With many places, including Colorado, under a stay-at-home order, it’s a great time to take up a new hobby or so something creative. But you and me both know that’s probably not going to happen. We’re going to veg out in front of the TV, catch up on Netflix, and – if we’re lucky – read a book. If we feel like doing something active and engaging, we might boot up a video game console.
On March 20, the end of the same week shit really started to hit the fan, Nintendo released Animal Crossing: New Horizons. It seems tailor-made for gamers self distancing as a result of COVID-19. You can explore a small world, complete little tasks, decorate things, befriend anthropomorphic animals, and visit with your real-world friends – everything you need to de-stress instead of thinking about the end of the world.
On the other hand, though, may of us don’t play video games because we like being social. What if we really want to explore what it means to be isolated? Which games allow us to really explore the feeling of being alone in a time like this?
Here are our top five picks for classic games that come with a side of solitude:
5. Metroid Prime (GameCube, 2002)
The entire Metroid series follows bounty hunter Samus Aran as she fights Space Pirates who attempt to harness the power of parasitic Metroid creatures. The worlds are quite dark and foreboding and Samus is often a silent protagonist unaided by allies of any sort. Prime, the first game in the series to give the player a first-person view as they explore Tallon IV with no other characters to converse with, is the first one in which the player really feels immersed in the world. The decaying ruins on the planet give it an extra eeriness and sense of foreboding.
4. Limbo (A bunch of platforms, 2010)
Incredibly dark and creepy, Limbo finds players controlling a boy as he tries to navigate a dangerous and monochromatic terrain where everything is out to kill him. The art style is very minimalist and feels like something German Expressionist filmmaker Fritz Lang would play if he were – you know – born a century later. The games’ puzzles aren’t ridiculously hard to solve and the game itself is relatively short. You could easily finish it in a single sitting if you really wanted to.
3. Shadow of the Colossus (PlayStation 2, 2005)
Frequently cited as one of the greatest video games of all time, Shadow of the Colossus has the player travel across a vast and quite empty expanse to hunt down a handful of giant creatures in an effort to bring a dead girl back to life. While act of killing the colossi feels very morally ambiguous at best, and the moody soundtrack and long stretches of travel prod the player to engage in quite a bit of self-reflection. The battles, though, still feel epic in their own right.
2. Portal (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC; 2007)
Perhaps the most unique puzzle game of its time, Portal forces the player to use inter-spatial portals to manipulate physics to progress. The entire game takes place in a weapons testing facility and the only voice in the game is that of the villain, GLaDOS, who needles the player throughout. The game creates such a feeling of isolation that players develop an emotional attachment to the Weighted Companion Cube, an inanimate box with a heart on it.
1. Myst (PC, 1993)While its trial-and-error puzzles can be incredibly frustrating, Myst does a great job of dropping the player into a world devoid of people or time constraints or instructions of any sort. It was one of the first CD-ROM-based games, and while the very static graphics may not hold up today, it has been remade a number of times – always preserving its perfect feeling of solitary exploration. Completely with out enemies, violence, or even obvious goals, it’s the perfect game to play when you just want to be alone and think.