As much as I enjoy epic RPGs, strategies, or lore-heavy sagas, they are seriously time-consuming.
These genres are also not the type you can casually pick up every now and again since, in between, you will be continually forgetting all the plot nuances, and it will take hours to once again become invested in a story that you only half-remember. No, these types of titles are mostly good exclusively for binges, and the amount of free time required for that is certainly not easily accessible.
Some games are novels, and some are short stories. Enjoying, and completing, a title in one evening has become an attractive possibility, and a genre of its own. Quality short titles are no longer in, er, short supply, as these bite-sized projects combine the unimposing time quota of a cinema outing, with the satisfaction of completing a full story without leaving any loose ends.
If you’ve got a free night to yourself, or a chill game-night planned as a group, check out the following titles that you wouldn’t have to leave unfinished, come evening’s end.
The award-winning predecessor to last year’s quirky Inside, Limbo is an atmospheric, quaint platformer, that combines a touching style of animation with a somber plot. It’s smooth, gorgeous, and challenging enough without turning frustrating.
Another visual stunner, Abzu is an underwater exploration adventure title, featuring skillfully rendered landscapes and palpable colour bursts, as well as a zen-like gameplay style with a perplexing plot.
The Stanley Parable
BAFTA Nominee Kevan Brighting narrates this meta gem of subtle humour. You follow the mundane, cubicle life of a mediocre office employee, until his every choice and action begins to be commented upon and foretold by an omniscient narrator. The ongoing catch is whether to follow the directions, or to disobey. Hilarious and eerily philosophical moments – stemming from breaking the fourth wall – ensue either way.
This low-key, experimental project is actually set on an island in the Hebrides, and compellingly depicts the local scenery, wildlife and moody weather. Your job is to search the island for information regarding its past, which you will recover in scattered snippets, above and below ground. The phenomenal ambience and moving score also aid in solidifying the gradual feeling of isolation and dread the player encounters. Although it’s quite slow-paced, I think this game is highly underappreciated.
I wrote about Firewatch when it first came out last year, and I remain convinced that it’s a masterpiece of its story-driven adventure genre. Human, flawed characters reacting in realistic ways; numerous branches of dialogue and story lines; gorgeous environments; tense, but not overly-exaggerated plot development – this game is very nearly a full package. I am in no way a fan of the ending(s), but the journey itself is a must-do.
This is unbudgeable from my top-five favourites of all time. As the name suggests – it’s off-beat, weird and funky. It’s also hilarious: filled with a ton of mocking references to everything from iconic movie moments, to memes, to politics, its seemingly nonsensical story-line is a continuous string of witty plot twists. Also – the puns. Jazzpunk is a chuckle and a delight.