Right now, things feel weird. Following the UK government’s decision to finally enact a national lockdown, many are spending a lot more time indoors, very probably for longer than the three weeks that Johnson gave us. While those with essential jobs are working hard to ensure the country doesn’t fall apart, the rest of us need to distract ourselves — not just from the possible temptation to leave our homes, or families, but also from the general mood of anxiety that’s blanketed the world of late. And so, as always, we turn to entertainment. Here are five picks for video games who’re perfect for lockdown, plotted across a range of platforms, prices, genres and audiences.
Rocket League (PS4, Xbox One, Switch, PC)
In this potentially suffocating period, maintaining a sense of connection is absolutely key — a good multiplayer game can go a long way in preserving friendships from a distance and keeping its player feeling involved with a larger group. Rocket League is a great pick for this. Combining a perfect avenue for socialisation (customisation options, battle pass equivalent, item trading) with moreish “just one more go” matchmaking and preposterously fun gameplay and physics, there could be no better time to rally the gang and dive headfirst into Psyonix’s long-lastingly successful project. It’s available on pretty well every platform, and has a starting digital price of £15.99 on the UK PlayStation Store. It is difficult to go wrong here.
Animal Crossing: any (Switch, 3DS, Wii, DS, GameCube)
Is there anything more calming than Animal Crossing? I don’t think there is. Forever the ruler of the life sim genre, being caught up in all the social, business and construction drama of your virtual town, obsessively checking the shops’ stock for what you’re looking for and slowly filling up Blathers’ museum forms a delightful day-to-day. New Horizons for the Switch is the obvious pick, since it was released just a few weeks ago (and, I can confirm, is well deserving of its glowing reviews), but any of the series will do the trick, with maybe the exception of 2015’s Happy Home Designer. The 3DS, Wii and DS (GameCube, too, if that’s somehow the most viable system here that you have) all saw equally cogent mainline series entries, so there’s plenty of choice depending on what consoles you happen to own. It comes highly recommended in these troubling times as one of the most zen single-player experiences out there.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Switch)
For many through this period, escapism will be key. Breath of the Wild, released in 2017 for the Switch, is the ideal open-world experience for this, whether you’d be replaying it like me, or somehow checking it for the first time (I envy you!). Its palpable sense of exploration, lush environments, cell-shaded visuals and general Zelda-style storytelling make it one easy to get lost into, and the virus gives us the perfect excuse to do just that. If you don’t own a Switch, or beat this title a little too recently, something like Horizon Zero Dawn (PS4) or The Witcher 3 (multi-platform) should scratch a similar itch. Either way, you’ll want an immersive title like this one.
The Division (PS4, Xbox One, PC)
I’ve been playing this one a lot over the last couple of weeks with a group of friends, and it’s a seriously fitting title for the lockdown period. For one thing, it’s a total time-sink. One or two hours of gameplay goes by in what feels like half that time, in part thanks to mission pacing as well as the multitude of assignments that litter the player’s map. The gameplay isn’t anything to write home about — it’s a standard cover-shooter and so retains the typical mechanic issues associated with that label — but it boasts menus and UI that’s clean and slick, with great visual language. The game’s backdrop of a virus-based national apocalypse might be a little much for those more anxious about the implications of COVID-19, but the harnessing of world affairs for storytelling purposes may well be a comforting thing for many, and The Division certainly taps into this space for its setting. I imagine its sequel, The Division 2, would accomplish similar things to this one, so there’s that, too, should you prefer a slightly more recent release. Grab a few friends, and get stuck in.
Wii Sports (Wii)
Yep; not joking. Chances are, a lot of us are going to be stuck in with our families for an awfully extended period of time. Whether that’s a good thing or bad thing for you, it benefits us to make the most of the only physical socialisation we’ll have for a while. Most of us own a Wii, so dust it off! Throw on tennis, or bowling, and get the household together. A silver lining of this kind of scenario is being able to spend a hell of a lot more time with our folks, so we may as well take advantage of it. I don’t know. If nothing else, the tennis is fun as hell. Why not?