Game and Watch
January 16, 2012 9:04 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for console games that are as much fun to watch as they are to play.

I just finished playing Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. For a month or so, it was the evening entertainment for me and my wife - I would play for a couple of hours each evening and she would watch, make suggestions about where to go next, and help with puzzles.

I'm looking for more games that we can play together. I asked my wife what were the things that helped Skyward Sword hold her interest, and she said:

1) It was pretty, with detailed environments and expressive characters and monsters.
2) She liked the structure of the main quest line with lots of side missions and collecting - it gave her things to look out for in the environment while I played.
3) She liked the story and the characters, especially the touches of humor.
4) The puzzles gave her something to think about and made he feel involved because she could make suggestions.

Things she does not like in games:

1) GrimDark. Too much explicit violence and gore, humorless beefy dudes beating up demons/aliens/zombies.
2) Grinding. Turn-based combat is a turn-off (unless it's exceptionally beautiful to watch) and any kind of play that involves doing the same thing over and over just to buff stats is a non-starter.
3) Pure action without significant story or puzzle elements.

I have a Wii fully loaded with homebrew emulators and a PS3 with hardware PS2 compatibility, so I can play almost anything except for XBox/360 exclusives. I've already played all of the other 3D Zeldas and would prefer to play something else if possible.

What should be next on our list?
posted by murphy slaw to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (27 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Oh my gosh, you want Okami. For the PS3, consider the new ICO/Shadow of the Colossus reissue, too.
posted by jbickers at 9:08 AM on January 16, 2012 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Ico and Shadow of the Colossus both tick boxes 1, 3 and 4. They're for PS2 but are also available as HD versions for PS3.

Beyond Good & Evil is a sci-fi Zelda-like with a very good reputation (PS2, Gamecube (i.e Wii) and HD download versions available).
posted by permafrost at 9:12 AM on January 16, 2012

Portal/Portal 2? Full of puzzles and (dark) humor, and the second one has an interesting storyline and some interesting design.

The Mass Effect and Dragon Age series by BioWare are pretty, have detailed storylines, a mix of puzzles and action, some humor but not a lot. They also have lots and lots of side quests and interesting NPCs to talk to.
posted by Janta at 9:13 AM on January 16, 2012

I watch my husband play through games, acting as spotter and advice-giver, then play them through myself if I'm really taken with them. Ones I've really enjoyed watching:

Portal and Portal 2 (and she can join in on the co-op for Portal 2!)
BioShock and BioShock 2 (might be a bit too gory/scary, but beautifully done)
Assassin's Creed 2 / Brotherhood / Revelations
The Saboteur
several of the Hitman games

I don't have a PS3, but I've heard that they're remastering the Sly Cooper games in HD -- those would also be excellent.
posted by themissy at 9:15 AM on January 16, 2012

Mrs. Coevals jumping in to say, I enjoyed watching Coevals play Red Dead Redemption, mainly because of the beautiful landscapes and twilight skies. And the horses.
posted by coevals at 9:19 AM on January 16, 2012

The missus and I are currently playing Skyrim and since we're both going different routes on our quests we can help each other out with ones we have already accomplished.

It ticks all your positives and none of the negatives and most of all it's something you can easily dump 100hrs+ into.
posted by longbaugh at 9:36 AM on January 16, 2012

Best answer: This sounds like the gaming that my wife likes too (either to watch me play a game like Bioshock with an interesting story, or to join in as a limited 2nd player)... here are some games we liked.

The Super Mario Galaxy games (for the Wii, obvs) allow a second player to use their Wiimote to collect stars and coins, and some limited attacks on enemies. The great thing is, it's entirely optional so the second player can jump in and out as they want, or just enjoy the game.

Zack and Wiki is a single-player puzzle game for the Wii that was really well reviewed and benefits from having two minds collaborating.

Eternal Sonata is a JRPG (PS3) that can be a bit grindy like any RPG but is really, really beautiful and has full drop-in-drop-out co-op, and a nice story. My wife's never played an RPG in her life but we played through the entire game together.

The upcoming Ni No Kuni RPG doesn't look like it has two-player, but it's got a story and art by Studio Ghibli so I'll probably be playing that through with an audience.

The Deathspank series of games (PS3) are quite funny and have a fully optional second-player experience. There are some basic puzzles but it is mostly a hack-and-slash with lots of hilarious dialog.
posted by Gortuk at 9:41 AM on January 16, 2012

Best answer: The Ratchet and Clank series (minus the newest, "All 4 One") is my favorite. There were three or four released for PS2, then the Future Trilogy was released for PS3. Any of the PS2 titles except Deadlocked would work, and start with Tools of Destruction if you decide on the PS3 games.
posted by jenny76 at 9:41 AM on January 16, 2012

Taking a slightly different approach... Have you played Ghostbusters: The Video Game? I didn't play it myself so I can't vouch for its gameplay (video games give me motion sickness), but I tried to be in the room while my husband played it since it was functionally Ghostbusters III. Apparently it is most fun on the Wii (because you can actually make accurate ghost-capturing movements), but the graphics are probably better everywhere else.
posted by daikaisho at 9:42 AM on January 16, 2012

Oh my god Mirror's Edge.
posted by Area Control at 9:42 AM on January 16, 2012

Seconding Okami (which is Zelda-like but different enough to not feel like a retread, astonishingly pretty and light-hearted but with a story to tell), Zack and Wiki (which is more of a pure puzzle game sort of in the style of Monkey Island etc, but with physical Wiimote interaction) and Beyond Good & Evil (especially the HD version on the Playstation store).

Ico and Shadow of the Colossus are both incredible games, but they're both very minimalist, spare and not a little bleak, Colossus in particular. I'm not sure someone who loved Zelda for its story, sidequests and humour would find what she wants in them. On the other hand, if you have a PS3 and haven't played them it's entirely worth grabbing them for yourself!
posted by emmtee at 9:54 AM on January 16, 2012

My GF enjoyed watching Red Dead Redemption (minus the close-up incredibly gory horse-skinning scenes) and Assassin's Creed (the ones set in Italy, not so much the latest one which is set in Turkey)
posted by unrulychild at 9:59 AM on January 16, 2012

Seconding Ratchet and Clank, which I have also enjoyed playing, as someone who gets super bored with grindy games. I like "A Crack in Time," primarily because it is the first one I played, and also it has some more puzzly-type things with Clank.
posted by that girl at 9:59 AM on January 16, 2012

I really enjoyed watching my husband play Limbo. It's a little dark, but in a very low-key way. I hate violence and gore also but this didn't bother me in the slightest.

Each step of the journey is a puzzle to solve in the sense that you have to figure out how to use the objects around you to get through the various hazards, and the deaths of the main character are often darkly amusing.

I also found the grayscale graphics and quiet sounds to be a really nice change from all the repetitive shooting, running, yelling and yapping of most games.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 10:33 AM on January 16, 2012

I also really enjoyed Portal 1 & 2, and while I didn't sit and watch Deathspank, I frequently overheard snippets of it that I found funny.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 10:36 AM on January 16, 2012

Heavy Rain is interesting to watch others play
posted by raw sugar at 10:39 AM on January 16, 2012

I have never played any of the Uncharted series, but it was a lot of fun watching someone else do it.
posted by MegoSteve at 10:41 AM on January 16, 2012

Best answer: Yeah, highly recommend the Uncharted series. In order of goodness it's 2/3/1, and you won't miss much by playing them out of order.
posted by Oktober at 11:14 AM on January 16, 2012

I've had several people come to watch me play Skyrim, though i suspect if I played a barge-in-and-kill-everything character instead of a sneak and hide character, it'd be less suspenseful.

May Payne. That's the only game I ever played where people would actually gather around to watch. The whole thing is very cinematic and spooky. Even the combat mechanics are really built around making them look great.
posted by cmoj at 11:57 AM on January 16, 2012

The Super Mario Galaxy (1&2) and the New Super Mario Bros. Wii are great for this espacially if you attempt to play to get all the hidden power stars and coins. The straight line path to the end in these games are pretty easy but accomplishing everything requires a lot of careful looking around and problem solving. Both of those things would be enhanced with a seperate pair of eyes. Other bonuses is that there is no dark, grim violence, the worlds are colorful and inventive (the three dimensional planetoids and shifting gravity of SMG espacially). The downside is that the story ranges from non-existent to weak.

An off the wall choice might be Crazy Taxi. No big story but it is visually compelling to watch someone crazily drive through a city.
posted by mmascolino at 1:30 PM on January 16, 2012

I got sucked back into gaming back in the say by watching my then-bf play Final Fantasy X because for that time period, damn was it pretty! FFXII is on PS2 and has the most grown up story of any FF I've played. Meets all of your criteria except it can be a little grindy. FFXIII is not grindy, but there aren't any side quests for most of the game, nor is it funny. It's beautiful, though.

Definitely Okami--possibly my favorite game ever. And any Ratchett & Clank title. Oh, and Little Big Planet!
posted by smirkette at 3:02 PM on January 16, 2012

Cave Story is available for the Wii and also mac/pc as freeware. It's a metroid type of game with a lot of exploration, multiple endings and paths and great art and music.
posted by catwash at 3:10 PM on January 16, 2012

Usually I find it really boring to watch other people play video games. However, I love watching people play the LEGO games. We have most of the titles, and I've enjoyed them all.
posted by obol at 11:42 PM on January 16, 2012

Best answer: N-thing Uncharted series. Great storyline, surprisingly good voice acting, well written characters, and there are some action sequences that I can totally imagine in a movie. I've enjoyed this series so much that I've watched him through all 3 installments.

There are lots of "shoot them in the face" sequences and hand to hand combat but they are not overly long (unless you suck ;) ) and not gory at all. AND there are some puzzle elements that I got to help with because I'm pretty good at those - these can be anything from figuring out how to move objects around to open a door to figuring out how to navigate through a room full of obstacles. In the third one you can also collect hidden treasure on the side and it's nice to have a second eye to spot the glimmer.

Also, I'll say it: Nick Drake is dreeeaaamy...

Secondly, also N-thing Portal and Portal2. The first portal in the Orange Box looks a bit dated but it's really fun to watch and help with (I had pretty low interest in playing, but I loved helping him figure out where to create his portals) Also GLADOS is hilarious in a dark, dry way. The first one also made the second one enjoyable as you understood the backstory but also really appreciated the improved graphics and mechanics.

I also enjoyed watching him play L.A.Noir. Now this is a bit violent but if she's ok with things like CSI and Law & Order SVU then this is totally fine. Good storyline and I thought the characters were more layered than they usually are in videogames. She can also help you in this game when you interrogate witnesses and you need to decide if they are telling you the truth or if you should push them harder. And as you play a detective, technically the entire game is a puzzle. A few shooty and driving sequences but never overtly long. There are some side activities but they are mostly just about chasing down thieves.

Someone upthread mentioned Heavy Rain and I watched my husband play this for like an hour on a demo he downloaded and it seemed similar to L.A. Noir but for some reason I was really bored with Heavy Rain. Maybe because the first five minutes was about how he had to put on a seat belt. What?

Little Big Planet is "cute" but I would not say it's fun to watch after a few levels. It's actually fun to play together but we never finished it because I got bored with being electrocuted and exploding over and over again on the last level we played.

I just bought my husband Batman: Arkham City which I am hoping is also watchable but it's sounding darker and more action-y than the others I have suggested. (And I think I need to put Okami on his present list!)
posted by like_neon at 2:29 AM on January 17, 2012

Best answer: Portal 1&2, Half-Life series, Rogue Galaxy (most underrated PS2 game ever) Heavy Rain, LA Noir, Skyrim or any of the other Elder Scrolls games, ICO, Shadow of the Colossus, Fallout 3/New Vegas, the new Tomb Raider game (whenever it comes out), Trine 2, Batman: Arkham City (a touch dark, but fills every other requirement).

My question to you is this: How did you get her to hang out with you when you were gaming? I haven't played with my wife around in months because she gets annoyed and doesn't want to hang out.
posted by bryanthecook at 10:50 AM on January 17, 2012

Response by poster: So many great suggestions!

Okami: I played this one on the PS2 and loved it. My wife watched through most of it but tuned out after it Just. Kept. Going.

ICO/SOTC: I have the PS2 version of these but have never played them. I thought about trying ICO but I suspect it might be too minimalist to hold her attention.

Ratchet and Clank: Will I be missing out if I go straight to Tools of Destruction and skip the PS2 series?

And the winner is: Beyond Good and Evil HD. I showed her the trailer and she made all the correct approving noises. It's downloading onto my PS3 now.
posted by murphy slaw at 1:53 PM on January 17, 2012

The characters in Ratchet and Clank have their own histories, but the voice acting and physical characteristics of each are plenty rich enough to make up any backstory you missed in the earlier games (which are in a way stepwise refinements on character, story, and game mechanics leading up to Future).
posted by thatdawnperson at 3:38 PM on January 17, 2012

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