As time marches on, I find myself increasingly relying on short video games to fill the fun void. I rarely have time to shave my armpits nowadays, never mind dedicating weeks to learning the intricacies of some of the more epic AAA games out there. Bursting inventories, elaborate recipes, intelligent enemies, complex storylines – they’re asking a lot from my tired ass.
Luckily, for those of us who have retired from the “career gamers” club, there are some amazing short video games out there ready to pick up and play, and you’ll find them listed in our short video games section. These games are not only relaxing, but they can be played right through over an evening or two.
The fact that most of these high quality, skilfully crafted games were released on time and the developers didn’t cry about them for months on Twitter beforehand, doesn’t mean they should be underestimated. These are real mood-boosters that offer fun, escapism, intrigue, and a reminder that we’re not dead yet.
So, without further ado, here are 13 stress-free, short video games that won’t break the time bank. All completion times are approximate and were taken from howlongtobeat.com, a really handy tool for those of us who have gaming commitment issues.
1. Donut County: 2-3 hours
Who knew that being a hole in the ground could be so god damn satisfying. Donut County is an adventure puzzle game with a lot of heart and a great sense of humour. The more stuff you banish underground, the bigger you grow, so there’s an order to figure out which constitutes the puzzle side of the game, with the endearing characters and quirky story line providing the ‘depth’ – pun intended. PUN ALWAYS INTENDED.
2. Samorost III: 4-5 hours
Whatever, I’m a super-fan, but I’m gonna try to be as objective about the Samorost games as possible: Literally the best games ever made in the history of mankind. Now I know this is arguable, and these games fall into this weird, point-and-click, quirky niche that not everyone appreciates as much as I do, but the world that Amanita Design has created for this series is just so unique, beautiful, and kind of fucked up, I don’t see how anyone couldn’t love it.
3. Pan-Pan: 2-3 hours
I stumbled on Pan-Pan randomly in the Switch store and, despite knowing literally zero about it, I decided to give it a try. It was such an awesome surprise. It’s quite a simple game to look at, but the puzzles are really intricate and well thought out, and the longer you play, the more alive the world becomes. There was something about the colourful landscape that put me in a good mood every time I played it, too. And, let’s be honest, we all need that right now.
4. Monument Valley I + II: 4-5 hours combined
The Monument Valley Games are fast becoming classics in the environmental puzzle genre. They are just perfection. From the aesthetics to the music, the puzzle mechanics to the mysterious characters, it’s a game that is very difficult to put down once you’ve started. So the fact that both can be completed back to back in less than 5 hours combined is a literal life saver, cos my toddler would have probably starved to death otherwise.
5. Gris: 4 -5 hours
Playing GRIS is like playing a watercolour painting; it really capitalises on that blurred line between gaming and art. It’s a pretty deep, abstract story that deals with emotional pain and you really feel for the main character as you play. It’s one of those story-rich puzzle games where you have to stop sometimes just to look around, it’s that beautiful. It asked more questions than it answered, which usually frustrates me in a game, but with GRIS it wouldn’t work any other way.
6. Gorogoa: 2-3 hours
Loved this game. I’ve never come across a game so complex and so simple at the same time, with so many layers to discover and so many surprises throughout the journey. The way the creators have used so many different mechanics, so much outside-the-box thinking, it really makes Gorogoa feel fresh and innovative – something that is increasingly lacking in gaming, and an experience that made me feel like a kid again.
7. Gone Home: 2-3 hours
If you like a good book with a storyline steeped in mystery, but like me, every time you go to read a book you somehow end up on your phone the entire time, then Gone Home is for you. It is a story that you play, so you have to pay attention. This game is pure chill out territory, self-paced, relaxed, with very little in the way of a challenge, it gives you the space to really get caught up in the story. It’s perfect to devour in one evening, which is exactly what I did.
8. What Remains of Edith Finch: 2-3 hours
Unravelling this mystery adventure was enormous fun, despite its often macabre themes. What Remains of Edith Finch is equal parts intriguing and heart-breaking, and each of the incredibly detailed environments are immersive and rich in quality. You know you’ve discovered a great game when you don’t want to reach the end of it, and when you finally do, you go straight to Google to find out if there’s a sequel in the works.
9. Maquette: 3-4 hours
I haven’t played this game yet, so I can’t tell you first hand what it’s like, but I can tell you first hand what I read about it that has made me want to play it. Maquette is described as an elegant puzzle with out-the-box thinking, unusual, and challenging to a comfortable degree. From what I can gather, whatever you do on a small scale occurs on a larger scale in the outside world, which sounds very playable. But, I mostly want to try it because it was published by Annapurna Interactive.
10. The Magnificent Truffle Pigs: 2-3 hours
Who would have thought that metal detecting, mystery, and the English countryside would have made such a perfect mix for a game. The stunning backdrop is good for the soul and the mystery/romance storyline offers an engaging thread to tie everything together. The Magnificent Truffle Pigs is perfect for a few hours of no-drama gaming that still feels substantial and beautifully well-crafted.
11. A Short Hike: 2-3 hours
This is a cute game that is absolutely worth your time. The pixel graphics take you back to a simpler time, whilst the mechanics remind you that cute doesn’t always mean shallow. The bijou open world is rich in scenery and characters, and there are so many little things to discover, you can really make this game as short or as long as you want. A Short Hike was made with love and you can really tell.
12. Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture: 5-6 hours
You’re in a picturesque English village, but everyone has disappeared and things are starting to become very weird. It seems that Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture except you. Solve the mystery of their disappearance as you wander through picturesque scenery. This rich, deep adventure has been described as landing somewhere in between classic science fiction literature and a radio play, which sounds PERFECT.
13. Mini Metro: 5-11 hours
If you just complete the main storyline of the game, you can finish it over a couple of evenings. But for the completionists out there, you can double that time if you’re lucky enough to have the luxury. Mini Metro is a straight up planners dream. No fluffy characters or fancy landscapes, just satisfying, no-bullshit city planning. Have you ever looked at a metro map and thought “how in god’s name do they make this work?”, well now’s the time to find out. Or fail to find out if you’re not very good at it.
Check out the short video games section of our directory to find more quality games that won’t take over your life.