Fun video games for a mediumcore gamer
April 22, 2015 8:41 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for video games (Windows or Mac) that I personally would consider fun. I get bored with casual games but frustrated with ones aimed at the truly hardcore gamer. More special snowflake details inside.

Things I Require:
• Fun gameplay. If you've ever found yourself saying "The gameplay is flawed, but I love the game for other reasons," then it's probably not for me.
• An appropriate length with no padding. Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons took me two hours to complete, and Deus Ex: Human Revolution took me 33 hours -- but both felt beautifully paced, and neither one felt padded. There was no grinding, and very little slogging back and forth across boring locations between missions. Each game felt like it was the correct length for its content.
• Good level design.
• A sense of progression and a clear end point. I love the moment when I've finished the main storyline and the credits roll. I don't mind if I can keep exploring more after that point, but I need that moment where the game pats me on the back and tells me I'm free to go.

Things That Aren't Essential But Would Definitely Be A Plus
• A story world that is visually beautiful ( Assassin's Creed II) or deeply thought through (Dishonoured) or just fun to lose myself in (Batman: Arkham Asylum).
• A good story and complex characters. (EG: LA Noire).
• A sense of humor. (EG: Portal; Portal 2; Saint's Row III; Papers, Please.)

Things That Are Dealbreakers:
• Horror. I don't mind suspense and I don't mind a gently spooky atmosphere (like in Gone Home) -- but something like Amnesia is just too scary for a coward like me.
• Extreme difficulty. I have tremendous respect for Mirror's Edge, Braid, and Limbo and I admire the wonderful artistry behind them-- but they all got too hard for me and I regretfully quit playing halfway through.
• RPGs, smups, point-and-click adventure games, turn-based strategy, and Myst-style puzzle/adventure games. I have no idea why, but these genres tend not to work for me.

If you've read through this long list of requirements and you have any suggestions to offer, thank you in advance!
posted by yankeefog to Computers & Internet (17 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: If you liked Arkhan Asylum, definitely check out Arkham City.

Also, if you enjoy Chinese/Hong Kong crime films, give Sleeping Dogs a shot.
posted by griphus at 8:43 AM on April 22, 2015

Best answer: Yeah, Sleeping Dogs is a fun one and if you like the Arkham combat and the Saints Row style of open world it's a fusion of those.

One of my favorite indie games is Gunpoint. It's not long but like you said, zero padding. It also has great atmosphere, a sly sense of humor, and perfectly calibrated gameplay.
posted by selfnoise at 8:48 AM on April 22, 2015 [1 favorite]

Check out Hotline Miami. The game is a lot of fun and nailing a level feels like you accomplished something. It has an evolving story line that is fun to figure out as it's not just shoved at you. Pacing wise it shouldn't take you that long and I was never bored. It can be difficult in parts but usually that's going for perfect rather than due to just completion.
posted by Carillon at 8:51 AM on April 22, 2015 [1 favorite]

Dragon Age, Dragon Age Inquisition, The Witcher games. The first dragon age had more grinding than Inquisition did.. I took like 100 hours to play it but I played it to completion, finished all the side missions, etc. I had friends who beat the entire game in under 10 hours, though.

The Mass Effects, The Bioshocks, the Uncharted games.
posted by euphoria066 at 8:58 AM on April 22, 2015 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I would keep checking out the humble bundle website about every 2 weeks or so. For usually less than $5 you can get a good amount of games including some big titles that you might not normally try. Most of the time it's indie games and the money typically goes to charity. It helps me to try out games that I might not normally try.

Recently I have spent a ton of time playing borderlands 2, which I felt was so much fun. I would also recommend sleeping dogs as it is a lot like Arkham Asylum where the game focuses more on the fighting of the enemies rather than using guns. It has a good story as well.

You may want to get give Skyrim or Oblivion a shot if you haven't already. I know it's kind of an RPG but especially Skyrim has a huge open world, with just about every aspect of the game well thought out. There really is a lot to do in the game that could fit many different styles of play.
posted by bigdave at 9:02 AM on April 22, 2015 [1 favorite]

Dragon Age, Witcher and Mass Effect are all RPGs though. And while personally I think the Witcher games are amazing, they are pretty notorious for being a bit difficult (although they're fine if you just put them on easy difficulty).

Honestly the dealbreakers, the genres in particular, are extremely limiting since you just ruled out a lot of the best games of the last decade or two in one fell swoop. RPGs in particular are huge and many games that aren't technically classified as such have still taken on a lot of RPG-like elements (quests, leveling up, unlockables with XP, etc.)
posted by Kimmalah at 9:19 AM on April 22, 2015 [2 favorites]

Best answer: The Stanley Parable! It's the most fascinating meta-game I've ever come across, and I wish there were more games like it. It's fun, with a great sense of humor. It doesn't take long to play through, but there are multiple endings, so I'd say you end up with the equivalent amount of enjoyment that you'd get from a longer linear game, if not more.
posted by dire at 9:19 AM on April 22, 2015 [4 favorites]

Hotline Miami is a pretty challenging game-- I found it to be a "twitch puzzler", which I don't think I've ever played or conceived of before.
posted by Poppa Bear at 10:10 AM on April 22, 2015 [2 favorites]

Best answer: All of the games that you list as favorites are also games I really enjoy (minus one or two I haven't played yet.)

So, that said, a few other suggestions based on other games that I personally love, as we seem to have some common tastes:

Bioshock and Bioshock Infinite, the Bioshock Infinite DLC where you can play as Elizabeth
Tomb Raider (the new one from a year or two ago) - I liked for the same reasons I liked Assassin's Creed
Saint's Row IV
Assassin's Creed 4 (2 is great, 3 was boring, 4 was fun because you are a pirate.)

Whichever Lego games are for something you like (Harry Potter, Indiana Jones, Star Wars, Batman, etc - my favorite one is Lego Marvel Superheroes). They are all-ages games, so not super difficult, but they are really cute and really fun, especially for couch co-op with a friend or family member.

If you specifically enjoy the stealth aspect of AC/Dishonoured/Deus Ex, there's a game that came out on XBox Live Arcade called "Mark of the Ninja" that's really good - not sure if you can get it for PC or not but including for others.

Some games you like (like Deus Ex: HR, Dishonoured, and Assassin's Creed 2) are action/adventure games that lean heavily on the RPG side of things (leveling, collectibles, branching paths, etc.) I would suggest potentially looking into some of the more action/adventurey RPGs for other possible gems. I would especially suggest the Mass Effect games (my favorite games of ALL TIME, and in fact one of my very top entertainment properties of any type). Other possibilities: the Dragon Age games (though I think the third one is LOADS better than the first two - I found the first one overly long and grindy and the second one too repetitive, but loved the third), Fallout 3, and Skyrim. YMMV on how much these worlds feel like fun open worlds you like to explore and how much they trigger your "slogging" pet peeve - especially the Bethesda games, which are ginormous- but the advantage is that most of these are several years old and really cheap now. :)
posted by oblique red at 10:15 AM on April 22, 2015

Best answer: Mark of the Ninja is 2D stealth game. It has everything on your list except a sense of humor, because ninja vengeance is serious business.

Gunpoint is a shorter 2D stealth game with more humor and uglier graphics. Gameplay revolves around connecting different electronic devices.

eversion is a puzzle platformer where you swap between dimensions. Story is implied rather than explicit.
posted by squinty at 11:25 AM on April 22, 2015

Best answer: nthing The Stanley Parable, which is amazing. Fallout 3 is one of my favorite games of all time - you can play it as a grindy super-open world if the that's your style, but I found that I could play it as a fairly tight, story-oriented game if I wanted to. That's more of an RPG - if you'd like more of an action game in that vein, I think Far Cry 3 is really great.
posted by raisindebt at 12:35 PM on April 22, 2015

Response by poster: Thanks for all the great suggestions -- keep 'em coming!

I promise not to thread-sit, but just to clarify, I don't mind RPG elements like leveling up or unlockables and I am totally open to the possibility that an RPG will enthral me. It's just that, when I've tried a game that is billed first and foremost as an RPG (as opposed to "an FPS with RPG elements" or something like that), it has tended to involve grinding; lots of traversing territory to get to the next game element; and/or gameplay that depends on turn-based combat. I would be happy to try an RPG that avoids those things. Oblique Red's suggestion of "looking into some some of the more action/adventurey RPGs" is an excellent one and I am very open to it.
posted by yankeefog at 12:47 PM on April 22, 2015

Best answer: Yankeefog, in that case, it may be useful for you to use the terms "JRPG" and "Western RPG" to your search/filter criteria. JRPGs are Japanese-style RPGs, and usually feature turn-based or hybrid combat and lots of grinding. Notable examples include the Final Fantasy games and the Tales series of games (Tales of Symphonia, Tales of Vesperia, Tales of Graces, etc.)"Western"-style RPGs are more likely to have real-time combat and a more streamlined story, though it's often combined with an open-world and a lot of sidequests, so you can choose how long you take and how much re-treading you do. Notable examples are Bethesda games (Elder Scrolls games like Oblivion and Skyrim, Fallout 3) and Bioware games (Mass Effect, Dragon Age.) The two types of RPGs are really different from each other.

Western-style RPGs exist on a continuum with action-adventure games and shooters with RPG elements. So, technically, Bioshock is a shooter with a strong storyline and a customizable character skill tree (RPG-ish) but with a non-customizable player character, first-person shooter combat mechanic, and mostly linear story (non-RPG-ish.) The genre boundaries are really porous.

If you remember the names of any games that you really disliked, this might help as well.
posted by oblique red at 1:41 PM on April 22, 2015

Best answer: I have similar game tastes as you and I really enjoyed Borderlands. Great style, decent story, super fun gameplay, and awesome co-op if you're into that!
posted by thebots at 3:08 PM on April 22, 2015

Best answer: Some games from my list on Steam that I really enjoyed. Some have some RPG elements. They're probably all a few years old, but I think they might be some gems others haven't mentioned.

Rochard (on sale now!)
Dust: An Elysian Tail (made by one guy!)
Trine (I didn't like Trine 2 as much, but now they're coming out with #3 which looks good)
posted by cali59 at 4:10 PM on April 22, 2015

Best answer: My housemate got Ori and the Blind Forest for her birthday, and we've both been playing it and loving it. It's gorgeous, interesting, different, cool, and getting progressively more difficult - but I don't have a sense that it's going to be unwinnable. It's 2d, but one of the most stunningly beautiful games I've ever seen, with fluid, easy movement and incredible variety of scenery.

Also infinitely easier with an xbox controller, though not too bad on a keyboard.
posted by kythuen at 6:15 PM on April 22, 2015

Response by poster: Thanks everybody-- much appreciated!

Oblique Red, the two RPGs that I specifically remember not being able to finish were the original Fallout and Star Wars KOTR. In both cases, I really appreciated the skillful writing, and I could see why they are so universally beloved -- but the gameplay style was just not for me.
posted by yankeefog at 7:09 AM on April 23, 2015

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