I’ll level with you: this coronavirus business is some scary stuff. There isn’t much we can do right now but wash our hands and stay away from other people as much as possible. Thankfully, the “self-isolation” aspect of this lends itself perfectly to one of our favorite pastimes: video games! There’s no better way to pass the hours, days, weeks (…months?) stuck at home thank making progress on your back catalog. If you’re looking for some suggestions on what to play, look no further:
Animal Crossing: New Horizons
The stars really aligned to give us a new Animal Crossing just in time for everyone to shut themselves away! From deciding where villagers live, to freely placing furniture and decor around the island, to even shaping the physical geography of the island itself, Animal Crossing: New Horizons is offering more customization than ever before. If you have any shame, you’ll need a few days to get your new home on the island looking right. However, once your house is decorated, your flowers are blooming, and you’re serving a look that says, “You can’t socially isolate if you ain’t cute?” add those friend codes, open that airport gate, and fire up Discord or Skype because no one wants to fiddle with Nintendo’s clumsy attempts at voice chat through their official app.
Animal Crossing is a franchise all about socializing and sharing your creations online, but it’s also the perfect game with which you can recharge by yourself and fill out those missing spots in the aquarium wing of the island museum or spend way too long perfecting custom designs for clothes and furniture. You can even make better friends with your fellow animal villagers if you really want to socially isolate and not even so much as text your real life pals!
Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
The winter that Skyrim was first released (2011-2012), I hit a snag in my life where my computer died and I needed to save money to purchase a new one. My expenses had already taken a hit because of the holidays, and it meant that all of my photography and video projects had to go on hiatus during the coldest time of the year, on top of seasonal depression. I found solace in Skyrim.
The entire world of Skyrim is built around political, economical, and even environmental distress — but in that game, the player assumes the form of the Dragonborn and can take all of these problems head-on, even with an arrow in the knee! Skyrim also never ends. There are countless quests generating. You can build a house, get married, adopt a kid, go into battle, fight a dragon — the world is so expansive that you can choose how you want to play the game. Ride across the map by horse? Sure. Teleport from waypoints? Why not?
Additionally, this game never plays the same way twice. The AI was designed to give every player a unique experience. So I went and lived a whole life in Skyrim for two months…and I have done it more than once. I own three copies of this game on different consoles. This is a great time to pick Skyrim up for the Nintendo Switch, because you can take the game anywhere. Now go slay some dragons!
World of Warcraft
Social distancing got you down? Not seeing a single other human being and not leaving your house for days on end can adversely affect many people, but the legion of World of Warcraft gamers have been unknowingly preparing for a moment like this for years. While Earth may be all but shut down, Azeroth is as booming as ever.
While we can’t do much about the infection in the real world, your help is needed to quell the corruption of N’Zoth in the Vale of Eternal Blossoms and Uldum today! Or, you can join the ranks of Classic and re-live the Corrupted Blood Incident of 2005. Who knew doing ZG runs twice a week all those years ago was actually preparation for a worldwide pandemic?
Horizon Zero Dawn
Horizon Zero Dawn not a terribly long game, but given the combat system’s reliance on stealth and well-timed attacks, why not spend your quarantine time exploring the outside world of a post-apocalyptic…Wyoming? I think? That one cauldron is definitely in Yellowstone, but there are a lot of information dumps about Denver and even New Zealand, so who knows.
Anyway, this is a gorgeous and challenging game that gives you a decent approximation of what it’s like in the outside world…just one populated by giant, murderous robots…robots that are actually making the world a better place by purifying the air, water and earth…Man, maybe Aloy is on the wrong side. Regardless, it’s fun to get back in there and kill some Thunderjaws, or maybe you can use the time to actually get three suns on all of the hunting grounds? Shoot, I’ll be spending some time finding the data drops I missed. Hell, fire up that New Game+ and see if the Icerail makes those early stages any easier!
Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire
There are so many role-playing games to choose from, no matter what gaming system you like to use. But if you are going to be playing for any significant length of time, it’s hard to find one better than Deadfire. The layered story is amazing in its world building. Every character more than just someone in your party — these are people you get to know on a deeper level than “I like their power set.” The quests are incredibly fun with even the tiniest decision making a difference. Combat can either be real-time or turn-based, and inventory management is a must. Not an RPG for the faint of heart, Deadfire is an excellent game to play even if you aren’t sitting out a virus.
While I really want to recommend Star Wars Battlefront II because the last couple years of updates have made the game a stellar multiplayer experience, I’d rather recommend a game that you may have not heard of or seen much about: Everspace. Everspace is a single player, roguelike space shooter that challenges players to traverse from one side of the galaxy to the other as they uncover secrets about the protagonist’s past and current journey.
The game is replete with intense dogfights, gorgeous procedurally generated environments, an engrossing narrative, and plenty of resource management and ship customization. The procedurally generated environments guarantee the game never feels stale or repetitive and the naturally occurring combat scenarios are unbelievably intense. You’ll be standing in front of your chair yelling at your TV as you try to make a last-ditch jump to light-speed with six enemy ships on your tail— and that will happen often. I wrote a lot about what makes Everspace so special in my full review from June 2018, and I definitely recommend checking it out— especially since it is only $9 on the Playstation Store.
Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night
I was also going to recommend Battlefront II, but Connor said we’re not allowed to, so take my word that it’s good. Instead, you should buckle down with cowboy hat wearing, game design mastering Koji Igarashi’s latest project: Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night. Consolidating all of the best things Igarashi developed over his historic run with the best Castlevanias (SotN, anybody?), Bloodstained is a masterpiece of game and systems design. It’s also completely inscrutable, ridiculous, and broken in the best of ways.
For starters, every enemy in the game drops a new ability you can equip and use, including the ability to cast force lightning, shoot a chainsaw-sword out of your arm, and summon Shovel Knight — each one more ridiculous than the last. And that’s to say nothing of the intentionally game-breaking warp, sprint, and blood-stealing powers you get later. Pile on a satisfyingly complex crafting and cooking system, enemies straight out of Mad Max: Fury Road and dozens upon dozens of secrets — yes, including a “true” ending ala Symphony — and you’ve got a fun, ridiculous, challenging and satisfying game that can soak up hours, if not weeks, of your quarantined life easily.
Catch it on PC Game Pass, Steam, or most consoles (rumors of the problems with the Nintendo Switch port are greatly exaggerated to-date) and thank me later.