Life imitates art… Or something like that. As my good friend Pablo Picasso once said “art is the lie that enables us to realise the truth.” If that’s the case, it must be pretty useful. So, where better to hone your artistic skills than in some art games, getting you ready to create your masterwork and realise whatever truth that guy was on about.
Art games can take many different forms. Whether it’s just an arty game, inspired by great artists, or games that harness your creativity as an integral part of the experience, there’s a lot to choose from. So, let me be your guide into all things arty, and hopefully, you’ll find some latent skill just bristling to come out.
For more games that can help you learn a thing or two, check out our guide to the best history games available portably. For more straightforward videogame fun, check out our guides to the best Mario games, best open-world games, or best retro games you can take on the go and hopefully you’ll find something you like.
Anyway, let’s get creative…
Art games on Switch and mobile
Manifold Garden – Switch and mobile
Manifold Garden felt like a bolt of lightning down the back of my spine when I first played it. I haven’t seen much chatter about it since, but it’s one of the best games I played in 2020. Over its five-or-so hours, it takes you through gorgeously built levels, full of illusory design, inspired by M.C. Escher and countless other artists. The worlds are infinitely mesmerising, folding in on themselves over and over, and the puzzles are top-notch too. While it may not engage your creativity, it shows you a whole world of someone else’s.
Passpartout: The Starving Artist – Switch and mobile
One game that does engage your creativity is Passpartout. You take the role of the titular artist, trying to make ends meet by selling art from your garage. The twist? All the art is actually painted by you! A pretty rudimentary system decides the quality of your work, and therefore customers’ interest. But it doesn’t really matter – seeing your creations in this clunky and cute game is a mini thrill, and every sale is a decent simulacrum of the highs of the life of an artist. It’s all very silly, mind you, but that makes it a lot better.
Gris – Switch and mobile
Another game that may be better defined as an experience, Gris is the story of a colourless world being reawakened. It’s calm, contemplative, and, most importantly, beautiful. It came to life thanks to two Ubisoft employees meeting by chance, knowing that they wanted to make independent games, and then going away and doing it. It won in the ‘Game for Impact’ category at the Game Awards 2019, and even though I’m not too sure what that category is on about, it sure does leave a mark on whoever plays it.
The Jackbox Party Pack – Switch and mobile
The Jackbox Party Packs are all full of different games for the arty folk out there. Most famous is Drawful, which basically plays out as a twisted game of charades. There’s also Civic Doodle, which requires all players to contribute to one drawing, leading to hilarious results. No matter which arty Jackbox game you play though, one thing is for certain: it’s bound to be a good time. We’ve got a guide to the best Jackbox games if you need help choosing one to go with.
Gorogoa – Switch and mobile
Gorogoa is a puzzle game full of hand-drawn tiles that the player manipulates to find the answers to abstract questions. It all sounds very cerebral, but that doesn’t mean the puzzles are hard to answer. The game has a magical flow, somehow guiding the player to solve the puzzles without ever feeling like it’s lending too much of a hand. For the work of one person, it’s an absolute marvel.
Chicory: A Colourful Tale – Switch
Chicory is set in a world that’s a blank canvas. Your task as the player is to fill out its colouring book, but you’re not hamstrung too much – you can basically draw anything. As you run around (as a cute little dog, which makes everything better) painting the world with your paintbrush, you can also solve puzzles in the environment. If you need more convincing, check out our Chicory review to see why we like it so much.
Limbo – Switch and mobile
Limbo, for a game more than a decade old, really holds up. The main reason is because of its art style, which completely eschews colour for an unforgettable aesthetic. While it may be a pretty simple puzzle side-scroller, the sheer amount of style it brings with it, creating such a deep atmosphere, help propel it to new heights, and, more importantly, means it still looks good all these years later.
Animal Crossing – Switch and mobile
Animal Crossing: New Horizons is all about creativity. Whether you’re terraforming your island, moving buildings around, or choosing the colour of your house, there’s so much you can do to make it your own. You can also design your own clothes or island flag, and even your own ground textures, helping everyone to create many unique worlds. If you need that creativity on your mobile, check out Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp for a good distillation of the main game’s magic.
Mini Metro – Switch and mobile
Mini Metro may appear to appeal to fans of Excel, not easels, but it’s actually the perfect game for any creative. Not only does its minimalist soundtrack create a great zen state, but building out different train lines is a creative endeavour. Just like London’s iconic tube map, this stuff takes a creative mind, and Mini Metro lets you put some of your own into it.
Toem – Switch
Toem puts you in the shoes of a photographer, letting you capture scenes in this quaint black-and-white world. As you explore, you get to meet lots of weird and wacky people who may need something, and that’s where your camera comes in, helping you to solve environmental puzzles. There’s a super chill soundtrack too, making the game a wonderfully relaxing experience. Check out our Toem review to see why it’s so good.
That’s all the art games we’ve got for now. For a more chill time check out our guide to the best relaxing games on Switch and mobile.