In 2097, life is discovered on Mars. When your mission of first contact becomes trapped by a cave-in, you must master the alien ecosystem to survive. Soon you stumble upon more than anyone expected, and with time running out, you will make a decision that determines the fate of a lost planet.
User reviews:
Overall:
Very Positive (808 reviews) - 91% of the 808 user reviews for this game are positive.
Release Date: Dec 13, 2012

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Reviews

"Surprisingly thoughtful, delightfully atmospheric, smartly written, carefully designed...it gradually unfolds its secrets without holding your hand."
5/5 – Quarter to Three

A science-fiction epic that's a delight to explore, and rewarding to play
9/10 – Pocket Gamer

The game grows around you...deep and rich, like ivy
Rock Paper Shotgun

Thousands of video games ask you to take life, but very few ask you to create it
9.1/10 – Paste Magazine

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About This Game

In 2097, life is discovered on Mars. When your mission of first contact becomes trapped by a cave-in, you must master the alien ecosystem to survive. Soon you stumble upon more than anyone expected, and with time running out, you will make a decision that determines the fate of a lost planet.

Waking Mars is a one-of-a-kind adventure in which you jetpack through subterranean Mars encountering a host of extraordinary alien lifeforms that operate as a living, breathing ecosystem. Learn and master the behaviors of these creatures to create ecosystems of your own design if you are to survive and discover the secrets of Mars’ past.

Key Features

  • Explore an open-ended network of exotic caverns.
  • Decode mysterious signals and discover long lost ruins.
  • Survive an unearthly world of strange creatures and hazardous terrain.
  • Grow a vibrant, interconnected ecosystem of exotic plants and alien creatures.
  • Cultivate one species to feed another, eliminate unwanted infestations, and research unique behaviors.
  • 2012 IGF Nominee: Excellence in Audio. Features nearly two hours of critically acclaimed original music.
  • A fully PC native control scheme, designed for both mouse+keyboard and for gamepads.

System Requirements

Windows
Mac OS X

    Minimum:

    • OS:Windows XP
    • Processor:x86-compatible, 2-Ghz or faster
    • Memory:512 MB RAM
    • Graphics:OpenGL 3.0, or OpenGL 2.1 with framebuffer extensions
    • Hard Drive:400 MB HD space

    Minimum:

    • OS:MacOS 10.6 (Snow Leopard) or higher
    • Processor:Intel Core 2 Duo
    • Memory:512 MB RAM
    • Graphics:OpenGL 3.0, or OpenGL 2.1 with framebuffer extensions
    • Hard Drive:400 MB HD space
Customer reviews
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Overall:
Very Positive (808 reviews)
Most Helpful Reviews  In the past 30 days
2 of 4 people (50%) found this review helpful
Not Recommended
0.3 hrs on record
Posted: May 15
I don't think this is a game for me, very thinly-veiled excuse for uninspiring puzzle mechanics.
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Most Helpful Reviews  Overall
72 of 74 people (97%) found this review helpful
Recommended
15.9 hrs on record
Posted: August 29, 2013
For far too long have sci-fi games been centered around violence and killing.

Thankfully this game is not one of those games. Waking Mars is a game about life and growth, not death and destruction.

Instead of some space soldier, you play as an astrobiologist on a quest of knowledge and discovery. Along the way the game gives some educational facts about Earth and Mars as well as insight on possible interactions within an ecosystems.

So if you desire games that are about growth or exploration, this contains both and should be on your wishlist or cart.
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67 of 68 people (99%) found this review helpful
2 people found this review funny
Recommended
18.2 hrs on record
Posted: October 31, 2014
Platform games aren't at the top of my list - mainly because of their limited world, low replayability and (many of them) being highly linear - however, Waking Mars is one of the most enjoyable games I've been playing lately, and for me, one of the best platform games to date. Its sci-fi/ Mars setting and artwork caught my attention; but it was the goal of creating and encouraging an ecosystem within the Red Planet that sold me on it.

The story is simple and straightforward, but it is intelligently executed and really intriguing. Character development is little, but just right. There are no enemies, only yourself, the 'flauna' and the environment - but you might be surprised at just how much of a threat you can pose to yourself. The goals are laid out before you in a no-nonsense manner: you are exploring, searching, gathering, manipulating, creating, and de-constructing to create, in a more favourable way to the environment's (and your) needs. There is something to be said for balance, and you learn by trial and error; but don't worry, there is nothing that you can't undo - though it may require a measure of patience.

The game mechanics are superbly fluid - the game runs without a hitch (it's enough for me to say that if I can run this on my present setup, anyone can - trust me). The time, work and research that went into this game is incredible. Overall gameplay is relaxing with adequate moments of doubt, constant wonder and dashes of uncertainty. It is a wonder to me that I do feel a sense of real isolation while playing - I think this is thanks to the beauty of the graphical style and the great music - but this is exactly what I would expect, it's the lonely and mysterious Red Planet, after all. The time it will take you to complete this game? It depends on you. I completed it at the listed time played.

One of the best features of this game for me was the ability to revisit any area at any time without limit. This alone makes this platformer just so non-linear. As well as being vital - you will have to travel around to resupply your seeds, revisit some areas dependant on other areas' progress, or just to re-balance an area if need be - it is a real treat to be able to return and see how the caverns have been thriving (or not) in your absence.

IMPORTANT: If non-stop action, mayhem and destruction - i.e. death-n-glory - are your bread-and-butter, you will fast become bored with Waking Mars. BUT...

...If you enjoy platform games, I believe this is a must for your collection and many will undoubtedly enjoy it. If you are a wary platformer like me, it may blow you away and you won't regret this purchase (reg. price is reasonable; on sale price, you'd be crazy not to try it).

Happily jet-packing (and occasionally bouncing) around in the ever-deepening caverns of Mars to re-awaken it... 11/10
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63 of 69 people (91%) found this review helpful
Recommended
13.5 hrs on record
Posted: May 24, 2014
Hard science fiction is a rare guest in video games. Not having any evil aliens or cool laser-shooting guns isn’t a good premise for dynamic action. Luckily, Waking Mars isn’t actually aiming at cheap thrills or fast-paced shooting, but rather prefers to be a meditative journey and succeeds at it.
The year is 2093, player takes the role of Liang, chinese astronaut, taking part in international planetary mission to Mars, studying life that was discovered in an underground cavern system. If the thought of some green evil aliens pointing their death-ray guns had crossed your mind at this point, shoo it away. Or maybe you’ve thought of some ancient ruins, secure vaults,containing secrets of advanced precursors? You’re wrong again. Life that has been discovered is rather primitive. It is a strange kind of hybrid between plants and animals. It’s called Zoa. Not much is known about these species; you will be the first and only human to make contact with it and observe it in its natural habitat.
And that is the game: travelling and observing, filling built in-game encyclopedia with articles describing behaviour and features of all types of these “plants”. Yes, there’s actually quite a lot of them. Some stay in place, some move around; some feel good on regular soil, some require acidic loam for growing. There are even those whose spores are exploding, killing all other Zoa around. There you have it, this is as much brutality as you can get in Waking Mars. While this is not the first video game declining use of violence as the main plot progression device and problem solver, not even the first among metroidvanias, it’s still an admirable feat. You wander around the caves, first on foot, later using jetpack, unveiling the beauty of an enclosed ecosystem, where various types of Zoa form a perfect cycle of life and death.
Most common obstacles on the player’s path are Cerebranes, gigantic membranes covering passages between caverns. In order to open them you’ll have to increase biomass. Picking up spores and placing them on fertile ground sounds easy enough, and it actually is… at the beginning. Increasing variety of species requires careful planning to achieve that sweet spot when that number is finally high enough. You’ll have to make everything work together with maximum “profit”. At its heart the game is nearly a city-builder where you connect houses with roads, provide appliances, keeping in mind the energy, waste and communications. Being a space “gardener” is a rather soothing process if you let it be so. This game doesn’t like those who are in a hurry, who can tip off balance so easily and want some obvious solutions. Eventually they will stumble upon a cave, where just picking up seeds and placing them on all the green spots won’t be enough. I can’t really say that Waking Mars requires out-of-the-box thinking, it’s not actually that hard, but there is space for creativity here. You can try different solutions, experiment with Zoa proportions.
The pace of the game is emphasized with main hero’s loneliness. Not in some metaphorical way, but in actual one. Liang is the only human here. His colleague Amani safely stays on the base and contacts him on the radio. This distant voice coming somewhere from above is as much company as you can get here. If you don’t count OCTO, mission’s AI, of course. It’s sci-fi after all. Dialogues being rare are wonderfully written, perfectly voiced and are presented in the right amount, are enough to keep the player’s head in the story progression, but not ruining that desolation mood.
Distinctive art-style inspired by 60s and 70s illustrations of popular science magazines glues all of that together, making this truly unique. This is a niché game, sure. But it stands out even among other metroidvanias. Being slow-paced and reflective it never becomes boring. It has that long-lost sense of intergalactic adventure and discovery, which we lost decades ago, surrendering it to Lucas’ space fantasy. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against that. And shooting can be fun too. But can we have more games like Waking Mars as well, please?
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56 of 59 people (95%) found this review helpful
Recommended
7.2 hrs on record
Posted: December 18, 2013
Waking Mars is a heavily story driven game with light metroidvania mechanics. Basically each room is a puzzle in which you are trying to increase the biomass by planting life. The artwork, from textures to character portraits, is top notch. The voice acting is professional, which in turn makes the plot focus of the game not bothersome.

It's immersive exploring the caverns of mars where you discover strange things. Also, seeing mini ecosystems emerge by your garden keeping is very neat. I thought the plot driven aspect was going to be bothersome, but it's so competently handled it's not a negative.

The only negatives that I could tell is that there's minimal in-game settings (no v-sync option I could find) and the "remove" function for planting is introduced a little too later in the game.

If you're looking for a chill puzzle game with some exploration, get this.
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54 of 57 people (95%) found this review helpful
2 people found this review funny
Recommended
23.4 hrs on record
Posted: July 19, 2015
Can't believe I never got around to writing a review for this amazing game but here goes something.

Waking mars is basically an adventure/action exploration based game that delivers a really nice sci-fi story about a planet in perpetual slumber that you must kick start so that a ecosystem of alien flora can thrive once more and then you can start to unravel the mystery of mars... who or what set this system up inside of a dead planet?

The music is topnotch, that bears a mention as well.
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41 of 44 people (93%) found this review helpful
Recommended
9.0 hrs on record
Posted: December 30, 2013
This is a well paced game focused on telling a story by letting you figure out how an alien ecosystem works. Its excellent minimalist script and remarkable voice acting do a great job at fleshing out the characters, and a few novel gameplay twists and a lot of attention paid to detail do the same for the caverns of Mars. There is no frantic combat: you follow research goals, meticulously analize ecosystems and provide solutions to advance your way deeper towars waking Mars' secret.

I felt like playing a Stanisław Lem novel - occasionally sluggish and a little bit clunky, but full of a certain wonder at discovering something monumental, with a calm, reasoned and incredibly human scientist working on the challenge together with you. Original gameplay and excellent presentation make for a clear and wholehearted recommendation.
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45 of 51 people (88%) found this review helpful
4 people found this review funny
Recommended
15.0 hrs on record
Posted: January 22, 2015
Deciding take a break from the great and loud AAA projects and start download this game. What can I say, the recent indie games please me more than popular brands. If you are looking for mega graphics then just pass by, and if you want to turn your brain to think a little, enjoy a beautiful story and finally awaken Mars, you should definitely try it!
Recommend 10/10
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82 of 120 people (68%) found this review helpful
4 people found this review funny
Recommended
14.9 hrs on record
Posted: August 23, 2014
Two lesbian mulate girls dont understand chineze guy hints and enjoy sexy time into space ship, so he end up planting seeds into deep wholes
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23 of 25 people (92%) found this review helpful
Recommended
10.4 hrs on record
Posted: May 19, 2014
Explore caves of Mars and uncover its secret life. Gather and utilize seeds to further control the ecosystem and make life flourish. Waking Mars is effectively a life simulation adventure. It offers surprisingly good voice acting and storyboard for an indie title. There's quite a variety of interesting lifeforms with a decent amount of interaction for research opportunities. The jetpack movement controls are also implemented well making for a relaxing way to enjoy this sightseeing adventure.
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33 of 44 people (75%) found this review helpful
Recommended
7.1 hrs on record
Posted: January 23, 2014
Ok lets starts by saying yes it is a little like a metroid vania clone and at the same time it doesnt try to emulate these games at all.
The game layout is similar to metroid in that the caves open up and make one huge map for you to explore but then the game starts to show you that theres where the similarities end.
Let me explain you start of on the surface of mars and then proceed to go underground to make first contact with a new lifeform,then there is one huge cave in and you find that the only way forward is to progress further into the cave and therfor further into the mystery that unfolds as you actually play the game.You eventually come across different lifeforms in the form of plants that you must actually feed with the various items you collect and then eventually you find that there is a whole eco system under the surface of mars and you also find out that the lifeforms you have received messages from actually need your help.
To progress to the point where you eventually find the ones who need your help you have to manipulate the eco sysytem are there are (doors) plants that block your progression from one area to the next and will only open when you have raised the life in that area to a certain level.
You eventually gain the ability to hover with the jetpack and this is invaluable in some later parts of the cave as some of the sections get quite tricky and this makes them slighty easier.
I love the whole atmosphere that this game was aiming for and everything does its job perfectly,the graphics are good and the music and spoken dialouge work really well (the music suits the fact that you are basically on the red planet),the script is good and the eventual pay off at the end of the story is one that is worth waiting for.
Just to say that this is a thinking persons game and there is no gunplay and basically the cave and the eco system are one huge puzzle and if that sounds interesting to you then this is your sort of game if not then stear clear and buy something else.
All in all though i really love this game and would reccommend it to anyone who likes this sort of thing and enjoys a good sci fi story with great game play elements.
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24 of 29 people (83%) found this review helpful
1 person found this review funny
Recommended
12.6 hrs on record
Posted: January 25, 2015
Story = Interesting / pretty good
Gameplay = really good
Graphics = good (aside from cutscenes / dialoges)
Guidance = overwhelming to the point of confusion
Controls = pretty good
Voice acting = decent
Replay value = not really... once 100% completed, why bother?

Overall = Well worth the money, even at full price.

Sumary: I haven't completed a game in quite a long time... and I've never once gotten 100% achievements unlocked for any game. But this game was compelling enough for me to keep going and actually get it 100% completed. I'll admit that it got a little frustrating / confusing towards the end and I ended up resorting to some outside guidance through steam discussions in order to figure out my next move, but I'm sure I could have eventually figured it out on my own if I had that kind of patience. The 3 endings for the game (not including the optional pre-mature exiting the cave ending) really helped keep me interested in re-loading the game to see the other endings, and of course, the other endings kept getting better and better. The voice acting was a bit weird in places though. Like the 3rd ending where he goes up into space, her reaction was a little anti-climactic and didn't really feel like a realistic reaction. As far as the guidance goes... the game really tries to help you out throughout the entire game, it even gives you an interface of details for each species in the game which helps a lot, unfortunately, if you forget something task related, or make a big mistake (namely the explosive seeds when you first get them and ending related areas)... it's possible to end up being stuck in the game with no clue how to progress further since you can't get the cutscenes / dialogs to repeat, so make sure to read and listen very well the first time.

Overall, I really enjoyed the game. Highly recommended for those looking for something different than usual.
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26 of 33 people (79%) found this review helpful
Recommended
7.6 hrs on record
Posted: December 24, 2013
This is the best xenobotany game. Solve puzzles and enjoy relaxing Martian cave gardening.
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18 of 19 people (95%) found this review helpful
Recommended
7.1 hrs on record
Posted: June 24, 2015
Completed in 7h, normal ending, 93.9% completion, 13800 biomass, normal ending.

Excellent exploration scifi title, quick travel to previous locations mean you don't get backtracking blues, VO is good as is the writing, really to have it explore another world via its vegetation.

It does NOT have the classic metroidvania trope of blocking off access to areas before you get upgrades, but you will get new possibilities when you come across new plants and seeds. Neat. Plus: unlimited jetpack. Come on :)

Really recommended, loved it.
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16 of 16 people (100%) found this review helpful
Recommended
13.9 hrs on record
Posted: November 21, 2014
This was a really nice chill game. I got about 12 hours gameplay out of it. Definitely would recommend, especially if you like ecology, space, science, or just exploring worlds.

The gameplay is really nice and organic. I love how unstructured it was, often having many or even infinite solutions to any problem
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15 of 15 people (100%) found this review helpful
2 people found this review funny
Recommended
13.3 hrs on record
Posted: April 5, 2015
Waking Mars is an exploration platformer where your primary direct game mechanics are picking up and throwing seeds. Really. And it is quite good.

Basically, life has been discovered on Mars. You are one of the astronauts who has been sent to explore said life on Mars. You make first contact with them and discover that they are these plant-like lifeforms, that produce seeds, which you can use to plant more of them. There are also, conveniently, barriers that open when you have enough of them growing.

That last bit might seem like a convenient gameplay mechanic, but it actually ties into the story. Yes, a surprisingly intriguing story follows from all this. The whole game took me about 11 hours to complete, and I can vouch that the story is interesting.

The game is an exploration-heavy metroidvania, consisting of interconnected areas to explore and grow things in. There is a certain depth of strategy to how to grow things, since different things have different biomass values, and you need to exceed a certain biomass value to proceed, or to unlock other features. Also, you can pick up some seeds, but not others, and not all terrain is suited for planting all things. And then there are more complex mysteries that lie deeper within...

Your exploration is punctuated by your contact with your fellow crew members -- one person back at base, and one AI who is a little annoying (and the other characters lampshade this). These characters are okay -- if anything, their voice acting is better than their actual scripts, which are a little redundant. That said, the characters are (needless to say) part of the plot. And there are even multiple endings.

In fact, you could actually make this game more like a silent-protagonist Metroid-like game with a strong element of the player learning game mechanics without being told -- I mean, heck, that's basically what happens anyway, except for the "I wonder how you might be able to do such-and-such" that the characters sometimes say. I strongly recommend this if this game ever gets remade.

Aside from the somewhat chatty NPCs and the occasionally irritating physics (the player-character insists on taking a moment to get his footing very often), this is an excellent game, so I definitely recommend it.

(Disclosure: I acquired this game as part of the Humble Bundle with Android 6.)
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20 of 25 people (80%) found this review helpful
Recommended
12.0 hrs on record
Posted: July 27, 2014
Fun puzzler! Gets a bit dark which helps drive the need to explore and make it to the end. The explinations are fun and working through a room can sometimes be challenging if you don't think enough ahead. Enjoyed it.
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13 of 13 people (100%) found this review helpful
Recommended
7.2 hrs on record
Posted: July 26, 2013
A fantastic, unique, and intelligent indie sci-fi game! It's got a very intriguing story, nice atmospheric music, and a really cool gameplay mechanic. Waking Mars made me experience a sense of curiosity and discovery that I haven't experienced in a video game ever.
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13 of 13 people (100%) found this review helpful
2 people found this review funny
Recommended
11.6 hrs on record
Posted: January 11
Incredible game... for 10 hours I was on and inside Mars.

-Immersive exploration
-Unique game mechanics
-Great, thoughtful main character : Liang (& voice acting)
-Amazing soundtrack
-The more you progress, the more the ecosystem & all you discover make sense.

When I left the game, I felt I had really been on Mars.

Loved it so much.
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14 of 16 people (88%) found this review helpful
Recommended
13.8 hrs on record
Posted: March 11, 2014
What a brilliant game.

Ever since I've seen TotalBiscuit's video about it, I've been curious to try this one, since it just happened to have one of my most favorite settings: terraforming Mars. However, it is not really terraforming, like making habitable to human life, no, it's about "waking" the planet!

So what it is about, then? Basically, it's a puzzle game, with explorational elements, as you go through the caverns of deep and sometimes you have branching paths; though you can return to take the other way any time. There's a story to the game and while it is simple, it is just what it needs: A set of mysteries to make you want to explore the cavern.

As for the puzzle elements, that's the best part: Basically, in each chamber, you have to reach a certain level of biomass. How you do that? By planting strange animal-plants called the Zoa. Different zoa have different seeds, some just reproduce, other seeds produce water or explode. Some zoa can move and depend on seeds to reproduce. Then there are zoa that eat the moving ones. What your task is in this game basically is to kickstart a whole ecosystem! Every lifeform in the game effects the other in some way or other, making you soon create a whole jungle full of life, each depending on each other to survive and reproduce. It is just brilliant!

The only two downsides I can think of, first, the artstyle, which is really not the best, the animations are quite choppy (especially on the moving zoas), and while it certainly got its own charm, I did not find it that appealing. My other problem with the game is that maybe I would have loved if there would have been maybe a little more variaties of lifeforms with a more varied roles and dependencies. I mean, don't get me wrong, there's really like a bunch of them, but I would have liked more. Maybe because I just wanted the game to last even longer. :P

Definitely a buy for those who like 2D exploration and puzzle games.
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