I love video games. Spouse doesn't but is open to it. Any suggestions?
March 20, 2020 2:39 PM   Subscribe

Are there any video games that might engage a total non-gamer either as a spectator or a participant? She's not into competitive things (doesn't like board/card games either), her attention span for things that require investment is low, and she's distractible. Is there any hope, or are we doomed to continue netflix and chilling? The only ray of hope is that she hasn't been exposed to many games for a very long time. So it's not like she's seen the latest options and shot them down.
posted by malhouse to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (32 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
I've been out of the game (no pun) for a long time but my spouse and I had so much fun with the Lego XXX games (Star Wars, Batman, Indiana Jones, don't know where the series is at now.) The puzzles are hard but solvable; not frustrating, not childish either. No violence except lego pieces flying. Cute animations. Lots of replay value. And the best part for us was they were drop in/drop out - your spouse can walk away and her character gets replaced by a slightly dumber auto player.
posted by ftm at 2:43 PM on March 20 [4 favorites]

If you have a Nintendo Switch, she might enjoy playing Snipperclips with you. You do have to work together, but each puzzle is pretty short.
posted by cabingirl at 2:47 PM on March 20 [1 favorite]

I'm a total non-gamer, so I have no idea if these games are still available or can be played on newer platforms.

My favorite game my husband ever played was called Limbo. I liked it because it was quiet (no one shouting annoying phrases over and over), slightly creepy, and you get through the levels by solving various puzzles using items in the environment. I really enjoyed watching him play and would sometimes help out by making suggestions on the puzzles.

My other favorite game to watch him play was Portal, just because it was full of humor and weirdness.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 2:56 PM on March 20 [5 favorites]

I enjoy watching the Assassins Creed games where no guns are fired- like Syndicate and Origins.
posted by nouvelle-personne at 2:57 PM on March 20 [1 favorite]

I said this just the other day in the Green: Banished.

It's the only game that my wife walked by and asked what I was playing. Then eventually pulled up a chair. Then asked how it works. Finally we played side-by-side for weeks building our little villages. She would even ask if I felt like playing.

Nothin like that ever happened. Not even close.
posted by humboldt32 at 3:02 PM on March 20 [1 favorite]

Untitled Goose Game would be fun to do together!

If you have the right system, Katamari Damacy or one of its sequels.
posted by ejs at 3:02 PM on March 20 [8 favorites]

If you have a Switch, Super Mario Odyssey might be a good choice! She can play as Cappy (an unkillable hat) while you play Mario. It's super fun, and if she doesn't want to play one day, it won't stop you from playing. You'd just control both Mario & Cappy.

Also seconding Untitled Goose Game. It is ridiculously fun, both to play and to watch.
posted by burntflowers at 3:09 PM on March 20

is she open to watching you play an RPG? i'm not one to want to play incredibly complex games, but i have happily sat on the couch and read while occasionally watching what was happening in Red Dead Redemption and such.

the Lego games were the only ones i could really handle because they are kind of goofy and do not require you to know all kinds of special things about in-game mechanics. all the .. stuff... like managing inventories and hit points and this rule and that rule make me lose interest rather other way around.

lego star wars and lego jurassic are kinda fun and silly with low investment.
posted by affectionateborg at 3:16 PM on March 20

I am your spouse. I only like original NES games that I played in the late 80s as a kid. I would happily play Super Mario Bros on an emulator for hours.
posted by tatiana wishbone at 3:37 PM on March 20

Here's a big secret. Women spend more than men on games; it's just that the games women spend money on, the gaming industry doesn't call games.

Try The Sims. Try Drawn. Try Firewatch.
posted by DarlingBri at 3:46 PM on March 20 [17 favorites]

I think it depends on what it is about games she doesn't respond to, or actively avoids/dislikes (also, word to what DarlingBri said!). That said, off the top of my head some games I've absolutely relished and remembered afterward for years (both to watch others play and play myself) as someone who dudes constantly dismiss(ed) as a non-gamer and a poser etc. included the first 2 Katamari games, the Animal Crossing franchise (well, except for City Folk...and no I haven't gotten the newest one for the Switch, yet at least), Fez, Kingdom of Loathing, Kentucky Route Zero, and Earthbound/Mother 2 (3's great and moving too). More recently, Gorogoa while brief blew my mind for what it had to say more broadly, and it's an easy entryway for people who don't normally play games. Also Telltale Games are not like most well known games, in a wonderful way.

(And, not that you asked I realize, but Fog of Love is a tabletop game I found astounding/radical after years of being amid the boardgamegeek-style tabletop renaissance/boom, and then reading its origin direct from the source confirmed why--the creator made it expressly because his wife had tried to get into the newer style games and found them lacking and same-y in mechanics/social priorities (much as I did) if not cosmetic shell always. So it focuses, _baked right into its mechanics_ (!) and everything else including outcome priority, etc., on other things not (so far) typically explored as much in the current tablegamegeek landscape. Monarch also was clearly made by women who recognized putting a "women like perfume, or whatever!" shell over standard strategy mechanics does not a femme game make.)
posted by ifjuly at 3:58 PM on March 20 [2 favorites]

Red Dead Redemption 2, as long as you're a not a completionist who must hunt EVERY ANIMAL and pick EVERY HERB and get EVERY ACHIEVEMENT, is very watchable. (Misterussell chuckles in the background.) I also enjoyed watching Marvel's Spiderman. Both of these games are PS4.
posted by kimberussell at 4:05 PM on March 20

I am your wife. My boyfriend recently suggested we find games to play together, and we've been researching this a bit. So far, I've liked Overcooked/2, Ratchet and Clank, and one that doesn't seem to get much love but is fun to play as a couple or with friends: Keep Talking and No One Explodes.
posted by Everydayville at 4:07 PM on March 20

Personally I feel zero attraction to playing and/or watching videogames and likely never will. Tbh I hate videogames... but it's totally cool if partners/friends/family/etc. like them and play them around me, of course! I mean, I love quilting but wouldn't expect partners/friends/family/etc. to join me in my pursuit. Fortunately, just as you have your gaming friends, I have my crafting friends. I would hope that you two can find a new game to play together but I'd also consider brainstorming solo activities that she likes that you can do parallel, separately but together in the same space and time!
posted by smorgasbord at 4:07 PM on March 20 [1 favorite]

I had a great time playing Breath of the Wild with my husband, where he ran the controller, but we both made suggestions for what to do. I wish there was a sequel. We haven’t really found a good replacement.
posted by leahwrenn at 4:07 PM on March 20 [2 favorites]

Mostly non-gamer--Unraveled 2 is a recent release that my son (who is very much a gamer) and I have been playing. It's based on simple physics puzzles, the graphics are gorgeous, and there are a ton of save points, so you can easily play for just 10 minutes and come back later.
posted by gideonfrog at 4:10 PM on March 20

I was coming in to recommend Firewatch too.
posted by saladin at 4:21 PM on March 20

How about short walking simulators? What Remains of Edith Finch, Gone Home, Tacoma, etc.

I'm in a similar situation and those have been a hit. Assassins Creed 2 and the sequels were a hit, although after Black Flag we kind of went on leave from them. I'm thinking of jumping straight to Odyssey.

She really liked Witcher 3 and Dragon Age:Inquisition. What I did with those is handle the boring bits on my own and involve her when there was character interaction.

Oddly enough, They Are Billions has been fun. Mostly because my wife watches the minimap for zombies while I handle other stuff, so we're doing it together. Similarly, Baba is you

My wife is not a gamer, but she loves the sims. Half the time she just spends building and decorating houses.
posted by Hactar at 4:36 PM on March 20 [1 favorite]

Do you have an Xbox One? Get a Game Pass subscription and let her try a lot of different things.

You've told us a lot about what she doesn't like, but what does she like? Puzzles? Story-driven games? Does she like to build and decorate environments? Explore?

Minecraft, Sims, Monument Valley, Plants v. Zombies, the various movie-based Lego games, Undertale, Stardew Valley, Peggle, Baba is You, Portal - these are all great games that fit your criteria, but they're very different games.
posted by anastasiav at 5:42 PM on March 20 [2 favorites]

Something to play together or something to play alone?

If the latter, start her on the Dragon Age series.
posted by Jacqueline at 6:05 PM on March 20

Animal Crossing dropped today... 😎 +1 on The Sims, too. You could also try Harvest Moon (not the newest iteration) and Rune Factory. Monument Valley is a beautiful game, and the original Plants vs Zombies has appealed to several generally non-gamers I know.
posted by Nancy_LockIsLit_Palmer at 7:33 PM on March 20 [1 favorite]

Are you... good at games?

I ask, because my husband loves games and is very good at them, and I am not. Like your partner, I mostly have a hard time keeping my attention on things. In fact, I usually multitask while watching TV unless it's something really, truly engaging. It's hard to do otherwise. Adding to that is that many games make me motion sick after more than half an hour or so.


I still get to engage with my husband about games, just as a backseat gamer/spectator. He picks a pretty, narrative-heavy game, plays it so well it looks like a TV show, and I can modulate my attention level depending on what's happening right now.

Big successes with this:

-Witcher 3
-The Last of Us
-Yakuza (Specifically, Yakuza 0, Yakuza Kiwami, Kiwami 2, and Yakuza 6. None of the old ones.)
-Death Stranding
-Assassins Creed Odyssey (but you have to play as Kassandra) (Black Flag isn't bad either. I didn't get into any of the others.)
-Persona 5

The two things that will kill my attention or interest fastest are LOTS OF LOUD BANGY NOISES (Can tolerate some, but not too much, it ruined the otherwise interesting new Wolfenstein game for me) and a strong frustration aspect. If Husband is getting antsy and tense/starting to grumble and swear at the TV, I don't care how good it is, I'm being driven from the room. So if you want to try this, maybe don't play on "extreme insanity" difficulty. Games being in first person are negotiable everything else is OK, but third person is much more pleasant as a spectator.
posted by gloriouslyincandescent at 9:00 PM on March 20 [7 favorites]

I think I may be similar to your wife. I like old 2d games, Super Mario Bros, Tetris, PacMan etc. I like puzzle games, really enjoyed Monument Valley. I've somewhat enjoyed Super Mario Odyssey on the switch, but can get frustrated by speedier parts or complicated movements needed to continue forward. Often, I'll hand the controls over so my husband can get me through those parts.

The Switch was a revelation for me -- It turns out I like today's games a lot more when handheld vs on the TV (TV gives me a headache). I liked Let's Go Pikachu enough to play entirely on my own.

I'd look for games that can be easily jumped into and out of without a lot of context. When the games feel "low cost" and we play < 30 minutes a day or so, I get hooked. I'm not up to date on current games, but in the past I've really enjoyed games like RockBand, GuitarHero, Wii Sports, a pinball game... I'm looking forward to trying games on PS VR.

You might also try solo puzzle games. I enjoy Mahjong, Hexcells (like Minesweeper), 2048, the crossword, NYT Spelling Bee. These kinds of games are easy to casually play but seem to put me in the mood for more games.
posted by miscbuff at 9:29 PM on March 20

Consider Monument Valley and Katamari Damacy.
posted by coberh at 10:22 PM on March 20 [1 favorite]

I'm similar to your spouse when it comes to video games – I'm generally not interested in them, I'm easily distracted and get motion sickness from many of them, I'm not coordinated enough to be good at most of them, and I haven't spent significant time playing anything since I was a young teen using a Gameboy or Nintendo. But, recently I've been really enjoying playing Kentucky Route Zero with my partner. We take turns in using the controls, but it's just as enjoyable to watch someone else play as play yourself. It's not like any other game I've encountered before, it's more like low-interaction storytelling in a somewhat surreal world. It's also easy to play in smaller doses that you can increase over time as you get more invested in it.
posted by RubyScarlet at 10:42 PM on March 20 [1 favorite]

Overcooked was fun until partner decided we had to get perfect scores on every level and started restarting levels every time there would be a fire.

The Mario Galaxy games for Wii were also pretty great for the secondary player, you just grab up all the little stars in the background and if you don't pay attention it's not like anything bad happens.
posted by Lady Li at 11:35 PM on March 20

Portal!! And super Mario galaxy.
posted by Lotto at 12:01 AM on March 21

...Lego XXX games...

Not going to Google it... Not going to Google it...

More seriously, we've had they best luck with story driven adventure games: Broken Age, Grim Fandango, The Inner World. More abstract puzzlers have been fun but haven't held her interest as well. (Luminocity, Baba is You) Oh--Return of the Obra Dinn was another one we had a great time with.
posted by ropeladder at 5:13 AM on March 21

I think The Outer Wilds is a worth considering. It's a non-violent first-person style environmental puzzle/adventure game. You play as an astronaut in a non-human species that lives in and explores a small solar system. There's a fairly standard SF backdrop of evidence of an ancient race and there's a critical situation forming that no one knows much about.

It's almost a metroidvania except you don't get gear that gives you access to different areas, you gain knowledge to use the tools you have basically from the start to effectively access stuff that was available the entire time. The puzzles are not the classic sort of video game puzzles that rely on lever toggling and crate pushing, but are about being given a small set of tools and using them to explore a large area, gradually building an understanding of what happened in the past to get things to the present-day state and how to resolve the critical situation.

Where it might not be ideal is that there are long-ish periods of exploration and your partner absolutely will get distracted while spectating. I think that's largely okay and it actually supports that a bit. There are periods where you will need to explore and try different things but then you'll learn something and it could trigger a flurry of speculation and discussion about what to try next.
posted by cCranium at 6:17 AM on March 21

Is your spouse into history, romance, fast-paced thrillers, animals? Is she into character-based narratives, cute animation, legal dramas, or eye-popping visuals? How about superheroes?

That sort of info is useful for recommendations.
posted by Goblin Barbarian at 12:30 PM on March 21 [1 favorite]

Seconding that playing Breath of the Wild together is a blast. My SO was the person with the controller, I was the big brains puzzle solver but we worked together to figure most stuff out. It's beautiful so can be absolutely mesmerizing.
posted by moons in june at 1:30 PM on March 21

Oh, you know, I just realized upthread I said TellTale Games when I meant Tale of Tales Games--my bad (admired/was online-friendly with people from both companies, plus the similar names, so I got confused!).
posted by ifjuly at 7:49 PM on March 21

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