The Best Games To Play During Quarantine (April 2020)
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So you're stuck at home and are looking for something to play...
The novel coronavirus pandemic has had a major impact on the games industry and society at large. Major video game events like E3 have been canceled, sporting events and leagues have been put on indefinite hiatus, and many states have canceled public events and schools. This is all part of a shared effort to slow the spread of the virus, and as the full scope of the pandemic grows, it's getting more clear we'll see more events canceled. That means functionally, day-to-day, you're being encouraged to do your part by not going out in public all that much.
So what are you to do with all this newfound free time? Play video games, naturally. GameSpot's editors have picked some of our favorite games for an extended stay, sure to offer hours of entertainment while you're doing the responsible thing by staying home. These hand-picked selections will help you spend your time indoors constructively, knocking out your backlog with excellent games. Be proud: it's your civic duty.
If you're looking for fun online multiplayer games to play while you wait for all this to blow over, then be sure to check out our feature highlighting some of our favorites. Otherwise, read on below and be sure to leave your recommendations in the comments section or have a look over all of our recommendations for the best games, movies, and TV to stream while social distancing.
Stardew Valley -- Jenae Sitzes, Commerce Editor
Stardew Valley is the ultimate chill-out game, and it's one I'll definitely be spending more time with as I'm stuck at home the next couple of weeks. There's a lot to be stressed about right now, but boot up Stardew Valley, and you'll be transported to the cozy little community of Pelican Town, where your biggest worry is that a crow might eat one of your crops or that cute NPC might not want to be your partner at the spring dance. With its charming soundtrack, friendly characters, and downright addictive gameplay loop, Stardew Valley is sure to suck you in and take your mind off everything else happening in the real world.
Plus, there's honestly no better time to dive into Stardew Valley. The 1.4 update released in December added a ton of new content, including a movie theater unlocked in late game, a Four Corners map that's perfect for multiplayer, and new in-game events, including 14-heart events for romanceable characters. The improvements to multiplayer mode are extensive, including options for separate money and support for private chat messages, so if you're feeling lonely, Stardew Valley is a great way to stay in touch and play online with your friends. My brother lives on the other side of the country, and we've already got plans to hang out in Stardew Valley this weekend.
The best part is that Stardew Valley is available on almost every gaming platform at this point, so no matter your preferred platform, you can download it and start playing right away. There's a reason Stardew Valley is still so popular four years after its release, and it's the perfect game to get lost in when you can't leave the house. | Twitter: @jenaesitzes
Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age -- Matt Espineli, Editor
While you're hunkered down at home, you could play any old time-consuming RPG under the sun to help pass the time through all this craziness, but the one you should play is Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age. Whether it's the PS4 or Switch version, you're guaranteed a joyous, heart-warming fantastical adventure. As an RPG, it's easy-going with battle mechanics that aren't overly complex, making it great to enjoy without getting too hung up on the challenges that lie ahead--though that isn't to say you won't get dominated by the occasional boss.
Still, it's DQ XI's charm and vibrant personality that truly sets itself apart from other RPGs you could be playing. There's something about how well it executes its simplistic premise of a hero saving the world that proves so enticing. As the young Luminary--a hero long foretold to save the kingdom of Erdrea--you gather a group of colorful personalities and embark on a journey to fulfill your destiny. Part of DQ XI's appeal is that it knows what it is and what it wants to do. There are some surprises along the way, but at times, it's as if DQ XI embraces the fact that you're in this to experience the time-old tale of the hero's journey. And the one it ends up weaving is wonderfully told with the right balance between drama and whimsical humor.
DQ XI exudes an infectious enthusiasm that you likely need to be around right now. If this quick-pitch isn't enough to convince you, I highly encourage you to look in the eyes of a Slime and try telling it you won't play DQ XI. If you feel even a glimmer of guilt or terror saying so, then you might need to play this game right now. | Twitter: MGespin
Kind Words (lo fi chill beats to write to) -- Jordan Ramée, Associate Editor
I've always struggled to admit when I'm stressed, or need help with something, or just want to have some emotional support. What can I say--I like saving face and convincing my friends and family that they don't have to worry about me. It's why I enjoy playing Kind Words (lo fi chill beats to write to) so much, it provides a means of anonymously talking with others.
If you find yourself going stir-crazy or feeling down because you haven't had many chances to go out and have actual conversations with other people, you may find comfort in Kind Words. The gameplay loop is simple. You sit in a room with some excellent lo-fi chill beats playing over your radio and you write letters. Your letter will then be sent out and other players will have the option of anonymously responding to it. You can, in turn, respond to others' letters too, of course. If other people like what you write back, they can gift you items that you can then use to decorate your room.
And that's it--that's the game. It may sound repetitive, but Kind Words is one of the most emotionally and mentally satisfying games I've played. Since you can write about whatever you want, there are all types of payoffs. I've gotten advice for when I've felt frustrated with my job, received support for feeling good about how a date went, and found new friends for when I was just sitting at home feeling lonely. And don't worry, though Kind Words sounds like a game that trolls would take advantage of, I haven't actually run into any. The game is surprisingly well-moderated and designer Ziba Scott isn't worried about the playerbase growing beyond his ability to oversee. | Twitter: @JMRamee
The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening -- Steven Petite, Associate Editor, Commerce
While The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is certainly the most well-known Zelda game on Switch, The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening feels like the perfect Nintendo adventure to play during these uncertain times. Breath of the Wild's sprawling version of Hyrule is desolate and can be lonely; whereas the dreamy Koholint Island is filled with quirky characters and the classic Zelda dungeon formula--which, for me, is pure comfort gaming.
Of course, Link's Awakening for Switch isn't a new game. It's a remake of the classic Game Boy adventure that was already given a makeover once before as Link's Awakening DX on Game Boy Color. The Switch version, however, is easily the most adorable and charming entry in series history. Link's doll-like design and the vibrant trappings of the island brought to life in full 3D make for an experience that left me smiling long after I finished both of my playthroughs.
My favorite Nintendo games tend to skew on the weird side. Nintendo does weird well, and Link's Awakening is definitely one of the most bizarre entries in the long-running franchise. Throughout the story, you work to gather eight musical instruments that together can awaken the whale-like Wind Fish hibernating in an egg at the northern edge of the island.
Even if you played the original way back when on Game Boy, the remake has a bevy of new secrets and welcome tweaks to the gameplay that make it worth revisiting. There are more Heart Pieces and Secret Seashells to uncover, the inventory system is much improved, combat works better due to the ability to parry, and the overworld map is no longer segmented--it flows freely, making the world feel more open. Even little additions like map pins and more fast travel spots go a long way toward modernizing one of the best Zelda games ever made. | Twitter: @steven_petite
Tetris Effect -- Chris Pereira, Engagement Editor
When I want a distraction, I need something that can fully occupy my mind--and ideally without stressing me out, as can be the case in, say, real-time strategy games. Tetris Effect is the perfect answer to that need: I'm no Tetris expert, so once the pace picks up, I can't afford to give a moment's thought to anything but the action on-screen.
Getting into the groove with Tetris Effect also invariably leads me into a zen-like state, where I'm fully in tune with the game and its phenomenal visuals and soundtrack (one of the best in a game in recent memory). I don't need to explain the joy of Tetris's time-tested gameplay, but Effect--with its hypnotic twist on the standard formula--makes for one of the most enjoyable ways to play. Clearing lines is as satisfying now as it was the first time I played Tetris many years ago, and more than a year on from release, Effect is something I find myself consistently turning to as a palate cleanser, stress-reliever, and general time-killer. | Twitter: @TheSmokingManX
Death Stranding -- Alessandro Fillari, Editor
I still find myself thinking about Death Stranding occasionally. While it's only less than a year old as of this time, the game's ruminations on isolation, loneliness, and the need to connect with others feels all the more potent and prophetic in our current times. It's essentially a big-budget AAA game with the mindset and framework of an indie game favorite, which is such a rarity that I wonder when we'll see anything like it again. It was my favorite game of 2019, and I felt an incredible connection to the game due to how effectively it tapped into the growing anxieties of simply trying to make it day to day in with looming existential threats. With the rising spread of COVID-19, and as more people are retreating into the safety and comfort of their homes, it's incredibly eerie to see how many more parallels have risen with the real world and with Hideo Kojima's new-weird post-apocalyptic open-world game.
During this time where so many of us are staying in-doors and working from home, I'll be revisiting Death Stranding. To play this lovingly strange, anti-open-world game is to understand that you're in for a long and solitary journey in a massive world, that's still connected to an online network of people who are in similar circumstances. Playing as Sam Porter Bridges, all you have on your journey is a cloned baby who can point out hostile spectral beings in the distance, and a bunch of random cargo strapped to your back. Much has already been said about its unusual, yet still precise focus on the act of walking, and I can't express to you enough that it's among one of my favorite mechanics in recent years. This ties into the larger theme of connection. Not only with Sam, where you feel his every step, but with the sense that the strangers who isolate themselves in their bunkers are placing their hopes on you to deliver--so to speak.
Over the course of its massive story spanning the entire continent of an unrecognizable North America, the greatest lesson you'll come to learn is that while you are on a lonely odyssey, you are, in fact, never alone in the struggle. It's an incredibly powerful message for our present period, a time where placing faith in others and not giving in to the comfort of remaining in our bubbles is essential. Throughout the game, the Porter delivery company's saying is heard often, which is "Keep on keeping on."--and that's something I'll keep in mind for a while. | Twitter: @afillari
Pokemon Sword / Shield -- Kevin Knezevic, Associate Editor
The Switch has no shortage of great titles to engross yourself in when cooped up at home, but Pokemon Sword and Shield are among the best. What makes Pokemon games--and Sword and Shield in particular--such compelling timesinks is the depth hidden beneath their surface. Even if you've already conquered the Pokemon League and cleared the main storyline, there are still a variety of different activities to do. You can take on an endless procession of AI opponents in the Battle Tower, scour the Wild Area for any elusive Pokemon you may have missed, hunt for incredibly rare Shiny monsters, or even try to discover every recipe in the Curry Dex.
The true draw of the games, however, is trying to assemble a competitive team. While you can easily run through every opponent you encounter during the main adventure with any old Pokemon you've caught, you'll need to put much more time and thought into your party if you hope to fare well in online battles. This entails breeding Pokemon with the right natures and base stats, EV training them to improve their stats, and devising the right movesets and strategies for your team. It's time-consuming but incredibly rewarding, and Sword and Shield have made some smart tweaks to streamline this whole process, making competitive battling more accessible than ever before. (We also have a great series of videos to help you get into competitive Pokemon battling if this all sounds daunting.)
Even if the competitive aspect of the series doesn't appeal to you, Sword and Shield are great games to play with friends thanks to the new Max Raids--cooperative battles in which you team up with three other trainers to take on Dynamaxed Pokemon. The monsters you encounter in these battles often have a few perfect base stats and their Hidden Ability (which can't otherwise be obtained in the games), and you get a ton of enticing rewards for winning like Exp. Candy and TRs, so it's always fun to take part in Max Raids.
Moreover, these raids are the only way to encounter Gigantamax Pokemon, which are rare and just plain cool. I've spent dozens of hours jumping into Max Raids with my friends, and I don't anticipate that changing any time soon so long as Game Freak continues to regularly offer new Max Raid events. The Pokemon series has long lacked a good cooperative mode to complement its competitive hooks, but Sword and Shield have finally remedied that, making them a great way to occupy any idle downtime.
Dragon Quest Builders 2 -- Steve Watts, Associate Editor
Just about any massive RPG is a great choice for when you're spending a significant chunk of time indoors, but Dragon Quest Builders 2 is different. It sports a lengthy role-playing game foundation full of colorful characters and light action tropes. The characters are cute and squat, and the story is full of funny little asides thanks in large part to Malroth, an amnesiac dark lord who can't quite suppress his violent urges. Just playing through the story campaign alone could be enough to keep you entertained for quite a while.
What sets Builders 2 apart from other JRPGs is that it's also partially a toyetic sandbox. The Minecraft-like building mechanics have been expanded and streamlined significantly from the first game, making for an infrastructure that's both larger in scope and easier to use. And since now you have your very own island to call your own, you can keep building and expanding and perfecting your little community until your heart's content. For those who have always wanted Minecraft with a little more structure--or Dragon Quest with a little more sim-sandbox--it's the perfect home away from home while you're stuck at home. | Twitter: @SporkyReeve