It’s been a long and rather brutal winter for many of us in the northern hemisphere, and there just aren’t enough snow days in the world to make all the cold fingers and buried cars and frozen pipes worthwhile. Needless to say spring can’t come soon enough. If you’re struggling to get through these last few weeks of frost and flurries, just think about all the fresh green growth and budding flowers coming our way—or try burying yourself in a few of these flora-heavy games instead.
Let’s get this one out of the way since it’s the most obvious title to mention. Flower is a game about flower petals caught in a breeze and imbued with gentle, boundless momentum. It’s also a game about stunningly natural grass motion that, six years after its initial release, is still pretty darn impressive. It was also made by the studio that would go on to create Journey, one of the few games that has managed to one-up Flower’s soothing and joyful gameplay.
What a weird and beautiful little thing Pikmin is, its colorful plant-animal hybrids marching around in fluttering leaf and flower-topped masses, following orders and occasionally getting gobbled up in the process. Pikmin may not be the most explicitly floral game on this list, but these little sprouts definitely have the most personality.
Lili follows the story of the titular character as she works on her graduate thesis and tries to help an island of indentured constructs being ruled over by a caste of particularly rude spirits. Lili herself is a botany student with oversized glasses, practical shorts, a stylish haircut and (if you’re playing the PC version) a penchant for collectable hats. The game’s combat, if you can call it that, consists of hopping on the backs of hulking spirits and plucking flowers from their shoulders until they yield. It’s a pretty distinct system, and on top of that the game’s witty writing will charm your practical shorts right off.
Ubisoft’s endearing experimental game Grow Home came out of nowhere earlier this year, and although it may be lacking in big flashy flowers it’s full of unique interactions with the world’s plant life. Various sprouts, shoots, blooms and leaves exist largely to help mobilize chirping bot friend B.U.D. as they stumble and bumble their way around the area. It may be hilariously phallic when B.U.D.’s guiding new plant shoots around, but that doesn’t make it any less neat.
Essentially an educational game about the processes fuelling most flowering plants, in Reach for the Sun the player will spend most of their time frantically clicking and swiping at their plant. They’ll be managing everything from the absorption and dispersal of nutrients to the harvesting of seeds as they do, and using the literal fruits of their labor to progress. While it’s not the most engaging or replayable game, it looks great and it’ll give you a solid understanding of just how all those pretty little flowers come to be.
Plants aren’t exactly the focus of Miasmata, but the way you interact with them still stands out. Flora exists to be plucked from the landscape, rolled up into little wads and cut into samples which are then examined and processed into different medicines. The player character can only hold so many specimens at a time, leaving the leftovers to be stored in trays in the makeshift botany labs scattered around the game’s island. All of this makes the flowers of Miasmata seem much more tangible than you might expect, and its crafting that much more tactile.
Flower Town is the Nintendo 3DS StreetPass game with the most charm and longevity as far as I’m concerned. I’m far less excited to see what puzzle pieces I can get from someone than I am to see what breed and color of flower they’re toting around. I’ll select which of my plants I want to grow further or pollinate and trot out to meet them in the game’s idyllic little garden plaza. If I’m lucky I’ll get a new seed variety, plant that in its own individual pot, and grow something rare and exotic. Or maybe I’ll be saddled with yet another tulip to sell. Either way, Flower Town delivers a quick and easy dose of spring any time of the year.
Why Garden Warfare and not the original? Replacing the turrets in your tower defense game with plants is novel enough, but it’s nowhere near as interesting as a botany-based third-person shooter. You have to admit there’s a spark of brilliance there, particularly given how gritty and cynical that genre can get.
If this list was about games that happened to have beautiful flowers in them, it would be three times as long and all over the map. But as much as I wanted to limit this to games where you interact with plants and flowers in novel ways, I really wouldn’t be able to submit this without mentioning the gorgeous environments of Morphopolis. This hidden-object adventure game may have received mixed reviews, but there’s loads of richly-colored and lushly-detailed plant life present from start to finish. Just about every scene of this game is fit to be framed and hung on the wall.
It’s a shame how few people know about this peaceful puzzle game that can be dug out of the depths of Desura if you’re so inclined. Little Gardens tasks players with fitting differently-shaped pieces of a garden into a given space. As you place each tile flowers bloom, trees creep upwards, and rabbits and other animals pop into being and begin snuffling around the expanding green space. It’s minimalistic and very relaxing, but since it features gardens in multiple seasons it may not be the best choice for those looking to scrub winter from their mind.
“Does Viva Piñata count?” A helpful friend asked me while I was figuring out what to include on this list. I replied, “I don’t know what the heck Viva Piñata counts as.” I’m not even sure Viva Piñata knows what Viva Piñata counts as. But you do carefully tend a garden in it, and it is just about the most colorful and cheerful game out there. Forget spring, let’s talk summer.
Janine Hawkins is a games writer based in sunny Canada. You can find her written and video work on HealerArcherMage.com or follow her on Twitter @bleatingheart.