important historical figures, and the patterns and trends that cause societies to change.
3. Sims 4
Best Non-Violent Video Games For Android
4. Democracy 3
5. Pokemon Go
More Examples Of Non-Violent Video Games
Wikipedia Description: “Tetris 99 is a multiplayer puzzle game in which 99 players play against each other at the same time, with the aim to be the last player remaining.”
Our Description: Craft…
8. Never Alone
9. Way Of The Turtle
12. The Gardens Between
13. The Talos Principle
14. SimCity BuildIt
15. The Kids We Were
16. Sky: Children Of The Light
18. Harvest Moon
19. Farming Simulator 2019
20. Sonic Dash
23. X-Plane Starship
69. Old Man’s Journey
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
50 Of The Best Non-Violent Video Games [Updated For 2023]