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If You’ve Ever Seen a Deer Doing Deer Stuff and Thought “I’d Be Great at That,” You Should Try Tokyo Jungle

There are a plethora of games that let you explore neighborhoods in Tokyo. Persona 5 lets you explore Shibuya in between Jungian psycho-fantasy. In Yakuza, you can fist-fight your way up and down a fictionalized version of Kabukicho. Even Digimon Cyber Sleuth allows you to feel smugly superior to those basic Pokemon fans in a recreation of Akihabara. But only one game lets you explore a post-human version of the metropolis as a giraffe: Tokyo Jungle. 

The magic of Tokyo Jungle is that it lets you inhabit a wide range of animals and live a gamified version of their life cycle. It’s a game designed specifically for people who get personally invested while watching nature documentaries. If the novelty of an arcade action game starring exclusive animals doesn’t appeal to you on a personal level, it probably isn’t the game for you.

There are two game modes in Tokyo Jungle: Story mode and survival mode. Both are different flavors of absurd. In story mode, you will run through a few missions as specific animals with overlapping stories. These missions range from a genuinely heartbreaking story about a pair of deer fawns looking for their mother to leading a revolt against a yakuza-style gang of dogs. It even veers into sci-fi in later chapters, as the extinction of humanity is explored. 

It’s this simpler, narrative-free survival mode that really shines. The goal is simply to survive long enough to reproduce, playing as many possible generations as you can. There’s a simple joy that comes from being a cow trying desperately not to be eaten by a city full of lions and bears, or conversely from being a cheetah stalking a gazelle. The game’s simple combat adds to the feeling of animalistic fun, feeling satisfying but easy to learn. Most importantly it lets you play as any of the game’s wide variety of animals from jackals to elephants, each feeling distinct. 

Over a decade after its release, Tokyo Jungle still feels singular in allowing the player to feel like they’re living a nature documentary. It’s the only game to understand the primal appeal of all gamers: to live the life of a deer. 

I would recommend Tokyo Jungle to anyone who:

  • Gets personally invested in nature documentaries
  • Thinks they missed their calling by not being born a zebra
  • Wants more quirky games

I would not recommend this game to anyone who:

  • Can’t handle seeing animals die in games
  • Needs complicated combat 

Tokyo Jungle is available on PS3 and PS5 via PS Plus Premium