11 Environmental and Conservation Video Games

Whether you are looking to solve puzzles, explore open worlds or discover your hidden architecture we might have options for your next adventure.

11 Environmental and Conservation Video Games
Restored Terra Nil Map. Photograph: Terra Nil Website

For many playing games allows us to explore wonderful worlds and solve head scratching puzzles. While the term 'touch grass' is widely referred to in the gaming community for the lack of time spent outdoors, exploring the environment through technology has never been easier. All of the games listed are featured in no particular order, trailers are available below my verdict should you wish to investigate the games more. To avoid spoiling the fun of the listed games I have written a short description, helping you get a taste of what is to come.

Whether you are looking to solve puzzles, explore open worlds or discover your hidden architecture we might have options for your next adventure.

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Terra Nil

Restored Terra Nil Map. Photograph: Terra Nil Website

Key Features

  • Procedurally generated landscapes
  • Calm relaxing music
  • Beautiful graphics

In-Depth

Terra Nil is a relaxing environmental strategy game, in which you are challenged to transform procedurally generated landscapes from wastelands into thriving ecosystems. Using a range of machines your task is to purify oceans, cultivate forests, remove hazardous waste and reintroduce wildlife. While strategy games might invoke feelings of stress Terra Nil has an undo button for most actions, relaxing music and audio cues. Alongside this the game has beautiful graphics which are not hidden by complicated user interfaces.

Along the way you'll explore new technologies assisting your restoration efforts, such as controlling the climate and burning greenery. Once your work has been completed you must recycle every machine used. Using recyclers navigate the restored environment with a boat or drone and pick up all the machinery used to restore the once barren wasteland.

Once you have done all that you can observe your hard work before restoring another area using new technology.



Eco

Eco Gameplay. Photograph: Steam

Key Features

  • Advanced ecological features
  • Single or Multiplayer experience
  • Vast open world

In-Depth

Eco is a fully simulated open map filled with thousands of thriving plants and animals. Live of the land by building, harvesting and taking the resources needed to construct your humble abode. But can you do all this with an imminent meteor strike due?

Your goal is simple: stop the meteor by advancing your technology, however, careless actions may prove detrimental before you have a chance to prevent the strike. Thankfully the meteor can be turned off in the game's settings for more a chilled approach that allows you to get the hang of the mechanics or simply play casually

Whether you go alone or with friends, construct houses and form small villages. Hunt or tend to farms to feed your appetite and others. If you do not have a green thumb, specialise in one of the many industries and support your friends along the way. Collaboration is essential in this game.

Trade and buy goods using shops and create your own currency or barter your way through. Eco has hundreds of delicacies for your character to eat, though you'll only find out which you like and dislike by eating them. Balance your diet to gain more experience.

Every organism in Eco exists as part of a detailed simulation; with disruptions causing cascading effects. If your specialisation causes pollution to flow into the rivers your farms will become poisoned and die. Eco has extensive tools allowing you to monitor your impact on the world, and if you form governments you can create laws putting an end to harmful actions. The future of the world is in your hands.



Planet Crafter

Planet Crafter Map. Photograph: Steam

Key Features

  • Single player or Multiplayer
  • See the planet change as your terraformation progresses
  • No bosses or enemies, only the harsh oxygen depleted environment

In-Depth

You have been tasked by Sentinel Corp to transform a desolate planet filled with minerals habitable for humans. To do this team up with friends or go solo and explore what the planet has to offer. But before you can transform the planet you need to build a base of operations.

Once you have a base, fill it with technology to assist your recovery and quality of life. Explore crashed ships and discover some lore as you unearth secrets. Utilise their untouched resources to support your mission. You may need a lot of storage if your inner loot goblin takes over.

Craft tools to assist your exploration and restoration of the red planet into a green on. Use plants, drills, heat and more to geo-engineer the entire planet. Use technology to track your progress and as you advance new technology makes reaching the next milestone easier. As you add clouds, water and an atmposhere you'll witness the first signs of life with moss and insects and unleash the planet's full potential with thick forests and animals.

While some mechanics might seem unusual such as solar working efficiently during the night, these features help balance realism and quality of life. You can customise the gameplay difficult should you wish for a chill or hardcore experience.



Endling

Endling Gameplay. Photograph: Steam

Key Features

  • Emotion inflicting storyline
  • Explore polluted environments based on real current issues
  • Care for you cubs and meet other animals.

In-Depth

Endling takes place in a polluted earth caused by humans, smoke chokes the planet, toxic waste pollutes the rivers and waste litters the land. Despite these conditions you are tasked to survive and thrive in this impacted environment.

This BAFTA (2023) award winning game starts off by introducing you to a pregnant fox mum, who has to escape a burning forest fire, a stag set alight and avoid being hit by a truck. What a series of events! After settling down in a dark den she gives birth to four cubs. It is at this point the main storyline develops.

In this desolate environment you are the sole surviving fox on Earth and your cubs require all the support you can provide to thrive. Your sole responsibility is to help them, teach them and save them.

Explore the regions around your den and make sense of the world ravaged by mankind through the eyes of the last fox. Avoid predators and traps which pose a risk to your cubs whilst caring, petting and feeding them by exploring the world ravished by humans, under the cover of the darkness. As you explore the environment discover cut scenes explaining the events that took place and unlock new paths to explore (no spoilers here). Will you explore cautiously or confidently?



Spilled

Spilled Gameplay. Photograph: Steam

Key Features

  • 8 Bit style graphics
  • Simple gameplay mechanics
  • Instant feedback of your progress

In-Depth

Spilled is a new game to the market with a demo version currently available. Despite the limited gameplay currently available the game is simple and intuitive. Spilled has no back story, though you are greeted with a world littered with plastic and oil. Your mission is to rid the lakes of the pollution helping restore the environment.

As you collect oil and plastic you gain coins allowing your progress to be enhanced. Currently you can improve the movement speed of your boat, oil collection and size of the boats collector.

As you rid the world of pollution the waters turn lighter and you can start to see the fish repopulate. Along the way you will flush animals out of oil slicks adding them to a database.

Spilled has lots of potential to add new features and expand the possibilities it has to offer. Currently it is due to release in November, based on their successful Kickstarter campaign.



Preserve

Preserve Gameplay and Cards. Photograph: Steam

Key Features

  • Multiple levels of terrain to contend with
  • Calm relaxing music
  • Vibrant graphics

In-Depth

Preserve is a strategy hexagonal placement game, where your aim is to create a thriving, balanced ecosystem. While the game is currently in a demo phase, with a release date of late 2024, the current demo gives you a taste of this mechanic within a single biome. The current game also has a limited selection of flora and fauna which is sure to be expanded on.

Preserve makes you think about the placement of rivers, trees and animals, considering the symbiotic relationships between each element. As well having to contend with high, middle and low terrain heights. Rivers placed higher will be able to flow down tiles for example. While there is a small learning curve you'll soon be seeking the optimal conditions for goats, boar and more.

Through playing the game you'll observe the striking colours and detailed designs on each card you play adding to the overall experience. Finally you'll feel a sense of satisfaction by creating the ideal habitat for swarms of bees and watching your ecosystem thrive.



Growth

Growth map. Photograph: Nintendo Store

Key Features

  • Procedurally generated maps
  • Calm relaxing music
  • Animals meet Minesweeper experience

In-Depth

Growth is a cozy hexagonal-grid based strategy game where you role is to explore procedurally generated maps and unlock new biomes. Your aim is to explore and expand an ever-growing, procedurally generated map by cleverly connecting clusters of wildlife. Navigate to points of interest or go your own way and unlock new hexagonal tiles turning them from grey to luscious green. Should you explore a point of interest you'll be rewarded additional animals, points and in some cases special ones. Explore mountain ranges, rivers, meadows and more helping add a variety of colours to your map.

To explore new tiles use animals such as deer, boar and bees, encountering their special abilities. Use their abilities carefully to navigate the cliffs and rivers blocking your path, some may provide a solution to explore over the cliffs. The more tiles of the same type such as forest you connect, the more animals you can explore with. Perhaps you'll start saying "I need a goat" to explore the cliffs, utilise the animals abilities to get maximise value. But do not explore to quickly as running out of animals might mean you loose the game and have to restart.

Reaching 100% allows you to add additional sectors to the map and continue your restoration process. Fortunately you do not need to recover every tile to reach 100%, making the playing experience less stressful and is a useful quality of life feature. With no two maps the same each gameplay will be unique allowing endless possibilities. Whether you are looking for a quick break from work or a relaxed puzzle session, Growths' intuitive gameplay lets you explore a beautiful landscape, tile by tile. How far will your animals allow you to go? Record your final score and compare it with your friends to see who has grown the best map.



Distant Bloom

Distant Bloom Gameplay. Photograph: Steam

Key Features

  • No battles or other hardships to survive
  • Watch the planet restore in realtime as you make progress
  • No tutorial, helpful tooltips are provided when needed.

In-Depth

Having located the perfect planet and undergone a long journey through space, you and and your team from Atra 2 arrive on an alien planet. However it becomes apparent that planet is not as hospitable as you first though. Having crash landed on this planet your first task is to find the other pods which have landed across the planet.

Discovering piles of garbage and a lack of greenery you start to question what happened? After receiving the ExoScani, by Elder Umarell you can start to learn about life on the planet. Support the plants by stripping away pollutants which are causing the plants harm and watch the landscape change in real time. Explore different climates and adjust what you plan to better suit the environment. As you restore more of the planet the revitalisation bar increases offering a second way to track your progress.

As you explore the planet you will discover the land is quite the maze, allowing you to discover new paths which may act as shortcuts. Freeing your fellow travellers will help you unlock new routines by getting access to new tools. What else will you discover on your journey?



Beyond Blue

Beyond Blue Gameplay. Photograph: Steam

Key Features

  • No combat
  • Large index of animals to explore
  • In-built camera tool and editing software

In-Depth

Beyond Blue is a chill exploration game without the need of combat, also meaning you take no damage, furthermore there are no stats to monitor like food etc. Thus meaning you can swim near sharks without the fear of being attacked. While the game features a main quest you are not bound to complete it immediately, meaning you can explore along the way, unfortunately you may come across some pollution such as car tyres as you explore, reinforcing the need to protect our oceans.

You enter the game as Morai, a marine biologist, raised to love the sea by her free-diving Grandmother. Some of the back story is explained before you dive into the game (pun intended).

Inspired by Blue Planet 2 the game uses a simple narrative to encourage you to explore the oceans scanning animals along the way. However as explained in the storyline some animals need to be scanned multiple times over several encounters. For some the repetitive actions of scanning might not suit their play style, on the flip side it could be argued it adds realism. Completing more scans of all creatures great and small unlocks new information that can be watched in the submarine between the eight missions.

Finally should you find a moment in the game you'd like to keep use the games in-built tools to make that moment last, and adjust the hue, vignette, tilt and more.



PolyPine

Poly Pine Gameplay. Photograph: Steam

Key Features

  • Every element is interactive
  • Simple game mechanics
  • Watch changes in real time

PolyPine is an environmental incremental forest simulation game, where you create habitats for range of plants, insects and animals. Watch tree roots and trunks grow in real time and observe birds come and go as the season changes.

Most elements in PolyPine are interactive, such as bird nests, squirrels and deer, with different animals bringing a benefit to your eco-system. Clicking a squirrel will make it jump and drop a seed if it is holding one, clicking the seed will plant the tree. Likewise clicking a bees nest makes them multiply (though neither are recommended in the real world). However should trees grow too closely this will affect the trees roots, and slowly kill the tree.

Currently PolyPine is in an early demo phase, therefore the current available elements are limited however, this makes the game easy to learn, helping you create a thriving eco-system. Use seeds to grow birch, pine or spruce trees allowing you to add squirrels, birds, bees and more. Perhaps you'll add flowers to encourage insects to begin with.

Polypine has calming piano music to play along with and can currently be played in your browser. Currently the game is due out next year (2025) on the Steam workshop. Can you turn a desolate wilderland into a thriving forest?



Eden Crafters

Eden Crafters Gameplay. Photograph: Steam

Key Features

  • Single player or Multiplayer
  • Option to choose from a range of planets (at full release)
  • Explore the world in style with various vehicles.

Currently in demo with a scheduled release of autumn 2024 Eden Crafters appears to have some similarities with Planet Crafters (planet restoration) and the opposite of Satisfactory (machine building) however, the trailer and demo allow us to explore how the game is unique in many ways.

To restore the planet you will have to explore treacherous landscapes and radioactive zones utilising transport, helping transform a hostile open world into a habitable settlement. Osaris Games explains that each planet will come with different challenges in your quest for a new Eden, allowing multiple play throughs and difficulty levels. Whichever planet you land on gathering materials, mining the destructible terrain and crafting tools, will be essential to building the foundations of a flourishing civilisation.

While the sound effects are minimal at this stage I presume the developers will work on this alongside other features before its official launch.

Currently there is a demo which can be found via Steam.