If you’re like me, your eyes glaze over when you hear about new video game releases like Doom and Resident Evil. You don’t know the classics or which new releases are most popular at any given time. You like the games you like and that’s it.
Even as a non-gamer, I have games I gravitate toward. I can play these games exclusively for days. Most of them have a relaxed storyline—or no dedicated storyline at all—and you can take them at your own pace.
If you’re not a gamer, but you’re looking for something to do while social distancing during COVID-19, Geek Travel Guide has you covered. Check out these 16 games you’ll love, even if you aren’t a dedicated gamer.
With its new 2020 release, Animal Crossing: New Horizons, I can’t help but include this one. I’ve been playing Animal Crossing since it was first released for Gamecube in 2002. I even have Pocket Camp on my phone.
There’s a reason Animal Crossing is so popular. With its laid back gameplay and endless options for styling and customization for your home and character, it’s hard to get bored.
You spend most of the game indebted to a racoon and improving your town (or, in the newest game, your island), building homes, stocking your museum with bugs, fossils, and fish, and getting to know your neighbors. Plus, everyone in town roasts you every chance they get, and the townsfolk subsist on puns. These are my kind of people, and maybe they’re yours, too.
Stardew Valley came onto the scene (and onto PC) in 2016 and has since grown in popularity, especially among those who loved playing Farmville on Facebook all those years ago. Stardew Valley has a pixelated Harvest Moon vibe, and there are a lot of similarities between the two.
You have a plot of land you tend, you make friends with everyone in Pelican Town, and you can even date almost half of them. But Stardew Valley comes with a twist—it has monsters in the nearby caves, and they drop treasure when you fight them.
It’s a combination between the easygoing farm life you’ll find in Harvest Moon and the kick of combat to keep things interesting.
My Time at Portia from Pathea Games has been compared to Stardew Valley, but with some notable differences. It’s a simulation RPG set in a post-apocalyptic town where you restore your Pa’s old workshop to its former glory.
You can craft items, and as you get to know the citizens of Portia, they’ll commission you to make things for them, too. While many post-apocalyptic games give you a dark, depressing setting, Portia is much brighter—though there are still monsters lurking around town for you to fight.
It’s not just the workshop you’re improving either. In My Time at Portia, you’ve got—you guessed it—a farm where you can raise animals and crops. Ride your llama around town, play mini-games, or compete with other players in workshop competitions to prove your skills. My Time at Portia is great for non-gamers who still have that competitive spirit and like to connect with others.
Moonlighter gets a little more intense than farming, but it’s chill enough that non-gamers will enjoy the fighting elements. It offers a completely different gameplay experience depending on whether it’s day or night in the game.
During the day, you follow Will as he manages his shop and interacts with the villagers. Oh, and while you have daylight, you need to create and enchant tools. Otherwise, how can you fight the bosses you come up against at night?
Once you enter the Gates under the moonlight, you’re in a different world where you face enemies and collect loot to further your quest. You’ll have a hard time not staying up all night with this one!
Unlike the cozy settings of other games on this list, Journey takes you through the desert and all the way up a mountain. This game is the definition of “it’s not about the destination, but the journey.”
With the magical elements of the game, you can fly with your enchanted scarf and battle creatures both mechanical and made of stone. You can travel alone as a mysterious robed figure, or you can turn the game into a multiplayer experience.
There’s no dialogue in this game, though. Even the cutscenes are wordless from the starting sand dune to the mountain’s summit.
I’ve been playing Pokemon games since I was in elementary school, and most fans who have been around since Pokemon’s conception are no stranger to the franchise. From Pokemon FireRed to the newest Sword and Shield for Switch, you’ve got tons of options if you have multiple gaming systems.
If you’ve been living under a rock for the past 20 years or so and aren’t acquainted with Pokemon’s concept, the story of each Pokemon game starts when you leave your tiny hometown with your water, fire, or grass type starter pokemon. From there, you build up your team and battle through the eight gyms until you reach the league champion.
On the way, you face repeated battles with your rival (who varies from game to game, but is considerably kinder in the more recent ones) and face off against the villains who cause trouble throughout the region.
While the theme of each game is pretty consistent, I can’t imagine not loving this series. It’s easy to get sucked in as you play through the story at your own pace, collecting items and pokemon and getting stronger as you go. It’s a classic game, and even the older releases don’t lose their luster as they age.
If you’ve never heard of Unravel, don’t worry. You don’t need to have played the first game to enjoy the second. In this game you play as two creatures called Yarnys, which are literally made of yarn.
Through a series of chapters, the two Yarnys help children escape from adults who want to harm them—and who act as the villains of this game. By solving puzzles on the island setting, you help the kids stay safe and create your own home in the island’s lighthouse.
Despite the simple story, you’ll find that Yarnys can do a lot when you combine them—or activate the two-player version of the game. You can customize your Yarny and manipulate your in-game environment to work to your advantage.
As a crocheter, I love how this game combines gaming with crafting, making for a unique experience that brings different interests together in one.
There’s no shortage of farming games for the non-gamer, and all of them are unique. While I have my favorites among them, I could play any farming games all day long.
Staxel gives you a little more flexibility beyond building the farm and the village. The setup mimics the building capabilities LEGO bricks (or Minecraft), allowing you to play the game however you want. You can choose to focus on the village or your farm, or try to build both equally. And it’s not just about growing the town—you can style it the way you want so you get a more city vibe if that’s your thing.
The point is, much like crafting creations with LEGO bricks, Staxel opens a world of building possibilities. You can even try the Sapling Edition, which starts you off with a farm that’s in serious need of TLC.
Harvest Moon is one of my favorite games of all time, right up there with Animal Crossing. While my favorite edition is Tale of Two Towns, each one offers a similar—but not quite the same—storyline.
While you follow the same story of reviving your farm and the all-but-abandoned town, you have a bigger mission. Sometimes, it’s bringing two towns together. Other times, it’s completing tasks and gathering items to awaken the Harvest Goddess.
If you’re not convinced of how perfect Harvest Moon is for the non-gamer, my mom used to play it back when the Wii was popular. My mom is about as non-gamer as it gets. Harvest Moon: Animal Parade came out when I was in college, and that game was the only one she ever sat down to play—and she got invested in it.
Graveyard Keeper is described as “the most inaccurate medieval cemetery management sim of the year” and it doesn’t take long to see why. It’s sort of like all the games where you rebuild a town, except this time you’re the manager of an old cemetery.
It’s like running a business. You use resources to improve your graveyard, and you have your own morals thrown into question when it comes to how to use them. You can even partner with other businesses in the game to sell things like body parts. Seriously, Graveyard Keeper is the ultimate in moral grayness.
You can even find ingredients for products in the local caves. Just make sure you don’t poison everyone with them.
In Garden Paws, you play as an animal…who also raises animals. You do plenty of other stuff, too, as you keep your grandparents’ farm going while they’re away. You also run a shop to get supplies that help you maintain the town (because, apparently, in all these games, the townspeople can do literally nothing to help you).
You’ve got plenty of options in Garden Paws, starting with a customizable character. The game has elements like those you’ll find in Harvest Moon or Animal Crossing, including a museum you can donate artifacts to and all the farming aspects like growing crops. But in this game, you get natural disasters and other challenging elements that affect how you rebuild the town.
Garden Paws is a pretty new game, so the developers are still adding features. They plan to include mini games and other elements in the future, so you’ll have even more ways to play.
If you’ve ever played a PC game in your life, it was probably Sims. I used to spend hours on my family’s desktop trying desperately to fulfill my Sims’ ridiculous requests until I gave up and messed with them instead.
If you’re not familiar with how Sims works, it’s basically a real life simulation game, but things like making a meal or going to the bathroom feel much more high stakes when your Sim shouts to the sky if they don’t get what they want. You control how your Sim lives, their career, their family, and create everything the way you want it to be. Build your Sims a home, and go about your disastrous life simulation.
I promise it’s easy to get sucked into this one. Your Sims overreact to everything and get roasted by non-player characters (NPCs) for everything from short dates to bad small talk.
Set in the Victorian era, you can play Chocolatier in either story mode or free play. In story mode, you go through quests from NPCs to find 64 recipes scattered all over the world. As you gather ingredients, you make chocolates with completely customizable recipes.
You spend the game opening chocolate factories across the globe and growing the Baumeister chocolate business. You play timed mini-games when you find new recipes, and you can replay them to make your factories produce more chocolate faster. You get rewards for completing quests over the course of the story, too.
Chocolatier is great for people who want a relaxing game they can play at their own pace. It lets you get creative with the chocolates you make and you can recreate them even after you find the 64 recipes.
Cities: Skylines has a Sims vibe, except you’re not creating a single person’s life. You’re making a whole city. This game gives you the chance to build a city according to your vision, from roads to railways. You control taxes, industry, districts, and more, and you can grow the city and its population as you see fit.
Much like Sims, the only story you have is your city’s growth. And you don’t have to build your city according to a grid plan—though that option is available to you. You can make Boston’s warped roads if you really want to make everyone miserable, and purchase more land to expand your land and your citizens’ disgruntlement.
The type of builder you are depends on your whim, and you’ve got plenty of freedom for constructing your city.
Remember Zoo Tycoon and all the other Tycoon games? When I wasn’t playing Sims on my family’s old desktop, I was building a zoo and trying to keep up with all the broken fences and angry patrons who wanted an ice cream stand. Tropico is a similar concept—just political.
These games go way back, too. In Tropico, your objective is to maintain power over your island as El Presidente. You set how many years the game spans, and over that time, you need to keep foreign powers like the Soviet Union and the United States in your favor. If you do, they’ll give you money and other types of aid. If you don’t, they’ll invade your island.
At the end of the game, you get a score for how well you did in terms of economic factors, citizen satisfaction, and allocation of your island’s funds.
Night in the Woods follows Mae Borowski through her hometown of Possum Springs after she drops out of college. Gameplay is based on your choices, and you can get close to different characters, build relationships, and experience the adventure with different storylines.
The game devolves into a more fantasy plot as Mae has intense dreams, and you eventually meet up with a group that is later revealed to be a cult. As if that weren’t enough, Mae and her friends have to solve the mystery behind a series of kidnappings in Possum Springs.
The unique part of this game is that beyond solving this mystery, there’s also the overarching story where Mae and her friends learn to adapt and grow as people. The game hits a little close to home, dealing with things like mental illness and other challenges many of us face in real life. But if you don’t mind darker and more serious themes in your games, Night in the Woods is worth playing.
Have you played any of the games on this list? Which ones do you love (or not love)? Did I miss any you think should be included? Let me know in the comments!
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