For anyone who’s been reading my ESG articles for a while, you’ll know how much I believe the narrative makes or breaks a game. This is true for many of the games I have reviewed, both positively and negatively. However, I also believe that the intended purpose of the game must be considered when reviewing, and the games included in this article certainly serve a different purpose (although some do still have a pretty great narrative).
I’d define a casual game as any game that can be walked away from at any point during gameplay without instilling the feeling of losing progress or missing out on something. In other words, time-wasters that are simply meant to provide short bursts of entertainment rather than fuel long gaming sessions. With all the stress brought on by the modern world, games such as these have become increasingly popular. While I certainly do not think that casual games are the future of gaming, they fill an important niche in brightening certain gamers’ days. Without further ado, here is a list (in no particular order) of some of my favorite casual games to pass time in a fun way:
ShellShock Live is my personal favorite time-passer within my Steam library. At its core, the game is a turn-based tank combat simulator from a side-view perspective. There are a ton of different game modes that will alternate the map layout, team dynamics, and weapons allowed. At the beginning of each phase, you’ll line up a shot towards an enemy tank and then, once every team member has locked in their shot, you’ll fire. Hopefully, you’ll end up with a solid hit and may even take out the tank if they are low enough.
My favorite aspect of ShellShock is the grind. I feel that for any good time-wasting game, the time invested into it has to feel like it was worth something. Within ShellShock, you’ll start out as a level 1 tank with very basic weapons. As you play, you’ll level up, unlock new weapons, upgrade your weapons, and upgrade your tank using points earned from each level. The better you do within your game, the more experience you will get! The grind to max level takes a LONG time which I personally love. It makes it feel as if there is always a new weapon to grind towards and the relatively short games instills little to no feeling of commitment (necessary for a time-waster, imo). The game is also only seven dollars which is a pretty great price point considering how many hours I’ve spent messing around in this game!
At the second spot, we have Babble Royale. This game is a combination of the popular board game Scrabble and a typical battle royale. There is a closing zone that forces players to create words towards the middle in order to survive. If you place a word into another player's current position, it will eliminate that player. There are also powerups dispersed throughout the map that can give you an advantage such as a bomb that clears surrounding letters or a refresh of your current letter set.
If you enjoy Scrabble, this is a perfect time-waster. The games last anywhere from a couple minutes to about ten minutes if you make it till the end. It has a relatively high skill-gap as there are a lot of specific words you would never think to play during a regular game of Scrabble. Since survival is the only thing that matters, you don’t have to worry about playing bigger words to get more points (except for economy management). In fact, I’d recommend playing shorter words to lower the chance another player can connect to you. Best part? It’s free! It’s definitely worth a try if you enjoy word games and are looking to kill some time.
I can remember playing the original Bloons when I was a young child and it’s only gotten better over the years. Rather than only playing in single player mode, you can now battle it out against other players in a competitive 1v1 format. There is an economy within the game to manage how many balloons you can send to the other player and vice versa. On top of that, your economy impacts what monkeys you can place to defend yourself.
This puts it into a classic defense vs offense style of game where you have to find opportunities to attack and know when to defend. The games only take an average of five to ten minutes making it perfect for a quick break from daily stresses. The game is also completely free to play (with in-game purchases) so even if you don’t like it it's no big deal!
Perhaps the most fleshed out game on this list, Binding of Isaac is a popular rogue-like in which you traverse generated dungeons to upgrade your character and defeat bosses. There are a massive amount of weapons/upgrades/powerups within BoI that make each playthrough unique. The controls/hitboxes within the game feel polished which is borderline a necessity with how many projectiles end up on the screen towards the later stages.
In terms of a time-waster, BoI is quite literally perfect. It has near infinite replayability due to the randomly generated structures/stages. A single playthrough can take anywhere (if beaten) from twenty minutes to an hour. You’ll have to have a bit more time available compared to some other games on this list, which is definitely something to note. That being said, if you have the time, I would highly recommend this game as your next way to spend some downtime!
Runner2 is one of my personal favorite rhythm-based games available on Steam. If you’re unaware of what that style of game is, think of Geometry Dash from the old iOS days. You need to time your actions to the beat of the soundtrack in order to execute the jump/dash/slide properly. I personally love how engaging these styles of games are due to the stellar soundtracks that really grab and keep your attention.
Runner2 built upon a lot of criticisms from its debut game making it overall a much more enjoyable experience. With an added optional checkpoint system, the game no longer feels as frustrating when you end up losing with only a few seconds left of the level. The difficulty curve also feels much more fluid compared to its predecessor. The game can easily be put away and resumed at a later time, hence its spot on this list. That being said, the fifteen dollar price tag makes me only recommend it to those who enjoy rhythm-games as it is a rather niche genre!
Whenever I saw the release date it blew my mind, but Super Meat Boy came out over a decade ago and has been loved by its community ever since. It is a platformer game somewhat reminiscent of JumpKing or Getting Over It (Foddian games) in the difficulty sense. There are over 300 different levels to beat allowing you to play it for a bit and come back whenever you please. In fact, I’d recommend you take regular breaks while playing this to increase the lifespan of your monitor and your knuckles.
While most people may have come to this list to find enjoyable games to pass some downtime and relieve some stress, this is NOT one of those games. This game is for the masochists who like to add stress to their already stressful lives by playing this style of game. It still can certainly be a great way to pass time, but if you plan on beating the entire game boy can it be painful. If that sounds up your alley, I’d recommend Super Meat Boy as one of the best games within its genre of difficult platformers!
Heading image courtesy of shellshocklive.com