Video games are such a versatile form of entertainment; unlike movies that last for a few hours, there are games that you can play for a hundred hours or more. However, you don’t always want to get involved in such a huge adventure.
While mega games that offer tons of content are a blast, sometimes a short, focused game can be a welcome change. Let’s look at some games that don’t take long to beat, but that you’re sure to enjoy every second playing. As a bonus, nearly all these games can be purchased for less than $10, so budget-conscious gamers will be fulfilled, too.
Gunpoint is a 2D stealth action game where you control a spy looking to solve a murder mystery. You begin with barely any tools at your disposal, but soon acquire the Crosslink, a device that allows you to rewire electronics in a building. For example, if a security camera is linked up to an alarm, you can change it to instead trigger a locked door and use it to knock out a guard. It’s easier if you see it in action, so check out the explanation video:
If you like the idea of hacking in Watch_Dogs but want to take it a step further, Gunpoint is the game for you. There’s no right or wrong way to play, so if you want to kill every guard in sight, that’s fine. If you’re more of a perfectionist and have to get through every mission without a sound, you can do that too!
Aside from the gameplay, Gunpoint features great noire-style music, optional items that you can read for backstory, and hilarious story conversations where your choices affect the outcome.
You can complete Gunpoint in 3-4 hours, but the time you spend with it will be extremely enjoyable. In addition to scores for playing in certain ways (like non-violence) and time trials, the game includes a level editor so you can create your own challenges after the story concludes.
With all these features, Gunpoint is not only short and sweet, but an excellent example of customization. You can get it on Steam for $10; there’s also two special editions if you’re interested in the soundtrack or commentary packs.
10000000 is a match-three game that blurs the lines between the puzzle and RPG genres. In this title, you control an explorer stuck in a dungeon, trying to break free. You’ll need ten million points to escape, hence the game’s title. To work your way towards that goal, you’ll have to raid the dungeon, which you do by matching tiles. For example, when you come across a treasure chest, you’ll have to match three key symbols to open it, while fighting enemies requires three swords.
In between runs, you’ll be able to spend gold to upgrade your abilities. Over time, the enemies and dangers that once seemed impossible to conquer will become easy to defeat. When you don’t do well on a dungeon run, you still earn experience and resources that you can use to unlock new moves and strengths. Even for someone who doesn’t like matching games like Bejeweled, 10000000 will hold your attention until the end.
10000000 is a perfect game to play on-the-go, but its Steam version, playable on Windows, Mac, and Linux, is just as good. Its low price ($5 on Steam, $3 on Android and iOS) matches the ~5-7 hours it will take to flee the prison. Once you finish it, there’s not much incentive to return, but that means it’s perfect for this list! A sequel titled You Must Build A Boat is in the works, too, so be sure to keep an eye on that if you enjoy 10000000.
VVVVVV is another 2D platformer that features retro graphics like those of the Commodore 64. You control Captain Viridian, who is lost in an odd alternate dimension and has to locate his missing crew members. What makes V-6 unique is that you cannot jump; your only method of control besides moving left and right is pressing the action button to flip gravity.
The game is difficult; one of Joel’s five toughest on Steam, but it’s still approachable unlike some of the other titles on that list. The frequent checkpoints ensure you don’t have to replay large sections over and over, and the game is never unfair. If you have a little persistence, you’ll discover a fantastic little platformer with sweet chiptune music and varied level design. There is virtually no filler content in VVVVVV, so you’ll never be left just wandering around wasting time.
VVVVVV will likely take you around 4 hours to beat and is available on a variety of platforms, with a PS Vita port coming soon. You’ll find the game for $5 on Steam, $8 on 3DS, and $3 for Android and iOS. There’s also a demo available for Windows and Mac if you’d like to try it first.
Portal is a wildly successful first-person puzzle game from Valve, the company that owns Steam – a platform with some hidden features you may have missed. In Portal, you control a test subject of Aperture Laboratories who is being hounded by GlaDOS, an artificial intelligence whose presence makes Portal one of the funniest games ever. Your character, Chell, uses the portal gun to create warps that allow her to traverse rooms. It starts off fairly simple, but the later chambers require some serious brain power.
As you can tell from the trailer, the game is dark and feels as if the odds are stacked against you. Once you get used to how the portals work, though, it’s satisfying to figure out the perfect solution to a puzzle. Like VVVVVV, you’re able to save in each chamber so you don’t have to redo old puzzles if you make a mistake. The game isn’t a cakewalk, but with a bit of thought you can make it through safely.
Portal is one of the most innovative games in recent years, and if you haven’t experienced it yet you owe it to yourself. The mechanic doesn’t get old and the immense care that went into the game is evident. If you like solving puzzles at all, you’ll adore Portal.
You can pick up the game by itself on Steam for $10, but on PS3 and Xbox 360 it’s a bit costlier. Portal originally released as part of Valve’s compilation title The Orange Box, which costs $45 for the PS3 version and $70 for the 360 version on Amazon. You’ll likely be able to find a better deal on Half.com: the 360 version can be had for $10-$25 and the PS3 version is around $30. Since it’s cheaper and brand new, though, it’s a good idea to just go with the Steam version if you’re able.
Portal will last you for 3-6 hours, depending on how sharp your puzzle-solving skills are. After you finish it, you’ll surely want to play its sequel, Portal 2, which is longer than the original and features lots of new gameplay mechanics. If you’re interested, Matt has also covered some games just like it.
Braid [Steam (Windows), Humble Store (Windows, Mac, Linux) Mac App Store, PS3, Xbox 360]
Braid is a 2D puzzle platforming game where you control Tim, a troubled man who is trying to rescue a princess. The game’s main mechanic is being able to reverse the flow of time, and every puzzle in the game hinges on this ability. Braid is divided into 6 worlds, and each features different types of puzzles. In the second world, for instance, items that are immune to the reversal of time are introduced.
Braid released in 2008 and was met with universal acclaim, even to the point of becoming the highest-rated game on the Xbox Live Arcade. Braid, like many others on this list, is a focused experience that doesn’t waste any time. Its puzzles are ingenious and will have you scratching your head, but the “Eureka!” feeling you receive when you finish one is indescribable.
The art is clean and appealing, the music is calming, and the controls are simply usable. The difficulty level of Braid is challenging but inviting: since you can reverse your mistakes, you’re never more than a few seconds away from trying a new solution. The tale it tells only through text and gameplay is intriguing and will keep you interested until the end.
In short, if you like video games, you must play Braid. No player should ever miss this experience; it’s heralded as one of the best titles in the last decade. You’ll love every second of its five hours or so of content. If you’re sharp, you may be able to beat the game more quickly, but it likely won’t last you more than 8 hours. Like all of these games, though, a blast of awesome gameplay is not a bad thing. Braid is $10 everywhere except for PS3, where it costs $15.
Now you have five fun-filled, short titles to enjoy. If you’re left wanting more when they’re over, try some sandbox games that will last you for dozens of hours.
If none of these titles appealed to you but you’d still like some brief game experiences, you can use online tools to see how long a particular game will take you.
Have you played any of these games? What are some other short games I missed? Do you enjoy these short, focused titles? Give your two cents below in the comments.