Video games are more accessible and varied than ever, but it can be easy to dismiss the medium if you’re not already familiar with it. Whether you start with a few mobile games or take the plunge and purchase a console like the Switch, there are plenty of good jumping-on points.
What You Need to Play These Games
Rovio Classics: Angry Birds (iPhone, Android)
Donut County (iPhone, Android, PC, Mac and more)
Animal Crossing: New Horizons (Switch)
Football Manager 2022 (PC/Mac, iPhone, Android, Switch and more)
Vampire Survivors (PC/Mac)
Forza Horizon 5 (PC, Xbox)
Civilization VI (PC/Mac, Switch, iOS, Android and more)
Tetris Effect: Connected (PC, Switch, Quest, and more)
Switch Sports (Switch)
Townscaper (iOS, Android, PC/Mac, Switch and more)
Minecraft (PC/Mac, Switch, iOS, Android, and more)
A Short Hike (PC/Mac/Linux, Switch, Xbox, and more)
Gone Home (PC/Mac/Linux, Switch, iPad, and more)
Ring Fit Adventure (Switch)
Beat Saber (Quest, PSVR, SteamVR)
New to Gaming? Consider the Switch
Some of the titles we’ve highlighted below are available on most modern smartphones, including both Android and iPhone. If you have a tablet like an iPad, there are often optimized versions available for that hardware too. Others are available to play on a computer running Windows, macOS, and Linux.
If playing games on your smartphone or work machine doesn’t sound like a great time, you might have more joy investing in a console like the Nintendo Switch. This portable hybrid can be played in handheld mode on the go, or plugged into a TV for a more relaxed couch experience.
The Switch is less powerful than more modern consoles like the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X. If you’re looking for an inexpensive entry point to a dedicated console that stays plugged into your TV, consider the Xbox Series S which starts at $349.
Don’t feel obligated to purchase special hardware to blow off steam. Start by playing games on platforms you already own, assuming they’re up to the task. Ask your friends or family members to introduce you to games and platforms that they enjoy, which may help guide you in the right direction.
Angry Birds is one of the easiest games to pick up and play. This simple physics puzzler has you launching various birds with different properties and abilities through the air to collapse precarious structures and take out the game’s antagonists: the pigs.
This version of Angry Birds is the original and best, rebuilt from the ground up for more modern hardware. While the series had fallen into the “free-to-play” trap and even featured in-game ads and microtransactions in later iterations, this version is the real deal: a full game with no ads and over 390 levels to work your way through.
Available on just about everything, Donut County is a simple and charming puzzle game about holes and disappearing items. You take control of the hole, with one simple aim: to swallow everything in a level, then move on to the next. It doesn’t get much more complex than that.
In addition to smartphones and computers, the game is available on Xbox and PlayStation and appears on a variety of storefronts including Steam, the Mac App Store, and GOG.com where they offer a DRM-free version that you can download as many copies of as you like. At the time of writing it is also available on Microsoft’s Game Pass service, so you can try it without buying it.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons (Switch)
Animal Crossing: New Horizons is a chilled-out life simulation about making friends, building a home, and taking each day as it comes. The cutesy art style, signature soundtrack, and disarming pace give the game a unique feel, with every day playing out in real-time.
The game doesn’t demand a huge time commitment from you, allowing you to check in once a day to see what’s up. There’s a lot more to do if you want to spend more time playing like visiting friends’ islands over the internet, landscaping, building a museum, crafting furniture, or playing the stock market. You’ll need a Nintendo Switch for this one.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons
Some people get their kicks from puzzles or platformers, while others feel more at home in front of a spreadsheet. Football Manager 2022 is essentially a gamified series of spreadsheets, which is why the game is so popular with die-hard soccer fans who agonize over transfer windows, starting elevens, and formation tactics.
It’s not for everyone, but if you closely follow the beautiful game then you’ll feel right at home here. There’s a steep learning curve but you can defer many tasks to your assistant manager until you feel ready to deal with them. You can get “full” versions of Football Manager for the PC and Mac or consoles like the Xbox, or get the slimmed-down “mobile” or “touch” versions for smartphones, tablets, and the Nintendo Switch instead.
Vampire Survivors (PC/Mac)
Vampire Survivors might not be much to look at, but it’s a game that can get under your skin. One part action and one part idle, the game simply requires that you move your character around the screen. Attacks happen automatically, and as you take out enemies you’ll earn experience that you can spend on upgrades. Runs are relatively short, which gives you all the more reason to get back up and try again (with a different set of upgrades, to see how things play out).
At the time of writing, Vampire Survivors is still in “early access” on Steam. That means the game isn’t yet finished, and more changes will be made. It also means that it is cheaper than a full-priced game since early adopters are funding its development. Vampire Survivors is only available on PC and Mac for now, with a free browser version available.
The most accessible racing games are the “arcade” racers which forego realism in favor of fun. Forza Horizon 5 hits this brief perfectly, combining beautiful Mexican scenery with faithful recreations of just about every type of licensed car in a package that can be enjoyed by anyone.
There’s a choice of difficulty for every level of ability, with the option to change on the fly to keep the game challenging. You can use racing aids to help you corner and break, or turn everything off and go it alone. The game breaks up the usual races with exhibitions that have you barreling down the sides of volcanoes, racing against dirt bikes, and dropping out of planes. Forza alone is a good enough reason to sign up to Game Pass, but you’ll need a decently powerful PC or a dedicated Xbox console to get into this one.
Civilization VI is a 4X turn-based strategy game where the aim is to develop a civilization from early settlement right through to world domination. 4X is an abbreviation for “explore, expand, exploit, exterminate” and it perfectly sums up what you’ll be getting into if you jump into the latest version of Civ.
Since it’s turn-based, the game takes place at a leisurely pace, but don’t be fooled by the depth involved here. There is a lot to take in, plenty of decisions to be made, and multiple ways to “win” the game including diplomacy and all-out war. The game has been ported to just about everything including modern consoles, portables like the Switch and iPad, and of course the PC (and Mac) where it’s most at home.
Tetris is probably the world’s most well-known video game, and Tetris Effect is probably the most interesting version. The idea is the same as it always was (make lines using shapes that drop from the top of the screen), only this time with the inclusion of immersive visuals and music.
There’s a full single-player “campaign” included that takes you through many different audiovisual experiences plus classic modes like score attack and a set of multiplayer modes that have been added post-launch. The game is available on a good variety of platforms including PC, Switch, major consoles, and most VR platforms including the Meta Quest 2.
RELATED: Should You Buy a VR Headset?
Switch Sports (Switch)
After the success of Wii Sports saw everyone and their grandma bowling and playing golf in their living rooms, Nintendo decided to revive the series in 2022 for current hardware. Switch Sports fuses classics like tennis with new sports including football (soccer), volleyball, and badminton. Golf will be available as a free download later in 2022, with potentially more sports on the horizon.
Just like its Wii counterpart, Switch Sports makes great use of motion controls. This time round you don’t need a light bar or AA batteries for your Wiimote, and most sports can be played with a single Joy-Con. There are even online modes with matchmaking that let you unlock seasonal rewards like clothing and emotes. Since it’s a Nintendo game, you’ll need a Switch for this one.
Nintendo Switch Sports – Nintendo Switch
Take on friends locally, online, or challenge strangers with six sports (and more coming after launch). Play tennis, badminton, volleyball, soccer, chambara, and bowling with full motion control support — no sensor bar required!
Described as “more of a toy than a game” by developers, Townscaper is a chilled-out city-building experience with no real goals or challenges. The game will automatically convert your taps and clicks into houses, multi-story buildings on stilts, terraces and city blocks, and towering cathedrals.
The game is cheap and cheerful and though there’s no real point to it, there’s still plenty of fun to be had in designing in pushing the boundaries of your creativity. The game is available on just about everything and works well on touchscreens too. You can play a web-based demo version of Townscaper in your browser before you buy.
Minecraft is a game that ticks many boxes. The core experience is a survival game that tasks you with gathering basic resources, building shelter, surviving the night, and exploring the world around you. There’s also a creative mode that lets you build whatever you want, with none of the restrictions imposed by the survival mode.
There’s a huge amount of depth here, so don’t be put off by the cutesy pixel graphics and blocky terrain. The game is at its best when enjoyed with others, whether that’s friends or younger family members. Best of all the game is available just about everywhere, with cross-platform play possible on all systems.
RELATED: Getting Started with Minecraft
A Short Hike is a quaint little adventure game about hiking up a mountain. The experience is a brief one, with most players able to finish it in a couple of hours but it’s the sort of game that sticks with you long after you finish playing. A Short Hike feels like an homage to 90s 3D adventure titles, but it’s also a good introduction for those who haven’t got much experience manipulating a character in 3D.
The game is filled with smaller, optional experiences like playing volleyball or gathering collectibles and gives you the option of following trails or exploring the backcountry on your own. You’ll meet a variety of characters along the way and discover a few secrets if you look hard enough. It’s available almost everywhere, including a DRM-free version on itch.io.
Often referred to as a “walking simulator” by critics and fans alike, Gone Home is an award-winning first-person exploration game that takes place in a deserted house. It’s the sort of game that keeps you guessing and even manages to build a sense of unease, but one that you can complete in a matter of minutes if you know exactly where to look.
The game isn’t particularly long or demanding and will have you opening every door and drawer as you search for clues as to why your family’s house is empty. There’s no combat or quick reactions required and no real puzzles, but the slow drip of information and eventual conclusion makes the experience well-worth seeing through to the end.
Ring Fit Adventure (Switch)
Fitness video games aren’t for everyone but for some, they justify the purchase of a console in the first place. Ring Fit Adventure is a Switch-exclusive fitness video game designed by Nintendo and one that’s dependent on a ring-shaped accessory that’s bundled with the game known as the Ring-Con.
The game aims to be both a full-featured training experience and roleplaying game in one. You can choose from “Adventure Mode” which sees you take on more than 100 levels in 20 worlds to defeat a dragon with cardio and resistance-training-based exercise. There’s also a “Quick Play” mode with 12 mini-games, and a “Custom Workout” mode that lets you build ideal exercise routines.
Ring Fit Adventure
Ring Fit Adventure – Nintendo Switch
Grab your Ring-Con and embark on an epic fantasy RPG adventure where you make progress as you work out. Alternatively, jump straight into a quick workout with mini-games or custom routines.
A virtual reality (VR) headset is a big investment, so it’s worth finding a few games that you want to play before you buy. Beat Saber is a rhythm action game that has you hitting red and blue targets with your Star Wars-esque light sabers to the beat of the music. It’s one of the most popular VR titles available today.
The game also counts as a fitness video game since you’ll be working up a sweat as you flail wildly. There is a range of difficulty levels to take you from beginner to master, with downloadable content packs available for purchase to expand the library of songs. The Meta Quest 2 is the cheapest way of getting into VR, but you might want to consider a dedicated headset if your PC is up to the task.
Meta Quest 2
The Nintendo Switch is packed with great games like Breath of the Wild and Mario Kart 8, relatively affordable, can be played in portable and docked mode, and has thousands of games on sale at any one time. This makes it a great contender for someone who’s just getting into gaming, but who doesn’t want to spend PlayStation 5 or Xbox Series X money.