One of my fondest memories as a child is playing on my old PS2. There were two different games, The Dog Island and Petz Dogz 2 (I was nearly obsessed with dogs as a kid) that had fishing and bug-catching mechanics. I devoted numerous hours to collecting every bug and fish I could get my paws on and filling out the encyclopedia. To this day I love games that let you do things like this.
Recently I’ve been enjoying Stardew Valley, which has a fishing minigame as well. While unfortunately it doesn’t have catchable bugs, another favorite of mine, Animal Crossing, fills that void quite well for me. I think the closest thing I’ve found to in-game iNatting may be the Zelda game Breath of the Wild, which lets you take pictures of things to identify and add to your compendium that way. Once you’ve found and logged something previously you can set up a radar of sorts on that fish/insect/item etc that will notify you if there’s one nearby. I’ve often fantasized about having something similar exist in real life. Imagine how many uses that could have!
Anyway that’s enough rambling from me, what are your favorite games to explore the nature in? :)
The Pokémon Snap games might help scratch the iNat itch in inclement weather, without the emphasis on combat that the rest of the series has.
That said, I think we’re still missing a “true” naturalist game (ie not a side activity like in for instance Animal Crossing or fishing in the Breath of Fire series). I’ve tried to mess around in Godot game engine with the concept, but it ended up as a messy and unimmersive experience. Games aren’t that good at dealing with things that are tiny, very far away, or both, and basically limiting it to big animals just didn’t engage the same way.
Aquanaut’s Holiday, a very rare PS3 game that was never released outside of Asia https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6CCSk1I4wtw
You play as the pilot of a tiny, adorable looking submarine and explore the fictional Kisira atoll, where all marine biomes converge.
The story focuses on the disappearance of an oceanographer in the atoll which you have to investigate. I didn’t understand much of the story because I don’t speak Japanese, but I managed to push through.
The main appeal of the game for me is that each area is full of hundreds of different marine lifeforms that you can register in an archive, much like iNaturalist.
The animal models are very realistic and well animated. Their sizes are true to life too, so certain tiny fish and nudibranchs are extremely difficult to find.
It’s possible to enstablish a communication with certain animals too. They will sing a song and you have to replicate the notes. The more you interact with them the more complex the song gets.
I forgot what the point was but they look very happy when you get it right.
Wow that brings back some memories, I played a similar game! Endless Ocean Blue World was another one I sank a ton of time into. Much of the mid-late game plot centers around exploring ancient underwater structures but there’s a lot of emphasis on studying both marine creatures and water fowl as well. I think I remember something about an albino alligator at one point? That was especially exciting!
Alba: A Wildlife Adventure is a great little game that basically has you actually iNat across a small fictional European island. It’s a lot of fun, and I’ve heard from people familiar with the animals that they a good job with real species’ looks and calls, and 3D positioning of sounds for locating animals.
This looks great, seems like I’ll have to retract my comment about there being “no true naturalist game”. What’s even better is that Epic apparently gave it away as part of their promotional thing a while back, so if you’ve been compulsively getting the freebies without actually looking at what it was (like me) you may already have it.
I know what I’ll be doing during the storm we’re getting this Saturday.
The Subnautica games (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Subnautica) have some elements of iNatting in them. They are first person survival games that involve exploring an alien world to unravel mysteries, and a significant part of the gameplay is identifying and interacting with the local lifeforms (along with exploration, crafting, etc.). Basically, you have a scanner that can identify different organisms, and give you lore, etc. on them. The games are pretty good, so if that type of game is up your alley, I’d recommend, especially if you like marine life (though parts of the games do involve going on the surface).
I started playing Pokemon Go again and find it a great companion to iNat because the places with the most pokemon content have the least iNat observations and vice versa. I love exploring urban nature but walking the same path to town 100 times, do i want to add the same pigeon each time? Not really. Conversely the areas i go to experience nature tend to have poor cell phone connectivity and no content in the Pokemon Go game. Pokemon Go still lets you credit walking to get points in the game so I actually get some Pokemon credit for doing iNat.
Also… as mentioned in the first post Zelda Breath of the Wild had a beautiful if ecologically irrational world and there was a sub-game where you could photograph creatures with your magic smartphone which literally was the same as iNaturalist. Animal crossing has similar things as well like others have mentioned.
As someone who loves making herbal concoctions and enjoys the consumptive side of nature revelry in that sense, I really love what the Witcher games offer, running around collecting myriad little flowers and veggie parts, each with their own alchemical attributes
I’ve even started to prowl in second hand stores for little phials, strainers and decocting sets I can use to make my ‘potions’
As much as I love Subnautica, it always annoyed me that I couldn’t scan the lichen and grasses. There were so many things that I wish had entries. I know they have databanks of the objects but they just didn’t integrate them into the game with names and descriptions, only the 3D images. I guess only nerds like us care about the little/“boring” creatures though.
The sheer number of scannable creatures, each with good-sized descriptions, is quite satisfying though. I have probably spent several hours reading them in-game and on SubnauticaWiki (which I don’t consider cheating if I have seen the creature in-game but will probably never scan it, like the ghost and reaper leviathans). I always love it when a game has a databank of everything you’ve found/killed.
My son loves the game Ark. He’s a dinosaur guy. Not all the dinosaurs, or other animals, are real ones but there are a lot that are real ones. I think it helps make his dreams come true a little bit that he can get up close to and tame some of his favorite dinosaurs in some capacity.
And I know it’s been mentioned already, but Animal Crossing has an impressive catalogue of creatures. There’s also a project for those creatures, which I am ecstatic about. The project is for New Horizons specifically, which I think encompasses majority of, if not all, the species from the previous games too, but I prefer New Leaf the most. That has nothing to do with the species in it. I just am talking that talk now.