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:
Very Positive (806 reviews) - 90% of the 806 user reviews for this game are positive.
Release Date: Dec 13, 2012

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"Surprisingly thoughtful, delightfully atmospheric, smartly written, carefully 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

Mac OS X


    • 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


    • 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
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Very Positive (806 reviews)
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Most Helpful Reviews  Overall
84 of 87 people (97%) found this review helpful
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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73 of 74 people (99%) found this review helpful
3 people found this review funny
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 (EDITED: start to finish TWICE) 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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65 of 71 people (92%) found this review helpful
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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57 of 60 people (95%) found this review helpful
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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56 of 59 people (95%) found this review helpful
2 people found this review funny
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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42 of 45 people (93%) found this review helpful
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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43 of 49 people (88%) found this review helpful
4 people found this review funny
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 124 people (66%) found this review helpful
8 people found this review funny
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
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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35 of 46 people (76%) found this review helpful
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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Recently Posted
Mr. Dad
10.7 hrs
Posted: November 27
Really awesome and unique game. When I started playing I just couldn't stop till I finished it. The premise is really unique: you are a lone astronout on the Mars and your task is to establish a new eco-system there using various plants and animals that all interact with each other. There is no shooting, killing and stress. The only downside is the art direction, the visuals could use some more work for sure. But the gameplay makes up for it. Final verdict: Two thumbs up!
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1.0 hrs
Posted: November 24
Love the story in this game. I played many more hours before this got to steam. If you like good story plus metrovania type game play this game delivers. Worth full price, but if on sale don't hesitate to pick up.
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9.5 hrs
Posted: November 23
Oddly relaxing.
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Swal Lowet
12.7 hrs
Posted: November 23
This was a simple but fun game. I could barely take a break before I finished it. The only downsides are replayability and game length. Grab it on sale to make up for those shortcomings.
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35.1 hrs
Posted: November 5
It's all been said already, but I'd just like to add my own voice in saying this is one of the best gaming experiences I've ever had. A very fun game with a really great story told through a mix of environment and short (but VERY interesting) snippets of conversation between the main character, his partner in mission control, and an AI who processes data while new discoveries are made.

Interesting environments. Great characters and dialogue (which are mercifully short, to the point and always relevent). An absolutely intriguing mystery. Beautiful, alien environments. And genuinely fun gameplay in the form of environmental interactions that cannot really be called puzzles in the traditional sense, but rather give you different tools and methods to achieve a central idea.
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9.2 hrs
Posted: October 24
Overall, pretty interesting and somewhat unique game!

The 'genre' of this game can be described as 'adventure': It's a mix of exploration, research and some sort of 'puzzle solving', which is mostly about building up an ecosystem using different seeds from different species on Mars. This all is guided by the overall story of the scientists on Mars and their research work.

The ending was interesting, but overall, the story lacked a 'punch' and was not that interesting. The 'research' element (and the 'mystery' on Mars) in the game is quite motivating though and can and will kindle the scientific curiosity in you (if you have that). Also, in general, sci-fi and space fans interested in (good) fictional stories about extra-terrestrial life should have fun with the story-line. Other than the story, the characters were well done with their dialogues and personalities.

Gameplay-wise, the ecosystem-building is fun, but sometimes, progress depends too heavily on specific seeds, which usually have a carry-limit, thus forcing the player to 'grind' a bit to reach the required levels. Also, there was one point in the game where I was kinda stuck and the game didn't offer any good clues, which was annoying.

Still, overall, it was a cool and unique game which turned out to be more interesting than I thought. It's not perfect, but definitely worth playing.
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8.5 hrs
Posted: October 5
Star Trek style science, Metroid style exploration. There are some hazards, but no enemies.

The title tells you what it's all about, but the journey there is where the fun is. Remnants of an interconnected ecosystem are the puzzle pieces.

Relatively short. I took my sweet old time, and finished in about 6 hours. If you end up enjoying this, I also recommend Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet.
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Spalls Hurgenson
8.6 hrs
Posted: October 3
The "hook" of "Waking Mars", a Metroidvania-style platformer, is that it is almost completely non-violent. While similar games might have progress by running around and shooting the monsters, "Waking Mars" instead has you bring the monster to life. The various chambers have to be filled with sufficient biomass for you to progress, which you do by "planting" seeds (or more precisely, throwing them at various patches of fertile ground) within the caverns.

Calm and relaxing, the danger - and difficulty - level is minimal and the game approaches a serene calmness that is nice change of pace. But while its non-violent take on the genre is unique, it isn't by itself enough to make an entertaining game. As I mentioned, the difficulty level is almost non-existent; despite its pretense, the Martian ecology it presents is extremely superficial and you can spam seeds to achieve victory. Or you could if you had sufficient numbers of seeds; you can only carry a handful of each and too often I had to scurry between caves looking for a specific plant to re-supply my stocks. This made the latter half of the game rather more of a grind than anything else. The lack of variety in levels is also a sore spot, and I quickly got tired of seeing the same red walls. Too frequent cut-scenes interrupted the game-flow as well. Nor were the endings - there are three of them - sufficient reward for all the effort. Kudos to the developers for trying something new, but all in all I found it a flawed game that wasn't much fun to play.
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12.5 hrs
Posted: September 28
Este juego podría no calificar como un Metroidvania debido a que su gameplay es bastante simple y la dificultad es baja si lo comparamos con otros títulos, pues va más de la mano a la solución de acertijos dependiendo de los elementos que tienes para usar según la zona en la que te encuentres.

Eres un astrounauta que llega a marte y descubre una forma de vida basada en plantas, de las cuales puedes recoger sus semillas y sembrarlas en tierra fértil. Los controles son simples y la música acompaña de manera excelente tu travesía a través de grutas por las que ningún humano ha pasado jamás. Si eres de los que explora cada rincón de los escenarios, como en juegos Dungeon-Crawler, te verás recompensado al final cuando descubras que tienes más del 70% del juego y solo te falta afinar algunos detalles.

La historia está muy bien narrada y contiene algo de misterio. Si eres de los que gustan de obtener logros, este juego es una buena elección dada la baja dificultad de cada uno de dichos logros.
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10.3 hrs
Posted: September 27
This is a very cool little game. I recommend it for people who are looking for a non-violent exploration sci-fi experience. The thing that makes this game unique is the core gameplay element of building ecosystems. It basically consists of exploring cave systems and finding new forms of life. These lifeforms are plant-like creature called Zoa which can be planted in different kinds of soil, and you acquire different seeds to do this. Your goal is usually to raise biomass in any given area.

I loved the rewarding sense of accomplishment when you've built an ecosystem that sustains itself. Some of the areas are fairly small but there are large open cave sections where you end up building a huge, prosperous system that just keeps getting more and more dense as the different creatures within it interact with one another. You can also encounter areas which are fairly hard to achieve a desirable sustainability. Of course, sustainability isn't necessarily your goal in this game, but it is very satisfying when you achieve it. There is a strong element of scientific discovery in the game but also perhaps a lesson about ecology and how our choices affect outcome.

Aside from the fun of interacting with the various lifeforms, the storyline, while simple, is also very nice. The two main characters are likeable and the resolution to the plot is pleasing. Definitely try this out if you are looking for a different twist to the classic sidescroller.
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