New Controller + Steam Summer Sale = Need Game Recs
June 24, 2017 6:21 PM   Subscribe

I haven't played video games with a controller in several years. I've picked up a few PC games that really need one, and I'd like to enjoy them, but I'm terrible at basic activity with the controller itself. I finally picked up a controller - XBox 360 wired - and I'd like some recommendations for fun, probably easy, games with the sole purpose of learning how the controller works.

The last games I enjoyed with a controller were Super Mario Sunshine (for which I made my daughter do all the timed boss fights) and Animal Crossing 1. That's mostly because I don't care for most games that need a controller (and not because I'm terrible at them, although that may contribute to not liking them).

I have never played a Zelda game, any Mario platformer, anything on a Playstation, nor any controller-based shoot-the-spaceships game more recent that the original Space Invaders, which I sucked at. (My brother played Space Invaders; I played Adventure. We were both happy.) I'm a longtime video gamer who's managed to avoid pretty much every combat-focused advance in video gaming tech since 1980.

But come to believe I might like Batman: Arkham Asylum, Dust, Ghost of a Tale, DCU Online, Braid, Limbo, and Genital Jousting, all of which I have, most of which I have tried with the keyboard and wow, those were horrible.

What I Have:
Over 400 games on Steam, about 2/3 of which are mine; the rest are family shares from my daughter. I subscribe to Humble Monthly, have bought a lot of H'Bundle packages, and have literally several hundred other Steam games, most of which are tiny indie things, and most of which aren't controller-compatible. (Hidden Object games do not use a controller.) But I have a lot. A lot a lot. Enough that I don't want to wade through them one at a time, trying to find that magic combination of "fun for me" and "good for learning new hardware."

What I'm Looking For: Total spend of under $20 in "controller training" games; lower limit is 0, because there's a good chance I've already got several good games and just don't know what they are. Must either be very forgiving of mistakes or fun enough that I don't care. (Genital Jousting is both fun & forgiving, but so nonstandard that I can't use it for controller training.)

Likes: Pretty artwork, mellow music, fantasy-esque settings, and low/non-combat storylines. Open world exploration. Interesting lore. Puzzles. Those aren't absolutely required, but it'd be wonderful if something had all of those.
Dislikes: Horror/gore (although I liked Fran Bow; maybe it's just the standard color scheme I dislike), most pixel art (most of GOG's catalog, anything RPGMaker), most shooting-based combat. (Most combat, actually.)

TL;DR SKIP ALL THAT - Short Version
I'm looking for cheap, good-for-beginner controller-using PC games, probably via Steam but not necessarily, in the following categories:
  • Puzzle Platformer
  • Top-Down Roguelike
  • Action Platformer (probably, sigh)
  • Action MMO/MMORPG
  • 3d Action Adventure
  • Possibly others I haven't thought of
I have a controller. (Xbox 360, wired.) I want to get competent with it. Between the huge number of games I've never even installed, and Steam's Summer Sale, there are a lot of options. Where do I start?
posted by ErisLordFreedom to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (14 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Rocket League!
posted by gemmy at 7:10 PM on June 24, 2017

Best answer: Hmm, you may have played both of these, but The Witness is a good (great!) first person puzzle game that works as well with a controller as a mouse. Similarly for The Talos Principle .

Abzu is a pretty swimming explorey game that works only with controller.

I think the Batman games are pretty good training too, as the combat is relatively forgiving, and quite fun. Give it a shot.

Middle-Earth Shadow or Mordor is a similar action adventure on deep sale right now, but it's pretty difficult and really combat heavy (all combat, really) so I'd dis-recommend it unless you really <3 the setting.
posted by Wulfhere at 7:18 PM on June 24, 2017 [1 favorite]

Best answer: On Steam, I'd suggest taking a look to see if Secrets of Raetikon fits your criteria. (Was the first thing that came to mind with "Pretty artwork, mellow music, fantasy-esque settings, and low/non-combat storylines. Open world exploration. Interesting lore.") With the sale, $4.99/50% off.

Never Alone (Kisima Ingichuna) is a charming, lightweight puzzle-platformer, currently $3 (80% off) during the sale. (Warning: contains feels.)

Trine and its sequels are gently-paced physics-centered puzzle platformers with some amount of combat, but the combat tends to be as much puzzley as actiony. ($2.24/-85% during the sale.)

Thomas Was Alone is an interesting, very puzzley indie platformer where you control a team of rectangles with unique abilities. ($2.49/-75%)
posted by NMcCoy at 7:22 PM on June 24, 2017

Best answer: My recommendations tend to be puzzle and action platformers as that's the genre I enjoy most when it comes to controller-based play. That said, none of these require particularly tricky moves or timing from the controller for the most part, so I'd consider them a great way to ease into getting comfortable with it in a less-frustrating way.
  • Dust: An Elysian Tail - This is an action platformer, but if you set the difficulty on this one to Casual, it is generally pretty difficult to die (especially starting out), and there's no cooldown on your special ability, so it's a great way to get into the flow of using a controller, without getting frustrated at it. There's still a few tricky platforming sections, but they happen later in the game anyway. Also, I love the story that goes with the gameplay, and the visuals are very pretty.
  • Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons - Beautiful puzzle-platformer that requires a controller to play--since you're controlling both brothers with the same controller. Seriously awesome game.
  • Vessel - puzzle platformer that generally involves controlling liquids and liquid-based automatons in various ways to solve puzzles.
  • Seasons after Fall - puzzle platformer that is beautiful and very easy to control. It's not too deep, story or gameplay-wise, but I find it very relaxing to play.
  • Ghost of a Tale - early access (and currently incomplete) 3rd person 3D adventure with a focus on stealth-oriented puzzles. You play as a mouse, trying to escape a fortress.
  • Papo & Yo - puzzle-platformer; you play as a child guiding a semi-benevolent monster through various obstacles.
  • Unmechanical - strange little physics puzzle-platformer; aesthetically reminds me of some of the Aminata Design games like Machinarium.

posted by Aleyn at 7:24 PM on June 24, 2017 [1 favorite]

Seconding Abzu. What I like about it is that the stakes are minimal. You won't ever meaningfully set yourself back by pressing the wrong button because you're mainly chilling with fish and exploring some ruins.

Battleblock Theater is a goofy 2-D puzzle platformer that I found engaging and fun. You do have to complete a couple of timed levels at the end of each chapter to progress, and that can get mildly frustrating. There's a bit of combat, but nothing precise or twitchy that I can remember. Oh, and there's cartoon blood.

Mark of the Ninja is a stealth game with some blood and combat. But the stealthier you are, the less combat you'll see, and the more opportunities you'll have to confuse guards rather than killing them. Plus, the controls are great, and the game is good at teaching them to you. I also think the violence will be less off-putting because of the art style.
posted by knuckle tattoos at 8:43 PM on June 24, 2017

Response by poster: I have picked up ABZU, Brothers, and Never Alone, all of which I'd seen, thought looked nice, and said, "needs controller—nope."

Also picked up Lumini, which was another in that category. (Most of the negative reviews seem to be "too simple; puzzles to easy; gets boring." Sounds great for a trainer. Is exactly my preferred style of pretty.)

I have The Witness, Talos Principle, Papa & Yo, Trine 2, and Thomas Was Alone. I've added those and the new purchases to a new "Controller Practice" category so I can find them easily. Of the ones I had, Thomas Was Alone was the only one I'd gotten around to trying. (Didn't particularly care for it - am not sure if that's because I suck at jumping, or because it's obviously a minimalist parody of a genre I don't usually play; I could feel the very dry jokes flying over my head. May try again anyway.) I have Dust: An Elysian Tale and Ghost of a Tale in non-Steam formats. Daughter also recommends Dust for beginner platformer practice.

Raetikon, Vessel and Unmechanicals have been added to wishlist; Seasons was already there. Waiting on cheaper sale or more budget for those. (Or hey, maybe a week from now I'll decide to get them during this sale.) Battleblock and Mark of the Ninja are both outside of my normal genre range, but look like they might be good for this; have added to wishlist and will consider picking them up. They don't look to be outside my violence tolerance at all.

I don't have problems with violence. I don't care for gore, and combat qua combat adds nothing to a game for me, but neither of them is "ugh do not want," just "erm... so, why would I want to play the game?" They're not so much negatives as value-neutral content that's often intended to be the main draw. (Military combat is a negative. Anything related to war or armies, tanks, or dudes in camo is likely a no.)

Am considering Submerged, Star Sky 2, Day of the Tentacle, Ether One, Demetrios, and Candle; feedback/reviews welcome, although most of those will almost certainly stick around on my wishlist for a while. (Even setting aside budget, I have only so much time to play.)

THANK YOU ALL! More recommendations are certainly welcome, and I hope that other people are getting useful suggestions.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 9:49 PM on June 24, 2017

Came in to recommend Battleblock Theater as a forgiving platformer with a fun and funny story, but see that I was beaten to it.

Since you mention "puzzle platformer" and "top-down roguelike", I am legally obligated to recommend Spelunky, which is currently on sale for $2.24, and is worth every penny. (Steam currently tells me I've sunk 219 hours into Spelunky, and I believe it.)
posted by namewithoutwords at 11:25 PM on June 24, 2017

I forgot Fez. Wonderful atmosphere, challenging puzzles, and you can approach it at your own pace while you master the controls. Works best with a controller IMO.
posted by knuckle tattoos at 11:36 PM on June 24, 2017 [2 favorites]

I believe Abzu is what you'll want to play, though I haven't picked it up yet. It's currently 70% off in the Summer Steam Sale, though I see you have a copy. It's 100% in your intersection of interests - mellow and atmospheric, lovely music, 3D with clean and striking art that's non-pixelly, no combat or risk of death, "a controller is strongly recommended" but all indications point to it being excellent for beginners and undemanding. explorative and open with (apparently) light puzzle elements.

Also seconding: The Witness, Braid. Fez. Fez is pixelly but has simply wonderful atmospheric music (one of the greatest game soundtracks ever, actually), and will introduce you to controller platforming in a gentle way while still being very interesting from a puzzle perspective.

Braid is the classic puzzle/platformer indie. It's not easy. But it starts out gently enough, anyway. The time-reverse mechanic also means that you can die but not really die, and keep trying jumps and such over and over until you succeed.
posted by naju at 1:31 AM on June 25, 2017

Also, everyone loves and can't stop playing Stardew Valley. It's a top-down farming simulator and will introduce you to controller mechanics without being demanding. A recent-ish update made major improvemenets to the controller support so it appears to be in good shape.
posted by naju at 1:35 AM on June 25, 2017

If you liked Limbo, grab Inside by the same studio. It was just as fun in a much different way. Even though it's short, the cheap price offsets it.
posted by deezil at 6:57 AM on June 25, 2017

Roguelike // platformer: Rogue Legacy - sidescrolling 'roguelike' that I enjoyed better on controller.

Puzzle: Portal // Portal 2 (pretty forgiving early)

ARPG: Torchlight II and Bastion
posted by isauteikisa at 3:24 PM on June 25, 2017

Response by poster: Ooh, many more games to add to the wishlist!

More info about my general skill level: I have discovered Dawn, which is free, and gorgeous. First time playing, I got called away at 40 minutes. Found out it doesn't have a save function; had to start over. It took me nearly an hour to complete. (The reviews say it's a 15 minute game.) 19/23 flowers, so I missed some, and am not sure where.

I am really, really terrible at jumping. Really terrible. I miss a lot. I overshoot a lot. I go off in odd directions. I lose track of where I am. I don't mind all this, exactly... except if there are also enemies to defeat or obstacles to overcome with careful timing, I get frustrated. If Dawn had enemies to shoot at, I would've given up and switched back to hidden object games or abstract puzzles like Hexcells.

That's the level of (total lack of) skill I'm starting with. Braid and Limbo are both on the list of "try this after I learn to platform" games. I've had Portal for years; haven't touched it because I know I wouldn't be able to finish it. (Daughter prefers FPS on a keyboard, not controller, but says I may not share this preference.) Fez was/is on my list for "looks fun; probably too hard for me to start with." Daughter assures me that Spelunky is way out of my league for now.

Daughter also insists I should tell people that they are vastly overestimating my competence with the controls, and this is reasonable, because every 7-year-old who plays video games picks up these basic skills in their first few hours - but no, really, I am awful at these. (Daughter tried very hard to figure out how to phrase that politely. I had to say, no, dear, I suck at these.)

Next to try is Dust: An Elysian Tale, as a 2d platformer with art I enjoy and an easy mode that hopefully won't frustrate me. Still looking for a top-down game that'll help me get used to the controls, ideally something like Binding of Isaac with substantially lower difficulty, about 1/10 the complexity, and a cute/fantasy art style.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 4:54 PM on June 25, 2017

Yeah, you don't want to touch Limbo or Spelunky. Spelunky's difficulty level gives people nightmares :)
posted by naju at 5:50 PM on June 25, 2017

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