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The Bestest Best Landscape Of 2014: Mountain

Mountain Of Mellowness

Most PC games are about terrain, but Mountain was the only monadnock this year to cause the RPS chatroom to feel empathy, to mellow, and to excitedly compare notes.

Alec: Passive game-viewing is the new game-playing, apparently. I’m not quite ready to leave the homeland and sign aboard the HMS Twitch myself, but Mountain made for a happy medium. The game that plays itself. The game that tells me when something of note has occurred. Hell, the game which tells me which emotion to feel. A simple line of text and a tiny musical sting evokes so much more than an impeccably-rendered CGI face trying to show love or regret while orchestral strings swirl, it turns out.

Mountain is nothing more than a slightly adjustable window into somewhere else, and a kernel of tranquility amidst the chattering chaos of everyday electronic life. It’s not something I’d ever have said I needed, but it turned out to be just what I needed. I just wish it had arrived a little later. The RPS Hivemind found calm and joy on the increasingly not-so-bare mountain not all that long before Certain Events In Videogameland. Perhaps it could have been a much-needed eye to shelter in during that particular storm.


Pip: I loved my mountain when it first showed up and delighted in the little pings and "thoughts" it would share as we both went about our business. I took dozens of screenshots, glorying in the different types of light and the weather effects, keen to capture the same thing over and over like I was Monet discovering a haystack over and over again. It was a calming thing. A kind of desktop bonsai tree.

But then the stuff started arriving. Whimsical stuff. A horse, a clock, a skull all crashed into my mountain. I wanted to lean into the screen and pick them off. They seemed crass and jarring. I wanted the changes in my mountain to be erosions and landslides, forests and forest fires – not these junkyard gewgaws. The skull was okay though. I'd decided it was a memento mori. I still found the mountain calming but I didn't want to look at it as much.

And then Graham's mountain died. I don't think any of us is quite sure what happened to it but he woke up after leaving it running overnight and pffft – no more mountain. After that, having mine open was like sitting with a Buckaroo donkey on my desk. I knew it would eventually snap and break, losing its covering of knickknacks and detritus. Sure I could restart but it wouldn't feel the same. That one was mine.

Mountain is a tiny thing, and sparked a lot of angry BUT IT ISN'T A GAME spluttering. I don't care. I enjoyed the experience I had with it and felt strongly enough about *my* mountain that I will never boot the game up again once it's gone. That's a rare feeling and one worthy of comment.

Graham: My mountain died :(

I knew there was an expiration date set for my pet rock, but I thought we had more time. After a charming day spent peering at its beautiful details and sharing notes of its detritus with everyone else in the RPS chat - I just got a horse! Ooh, you've got a lovely umbrella - I went to bed and left it running. I was looking forward to waking up and surveying all that happened across the evening. Alas, too much had happened, it seemed.

Like Pip, I never booted the game up again because it felt wrong. I had interacted with my mountain only so far as to spin the camera around it, to fast forward time, to find the mysteries in its skies, and to tinker with the playable notes, but the distinctions between my collected tat and Pip, Alice, Adam and Alec's still made it feel mine. The experience could have been repeated, but it couldn't have been replaced.

It's easy to be dismissive of experiences so slight and so briefly interactive, but if you've ever enjoyed watching a tiny videogame world bustle away after you've put down your control, or relaxed with something like Rainy Mood, then Mountain has something to offer you.

You can find us sharing our first thoughts on Mountain over here.

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The all-seeing eye of Rock, Paper, Shotgun, the voice of many-as-one.