If you're reading this, you know video games are great for lots of things: exploring vast landscapes, giving us a feeling of accomplishment, providing an escape from a difficult day, and even socializing with our friends. Without leaving the comfort of our home, we can experience incredible joy just from picking up a controller.
Over the last couple of months, of course, we have been advised to stay home. And while many stay at home orders have lifted, we've still been advised to stay home when possible. Thankfully, we've had video games to help keep us company. So, we decided to share the games that have personally been helpful through these difficult times. Hopefully you find a few here that might be great for you, too.
Intro by Zach Wilkerson
Okay, I'm sure everyone is tired of RPGFan talking about how amazing Final Fantasy XIV is. But can we talk about how amazing it is? It offers an enormous world (or two) to get lost in, replete with both wonderful lore and characters, amazing storytelling, the best boss fights this side of, well, anything. Gambling at the Gold Saucer, crafting...oh the list goes on and on. But now, when it's advised to stay at home, the best part for me is the social aspect. In a time of isolation, having the ability to play with friends (and even people I don't know) has not only given me a necessary escape, but also an important connection to others. Needless to say, Final Fantasy XIV is exactly the game I need right now.
While escapism and virtual tourism are perfectly fine in this kind of situation, there are also ways you can still have fun with your friends online, or on the couch with your housemates! If you live with people who love horror movies, then why not leave your bedroom, get together in the lounge, and play an interactive horror game together? Until Dawn is the perfect game to play with friends; you can pass the controller between friends whenever you change characters, or make your friends online pick a choice for you and control your fate. You'll be screaming and laughing the whole way through as you try and save all eight characters. Get some snacks, maybe even some drinks, and this will be a "movie night" you'll never forget. And if you can stream it with friends online, even better.
The New World is a land of lush locales and beautiful flora and fauna. It's a world that exists to be admired and explored. As you survey the land and get a glimpse of the vivid wildlife, you're beckoned to gaze at the stars scattered across the night sky. A brief moment of serenity washes over you seconds before you're body-slammed by an insatiable green dinosaur and/or blasted by lightning from afar by a furious ape. The New World is fierce and unforgiving. However, there's no need to face it alone. MHW: Iceborne is the perfect place to start for newcomers to the series. Whether you take up arms with friends you haven't seen in months or ride into battle with your trusty Palico that you so lovingly designed after your childhood cat, MHW: Iceborne is sure to keep you occupied for hundreds of hours.
The God Eater games are ARPGs with combo-based combat that requires players to approach battles from a team perspective. They're enjoyable enough to play in single-player mode as the AI for ally characters is surprisingly well designed, but a lot more fun can be had when teaming up with others! God Eater 3 has various gameplay modes designed to encourage co-op play, and it also has added content in the form of free DLC expansions and new challenges to keep players on their toes. You could spend several hours hunting down Aragami either on your own or with friends in God Eater 3!
You know what this quarantine has given us? Lots of free time. Do you know how many hours on average Persona 5 Royal is? Around 120-140. If you factor in eight hours of sleep, a couple of hours of family time, and a couple of hours for exercise or other activities, you've got around 10-12 hours of game time per day. At that pace, the game will take you a minimum of ten days to finish. That's a lot of days you can spend lost in the world of Persona 5 Royal. What's more, P5R is an absolutely fantastic game, with everything that's required for a truly amazing experience. Even if you've played the original Persona 5, P5R is worth the replay.
I'm amazed that it took me a couple years to finally give Stardew Valley a shot, despite the good memories I associate with the older Harvest Moon games. You don't need me to tell you what Stardew Valley is; it's one of gaming's biggest recent indie success stories, not unlike Undertale. Stardew is also a perfect game to play right now. In its original, single-player form, it allows you to get lost in a peaceful valley with a colorful cast of friends (and Junimos!), living a simple life of farming and animal raising. Date or marry if you want, or just invite a shadow creature to live with you. And if you have friends that can play with you, make a multiplayer farm and hop on a video chat: it's simply a great way to relax and stay connected with friends or family.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is a bold new direction for the series; while past games became increasingly linear, Breath of the Wild handles its gameplay and story with a more hands-off approach so that players can fully explore off the beaten path. No longer does Link begin the game in a quaint village with friendly NPCs that help him start his adventure; rather, you start almost completely from scratch. Wearing only a good pair of underpants and with three measly hearts of health, you immediately begin searching for the first apple you can eat and the first tree branch you can beat down a Bokoblin with. Players will likely die often and in a variety of ways, but Breath of the Wild is a game that relishes in the idea of taking you from "zero to hero;" from being a brand new explorer to becoming a champion to the people who need you; from wearing rags (literally) to having a full arsenal of tools and weapons. To me, being able to freely explore a big, beautiful world is one of the most quintessential ingredients for a great adventure game, and this one can take tens to hundreds of hours to complete, depending how much adventuring you've got time for.
Vacations are tough to plan right now. Why not take a historical trek through beautiful ancient Greece? Unravel a dark political plot and participate in the war between Sparta and Athens on a massive journey of self-discovery! Command your very own ship as you chart the sprawling world piece by piece. There's a lot to explore in this game, and its gorgeous setting will have you stopping to appreciate the sunset vistas just like a tourist on a real vacation!
I could've picked any game in Falcom's epic The Legend of Heroes series, but Trails in the Sky FC is the first and perhaps the most lighthearted entry. It just feels so nice to wander around the nation of Liberl, chatting up all of the locals, experiencing the beautiful and subtle worldbuilding that this series is so celebrated for, and meeting some wonderful characters. Estelle and Joshua Bright are two rays of sunshine whose relationship unfolds beautifully throughout the game; watching them grow as bracers, and as human beings, is such a delight. The slow pace and lighthearted tone help ease you into the mammoth series, and by the end, the twists will hook their claws into you, and you'll feel obliged to move on to SC straight away. So buckle up: there's a whole eight other games to get through after this one!
Any kind of simulation game is good in these trying times. Most don't have an end, which means you can go about your second life for as long as you like. So why not spend your newfound free time by starting a farm, getting to know a quirky group of townspeople, starting a family, exploring dungeons, and ultimately saving the world? Rune Factory 4 Special is a great game to get your hands on during these hard times, and you can easily spend countless hours locked away in the town of Selphia.
As of late, the best part of my day starts around 5:30 PM, when I hop into my shiny black car, put on some hot tunes, and hit the open road with the boys. Yes, I realize there's an evil empire just a few inches behind our tailpipe, but this doesn't stop us from enjoying the beautiful wilderness, eating all sorts of delicious meals at camp (Ignis is a great cook), and even staying at the occasional fancy hotel. I felt a little overwhelmed at the start of this road trip, having been presented with such an expansive world divided into so many smaller parts (a prequel movie? DLC chapters? Where do I even start?!), but I'm falling into a delightful habit at this point, and hanging out with Noctis and company has definitely brought some joy back into my life. Why don't you join us?
Okay, I will admit that I switched Ring's rather unfortunate voice the moment I could and now I get workout encouragement in Spanish (Listo? YA!), but Ring Fit Adventure is a truly great way to incorporate more activity — and dare I say fitness — into your routine during these difficult times. Yes, the RPG parts of it are very conventional, but they sit well within the Wii Fit-esque framework of creating and maintaining a routine and achieving fitness goals. It's easy to manage the difficulty settings, and customization of the various workout attacks during fitness battles is seamless. And the adventure mode is not without humor, especially the enemy designs and Sportan people. There are also several addictive minigames and a new rhythm mode, which means Nintendo is continuing to improve it and offer something for everyone! Just be sure to know where your boundaries are as far as people seeing you in awkward workout poses if you're playing around others.
Do you miss the hustle and bustle of the big city? Flashing lights, the smell of restaurant food wafting out as you walk by, and the chatter of fellow sidewalk travelers? How about when some jerk stops you on the street and demands your money, so you smash an entire bicycle over their head? If that sounds like you, please stay away from me; I swear I don't want your money. Yakuza 0 might be perfect for you though! It's a massive adventure in a familiar, contemporary setting. A large variety of minigames offer a ton of distraction and can even teach you things you can show your friends when we can all hang out again. I learned mahjong from this game, and it's actually really fun with friends! Getting drinks, eating food, managing a booming real estate market or an up-and-coming cabaret club — Yakuza 0 features all the normal stuff we can't do right now, wrapped in a fantastic crime drama narrative.
Getting lost in interesting worlds and taking in the sights are two of the biggest reasons I play video games. If I find a world that I love, I want nothing more than to escape into that world and imagine I'm there. That's really what makes each of the worlds in the Xenoblade Chronicles series so special to me. From the empty, snowy landscapes of Valak Mountain in Xenoblade Chronicles to the lush jungles of Xenoblade Chronicles X's Noctilum, there's a location for everyone to lose themselves in and something for every mood. If you're feeling adventurous, you can jump off the top of mountains and take on hulking beasts that are definitely too strong for you. You can also bring entire communities together through the Affinity System, introduce new residents to New Los Angeles, or rebuild Colony 6. All three of these games allow you to play at your own pace, experience the world, and grow communities, which makes them extremely satisfying and fulfilling to play. If you have a Wii U, X is absolutely worth tracking down so you can fly across the planet Mira in your Skell; and if you have a Switch, Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition and Xenoblade Chronicles 2 will also keep you entertained for hundreds of hours.
For those craving an enjoyable traditional JRPG experience that you can sink hundreds of hours into, look no further than Dragon Quest XI. The game is a delight to play if you enjoy turn-based combat and taking on lots of quests, and its three story acts will keep you emotionally invested from beginning to end. The world of Erdrea is a vibrant environment to explore, with a colorful cast as its occupants. If you happen to own a Switch, the Definitive Edition adds even more content for gamers to peruse, such as a 2D mode to play on nostalgia.
Feeling all cooped up in your own home or apartment? Worried that the world outside is contaminated? Well, compared to the casts of 999 and VLR, we're doing all right. This intense visual novel/room escape hybrid series brings a healthy dose of tension and release with each playthrough. If you can't leave your house, what better way to pass the time then to solve puzzles to escape various rooms on a replica of the Titanic or in an emergency bunker in an undisclosed location?
This is a fun team-based game, especially if you're a Marvel fan and want to play as some of your favorite characters alongside your friends. Single player is enjoyable too, and the combat is entertaining enough to serve as a good distraction, though co-op is ultimately (pun intended) where it's at with this game. Setting up flashy team combos with your friends is always fun, and there's a lot of added content to the base game separate from the Story Mode that warrants spending more than a few hours with MUA3. If you add in the Season Pass DLC expansions, you've just tripled the potential fun and challenges that await you!
I've talked about this on RPGFan before, but in recent years, I've realized how much I'm drawn to games that are the virtual equivalent of work: farming, building, and MMOs have become my bread and butter. Or my jam. Why is all of this bread-related? I sunk an inordinate amount of hours into the first Dragon Quest Builders, and the sequel is no exception. If you like to create and let your imagination run wild, this is one game you need in your life. The expanded scale of the world and building options in Dragon Quest Builders 2 means you can easily get into the "zone," as they (used to) say, and whittle away hours making your residents the perfect homestead. And restaurant. And park. And glorious castle. And secret treasure caverns that spider out beneath your entire island in a vast network of homebrewed secret tunnels. You get the picture.
Being an alchemist is the ultimate Work From Home job. You're your own boss, you set your own schedule, and there's practically no commute. Well, unless you consider walking dozens of miles to collect materials a commute. Sure, there are terrifying beasts who want to devour you when you go out to gather, and I suppose there's that ever-growing risk of blowing up your entire house due to a botched synthesis, but those are just two very small negatives to an otherwise overwhelmingly positive career choice. In the Atelier series, you can live the life of a fledgling alchemist chasing their hopes and dreams. Grand adventure, complex crafting, and slice-of-life whimsy are sure to be found in this fun and carefree series that is bound to warm your heart. Besides, being productive by crafting an overwhelmingly large bomb is a great way to stay sane when you're stuck at home.
Having one story in a game is great and all, but what about three stories in one game? That's what you get if you pick up Fire Emblem: Three Houses while you're stuck at home. Featuring a colourful cast of characters, new hub exploration, and Fire Emblem's signature tactical RPG gameplay, Three Houses provides a lot of compelling reasons to play. And with those three stories, you've got hours upon hours of game time ahead.
Those craving classic, old-school SRPG battles with the added nuance of managing mercenary units along with your main party should look no further than the Langrisser I & II remakes. Players have access to two time-consuming, challenging, and yet ultimately fun games in one entertaining package, complete with multiple routes and endings to ensure a ton of replayability. You can even choose between two very different and gorgeous art styles while playing these games, and visual variations on the battle maps themselves are also under your control. It is easy to lose yourself in a playthrough of Langrisser I & II if you're looking for strong strategy titles to keep you busy.
In a time where my daily routine has been majorly disrupted, Animal Crossing: New Horizons is the wholesomeness and structure I need. Starting on a deserted island with two other animal friends and slowly watching your newfound home grow is delightful. There's no pressure to do any one thing in Animal Crossing, and New Horizons provides that little bit of extra structure at the start to encourage you to make your new home grow. New shops appear, new villagers move in, and there's plenty to do even after you've had the elusive K.K. Slider visit your island. You can breed flowers and create all sorts of beautiful new coloured flora, craft furniture and decorate your island, or fish and catch bugs all day. And the best thing? You can invite your friends over and catch up with them virtually. Hop on a plane, visit their island, and give them a call. Catch up while wishing on shooting stars or try and come up with new and inventive ways to play silly minigames together. New Horizons is brimming with positivity, and is the perfect video game to relax and unwind with. I can go shopping, go for walks, go on trips to new islands. But what I really need now is a café. Nintendo, please bring back Brewster.