I enjoy video games – both playing and spectating. The trouble is, I find myself to be hopelessly bad at them. So I’ve made it my mission to find games for people who can’t play games.
Not just play, but actually get engrossed in. Games I can lose myself in when I need something to escape to and nothing else is doing it for me. When I want to unwind. When I want a good story.
Unfortunately, games have moved on somewhat from the simple times where I used to clutch my GameBoy for hours. The controls are fiddly and complicated. The objectives are impossible. I’m sat wondering WTF I’m meant to do and how I’m meant to do it.
This frustration, more often than not, tends to result in one of the following:
- Agitated mutterings of ‘stupid’ and ‘why even design it like that’
- Sighing and/or tutting
In more extreme cases, where my boyfriend has gently tried to introduce me to a game he thinks I’ll like, controllers have been known to fly across the room, propelled only by intense fury.
And so, it is my pleasure to present to you six games I have found to be super-duper for when you fancy losing yourself in something for an hour (or five).
Nothing too strenuous, no vexing controls and, often, a pretty fucking rad soundtrack to accompany it.
Without a shadow of a doubt, the first game I recommend to anyone. There is so much to love about this game – from the absolutely gorgeous landscapes to the enigmatic character.
One of the huge pluses of this game is that there are literally, like three controls. You move, jump and do a friendly little chirp to communicate with your companion – a real live other person playing Journey somewhere else in the world. This makes for some truly unique play as you explore your surroundings and unearth secrets.
The entire game only lasts a couple of hours or so, making it perfect for a Sunday afternoon playthrough. A really beautiful, joyful game, with one of my favourite game soundtracks ever.
Available on: PlayStation 3 and 4
Oh yeah, we’re going there. Yellow tends to be viewed as a bit of a controversial pick, but it was the first Pokemon game I played so it invokes a metric ton of nostalgia. Also: PIKACHU FOLLOWS YOU AROUND. What’s not to love?
Like most of the handheld Pokemon games, you’ve got hours of gameplay here. Dip in and out as you please. The pixel graphics are retro and cute AF, the concept is simple: catch ‘em all, beat the Elite Four, make Mom proud. Granted, the game can be a bit repetitive (train, battle, train, battle), but this makes it reassuringly familiar and simple as heck to play.
Loll about on the sofa with some snacks and get adventuring.
Available on: GameBoy, Nintendo 3DS
Life Is Strange
More interactive story than traditional ‘game’, this episodic narrative positions you as Max – an 18-year-old talented photography student who can manipulate time.
I know. Stick with me.
Essentially, all you have to do here is explore at your leisure. Read notes, talk to people and gather clues about the mysterious goings-on in the town of Arcadia Bay, where it’s seemingly always autumn. Every decision you make affects the way the rest of the game plays out – your decisions have weight.
Okay, there’s some clunky dialogue so cringey it’ll make you wince (mostly because you’re reminded you were also once a shitty teenager) and the graphics are rudimentary up against today’s typical standards – but these actually make the game quite charming and endearing.
Of course, this is a mental health blog primarily, so fair warning that there are some pretty adult themes here too. Still, Life Is Strange has won numerous awards and is the sort of experience you’ll be thinking about for days after. Don’t be fooled by the teen-movie-style trailer – this is a game for everyone. I’m looking at you, Call of Duty fans.
Available on: PlayStation 3 and 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PC
If Pokémon’s aim is ‘Gotta catch ‘em all’, Everything’s would be ‘Gotta be it all’. Part philosophical lecture, part simulation, the aim of Everything is to simply become well, er… everything really. We’re talking from atom to planet, here.
By interacting with different objects, you unlock new options. You can go from being a rock to a tree. You can become an entire landmass. The scale adjusts accordingly to what you’re doing.
The game is peppered with philosophical quotes from Alan Watts, adding a new level of depth to the game. With a unique atmosphere and pleasingly fun object movements (I have never seen animals move like that), Everything induces a level of relaxation so potent, you might just fall asleep.
To be fair, I was hungover.
Available on: PlayStation 4, PC
No objectives, just interactive, whimsical art. Hohokum sees you become a serpentine creature that moves in the most gorgeous, fluid fashion.
Developed especially to make the player’s experience as joyful as it is soothing, there is no tutorial. No linear narrative. No necessary progression. In Hohokum, all you need to do is enjoy the explosion of colour, playful interactions and a wonderful soundscape.
Available on: PlayStation 4
Atmospheric and enchanting, Abzu submerges you in a world of underwater mystery.
With the same talent behind Journey (Matt Nava as Creative Director, Austin Wintory returning as Composer), you can reliably expect great things. Your character is graceful and inquisitive, exploring the depths of long-forgotten civilisations and making a few surprising discoveries along the way – all at the touch of only a few buttons.
Ride on the back of dolphins, meditate on ancient ruins, breach the water’s surface with a gang of orcas – everything about this game celebrates the ocean and spirituality. If that sounds a bit wanky, just wait ‘til you play it.
Available on: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC
So there we have it – it’s been getting a little heavy around here lately so it’s nice to do something a little different. Besides, winter is all about snuggling down with your entertainment of choice – and if you’ve previously been put off by video games in the past, one of these might just surprise you.