While evolution was already an observable phenomenon long before Charles Darwin began his studies on the subject, the scientist was the first to develop a coherent theory to explain how life adapts and continues to survive through the ages. While Darwin’s theory of evolution has its flaws, 163 years after the original publication of About the origin of species, we still use his work as an outline of contemporary research. It’s no wonder, then, that Darwin Day, February 12 – the scientist’s birthday – has become an annual celebration of the power of the human mind to understand the world around it.
While the scientific community once disputed the concept of evolution, the phenomenon is now part of everyday life. And evolution has become so popular that even video games have started to take inspiration from it for specific mechanics. Yes, most games have their depictions of evolution completely wrong. But that doesn’t make them any less fun! So, to celebrate this year’s Darwin Day, we’re putting together a list of five games that revolve around the concept of evolution. Let’s celebrate the popularity of a hard-hitting scientist by playing games that completely missed the mark of his research!
man eater puts you in control of a baby shark who needs to eat, grow, and learn new abilities, while exploring an open world filled with tasty humans to get revenge on the shark hunter who killed your family. It’s a wacky concept, sure, but fun, allowing the player to find new and gruesome ways to devour every unlucky swimmer in their path. At the heart of the man eaterThe progression system of is an upgrade tree inspired by the concept of evolution and mutations. By controlling your shark’s mutations, players can make it the ultimate alpha predator, allowing it to survive longer out of water and even giving it the ability to generate electricity. No need to wait for generations to see the result of natural selection, man eater will deliver new mutations to you with one click.
Available on: Xbox Series X, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Nintendo Switch and Microsoft Windows
Ancestors: Humankind’s Odyssey
Taking Darwin’s teachings more seriously than other games, Ancestors: Humankind’s Odyssey gives players the goal of having their clan of primates survive for millions of years. While the core gameplay is based on survival mechanics, with players controlling a primate to explore the world around them, there is no single player character in Ancestors: Humankind’s Odyssey. Instead, players can take control of different members of a primate clan as they attempt to gather food and encounter deadly predator encounters. Over time, new generations of the clan are born, each exhibiting new mutations that could give them an advantage against the harsh environment. So while playing Ancestors: Humankind’s Odyssey, you can see how small changes can add up, transforming your primates into a whole new species over thousands or even millions of years.
Available on: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Microsoft Windows
Spore grants players godlike powers when controlling the evolution of microscopic species until it becomes complex enough to create civilizations and conquer the universe. Instead of relying on luck, as nature does, in Spore, players can choose which mutations their creatures will inherit, setting the evolutionary path that will ensure their survival. Since there are so many choices to make, it is possible to play again Spore and end up with a whole other civilization in the end. Although the game does not reflect the randomness of evolution, it is still an exciting god simulator that allows the player to see how small changes in a single-celled organism can lead to beings that can walk, to talk and build spaceships.
Available on: Mac OS, Microsoft Windows
Defining itself as a “reverse horror game”, Carrion puts you in control of a creature escaping from a secret lab and killing all humans in your path. Instead of containing a biological trap, you are the result of an experiment gone wrong. To survive the guards desperately trying to stop it, the formless creature you control must ingest flesh and grow in size, while evolving and learning new tricks. The creature can mutate and gain new abilities by absorbing DNA material, such as infecting humans and becoming invisible. Thus, by learning to adapt to the environment around it, the creature becomes more deadly and players gain access to new areas that they can explore while searching for more biological material to consume. It’s a unique kind of horror game that shows how lucky we are that natural evolution works at a slower pace.
Available on: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Mac OS, Microsoft Windows, Linux, Nintendo Switch
Pokémon (entire franchise)
The franchise that comes to everyone’s mind when talking about evolution-themed games is, without a doubt, Pokemon. In more than 25 years, dozens of Pokemon games have flooded the market with cute creatures that you can capture, train, and evolve into more powerful species. While PokemonThe evolution system ignores the actual rules of the process, the franchise has already developed many different ways to evolve creatures into new species. While upgrading Pokémon is still the primary tool available to trainers, some creatures will only evolve by touching a specific item, reaching a certain level of happiness, or being traded with another player. Newer game generations also add learning specific moves or standing on particular locations to the mix of different ways to evolve Pokémon, adding a puzzle layer to training your creatures.
Because Pokemon is the largest (and most profitable) game franchise in the world, everyone knows it and even understands how basic evolution works in games (and anime, manga, movies, trading cards…). Far from natural evolution, Pokemon shows how the concept has become so popular that even great games can emulate it.
Available on: Every Nintendo console
Evolve (Honourable Mention)
The reason why To evolve is not on the official recommendation list, the game is no longer playable. While you can still play To evolve if you purchased the game, the official servers were shut down in 2018, which makes it more difficult to play the game with your friends. And since To evolve was a multiplayer-only experience, there is no legal and easy way to play it anymore. However, To evolveThe basic concept of is so great that it deserves to be remembered.
In this asymmetrical competitive game, a group of four human players must hunt down a creature. A fifth player controls the creature, trying to avoid hunters while feeding, growing, and gaining new abilities. So while the hunters’ goal is to kill the creature as quickly as possible, the player controlling the creature must avoid conflict until they evolve enough to defeat the hunters. Sadly, To evolve was so poorly balanced and filled with microtransactions that the game became a complete failure. The core evolution concept is great, though, and we can only hope other developers will try it again in the future.
One for each of the Nine Kingdoms.
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