Matthew Gatland

Mining Games

February 27, 2014

I’m working on a 2D mining and exploration game. Here are some similar games I’ve been playing as research.

Cave of the Space Worm

by Drew Hitchcock

This was the original inspiration for my game. Cave of the Space Worm is simple and satisfying. The player flies around a cave, fighting space worms and collecting items.

The only enemies are worms, which spawn from destroyable spawn points. (There are different types of worms.)

The only resource is gold, which is collected from special tiles.

Some dirt cannot be destroyed until your ship’s lasers are upgraded. This is a nice, natural way to gate the player’s progress and split the game into levels.

Play Cave of the Space Worm


by Kirk Barnett, Andrew Colean, Brandon Stenen and Derek Opitz

Although it starts with an overcomplicated tutorial, the actual game is charming and easy to play.

I particularly like how the world is hand-made, instead of being randomly generated. This lets the developers embed personality into the environment.

While Cave of the Space Worm focusses on fighting enemies, Dig-N-Rig has very few enemies, and would probably by just as fun with no enemies at all. That’s worth knowing.

Unlike most of the other games here, Dig-N-Rig never makes the player return to their home base on the surface. You can buy upgrades from anywhere, and your mined materials are transported back home by a series of conveyor belts that you build as you explore.

The player has to buy “wifi upgrades” to be able to travel deeper into the earth. This stops you from skipping straight to the end.

Download Dig-N-Rig (Windows only)


by XGen Studios

Recommended to me, and very popular, but I didn’t enjoy it.

I don’t know if it’s the dreary grey–brown art style, the high difficulty, or the awkward store UIs, but the game never hooked me like the other games here.

One notable thing is that the game has a bit of storyline that includes a big, satisfying ending.

Ending a mining or construction game can be tricky, because the player has invested a lot of time in collecting resources. if the game just stops, with all their unused resources disappearing, they feel like they’ve wasted their time. You want the player to feel like their efforts matter and mean something.

In Motherload the player has limited fuel which limits how far you can explore before coming home. It’s important to turn back with enough fuel to get home safely.

Play Motherload


by Fiona Burrows

Scavenger creates a strong atmosphere from a very small amount of content. You’re exploring the wreckage of a destroyed space station.

Collecting wreckage like empty escape pods gives the game a bleak atmosphere, quite different from the other games where you collect raw materials like gold and “explodium”.

At the start you have limited cargo space, and have to come home frequently to sell your cargo.

Crashing into wreckage is a constant hazard. Towards the end of the game you’ll also come across deadly mines and turrets.

Scavenger was made in 48 hours, and is a good reminder to focus on what’s important. I have probably spent more than 48 hours on my game, with much less impact.

Download Scavenger (Windows, Linux)

Defence Games

As well as being a mining game, my game is (probably) eventually going to be a defence game. That’s still a while away, but here are two defence games I like: