Soapbox: Sometimes, the Best Games Are the Simplest

Saving the world all the time is exhausting. I can’t tell you the number of doomsday plans I’ve scuppered, wars I’ve prevented, and Earths I’ve protected during my gaming career, and it can really take its toll. I’m the Chosen One, and it’s all up to me, over and over again, and if I fail, the world as we know it will descend into chaos, or be frozen in time, or destroyed, or something.

Such high stakes can of course provide the framework for some thrilling action, and in many games it does, but sometimes the epic storylines and forever-frowning characters can get a little too much. It’s understandable that games strive for these scenarios where all will be lost if you don’t succeed, because on the face of it, it’s exciting. God of War III wouldn’t have been nearly as compelling if, instead of aiming to tear down the entire Greek pantheon, Kratos was simply trying to sell them all ice cream.

Looking at what’s on the horizon for PS4, Spider-Man is shaping up to be fantastic, as is Red Dead Redemption 2 and The Last of Us: Part II. Now, it’s possible none of these will be about saving the world, but they’re all character-rich, story driven, blockbuster games that will put you at the centre of some grand conflict. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course, and I’ll enjoy them all, but among all the action and drama, sometimes I need a lift.

At the moment, I’m thoroughly enjoying the likes of Hitman and Lumines Remastered. The former has an overarching narrative, but you don’t need to pay it too much attention, and the game’s sandbox levels give you the freedom to experiment, be silly, and approach the situation in your own way. Replaying these scenarios is highly encouraged, trivialising whatever context is provided, turning Hitman into a surprisingly hilarious game that has brought me some much needed levity.

But it’s games like Lumines Remastered, Rocket League, and upcoming games like Tetris Effect and Overcooked 2, that really help to refresh my gaming palette. Games like these, that do away with complex stories and place fun at the heart of things, are as essential to me as the Uncharteds and the Assassin’s Creeds. An hour or two dropping blocks in Lumines is as engaging as an hour or two inching through the darkness avoiding Clickers in The Last of Us. Two of my favourite games from last year were Horizon: Zero Dawn and Everything. I loved Aloy’s journey of self discovery and the kinetic combat, but I found Everything’s aimless shape-shifting incredibly relaxing, and it served as a perfect antithesis to anything else I was playing at the time.

The point is, don’t discount games offering simpler experiences. We’re fortunate nowadays that there are titles of all shapes and sizes available, and I think it’d be a shame to only explore games of one type. If you’re feeling fatigued by open world epics, try something new. First and foremost, make sure to have fun and enjoy what you’re playing. You can save the world later.

Do you agree with Stephen’s views on playing a diverse range of games? Do you get tired playing big titles, and what do you play to unwind? Mix things up in the comments below.

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