- 17 Mar 20
During the lockdown, keep yourself entertained with Hot Press-approved video and board games to play by yourself, or with the flatmates/family you're shut in with.
Within a matter of days, the Covid-19 situation in Ireland spiralled into what feels like madness. Nationwide, gatherings of 100 people of more were shut down, subsequently leading to the closures of bars, pubs, venues and almost any public location. It's hugely challenging, but what's most crucial right now is to stay home and limit social contact to prevent further spread of the highly-infectious virus.
But while you're isolating, it's hard not to go stir-crazy (or even worse be driven crazy by your flatmates). Hot Press have you covered with a list of games to keep occupied. Maybe combine it with our Lockdown Playlist for the ultimate dystopian survival kit — and watch this space for more lockdown essentials.
Fallout: New Vegas
As the coronavirus began spreading, fans kept mentioning how the dystopian mood felt eerily similar to that of Fallout: New Vegas. The post-apocalyptic game is a spin-off of the cult-favourite Fallout series, in which nuclear war has wiped out the world. Artwork is greatly inspired by the post-war culture 1950's America, when nuclear apocalypse was looming over the public's conscience. The New Vegas spin-off takes place in a dystopian Las Vegas, where society is divided into warring factions (including a gang of Elvis impersonators). It's an intense role-playing game that will take ages to finish — the perfect solution to lockdown boredom. Available on Xbox, Playstation or PC via Steam.
The Sims 4
On a much lighter note, if you're already itching to go outside and get back to your day-to-day life, look no further than the life simulation game that's enamoured players for two decades. Create a whole new virtual world to live out your fantasies, recreate a return to normalcy or create a whole new story. There are also tonnes of expansion packs to flesh out the game, including the almost-too-relevant Strangerville pack, a story-based expansion that focuses on a rural town consumed by a mysterious infection and dark secrets. On the lighter side, live out life as a restaurant owner, vet, scientist or anything the game allows. What's great about the Sims is its potential to be as calming and mundane or wild and chaotic as you choose. Even better: it's currently on sale for €12.49 via EA, as opposed to its usual €50 price tag. Available on PC/Mac, Xbox or Playstation. (Since beginning this article, two of my friends have already bought and downloaded the games, so the feeling seems to be universal.)
Cards Against Humanity
The "party game for horrible people" is a great way to bring much-needed laughter to the room. Each round, a player picks a black card with a phrase on it and the others toss in white cards that complete the phrase — whoever's is determined to be the funniest wins. The combinations can be hilariously absurd and its off-kilter nature makes for a good round every time. Buy the pack here or download it for free and make your own cards. There's also an online server that allows you to play with friends or strangers.
Animal Crossing is perhaps the most peaceful video game I've ever come across. The series, which began in 2001 and has strongly maintained its fanbase since then, is another social simulation game. You find yourself in the middle of the wilderness and enter a town full of cute animal villagers. A raccoon, the now-infamous Tom Nook, gives you a place to live and you spend much of the game leisurely paying off debts and doing favours for neighbours. Its mundaneness is exactly what makes it so enjoyable — there's no pressure to do anything urgently, just live each day in the village however you like, whether that be planting trees, collecting bugs or decorating your home. The new edition, New Horizons, out March 20, brings a much-needed escape as you take a trip to an island paradise. It's precisely the low-pressure escape from reality that's so deeply necessary amid the chaos. The full version is available on the Nintendo Switch, but there's a free-to-play version called Pocket Camp available for mobile devices.
Another peaceful simulation game, Stardew Valley takes place on a farm you just inherited from your grandfather. Similar to Animal Crossing, build up the farm, live off the land, interact with the community and customize the game however you like. It's open-ended, with the ability to keep playing after the game's cycle has ended as you continue to try for a better score. The country life RPG has quickly made its way up the ranks to become a cult favourite, available on both traditional gaming consoles and mobile app stores.
The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim
The fantasy open world RPG is another cult-favourite, largely hailed as one of the greatest video games of all time. Though it was released in 2011, it has enamoured die-hard fans over the past decade. There's a main story, in which your character is on a quest to save the world from a dragon prophesised to end it, but the beauty of Skyrim is its open world format that allows players to continue on various quests and postpone the main storyline indefinitely. Downloadable content and an arsenal of fan-created mods keep the already never-ending game interesting. It's an easy world to get immersed in and has kept fans occupied for years, so a lockdown might just be the best time to dive into the fantastical game.
If your relationship with your fellow isolators isn't too strong, I wouldn't recommend this one — Monopoly is infamous for its ability to tear groups apart with a long and competitive game. But if you're up for a little friendly fire, the seemingly never-ending game is a perfect way to pass the time. The creators say that the ever-controversial property trading game should only take 60 to 90 minutes, but anyone who's played before knows it takes a lot longer than that (the longest game reportedly lasted 70 days). So dust off that board that's probably shoved away in a cupboard somewhere and enjoy a long-lasting game that'll keep everyone entertained.
It's been out for six months, but just in time for lockdown the well-loved game is now available on Steam for 50% off. Borderlands 3 is a shoot and loot class-based action game that takes place on a dystopian planet. Play as a looter shooter lost in time, travelling to new varied and beautiful planets that have all reupted into chaos. It's marked by humour and what IGN calls an "addicting item chase that unfolds over the course of 30 hours’ worth of lovingly crafted main and side missions." Each world is littered with collectibles and Easter eggs, making for an enjoyable and time-consuming hunt.
Pandemic Legacy: Season One
This one's self-explanatory. Perhaps a bit too on the nose, but the expanded version of the Pandemic board game includes an overarching storyline that keeps players entertained for 12 to 24 sessions of gameplay. It starts out similar to the original game as your group of disease-fighting specialists race against the clock to cure and stop the spread of four plagues, before transforming into a more complex co-operative campaign strategy game. In a time of such uncertainty, sometimes it's relieving to visit a fictional world where things are much worse for a sense of hope — hence why pandemic film Contagion has re-entered the public conscience. Plus, there's that small victory of beating a pandemic in the fictional world.
Jackbox Games are party games available on Steam full of mini games for groups of people. Each player joins the game via their smartphone, so only one person needs to own the game to bring the entertainment. It's best in person, but I've also figured out a way to make it work remotely. Start a video chat using Skype, Discord or any other app that allows screen sharing, and all the players can connect remotely while watching the screen and laughing along even if they're miles away. Some of the games won't work remotely, but altogether it's a fun and pretty absurd combination of games to stop you and your flatmates from hating each other.