2023 has been an incredible year in video games. We started the year with remakes and remasters of classics like Dead Space, Resident Evil 4, and Metroid Prime. Then, in May, we were graced with the next chapter in the Zelda franchise with The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom. June came along and gifted us with Street Fighter 6, Final Fantasy XVI, and Diablo IV. August brought us a gargantuan Dungeons & Dragons-style RPG with Baldur’s Gate 3, and Xbox just had their own space odyssey release with Starfield. To rival SF6 in the fighting game space, we recently got Mortal Kombat 1. Great indies like Dave the Diver and HiFi Rush are adding to this super stacked year for gaming.
We also just had one of the biggest Octobers in video game history with releases like Spider-Man 2, Metal Gear Solid Master Collection Vol. 1, Alan Wake 2, and Super Mario Bros. Wonder.
With all of these games and many more I haven’t mentioned constantly releasing, plus so many more games in all of our backlogs, it can feel overwhelming trying to keep up and stay in the conversation online or even with fellow gamers you see every day.
However, I’m here to reassure you and ease the burden on your little gamer heart.
Unless your job involves reviewing or covering the latest video games as they release, you should feel absolutely no pressure to keep up.
Believe me, I get it. Keeping up with the gaming Jones’s is a real thing. We all want to be a part of the water cooler conversations about the cave you stumbled onto in Zelda or your relationship status with a certain party member in Baldur’s Gate; or how about that double digit win streak you had in online matches in Mortal Kombat 1.
However, when you really think about it, you should just be playing what you enjoy.
For me and my current life situation, I don’t really have time for big home console games. I would absolutely love to hunker down and pour time into BG3 and roll some digital dice, but circumstances around me – a full time job and kids going here and there – really only provide for me to get small play sessions in. That’s why I play things like Tents & Trees (a wonderful little puzzle game on Switch, PC, and mobile) and MLB The Show 23. Playing these games allows me to get my gaming itch scratched while not needing to carve out at least two hours by myself for a big, meaty game.
At a time when Xbox is finalizing their acquisition of Activision/Blizzard and the big home consoles with all their bells and whistles are ruling the gaming world, I’m here playing my Nintendo Switch the most (I have all three current gen consoles) and loving it. Is it old and underpowered? Sure it is, but it fits my gaming appetite perfectly.
Don’t get me wrong as you read this; I love big games. I built my gaming fandom on them. I just had to make adjustments to my expectations for how I was gonna play video games. I was gifted God of War: Ragnarok back in spring and I’m pretty sure I haven’t even made it halfway through.
I’ve had Tears of the Kingdom since day one (pre-ordered it) and while I’ve put a few dozen hours into it, I’m still nowhere close to the finish line.
Still, it’s okay that I haven’t rolled credits on those titles, and if you’re in a similar situation to me, I want to tell you that you don’t need to feel the pressure to try and keep up. Those games will still be there, they’ll still be great, and you will likely enjoy them at the time that you can finally see them through.
I will say that this transition in my approach to gaming took some time to fully accept. I want to catch up and play the big games that are in my backlog, but my life circumstances just don’t serve that right now. Once I accepted that though, I’ve found much more joy in the short sessions of play time that I do get.
To further help someone make the transition I made, I’ll leave a short list of some games to try out that I’ve had a ton of fun playing in short bursts.
E | PC, PS4
I’ve been a fan of Tetris since I first played it on my grandma’s Game Boy back in the early 90s. It’s such a satisfying gameplay loop that can literally be played endlessly in this latest iteration of the series and it’s available on every platform. It also has a zen mode that is a more chill, failure free game mode if you don’t want something that’s gonna push back and be too much of a challenge.
E | PS4
This PlayStation exclusive arcade golf title has been a staple of mine since it came out in 2017. The arcade play style provides for wacky trick shots to master, but there’s enough simulation aspects that you feel like you’re really golfing. The game has gorgeous environments that always helped me chill out after a stressful day at work.
E | PC, Smartphones
Pretty much everyone knows this classic card game. Its most accessible version is on your mobile phone, and it’s a great way to wind down but also feel like you’re making progress and solving some sort of puzzle. Another plus is that you don’t have to set up the card field yourself.
Hades (and other rogue-likes)
T | PC/Mac, PS4/5, Xbox One/Series X, Switch
This may seem counterintuitive, but hear me out; what I like about Hades and other games like it is the short gameplay loops… mostly cause you die often. However, you also restart quickly and take the knowledge and progress from your previous run and get a little better each time. It’s very satisfying, and in the case of Hades, the game autosaves every time you enter a new room, so if you need to pause a run and go do something like change a diaper or make dinner for your kids, the game will be right where you left it.
MLB The Show ’23 (& Various sports games)
E | PS4/5, Xbox One/Series X, Switch
I’ve also been a big fan of games like MLB The Show, NHL, and Madden. You can set the games to be pretty short, and can even play through an entire season in a relatively short amount of time. It gives the feeling of progress without having to make sure you’ve blocked off multiple hours to feel like you’ve done something.
So whether you’re playing through the newest release or going through Super Mario World for the hundredth time, I hope my words and this list can help you feel okay playing whatever you’re able to play. Release the pressure off yourself to play the latest and greatest in the video game world and just play what you like.