Rare’s 2006 life sim Viva Pinata is a unique beast, which, we admit, is not the strongest start for an article discussing similar games. The principle is simple: you must attract pinata animals to your garden, and you’ll do so via a variety of different means, including planting grass, adding ponds, or even letting them eat other pinatas that have taken up residence.
Viva Pinata and its sequel, Trouble in Paradise, espoused a strange atmosphere that balanced adorable pinatas with brutal kill-or-be-killed food-chain simulation. It stands to reason, then, that there aren’t too many games out there that are strikingly similar, but if you know where to look, you can find games that might scratch the same itch. Here are the best games like Viva Pinata to play right now.
Viva Pinata: Trouble in Paradise
Let’s begin with the obvious. Viva Pinata: Trouble in Paradise is the 2008 followup to Viva Pinata, and it’s pretty much the definitive expression of the idiosyncratic gameplay style that the first game began. This sequel adds more creatures, two new types of garden, and a lot more challenges to tackle, but otherwise, it’s the same ridiculously compelling mixture of gardening sim, animal-rearing game, and kooky minigame collection.
Viva Pinata: Pocket Paradise
In essence, Pocket Paradise is a DS port of the original Viva Pinata, albeit one with a few differences that should make it feel like a new experience if you’re familiar with the Xbox 360 game. In general, though, your goal is still to attract a diverse range of pinatas to your garden, sprinkling your little corner of paradise with whatever those pinatas need to thrive. Here, the game is controlled with the DS stylus, making it feel more tactile and direct than the sometimes clunky controller-driven systems of Viva Pinata.
Viva Pinata: Party Animals
We’re going to throw up a disclaimer here. Don’t play Party Animals unless you’re absolutely desperate for some more Viva Pinata. It’s a Mario Party-style minigame compilation rather than a traditional Viva Pinata game, and it wasn’t created by Rare, either; Microsoft handed off development to Ty the Tasmanian Tiger studio Krome, and the results, while perfectly pleasant to pass an afternoon, likely won’t keep you entertained for too long.
Bugsnax has a similar feel to Viva Pinata; it mixes cutesy creature design with a lurking undercurrent of “wrongness” that you’ll have to play the game to uncover. You arrive on Snaktooth Island to investigate the disappearance of legendary explorer Lizbert Megafig, and to do so, you must catch a variety of the titular Bugsnax, each of which turns a beloved food item into an ambulatory critter. If that already sounds odd, trust us: it gets weirder.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons
Although Animal Crossing: New Horizons doesn’t have much in common with Viva Pinata in terms of tone, it does have some of the same landscape-shaping options, and attracting animal villagers to live in your town is achieved in a somewhat similar way. New Horizons is far more relaxing and far less sinister than either Viva Pinata or Bugsnax, so if you wish those games were just a little less dark, this is the experience for you.
Described by its developers as a “3D pet simulation sandbox”, Wobbledogs has you raising a hive of constantly mutating dogs, “physically simulated all the way down to their guts”. It’s wonderfully gross in a way that will appeal to children with an eye for the disgusting, which, let’s face it, is most kids. Don’t worry, though; it’s not violent or cruel. The world of Wobbledogs is an adorably colourful one that will probably look familiar if you’ve spent a lot of time with Viva Pinata.
Again, Pikmin is a somewhat sideways jump from Viva Pinata, but just like Rare’s game, Nintendo’s real-time strategy blends cute aesthetics with a surprisingly brutal of nature’s redness in tooth and claw. Unlike in Viva Pinata, though, you’re not restricted to your garden; you’re free to explore the world of Pikmin 4, and, indeed, you must do so if you want to rescue your compatriots and escape the hostile planet on which you find yourself.
In Slime Rancher, your goal is, as you might expect, to farm slimes. You’ll roam the game’s world, collecting different kinds of slimes, growing crops, and building a farm. As you play, you’ll upgrade the tools you have, allowing you to expand your farm, create new gadgets, and build your slime ranchin’ empire. This isn’t a Viva Pinata clone by any means, but it does share an offbeat sensibility with Rare’s long-missed series.
Unfortunately, as we’ve already discussed, Viva Pinata really does feel like a one-of-a-kind prospect. That means you’re not going to find a game that’s identical to it no matter how hard you look, so you’ll need to start dipping a toe into the farming simulator genre if you want to approximate the feeling you get while playing Rare’s game. As the arguable pinnacle of the classic farm-’em-up, Stardew Valley should be high on your list for that fix.
Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts
You can pick up Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts as part of the Rare Replay compilation on Xbox One (which is also available via Xbox Game Pass). Again, the gameplay is not similar to Viva Pinata; this is a Lego-style racer in which you build a car and then complete a series of racing-come-platforming challenges. Still, with Viva Pinata’s Grant Kirkhope on soundtrack duties and Rare’s signature style in evidence, the aesthetic is similar enough that you may well still get a kick out of Nuts & Bolts.