10 Best Games With Non-Playable Protagonists

After its successful launch towards the end of 2021, the award-winning indie puzzle game Unpacking was recently ported to PS4 and PS5 on May 10, 2022. Although the game focuses on a female protagonist as she goes through different stages of her life, the player does not control her. Instead, the player lives their story by unpacking and placing their belongings each time they move.

In the same way as the game Unpackingthere are games where the player is a separate entity that only guides the protagonist through the game. In titles like Super Monkey Ball, the protagonist moves on his own and the player can only try to direct him to the correct path.


Wonder Project J

Tinker fairy showing robot boy Pino a chicken in Wonder Project J.

While most life simulation games have in-game characters that the player doesn’t fully control, these virtual “lifeforms” usually won’t even try to do anything without the player giving them orders first. In the 1994 Super Famicom game Wonder Project J, however, the protagonist will do the weirdest things if the player isn’t careful. Created by Almanic Corporation, which also developed EVO: In Search of Edenthe game asks players to raise a robot boy named Pino.

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After Pino’s creator is arrested by the robot-hating government, the player, as the fairy Tinker, must raise the young robot instead and help reduce discrimination against robots in the process. When Pino interacts with the environment, he will make his own choices, and Tinker must encourage or reprimand these actions. Although a Japanese-only game, it was one of the best-selling Super Famicom titles, and it had a 1996 Nintendo 64 sequel titled Marvelous Project J2.

htoL#NiQ: The Fireflies Diary

A green light character mentioned in Hotaru no Nikki

Before Nippon Ichi Software made other storybook-inspired games like Yomawari: Night alone, A rose in the twilight, and The lying princess and the blind prince, they created the 2014 PS Vita puzzle adventure game htoL#NiQ: The Fireflies Diary. Set in the year 9999, the game centers on a young amnesiac girl named Mion who wakes up deep in dark and desolate ruins.

Because they want to help Mion escape the ruins and see the outside world, two fireflies named Lumen and Umbra must help Mion navigate the perilous world. As the firefly Lumen, the player guides Mion and directs her to certain interactive objects. Meanwhile, Umbra lives in the shadows, and the player’s actions in the shadows affect the real world.

Experiment 112

A screenshot from the game EXPerience 112

Same for games like PS2 game 2003 On the operator side, known as safety rope in North America, and the game Itch.io 2022 Feeding_log_01172013, the obscure adventure game of 2007 Experiment 112 doesn’t have the best gameplay, but it has an extremely unique concept that’s well worth trying. The game begins with Lea Nichols, who is the sole survivor of a search party, waking up on an abandoned boat.

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Instead of controlling Lea, the player is behind the facility’s security cameras. Although Lea doesn’t trust the player, she decides to work with the player in order to survive and find out what happened. As Lea moves around on her own, the player can use cameras, open doors, control robots, read emails and more to solve puzzles.

Samorost Series

A screenshot of the third game in the Samorost series

Developed by Amanita Design, who recently created the horror puzzle title Good game, Samorost is a trilogy of surreal point-and-click puzzle adventure games that originally started as a series of Flash games. Each of the games follows a humanoid creature known as “Gnome” as they embark on several adventures across the galaxy.

Instead of controlling or talking with Gnome, the player helps Gnome on his travels by clicking on items in the environment. Since there is no dialogue or inventory, the gameplay is simply about progressing through each of the crafted and bizarre environments by clicking on various things in the correct order.


A screenshot of the PS3 version of the game Echochrome

Inspired by the impossible figures of Oscar Reutersvärd and the works of MC Escher, echochrome is a 2008 monochromatic puzzle game that uses the object location environment coordinate system, which is a coordinate system where 3D environments are determined by camera position. For example, if the camera is moved so that a pit in a road is no longer visible, the pit no longer exists.

Viewing the 3D structures from different angles, the player guides the profane figure moving independently to each of the level’s objectives, which are represented by shaded “echoes”. The success of the title led to a direct sequel called Echochrome II and a spin-off called Echoshift.

loop hero

A new twisty map is randomly generated in Loop Hero

One of the many unique games released by Devolver Digital and one of the best RPGs released in 2021 is the deck-building roguelike Hero loop. After the evil Lich destroys reality and forces everyone into a timeless loop, the titular hero awakens in a small camp on a randomly generated circular path and embarks on a journey to defeat the Lich.

Since the hero moves and fights on his own in a loop, the player influences things indirectly by giving the hero specific items to help him in battles and placing landscape cards around the path to slowly rebuild the world . Each landscape map gives various positives and negatives. Eventually, it is revealed that there is more going on in the plot than initially appears.


A promotional photo for the game LocoRoco

Developed by Japan Studio, which also worked on The legend of the dragon and the Monkey Escape series, LocoRoco is a 2006 PSP puzzle platformer whose success led to two sequels, a spin-off and a mobile version. The games center on a species of colorful blob-like creatures called LocoRoco who live on a vibrant and peaceful planet.

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After the arrival of a group of evil aliens called the Moja Troop who attempt to take over, the planet itself awakens to help the LocoRoco defend themselves and their home world. As a planet, the player moves the world in different directions in order to guide the LocoRoco through the various puzzles.


A screenshot of the remastered version of the Patapon game

Another beloved franchise from Japan Studio is the award-winning rhythm strategy series patapo, which started with the original 2007 PSP title and led to two sequels. The titular “Patapons” are a tribe of anthropomorphic eyeballs who travel across the lands in order to reach Earthend and gaze upon “IT”. To help them on their journey, the player, considered an invisible deity by the Patapons, gives them orders using drumbeats.

Before each mission, the player selects the combat units that will be used, and each of these units has different skills. During the missions, the Patapons must fight various enemies such as giant beasts and the enemy tribe Zigotons, and their actions are determined by the specific drumbeats which correspond to commands such as “attack” and “defend”. If the player keeps up the pace, the Patapons will go into a “fever”, giving them buffs.

Kirby: Curse of the Web

One of the main promotional images for Kirby: Canvas Curse

Released in 2005 for the DS, Kirby: Curse of the Web, known as Kirby: Power Paintbrush in Europe, is a platformer and spin-off title from the biggest Kirby franchise. Next to Kirby’s Epic Yarn, Kirby: Curse of the Web is one of the top rated Kirby titles on Metacritic, and it has a 2015 Wii U sequel titled Kirby and the Rainbow Curse. unlike others Kirby games, players cannot directly control Kirby in this area. Instead, the player uses the stylus to draw rainbow roads for Kirby to ride on.

RELATED: 10 Best Kirby Games According To MetaCritic

After the evil witch Drawcia entered Dream Land from a portal in the sky, she turned Dream Land into a painting world and cursed Kirby into having no limbs. As Drawcia’s rogue paintbrush, the player guides Kirby through the levels in order to defeat Drawcia and restore Dream Land to its proper state.

Super monkey ball

Aiai race in Super Monkey Ball

Originally starting out as an arcade game called monkey ball, the platform franchise Super monkey ball is a popular and ongoing series since GameCube’s titular hit in 2001. With the latest title, Super Monkey Ball Banana ManiaComing to release in late 2021, the series is shown to be still going strong with an active fan base.

Although the exact list varies from game to game, the game generally centers around a group of cartoon monkeys who are in gachapon balls. Unlike Atari’s popular arcade game The madness of marble, the player does not control the characters. Instead, they move the cards themselves in order to guide them to the end of each level.

NEXT: Super Monkey Ball Banana Mania’s 10 Hardest Stages Ranked

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