Brain-Break Computer Game
November 24, 2004 8:05 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for advice on a computer game that would allow me to put work aside, and give my brain a break.

A few things to note:

-I freelance illustrate. So the only boss I have to worry about is me
-I exclusively use a laptop that can only run 3d games at low settings (but it works!)
-FPS games give me motion sickness
-Sim games are fun, but sometimes the micromanagent and replay value is low.
-RTS games are great, but replay value is a must if I'm going to sink 50 dollars into it.
-MMPORGs: I love them, but i don't love the tedious time you have to sink into them to level up.
-Are gameboys a way to go instead?

Any suggestions?
posted by Hands of Manos to Computers & Internet (47 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
MAME + Super Mario Brothers 3 == good times
posted by skwm at 8:20 AM on November 24, 2004

Hmmm - ever give the Total War series a shot? Shogun and Medieval are a bit long in the tooth, but the newly released Rome: Total War is a great blend of strategy and tactics. Might want to check the system reqs though...
posted by kahboom at 8:21 AM on November 24, 2004

Planescape: Torment - the best CRPG ever written, and easily the best plot, characters, and storyline of any PC or console game.
posted by Ryvar at 8:21 AM on November 24, 2004

A friend of mine sent me over to Retro Remakes when I was crying that I missed all the Amiga games I used to play. They have way more than just Amiga games, though. Note, these are often not direct remakes, they may be slightly different than the original, but it is nice for scratching the itch.

I like to pick one out every once and a while and throw it on my laptop to play for the same reasons you stated. For my purposes, I like an older familiar game because there's no learning curve. Also, the games tend not to be resource gobblers.
posted by contessa at 8:22 AM on November 24, 2004

Check out the Advance Wars series of GBA games. Turn-based strategy, for either one or two players. They're my favorite.
posted by sonofsamiam at 8:23 AM on November 24, 2004

Kahboom I'd say it's just the opposite - Medieval Total War was a brilliant game, while Rome has serious, serious problems - not the least of which is that once your cities start getting to 30k population, the game literally becomes unplayable (all buildings, full support of the people, circus games constantly, full stack of soldiers for a garrison - and they're STILL rioting).

Medieval: Total War should be completely playable on his laptop, though, suffers none of the problems of Rome, and both at the strategic and tactical levels is just an all around better game.
posted by Ryvar at 8:24 AM on November 24, 2004

I'm a big fan of Cossacks. It's an Age of Empires rip-off, but it's significantly more challenging and on a 1024 x 768 laptop it looks absolutely beautiful - It's just the prettiest toy. It's also very replayable, the generated random maps produce very different types of game, let it be completely random and you have to work out fast exactly what type of game you are playing. Most micro tasks can be automated so you can concentrate on strategy and war.

An aside on the post above, I find Rome Total War a complete yawn. Sorry, it just doesn't do it for me.
posted by grahamwell at 8:24 AM on November 24, 2004

Oh, Hands of Manos: if you do Baldur's Gate II the RIGHT way, you can easily end up sinking well over 300 hours into it, and have a blast start to finish. Definitely play Planescape: Torment first, though.
posted by Ryvar at 8:25 AM on November 24, 2004

I still play Civ 2 regularly after years and years and years... Civ 3 is okay too. Both are great for replay value.
posted by bifter at 8:26 AM on November 24, 2004

I love my gameboy - I find it's the perfect short-term distraction. I rarely want to play the games on it for more than a half an hour or less. I play SMB2 and Marble Madness on it.
posted by soplerfo at 8:33 AM on November 24, 2004

Try Puzzle Pirates. It's a MMORPG, sort of, without the levelling. You can be fun and social, or you can hide out and just play the puzzle games which range from mindless to difficult without ever being frustrating. It runs on low end computers and, I'm told, pretty effectively on crappy internet connections. Some of the puzzles are best worked with the mouse, so if you haven't got one with your laptop, that could prove challenging; though I think there are keyboard alternatives for all of them, I'm not sure.

Runs on Macs (though, I've heard there are problems), Linux and Windows.
posted by jacquilynne at 8:37 AM on November 24, 2004

Something that would probably fit your demands is a game called Moonbase Commander. It's not deep and it's not terribly involved, but it is a fun little turn-based strategy game. Download the demo to give it a shot. The "buy now" link on that site isn't so much working (the site it leads to does not allow you to buy it), but you can get it on Ebay for a few bucks.

I do enjoy my gameboy. Advanced Wars is a good strategy game. Mario vs. Donkey Kong is a good "I have a few minutes to kill with mindless fun" kind of game.
posted by bDiddy at 8:40 AM on November 24, 2004

I second the Total War series. Medieval Total War is the best game I've ever played. I refuse to get Rome because Medieval ate so much time.
posted by Mayor Curley at 8:40 AM on November 24, 2004

Uplink is a low-key game that lets you pretend you are a l33t h4xx0r d00d.

But it might hit you on repetition, there's a demo you can download on the site.
posted by Navek Rednam at 8:42 AM on November 24, 2004

Oh, I'm playing the Baldur's Gate trilogy all the way through at the moment using the Tutu Mod (which you can get here), which allows you to keep the same character all the way through without the annoying level cap and equipment limitations that you get otherwise between BG1 and BG2. It's fun, but BG1 is a bit of a grind compared to BG2 IMO.
posted by bifter at 8:45 AM on November 24, 2004

They are a little older, but the Fallout series (Fallout and Fallout 2) are awesome. They are isometric projection 2d games, quite playable on my laptop (thinkpad t20).

Great games - post apocalyptic RPGs, only RPGs I've ever been interested in. Nice quirky sense of humor as well.

Cheap too - you can buy both bundled for $10 from Amazon sellers...
posted by true at 8:46 AM on November 24, 2004

Uplink is great.

I Highly recommend Grim Fandango if you haven't played it. Funny, interesting and doesn't expect much from your PC.
posted by oraknabo at 8:48 AM on November 24, 2004

Response by poster: skwm- what is MAME?

kahboom-I gave a long look at total war. Part of me thinks "saaay, now this looks snazzy" and then my laptop says "are you high???" It's got a 32geeforce card in it and boasts a 17" screen (lotsa real estate..but that's mainly for desktop work).

Planescape Torment - fun game however I never finished it. I think I've got the disks somewhere around here. that's a good idea.

RetroRemakes -- nice! thanks!

sonof - yes I've considedered a GBA and may yet bite on that. I'm just not sure I want yet another gadget to go in my computer bag. But...they are small and light...and I can interchange games. Seems to be tons of game trade places around too.

ryvar - what is Medieval Total War? Is that the second series from that older game called Total War (with all the post apoc cars/trucks?)

cossacks looks interesting it old? So I could buy them for cheap?

Ryvar - heh, I don't play BG the right way, I get frustrated about mid game and cheat like hell. I did a run of Icewind Dale not too long ago...I made it 1/3 through the game and I went to find the money cheats. poor stupid short attention span of mine.

Bifter, you know -- I had a hard time getting into Civ...I never understood the strategic moves.

Oh also, I am trying out Sims 2. It's fun...sorta, it kind of frustrates me that they forget to take a bath and then bitch to me about it. It is funny to see them die for not taking care of themselves and wanting me to handle things for them...damn liberals (kidding!). I also tried out Evil Genius...ugg...that game was horrible (good design though)

Woo! Puzzle Pirates looks kind of cool, that might be my ticket. But the more I think about it, the more MTW is gnawing at me.

bDiddy - wow that looks great too (both your suggestions)

Thanks guys, now if only my clients would pay, I could look into purchasing some of these :)

fallout = one of my fav games of all times. I never tried F2 or F.Tactics...hmmm...I bet they are in the bargain bin too.

uplink can let me be a l337 haxor?? I am a l337 haxor! No wait, I'm not. I'm more a l337 n00b
posted by Hands of Manos at 8:49 AM on November 24, 2004

Grim Fandango, along with The Last Express are the two games for which I have most fervently hoped for a sequel... (looks to the heavens and whimpers)
posted by kahboom at 8:51 AM on November 24, 2004

I second the GBA. GBA has many games that will give you HOURS of playability. Some of my faves:

Zelda: Minish Cap
Zelda: A link to the past
Super Mario 1-4
Konami Arcade Classics
Advance Wars

Honestly, the list is endless. Do not make the mistake of dismissing the GBA as a 'kids' system.
posted by neilkod at 8:52 AM on November 24, 2004

MAME is an emulation system that lets you play hundreds of "arcade"-style games from the last thirty years, Hands of Manos. Check out for details. Basically you just download a little "ROM" file for each game you're interested in playing (many of them have been "abandoned" by their creators... it's sort of a gray-area in terms of copyright, I guess) and your day gets sucked away from you pretty much instantly.
posted by bcwinters at 9:05 AM on November 24, 2004

Cossacks is old and cheap. Under $10 at Amazon. Try it and if you like it get the Art of War add on - allows much larger games where logistics becomes a real factor and smooths out some irritations, It also runs on almost anything whilst still being the prettiest computer program I've ever seen. Hand crafted in Ukraine.
posted by grahamwell at 9:09 AM on November 24, 2004

MAME = Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator. Never did I love the Internet more than the day I found out about MAME.

My favorite MAME site is MAME World.

My favorite MAME frontend is Emu Loader.

If you want Super Nintendo emulation, I recommend ZSNES.

Feel free to e-mail me (in profile) if any of these interest you and you need more details.
posted by Otis at 9:10 AM on November 24, 2004

If you're looking to get a GameBoy, you might want to wait fot the DS to be released. In addition to all the cool new functionality, you can play all GBA games on it.

I haven't played any of the Total War games, but Rome: Total War is ranking as one of the best games to come out this year.
posted by oraknabo at 9:13 AM on November 24, 2004

I'd say Strange Adventures in Infinite Space is a great little game, if you don't mind paying a whole $15. There's a demo so you can test out how it plays first.

The great thing is that a game lasts about 5-10 mins, but there are so many "items" in it that you get better at it over time as you learn which items are worth more or work better than others, you'll only see a fraction of the items in a single game.

You'll also not blow a whole day playing it, it's a great pick-up, play for a short while, get back to what you're doing.
posted by ModestyBCatt at 9:18 AM on November 24, 2004

Roller Coaster Tycoon! RCT is one of the best pure fun games I have ever played. I have not tried RCT3 yet, but will be buying it this weekend.
posted by phatboy at 9:26 AM on November 24, 2004

Response by poster: wow now I'm on "game overload" so

well, at least when I'm at my fam's house this weekend for turkey day (and everyone is asleep from the turkey enzyme...heh, meat eaters), I can play. :)

otis, I'll email you when I get back and/or settled in, I'd like to take a whack at a few old favorite games
posted by Hands of Manos at 9:28 AM on November 24, 2004

If you liked Fallout 1 and haven't played 2 then what are you waiting for?!

Fallout 2 is awesome.

Fallout Tactics is good, but it's a seperate game and only shares a universe with the RPGs of the same name.
posted by ODiV at 9:34 AM on November 24, 2004

I'm not a huge gameplayer, but what you like seems to be similar to me. I highly recommend Rome: Total War.
posted by sauril at 9:34 AM on November 24, 2004

Hands of manos: the total war series is an odd one

Basically, you play Conquer the World in a very Risk-like strategic overgame. Then, for each battle, you can let the computer fight it, or fight it yourself.

Fighting it yourself consists of giving orders to literally hundreds of different kinds of troops - usually in squads of about 60 inside an aging 3D engine. There's up to 5,000 troops onscreen at any given time, all represented with sprites on rolling hills terrain. The battle mode is EXTREMELY well done and 'feels' very authentic, even if the graphics don't quite hold up today.

The top-level game, the strategy map - is hands-down the best Risk-style conquer-the-world high level game I've ever played.

As for Fallout: Fallout 2 is actually slightly better than Fallout 1 - but Fallout Tactics is significantly worse than either of them.
It's just an excellent, excellent game. Rome: Total War is the sequel, done with very flashy modern graphics that look absolutely stunning on a high-end system, but both the battle and strategic gameplay are severely lacking this time around.
posted by Ryvar at 9:41 AM on November 24, 2004

Er, whoops - this:

"It's just an excellent, excellent game. Rome: Total War is the sequel, done with very flashy modern graphics that look absolutely stunning on a high-end system, but both the battle and strategic gameplay are severely lacking this time around."

should've gone before the bit about Fallout. Sorry - in a rush to pack for the holidays.
posted by Ryvar at 9:42 AM on November 24, 2004

Ryvar and I will always disagree on this, I love Rome: Total War and didn't like the rest of the series. Yes, end-game management becomes a problem as your cities get increasingly larger and it gets harder to mainten them. Basically the only way I've figured out to beat it is towards the end to just blitz everything remaining because you can't hold on long enough for a siege-wait-siege-wait scheme. Actually it might make the game even more realistic by not letting the end-game drag on as inevitable.

I would not recommend waiting for the DS. I just got a chance to play it at a friend's house yesterday and it was bulky and boring. I like jumping right into the action a la classic nintendo, but the Yoshi game I was playing kept dragging on and on with story and training. I also found the need to use a stylus bad. Of course I only played one game, and played for about 20 minutes, but from the non-8 year old perspective it is not fun.
posted by geoff. at 9:57 AM on November 24, 2004

Another vote for Medieval: Total War. Once you learn how powerful sea trade is, the series can become too easy, but if you limit yourself to agricultural income, you can make the strategic part quite involving. The in-battle AI isn't great, but when, say, the Golden Horde show up, you'll be in for some exciting battles anyways. And your laptop can definitely handle the older technology of Medieval:TW, even if it would choke on the newer Rome:TW.

If you can find a copy of it, Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri (with the Alien Crossfire expansion) is, to my mind, the height of civilization-style gameplay.

Baldur's Gate 1 and 2 are brilliant, as are the Fallout games. Personally, I thought Planescape was beyond boring, and found the subtitle of "torment" to be all too accurate. But I am in the minority there.

Also - if you've got easy access to an internet connection, consider gunbound. It's like if someone took scorched earth, populated it with adorable Korean cartoons, and increased the depth of play with different sorts of shots and items.
posted by kavasa at 10:06 AM on November 24, 2004

cosmology of kyoto and blood omen: legacy of kain.
posted by dorian at 10:13 AM on November 24, 2004

I have a soft spot for ADOM. It's a roguelike, it's not even got any graphics, but it's loads of fun.

Apart from that, I second the Planescape: Torment and Baldur's Gate recommendations, though I never could bring myself to finish BG1 - having to run from literally everything doth not a fun gameplay experience make.

Rollercoaster Tycoon is also good.

Pity about the motion sickness from FPS, or I would've recommended the brilliant Thief series (though I still have to play the third one) and the just as brilliant Soul Reaver games (though there's some jumping puzzles that I personally find a pain in the butt).

Oh! And The Bub's Brothers, especially if you have friends to play it with over the internet or a LAN. It's absolutely hysterical.
posted by sailoreagle at 10:21 AM on November 24, 2004

My votes go for the previously mentioned Planescape: Torment and Grim Fandango.
posted by librarina at 10:34 AM on November 24, 2004

Fallout 2! (say it again) Fallout 2!

Given your criteria, and the fact that you've already played and liked Fallout, I can't believe you're still reading this instead of heading to the store.

Really truly an excellent game.

Also, check out Escape Velocity Nova from Ambrosia Software. It's like Asteroids meets Space War in an economic/exploration universe. The game is mad, I tell you. Mad good.

Ambrosia makes a couple of other sweet games, too. Definitely worth a look.
posted by Aquaman at 10:36 AM on November 24, 2004

Another vote for EV Nova here
posted by mervin_shnegwood at 10:45 AM on November 24, 2004

Ambrosia Software is a company of geniuses and wizards.

Also, I would second the vote for getting a GBA. On top of the many great games available for it, it might be a good idea to separate your gaming machine from your working machine. It'll let your breaks be breaks and your work be work, and give you an excuse to get up and walk around.
posted by Sticherbeast at 11:32 AM on November 24, 2004

I recently picked up the first X-Com game (UFO: Enemy Unknown elsewhere, X-COM: UFO Defense in the US) for the second time in the decade since I originally played it and I love it still, though there is a fair bit of micromanagement.
posted by codger at 12:59 PM on November 24, 2004

Jagged Alliance 2 if you like games in the X-Com/Fallout style, though I think JA2 is the best of them. Mercenaries. Revolution. Stalker-style night assaults on fortified compounds. Climbing around on the roof to take out snipers and surrounding courtyards to turn them into alleys of death...that game is just astounding. Plus, since it's at least 5 years old, you should be able to get it for next to nothing and it will run on your system.
posted by baphomet at 1:22 PM on November 24, 2004

Nethack. Best game ever. Been playing it for 15 years and it never gets old.
posted by ikkyu2 at 1:22 PM on November 24, 2004

I second Civ 3, Rollercoaster Tycoon, either Fallout 1 or 2. You might want to check out the Impressions city building series (Pharoah, Zeus: Master of Olympus).

Oh, and you can't go wrong with System Shock 2.
posted by arha at 4:38 PM on November 24, 2004

Give "N" a shot. It's an addictive little game that describes itself thusly:
N has been described as reminiscent of lode runner -- you're a little dude running around in a puzzle-y world inhabited by enemies.

But in N, there's a twist: the ninja is driven not only by a thirst for gold, but also by a physics simulation.

Death, which happens often, is quite animated.
posted by NortonDC at 8:40 PM on November 24, 2004

baphomet, are you fucking kidding. X-COM uber alles. Less useful for a modern day player though, as one needs to use a utility such as moslo to make it playable.
posted by kavasa at 1:21 AM on November 25, 2004

Try MUSHing, if you're into text. They are a bit gimpy, though, and require a lot of time, but for immersion value they are second to none. FiranMUX or a SW themed are good starting points, as is Elendor and Otherspace.
posted by Jongo at 5:35 AM on November 25, 2004

I completely forgot the tactical genre! X-Com 1 and Jagged Alliance 2 both have a ton going for them - the other entries in the X-Com series . . . meh.
posted by Ryvar at 8:09 AM on November 25, 2004

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