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17 video games to play at home this autumn, from The Sims 4 to Animal Crossing

Louis Chilton picks 17 of the best games to help keep you entertained this autumn

Wednesday 06 October 2021 14:41 BST
The number of people gaming has rocketed in recent weeks
The number of people gaming has rocketed in recent weeks (iStock)

Be it due to the pandemic, or simply just bad weather, most of us have spent a lot of time indoors over the past year.

When going outside isn’t an option, where do we turn to for a sense of escape?

The answer, for many, is video games. Last year, statistics skyrocketed during quarantine – with people increasingly relying on their consoles and computers for diversion.

While old favourites such as Fifa, Fortnite or Grand Theft Auto remain steadfastly popular, others may want something a little more off the beaten track.

Here is a list of games that are well worth checking out over the coming months, be they lesser-known independent gems such as Kentucky Route Zero or games with particular resonance during the pandemic, like Death Stranding.

Here are 17 games to play if you’re stuck indoors…

Animal Crossing: New Horizons (2020) – Nintendo Switch

There are few games more antidotal to the stress of the current global crisis than Animal Crossing. Suffused with good cheer, New Horizons provides you with the perfect (admittedly kid-focused) sense of community while you’re stuck inside your house.

Read more: Nintendo Switch OLED review: The best version of the console yet

New Horizons uses a real-time calendar system to mimic real-world seasonal weather patterns (Nintendo)

Cities: Skylines (2015) – all platforms

In the real world, it often felt like society is on the brink of a breakdown. In Cities: Skylines, however, you can construct your own metropolitan utopia, with a terrific amount of customisation available.

Control (2019) – PC/PS4/Xbox One

There’s more than a whiff of The X Files to Remedy Entertainment’s acclaimed 2019 shooter Control. Playing as Jesse Faden, you must explore the “Federal Bureau of Control” and defeat a sinister force known as “The Hiss”. Remedy has always excelled at gunplay, and the action here is thrilling.

Disco Elysium (2019) – PC

This immersive RPG (role-playing game) tells the story of a shambling, drug-addled detective in a sci-fi dystopia who investigates a lynching near a dockworkers’ union. Inspired by TV series such as The Wire and The Shield, as well as artists such as Rembrandt, Disco Elysium is dense and compelling.

Death Stranding (2019) – PC/PS4

In Hideo Kojima’s ambitious, spiritual epic Death Stranding, you control a post-apocalyptic deliveryman transporting cargo across treacherous but beautiful landscape. Death Stranding is a game about connection; it speaks so specifically to this age of isolation that some players have even started calling it prophecy.

Norman Reedus and Léa Seydoux in Hideo Kojima's sci-fi epic Death Stranding (Sony Interactive Entertainment)

Dreams (2020) – PS4

Media Molecule’s Dreams is a brilliant but complicated game creation system; a long stint indoors might just give you the time you need to really get to grips with its impressively detailed workings – or to play through the ever-expanding database of content made by others.

Inside (2016) – all platforms

Created by the team behind the indie hit Limbo, this puzzle-platform game is even weirder than its predecessor – but no less enjoyable.

Kentucky Route Zero: TV Edition (2020) – all platforms

Spread across five acts, this contemplative, unendingly surprising point-and-click game is nothing short of a masterpiece. Developed and released over the span of a decade, Kentucky Route Zero explores weighty themes of addiction and wage slavery with a pithy, literary postmodernism of a great novel.

Kentucky Route Zero tackles big themes with a solemn musical brilliance (Cardboard Computer)

The Last of Us: Remastered (2014) – PS4

Nobody could argue that Naughty Dog’s hugely successful post-apocalyptic thriller qualifies as a “hidden gem”. But there’s never been a better time to revisit The Last of Us, or its terrific sequel, ahead of the forthcoming HBO series starring Pedro Pascal.

Minecraft (2011) – all platforms

The classic block-building game has made its educational editions free to download last year while children worldwide were cooped up without school. But the original version of the game is still a great shout in times of trouble – it’s sublimely peaceful and you can pour countless hours of your time into it.

Nioh 2 (2020) – PS4

Nioh took the tricky combat design of the Dark Souls franchise and smoothly transposed it to 17th-century Japan. Last year’s prequel, Nioh 2, is even better: a hard, rewarding action RPG with a great setting and plenty of depth.

Nioh 2 colours its historical Japanese setting with dynamic action and great RPG elements (Sony Interactive Entertainment)

Ori and the Will of the Wisps (2020) – PC/Xbox One

With a sweeping soundtrack and appealing characters, Ori and the Will of the Wisps sometimes feels like a Pixar film, in all the best ways. But this delightful platformer isn’t just for kids – as its formidable difficulty suggests.

Plague Inc. (2012) – all mobile devices

Strategy game Plague Inc. was removed from the Chinese app store last year, seemingly on grounds of taste, but this virus simulator actually offers a genuine education on the ways viruses are disseminated through society. After a coronavirus-related sales boom, the game’s creators donated more than £200,000 to help fight the pandemic.

Return of the Obra Dinn (2018) – all platforms

For those looking for something a bit different, Lucas Pope’s Return of the Obra Dinn is a fantastic puzzle game like no other. You play an insurance salesman investigating a ghost ship; the aim of the game is to identify all the Obra Dinn’s passengers and crew – and determine how they died.

A ship is attacked by a beast from the deep in Lucas Pope's Return of the Obra Dinn (3909 via MobyGames)

The Sims 4 (2014) – PC/PS4/Xbox One

If you ever feel like you don’t have much control over your own life, you can at least have total dominion over the lives of others, in this sensationally popular simulation game. And as anyone who’s played it can attest, the hours fly by at triple speed when The Sims manages to get its hooks into you.

Stellaris (2019) – PC/PS4/Xbox One

Stellaris puts you in command of a species who have just cracked the science of interstellar travel. If you’re looking for a way to kill some serious time, you can hardly do better than this sprawling strategy game, which forces you to juggle diplomacy, exploration and warfare to build the ultimate space empire.

Untitled Goose Game (2019) – all platforms

While a game like Animal Crossing is a great reminder of the pleasures society can bring you, Untitled Goose Game is all about shaking that society up. As a havoc-wreaking goose, you don’t know the meaning of the phrase “social distancing” – you honk, peck and flap your way around a small English village, leaving a trail of frustrated farm folk in your wake.

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