‘My housemates and I are addicted’: 15 video games perfect for lockdown brain

Available on: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC

Literally the first thing I did when Sydney went into lockdown back in June was buy a copy of Rockstar Games’ iconic Red Dead Redemption 2.

Set in a fictionalised version of the American heartland in 1899, the game follows one member of an outlaw gang as he negotiates morality, colonialism, the decline of the wild west, and which is the best gun to shoot a large grizzly bear with.

Like most Rockstar games, an open-world format means you are free to explore the expansive universe at your own pace and whim – making it the perfect game to disappear inside of during the long aimless hours of lockdown. – Michael McGowan

Available on: PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X and Series S, Nintendo Switch, PC

In The Witcher 3, although many of the decisions you make focus on light or dark outcomes, the world is never presented in a way that is black or white. Characters are sometimes complicated, in a world that is full of demons, and vampires, and hack and slash.

The world is incredibly large, and takes forever to explore, and no side-quest feels like filler or wasted time; in plaas daarvan, each adds depth to its protagonist Geralt. If you are keen to understand its universe ahead of the next season of the Netflix show of the same name, this would be a good place to start. - Josh Taylor

Available on: PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X and Series S, Nintendo Switch, PC

A couple weeks into lockdown I bought an Xbox, my first console since high school. I’ve played a few open-world and exploration games but I keep coming back to NBA 2K, a series of basketball simulation games. The condensed games are perfect for lockdown brain – highly regimented and repetitive, and also short enough to squeeze into a lunch break. Probably more important are the tiny feelings of progress in career mode, where you role-play as a basketballer from high school through to retirement, levelling up their attributes as they get better and better. I’m now the owner of the NBA record for three-pointers in a game. From my lounge room. - Josh Nicholas

Available on: Nintendo Switch, Wii U

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild isn’t new but my gosh is it the perfect game for 2021. Its main feature is the mind-bogglingly vast open-world map for you to roam, filled with hundreds of quests and missions to stumble upon in more than 200 hours of gameplay.

It’s brilliantly suited to lockdown brain (anxious yet easily bored) as it’s challenging enough to keep you interested but isn’t going to overwhelm you with constant, relentless battles. Plus you can always spend an hour mining, cooking and befriending horses if things get too intense. - Matilda Boseley

Available on: Nintendo Switch

Ring Fit Adventure is a fantasy role playing game where you move your body, rather than a joystick, on a journey to defeat a muscle-bound dragon and his gym-toy cronies. As the premise suggests, it looks ridiculous. But it turns two weaknesses – hating exercise and video game addiction – against each other. In 2009, after clocking up 70 hours of Zelda in one week, I quit gaming cold turkey. This lockdown I fell off the wagon, but Ring Fit is the only RPG I’m allowed.

Playing it has roughly doubled my physical activity, like an IRL cheat code. Doing squats is just more rewarding when the objective is murdering a malevolent yoga mat. I just wish Zelda came in fitness mode. - Alyx Gorman

Available on: PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X and Series S, Nintendo Switch, PC, iPhone, Android

It’s really hard and you can unlock new levels. I was really surprised when I unlocked a course that has a tournament with nine races in it. I thought there would only be seven races. I’m still trying to find the key to unlock more courses. It’s fun because you try to unlock the mystery character. It’s pretty competitive so your head is completely in the game – you can’t think about anything else. – Isaac, bejaardes 7, Bonnie Malkin’s son

Available on: iPhone, Android, Mac, PC

A few months ago, I left my phone on the roof of my car. Of course everything these days is backed up in the cloud and replaceable. Everything except my progress on Candy Crush. ek was, for the record, at level 8046. When I loaded everything back on to my new phone, oor 2000 levels had been wiped. I have now deleted the app from my phone. - Ben Smee

Available on: Apple TV, iPhone, Android

Even the smallest revelations feel like grand ruptures in lockdown. Case in point: a slip of the finger on the Apple TV remote one evening, leading to the chance discovery of an old arcade-style game called Bix.

With its chaotic gameplay – you manoeuvre a pointer to capture an unpredictable set of bouncing balls – and looping housey soundtrack, my housemates and I are now addicted, so much so that Bix has become a nightly ritual and longstanding competition. Spectating it – each near-miss, every tense corner – makes me understand the magic of sport; Bix is our Olympic event. - Michael Sun

Available on: Nintendo DS, Nintendo Switch, iPhone, Android

The World Ends With You (TWEWY) takes you to one of the trendiest parts of Tokyo: Shibuya, where you can find the famous 104 building and scramble crossing. TWEWY and its sequel NEO are dripping with style and flair that will make the uncoolest of us feel very very cool. In these games you are dead and are subsequently thrown into the Reapers’ Game, where you must complete a variety of challenges to escape the reaper’s scythe.

For everyone wishing they could travel once again, Twewy is a true love letter to the city of Shibuya. Every detail is a tribute to the city’s rich culture, from its fashion and food scene to the music and the graffiti. This game is one of the most unique audio-visual feasts in video game form. - Bertin Huynh

Available on: PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Xbox Series X and Series S, Nintendo Switch, PC

Skyrim is the one game that remains almost permanently installed on my PC. Now almost 10 jaar oud, the open-world game – where you can complete quests within several over-arching plotlines, or just build a house and adopt a dog – still has a thriving community of people making new content for it, van graphics improvements to some extremely weird additions.

Even with minimal modifications, Skyrim is still one of the best games for escapism – it’s nice to take half an hour where you can spend a while just strolling around a beautiful landscape and looking at things (while the occasional troll tries to eat you). - Nick Evershed

Available on: iPhone, Android, Mac, PC

GeoGuessr is a single-player web game that drops you in a random location anywhere in the world. It uses Google Street view and makes you look at the areas around you to deduce where exactly in the world you are, and on what street. Clues come in the form of posters, advertisements, de-identified restaurants and landmarks. You get more points the closer your guess is to your assigned location. It’s as if you’re suddenly a new resident of this random place and all you have is a map (not even Google Maps!) to find your way – just like the old times! - Karishma Luthria

Available on: Nintendo Switch, Mac, PC

Eastward is a new indie role-playing game that’s arrived at the perfect time. Though it’s post-apocalyptic, it’s a treat to escape into this delightful world of agreeable characters, and I can’t say enough about the excellent synthy soundtrack. In werklikheid, I’m listening to it right now.

In Eastward, you play as a man and his adopted psychic daughter as they leave their crumbling subterranean world and must find something more beautiful outside. If you’re into metaphors you could probably find one there. Or you could instead delight in whacking slugs with a frying pan. - Joe Koning

Avaiable on: PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X and Series S, Nintendo Switch, Mac, PC

Overcooked 2 is a multiplayer party game all about preparing and delivering meals to a never-ending stream of unseen customers in increasingly chaotic kitchens. Two to four players are thrown into a kitchen, where they must learn on the spot to navigate the level and cook various dishes, disrupted by any number of hazards – thieving rats, moving counter spaces, being on a crashing hot air balloon, or trying to satisfy the hunger of the “Unbread” (zombie bread) before they break into your restaurant to eat you instead. Trying to coordinate around these kooky foils and get the high score offers a good challenge. My friends and I are often left hungry for more. – Ang, Viv Smythe’s daughter

Available on: PlayStation 5

This game is like playing a sci-fi Pixar movie where a few friends run around trying to save the galaxy against evil robots, space pirates and dinosaurs while also tackling some of those classic kids’ movie tropes: being afraid to make friends and learning to trust each other.

The game is part Mario (jumping around colourful worlds) and part shooter (you have an arsenal of increasingly silly weapons to take out the evil forces). I bought a used copy of the game from Melbourne and it came with the perfect message to make me feel better: “Put this to good use during lockdown! I know I did. Stay safe.” – Miles Martignoni

Available on: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Xbox Series X and Series S, Mac, PC

Diving into people’s mental worlds to help them sort out their emotional issues and solve a psychic conspiracy kept me well-occupied for a few glorious weeks. The original Psychonauts was always one of my favourite platformers, and the long-awaited sequel – now powered by Microsoft’s Game Pass money as well as developer Double Fine’s signature strangeness and soul – is at least up to par with the original, if not better. Gorgeous-looking and unashamedly weird, the incredibly creative settings and characters are well-aided by a constant stream of incredibly funny writing and just a hint of genuine pathos as well. A modern classic. - Patrick Lum

What’s your favourite lockdown game? Join us in the comments

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