The yawning abyss into the womb of the earth, the clang of metal pickaxes on stone, the flickering torchlight, keeping the absolute darkness at bay. This might seem like a nightmare to some, but to a surprising number of people, it feels like home. Mines often appear in video games, from indies to triple-A titles, usually as levels where heroes have to fight off any number of dark-born creatures as well as the darkness itself.
But lately, mining, the act of gathering resources by digging into the earth, has also been showing up as a mechanic in video games. There’s just something about it, the satisfaction of digging, discovering, and then using those discoveries to enable more digging, that captures not only the imagination but also a lot of your free time. But which games capture that feeling best?
6/6 Deep Rock Galactic
Rock and Stone! Perhaps the mining game with the most terrain-changing capabilities, outside of voxel-based games like Minecraft or 7 Days To Die. Deep Rock Galactic is a class-based looter shooter that puts you in the shoes of a rough n’ ready Dwarf, dropping into the underground of a hostile planet, completing objectives for your mining company, and then going home to prepare for the next drop.
It’s a satisfying blend of fighting monsters, completing objectives, and of course, mining. You drop into a procedurally generated map and are given places to go and goals to complete, but how you get there is up to you. Sure, you can try to find passages that lead you to your objectives, but why do that when you can make your own? Depending on your class, you have tools to drill, explode, or traverse chasms to get where you’re going. The environment is very destructible, too. If nothing else, you’ll always have your trusty pickaxe.
You’re not limited by your mission, either, since you can collect all sorts of resources and use them back home for all kinds of upgrades, from cosmetic to practical.
Don’t let the color palette and the block-breaking gameplay fool you; Terraria is far more than a 2D Minecraft clone. Sure, you go through the familiar steps, dig, gather, build, and fortify bases, but things can go quickly off the rails, especially when you start summoning bosses.
The capabilities of the gear that you acquire can get pretty wild, too. There are gadgets like grappling hooks to help with traversal and big, epic, and flashy weapons to decimate your foes with, like the ridiculous 21-in-one flying bladefest, Zenith.
4/6 Dome Keeper
Dome Keeper is surprisingly zen for a game where you fight off hordes of aliens. It’s a simple experience that you could lose hours in, your time split between mining for resources and lost technology, upgrading all your stuff, and defending your Dome.
There’s a certain harmony to it that works, despite its simplicity. Whether you lose your rhythm and your Dome explodes into a shower of glass, or you escape with the Relic and prestige, it’s all too easy to start over and do it again.
An arcade classic, to be sure, Dig-Dug might be the oldest game in the ‘digging-through-the-ground’ genre. Unlike its successors, the goal isn’t to gather resources but to inflict violence upon an array of subterranean creatures.
Despite its age, this game had some advanced concepts at the time, like its use of gravity, where if you dig under a rock, it can fall and squish you. However, if you time it just right, you can use it as a trap to squish an enemy instead.
Of course, we have Minecraft on here. Why wouldn’t it be? The game is a global phenomenon, and for good reason. It starts simple enough: you get your fists and an open world to explore. You punch trees, get wood, make tools, and suddenly there’s a whole wide world that you’re prepared for.
You can dig down, get materials, improve your equipment, and make a base that will protect you from wandering monsters. Once you master your world, there are other places to explore. The experience is as simple or complex as you want it to be, with the Redstone mechanic allowing for some truly impressive feats of electrical engineering. Play alone or play with friends; the possibilities are endless.
1/6 7 Days To Die
The Fun Pimps’ zombie apocalypse simulator is a pretty extensive Survival experience, but ‘mining’ isn’t likely the first thing that comes to mind when you start it up. Indeed, if you play your cards right, you don’t have to do much more than some surface-level mining to get your gear in top shape. You can scavenge most of your goods from the seemingly endless zombie-filled homes or as quest rewards, after all.
However, if you do get into mining, you’ll find that 7DTD might be one of the most realistic mining experiences gaming has to offer. Unlike other voxel games, blocks not only have weight but also bear weight. They can support the weight above them (and, to a lesser degree, horizontally). If they aren’t adequately supported, they can collapse, leading to fatal consequences and breaking down whole tunnel systems into an open pit if you’ve especially swiss-cheesed the ground.
You can shore them up, keep them reinforced and make sure you have stable tunnels, something you rarely have to think about in similar games. Plus, the rest of the game is pretty fun too.
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