Scientists, doctors, and public health experts are urging, begging, everyone to practice “social distancing”—deliberately creating space from other human bodies. No bars, no gyms, no restaurants, no concerts, no parties. It’s an effective way of slowing the spread of Covid-19, but things can also get lonely fast.
Enter: online gaming. For people allergic to phone calls, it’s a more casual option for keeping in touch. For younger generations, online games like Fortnite are the best social networks. Those who haven’t had a chance to play a massively multiplayer online role-playing game like Final Fantasy XIV might be surprised at the kindness of strangers and the experiences you can share together.
Here’s our list of the best online games for keeping in touch while you’re doing the right thing and staying indoors.
Final Fantasy XIV
MMORPGs aren’t as intimidating as they look, and FFXIV’s community can’t wait to show you why. Design a character using FFXIV’s super-detailed character generator, follow the streamlined questing system, go bop some slimes on the head, and make a couple of friends in the big city. Soon you’ll be traversing psychedelic worlds and fighting fantastical beasts alongside a band of friendly strangers (or friends). FFXIV’s gorgeous landscapes and exhilarating dungeon-crawls speak for themselves, but what makes it so recommendable during a time of self-quarantine is its welcoming and helpful player base.
Don’t Starve Together
Don’t Starve is a beloved survival game in which you chop down trees, mine for gold, cook bonfire dinners, build tools, and craft structures in an effort not to die. In 2014, it got a multiplayer expansion: Don’t Starve Together. In its dark yet cartoony world, you and up to five other players wander the natural realm and pool resources, eventually earning yourselves clothing and magic spells. It’s in equal parts relaxing and punishing, offering plenty of time to chat between gathering sticks and running away from killer spiders.
Windows, Mac, PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, Humble, Comcast Xfinity, Android TV
Jackbox is the ultimate party game. More of a platform, Jackbox offers six “party packs,” each containing hilarious and endlessly replayable microgames. Favorites include Tee K.O., in which you and your friends take turns designing horrible T-shirt logos and matching them with equally horrible taglines, and Fibbage, a trivia game that you win by writing the most convincing lie masquerading as a trivia answer. Jackbox is playable on basically everything, and you can use your phone for a controller. Although it’s built for local play, here are Jackbox’s helpful guidelines on how to catch a game remotely with friends and family.
PC, Nintendo Switch, PS4, Xbox One
Overwatch isn’t relaxing, but it will definitely hold your attention. Overwatch is highly competitive while bending the rules of first-person shooters by including several character classes, like healers and tanks, with characters that might not even use guns. Some “heroes” rely on deft reflexes and precise aiming, while others get your teammates the health, shielding, and buffs they need to survive. Overwatch’s diverse roster of heroes offers a playstyle for everyone—even people who have never touched a shooter. And once you find your groove, the skill ceiling is endlessly high. There’s always more to learn.
Divinity: Original Sin 2
Windows, PS4, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One
Some of the best game writing and voice acting around makes Divinity: Original Sin 2 so much more than an excellent tactics game. Although it’s most popular as a single-player game, and a long one at that, Divinity: Original Sin 2 accommodates parties of up to three players through its many-leveled plot and environments. And although it’s a pretty high-brow RPG, it’s got a very no-holds-barred vibe: Players can use the terrain and nearby objects to, say, light a vat of oil on fire or section off an area with electricity. It’s creative, consuming, and deeply complex.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare’s Warzone
This just-released, free-to-play battle royale game combines all the best things about top genre hits like Fortnite, Apex Legends, and PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds. It’s your typical survival shooter: 150 players drop onto a map and have to gun each other down to be the last one standing as a gas cloud closes in. It’s also got some quality-of-life additions that make it a little stickier than previous battle royale games, like cash that players can exchange for teammates’ lives. Battle royale games are fun, but they’re best enjoyed as background to a conversation with friends over voice chat. Adding to Warzone’s bro-feel is how easy it is to team up with friends using different systems.
Windows, Mac, Nintendo Switch, PS4, Xbox One
As anxious tweets and Facebook posts fill your feeds, peace and tranquility are more welcome than ever. Stardew Valley is the bucolic fantasy you need in your life right now. The game casts you as a city person who moves to the valley to take over your grandpa’s plot of land and farm it. You are tasked with making that plot fertile and verdant and beautiful and lush. You do this small task by small task, and you can go on forever, making your farm more and more perfect. It’s methodical and relaxing, and as of 2018, it’s cooperative as well. Stardew Valley has a multiplayer mode where you can build out your farms in unison alongside three friends.
World of Warcraft Classic
If you’ve always been curious about the cultural phenomenon that is World of Warcraft, but too intimidated by the heaping mass of content that has been accumulating in the game since 2004, try World of Warcraft Classic. It’s the game as it was before its first expansion: hardcore fantasy with sword-and-sorcery combat. Organize a band of Horde hooligans and share experience points, weapons, and crafts. It’s a hoot with friends, plus, with a party, you’ll level up faster to reach the more gameplay-intense raid content. While the game is super simple to grasp, WoW Classic is more punishing than its modern iteration. If you decide to play, download an add-on like Questie that will make things run more smoothly.
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