Is it cheating or L33t sk1llz?
March 20, 2021 12:40 AM   Subscribe

Woohoo, I’m finally back on an SSRI for anxiety. The last time I did this, I found myself suddenly able to play platformers competently after a lifetime of sucking at games. That faded after a few months but it was a cool special skill while it lasted. I’m now more of a gamer than before (still not a platformer fan), and want to have some fun during the taper-up adjustment period. What games should I try that I might have considered too hard or stressful before?

I hate FPS and horror, and am tragically terrible at rhythm games, but other than that I’m pretty open to genre. I thought maybe dark souls but it’s so grim, you know? I have the new Xbox, a ps4, a switch, and a middling game laptop. I like using a controller way more than a mouse and keyboard, typically. I really prefer single player games.

I have played a LOT of games but avoided most triple A titles. Probably the hardest game I’ve enjoyed is Ghost of Tsushima, which I played on normal difficulty (unmedicated) and had some trouble with but nothing really impossible. The most trouble I had with it was the anachronisms. I liked how pretty it was but it felt really hollow about halfway through. I’ve tried playing Breath of the Wild on master mode and got surprisingly far in but abruptly lost interest because let’s face it I’ve spent hundreds of hours already in Hyrule and know all its secrets. Recently I tried Ori and the will of the wisps but boy howdy is it frustrating. I don’t think medication is going to help me with that one. Oh, and I have basically hundred percented Witcher 3 and it’s expansions.

I usually go for cute chill or thought provoking puzzle or crafting games like animal crossing, carto, talos principle, dragon quest builders. I like a JRPG now and again, and a turned based strategy situation like Civ is very meditative for me, not challenging or stressful. Same with Tetris or anything in the match 3 genre.

So what are some obvious and not so obvious things that I’ve been ignoring that I should give a try while my brain is readjusting itself? Something a little outside of my comfort zone, maybe with some stressful sequences or negative consequences for mistakes or just a higher demand of gaming skills? Have fun with this question because that’s what I’m trying to go for, too.
posted by Mizu to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (24 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I’d try Braid. Or Portal. Inside is easy but gets a little trickier at the end, which might be nice to ease into.
posted by iamkimiam at 12:51 AM on March 20, 2021 [1 favorite]

Japanese bullet shooters!
posted by johngoren at 1:40 AM on March 20, 2021 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Have you tried Hades? It’s a roguelike, no platforming elements to it, and I don’t know if it’s as “stressful” by design as other games might be in terms of negative consequences, because it’s built with the expectation that you’ll die a lot, but the combat gets plenty twitchy as you move through it and the rooms become very busy. I find that I can get into really nice flow states with it sometimes. There are also ways to adjust the difficulty up or down so you can find the sweet spot. It’s on PC and Switch — I played the Switch version with a Pro Controller and it worked great.

(And Ori is definitely stressful — I enjoyed it but also experienced my fair share of frustration with it.)
posted by Kosh at 1:45 AM on March 20, 2021 [2 favorites]

Spelunky 2
posted by roofus at 4:03 AM on March 20, 2021

Celeste, Celeste, Celeste!
It is a platformer but interesting puzzles and mechanics, fabulous teach-as-you-go levels, quick loading so it's not punitive to mess up, fantastic attitude and moving story. Trans protagonist (though that's pretty subtly conveyed) working through mental health issues.
And options to dial back the difficulty if you still want to play once the temporary superpower wears off.
posted by february at 5:12 AM on March 20, 2021 [4 favorites]

Zelda: Breath of the Wild, on the switch. Truly. Although I see now upon reread that you've been there. If you find something else like it please let us know.
posted by nkknkk at 5:18 AM on March 20, 2021

If you can deal with third-person action games, God of War and Horizon Zero Dawn both had great stories and gameplay on the PS4.

On the switch I’ve been playing a ton of Hades, it’s very good. Also maybe Hollow Knight, Cuphead, or Dead Cells.
posted by cali59 at 5:38 AM on March 20, 2021 [2 favorites]

Seconding Hades. That game is a blast. Also Celeste, Hollow Knight, and Horizon Zero Dawn.
posted by sevensnowflakes at 6:24 AM on March 20, 2021 [1 favorite]

This is a little bit of a deeper cut, but I super highly recommend the Ori games - Ori and the Blind Forest and Ori and the Will of the Wisps. They're really well rated, some of the best platformers I've ever played with surprisingly engaging and moving stories, and have some tough sections that you'll really enjoy.

They both started as Xbox exclusives and are also now available on Switch, and as a bonus they're also free on Gamepass if you have it.
posted by Special Agent Dale Cooper at 8:23 AM on March 20, 2021 [2 favorites]

Horizon zero dawn is free for all US PlayStation users through mid April. Terrific game and story, and you’re hunting robot dinosaurs.
posted by WedgedPiano at 8:51 AM on March 20, 2021

Whatever games in the Uncharted series you can get for the PS4.
posted by wierdo at 9:25 AM on March 20, 2021

I'm playing Horizon Zero Dawn at the moment, and enjoying it a lot. Nothing horrific in it, a good story and lots of side quests. A certain amount of tension in sneaking past or taking down the robots, but it's easy just to run off somewhere else and relax a bit when it gets too hectic.

I liked Red Dead Redemption 2 for similar reasons. It's an easy-ish game in most respects, and for me the most interesting part was exploring and trying to find all of the items that various characters wanted me to collect. Half of the game is just a series of country rambles, really, but you can choose a more high-stress playing style if that's what you want.
posted by pipeski at 9:57 AM on March 20, 2021

Warning, if you call Hades a roguelike anywhere online you'll get a bunch of people explaining to you that it's not. I have no horse in that race but it's a weird cultural pitfall of the genre I think newcomers should be aware of.

If you want to check out one of the greatest classic roguelikes that has tons of good quality of life features, try DCSS. It's always free, available online in a browser here, or download to play offline. It's hard in that you'll die a lot, but it's fun in that may of us enjoy that feeling of 'oh I can do better next time!' and starting over again.
posted by SaltySalticid at 10:09 AM on March 20, 2021

Battleblock Theater is a great platformer (imho). It's a cute game, only mildly frustrating at times, and can be pretty weird/ridiculous/funny.

Edit: Not the Canadian spelling of 'theatre'...
posted by Robocat at 10:14 AM on March 20, 2021

Best answer: If you like Breath of the Wild but are tired of Hyrule, give Immortals: Fenyx Rising a try. The gameplay is very much like BOTW but the setting is Ancient Greece, and you’re assisting the Greek Pantheon and fighting mythological monsters. There’s as much focus on puzzle solving as there is on combat, the tone is very light and humorous, and the setting is (generally) very bright and colorful and beautiful.
posted by ejs at 10:40 AM on March 20, 2021 [1 favorite]

1. I know exactly the phenomenon that you're speaking of. My doc doubled my SSRI, and a few days later? I was a LOT more productive at work. I'm seeing this as that the meds are actually working with keeping both the mental and physical symptoms of my depression at bay, and my brain is ramping up to its full potential. I feel less like a superhero, and more like a functioning human being instead of a foggy brained blob that sleep all the time.

2. If you want to go Old School, you can join us at Chess.
posted by spinifex23 at 12:56 PM on March 20, 2021

I think you'd like Dragon Age Inquisition. It has interesting characters and a story that is determined by your choices, and several different play styles you can choose from: would you rather do more melee fighting, or use a bow and arrow, or use magic? It has a similar open-world feel to Breath of the Wild but more varied tasks/quests to do. (It's actually the third in a series and I was a little disoriented at first having not played the first two, which aren't available for PS4, but gradually got a feel for the worldbuilding. The first two exist for Xbox 360 though so maybe you could play one or both of them first.)
posted by capricorn at 1:58 PM on March 20, 2021

i enjoy slay the spire and monster train. turn-based games with card-drafting / deck-building. during a run you start with a deck of basic cards and accumulate cards/upgrades as you go. A run takes at most 1-2 hours to finish if you win, and perhaps a lot less time if you lose shortly out of the gate! If you lose a stage your run ends and you need to start again with nothing. Difficulty is not motor control / timing but puzzling out good decisions from the hands you get dealt, and figuring out which cards and upgrades pair with each other.

nova drift literally starts off playing like asteroids, but then throws waves of successively harder enemies at you. there's an upgrade system layered over the top. winning is a mix of coordination of being able to weave through bullet hell while figuring out good combinations of upgrades to mix together.
posted by are-coral-made at 4:16 PM on March 20, 2021

Hollow Knight is great, but can definitely get pretty hard later on (or extremely hard if you want to get into the DLC content).

Inside is similarly great but both it (and the studio's previous game, Limbo) tread close to horror, so keep that in mind depending on what it is about horror that you don't like.

If you're looking deck-building games Slay the Spire started (or at least exemplified) the current trend. Griftlands, Gordian Quest, Signs of the Sojourner are all great in different ways.

If you want a turn-based tactics game but with a very narrow focus (and also time traveling, kaiju, and giant robots) I cannot recommend Into the Breach enough. It's tough, run based, but extremely fair: it explicitly tells you everything the AI is going to do on its next turn: the trick is learning how to deal with it.

Hope you find some good games!
posted by rhooke at 7:48 PM on March 20, 2021

On ps4- These are a little outside the norm and both made by the same studio, I've been enjoying the survival games Frostpunk and This War of Mine.
posted by fourpotatoes at 6:34 AM on March 21, 2021

Another vote for Celeste, Ori, and Hollowknight. All beautiful but very challenging platformers
posted by FirstMateKate at 9:34 AM on March 21, 2021

(Ugh, I just realized OP has already tried Ori. I stand by the rec but it can definitely be challenging)
posted by Special Agent Dale Cooper at 11:38 AM on March 21, 2021

Response by poster: Yeah, actually, the first Ori game was the platformer I miraculously played the first time I was medicated. I enjoyed being able the endure it as a novelty but like I said, I still don’t really like platformers and I recently tried the sequel and it was beyond frustrating. Not just the unskippable boss chase parts but the deeply opaque gameplay in a lot of ways... Similarly, Celeste is something where I have enjoyed the soundtrack and the aesthetics and know the story and the actual gameplay has zero appeal. They’re both beautiful and well made games but I kind of regret mentioning platformers specifically because that’s really not what I’m going for this time.

Hades is a great suggestion, I had been planning on getting to it eventually anyway. (And it’s a roguelike. Harrumph.)

I watched my friend play the majority of Horizon Zero Dawn. A lot of it felt... culturally appropriative? And hoo boy, the cheese of the ending... but I will definitely consider revisiting it myself if just to feel out the gameplay.

Thanks for the suggestions in different genres and play styles. If you have any deep cuts please suggest them.
posted by Mizu at 11:46 AM on March 21, 2021

It took forever to click for me but I’m really enjoying Monster Hunter World at this point. The grinding aspect is oddly relaxing and it definitely has a skill aspect that is challenging enough to make me feel accomplished without getting too frustrating.
posted by Bearded Dave at 5:21 PM on March 21, 2021

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