The Dual Nature of Horses in Video Games
On the main page of The Mane Quest, I wrote that this website is about horses in video games and video games about horses.
At a glance, those two might seem roughly synonymous, but I consider them two very different topics.
Comparing the Google search results of “horses in games” with those of “horse games” illustrates the basic point rather nicely:
Horses in Games
A lot of games have horses in them. They are the go-to means of transport for many open world games set before the twentieth century or in fantasy worlds.
These horses very rarely have any needs, skills or character of their own and the differences between them are usually limited to coat colors, or perhaps a speed or stamina parameter. Horses in open world games can usually trot or canter forever and gallop for short bursts, much like the games’ human protagonists can briefly sprint, but climb and jog fovever.
Sometimes, horses are plentiful and interchangeable (Assassin’s Creed series, Red Dead Redemption), other times they are individual named companions that may even be part of the story (Shadow of the Colossus, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, The Witcher 3).
The horses are never the focus of these games, but a means to traverse the game world.
Horse Games are games that don’t only feature horses as a means of transport, but have core gameplay mechanics that are about taking care of horses.
Unlike the examples in the section above, horse games are usually aimed at casual gamers and particularly at children/young girls. Unfortunately, finding quality horse games these days is somewhat difficult. Many Web and Mobile games offer the basic features of letting the player take care of a horse, but end up having less mechanical depth than a Tamagotchi.
Horse games can vary in genre, from Point and Click Adventures to Management/Strategy games. All in all, horse games are likely to have been developed with a vastly smaller budget than the abovementioned open world games that feature horses. There is currently no such thing as a “AAA Horse Game”, although Red Dead Redemption 2 promises to feature more in-depth horse mechanics than any I’ve ever heard of.
Interestingly, while the Indie game scene has a habit of reviving so-called dead genres and profiting off people’s nostalgia with well-made homages, there don’t seem to be all that many indie horse games in development - at least not ones that have been announced widely enough for me to hear of them.
This assessment of the current state of horses in video games is something of a starting point for my “Mane Quest”.
Are modern horse games really as cheap and bad as they look at a glance? I intend to play them and find out.
Where are the horse girls who grew up to be game developers?
Will AAA adventure games start to feature horses more prominently and with more realism? Will this be feasible without alienating the players who aren’t actually looking for horse realism, but only see horses in games as a slightly faster way to get somewhere? (I heard those exist)
Find out soon, on themanequest.com.