“Creatures” is an older series of games in which creatures known as norns are given to you to take care of. By taking care of them, you will see to it that they live their lives healthily and breed the next generation of norns. You are given many tools to do this, such as medicine for when they get sick, toys to keep them entertained, food to nourish them, and even learning computers for them to understand your commands.
While this may seem like a glorified Tamagachi game, Creatures is actually much more. The artificial intelligence is very complex–so complex that I still have trouble understanding it–and each norn has an entire virtual health system. They can suffer organ damage, injury, disease, mental glitches, and many other ailments that humans face in the real world. To cure them should they contract a contagious disease that is sickening your norn family, you must pay attention to the symptoms, diagnose them, and administer the appropriate cure.
Along with their lives, you are charged with the responsibility of taking care of the environments they live in. You can alter the environments by adding more bugs, fish, or different kinds of food, or you can let it all be and see how things turn out. I remember one time leaving my game going just to see what would happen, and when I came back to it I discovered that my norns had ventured into the Grendel Jungle, which is full of bacteria that can harm them. Upon further observation, I realized none of my norns were dying, not even to old age, despite their sick symptoms. Somehow, the disease they contracted and spread among one another turned them all into some sort of zombie nation!
The Creatures series makes a good gift to a young person with a love of learning and exploration. (Creatures 3 takes place on a spaceship, by the way. Totally awesome.) It is fit for children to play despite its complex themes, which at face value you may never notice are there. As a kid I very much enjoyed finding cures for my norns, ways to block the grendel monsters from invading their habitat, and building bigger machines with specific purposes out of the smaller machines. However, just because Creatures looks like a child’s game, do not dismiss it as a game for an adult! To this day I am still learning new ways to take care of my norns.
All of the existing Creatures PC games are available on gog.com at a very reasonable price of $5.99 each! I recommend picking up Creatures 3, the last actual release. It has the most to offer and you can send your norns to friends via the Docking Station expansion that comes with the game. If you do enjoy Creatures, I also recommend using the Creatures Wiki to help you in your adventures.
Good luck, and may your norn nation be strong, healthy, and not nearly as obsessed with riding up and down elevators as mine is!