Earlier this summer I was browsing the Nintendo Store looking for a game to dive into before the fall semester started. The sale section caught my eye as a college student looking for a good deal, and I stumbled across the 2020 Spiritfarer game.
I had heard good things on social media about this game, the visuals looked amazing, and the mechanics fit my preference for relaxed video games.
The main character in Spiritfarer, Stella, is tasked with guiding spirits into the realm after forming bonds with them as the next Spiritfarer traveling through this unknown world on a pirate ship. Everdoor is the most important place in this world as it is where Stella brings spirits; a beautiful but haunting expanse of red water reflected in a circular arch.
Each new location is accompanied by appropriate music, a small detail that makes me love it even more. I can talk about the score for days and sometimes turn on my Switch to listen to it while doing homework or reading.
This game is a perfect combination of Animal Crossing visuals, Stardew Valley music and Super Mario Bros platforming with an open world feature. It reminds players to take care of their passengers by feeding them their favorite foods, hugging them when they’re sad, and even sleeping when it’s too late to travel.
Beyond the relationships players build with the spirits they encounter, there are many building blocks needed to progress through the game. Each spirit has their own custom house based on their character’s design, and the player must travel through the realm to find rare materials and play mini-games in the process.
One of my favorite mini-games is the one where Stella heals a dragon afflicted with a mineral ulcer (aluminum, quartz, etc.) and helps remove shell-like stones from its back.
My English major also likes the deep narrative structure built into this game.
Aesthetic games like “Spiritfarer” spawned an entire subgenre of beautifully visual games with deep narrative arcs. For people who fear first-person shooters like Fortnite and Call of Duty, but are bored with short-form mobile games, the cozy aesthetic game genre is the perfect place to start your video game exploration.
When I discovered Animal Crossing as a kid, I couldn’t believe a video game could look so cute. I had grown up with Sonic the Hedgehog, Smash bros and Mario Kart, games that relied on fighting or racing to succeed.
Animal Crossing taught me so much about normal life at a young age—learning to pay my mortgage, try not to upset my neighbors, and shop wisely. I also learned about wildlife without knowing I was learning about wildlife. Animal Crossing’s engine aligns to the player’s hemisphere, so flora and fauna are in season based on the player’s clock.
Other game genres have clear goals and objectives. These games create an experience for the player to find their passions in gaming.
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The spirits you meet in this game have left the mortal world, but still hold something that happened in their previous life. Stella is tasked with listening to these spirits and preparing them for the transition to a new world. Some spirits will tug at your heartstrings. Others will tease you and make you hope their transition is quick. But that’s what I loved about this game: it makes you travel through each person’s life, regardless of who they are as people.
Video games have stereotypes of violence, gore, and explicit content that discourage people from exploring how creative and beautiful games are waiting for players to find them. Just like “Spiritfarer” for me, if I hadn’t logged into my Switch in search of a new adventure, I would never have known about this enchanting game and its haunting yet comforting take on death.