Let’s not lie about this, okay? The most fun part of building sandcastles and playing with blocks is knocking everything down. The button that blows everything up is the best part about KidPix. Driving around in places you shouldn’t drive in and seeing what stuff you can break is the best part of Grand Theft Auto and Saint’s Row. Burning everything down is the best part of the Sims. I could go on.
Goat Simulator is better than all of these games, and is likely to be the best sandbox-where-you-can-fuck-shit-up game of all time, for one simple reason: it is about goats.
The most fun way to play games where you can destroy things is to play chaotic neutral, that is, according to whim without regard for any kind of morality. It’s really hard to do this, in my experience, when playing any kind of human character, because no matter how cool the structure looks blowing up, it’s hard to conscious exploding up an orphanage, even a virtual one. It’s hard to not play human characters like they’re at least somewhat human, so we still tend to make relatively human decisions when we play games like Grand Theft Auto or Saint’s Row.
Goat Simulator is better at this thing all these games are trying to do than any of them are, because you literally are doing nothing else. You are running around wrecking shit and becoming Goat God and flying on jetpacks because why the fuck not. Yeah, sure, Saint’s Row lets you become an old-school, laughable Batman villain, wrecking everything for the sake of it while dressing ridiculously and somehow maintaining a plotline. But they all fall down on one fundamental front, and that is that the unrealistically “evil for the sake of it” villains you can play in games like Saint’s Row, the rugged morally grey jackass protags of GTA and even the many varied types of protagonists one can create and even roleplay in games like the Elder Scrolls titles are not ultimate agents of uncaring (but not evil) destruction.
They are not, and never will be, goats.
Goats are not restricted by human morality. Crashing into a party onto a jetpack and setting oneself and half the guests on fire is not done with malice when it is done by the protagonist-goat of Goat Simulator; it is simply what one does as a goat who has been granted the powers of flight. And that is basically what Goat Simulator does: it sets up a bunch of amusing situations to run around in and destroy and then it allows you to choose between a bunch of goat superpowers, which you get in addition to general indestructibility and an incredibly long tongue that sticks to everything.
Goat Simulator manages to combine the best part of open-world sandbox games with the absurdity and destruction that previously we were only able to get in Katamari Damacy, and it does so in a way that even Katamari didn’t manage: it does it without forcing you towards any particular goal. There’s no ruling the city, no making the biggest katamari possible, no end goal other than “be a goat; fuck shit up”. The achievement system, the level design full of what would be called easter eggs if they didn’t make up a significant portion of the game’s content, the workshop creations of the community: that’s all gravy on top of what is a pure, morality-free tribute to the human urge towards destruction. And that’s beautiful.
(This post is adapted from a metafilter comment)