Wash your hands and pick up your controller.
March 13, 2020 1:28 PM   Subscribe

Here’s a list of games you should play while you’re stuck inside avoiding the coronavirus [The Verge] “Well, it happened: you’re stuck inside because of the novel coronavirus pandemic that is raging just outside of your door. If you’re lucky, and you’re a white-collar worker, you’re now doing your job — which, let’s be honest, is mostly email anyway — from home. If you’re in an industry that’s more susceptible to the externalities of a viral epidemic, though, things are probably getting more dire. [...] That means there’s never been a better time to get into video games — or, for that matter, play those games you’ve been meaning to finish. We’ve put our heads together to come up with an eclectic list of things to play that will hopefully keep your mind off of the virus. Though we can’t promise any of this will work unless you stay inside.”

• Pokémon Go made easier to play at home following coronavirus concerns [Eurogamer]
“Pokémon Go's main selling point is the ability to roam around the real world, but now COVID-19 is out in the wild, it looks like that could be changing. I guess it's the one thing Niantic doesn't want players to catch. In a blog post on Pokémon Go's website, Niantic laid out some temporary gameplay changes which will make things easier for players to catch Pokémon from home. Players will be able to purchase a one-time bundle of 30 incense (which attracts Pokémon) for only one Pokécoin, with incense now lasting for an hour instead of 30 minutes. Eggs hatching distances have been halved, Pokéstops will drop gifts more frequently, and more Pokémon will start appearing in the wild. The upcoming Abra Community Day has also been postponed - although Niantic is yet to announce which date this will be moved to.”
• Pandemic is one of the best board games ever made. It could be fun to play right now! [Vox]
“Are you the sort of person who enjoys imagining the dark thought of a new, potentially deadly disease spreading across the planet like wildfire, infecting cities, then regions, then continents, then planets? Does this wholly imaginary scenario play into a macabre desire to explore what a worst-case scenario might look like? Do you also like telling your friends what to do? Well, the board game Pandemic might be the ideal thing to pull down off your shelf if you suddenly find yourself spending a lot of time indoors for some reason or another. A classic of 21st century board gaming, Pandemic was likely the most influential game of the 2000s — when its tense, cooperative gameplay, featuring up to four players working together to stop a small epidemic from becoming a disease that swallows the globe — and the 2010s, when spinoff Pandemic Legacy helped popularize a whole new style of board game.”
• Stuck inside due to the new coronavirus? Here are 10 creative board games that go beyond classics like Monopoly or Scrabble [Seattle Times]
“Whether you’re self-quarantining with your family against the threat of the novel coronavirus or just trying to be a responsible citizen by heeding public health officials’ suggestion that people avoid congregating in large groups, we’re here to help. We recommend you fill up some of these endless hours you’ve suddenly got on your hands by gathering around the kitchen table with a new board game. Board games, you ask? Yes, board games. It’s a booming industry and the perfect antidote to coronavirus overload. Your options are plentiful and multifaceted, and regardless of your interests, you can probably find a board game that will pique your fancy. So leave your ancient Monopoly and Scrabble boards on the shelf and check out some of these new, innovative games that will give you something interesting to do for hours (or days?!). We reached out to the board-game experts at Mox Boarding House in Ballard for their suggestions on some of the more inventive board games on the market today. Grouped by themes, here are their picks, starting with a couple that should feel familiar.”
• Coronavirus Fears Spark a Run on Nintendo's Ring Fit Adventure [Wired]
“Released October 2019, Ring Fit Adventure is a role-playing game in which players traverse beautiful worlds and combat monsters, all by exercising. The game monitors players’ movements using a leg strap that contains a motion-sensing Nintendo Switch controller and a big, bendy resistance ring. It’s a lot like what you’d see in a pilates class, plus cartoonish dragons. To pummel enemies, players must squat, do yoga poses, jog, or flex their arms. It’s a cute game, an ass-kicking exercise, and a welcome escape route for those fearful of gym sanitation. Since Friday, the average price of Ring Fit Adventure on eBay has surged to $130. The game is unavailable at GameStops within 100 miles of New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta, Houston, Phoenix, Des Moines, Las Vegas, and Seattle, according to GameStop’s website. The second and third entries on Amazon are for $500. More affordable listings on digital marketplaces tend to be for knock-offs of Ring Fit Adventure’s controller hardware and do not include the game. (They have red and blue handles on the Ring, rather than gray. Amazon especially is rife with them.)”
• Coronavirus lockdown in Italy has a lot of people playing Fortnite [CNET]
“As Italy's government enforces a mass quarantine, shutting down stores, restaurants and schools in an effort to slow the coronaviruspandemic, telecommunications companies have noticed a surge in traffic. And a lot of it's coming from video games such as Fortnite and Call of Duty, both of which pit players against one another in online battlefields. "We reported an increase of more than 70% of internet traffic over our landline network, with a big contribution from online gaming such as Fortnite," Telecom Italia Chief Executive Officer Luigi Gubitosi said on a conference call, earlier reported by Bloomberg. Epic, which makes Fortnite, didn't immediately respond to CNET's request for comment. Activision said Call of Duty: Warzone, the newest addition to its series that was released this week, attracted 6 million people to play in its first 24 hours. "We're just getting started," the company tweeted. As more people around the world are told to keep their distance from one another, work remotely and, ideally, stay home, cabin fever could set in quick. It's no wonder that some people are retreating to the online world as a mental escape from the real one.”
posted by Fizz (79 comments total) 36 users marked this as a favorite
"We reported an increase of more than 70% of internet traffic over our landline network, with a big contribution from online gaming such as Fortnite," Telecom Italia Chief Executive Officer Luigi Gubitosi said on a conference call

While people want social play, I totally get that, our internet infrastructure isn't actually ready for this.

It really kicks ass that the list of games to play are mostly single-player RPG-ish games, because I honestly think that's the real solution to stop the internet from collapsing from unexpected load.

I honestly suggest all y'all invest in some deep, large, single-player RPG's. There's plenty of good ones available right now, and it's often like delving into a book, with how in depth many of them get. And hey, you don't even need a killer gaming rig to be involved because kickass stuff like Undertale or the aforementioned Stardew Valley exists (as well as a litany of classic RPG's that are available like the original Fallout and Baldur's Gate).

Don't kill the internet with gaming and twitch streaming, it's going to be rough enough for all the people streaming Netflix/Hulu/Amazon/Disney+/etc.

(So also thank your fellow local pirates, who will turn to their local collections in this time of crisis, to take the load off the internet. I'm doing a personal moratorium on downloading new shit until this has passed. You're welcome.)

Anyway do yourself a solid and get some kick ass, single player RPG's to play at home. I only wish I had a Switch to play Pokemon Go! on. Good thing I just started Disco Elysium...
posted by deadaluspark at 1:41 PM on March 13, 2020 [3 favorites]

Mutazione and A Short Hike are free this week on Epic!
posted by curious nu at 1:48 PM on March 13, 2020 [7 favorites]

I think we're going to try running a remote Jackbox game with a few friends tonight. Of course I've set everything up so that no single device can run the game AND stream AND do video/audio chat, so I expect the living room is going to look like a rats' nest of wires and devices when I'm done.
posted by backseatpilot at 1:51 PM on March 13, 2020 [3 favorites]

With regard to more recently released games: Nioh 2 and Ori and the Will of the Wisp are both out these weekend. Ori is available on Xbox Game Pass and worth your time. One of the most beautiful platformers I've ever seen. If you like your Souls game to be filled with a lot of Souls-like challenges and bad ass ninjas who kill demons with swords, then Nioh 2 is something you should pick up.
posted by Fizz at 1:52 PM on March 13, 2020

I think we're going to try running a remote Jackbox game with a few friends tonight. Of course I've set everything up so that no single device can run the game AND stream AND do video/audio chat, so I expect the living room is going to look like a rats' nest of wires and devices when I'm done.

posted by Fizz at 1:53 PM on March 13, 2020 [12 favorites]

Oh, also for low-end people:

Google around about "NES emulators" "SNES emulators" "Genesis emulators" "Gameboy emulators" and so on.

Finding the ROMs to play on the emulators I'll leave as an exercise for the reader. They are out there, but I'd rather not get MF sent a cease and desist.

I feel like I need to try to help cater to people with low end systems because there's going to be a LOT of newcomers looking for some kind of entertainment, and so they might not even understand something like "System Requirements" coming in to all this. Having a list of simple to access games could be real helpful for some people. Emulators fall into that group of simple to access games.
posted by deadaluspark at 1:57 PM on March 13, 2020 [5 favorites]

the only thing i left on the computer at my last job before leaving was a C64 emulator and a folder full of pixelated 80s games
posted by poffin boffin at 2:05 PM on March 13, 2020 [5 favorites]

That's a good share deadalusspark,

Here's a a good list of games for low-spec machines/computers that do not have an expensive gaming card:
• Stardew Valley
• Papers Please
• Owlboy
• Slay the Spire
• Into the Breach
• Binding of Isaac
• Sunless Skies
• Celeste
• Spelunky
• West of Loathing
• Baba is You
• Undertale
• Minecraft
• Portal / Half Life / Valve Games
• Thimbleweed Park
• Hotline Miami
• Rogue Legacy
• Terraria
• Hearthstone
posted by Fizz at 2:07 PM on March 13, 2020 [25 favorites]

If my kids were older I would view the current situation as the best time ever to buy Gloomhaven and plow through the game.

Any suggestions for good board games for 10 and 12 year old kids to play with their dad, preferably coop games? Dungeon crawlers and RPGs haven't been made much of an appearance much in our house yet and I think we have the time now to get into these sort of immersive games. The kids are pretty board game conversant and enjoyed Runebound.

Also, any good two player Wii or xbox1 recommendations for the same two kids? They've really liked the Harry Potter and Starwars lego Wii games and deadaluspark's suggestion about a video game RPG sounds like a great idea also but I know nothing of this topic.
posted by SeanOfTheHillPeople at 2:07 PM on March 13, 2020 [1 favorite]

Also, any good two player Wii or xbox1 recommendations for the same two kids?

New Super Mario Bros. & Mario Galaxy are both worth your dollars and time. Overcooked 1/2 and Diablo III for your Xbox1.
posted by Fizz at 2:15 PM on March 13, 2020 [2 favorites]

Ah, Persona 5. The game I bought based on the overwhelmingly good reviews. What was I thinking?

It is easily the most repetitive game I have ever touched. And it's extremely creepy in its sexualizing of mid-teen girls. It hand waves that away with "but you're on the GOOD side!" and "but that's just what it's like in Japan!" but I have never played a more creepy game, sexuality wise. Oh, your 16 year old boy avatar can also "date" the hot, sexy doctor who sells you Black Market experimental drugs on the side.

It is extremely stylish. And looks really cool. But realize: you will see those stylish menus, victory animations, cut-scenes, etc., approximately 10,000 times if you bother to finish this game. I didn't bother. Even just playing through the first dungeon, I heard "You're SO gorgeous, Panther!" (Panther is the scantily-clad alter-ego of your high school friend-girl with gigantic breasts) about 350 times and gave up.

Anyone here try this game? It's pretty popular and massively loved.
posted by SoberHighland at 2:17 PM on March 13, 2020 [2 favorites]

See also my recent AskMe. I picked up Quiddler, Pandemic (which actually looks too complex), Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective, and Codenames Duet (which has yet to arrive).
posted by mwhybark at 2:17 PM on March 13, 2020

SeanOfTheHillPeople, there's always Pandemic, which my twelve year old loves. He's finding all of this quite fascinating, and personally I think there's great benefit to being able to act out scary situations in non-threatening ways like board games.

If your kids do gravitate toward the D&D/dungeon world, Castle Panic is a lot of fun, especially if you can add on the Wizard's Tower expansion (or so I've heard).

We were gifted a Choose Your Own Adventure board game over the holidays. It's called House of Danger and is more along the lines of a guided story kind of thing, but we still have fun with it.

We are video game deficient in our household and will be gravitating toward the tabletop over the next few weeks/months/years.
posted by vverse23 at 2:18 PM on March 13, 2020 [1 favorite]

Last night I sat a while and thought about some video games that give that good good escape to outside/elsewhere feel, in my experience. Came up with a list that had a surprising variety of platforms, difficulty, style and length:

stardew valley

zelda breath of the wild

witcher 3 blood and wine expansion specifically

the witness if you are living that puzzle life/are spock


burnout paradise

fable 3

ori and the blind forest

yonder the cloud catcher chronicles

tokyo mirage sessions #fe encore if all you’ve ever wanted was to be a j-pop idol and also a dragon in a persona game

dragon quest builders 2 GAME OF THE DECADE
posted by Mizu at 2:19 PM on March 13, 2020 [4 favorites]

When I got *mysteriously* sick two weeks ago I noticed Dragon Age Inquisition and all it’s addons where like 12 bucks on Xbox and remembered that game is like easily 100+ hours long so what can I say I’m a trendsetter (and a dalish mage)
posted by The Whelk at 2:20 PM on March 13, 2020 [10 favorites]

I have a few additions for the low end systems:

Into the Breach

And if you are just getting into the switch, there are some really good options there. I rediscovered Super Mario Odyssey - if you haven't played it yet, is basically playing tourist in the Mario universe, so it may help live out some of those travel desires, and it's odd but fun two player. I probably don't need to say much about Breath of the Wild, but I have put hundreds of hours into it, simply because I love being able to explore every bit of the world. Honestly, almost any Nintendo first party is a good bet. Don't look over the ones that may seem more "kid" oriented like Captain Toad - My wife and I had a TON of fun perfecting that game, and it served as a gateway into other games for her.

I will always advocate for any fire emblem game if you need to wile away the hours, and since it's a series that goes back to the NES days, you can likely find a version that can be emulated (GBA, DS are the best balance of playability and low-spec IMO) - but I'm saying that as someone who has literally put in upwards of 400 hours into the most recent installment, so I may be a bit biased.
posted by MysticMCJ at 2:22 PM on March 13, 2020 [1 favorite]

SoberHighland, I feel you on Persona 5. The series is historically confrontational with the sexuality of teen girls in a way that can feel really cool in the right social context and extremely bad in every other way. And the gameplay is repetitive in the way that jrpg fans like to present as deep and complex but yeah, it gets tiresome if you aren't exactly that type of person. The aesthetic, though, god, I could eat it with a spoon. I do not understand who decided it was cool to rec to normal people though, as though it would not expose everyone's secret fetishes.
posted by Mizu at 2:25 PM on March 13, 2020 [2 favorites]

After a hiatus, my son rediscovered Minecraft and is keen to have a large collaborative build with me (partially inspired by the Hermitcraft youtubers).
posted by Ashwagandha at 2:26 PM on March 13, 2020 [2 favorites]

I enjoyed Borderlands 3 more than I thought I would. It's violent, but it's a very crazy, over the top, cartoonish violence. Performance was great on the PS4 Pro and I had zero crashes. Many different ways to build different characters. One or two of the big boss fights—and certainly the final boss fight—I turned the difficulty down because those things became long, boring bullet-sponges. You can adjust difficulty any time.

Other than that? It's colorful and creative and really keeps things mixed up nicely through the entire play through. I really did not get bored, and I actually finished it. Many weird, funky and fun different guns, as loot is a major part of the game. So much was put into the different guns, it's mind boggling. Some are really silly, too. Lots of woman-power in the game, and a gay romance between two good-guy older gents plays a big role. There's DLC coming that's all about those two having a big wedding.
posted by SoberHighland at 2:31 PM on March 13, 2020 [1 favorite]

Also as I was digging through boxes I TOTALLY FAILED to locate my extra-seekrit reserve stash of OG early 1980s Peter Jackson (no, the other guy) minigames. Oh for a quick round of Ogre, or Wizard, or GEV!


/wipes nose on sleeve of tattered M-51 US Army surplus jacket, left lower pocket filled with minigames, right front lower pocket with any given nerd brick paperback N where N = Omnibus Euro LOTR, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas OR On the Campaign Trail 1972 OR The Great Shark Hunt OR Hell’s Angels, Dhalgren

what? I’m totally not sick you guys
posted by mwhybark at 2:33 PM on March 13, 2020 [5 favorites]

FTL is glorious, basically a perfect game if you're into the things it does.
posted by Sauce Trough at 2:34 PM on March 13, 2020 [4 favorites]

The Lego movie-games (Lego Star Wars, Lego Indiana Jones, Lego Batman, etc) are available on the Xbox and Playstation consoles. Fun for most ages.

Even watching some other family member play through Portal (you're trapped in a human-lab-rat maze, and humorously berated by the AI that wants to confound your efforts to escape) and Portal 2.

A classic board game, that I don't see around enough anymore, is RISK. (the one with the world map, several players are alloted countries, then proceed to start strategically invading each other, in a quest to conquer the whole map) It's straightforward enough to be played by 9 year olds, and diverting enough for 69 year olds, and they can play each other. Anyplace that sells boxed board games should have it, and the mechanism of play is one that serves as the basis for a lot of other strategy and resource-management games.

Also, I have not heard anyone mention playing cards in all this? When we were prone to blackouts and getting snowed in, we always kept a couple decks and a book of rules in the same drawer with the candles and flashlights. Now's your chance to teach your kids to split tens, or up your game for the Spades tournament at the next cookout.
posted by bartleby at 2:34 PM on March 13, 2020 [2 favorites]

We used to play Peter Jackson's OGRE! We called those "chit" games. We had Illuminati by Jackson as well, but it was kind of complicated for us 12 year olds. Wow, I haven't thought about that in a long, long time.
posted by SoberHighland at 2:35 PM on March 13, 2020 [4 favorites]

Try something immersive like nethack. It will keep you engaged and entertained until death or senility, whichever comes first...
posted by jim in austin at 2:37 PM on March 13, 2020 [3 favorites]

I’m an FTL hater, fwiw. prolly due to olds. I mean it models the sitch very nicely but playing it is not fun, it feels like actually dying, due to heart attack.
posted by mwhybark at 2:37 PM on March 13, 2020 [1 favorite]

chit games! lol
posted by mwhybark at 2:38 PM on March 13, 2020 [2 favorites]

A recommendation of a game I actually finished recently (a rare thing for me!), Yoku's Island Express is a side-scrolling exploratory pinball game. You're an ant pushing a ball around, and explore a cute island and pinball yourself around, solving puzzles. It's "metroidvania" in the sense that you explore and unlock the island as you go, with lots of retracing paths. Its mostly non-violent and only cartoon violence with a few bosses.

I played it on the switch, and it's also out on PC.
posted by cschneid at 2:40 PM on March 13, 2020 [4 favorites]

SoberH, Illuminati is actually the specific game I was braving old dusty boxes to find. My wife and I courted and bonded in the X-Files era, and while the show is derivative of the zeitgeist that produced the game, it retains some aspect of its’ humor. Only some, sadly.
posted by mwhybark at 2:41 PM on March 13, 2020 [2 favorites]

Noita is a fun little game too.
posted by Splunge at 2:41 PM on March 13, 2020

SeanOfTheHillPeople check out For the King, it's basically a coop dungeon crawling videoboardgame, somewhat simpler than Glomhaven and made much easier to play through due to being computerised i.e. all counters, stats and states kept track of for you.

Playing through it with my wife at the moment on PC (also available on Xbox1), it's a great simple-enough-yet-engaging-enough distraction for a couple of hours each night after a day of toddlertainment here in France, where school and daycare is now no more for us :(
posted by protorp at 2:48 PM on March 13, 2020 [1 favorite]

Any recommendations for Steam on OS X? I'm immunocomprimised and too cheap to invest in a console.
posted by photoslob at 2:49 PM on March 13, 2020 [3 favorites]

I cannot resist my nerd twitch and must point out that Steve Jackson is the Ogre / Car Wars / Illuminati / Munchkin / GURPS guy.

He is the titular Steve Jackson of Steve Jackson Games.

and yeah FTL isn't for everyone. if you find roguelike permadeath frustrating, steer clear. But man, all that struggle makes it glorious when you finally scrape past the endgame.

I kinda compare that to Darkest Dungeons which was similarly fun and amazingly stylish but had a plateau that I found impossible to get past.
posted by Sauce Trough at 2:50 PM on March 13, 2020 [11 favorites]

Any suggestions for good board games for 10 and 12 year old kids to play with their dad, preferably coop games?

I would second vverse23's suggestion of Castle Panic + Wizard's Tower expansion. My kids (7 and 9) enjoy it along with the Engines of War expansion. Think tower defense meets board game.

Other co-op games that are in our rotation or we have finished include:

* Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle + The Monster Box expansion (deck builder)
* Aeon's End: Legacy (deck builder + multi-session campaign)
* Pathfinder Adventure Card Game: Rise of the Runeloards (deck builder + multi-session campaign; expansions can get pricey)
* One Deck Dungeon + Forest of Shadows Expansion (dice roller)
* 5-Minute Dungeon (matching game; quicker gameplay)

Next up for us is LOTR: The Card Game.

I've found coopboardgames.com to be a great resource for discovering more co-op board games.
posted by drather19 at 2:50 PM on March 13, 2020 [4 favorites]

Starsector is another low-requirements game for Window, macOS, and Linux. It's a sort of top-down, single player version of EVE where you outfit ships, build a fleet, explore, trade, and fight other fleets. It runs completely smoothly on my 2013 MacBook Pro with integrated (Intel Iris) graphics, and the fans don't even spin up much like they do for almost any other game I play on it.

Bonus points for being indie and DRM-free.

Here's a YouTube review if you want some visuals.
posted by good in a vacuum at 2:52 PM on March 13, 2020 [5 favorites]

^ Sauce Trough honestly Darkest Dungeon was sooo much more fun for me when I just got over my inadequacies and used a CheatEngine type memory hacker to give myself a load of resources at the start of a save. I absolutely love the design and styling of that game but am way way past being at a stage in life where grind for grind's sake feels rewarding to me.
posted by protorp at 2:52 PM on March 13, 2020 [1 favorite]

Just remembered an oldie but goodie - Stacking. It's solo, and quite old (but that should make it cheap and multiplatform). You're the smallest child in a family of Dickensian nesting dolls. When the mustache-twirling factory owner abducts your siblings, you have to go out and rescue them all, using your ability to sneak up behind larger dolls and stack yourself inside them, piloting them from within. It's quite cute, and fun enough to watch, and you can always trade off the controller between missions.
posted by bartleby at 2:53 PM on March 13, 2020 [1 favorite]

Heroine's Quest: The Herald of Ragnarok is a real hidden gem, free, and on Windows and Linux. It's directly inspired by the old Quest for Glory series but has full voice acting. It might work on macOS using Steam's Proton software, I don't know.
posted by bright flowers at 3:08 PM on March 13, 2020 [3 favorites]

When is it a bad time to wander the Commonwealth sniping Brotherhood magahats?

posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 3:08 PM on March 13, 2020 [3 favorites]

I cannot resist my nerd twitch and must point out that Steve Jackson is the Ogre / Car Wars / Illuminati / Munchkin / GURPS guy.

mea culpa! Thanks for the correction! Now, if I could only find them!
posted by mwhybark at 3:17 PM on March 13, 2020 [1 favorite]

I have been on a Darkest Dungeon bender for the last 48 hours. I recommend the Radiant setting to combat some of the grindy aspects. And this is my current mod list.
posted by Pendragon at 3:47 PM on March 13, 2020 [2 favorites]

I'm currently completely addicted to Hades, which is still in early access but is a much more polished roguelike than most released games. It has that "Supergiant Games" level of awesome art and VA and writing and music, and then the combat feels amazing. It's SOOOOOOOO good.

And then of course Tetris Effect, I think I could probably spend an entire waking day just playing Tetris.
posted by selfnoise at 3:47 PM on March 13, 2020 [1 favorite]

Also, look into one of the subscription services- origin or Microsoft or whoever. Origin has the full mass effect trilogy, the Dragon age games, they are billions (zombie fighting real time strategy), frost punk slay the spire, etc. I've been using the hell out of that subscription. Microsoft has plenty of great games that I already bought. Ubisoft had a similar subscription, but it's a little pricy ($15 a month). Don't forget to cancel when you're done, but one had the origin subscription for over a year and have gotten more than $5 a month out of it.
posted by Hactar at 3:53 PM on March 13, 2020 [1 favorite]

yeah, Darkest Dungeon is one of that games that you don't really marathon, you bender it.
posted by Sauce Trough at 3:55 PM on March 13, 2020 [2 favorites]

If you miss your daily subway / train ride, I'd highly recommend Overcrowd. A tycoon sim in which you plan, build, and manage a London Metro station. It's occasionally relaxing, but generally keeps you busy. More so than most tycoon sims. I've really been enjoying it of late. Seeing the bustling station at rush hour does reduce the feelings of isolation a little. As a bonus, it will work well on low end systems.

Also kinda recommend Yakuza 0. I say "kinda" because the main plot won't appeal to everyone. But the real magic of the game comes in the sidequests. Wandering around Tokyo or Osaka as a yakuza with a heart of gold, solving the problems of ordinary people. You get involved in the lives of so many different people. From film crews to kids to investigative journalists to struggling hostesses to a dominatrix who feels like a failure. Despite most of the solutions involving fisticuffs at some point, it's all insanely wholesome. And the cities are richly detailed. One of those open worlds that's full of tiny details. Between the rich streetscapes, the many shops and mini-games open to you, and the huge number of characters you meet, it's a nice, temporary replacement for an active city life. It has a big soul, and a rich humanity, that GTA lacks.

A few other random recommendations of lesser known games:

Wildermyth is a game all RPG fans should at least try now. Also good for lower-end PC's. It's kind of a tactical RPG, kind of an open-ended story builder (and tragedy builder) in a similar vein to Rimworld, but on a more personal level. Rock Paper Shotgun writeup: Play Wildermyth You Cowards!

Autonauts: build a colony on a new planet with programmable robots. There's zero chance of failure. Everything is in bright flat colors. The programming is easy. In many respects it's a zero stress lightweight version of Factorio. If you like supply chains but hate worry, it's a good fit for you.

For the King: turn-based tactical RPG which closely mimics a tabletop session of D&D. At least the combat bits. Storyline is almost non-existent. But, the fighting is fun and a little tough. Optional permadeath. But with simple, kinda beautiful graphics. Has co-op.

Eastshade: non-combat RPG which involves you being temporarily stranded on a small island where you solve problems & mysteries for humanoid creatures with different animal heads. There is quite a bit of painting involved as your artistic skills are the key to many of the quests. It's an open world on a lush island full of ruins and secrets. A little like Skyrim, a little like Myst, a little like an adult Animal Crossing, but most tasks are accomplished with branching conversation and art. Completely and utterly non-violent.

Endless Sky: Free on Steam. Basically a rich, detailed EV Nova clone. I've just barely scratched the surface of it, but seems wonderful so far.

Kenshi: A huge open world RPG in which you can do almost anything. Wander around, kill monsters, and collect loot, if that's what you want. Free slaves and build a new city in the middle of the desert, if that's what you want. And anything in between. Graphics are terrible, but the gameplay makes up for it.
posted by Teegeeack AV Club Secretary at 4:04 PM on March 13, 2020 [2 favorites]

See, I was just gonna work on some more Civ 6 achivements.
posted by pwnguin at 4:09 PM on March 13, 2020 [2 favorites]

I agree with all the recommendations for Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle as a great game for kids that will keep them occupied, that is also fun for parents, and is designed to ease kids into the complexity. Awesome recommendations on here and I'll be doing some online shopping!
posted by SeanOfTheHillPeople at 4:24 PM on March 13, 2020

I think we're going to try running a remote Jackbox game with a few friends tonight. Of course I've set everything up so that no single device can run the game AND stream AND do video/audio chat, so I expect the living room is going to look like a rats' nest of wires and devices when I'm done.

Please tell us how you did it if it works
posted by Uncle at 4:26 PM on March 13, 2020 [2 favorites]

So, my wife and I got a Switch from a friend as a wedding present last year. Which effectively means that I got a Switch for our wedding. She brought this up a little upset recently, so I asked a more-gamer-than-me friend for recommendations for things she/we could play, and the biggest hit suggestion of his was Snipperclips, which is wonderfully cooperative and puzzle-solving, if a little shorter than we'd hoped for.
posted by Navelgazer at 5:03 PM on March 13, 2020

See, I was just gonna work on some more Civ 6 achivements.

This too! How had I never messed around as Persia before now?!
posted by Navelgazer at 5:04 PM on March 13, 2020

Any suggestions for good board games for 10 and 12 year old kids to play with their dad, preferably coop games?

Pandemic, Forbidden Island and Forbidden Desert have been well received at my house with similarly aged boys. The Mind is also fun; and while not cooperative, we've also been enjoying Dominion.

On the TTRPG front, if you are thinking of trying it, the base rules for D&D 5e are available free online, as are the rules for Ironsworn, a fantasy RPG aimed very much at storytelling more than mechanics, and that you can also play solo or without a DM. Haven't tried it myself yet, but there are some people doing solo Ironsworn games on YouTube/Twitch (Adam Koebel being one) if you want to check it out.
posted by nubs at 5:14 PM on March 13, 2020 [5 favorites]

See, I was just gonna work on some more Civ 6 achivements.

yeah, I kinda considered grinding hard to unlock everyone in the latest Smash Bros game. I can't believe how much playable stuff there is in that game.
posted by Sauce Trough at 5:24 PM on March 13, 2020 [1 favorite]

Throwing out a recommendation for Cook, Serve Delicious 3 - I want to get off work and go back to my food truck.
posted by Selena777 at 5:35 PM on March 13, 2020

Is Gloomhaven something people would recommend for two players? I'd like something that would scratch the tabletop RPG itch without making either of us DM, but I'm not sure if that massive box has so many bits and bobs that I'd get annoyed setting it all up.
posted by tautological at 5:42 PM on March 13, 2020

If you haven't played (or replayed) the King's Quest and Space Quest series, those are great games that are available in lots of places for free. I started playing them at age 3, and some of my best childhood memories are being stuck on those puzzles for AGES until we figured out how to solve them. Especially if you have school-aged kids, this is a good time to teach some critical thinking and problem-solving.
posted by guster4lovers at 5:47 PM on March 13, 2020 [3 favorites]

Pandemic: Reign of Cthulhu is the best cooperative board game I've ever played, hands down - the art and game play are immersive, the rules are carefully thought out and obviously well-tested, and it's very replayable (in part because you'll get your ass kicked until you learn how to cooperate effectively against the cultists and Shoggoths). Works best with two players in my experience, so perfect for quarantine / social distancing.
posted by ryanshepard at 5:54 PM on March 13, 2020 [1 favorite]

And while you are playing awesome games at home, seriously, stop going to game night. If anyone you are playing with has it, you will be touching the same bits.

Been a big topic on BGG today. The cavalier attitudes are appalling.
posted by Windopaene at 6:02 PM on March 13, 2020 [2 favorites]

BABA IS YOU is just as great as ever.
posted by JHarris at 7:19 PM on March 13, 2020 [3 favorites]

My DriveThruRPG newsletter says that Astral Tabletop, a virtual tabletop service, is adding its Pro features to free accounts until the end of April. (Normally paid users will get 2 months of free time added to their accounts.)
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 7:19 PM on March 13, 2020

For those who want true isolation, Quill is a single-player role-playing game about writing letters. It's pay-what-you-want, and there are several supplements that are the same. It's charming, and is a great set of writing prompts.

Right now, DTRPG is having its GM's Day Sale; it's worth looking around.

Fuzzy Heroes is a terrific intro to board-based/tactical RPGs for kids - it involves actual stuffed toys (or other toys) with stats based on their dimensions, accessories, and color. (Is fun. Won awards when it came out. My kids loved it.)

I have heard good things about Hero Kids but haven't played it. First Fable is another "introduce kids to RPGs" book, and it's free. (Haven't played it either.)
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 7:44 PM on March 13, 2020

Any recommendations for Steam on OS X

What style of play are you interested in? I've been rolling these on my early 2013 macbook pro, and they all run well enough to be fun, and are on steam:

Cities Skylines
Into the Breach
Oxygen not Included (but I hesitate to suggest it unless you are into management games deep.

These aren't steam, but GOG has a wider selection of older games ported to OSX; if that's you're platform, they're worth getting an account with in addition to Steam for sure.

*if this one is your jam, just get it an sink some time into it...unlocking everything, even on easy, has been really hard and I have not yet been able to crack several parts of that game on easy.
posted by furnace.heart at 7:49 PM on March 13, 2020 [2 favorites]

Any suggestions for good board games for 10 and 12 year old kids to play with their dad, preferably coop games?

Uh.... You might consider an actual tabletop RPG, in that situation, with those ages. I credit an early start on D&D with probably half of my math teaching abilities: I can tell a story while tracking complex systems and responding to unpredictable player student input with the best of 'em.

Dungeon World is great.
posted by kaibutsu at 9:30 PM on March 13, 2020 [2 favorites]

Any suggestions for good board games for 10 and 12 year old kids to play with their dad, preferably coop games?

I'm pretty much obligated to point out that you could run D&D tonight with almost no prep. More seriously, just watch the #1 and #2 videos in that playlist. Matt's a little intense, but that's just his schtick. He knows what he's talking about. He provides links in the descriptions to everything you need to get going at no cost. It's a good place to start kids of that age.

Also, I'm thinking this will finally kick my ass to get an online game set-up for my own players.
posted by bonehead at 9:37 PM on March 13, 2020 [7 favorites]

First 'Call of Duty', for PC. I had to use a time machine but fuck if them natzis on the cruiser fun to shoot. Gonna try to do mages guild in Oblivion and move my weapon hoard to Battlehorn castle though I prefer a knights of the nine as guard. I just go with mannacaros robe of worms, a load of greemote and a dagger.
I carry a 1000 diamonds and have aelyiad statues in every house.

Ok, is chess, ya know, by yourself...I tried and it's statemate and I get pissed at my almost mirrored moves.
posted by clavdivs at 11:00 PM on March 13, 2020 [1 favorite]

I had a friend and his son over for dinner tonight. Great excuse to drink beer and talk while the 10 year olds entertain each other, we are all stressed and need to relax a bit. Naturally the kids get sucked into FIFA 20 and when it’s time to go, there’s the usual hassle getting them off the screens. So I put my quarter down next to the Xbox. When their soccer match is over I grab a controller. There is much yelling, but their are 3 adults who explain the sacrosanct meaning when a quarter has been placed. At this point, my buddy Rob has his quarter next to mine. Sorry kids, I didn’t make the rules, this is how it goes.

I have an unwrapped disc of emulated 80s arcade games that was given to us last Christmas that I start to open.

“Hey kids, you can’t watch this one. It’s pretty intense. I don’t know what the rating is, but I don’t want you to get nightmares. Now get outta here.”

“What’s it called?”

“Dig dug. I think it’s rated M.”

Muscle memory from 35 year ago is activated and Rob and I play an epic Dig Dug game that goes into the mid 100,000 points and lasts for more than 30 minutes.

At the end, all the kids are ready for bed, but certainly my offspring have new respect for their old man and their yawns are clearly the evidence of their little minds being blown by their dad’s mad gaming skillz.

I can’t wait to play Galaga in front of them.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 11:07 PM on March 13, 2020 [9 favorites]

Friends on Facebook turned me onto Disco Elysium. (previouslier, previously)

I'm a couple hours in and whoah. this is something new to me. I mean this game is actually quotable

I want to fill the screen with those quotes but you should hear them from the game, not me.
posted by Sauce Trough at 11:29 PM on March 13, 2020 [2 favorites]

You'd actually be very surprised at what will run on a (modern ish) low spec PC, especially if it has a less than 3 year old IGP or less than 7 year old discrete GPU.

Pretty much any AAA game that was released before 2018 will run with reasonable graphical settings at 720p on practically anything. Even my 8 year old i5 with a $100-three-years-ago GTX 750ti (the most budget of budget cards, let me assure you) would play stuff like MGSV, GTA:V, most racing sims, Kerbal Space Program, No Man's Sky, Cities Skylines, Overcooked, and almost anything else I've thrown at it. Sometimes it's ugly, but 9/10 games played just fine and even looked pretty good on it until last month when I finally got a relatively modern GPU that can do 1080p with ultra settings on modern titles.
posted by wierdo at 12:16 AM on March 14, 2020 [1 favorite]

If you want something like Stardew Valley, but it's just too sweet, and honestly not enough of a challenge for you, Haven & Hearth is a real time game that has an enormous world to explore and the best crafting ever. Everything you discover gives points and potentially opens up more things to make and do. You start naked in the world, with the tutorial disguised as a quest, which instructs you to chip a stone and pick a branch, which you then use to make a stone axe. You go on from there until you have a village, a mine with multiple levels which will spawn trolls and other horrors, a farm, and a knarr to go whaling and get to the other continents. If you now have a lot of time to put into it you will go far and possibly get obsessed.

There are some guides in the forum, and a wiki to help you. You don't have to play solo. About half the players are hermits who don't interact much and the other half have made friends or brought them in to play as a team so there is a lot of group effort if you want it. You can designate people kin by sharing hearth secrets so you can chat and work together with players anywhere on the map. The game has much potential to fill your social needs for cooperation and discussion.

Other players you don't know will be your rivals and they will try to steal your stuff, so you have to stake a claim and defend it. Most of the animals can kill you at first, but once you can find clover you can feed it to a wild horse and get a very temporary mount which helps. That's the way to catch ducks, and grouse on the wing and make you more likely to survive your first combat with a fox or a badger or with the bats that infest the caves where you will start your mine.
posted by Jane the Brown at 3:11 AM on March 14, 2020

To echo bonehead above. I'm currently DMing a game which started with Matt Coleville's videos above, and is still going and has been entirely on Roll20 throughout, so we can play with no pandemic risk.

A nice simple Goblin tomb can turn into a vast magical dimension hopping cave lair in very short order.
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 3:11 AM on March 14, 2020 [3 favorites]

Wizarding World is increasing spell energy ground drops and expanding how many traces trace detectors pop up. Gift opening is doubled.
posted by tilde at 4:02 AM on March 14, 2020

On a break from the games you're playing you can listen to this coronavirus song I wrote yesterday and put on MeFi Music today.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:24 AM on March 14, 2020 [1 favorite]

If you're stuck at home, you have nothing to do and you want something that soaks up all your time and attention leaving no room to worry about covid-19, might I recommend Football Manager?
posted by MartinWisse at 8:36 AM on March 14, 2020 [1 favorite]

Don't know most of the games in the article, but I'd skew towards those compulsive-addictive games that soak hours.

In these times:
- Death Stranding (reconnecting a post-apocalyptic world by delivering stuff to people)
- The Last of Us (thematic, and waiting for episode 2)
- Bloodborne (thematic)
- Horizon Zero Dawn (reconnecting a post-apocalyptic world by destroying, riding or controlling robot dinosaurs)

All very immersive with good movie-like storylines (tho can't say yet for Bloodborne because I'm still only working up to about my 5th boss monster out of about a dozen in the main storyline).
posted by UbuRoivas at 10:23 AM on March 14, 2020 [1 favorite]

There is only one game. It is Borderlands 1-3, pre sequel (and that tell tale games thing) ok technically 5 games, still. One. Anything else is an affront to the gods, and will give you dandruff. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.
posted by evilDoug at 2:38 PM on March 14, 2020

For Myst-type fans, I can recommend Quern. Nice and long, good puzzles, Windows, Mac (but not macOS 10.15 Catalina), and Linux, and it's on Steam. The puzzles are logical and not too easy or too hard, in my estimation. I think we used cheats only a couple of times because of overlooking the location of something, not because of some off-the-wall weird thing you have to do to solve a puzzle. I found it very satisfying, anyway, and I'd be interested in any recs for similar games.
posted by taz at 3:01 PM on March 14, 2020 [1 favorite]

Nice... On the puzzley front, my partner and I have been working on The Witness. It's all maze puzzles all the time, but with a lot more variation than I expected. Super good fun. (and so many pretty trees and flowers.)
posted by kaibutsu at 3:09 PM on March 14, 2020 [1 favorite]

“Hey kids, you can’t watch this one. It’s pretty intense. I don’t know what the rating is, but I don’t want you to get nightmares. Now get outta here.”

“What’s it called?”

“Dig dug. I think it’s rated M.”

Muscle memory from 35 year ago is activated and Rob and I play an epic Dig Dug game that goes into the mid 100,000 points and lasts for more than 30 minutes.

Mad props. Dig Dug is the best underground pumping-up game ever. A masterpiece. Been enjoying it since 1982 but I still can’t get past level 10.
posted by porn in the woods at 3:22 AM on March 15, 2020 [2 favorites]

Nice... On the puzzley front, my partner and I have been working on The Witness. It's all maze puzzles all the time, but with a lot more variation than I expected. Super good fun. (and so many pretty trees and flowers.)

Ooooh wow, I'm not going to spoil it, but keep your eyes open and try different things, there is a gigantic and hilarious secret in that game that, when you discover it, will absolutely blow your mind.
posted by JHarris at 9:29 AM on March 15, 2020 [1 favorite]

Since it was mentioned, there is a Hero Kids bundle ending a few hours if you are okay with PDFs.
posted by hankscorpio83 at 2:11 PM on March 16, 2020

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