Short games. They’re fun, but they are often overlooked in the gaming world due to their brief length or their difficulty level.
If a game is too easy or too short, players feel it wasn’t worth the time, effort, and money spent on it. If a game is too hard or takes too long, players move on to something else, a game that will be easier to complete.
Dive into our list of best short games. Playing endless hours of Candy Crush and Fruit Ninja gets old.
It’s nice to take a little break from the mainstream grind for something different, and a few hours playing games can be just what you need to get your fix and give your fingers a rest.
So, I’ve put on my rubber boots, waded through the quicksand of the Internet, and found some real gems for you to enjoy. Below is a list of the best short games.
1. Outer Wilds
Outer Wilds is an open-world exploration game set in outer space. this is one of our best short games. You play as a space explorer trapped in an endless time loop where the sun goes supernova every 22 minutes.
It’s up to you to discover the mysteries of the universe and uncover the reason for this planet-destroying catastrophe.
In Outer Wilds, you don’t die, and instead, you’re reborn on your home planet with all your memories intact.
This unique gameplay mechanic makes Outer Wilds such a great short game, as it allows you to explore a vast space of planets, moons, and black holes over multiple playthroughs.
You can use each playthrough to visit new areas and uncover new mysteries by choosing when to go back in time. You can also use your previous knowledge to solve problems that were previously impossible to solve.
In this way, the game feels like a series of puzzles in which progress is made gradually over multiple playthroughs.
2. A Short Hike
this is another on our list of best short games. If you’ve ever had the urge to tell someone to “get off your lawn,” you’ll get a kick out of A Short Hike.
This little indie game is the perfect blend of whimsy and relaxing gameplay. You play as Claire, a young bird who has been visiting her aunt on an island for years.
This year, she’s determined to hike to the top of Hawk Peak mountain, but she’ll need to do a few odd jobs for her fellow islanders if she wants to get there.
The game plays like an open-world adventure, with Claire climbing up trees, swimming in lakes, and flying through the air. It’s a short experience — only about two hours long — but perfectly placed in that time.
As Claire completes tasks and finds new equipment, it opens up more opportunities for exploration and discovery. But even if you don’t do anything else, A Short Hike is worth checking out just because it’s so cute.
The game’s style is beautiful and unique, focusing on simple shapes, bright colors, and stunning vistas. The game is played alone, but other players appear in the world and can be interacted with (or ignored).
The journey was one of the first HD games to have cross-platform play between PS3 and PS4 users, making it much easier to get help from or help your fellow travelers.
The journey is the closest a video game has come to emulating the effects of poetry. In terms of structure, it’s so simple: you must reach a snowy mountain peak visible in the distance.
Along the way, your character surfs across glistening deserts, hides from flying creatures made entirely from cloth, and occasionally meets other players embarking on the same pilgrimage.
The journey won’t be moving anyone to tears all over again, but it’s worth playing for the beauty of its world rather than the subtlety of its story. The journey is available for $14.99 on PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 3.
4. Hotline Miami
This is another good addition to our list of best short games. Hotline Miami was on our list of best short games last year, but it’s been expanded with a new chapter and is now available on iOS.
The story continues in Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number, which you can purchase separately via Steam or buy as part of the Hotline Miami Collection, available at retail or digitally.
The game has a bleak story to tell, but the real draw is its brilliant gameplay. It’s an over-the-shoulder top-down shooter that has you systematically clearing out rooms full of armed guards and hitmen using a combination of guns, knives, bats, and your fists.
Your only clue to what’s going on is the messages you get on your answering machine telling you where to go and what to do.
It’s ultra-violent, but there’s a strange beauty in it all. The music is incredible, and the visuals have a stylish retro feel that looks great even on small screens.
Braid is a platform and puzzle video game developed by Number None. The game was initially released in August 2008 for the Xbox 360’s Xbox Live Arcade service and has since been ported to Microsoft Windows, OS X, Linux, and PlayStation 3. An iOS port was released in April 2013.
Braid is a side-scrolling platformer presented with 2D visuals, but in which the player manipulates the flow of time in various ways to complete each level.
In most levels, the player controls Tim as he solves puzzles and avoids traps while collecting pieces of a jigsaw puzzle that unlock doors along a path to the level’s exit.
These puzzles involve manipulating time: rewinding it, causing objects to move backward, creating parallel universes; making time progress at different rates for different things; stopping time altogether; and others.
A unique feature of Braid consists of its painting-like visuals, where the backgrounds are often composed of drawn or photographed artworks that add atmosphere to the game’s narrative.
Next on the list of best short games. Portal is a puzzle-platform game developed and published by Valve Corporation in 2007.
The game was released in a bundle package called The Orange Box for Microsoft Windows, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3 in 2007.
The Windows version of the game is available for download separately through Valve’s content delivery platform, Steam, which led to a million sales within two months. The game has since been ported to other systems, including OS X and Linux.
Portal consists primarily of a series of puzzles that must be solved by teleporting the player’s character and simple objects using the “portal gun,” which creates inter-spatial portals between two flat planes.
The player controls Chell in the single-player campaign, as she is challenged and taunted by an artificial intelligence named GLaDOS (Genetic Lifeform and Disk Operating System) to complete each puzzle in the Aperture Science Enrichment Center using the portal gun with the promise of receiving cake when all the puzzles are completed.
The game’s unique physics allows momentum to be retained through portals, requiring creative use of portals to maneuver through the test chambers.
This gameplay element is based on a similar concept from the author’s project Narbacular Drop; many of its team members joined Valve during the development of this title.
Oxenfree is a supernatural mystery graphic adventure video game developed and published by Night School Studio.
The game was released in January 2016 for Microsoft Windows, OS X, Linux, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4 and will be released on Nintendo Switch in September 2017.
Oxenfree is a supernatural thriller about a group of friends who unwittingly open a ghostly rift. Play as Alex, a bright, rebellious teenager who brings her new stepbrother Jonas to an overnight party on an old military island.
The night is terrifying when you unwittingly open a ghostly gate spawned from the island’s cryptic past. How you deal with these events, your peers, and the ominous creatures you’ve unleashed. You and your friends will make every choice and suffer every consequence.
this is another good addition to our list of best short games. Firewatch is a 2016 first-person adventure game in the Wyoming wilderness.
The player takes on the role of Henry, a fire lookout who is assigned to his tower in Shoshone National Forest. Throughout his summer-long assignment, Henry tries to solve the mystery at the heart of Firewatch.
Firewatch is set in 1989 and features an incredible soundtrack that evokes the era perfectly. It’s also one of the most beautiful video games you’ll ever play, with astounding graphics.
The gameplay involves exploring your environment, interacting with other characters (mostly via radio), and solving puzzles to drive the story forward.
Henry’s tower is located in a very remote area, so you’ll spend a lot of time hiking through some truly breathtaking scenery.
Firewatch was developed by Campo Santo, a studio founded by Telltale Games and Double Fine Productions designers.
It was released for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Microsoft Windows, macOS, and Linux in 2016 and published by Panic Inc., better known for developing iOS software.
Inside is a puzzle-platformer from the creators of Limbo. It’s a dark, disturbing, and altogether brilliant game that manages to be both non-verbal and incredibly emotional.
The story is a bit of a mystery. There are no words, and it revolves around a young boy who appears to be running away from an ominous threat with some device strapped to his back.
While it’s not necessary to understand what’s going on, it will undoubtedly make the game more satisfying if you can find that out on your own.
The puzzles in Inside are smartly designed, and they ratchet up in difficulty as you progress through the game.
They’re not mind-bending difficult, but they require experimentation and logic, which should keep you invested through this short but excellent experience.
Gorogoa is a beautiful blend of puzzle and adventure that tells the story of a curious boy on a quest to unlock the mysteries behind his grandfather’s stories.
The game is played on a grid of four panels, which the player can move around the screen and arrange in any position relative to each other.
Each panel contains a scene from the story, but to progress through Gorogoa, the player must manipulate these panels so that elements in one panel interact with those in another.
The puzzles are deceptively simple but also utterly brilliant. Some require players to figure out how to make objects line up between panels, while others test your memory by requiring you to recreate scenes by looking at them for only a few seconds before hiding them again.
Even puzzles require you to match up interactive elements from two different panels, so they create something new in a third panel.
Gorogoa is as much about exploring its gorgeous visual design as solving puzzles, but rest assured that it doesn’t skimp on the challenge.
Rumu is a cute little exploration game about a vacuum cleaner. Set in the future, Rumu is an adorable little robot bought to keep a house clean. One day, it wakes up and starts exploring the world around it.
Rumu is one of those games that gets you hooked from the first moment. The atmosphere and art make for an enjoyable experience, but at the same time, the mystery of what happens in this house makes you want to go further and find out more.
It’s not a long game, so I’ll avoid spoilers as much as possible. It’s one of those games you need to play by yourself so you can experience all its emotions.
With only two hours of gameplay, Rumu will make you feel like crying, laughing, and even biting your nails when things get tense.
12. What Remains of Edith Finch
This is another good addition to our list of best short games. Short story games are a great way to get people playing together, and they’re quick, easy to set up, and have fantastic payoffs.
In the case of What Remains of Edith Finch, this award-winning game is about a family’s tragic end: What if the last words you ever heard were your own?
The idea behind short story games is that you and your friends can get together and play in five minutes or less. You don’t need anything beyond a handful of dice and some paper and pens.
These games are so fast and easy that they’re perfect for just about any occasion. Party games are great for impromptu celebrations, birthdays, and other celebrations, and you can use them for family gatherings or family nights with friends.
For work events, short games are great because you can get together with coworkers quickly, and everyone can share a common interest.
They’re also great for company picnics, potlucks, or other gatherings where people will be hanging out on their own time.
Our list of best short games can never be complete without Limbo. Limbo is a puzzle-platform video game developed by independent studio Playdead.
The game was released in July 2010 on Xbox Live Arcade and has since been ported to several other systems, including the PlayStation 3 and Microsoft Windows.
The gameplay of Limbo is characterized by contrast and simplicity. There is no dialogue; the story is told wordlessly through action, item interaction, and environmental detail, with occasional pictograms. Landscapes are presented as mostly monochromatic black-and-white drawings with ambient sounds creating an unsettling atmosphere.
The player guides an unnamed boy through dangerous environments and traps as he searches for his sister.
The game received critical acclaim for its dark presentation, unsettling story and atmosphere, creative puzzles, and minimalistic audio-visual design.
Reviewers described the game as art, praising the visuals, story, sound design, and atmosphere. The game won awards from major gaming sites and publishers, including GameSpot, IGN, Eurogamer, GamePro, Wired, Spike TV’s Video Game Awards, and many others.
14. The Stanley Parable
The Stanley Parable is the perfect short game. You play as Stanley, an employee at some office that does something.
One day, all your coworkers leave their desks and never come back. You follow them, walk through a few hallways and find them dead in a room. Somebody tells you to go back to work, and so you do.
But what if you don’t? What if you decide to do the opposite of what someone tells you to do? What if you disobey? This is where The Stanley Parable begins. It’s a game about choice and the illusion of choice.
The narrator is voiced by Kevan Brighting, who describes everything Stanley sees and does in a posh British accent. He’s omnipresent — he’s everywhere Stanley goes, describing every action that Stanley takes.
He will tell Stanley to go left and tell him he’ll be punished for going right. He will tell him not to press a button but then immediately say that he’s glad he did.
15. Dear Esther
Can you call Dear Esther a game? It’s a question one could easily ask and one I’ve often found myself asking. It doesn’t have any traditional gameplay elements like puzzles or combat.
It has many features that make the best games great — there are no bosses to fight, no side missions to complete, and no meaningful interactions between characters.
But what Dear Esther does have is an unparalleled focus on atmosphere and storytelling that make it a unique experience.
You control an unnamed character as he walks around a lonely island, listening to a disembodied voice narrate a story about loss and love.
The game has no inventory system and virtually no interactivity; all you can do is walk around and listen to the voice-over.