I suspect that Studio Ghibli is a familiar name to plenty of us. Set in breathtakingly fantastical worlds that transport us to experience something that is both out of this world yet grounded in our own humanly relatable themes and difficulties from life, death, and ageing (just see Only Yesterday, and Howl’s Moving Castle) has made each and every gorgeously animated movie favourites in all our hearts.
After reminiscing about the incredible Level-5’s Ni no Kuni that was created in partnership with Studio Ghibli, the company’s iconic art and animation is carried over into this emotional journey where we are the ones in our protagonist’s shoes to experience this unique world. It was popular enough to see the animation of a full length movie for distribution on Netflix which saw generally positive reviews. But we all know of Ni no Kuni, right? As we are all fans here of Japan and video games, I thought we should take a look at games that evoke a similar feeling to those portrayed in the works of Studio Ghibli and celebrate them for their creative premises.
The Girl and The Robot
Movie comparison: Castle in the Sky
This game is most certainly not for everyone. Clocking in at only 5 hours to complete and finishing off at a cliffhanger for an unannounced Act 2, The Girl and The Robot has it fair share of problems. In fact I should warn you of its janky controls that many may have to force themselves to overcome and ignore to enjoy the unique experience it offers. Because despite this, it offers appealing and creative puzzles, a system that requires changing perspectives from either the girl or the robot to navigate the world and progress the story, and a wonderful, original soundtrack.
After protecting the girl by using the robot as her knight in rusty armour, have her heal him up and escort her to safety from the castle by carrying her on the robot’s shoulder. It’s adorable, and while it’s a tiny tale of minimal proportion, I can only wish that The Girl and The Robot makes a return one day. On top of its many endearing attributes, it has gorgeous and very Ghibli like character designs that guides you through this fantastical world that is immediately reminiscent of Ghibli’s very own Castle in the Sky. Such art and designs very clearly show the influences of the movie, and it’s topped off with game mechanics and an overall look similar to the PS2’s ICO.
Experience this endearing tale on Steam or PS4, the latter being a very nice looking and cheap physical copy as well!
Movie comparison: Spirited Away
A possibly more out of left field selection that I do not see mentioned often enough when discussing Ghibli-like video games is Little Nightmares. This is understandable, as I first felt this connection in a much later chapter. The few amazingly executed chase/escape sections of the game are truly frightening as we are put into Six’s shoes to experience the literal scope of her tiny, almost none existent hope as we attempt to escape in one piece from her many intimating, and much bigger foes. This is best exemplified with the unforgettable guest scene, as from one greedy guest hungrily stumbles and crawls their way to snatch up our little Six ends in the formation of a massive pile-on as every single guest you flee past becomes entangled and desperate to add you to their dinner plates.
Such scenes in particular remind me of certain moments from Spirited Away, from Chihiro’s initial first steps into the Spirit Realm as her parent’s gluttony takes the best of them, to most fittingly for the similar situation, the No Face chase sequence. Little Nightmares is an experience unlike any other, with a haunting story, terrifying villains, and an unforgettable finale that you won’t be able to forget about with a simple night’s sleep.
Immerse yourself in a truly nightmarish world with Little Nightmares available on PS4, Xbox, Switch and Steam, and keep an eye out for its upcoming sequel!
Movie comparison: Nausicaa/Princess Mononoke
Here we have a throwback title for all you JRPG lovers. Jade Cocoon is often recommended for those seeking more Pokemon like games, as the game uses a monster capture system to use enemy monsters as allies in its turn based combat. Jade Cocoon happens to have the most linkage to Ghibli, as its character designer Katsuya Kondo is the key animator of Kiki’s Delivery Service, Howl’s Moving Castle and Ocean Waves, to name a few. Considering that his specific art style is the most identifiable as representation of Studio Ghibli, just like Dragonball’s Akira Toriyama when it comes to the Dragon Quest franchise, this most certainly would have been a mistake to not include in our list. Its familiar looking art is a continuous joy to lay your eyes on, especially evident in the game’s opening animation.
Jade Cocoon is exclusive to the PS1, and for those who have missed out on experiencing this title, be sure to add this to your collection as a gorgeous older title with a brilliant story that captures the nature and nurture themes of Nausicaa and Princess Mononoke. You can really see the parallels to Princess Mononoke through Jade Cocoon’s largely mystical forest setting and close connection with spirituality. Add to this some addictive combat mechanics, and visuals that manage to withstand the test of time (although we would love to see a remaster!) and the result is a gem of a PS1 title that is a joy from start to finish.
What games do you think are Studio Ghibli-esque? Let us know in the comments below!
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