In the early 2010s, a new subgenre of video games emerged, and the term “walking simulator” was coined to describe them; the term initially had a pejorative connotation.
It should go without saying that walking simulation is not the intended purpose of these games. Instead, the term was coined because many story-driven games stopped including traditional gameplay mechanics, leaving the player with little to do besides repeatedly pressing the W key.
Most walking simulators share the fact that they are story-driven, are typically experienced in the first-person perspective, and, if they offer anything besides walking, it’s usually just puzzles.
If you’re new to walking simulators but interested in trying out some great titles, keep reading! We’ve compiled a list of some of the best games in the genre to date.
We’ll start with Dear Esther, a 2012 game widely regarded as the ancestor of all walking simulators because it pioneered the genre’s deliberate pace and focus on storytelling.
An unnamed island in the Scottish Hebrides serves as the setting, and the player learns more of the story as they progress through the game via letters written by the protagonist to his late wife.
But there are also oblique hints scattered around. However, the player is ultimately responsible for making sense of the game, as there are no clear explanations for the game’s overarching plot or the characters’ true identities.
After debuting in 2008 as a Half-Life 2 mod, Dear Esther was remade for a new commercial release in 2012. Also, in 2017, it was re-released as a Landmark Edition after being ported to the Unity engine.
The Stanley Parable
By putting the player in the role of the game’s protagonist, an average office worker named Stanley, The Stanley Parable serves as a shining example of innovative storytelling. A seemingly omniscient, fourth-wall-breaking narrator gives the player instructions and explains the game’s events as they unfold.
This is where the previously mentioned fourth-wall breaking begins, and the story goes off the rails, diverging into a number of possible directions, many of which are downright bizarre, which is what gives The Stanley Parable its charm.
The Stanley Parable isn’t your typical walking simulator, and like Dear Esther, it was originally a mod for Half-Life 2 in the Source engine before being remade in Unity and set for release in 2020.
What Remains of Edith Finch
What Remains of Edith Finch is a fresh take on the walking simulator genre and is widely considered among the best games of its kind.
The Finch family home has been meticulously recreated for the player to explore and learn about the lives of the departed Finch family members. The player is given brief opportunities to experience the game from the perspectives of other members of the family, and as such, the game features a number of inventive gameplay segments that deviate from the standard walking sim template.
What Remains of Edith Finch is an unforgettable experience that is an absolute must-play if you’re a fan of this subgenre because of these segments, the care that was put into the environment design, and the way that the story is presented.
Next up is Gone Home, another excellent game that shares some design elements with What Remains of Edith Finch but isn’t quite as polished.
Gone Home, like the aforementioned game, has the player investigate their recently abandoned home. In contrast to the brightly lit interiors of What Remains of Edith Finch, the game’s settings are much darker, giving off more of a horror atmosphere.
Gone Home isn’t quite as good as the aforementioned games, but it’s still a fantastic example of how to introduce multiple interesting characters through environmental storytelling.
Tacoma shares some similarities with its predecessor, Gone Home, and was created by the same team.
The story primarily occurs within a space station in orbit, and its protagonist, Amy Ferrier, is a corporate operative sent to retrieve the station’s data and the core of its artificial intelligence, ODIN. The player is free to roam the station and learn about the lives of the crew through audio recordings accompanied by augmented reality holograms of the crew members.
Visually, the game is solid; the environments were designed with care, and the characters’ holograms are the only weak point. Even though the game is extremely short and the plot and character development can feel a little lackluster at certain points, the sci-fi setting works quite well, and the game is still easily ranks among the better walking sims that you’ll come across.
Frictional Games, the creators of Amnesia: The Dark Descent, have created a new horror game called SOMA. Although SOMA was designed from the ground up as a full-fledged horror game in which enemies actively pursued the player, a “safe mode” was added later that essentially transformed the game into a walking sim by rendering all enemies completely passive.
Underwater Pathos-II research facility can be explored freely in safe mode, without worrying about real-world dangers. If you’re not into scary games but do like narrative and discovery, then you’ll probably enjoy playing SOMA in this mode.
The game’s story is well-written and moving, and it delves into some intriguing topics, primarily existential ones. Additionally, the atmosphere, music, and environment design of SOMA work together to create a unique and unforgettable adventure.
Next up is Firewatch, a critically acclaimed video game that won a slew of awards and was widely praised by reviewers.
The player assumes the role of Henry, a man who, in an effort to escape his “real-world” problems, takes a job as a fire lookout in Wyoming’s Shoshone National Park in the year 1989.
Unlike most walking sims, which feature little to no character interaction and dialogue, Henry has lengthy conversations with his supervisor, Delilah, via walkie-talkie throughout the game.
Firewatch is a superbly implemented video game that leaves no player apathetic by the game’s final credits thanks to its engaging setting, believable protagonists, and heartfelt story.
The Vanishing of Ethan Carter
In the next game, The Vanishing of Ethan Carter, players take on the role of paranormal investigator Paul Prospero as they investigate the disappearance of the game’s namesake, Ethan Carter.
The true ending of the game requires the player to solve a number of puzzles as they explore the deserted town of Red Creek Valley, most of which involve recreating murder scenes. Paranormal Lovecraftian overtones and a short stealth section inspired by horror games are present, but the game’s primary strengths lie in its setting, narrative, and puzzle design.
Overall, the game doesn’t offer much that hasn’t already been said about other walking simulators. It has fantastic visuals (especially the remastered Unreal Engine 4 version), a fantastic atmosphere, and a nice sense of variety thanks to all the different side stories the player will encounter.
The Painscreek Killings
The murder mystery atmosphere of The Painscreek Killings will appeal to fans of The Vanishing of Ethan Carter.
The player assumes the role of Janet, a young reporter who is determined to uncover the truth behind the mysterious disappearances of the people of Painscreek. The game’s puzzles are designed to mimic real-world investigation, adding to the game’s immersion but also increasing the difficulty. The game’s semi-open world allows a degree of freedom not usually seen in walking sims.
The developers claim that the total playtime for The Painscreek Killings is anywhere from ten to twenty hours, making it more than just another walking simulator. Twenty dollars for a game with potentially twenty hours of content is a steal, but if you like games where you don’t have to explore outside the main storyline, this one might not be for you.
That Dragon, Cancer
Numinous Games, the creators.
Numinous Games, Inc., Publisher
Windows PC, Apple iOS
Games that are based on real events are rare. A game’s story that makes the player reflect on their own existence is even more rare. Both requirements are met by That Dragon, Cancer, making it a must-play for any gamer’s schedule. The developers at Numinous Games made this tribute to young Joel Green, who passed away from cancer.
That Dragon, Cancer is primarily an aesthetic experience with minimal gameplay, but the story and characters are so engaging that this is hardly noticeable. Games can leave an impression for a variety of reasons, including their gameplay, their graphics, or their story. The mechanics may be lacking in the Dragon, Cancer, but the emotional impact will last as long as you remember it.
Giant Squid, Inc., Developer.
505 Games is the publisher.
System Requirements: PC, PS4, Xbox One, or Switch
The art director of Journey and Flower has brought his vision to life in ABZU, and the result is a visually stunning adventure that takes place across the vast, mysterious oceans of the world. Take in the sights as some of nature’s most exotic and fascinating creatures swim alongside you as you explore a thriving underwater world.
In this game, you play as the Diver and navigate the ocean, encountering various marine animals along the way. Witness as thousands of fish react to your every move and flee danger as you swim alongside them. Are you up to the task of finding the lost treasures at the ocean’s depths? Will you survive the perils of the ocean floor, or will you perish there?
Even though it more closely resembles a “swimming” simulator than a “walking” simulator, we’ll go with the former.
Loiste Interactive, the developer
Loiste Interactive is the publisher.
Powerful elite troops. Crippled detectives who can spot the smallest of details with ease. Luminary warriors from beyond the stars. Normal structural engineers. When we buy a new game, these are the personas we most look forward to adopting. We said “ordinary structural analyst” as if you haven’t wanted to be one since you were a teenager, but we both know that’s not the case.
INFRA is a walking simulator that lets you live out your fantasy of solving mechanical and electrical puzzles by, well, walking. You wish you could be more of a hands-on structural analyst during a crisis. You don’t get on a “best walking simulator” list by being dull, and INFRA certainly isn’t. A visual treat that sends you on an adventure through a crumbling structure that could crush your skull.
That’s a lot of pressure, especially for a walking simulator.
Creator: State Variable
Fifty Five Games, Inc.
PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One
There is usually a secret or a hidden truth at the heart of most walking simulator games. Players assume the role of FBI agent Anne Tarver and head to a small town in the great state of Virginia in order to look into the disappearance of a local resident. It’s immediately apparent that someone in Burgess County knows the kid’s whereabouts, but identifying that person will be challenging.
Tarver has to fight off the town of Kingdom, Virginia’s reclusive residents in her head as she exposes the evil at work there. The more she talks to the people around her, the more she realizes that they all have something they want from her. But regardless of whether or not a missing child is part of that agenda, Tarver and her partner Maria Halperin are about to embark on a journey that will alter their lives irrevocably.
White Paper Games, the creators
White Paper Games is the publisher.
PC, PlayStation 4
The best walking simulators don’t just simulate walking; they feel like exciting adventures. The former leaves you feeling accomplished or contemplating the paths you’ve taken in life, while the latter is a boring chore. Exploring an open world and coping with the realities of a fragile mind are all about forking off in different directions in Ether One.
Most walking simulators can rely on their visual presentation. Ether One is not only a fascinating adventure, but also a visually striking video game that manages to tell a story about dementia without trivializing the disease. The further you progress in Ether One, the more you’ll come to appreciate how vulnerable we are to mental breakdowns that leave us doubting our own perceptions of reality.
Optimism is not a requirement for a top-tier walking simulator game.
The Unfinished Swan
Programming Team: Giant Sparrow
SCEA, the publisher.
PS4, PS3, Vita, and Other Platforms
A swan may not be the most exciting protagonist for a video game. Thankfully, The Unfinished Swan isn’t just about an incomplete swan.
You will instead investigate a strange kingdom that has been abandoned. Players encounter a swan who becomes their guide on a fantastic journey as they search for the King who left it to sit. The blank slate of a world will come to life through your one-of-a-kind artistic creations.
The objective of the game is straightforward: toss black ink balls around to reveal previously hidden areas. Critics have called The Unfinished Swan a “walking simulator” because there isn’t much to it. The game is arguably one of the best walking simulators for the PlayStation Vita.
Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture
The Chinese Room, the developer
PC, PlayStation 4
After a mysterious mass disappearance, the residents of a small town must figure out how to move on without their loved ones and without definitive answers to their questions. The English village’s dispersed lights reveal not only what really happened but also how the residents’ lives are intertwined. As you learn about the actual horrors that caused the population drop, the personal stories take on a more tragic tone.
It’s easy to get lost in the grassy parks, homes that are intricately decorated to showcase individual personalities, and the abandoned small businesses that once helped the town survive in Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture, but that’s not the point. Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture is a visual feast as well as a compelling story.
Layers of Fear
Bloober Team SA, Developer.
Aspyr Publishing, Inc.
PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One
Layers of Fear’s story is more important than the game’s gameplay because of how limited the gameplay is.
The fact that it’s a horror game gives it an immediate advantage over other walking simulators. Bloober Team’s brilliant minds took advantage of this to keep players hooked as they explored the shattered psyche of a mysterious painter. Moments of fear and unease punctuate exploration in this psychedelic and atmospheric video game.
The story is about a tortured artist who is determined to finish his masterpiece at any cost. Even though the painting plays a significant role, this horror tale is actually about the author. You’ll be on your feet quite a bit in Layers of Fear, but every step will be filled with trepidation as you brace yourself for the next terrifying event.
Walking Simulator recommended requirements
Requirements for the ideal system are unknown.
Walking Simulator minimum requirements
- Eight gigabytes
- NVIDIA GeForce GTX 750 Visual Processing Unit
- Intel Core i5-2500 Processor
- 3.0 GB in size
- Windows 7 x64 Edition
Can you operate it? See if your PC can handle the Walking Simulator.
Can I Run Walking Simulator?
An NVIDIA GeForce GTX 750 is the minimum available graphics card for the game. You’ll want a processor at least as powerful as an Intel Core i5-2500 to run Walking Simulator smoothly. In order to run Walking Simulator, your computer should have at least 8 GB of RAM. You’ll need at least three gigabytes (GB) of space on your hard drive to store the game files.
The Walking Simulator is compatible with Windows 7 x64 and later versions on PCs.
In search of a better version? Use our user-friendly Walking Simulator installation guides to locate the most cost-effective playing cards. The Walking Simulator GPU and CPU comparison filter. We will assist you in locating the lowest price on all necessary equipment for the game.
Walking Simulator Details
|Two Actors (Within the Past Day)
|Indie Action Role-Playing Game
Walking Simulator Release Date
|Friday, March 5, 2020
What Does a Walking Simulator Look Like?
The plot of Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture unfolds in an unconventional radio play format, with a sci-fi atmosphere reminiscent of H. G. Wells’s work. What really sets this game apart is the strong emotional connection you feel to the setting and the people who live there. In Yaughton, an abandoned village in Shropshire, players are accompanied by a glowing orb that leads them from one location to the next. Even though Yaughton itself is made up, I recognize the county of Shropshire where it is set, so the interiors and village layout were eerily accurate.
The game’s attention to detail is on full display in all of its settings, from the vases displayed in the stairwell homes to the farmer’s home, which features farm implements on the kitchen table and, in a devastating twist, a room filled with makeshift hospital equipment in which the farmer had previously cared for his wife. It’s one of the few video games where I felt like a true intruder searching through someone’s possessions. Every spot in the village captures the humanity of a resident, and the overwhelming sense of loss is palpable as you wander the ruins.
Walking simulator games like Dear Esther, which takes place on a deserted island off the coast of Scotland, are also quite popular. The game creates a dreamlike atmosphere as you explore the island and learn more about the mysterious person who lives there and their motivations. The island’s significance grows with your character’s development. The gameplay is so minimal that it feels more like watching a psychological art house film than a traditional video game.
Another game that emphasizes story and player exploration is Gone Home. It’s a tale of a family, told from the perspective of the older sister who comes back from college and learns that her younger sister has disappeared. As you explore the house room by room, finding items that add depth to the story and listening to audio diaries addressed to the sister, you learn about the younger sister’s life and inner torment as the storm outside increases the tension. The house is winding and dim, with hidden alcoves and foreboding closets. The family’s darkest secrets are exposed as you sift through boxes and discover previously unknown rooms. Played on a cassette player, also a throwback to the 1990s, the Riot Grrrl soundtrack captures the edginess of alternative adolescent life at the time. Even though the game only lasts three hours, I promise you won’t soon forget what it’s like to be a part of it.
Walking Simulators Make Other Games Richer
This is not to say, however, that walking simulators can’t be fun in games that are longer than the average player’s attention span. You will eventually break into the home of an elderly explorer named Evelyn in Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End. Evelyn has an extensive collection of artifacts, including a sarcophagus and Egyptian amulets, among other things. The collector’s impressive career and troubled personal life are chronicled in a paper trail of letters, leaflets, and dusty magazines. The brothers have very natural conversation and behave like kids, picking up trinkets, trying on hats, and snapping a Polaroid of themselves. Walking around in the dark is full of tension, as is customary in Uncharted games, and leads up to a thrilling climax. And let’s not forget the unforgettable cameo by Crash Bandicoot.
When moving from one town or objective to another, open-world games frequently incorporate walking-simulator-style gameplay. Red Dead Redemption 2’s relaxed tempo and grounded depiction of Arthur Morgan’s life as a cowboy between missions at base camp struck me as incredibly welcome. His tent mates’ conversations about the day’s events and interpersonal dramas were audible from a distance. Rockstar Games took great care to flesh out the game’s settings, characters, and their connections to one another. One of my favorite female characters is Sadie Adler because she combines two qualities rarely seen in female action-game protagonists: vulnerability and fearlessness. In the first mission, you discover her while she is attempting to evade Arthur and his crew. Rockstar acknowledged the dearth of action games featuring the heroic struggles of strong women and rectified the situation.
Why Walking Simulators Are So Soothing
Walking in games has surprising mental and psychological benefits beyond just being fun to play. We have found that gameplay is positively associated with well-being insofar as play satisfies the psychological needs for competence (sense of efficacy), autonomy (sense of choice), and relatedness (sense of belonging),” Andrew Przybylski, director of research at the Oxford Internet Research Institute, told WIRED. When it comes to self-care, coping, and, in the case of augmented reality games like Pokémon Go, having a reason to get out of the house, gamers often cite their love of video games as a major source of inspiration.
Want to get away from the hustle and bustle of life by becoming a firewatcher? Firewatch is a psychological exploration game that takes place in a beautiful Wyoming setting. You take on the role of Henry, a man who has relocated to the wilderness to work as a firewatcher after escaping his marital problems.
The events of Firewatch are revealed through conversations between your character, Henry, and a fascinating woman named Delilah, who is located in another watchtower and can only be reached through a handheld radio. Your decisions in conversation shape the story and add depth to your playthrough. Henry uses a typewriter and a portable radio as the extent of his technological resources. Smoke and your own sense of isolation are constant companions as you wander through the forest and watch the night turn to day. The game’s distinct visual style was influenced by the paintings of British illustrator Olly Moss.
Firewatch is a game that encourages both introspection and discovery. It’s the closest most people will ever come to experiencing total seclusion. Particularly memorable was the plot point in which the player finds a notebook inside the makeshift fort he and a young boy have built for themselves in the wilderness. There are comic books, science projects, a toy dinosaur, and letters from his family scattered about. The narrative is spare, and as you look through the boy’s belongings, you’re struck by a profound gravity and sense of loss. You are the only one who has ever heard his story, and that’s inspiring.
Walking simulator games are a nice addition to the gaming market, and they provide players with a welcome haven for exploration, entertainment, and release. When I felt like I had nowhere else to turn, I could escape into that world through them. They allow us to temporarily step outside of ourselves, while also allowing us to experience and reflect on the physical and mental journeys of other characters. They give us the chance to question our identities, our limits, and the wonders of the world around us as we travel through it and beyond.
And those games are our picks for the top walking simulators available today. There are, of course, a great many games in this genre; if we’ve missed your favorite, please let us know in the description, and we’ll look into adding it.