Covid-19… still around. So what do we do to bide time? Gaming seems nice. We already talked about the 4 best games for older adults, and 5 hit games that still killed their franchises, now here are the best games to make social distancing enjoyable.
1. Heroes of Might and Magic
Originally by New World Computing, later bought out by 3DO (remember the panasonic console?) and finally in Ubisoft’s hands, Might and Magic was a series of RPG fantasy games built around different genres. None in the series has stood the test of time as well as the Heroes franchise. From Heroes III to VII, get what you like and you can’t go wrong – skip IV though.
Heroes of Might and Magic is a top-down, turn-based strategy game where you can take on one of 8 factions/armies (some games have fewer than others). You hire a hero or heroes and give them armies to command as you send them to explore and conquer the map. Along the way, you will fight a myriad of mythical creatures, unearth artifacts, upgrade your heroes’ abilities, and forge alliances all in the pursuit of victory.
The game’s pacing allows you to take a breath in between activities. It might not appeal to the sensibilities of a younger generation, but it defintely comes around when you get the hang of it.
Heroes of Might and Magic gives you an entire world inside a map, each hero has their own strenghts and abilities that extend onto their armies. There are homeground advantages like land heroes slowing down in the swamp, and there are mystical artifacts that increase your ability manifold.
There is a story mode you can play through as various factions, but that’s just a small part of it. The multiplayer is where the game’s fantasy elements shine through. You could play against an AI army, or you could play multiplayer, forging your own adventure as you build and conquer.
Multiplayer is when it gets really engaging. If you are indoors with other players, then hot-seat mode can let up to 8 players go at it, at a time. Every player gets a turn, in which they go about their usual business and pass it on to the next player. With 8 players it can get a little crowded and an XL map and as you all progress, the game gets more complex, but that’s the best part of of the whole franchise. You can play from your own homes, or next to each other (assuming that’s an option) and can enjoy a campaign for weeks on end without it getting stale or boring.
If you are a fan of dungeons and dragons and want to forge your own custom adventure, Heroes of Might and Magic comes with a map-editor that lets you create your own storylines, challenges, win conditions, creature density and configure it to be as dificult or easy as you want it to be.
You’ll notice the entry says “Heroes of Might and Magic” but doesn’t mention a specific part. This is because every single game in this franchise is still as viable to play as the next. You get better graphics and some eye-candy with each iteration, but the nature of this franchise makes it immune to the contrivances of technological advancements, so you get the same game. Get whichever title your hardware supports and you won’t be disappointed.
We suggest starting with Heroes of Might and Magic V as it offers a great blend of great visuals and expansive gameplay. No game in the franchise has the variety of Heroes of Might and Magic III though, which you can acquire in HD.
2. Witcher 3
With 9 million units sold (as of 2019), we know it’s very likely that you have already played this game. If that’s you, feel free to skip the next 2 paragraphs, but stick around for the stuff after that.
If nothing else, you’ve at least heard of the popular show depicting the life of Geralt of Rivia, although the internet’s (and our) darling CD Projekt Red turned the Andrzej Sapkowski novels into a “franchise”. Witcher 3 is the latest in the third-person, RPG, action-adventure franchise built around the story of Geralt of Rivia a Witcher (mutated human who hunts monsters for profit) in the fictional world set in 13th Century Europe. In this era, magic is real, monsters are real and some humans mutate (through a gruesome process) to use some combination of the former to fight the latter.
Despite having a relatively developed character to play with, as opposed to other RPG’s blank slate characters, this is the 3rd iteration of the character and backstory is unavoidable. However, there are so many open choices you can make for Geralt, that the story shapes itself around your preferences. You could be as aloof and to-the-point as you want, or you could get real nosy in people’s affairs. The game is already chock full of true RPG elements like leveling, weapon upgrades, lore out the wazoo and real-time events and a pay-off/comeuppance for all the choices you make.
Even if you have explored every square-inch of this game to 100%, you’ve still not had the full experience, as the game’s story and the overall experience varies with every choice you make. You could change the outcome of a future mission by doing another one earlier than the story required. The game is as nuanced as it is beautiful.
Just last week, I saw a distillery on top of a mountain that was just sitting there, probably associated with some quest, but none that I had come across, so far.
If you want to add even more layers to the game, hop over to Nexus Mods and check out so many ways to enhance your experience. We highly recommend the HD Rework project.
Despite most marketing material touting the books as the source for the TV show, it was Henry Cavill’s inner gamer that made the series happen for Netflix, he is one of us.
Though this is a game that makes social distancing enjoyable. The single player aspect might exclude others, if there are more people in your isolation chamber/house, might we recommend something more multiplayer?
3. Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Wildlands
When military shooter games are prefixed with “Tom Clancy”, like Splinter Cell, or Rainbow Six, you can expect a good experience. Even if early releases are usually buggy messes, and the game has very little in common with the books. They eventually straighten up with enough patches, we can’t help the lack of relevance with books bit though. Ghost Recon is patched up well-enough now that it plays well without creating problems. Though, to truly appreciate this game, we need to first complain about Far Cry 5 a little.
FarCry 5 started off with a lot of promise and a bad guy you enjoy hating, only to find he gets the upper hand at the end. Your entire playthrough is rendered meaningless because the writers felt philosophical (not even sorry for the spoiler, we just saved you time and money). However, the game itself was fun to play. It was a great open-world First-Person Shooter with a sprinkling of RPG elements that required liberating settlements, unlocking weapons and upgrading them until you could dominate the map.
Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Wildlands takes all of the good things from that, takes out the pseduo-philosophical drivel, and expands them to an entire country. You are part of an elite military group deployed to liberate Cartel contolled Bolivia. Along the way you can unlock upgrades, get support from local freedom fighters, find new weapons while traversing Bolivia’s beautiful terrain. Or, if you were so inclinded you could unlock most upgrades and weapons without having completed a single mission and then start the storyline armed to the teeth, or, if you fancy your chances, you could dive right into the story without unlocking a thing, your choice entirely.
The more you play, the better you get, until eventually you and your squad-mates are an unstoppable army. On the subject of squad-mates, you, along with 3 of your friends can play together online and either stealthily take out an entire cartel operation, or go guns blazing obliterating everything you come across. Certain areas are harder than others and require decent recon (hence the name) so you can detect all armed personnel, any alarm systems and all escape routes before proceeding. Sometimes you get away scott-free, sometimes the entire military might of Bolivia comes raining down upon you.
This game’s storyline might as well just be a formality, don’t expect any polt-twists (other than a notable cameo), but do expect the game to be very worth the experience. Once you and your squad start on this, it is highly recommended you first explore the entire land and unlock everything before you get into the story. It’s just better shooting with full arsenal.
4. The Long Dark
This recommendation might be come off as fecetious as are all basically living a survival game. However, this game is a touch more fun because all these events take place on the backdrop of a compelling story.
The Long Dark starts with your character surviving a plane crash in the Canadian wilderness forcing you to find shelter and get help. It starts small, by building a fire and drying yourself off and then it expands.
The Long Dark forces you to find a balance between having enough food, wood, kindling, fire (match or lighter depending on where in the game you end up), layers of clothes and material to build a makeshift shelter without weighing yourself down.
The clothing is a robust mechanic that you will struggle to deal with, because you need be both dry, light and warm at the same time. If you fall into water or get caught in a snow storm, your clothes get wet, putting you at risk of hypothermia, or even frostbite.
Later, when you encounter animals, you could provide yourself with a viable food source. Know that there are wolves that hunt in the night and later in the game, there will be bears too. If you get attacked, you can fight them off using weapons. Just like real-life, if you stay inside a place for too long, you might end up catching cabin fever (a psychological state where some people feel trapped if stuck indoors too long).
If we go into more detail about the game’s progression, we might be giving away a bit of the experience. Just know that the game is brilliantly designed, gorgeous to look at and so intricate that they don’t have to rely on any metaphysical concepts to drive the play time. If you are playing the story mode, your agenda is to find other survivors and get out.
Without giving away the story, expect that the game will continue in the future. However, if you just want to enjoy the survival aspect of it, there’s a survival mode.
In a weird way, this cold wilderness survival experience can give us a little philosphical perspective that, at least things aren’t that bad.
5. Call of Duty
You’ll notice we didn’t name a specific game in the series. That’s because you’re in lockdown and time is all you have, a single Call of Duty game won’t last you long enough to even put a dent in your schedule. If you’re into multiplayer action, then just get your hands on a free version of Call of Duty Warzone and enjoy some Battle Royale. Or, if you are into storylines and multiplayer action, then you can start with Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, then Modern Warfare 2 and 3.
Targeted with killing time, you can’t just call it a night with 3 games, that’s maybe a week worth of action if you’re doing nothing else. We also recommend you then check out Call of Duty Black Ops and Black Ops II. Feel free to skip III and IIII (we know it’s supposed to be IV, but that’s how they spelled it) and then take a quick detour of Advanced Warfare. Those are the franchise’s highlights and will definitely take ample time to get through.
Even though Modern Warfare 1 and 2 have been remastered and available alongiwth the battle royale version. If you want to play the latest multiplayer action, that’s definitely the way to go. If your hardware cannot take on the load, you can play the original releases, they go on sale all the time, other than the improved graphics, you can’t even tell the difference.
Honorable mention. Legend of Zelda – Breath of The Wild
If you don’t own a Nintendo Switch, or aren’t even into console gaming, you might be tempted to scroll away. The good news is that you can buy the Wii U version of the game and play on a Wii U emulator.
YouTube will full of helpful videos on how to pull that off.
This game is not part of the original list because it requires either the switch console or a functional emulator to pull off. The latter might be too much work for you, or if you own the former, you don’t need us to tell you anything you don’t already know.
The best part of running on an emulator is that you could enhance the experience for yourself by adding advanced graphics mods. Be aware though, if you update that graphics a whole lot, it might look great, but this game wasn’t designed to look ultra-realistic, it was beautifully art-directed to maintain a certain look that balances fantasty with reality. This is a legitimate game. It’s not an undergraduate philosophy lesson posing as a game.
If you haven’t experienced it, we urge you to figure this out.