If there was ever a good excuse to curl up with a keyboard and mouse and play a great game, it’s during a national lockdown. Aside from essential shopping and the odd walk, you can’t go anywhere, you can’t meet anyone, and you can’t do much of anything that’s immersive or fun.
Well, in the real world, that is.
Within the bounds of your gaming PC or home console lies untold worlds to explore, brawl in, and race through, and you can even do it with friends and family who you can’t otherwise engage with on a meaningful level.
Like the heroes of the games we play, video games are here to save us from ourselves, stave off boredom for the next few months, and keep us connected with our loved ones at a time of extreme stress.
So with that in mind, here are the best games to play during lockdown, whatever kind of game you’re after.
Immersive Single-Player Games
Like a good book, single player games with lengthy campaigns have the ability to suck you into their world and help the real one fade away for a few hours. Sometimes that kind of escapism is just the thing you need to give you time to reset and recuperate from the stresses of a world on lockdown.
Here are some great games to invest tens of hours of your time in, with some unique worlds to explore along the way.
The Witcher III: Wild Hunt
A classic despite its relative youth, The Witcher III: Wild Hunt is considered one of the best games ever made, and is easily the pinnacle of the three-game series of RPGs.
You play as Geralt of Rivea, a chemically and mentally modified monster slayer, who finds his simple life of chasing gold and ghouls disrupted by the need to find his adopted daughter before the deadly Wild Hunt does.
This medieval monster of an RPG has a gorgeous world to explore and a lengthy single player campaign, as well as tens of hours of intriguing side quests and missions to delve into.
It was gorgeous in its day, and still is in 2020, but you can also boost The Witcher III’s looks with the HD Reworked mod – just make sure you have a powerful PC for it, as this is not a game that goes easy on your graphics card.
Grand Theft Auto V, or GTA V, is the most successful commercial game ever made, having sold over 135 million copies. It’s spanned multiple generations of consoles and been available on PC for over half a decade, it’s still one of the most popular games in the world, with good reason.
Its unique blend of fast-paced action, pure chaos, and an engaging and well-crafted story make GTA V a great game to get lost in for many, many hours. It has a lengthy single-player story, where you take on the roles of several different characters as they complete a number of high-stakes heists.
It’s also a pure anarchy simulator, letting you go anywhere, drive anything, blow anything up – all while the cops are hot on your tail.
It’s great for blowing off steam just as much as it is for exploring its enormous world.
Monster Hunter: World
Monster Hunter games have been popular for years, but Monster Hunter: World was the first one to truly crossover into a mainstream audience.
It’s much easier to get to grips with, and it finally moved on from the ageing engine of so many of its predecessors to make the world and the monsters in it look fantastic. It even ditched the frustrating loading screens between areas.
You take on the role of a trainee Monster Hunter – a maddeningly tough individual who faces off against enormous dragon-like creatures with a variety of melee and ranged weapons. Whether you prefer a lance and shield, a greatsword, or a bowgun, you’ll find equal challenge in taming the creatures of this game. When you do, you can make better gear with their feathers, bones, and scales.
It’s a great cycle of preparation, tense combat, and equipment management that Monster Hunter World nails so well. If you’re a completionist, you’ll be hunting the rarist and most dangerous of creatures for hundreds of hours.
Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Making its mark on the Nintendo Switch early on, Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild showed why the Zelda franchise is so enduring. It combines the strengths of many of its predecessors to give gamers an expansive open world to explore, difficult enemies and bosses to figure out, and a game that lets you play it exactly how you want, in whatever order you want.
Although the Switch is designed more as a party console than anything else, Breath of the Wild offers a truly deep RPG experience with everything gamers have loved about Zelda for the past three decades.
It’s a game that promises many hours of entertainment, whether you’re battling with the main story’s antagonists or taking a load off to quietly fish at one of the game’s relaxing pools, or riding down a mountain on your shield.
Not all immersive single-player experiences need to be AAA and in the third person. Darkest Dungeon is a tactical turn-based dungeon crawler with deep management mechanics.
The tone is just as big a selling point, though, with a depressing and foreboding feel that is only augmented by the delightfully disgusting art style and a voice-over that is just dripping with disdain.
Massively replayable and with a grind that is both fun and rewarding, Darkest Dungeon will tax your sanity as much as your tactical ability. It can be deeply unfair at times, but it’s always engaging and if you enjoy games with a Lovecraftian slant to their impossible architecture, this game will engage you for many hours to come.
Best Competitive Team Games
If you and your friends like to pass the time by competing with one another, why not team up and face off against each other and the world in some of the most popular competitive and Esports games?
It’s a great way to burn through hours at a time, and if you get good from all your efforts, you can take pride in having improved your gaming skill considerably during lockdown.
League of Legends
As one of the granddaddies of competitive gaming at this point, League of Legends was the biggest trendsetter of the MOBA (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena) craze from a decade ago and it’s still going strong, with tens of millions of active players.
It pits you and four of your fellow gamers against five opponents in an overhead map with lanes to war over, neutral mobs to kill off, and even the odd dragon and monster to slay, all in an effort to level up enough to defeat the opposing team’s Nexus.
With almost 150 champions to pick from, each with their own unique look, feel and abilities, League of Legends has endless depth and breadth for you to enjoy. There are exciting team fight moments, grinding play as you rush to level, and even psychological warfare as you try to psyche your opponents into making a wrong move.
It’s a strategic and tactical game that can appeal to all sorts of gamers, whether you want to take it seriously, or just enjoy a casual game with friends.
Although in-person events aren’t common right now, the World Championships still went ahead this year and will do next year, giving you plenty of time to get ready if you think you’re good enough.
Riot Games doesn’t just make great MOBAs any more. In 2020, it debuted Valorant, a take on the competitive team-based first-person-shooter genre. It combines objective-based play with unique characters and abilities, blurring the facets of other popular shooters into something quite different, yet evolutionary.
Weapons, abilities, and more can be purchased as the game progresses, giving everyone a chance to improve their character down a number of paths to create a different game every time. If you can populate a five player team, or don’t mind playing with a few online randomers, Valorant is a great way to scratch that shooter itch.
Another great aspect of Valorant is how accessible it is. Like League of Legends, it’s designed to work on just about any PC from the last 15 years. Even your homework laptop will be able to get the game running; although an entry-level gaming PC will give you much better performance without breaking the bank.
If you prefer to play on smaller teams or fancy something that isn’t your average shooter or strategy, Rocket League is a unique gameplay experience that is both easy to learn and hard to master. It’s also free to play, which never hurts.
You and your friends sit behind the steering wheel of a rocket-propelled car and have to shunt a giant football into an even bigger goal, while the other team tries to stop you. It’s a game that can go from deeply silly to skilfully serious within the span of seconds, and it’s never not frantic.
Five-minute games mean you’re constantly ready for the next shot at victory and if you and your friends can populate both teams, you can even keep it as a friendly competition, with plenty of custom game modes to change up the mechanics whenever you feel boredom slipping in.
If you want to make it more serious though, there are heaps of competitive ranked modes to dive into. Just how high up the ranks can you and your team go?
Though it is one of the oldest popular competitive Esports games today, CS:GO still retains a near-constant number one position on the Steam top games list.
Based on the same gameplay as the original Counter-Strike from 2000, Counter Strike: Global Offensive has players acting as terrorists or counter-terrorists, who are looking to plant a bomb, or stop it, respectively.
Like Valorant, weapons are purchased as the rounds go on, making for increasingly violent altercations on intensely competitive and well-designed maps that encourage clever tactical and strategic play.
CS:GO is one of a few games which have remained popular and relevant for over two decades and it’s for a good reason: it’s excellent. If you want a taste of a truly well balanced competitive FPS can be, CS:GO is a great place to start.
Fortnite is the current king of competitive online play, with hundreds of millions of active players and a near-constant drip-feed of new content to keep the game fresh and interesting.
You, either alone or part of a team, are dropped on to a cartoonish island and tasked with looting weapons, armour, and ammunition from the surrounding landscape to kill every enemy player (and there can be as many as 99 of them).
It’s a big ask, but winning your first Victory Royale can be a great pick me up during a lengthy lockdown. Then you just have to do it again.
Better yet, Fortnite is entirely free to play, with only cosmetics available for purchase. If you do decide to spend on the game, you often get free extras that benefit you outside the game like free months of Disney+, making it all the more easy to recommend.
Want a PC that players Fortnite perfectly? Chillblast has a series of Fortnite gaming PCs designed specifically with it in mind.
Online Co-Op Games
If you don’t fancy playing against your friends, or would just rather play with them against a sea of AI enemies, online cooperative games can be a much less stressful way to play. Some of them have infinitely expansive worlds to explore, while others give you a deep and engaging story to experience together.
For a shared experience where your enjoyment isn’t quite as dependent on the sportsmanship of strangers all over the world, online Co-Op games can give you some of the best bonding experiences during a lockdown.
Don’t Starve Together
A survival game with a Tim Burton-esque sense of humour and setting, Don’t Starve Together is an evolution of the series’ single-player roots that both makes the game easier and harder, depending on how quickly you get up to speed with the unique crafting mechanisms of the game.
More hands make lighter work, but they also mean more mouths to feed, which if you pick the wrong spot for your base, can make things very difficult.
Fortunately there are lots of unique food stuffs to enjoy, from wild carrots, to monster lasagna, and only a few of them will turn you crazy. Beware of the dark though, its long hands can snuff you out just as quickly as your flickering campfire.
Getting away from zombies used to be easy, but in Dying Light, you’ll find a variety of fleet-footed undead that make escaping from their rotten clutches far harder than you might like.
Still, if the idea of using parkour and your wits to remain one step ahead of the grave with your friends sounds like your idea of fun, then Dying Light will be right up your street.
Unlike some games, Dying Light’s cooperative play doesn’t begin right at the start, so you’ll need to play around 45-minutes of single-player first, but once you’re through the tutorial and first mission, you and three friends can romp your way around the infected city to your heart’s content.
Divinity Original Sin II
There’s a strong argument to be made that Larian Studios makes the best cooperative dungeon crawlers today, and its greatest creation so far is Divinity: Original Sin II. While the Early Access Baldur’s Gate has the potential to eclipse it in the long run, nothing will ever take away from the sheer mastery of this earlier game.
Combining deep character customization, with strong tactical combat, gorgeous graphics, and a deep and engaging story, Original Sin II has garnered a near perfect rating from most reviewers and users alike with over a 95% positive rating on Steam alone.
Building on the cooperative play of its predecessor, this sequel lets you play with up to three other friends, each taking on the role of an individual hero as you attempt to save the collapsing world around you.
Or you could even make your own. The unique Game Master Mode lets you create your own stories for you and your friends to enjoy.
Warhammer: Vermintide 2
There’s nothing quite like hacking through hordes of enemies with your friends and there are few games that do that as well as Warhammer: Vermintide 2.
You’ll take on the role of a heavy-handed warrior of the Old World, where Chaos forces have amassed in number and are assaulting the forces of good. It’s down to you to use your trusty sword, hammer, and magic powers, to fight back.
You and three friends can pick from five different roles that each have their own unique playstyles and equipment, and there are heaps of unlocks and upgrades to keep you progressing as you make your way through the story. It plays a little like a melee heavy Left 4 Dead, which is high praise, even so many years on from that classic shooter.
A pure classic in every sense of the word, Minecraft has had over a decade as one of the world’s most popular games. It offers an infinite world to explore, both above and below ground, with tense survival elements for those who want it, and the ability to build just about anything you want, from towering skyscrapers, to functioning computers.
If you and your friends love to dungeon crawl one day, and take on enormous group projects the next, Minecraft offers a breadth of gameplay that is almost unparalleled and it is only ever getting better.
A recent update added ray tracing support, so if you buy a PC with a powerful enough graphics card, you can make Minecraft look as photo-realistic as its pixels will allow.
Best VR Games
Virtual reality offers a unique gaming opportunity during lockdown: the opportunity to go somewhere else.
Let the high-resolution, high-refresh rate screens within your VR headset transport you to a place and setting where there’s no such thing as lockdowns. Just enemies to fight, puzzles to solve, and rhythmic orbs to slash apart with your virtual lightsaber.
We may never get a true Half-Life conclusion story, but Half-Life: Alyx at least fleshes out Valve’s iconic world in gorgeous fashion. It also acts as a watermark in VR game development, setting a high-bar for interactive virtual storytelling that few have yet to match.
Set between the first two Half-Life games, you play as the titular Alyx Vance, who must steal a super weapon technology belonging to the alien Combine invaders.
The new gravity gloves give VR gamers a unique way to interact with the world, and whether you have a roomscale space, or just standing room to enjoy the action-packed story, you’ll find plenty of unique ways to enjoy what many consider VR’s first must-play experience.
For something far more casual, but no less enjoyable, Beat Saber is arguably the best rhythm game ever made. Equipped with a pair of glowing swords, you’ll hack and slash your way through the beats of a number of excellent dubstep, rock, and hip hop tracks, with high-scores, and difficulty settings offering near endless challenge for the discerning virtual bladesmith.
It can even function as an effective workout if you really put some effort into the swings. Playing with a fan on may be a must for the more perspirant of gamers.
Featuring songs from Imagine Dragons, Electric Light Orchestra, Jaroslav Black, Linkin Park and more, this game lets you experience the songs you love in new and exciting ways. It’s a treat for the senses in more ways than one.
Waltz of the Wizard
No game has quite captured the feel of the classic tale of the Sorcerer’s Apprentice like Waltz of the Wizard.
You’ll brew potions, cast spells, and make small talk with a chatty skull, all in an exploration of what’s truly possible in VR. There’s exploration, light horror, some basic combat, and heaps of laughs to be found in this expansive and often silly magical adventure.
Plus, it has some of the best hand-tracking of any VR game to date.
When you don’t have the room for roomscale experiences, one of the best ways to appreciate the full immersion of a VR experience is sitting in a virtual cockpit.
Elite Dangerous puts you behind the flight stick of a variety of spaceships with different instrumentation, engines, and weaponry. There’s a massive, 1:1 scale Milky Way Galaxy to explore, heaps of enemies to fight, and many characters and factions to interact with.
Whether you see yourself as more of a combat pilot, a frontier-explorer, or a trader just looking to make some coin across the systems, there’s a playstyle for you. Whatever you do though, the experience is a great looking one and immersive enough to get you out of your four walls as you explore the great infinite blackness of the wider galaxy.
You can even augment the experience even further by adding a number of accessories like a flight stick, yoke, or switch panel. Combined with the VR headset, they can really make you feel like you’re in the various ships you have at your disposal.
Star Trek Bridge Crew
Rather than piloting your own ship, how about being part of a larger crew?
In Star Trek Bridge Crew, you and three other players take seats at the bridge of the U.S.S. Aegis as the all-important Captain, Helm, Tactical and Engineering officers. Through communication and quick thinking, you’ll try to complete missions, keep each other alive, and go where no man has gone before.
If you have a few friends with VR headsets, this can be one of the most fun ways to play together – you’ll feel like you’re right next to each other while exploring uncharted space. What could be a better way to breeze through a lockdown?
Games With Cutting Edge Graphics
If you want to blur the lines between the game world and reality, there are plenty of great games to pick from. You’ll need a powerful PC to see them at their best, but if you have one already or are planning to buy one, here are some stunning games that will let you see what cutting edge gaming looks like.
Microsoft Flight Simulator
Microsoft’s Flight Simulator series has always been on the bleeding edge of visual fidelity in gaming, but the 2020 release is something quite special. It not only pushes boundaries for its high-resolution aircraft models and 1:1 real world you can fly around and explore, but it maps just about everything in it too.
Combining bespoke crafted airports and landmarks with imagery generated from satellite and aircraft photographs, there’s almost nothing you can’t fly to, over and around.
It even has cloud-rendered weather that tracks real-world weather patterns so that photorealistic storm you’re flying through is actually happening at that place in the world at the exact same time.
If you like the new Microsoft Flight Simulator, make sure you get some top-notch accessories to really make the most of it.
As far as good looking shooters go, nothing quite matches Metro Exodus. It has gorgeously detailed environments, a dark and foreboding atmosphere, and was one of the first games to take advantage of global illumination ray tracing.
If you have a gaming PC with an RTX 20 Series or RTX 30 Series graphics card, this game will really push it to its limit.
Enjoy the pretty lighting while you can though. The mutants are coming for you and they’re no way near as good looking.
Although its release has been pushed back by a few weeks (again) Cyberpunk 2077 looks set to break all kinds of records, from sales to high-end PC graphics. Its near-photorealistic characters and environments employ a plethora of cutting edge artistic and animation techniques to bring the dark cyberpunk future to life in ways not seen before.
It too takes advantage of ray tracing effects, so you’ll want a cutting edge graphics card to enjoy it. Consider it a way of augmenting yourself in an early-21st-century approximation of what they do in the game.
It’s no robotic arm or fiber-optic nervous system, but it’s a start.
Do you even have a high-powered PC if it can’t run Crysis?
What was once a cutting edge game is now once again at the forefront of bringing powerful systems to their knees, in Crysis Remastered. With new visual effects, higher resolution textures, and ray-traced lighting, the world of Crysis has never looked better.
You’ll still have your Nanosuit, though, so you can run faster, jump higher, hit harder, or defend yourself against soldiers, tanks and more while fighting your way through this beautiful island setting. The AI isn’t as clever as it once seemed, but if you want to play through a PC gaming classic with all new visuals, nothing looks as good as Crysis Remastered.
The poster child for the modern ray tracing revolution, Control brings together elements of the SCP foundation, Annihilation, and David Lynch’s disturbing back catalogue, presenting it in one of the best-looking gaming experiences ever made.
It’s important not to spoil the story on this one, but you play the head of an important agency which soon finds itself under a supernatural attack. How you fight back against it, is up to you.
Your PC will have to fight against Control’s serious demands with all its worth too, and even the best GPUs will struggle to hit 60 FPS at 4K resolution. If you want to give you and your PC a real challenge, Control has it in spades.
Fancy playing a game over video? They’re not all traditional video games, but if you have older relatives or those without the budget for a gaming PC and you want to do something on your weekly Zoom call that isn’t another general knowledge quiz, here are some quick and easy games that anyone can enjoy over Zoom.
With paper and pens handy, players split up into teams and take it in turns to draw something. It’s up to their teammates to guess what it is. It can be movies, books, TV shows, physical objects, obscure words or phrases – anything you like really.
You can have other teams pick what to draw, or create a pool and draw it from a hat. However you do it, make sure to provide plenty of mocking commentary for the terrible artwork that will ensue.
If you can’t angle the webcams just right, consider using an online tool like Skribbl to make it easier.
Another classic game that doesn’t need much set up is Charades.
Have players split up into teams and then taking it in turns, one player from each team picks a movie, book, person, band, or TV show (use this generator to help if you need it) and acts out what it is.
But there’s one condition: you mustn’t talk. You can, however, signal how many words are in the phrase, how many syllables there are (tap your forearm with the same number of fingers), and whether you’re talking about a small or big word. You can also tug your ear to let them know it sounds like what you’re now acting out.
If you want more of a digital component to enjoy your Zoom gaming with, Jackbox Games is a collection of silly party games that will get everyone laughing at themselves and each other. It supports between just one and 100 players, so there’s no size of digital family get together that will leave anyone out.
Everyone uses their phone or tablet as the controllers, and you only really need one copy of the game if they can stream it to Zoom or over a low-latency streaming platform like Steam or Hitbox.
There are a number of different Jackbox game packs to pick from, with classics like Fibbage, Drawful, and Lie Swatter among their roster.
You’ll have your favourites, but all of them are fun in their own way and are a great way to play with those who aren’t typically computer savvy.
How about being a super sleuth with your friends and family? Spyfall makes one of you, unbeknownst the others, a secret spy who must guess the location everyone else is in. It can be an army barracks, a submarine, a museum, school, or a cathedral, among many others.
Everyone else knows the location and has to root out the spy by asking questions that only a non-spy would know, but without revealing the location itself.
It’s a very clever little game that is easy to getup and running, with everyone using their phones for controllers.
Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes
You might not think printing off a bomb defusal manual is a normal part and parcel of a great game, but with this one it is.
One player is charged with diffusing the bomb by completing several complex puzzles – the only problem is they don’t know how. That’s where teammates over zoom can use their printed or PDF manuals to explain what to do.
A great game for team building and hilarious communication gaffs, Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes is a unique experience that works on just about every platform you can think of. A great lockdown Zoom game for everyone.
Digital Board Games
Gamers can still play most of their favourites with friends online, lockdown or not. But board games are a different matter altogether.
When getting together to play is hard, though, you can always turn to digital board games. Here are some great games you can play with friends and family without the need to sit around a table.
Catan is arguably the board game that kickstarted the modern age of board games in the West, but despite its age, it’s still an incredibly fun experience for three or more players. It involves set collection, trading, bargaining, bluffing, and a little strategy.
Catan Universe makes it free to play in its basic fashion, with expansions and additional content available to those who pay for the privilege. You can play online together, form guilds, earn unlocks, and there’s even a tournament mode in the offing for those who take Catan play seriously.
New to Catan? There’s even a solid tutorial to help you get started.
Magic the Gathering Arena
Magic the Gathering has been digitised in many ways over the years, but the best one yet is Magic the Gathering Arena. It offers you an enormous breadth of cards to play with, great matchmaking, deck building tips, competitive and cooperative play, and even timed events to keep the game fresh and interesting.
Cards consistently refresh throughout the year so there’s always something new to experiment with, and whether you want to play against friends or dive into something more competitive online, there’s a mode for you.
Are you more of a tabletop roleplayer? Whether you’re missing your usual D&D, CoC, or Cyberpunk 2020 group, or want to start a new campaign with some new players, Roll20 is the place to do it.
Only the DM/GM needs to have a paid-for account, with everyone else more than able to manage their characters and play through whatever adventures you have planned for them with free accounts.
From maps to encounters, to dice rolling itself, there’s a full management suite for your various roleplaying campaigns and with built-in voice and video chat, it’ll feel like you’re all sat around the table together as you did before lockdown.
If you are unfamiliar with TTRPGs, check out this TTRPG guide that covers everything you need to know to get started on your first adventure.
Fancy a game where you can’t talk? That’s Mysterium and it’s a unique board gaming experience that works just as well online.
One player is the unspeaking ghost who has to guide the other psychologist players to figure out the murderer, all through the use of cryptic imagery and clever hints.
It’s a game of deduction and pageantry that finally offers a roleplaying role for those that find roleplaying hard.
For the ultimate digital interpretation of real-world board gaming, Tabletop Simulator gives you a digital hand, a digital tabletop, and heaps upon heaps of games to play. There’s little scripting (in most games) so you’ll need to shuffle cards, roll dice, and move pieces by hand, but that’s half the fun of board gaming.
There are a number of officially licensed games you can buy, but if you dive into the Steam Workshop you can almost certainly find your favourite. From Kingdom Death: Monster to Ticket to Ride and everything in between. It’s even great for D&D games too if you want to use lots of figures and maps.