Reflections on Games Played During Quarantine

I decided to catalog every game I’ve played during quarantine to see what I might be able to take away from my conquests as a whole. Everything on this list was either brand new to me, or I was playing in earnest to some kind of completion for the first time. The list is in near chronological order, with Death Stranding being the first game I locked into during quarantine. An accurate reflection of the months to follow, perhaps.

I definitely took advantage of being home to work my way through BIG games. BOTW and RDR2 were too large to wrap my head around in normal life. After spending 140 hours in BOTW and 60+ in Red Dead I feel like I’ve broken through a mental barrier that used to keep me away from games with lots of systems that I was afraid would take over my life and agitate my ADHD and completionist/hoarding instincts.

There’s lots of tension and release here. Mario always seems to be a pal after spending too much time with zombies and guns. The Last of Us was around the peak of trying to marinate in the reality of the pandemic and Breath of the Wild really pulled me out of that. Looks like now I’ve put the AAA big boys on the backburner and I’m spending my time with quick, fun, smaller experiences.

Digging deeper my mind has wasted a lot of time in life worrying about what’s “good” or the “best”. Playing games “the right way,” making sure I’m not missing anything. I gave control of my own passion over to some imagined judgement about what my gaming behavior might say about my identity. I couldn’t enjoy Death Stranding when I bought it in November because I was probably too caught up worrying about things like “Will this live up to the hype?” “Am I a Kojima guy?” and, most darkly, “Was the optimism and excitement I put in leading up to this game’s release ‘worth it’?” Does anyone relate to that? It’s the kind of negative thought process that might force a casual player to finish a 40 hour video game that they decided was not for them after 2 hours.

I’m now finding myself playing games for ME. I can quit games I’m not enjoying. I can play under any context I want to. I can decide what elements of a game I enjoy and understand why. It’s ok to dislike something everyone else likes and vice versa. More often than not, THAT conversation is where the good stuff is. No one is keeping score.

I used to play a game like Symphony of the Night because I felt I had to to justify my own credibility and check it off of a list. Before now I might have played it without even stopping to consider whether I like it or not. I’m not doing that anymore! It does not serve me.

Comparison is the thief of joy. Be yourself. Believe in the value of your own critical sense.

Death Stranding
Super Mario Odyssey
RE2 Remake
Red Dead Redemption 2
Super Mario 64
Ocarina of Time
Baba Is You
Last of Us 1
LOU: Left Behind
Last of Us 2
Golf Story
Breath of the Wild
DOOM 93 on Switch
Hotline Miami
Fall Guys
Another World
Thomas Was Alone
Castlevania: SOTN
Silent Hill 2
South Park: The Stick of Truth
A Short Walk
Oddworld: Strangers Wrath

Yeah, elsewhere in here (possibly the backlog thread) I mentioned I am quitting games I‘m not feeling much faster than ever. I still find it challenging with movies for whatever reason - I feel the need to see them through even if they’re not giving me anything. But movies are much shorter, so it's easier to keep going.

But then sometimes everybody tries to get you back into something, like the witcher 3!

I‘ve been stuck away from home with my Switch and felt like finishing games based on their file-size to free up memory space, so I finally put time into Valkyria Chronicles 4. While I’m normally a save-scummer in strategy games, I found myself perhaps playing VC4 as “intended,” letting characters perma-die or not reloading when I don‘t A-rank every mission. Is this because of quarantine? Possibly. It could be a desire to see progression, even when it’s not the 100% desired outcome. That‘s a depressing thought. I suppose I also grinded out The Last of Us 2, despite really not enjoying it once I got a decent through. That, in turn, kind of made me role-play the characters a bit more, affect the characters’ desperation to just be done. My experience might actually be the opposite of @Squit‘s – I’m becoming even more focused on finishing experiences, if only to observe the passage of time. Weirdness, definitely a good topic!

For a different perspective, my son was born in November of last year and with daycares closed, my wife and I working from home and watching him for basically the entire spring, quarantine was nothing but busy. Even with just a couple weeks of vacation and maybe 1-2 hours a day of spare time I still managed to get through:

DOOM Eternal
RDR2 (after starting it in October of 2018)
Yakuza 0 (after starting it in May of 2019)
Star Wars: Jedi - Fallen Order
Zelda OoT (for maybe the 10th time idk - was messing with an emulator and just kept going)
Dragon Quest 1
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare (2019)

_Games I have in progress:_
Astral Chain
Forza Horizon 2
Destiny 2 (basically finishing the content to be vaulted - note: it deserves to go there)
Streets of Rage 4
Quake II RTX (never beat it in the past so giving the RTX version a go)
Dangerous Driving
Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance
Superhot: Mind Control Delete

Yes - It's a long list of 'in progress' but some games are more passive, some more focused, some I can hop into and out of quickly. This is my usual "refrigerator of games" method in which I pick stuff I'm in the mood for or have time to "prepare". I will jump into games in the zeitgeist like FF7 ReMake and Cyberpunk however.

In summation, quarantine has felt less like a change than becoming a parent since I'm still working full time and I never got out much anyway.

I have found that can't do long form media in quarantine. Novels, tv shows, 40 hour AAA games, even movies are tough for me to sit through without my mind going a million places, scrolling through news on my phone, losing focus.

I've been gravitating much more to high intensity replayable games that last less than 10 minutes a run. Roguelites, arcade games, NES games, and multiplayer. This was already sort of my jam beforehand, but I think the longest game I've played in quarantine was Animal Crossing, which I haven't touched since April. Even stuff I was really excited for like the new Paper Mario, I played for a couple hours and then fell off. It's not you Mario, it's me.

Some of the things in my rotation during quarantine:

Nuclear Throne
Risk of Rain 1
Dragonball FighterZ
Money Puzzle Exchanger
ESP Ra.De.
Dangun Feveron
Battle Garegga
Gunbird 2
Ninja Gaiden (NES)
DOOM (1993)
Mortal Kombat 11
Panel de Pon
Puyo Puyo 2
Streets of Rage 4

And then a boatload of pinball. I never played video pinball before quarantine, spoiled by the incredible pinball selection around Brooklyn. Not being able to go play in person, I downloaded pinball fx3 and pinball arcade to play Junk Yard and Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and imagine I'm back in the bars that house them, and found a ton of tables I haven't played since childhood, if at all, and they're the perfect antidote for a wandering mind: short replayable games that demand your full attention and provide you with a leaderboard to set goals with over multiple sessions.

I played through Final Fantasy 7 Remake & that Xenoblade Chronicles remaster way quicker than I would have had it not been for the world‘s hiatus. I’m usually one to drop games as soon as I start actively having a bad time with ‘em but I’ve been sticking it out lately. a short hike is probably my favorite thing i've played so far this year.

played a heck load of these endless games:
Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord
Risk of Rain 2
Slay The Spire

gotta finish these that i have in progress:
nier: automata (did route a)
moon: remix rpg adventure
god hand

i'd list somethings i'd like to play but i think speaking 'the backlog' into existence is cursed.

I love this idea. In my case I’m going to make the distinction of video games I re-picked up or sought to finally complete in quarantine. I love video games but at best have the time to play 1-4 video games a year. The past few years I’ve been juggling a masters program, a full time job, several part time jobs, a mental health clinician internship, dating and eventually a new relationship, all while trying to write and be present at literary events. Quarantine didn’t really end any of these things for me, but did make the time I had to commit to them much less intense. Also, I’m only going off Switch only because my PS4 is packed up in storage somewhere as I’ve been having real Tim Rogers New York Experience™ all year. Had it not been for that, I’m almost positive Final Fantasy XV & VII: Remake would have made an appearance.

Games I picked up again:
Golf Story
Breath of the Wild
The Longest Five Minutes

Games Started:
Tales of Vesperia
Animal Crossing
Torchlight II
Dragon Quest Builders II

By this list it looks like I need either need a fun low-intensity routine, good vibes, and/or a long immersive epic RPG experience from my video games & would go as far to say that Dragon Quest Builders 2 has been the perfect combo of that.

Something about this whole reflection makes me want to pitch a Hard Times/Hard Drive article that goes something like “Man quarantined in New York City finally stops playing JRPGs after he realizes he already lives in a post-apocalyptic military state”

@MichaelDMcGrath#5493 Definitely give DEMON‘S TILT a shot. It’s a remake of the TG16 pinball game Devil‘s Crush. Also would recommend it’s sister game Alien Crush - also for the TG16 if you have a way to play it.

@MichaelDMcGrath for quick play games you might also check out all the PC Engine shooters with caravan modes, like gunhed, all the summer carnival games, etc - they‘re 2 or 5 minute timed score attack challenges, and they’re quite fun!

As for myself, I realize there is one difference - I've been playing more games that take me somewhere, since I can't travel, and would usually have gone to at least four countries by this time in a normal year. So Yakuza, Tomb Raider, Uncharted, etc have been the games I've been gravitating toward recently, just to mentally go somewhere.

@exodus#5508 Gunhed was my first shooter, and I‘ve played a lot of Recca, but I haven’t done too much diving into the other Summer Carnival and Caravan shooters on the PCE, especially the Japan only or CD ones. I'll definitely remedy that.

@copySave#5505 played the heck out of the Crush pinball games as a kid, but it‘s been too long. I just picked up Demon’s Tilt a couple days ago and I‘m loving it. The nudging take a bit of getting used to because you are hitting the ball not the table, and switching back and forth between that and like, Addams Family is a bit rough, but it’s an absolute blast.

@jaws#5504 Dragon Quest Builders 2 is an impossibly charming game.

@exodus#5508 This is why I can't wait for the new Yakuza to come out!

I've been finding comfort in building up my collection, especially of fantranslated games. I'm having trouble sticking with anything but I'm enjoying dipping in for bites of a bunch of different games at once, particularly revisiting old nostalgic picks. Weirdly been into PS2 EA games mainly for their cheesy RADIO BIG soundtracks to warp me back to the early 00s. Yellowcard, take me away.

@ttzop#5524 Oh how I miss those EA Sports BIG games, but not all of the songs were mainstream. Some had almost a Jet Set Radio vibe like these from SSX 3:

Edit: wellp 2 of these songs can't be embedded - oh well look them up on youtube!

SSX Tricky and 3 are both great for different reasons. Same with their soundtracks.

I dunno if I’ve been quitting games sooner, but I knew I shouldn’t have turned on FF7R if I wanted to finish whatever it was I was playing previously. 😅

I noticed I’ve been impulse buying games a lot more frequently. I’m usually pretty methodical about it but my DGAF about something I can buy for under $15 (on Switch on PS4) is pretty high right now.

  • - Mr Driller Drill Land
  • - Streets of Rage 4
  • - Bomberman PS4
  • - Street Fighter 30th Anniversary (listing it gets a cheap “like” from our host 🤣 )
  • - FF7 Remake
  • - Flashback (Switch) which I maintain is nearly unplayable even with the cool rewind feature
  • - Rockman & Bass aka Megaman & Forte (SNES mini ROM) which is currently infuriating me with its difficulty. How did that game get made in 1998??
  • - Tetris is very popular in our family right now so I put Tetris Vs Dr Mario on the SNES
  • - Oh yeah, Fall Guys
  • - Oh yeah, again, The Messenger. ( It is good, but it is overstaying its welcome.)
  • Its not video gaming, but I also have been playing tabletop war games with some friends and in a local club the last few years so I’ve been rescuing inexpensive model sets off eBay and painting them so I can be ready if I ever get to play games in person again.


    I feel like I‘ve spent most of the year playing games that are are either famously super-hard (starting before quarantine with Super Meat Boy, Sub-Terrania, Demon’s Souls, Mazin Saga, and currently Shin Megami Tensei Nocturne) or super-bad (Curse, Evil Dead: Hail to the King, Beavis & Butt-head for Game Gear).

    My problem has been that I've been buying games like a madman and my collection has exploded as a result. I finally got a PS4 during quarantine, which is good (before then I had no modern gaming device) and rekindled my love of handheld games, playing several titles on Game Boy, Game Gear, and PSP. Before this started I played rhythm games in the arcade more than anything else, but I kind of like the way that quarantine has forced me to focus on the games I own. (Also I'm more jealous than ever of my friend who owns a DDR cab in her basement)

    I played a bunch of things that have been in my backlog for ages (I've had Blazing Heroes for Saturn since around 2003 and finally made a serious attempt to beat it this year). I haven't given up on too many games; I tried a few first-person AD&D DOS games that were too rough for me and had to take a long break from the original Shantae because it's kind of awkward.

    I'm in NY so I went back to work in June and covid rates have stayed low, but am still not going out nearly as much as I used to and am still playing my games way more than I did this time last year.

    ANYWAY here's the big list of games I've beaten since mid-March in chronological order:
    Shinobi (SMS)
    Space Quest: The Sarien Encounter (VGA version, DOS)
    Undertale (Vita)
    Chuck Rock (Sega CD)
    Beavis & Butt-head (Game Gear)
    Mazin Saga (Genesis)
    Puyo Puyo (Mega Drive)
    Demon's Souls (PS3)
    Tetris Effect (PS4)
    Space Invaders '90 (Mega Drive)
    Curse (MD)
    PaRappa the Rapper (PS1)
    Um Jammer Lammy (PS1)
    Solar Striker (GB)
    Alundra (PS1)
    Ys: The Oath in Felghana (PSP)
    Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon (3DS)
    Evil Dead: Hail to the King (DC)
    Tetris Plus (Saturn)
    Garfield: Caught in the Act (GG)
    Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night (PS4)
    Jikkyou Oshaberi Parodius ~ forever with me~ (Saturn)
    Blazing Heroes (Saturn)
    Kirby's Dream Land (GB)
    1942: Joint Strike (360)
    American McGee's Alice (360)
    Alice: Madness Returns (360)
    The Flintstones (GB)
    Chase HQ (GG)
    Shanghai (GB)
    Pop'n Music Portable (PSP)

    Cool thread to stumble on since I‘ve been logging things like this anyway! I’ve been playing games very sporadically, especially since I built a PC last month and Xbox‘s great game pass plan has put many more things at my fingertips cheaply. Lots of narrative single playerly things, and especially RPG’s, which is my usual bread and butter.

    Doom '16
    Grim Fandango
    Animal Crossing
    FF7 Remake
    Chrono Trigger
    Dragon Quest 1, 2, and 3 (Switch ports; not ideal)
    Link's Awakening (Switch)
    Ori and the Blind Forest
    The Last of Us & Part II
    What Remains of Edith Finch
    Yakuza 0 (maybe I should also count Out Run / Space Harrier / Super Hang On / Fantasy Zone :p)
    Yakuza Kiwami
    Death Stranding (second play through on PC, great port!)
    Fall Guys
    Ape Out
    THPS 1+2 Remake

    I'm also halfway through Dragon Quest 4, but because I'm a glutton for punishment (or due to understandable pent-up energy) I also cracked open Persona 5 Royal and I'm stealing glances at Kiwami 2. How many time-demanding games can I juggle at once?

    I really hung out with that Animal Crossing game when it first came out and everything hit. I spent a lot of time just moseying around in ways I typically don‘t. When looking at my phone I’d just lay down on my beach hammock and take in the ambience.

    Played through Doom Eternal out of a weird feeling of obligation since I've played through so many others. I didn't care too much for it.

    Went through an RPG binge with Final Fantasy VII Remake, Xenoblade Chronicles, Dragon Quedt Builders, and then Final Fantasy X and X2. I would normally never play this many long JRPGs back to back but I've been really plugging away at them.

    Also played Penny-Punching Princess which was kind of okay. Then Code of Princess which wasn't.

    Lately I've been playing the Ys series in kind-of order. I had already played 1 and 2.

    Ys III: The Wanderers from Ys
    Ys: The Oath in Felghana
    Ys IV: The Dawn of Ys
    Ys: Memories of Celceta
    Ys V: Lost Kelfin, Kingdom of Sand
    Ys VI: The Ark of Napishtim
    Ys Origin

    Just took a break to play Journey to the Savage Planet (didn't like it). Tomorrow I'll likely start Ys Seven.

    Yeah, I'm definitely playing more this year and more from "the backlog". I haven't been purchasing the big new releases in ways I have in the past.

    Edit: Also played Fall Guys, Adventures of Lolo II (Japanese version), Exit the Gungeon, Streets of Rage 4, and a few odds and ends and various roms.

    @NeverChris#6281 I haven‘t really paid enough attention to post-PC Engine Ys games to know if any of them are fun in the same way they were, or in different and new ways, or etc. None of them LOOK very good (except V) so I’ve been reluctant. Any particular newer one I should be looking out for?

    For every game I finished during quarantine I wrote a single tweet. It really helped me get a sense of what my play habits would be when given ample time to play. I basically realized I either want to blaze through an old game with save states or sink my teeth into a meaty but breezy modern game. It really made me realize that I get way more of what I want (a chill out distraction) from modern games than old ones which is why I am selling off most of my pre-HD collection.

    Biggest surprise: Actraiser is a great game to waste an evening on

    Biggest disappointment: Aliens Vs Predator arcade is not half as good as The Punisher arcade / Castlevania IV has a lot of cheap deaths

    Games I might eventual replay: Sayonara Wildhearts as rollercoaster ride / Drake Hollow in that I am excited to play the full game beyond the beta

    Most hatefully designed games: Bucky O'Hare (NES), Aladdin (GEN)