Casual video games have in the past had a bad reputation. Being short and always easy to play it means that to succeed, they have to be good. We've all heard gamers say they often feel let down and disappointed by the majority of casual games.
Things are a little different now.
From good old shoot 'em ups to social media games, casual games are soaring in popularity. Whether it's the beautiful artwork, the atmosphere, the sometimes gut-wrenching story lines or all three, more and more people are turning to them for the experiences they offer. I've found myself playing a game that's taken a couple of hours to complete and it's stayed with me longer than a game I've spent 100+ hours on. They can pack an emotional punch. They're in, and with more and more in development all the time it doesn't look like they're going anywhere anytime soon, so I picked ten of my favourite casual games that leave a big impact.
Developed by SCE Japan studio, LocoRoco became an instant classic when it was first released back in 2006 for the PSP. Using the shoulder buttons to tilt the world back and forth, you help guide the jelly-like LocoRoco through puzzles and traps, squeezing in small spaces and jumping over spike pits. With the help of the friendly creatures who inhabit the world, you might just save your planet from the alien invaders. It sounds dramatic, but no-one seems too stressed out about the unfortunate turn of events, as your new found buddies sing all the way through the game. Aside from its unusual gameplay and colours that'll brighten up any rainy afternoon, what really made LocoRoco shine was its soundtrack. Play it once and years later you'll find yourself singing in public whenever anyone mentions the game. It's addictive, it's adorable and you might just end up adding the soundtrack to a playlist or two.
From Thatgamecompany flower is a game known for its beauty and intuitive gameplay. You'll take the role of the wind, tilting your controller to guide a lone petal on its way through some of the most awe-inspiring game environments around. You'll pick up more and more petals as you go until you're controlling a whirlwind of them, navigating your way around the levels and touching any dead or barren bits of land to bring it back to life. As you might expect there's a message in there, too- you'll play a couple of levels where you soar through a wasteland-like industrial estate trying to reverse the damage man has done to nature. There are some breathtaking levels set at night, too- everything you touch lights up. It has an important message without being preachy, and flying through the air with flower petals is as soothing as it sounds.
8- Year Walk
Developed by Simogo and originally released in 2013 for iOS devices, Year Walk proved so popular that it later came out on PC and Wii U. Based on Swedish folklore and a very old Swedish tradition, Year Walk will put you in the shoes of a man navigating bizarre environments and solving puzzles in the hopes of getting a few glimpses into what the following year will bring. You'll meet monsters, not all of them friendly and hope you survive the night. One of the best things about Year Walk is the companion app, if you stick around through the credits you'll get clues on how to access it. Inside you'll find lore from the game that gives you extra insight. You'll also find a whole new game which gives you the 'true ending.' If you're a fan of folklore and creepy mysteries, Year Walk should definitely be on your list of games to play.
Another from Thatgamecompany, no list on casual games would seem complete with Journey. When it was released in 2012 it was one of the most talked about games for Months. You'll start the game in a seemingly never ending desert with the aim of getting to the mountain far, far in the distance. Take control of the robed figure and you'll glide over dunes and through ancient ruins in your quest to the end. You might even stumble upon other players along the way. While there's not much in the form of player communication in Journey, there's something truly special about meeting a player in the desert and playing with your almost silent new found companion right up to the end. The story is subtle and left gamers scratching their head and arguing- some insist it's narrating the journey from birth to death, others are certain it shows us the journey from death to rebirth. Either way, between the unusual art style and the ingenious co-op, there's something about Journey that leaves people wanting to play it again and again.
6- Little Inferno
Developed by Tomorrow Corporation, Little Inferno is a 2012 puzzle game. You spend most of the game sitting in front of a brick fireplace, burning an array of items in different combinations from toys to electric appliances (don't try it at home!) in an attempt to keep your character warm as the temperature drops. The fire is actually an entertainment system sold by the sinister company Tomorrow Corporation (see what they did there?) The more you buy to burn from your catalog, the more money you'll get, and the more you can afford to burn.... you get the idea. Eventually an eerie story comes into play and makes the game even better. Definitely worth taking a couple of hours to play.
From Playdead, the spiritual successor to Limbo is freshly released and ready to play. Traverse the 2.5D environments and try to avoid being eaten alive, squished or shot to death. The seemingly endless ways to die are as depressing as the dystopian world itself. Play as the boy in the red jumper and run, jump and climb your way to the mystery goal (no spoilers here!)
It's not possible to say much about Inside without spoiling it, so I'll assure you that the monochromatic world is beautifully grim, the world is an experience you shouldn't miss and the puzzles will have you running for your life.
4- Fire Watch
Developed by Campo Santo, Fire Watch is renowned for it's beauty and atmosphere. Play as a fire lookout named Henry and experience being almost entirely isolated from the rest of the world. Running away from his problems Henry finds himself thrown into the middle of a mystery with no-one to help him but his supervisor, Delilah. Though the story is fun and at times scary, one of the reasons the game is so popular is because of the environments. You could listen to Delilah and go from A to B, or you could spend a couple of hours exploring a beautiful environment and forgetting your own problems, too.
3- Life is Strange
Life is strange by Dontnod Entertainment is so famous that it's not necessary to say much about it. Say Max and Chloe and everyone immediately knows what you're talking about. In the episodic adventure game you'll play as Max, a college student who moves back to her home town and reunites with her loyal but troubled friend, Chloe. Early on Max discovers she has the power to rewind time, with every choice affecting the way the story unfolds. With typical teenage problems and a darker lurking mystery, Life is strange will make you laugh, make you cry and leave you feeling uncomfortable when you make a choice that has a disastrous consequence. It's a game that you'll love but won't want to finish.
2- Animal Crossing: New Leaf
While it lacks story, Nintendo's Animal crossing new Leaf is so high on the list both for its huge popularity and its ability to pull you in for hours at a time. We all have at least one friend who only plays animal crossing. The game seems simple at first, you'll start the game up intending to spend a quick half an hour looking around the town, building new attractions and maybe talking to your adorable animal friends. Five hours later you've redecorated your house, delivered five parcels and you're still looking for that last fossil that you can't seem to find anywhere. There are Halloween and Christmas events, characters you can only talk to on certain days and if you decide to reinvent and theme your entire town, animal crossing will suck you right in and refuse to let go.
1- Murasaki Baby
Developed by Ovosonico for the Playstation Vita, Murasaki Baby is, in my opinion one of the most under rated games of all time. Despite the fact it's won numerous awards, I haven't met anyone who's played it despite asking every gamer friend I have. The game opens with a little girl waking up and looking for her Mother. She can't find her, so you take her hand and navigate her through a weird, wonderful world in a search for her. The artwork is unique and spooky, and the character designs even more so, the little girl herself has a mouth on the top of her head, which is a little unnerving until you grow to love her. (I'm surprised Tim Burton hasn't picked up on it and made a film yet.)
Keep holding her hand and protect her heart shaped balloon which acts as a health counter and guide her through all her fears. She'll get scared along the way, but a couple of gentle tugs of her hand and she'll trust in you and run past the monster or jump over the deep gorge.
You'll continue through the world and as your bond with the little girl grows, so will your growing sense of dread as you begin to understand what's happening. It's one of those rare games that once played isn't easily forgotten.
What do you think? Did I miss any that you would have put in your top ten? Let us know in the comments!