Six games you should play while we’re under quarantine
It’s been a tough week in the world at large, and since right now your best course of action is to just stay at home if at all possible, we came up with a list of some of our favorite games to play in a situation like this. Some of them are hopeful and distracting, others lean hard into the apocalypse angle, and others offer a whole lot of replay value to get you through no matter how long this pandemic stretches on. They’re all available digitally, so you don’t have to visit a store or rely on Amazon delivery to get them, either.
Uh, we better start with the optimistic hopeful titles.
School districts are cancelling classes in droves. Many schools have some kind of take-home or digital work for students to try to bridge the gap. Even if not, Prodigy is one of the few games with an educational angle kids may actually want to play. It’s a free game you can play in-browser or as an app on phones or tablets. It has no ads and optional monetization so be warned, they do lean into the, “hey kids ask your parents for a Membership,” angle pretty heavily.
The game works like a fairly standard turn-based RPG, only when it’s your turn to attack you have to answer a math problem correctly in order to attack successfully. You gear up your avatar, collect pets, and defeat monsters. You can select your child’s grade level and state, so the problems they answer will mostly line up with curriculum they were already doing in school, and the difficulty is adaptive so if the curriculum says they need to know 2+3 but they’re already on to 2×3, the game will figure that out and bump things up as they complete problems. It’s a little clunky, but as an educational game it’s a revelation.
Obviously, this entry isn’t so much for you per se, as it is to keep your kid out of your hair while you play the rest of the games on the list.
A Short Hike
A Short Hike feels like a weird version of all the other stuff you do in Animal Crossing, somehow even more charming. You explore Hawk Peak Provincial Park in an attempt to get some signal on your phone. The park itself is adorable, the animation is unique, and the game mechanics are fun and engaging. The experience feels very fresh, and it may take the place of going outdoors for a little while, at least.
We’d be lying if we didn’t tell you part of why we’re recommending it is because it’s free on the Epic store right now. They tend to offer up really good games on their free rotation — next week features The Stanley Parable and Watch Dogs.
Though it has “rancher” in the title, the actual farming required in Slime Rancher is minimal — the game is mostly about exploration. You go explore to find different species of slimes, then bring them back to corrals on your farm. If you keep them fed, they’ll leave you presents, which are apparently valuable to someone, somehow. The environments you explore through are picturesque, and the slimes are adorable. You learn a lot about yourself, and there’s a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it throughline that had me misty-eyed at the end. You can keep playing and tending your slimes well after the credits roll.
Oh, and pro tip: you can bring chickens and roosters back to your ranch and just let them breed amongst themselves without a coop, just in case you want chickens roaming around literally everywhere.
Night in the Woods
Despite being helmed by a large-eyed cat, Night in the Woods had some of the best character development I’ve ever seen in gaming. The themes it explores are deeply relatable, from the weight of responsibility and the isolation of living in a small town, to weird dreams, to being gay and doing crimes. The dialogue is really good, though occasionally it seems kind of slangy and juvenile, particularly Mae’s — that’s because she as a character has a lot of growing up to do. Because you have a set of different decisions to make and story threads to explore, it’s worth several replays. The Guitar Hero-alike minigame is terrible, though.
I would kill a man if Sharkle asked me to.
The Long Dark
While most post-apocalyptic games are grungy and full of enemies to mow down, in The Long Dark the most deadly enemy in the beautiful painted landscape is the cold itself. Set a few years after an economic recession which led to the slow abandonment of Great Bear Island, your only objective is to survive. Luckily, some people went and hoarded some canned beans and granola bars and left them behind, but you can also boil water, fish, and hunt game — and occasionally be hunted yourself. They didn’t call it Great Bear by accident.
There’s a story mode featuring the voice talents of site favorite Jennifer Hale (she also voiced Leah in Diablo 3 and Ashe in Overwatch), plus a survival mode which offers a lot of replay value. Note that in survival and challenge modes, if you die you start over, so don’t take too many risks or get greedy, especially if it’s started snowing. I’d recommend getting started with the challenge modes of Nomad or Archivist, both which will direct you to places of interest throughout the map — usually, you have to find them, then use charcoal harvested from fires to draw out the map yourself.
This game is all about sticking it out for the long haul and living to see another day.
Right now, it’s also 60% off on Steam, Hinterland Entertainment’s revenue from the sale is being donated to the United Nations Foundation’s COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund for the World Health Organization as a part of their Social Distancing Fundraiser.
Speaking of a grungy post-apocalypse, this exploration game is incredibly difficult to describe without spoiling, and the less information you have going in the better the experience. SOMA asks, and leaves unanswered, a lot of questions about what the nature of humanity is, and why that even matters. You may want to play it at least one additional time after you reach the end, to see all the little foreshadowed clues you didn’t notice before. If you’re not into jumpscares, you can opt for ‘safe mode’ which keeps the monsters but makes them unable to kill you, and the experience is still one full of both utter dread… and, bizarrely, hope.
Nothing improves a slightly bleak situation like an existential crisis, right?
If all else fails, you can wait for Animal Crossing and DOOM to come out on March 20th, which is now a bizarrely apropos combination of titles to release on the same day.
Stay safe, and wash your hands.
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