The whole Gamechurch operation works under the belief that Jesus is totally cool with games and that maybe, given the opportunity to play them, he would actually enjoy them. In that spirit, we’ve come up with a list of ten games Jesus would genuinely love. Yes, we’re speculating here (none of us actually feel qualified to speak authoritatively about what Jesus would like), but we think it’s an informed kind of speculation.
These aren’t just any games. More than merely “fun,” they resonate with the life, message or values of Jesus himself. We think that’s worth celebrating.
1. Dropsy (PC, Mac, iPad)
The words of Christ in the Gospels are powerful; supernaturally so. The radical ethic he commands disarms and convicts the reader, and those red-lettered commandments, if adhered to consistently, compel fundamental changes in both the reader’s life and in society.
There is universality to the commands of Jesus, too. They resonate everywhere. The world has gone gaga over the ministry of Pope Francis, who under the relentless eye of the media has served with a humble heart—washing feet, preaching justice, etc.
I hear non-Christians say, “Hey, what’s up with that Pope Francis guy?” My answer? “That’s the Gospel, man.”
And that brings us to Dropsy. Yes, the animation is fantastic, the soundtrack is great, and the game drips with imagination and creativity. It’s a great production, and hats off to Jay Tholen and crew. What moves me to tears, though, is how this ugly, ghoulish, snaggle-toothed clown lives out the Gospel.
Living those red-lettered words is hard. It really is. It put Jesus at odds with the powerful in his society, and it will do the same to us. Living the words of God will make you an outcast and a fool, just like Dropsy.
Dropsy loves, serves, and forgives. He turns the other cheek. He does not turn his charity to theater. He bears scorn and hate, and he loves his enemies. He frustrates hypocritical religious leaders to serve the downtrodden. He repairs his little broken corner of the world through love.
If you haven’t read Matthew 5-7, you should; I think the Sermon on the Mount will change your life. If you’re not feeling it, take Dropsy for a spin. This fool isn’t just worth playing. He’s worth being. – C.T. Casberg
2. The Beginner’s Guide (PC, Mac)
If Dropsy is a heart-warming exploration of selfless love, The Beginner’s Guide is (super-vague spoilers here) a gut-wrenchingly immersive descent into a familiar, relatable, mundane selfishness that masquerades as love. A sucker-punch of game, its genius is the cold-hearted way it manipulates the player into thinking (along with the protagonist) that they are participating in a loving act.
Your interaction with another person or their work may make you feel all warm and fuzzy, but that doesn’t mean you’re loving them. Sometimes, what’s best for us is worse for them. Sometimes our deepest needs and desires collide and conflict like doomed planets in a vast galaxy. Sometimes personal restraint, the ability to reverse course and simply float aimlessly in the opposite direction into the vast unknown, is the most loving act. Sometimes it is good for man to be alone.
What if you could see the hurt we cause others through our thoughtless, myopic approach to relationships? What if our obsession with satisfaction, self-importance, and personal affirmation were exposed for all the world to see? What if we played a videogame that laid that tendency bare? Would we leave a better person? Or would we leave in despair and desperation, suddenly aware of how impossible pure love really is?
Yes to both. – Richard Clark
3. Her Story (PC, Mac, iPad, iPhone)
One my favorite stories in the Gospels is the Woman at the Well. In one of the longest recorded conversations with Jesus, we see him doing something rather surprising given who He was. We see Him asking questions and listening to the answers. At one point in their conversation, Jesus reveals that He knew the woman’s story before their conversation began. Because Jesus is God, He possesses a perfect knowledge of all things, including this woman.
Still, Jesus listened to her story.
Her Story, a full motion videogame by Sam Barlow, gives players one simple task—to listen. The game is played by searching through a computer database of interviews between the police and a woman named Hannah Smith who is being questioned about the death of her husband. Players are only given access to Hannah’s answers to the police’s questions, not the questions themselves, so the game focuses exclusively on Hannah’s story.
Played by actor Viva Seifert, Hannah tells stories of her troubled childhood, her first date with Simon, her miscarriage, and her complex relationship with her parents. Hannah is also caught lying and admits to cruelly mistreating her sister. By the end of my time playing the game, I had written five pages of notes, including tables of evidence for and against Hannah, multiple timelines of the events leading up to Simon’s death and hundreds of keywords that I intended to search in the database. Unlike Jesus, we can never know the full story. Her Story reminded me that whether true, false, or somewhere in between, the stories and their tellers matter. – Drew Dixon
4. Undertale (PC, Mac)
In Undertale, every violent encounter can be transformed into a desperate search for mercy. The game lets you patiently explore all of your options — many of which seem unreasonable at the time. Battles let you “flirt” to get slimes to stop attacking, or “encourage” insecure volcanic monsters, and armored dog knights make you search for a way to get them to let you pet them. Once emotionally disarmed, enemies let you select the “spare” option from the “mercy” battle menu so you can walk away from the battle with a bloodshed-free sense of victory.
The theme of mercy runs throughout the game, and there are consequences should you choose a less-redemptive path. Certainly, you can play the game as a genocidal monster-killer. But it’s clear that does not net a good resolve or the “true ending.” It’s also not the more fun way to play the game.
If anything is clear from Jesus’ story in the Bible, it’s that patience and mercy for enemies can result in the most redemptive and beautiful conclusions. Undertale subverts the idea that role playing games are about killing monsters, offering instead a costly redemptive approach. – M. Joshua Cauller
5. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain (Playstation 4)
Many games allow the player to project a persona into digital space; part of the appeal of a title like Fallout 4, for instance, is to let the player do just that. However, games rarely care who you are; they only care that you’re equipped to live out your fantasy. The why and how of your identity is rarely—if ever—questioned.
MGS V dares to take up that inquiry. For the villain, a disfigured assassin from Soviet-controlled Eastern Europe, identity is rooted in language. He is embittered by the loss of his native language and his forced adoption of the languages of his people’s foreign oppressors. His aim is to take revenge by attacking language itself, through a virus that spreads when infected individuals speak the targeted language. For Skull Face, language is a man’s identity, and he possesses neither.
For Hideo Kojima, the game’s designer, identity is memetic. The stories passed on about you give you your identity. Through a bunch of mind-bending, spoilery twists that I can’t elaborate on (partly because my brain is still reeling), Kojima entrusts the player with the legend of Boss, the main character. The person of Boss matters little compared to the stories of his deeds spread by both enemies and allies.
Next to my monitor is a prayer to God by St. Francis: “Whatever anyone is in your sight, that he is and nothing more.” This is an important truth: if God is omniscient, there is no pretense with him. There are no masks. In God there are no myths or legends. He knows our true and complete identity. Individuals made of only words or stories, like the hero and villain of MGS V, are not whole individuals. – C.T. Casberg
6. Fallout 4 (PC, PS4, Xbox One)
In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul wrote: “‘I have the right to do anything,’ you say—but not everything is beneficial. ‘I have the right to do anything’—but not everything is constructive.” (1 Cor 10:23, NIV).
This line of thinking can apply to many open-world, sandbox-style games, but it holds especially true for Fallout 4, where you are left to decide: what is beneficial for me? What is beneficial for the splintered factions of the Commonwealth? Whom do I choose to love, and how?
Paul follows up on his earlier statement with this: “No one should seek their own good, but the good of others.” When you play as The Sole Survivor, do you fend only for yourself? Some of your own companions espouse this ideology, but betray their ideology after bonding with you. Others encourage trust and friendship from day one (we love you, Dogmeat!). In a post-Nuclear world, the teachings and values of grace and love are not fully lost, so long as you choose to carry them with you. – Pat Gann
7. Soma (PC, Mac, PS4)
Soma goes beyond typical horror game expectations to get at honest human fears regarding our existence and personhood. While most video games toy with the idea of souls, Soma goes one further to question the very essence of our psyche, will, and personhood.
You step into Simon’s shoes seeing only a Canadian photographer who suffered brain damage from a car accident. But when you wake up after a brain scan in an underwater facility by yourself, you know that something is amiss. You soon discover broken robotic machines that think they’re human and talk like real people. You’re forced to make hard choices that will betray whether or not you value their apparent humanness or to treat them like machines with spare parts.
Jesus loves it when we pursue wholeness of mind, body, and spirit. Soma lets us explore the horrors of being separated from that wholeness and having to walk through the horrors of disconnection. – M. Joshua Cauller
8. Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture (Playstation 4)
If the world came to an end today, what thoughts, fears, and concerns would this produce in you? Would you be satisfied with the life you’ve lived? What would you wish you had done differently?
Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture is the first truly apocalyptic game I have played. Most post-apocalypitic games place players in worlds that have been wrecked by cataclysmic events of nearly-apocalyptic magnitude: zombie outbreaks, devastating nuclear wars, and the like. Everybody’s Gone the Rapture places players in a post-apocalypse world, a world that has literally met its end.
Most of the game is spent exploring a quaint, idyllic British town whose inhabitants recently met their end. As players explore, how the inhabitants of this village responded to the apocalypse as it drew closer and closer is revealed in orbs of light that play out the villagers last moments. As their world crumbles around them, these characters are forced to come to terms with the insecurities and fears that have drove them to make their most regretful decisions.
Jesus promises to one day come again to judge the living and the dead. Whether you believe in a final day of judgement or not, Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture does something few games have accomplished: it challenges us to consider how we’ve lived and who we really are. – Drew Dixon
9. Quiplash (Playstation 4, Xbox One, Playstation 3, PC, Mac, Amazon Fire)
Quiplash is the perfect game for exposing religious hypocrisy. It forces players to acknowledge that we’re all dirty-minded five year olds who love poop jokes.
Three to eight players answer questions on their phones and then everybody votes on everybody else’s answer. Questions are things like, “What’s the worst thing that could crawl out of your toilet” and “Come up with a name for a new beer marketed toward babies.” Inevitably, the best (worst) answers to these questions get the most votes, and the funniest answers almost always win.
With a crew of friends, Quiplash helps you learn each other’s’ sense of humor and helps players connect on a pure emotional level. Though it might be too much for religious folks who can’t laugh at a good poop joke, it cuts through religious nonsense to get to the joy of a heartfelt friendship. – M. Joshua Cauller
10. Rocket League (Playstation 4, PC)
If Peter happened to have a PS4 he played during the fisherman’s off-season, Jesus no doubt would have logged some serious hours playing Rocket League.
If you haven’t played this year’s out-of-nowhere phenomenon, it’s basically soccer with cars. Which sounds super lame! But it’s really, really fun—and nearly perfectly designed and tuned by developers Psyonix.
Jesus likes fun—he’s the one who got accused of partying too much (Matthew 11:19) and seemed to greatly enjoy a wedding reception or two. So it would make sense that he’d want to make a ridiculous car topped with a wizard’s hat (Jesus is a huge Harry Potter buff, fwiw) and join some disciples in a round of Rocket League.
There’s nothing quite like working with your closest friends to score a goal, and the sheer sense of joy conveyed by Rocket League is hard to describe. If Jesus is a Savior who offers humankind the best example of humanity, it makes sense He’d enjoy something solely designed to put a big smile on your face. – Ryan Hamm