I live in a place where winter can feel like half the year. And as February drags into March, I’m turning to the comfort of video games a little more than usual. This makes it my favorite season to dig into larger worlds and longer storylines than I can otherwise take the time. If you’re locked inside and interested in a game that requires a bit more commitment than normal, we’ve rounded up four titles worthy of your attention, including an engrossing sci-fi role-playing game, a relaxing simulation that can keep you busy for months, and one of the quirkiest first-person action games we’ve ever played.
Tinker timer assassin spy: Death Loop
Platforms: PC, Playstation 5
Price: usually $60, on sale for PS5 at press time
ESRB classification: M
Death Loop collected a a multitude of rewards last year, receiving honors for his innovative gameplay and Artistic direction. It ticks all the boxes for what I want in a stealth action game: enemies outnumbering the player and encouraging sneaky precision, fun combat with a variety of weapons and abilities, and storylines stimulants. But it’s also unlike anything I’ve ever played.
In Death Loop, you wake up on a beach on the island of Blackreef, unsure of who you are and how you got there. You soon learn that you are caught in the same day, repeating itself endlessly. And to break the time loop, you must eliminate eight key people at four different times of the day, in four different areas. Success requires uncovering clues to the timings and whereabouts of enemy characters, then methodically planning when and where to assassinate them without running out of time throughout the day. Failing, on the other hand, restarts the loop and takes you back to when you wake up on the beach, losing all of the items, weapons, and abilities you picked up in the last loop, except those you imbued with the power you’ve collected in the strange world of Blackreef.
I’ve played for over 20 hours, and still haven’t broken the loop, but a lot other reviews completed the main story in less time. I didn’t find it frustrating to be sent back to the beginning of the loop. Every time I restart, I find new clues about the game’s characters and storylines that help me move forward next time. I also unlocked new supernatural powers that change my strategy, such as invisibility and the ability to bind multiple enemies together before attacking. Although there are a lot of first person shooters out there, I played almost the entire game in stealth mode. Death Loop was created by Arkane Studios, the creator of the Dishonored series, so if you have experience with those games, this title might sound quite familiar.
With gameplay that kept me going – “Just one more loop, I swear” –Death Loop is downright stylish, too. From the artwork in the game’s menus and posters to the music and sound design, there are touches of 1960s spy noir sprinkled throughout, and it’s one of the coolest sets I’ve ever been in. played in the past year.
An independent adventure with a classic twist: To the east
Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PC
Price: $25 at time of publication
ESRB classification: J
When the dreary winter days drag on long after they should have, and the idea of starting a game with a thousand quests and a map that I’ll never finish exploring tires me, I’ll go find To the east again. I recommend it to anyone looking for video game comfort food: it’s laid back and simple by nature, but its cute, pixelated exterior hides surprisingly dark and engaging gameplay.
To the east is set in a world where the two main characters, John and Sam, live in an underground society bound by fear of Earth’s toxic surface; I can’t reveal much more about the game’s narrative without spoiling most of the fun. To the east is more about the story than anything else – you’ll find long stretches of dialogue instead of complex gameplay or a plethora of side quests and hidden objectives.
There aren’t too many places you can run away to or activities you can pick up whenever you want, because To the east is a linear adventure. Between cutscenes, most levels play to Sam and John’s complementary strengths. Sam has kinetic powers that can freeze enemies or light up dark places, and John takes on most of the fighting with brute force. In many cases, you switch between the two to navigate dungeons and solve puzzles, which usually involves flipping switches to change the position of obstacles, blasting walls with bombs, or connecting cables to channel a current to something that needs energy. . Puzzles are never too complicated, but they’re always fun – if you’ve ever played a classic Zelda game, this title has a similar feel. Although the combat is part of the game, it is never bloody or over the top. On the contrary, To the east feels peaceful, paired with an ambient soundtrack and animated pixel graphics with awesome detail.
Simple and extremely popular fun: Stardew Valley
Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Android, iOS
Price: $15 on PC and console, $5 on mobile at press time
ESRB classification: E10+
Stardew Valley isn’t new, but if you haven’t played it yet and are looking for a game to get you through the winter, it’s a great choice whether you’re playing on your computer, console, or even your phone. I came back year after year to open a new farm and relax. I logged in over 200 hours before December 2020 when the creator rolled out a major update. I have since added almost 300 more hours over the past year.
This update, 1.5, added a whole new region of the world. You can access it after completing the first original quest in the game by repairing the community center. Once you’ve done that (which can take a while in itself) you get a ton of new items to collect, activities to do, and places to go, including a volcanic dungeon, a character to hang out with befriend, an additional mini-museum, and a side farm that enjoys perpetual summer. If you haven’t played Stardew Valley, you may not realize how exciting it is to be able to plant the game’s star wealth-producing fruit all year round without a greenhouse. The update also added new long-term quests that you can complete in the Origin Valley.
With so much to do, it’s also fun to play co-op with friends. It’s become my favorite way to play now – a friend and I play our co-op game every week. Together we share the workload of our busy farm and focus on our favorite parts of the game (I love fishing and herding animals, while it’s much better for exploring mines and making friends with NPCs), and we get to go out virtually at the same time.
Stardew Valley also has an incredibly comprehensive mobile version. The game is responsive and lets you quickly tap an area to send your character somewhere, cut something, or talk to someone. However, mobile gamers are still waiting for the 1.5 update content.
A galaxy in which to get lost: The Outer Worlds
Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Price: $20-$30 at press time, depending on platform
ESRB classification: M
It took me months after the late 2019 release of The Outer Worlds for me to travel to play – and I wish I hadn’t waited. This one kept me distracted for weeks at the start of the pandemic, when a combination of quarantine orders and relentless snowfall kept me indoors and looking for a distraction. The game was, and still is, a near-perfect escape from reality, though its capitalist dystopia hits a little close to home.
outside worlds takes place in an alternate future where a handful of mega-corporations have colonized space. The moons and planets are dominated by fictional companies, like Spacer’s Choice or Auntie Cleo’s “better than life” pharmaceuticals. And those seeking a fresh start from Earth become, to be frank, their indentured servants.
It’s a dark setup for a world that’s full of vibrant characters and colorful landscapes, and I loved every minute I spent exploring it. The game is packed with world-building details, from catchy vending machine jingles to Victorian-style advertisements for combat drugs like Adrena-Time and Stimu-Lotion.
Almost every quest I went on took me to a fork and asked me to pick a side. At one point I pissed off The Board (a CEO faction of every major corporation) so much that I became an open target for an entire region of the map, closing the door to any missions I might have there take.
The Outer Worlds has two expansion chapters available, called Peril on Gorgon and Murder on Eridanos. Once you’ve completed the main story of the base game (which can take anywhere from 12 to 40 hours, depending on how urgent you are), you can’t keep playing unless you go back and load an earlier save. To avoid this, we recommend purchasing and installing DLCs before reaching the end, if you feel inclined to do so, for the most immersive experience.
This article was edited by Mark Smirniotis and Arthur Gies.