Gracchus Gruad is the pen name for a nerdy IT guy who either thinks too much or not enough (or perhaps a bit of both).
I have been a fan of video games since I first played Pong as a small child. I grew up along with home video games. I remember the excitement when my dad brought home an Atari 2600. I remember renting a Nintendo on the weekends until my parents could afford to buy one. I remember buying a Sega Genesis, my first gaming console purchase of my own, with my own money.
These were all exciting moments. I still love playing video games, though I don't get to spend as much time doing it now. Sometimes I have a couple of hours to kill and decide I want to play. The problem is that nowadays, games are so immersive and have such complex stories that if I'm not careful, I will find myself continuing to play long after my allotted time is up.
For these instances, I have some standby games I can play without getting so wrapped up in progressing or the story that I lose track of time. These are my 10 favorite games for casual, anytime-play
1. Grand Theft Auto: Vice City
Open world games are often the best for killing time. Vice City is the only Grand Theft Auto game I am really into. The setting has a lot to do with that, since I was born in 1975 and thus grew up primarily in the 80's. I love all of the music on the car radios. This game is also the easiest to play in my opinion, and the most fun when you just break away from the missions and wander around. I enjoy getting a car and looking for jump and stunt opportunities. Sometimes I will just drive around and listen to the songs on the radio. There is music for just about every taste, from pop to metal to early hip hop and even Latin music. There is a great NPR like station that is hilarious. Sometimes I will run around assaulting random people. Sometimes I will grab a sniper rifle and find a perch to see how many head shots I can rack up. This is definitely a great game for venting your frustrations and anger. It also has cool cheat codes if you feel like doing something goofy, like turn everyone into bikini clad women. I'll be honest, I've never even finished the story mode in this game because I have more fun running around causing general mayhem. As you spread death and destruction, your wanted status rises causing police and even the military to come hunting you. You then get to avoid being captured or killed until your status goes back down. Sometimes open world games are more fun if you just ignore the story, and this one definitely falls into that category for me.
2. Saint's Row: The Third
This one is a lot like GTA, only crazier. The music is more modern, but I still like it. And let's face it, sometimes you just want to bludgeon someone with an oversize dildo. The game is also open world and so offers a lot of the same opportunities for killing time as Vice City. Everything is more over the top here though. Also, you can level your character up to the point where nothing can kill you, saving you time if you do something really stupid that would cause you to start over in another game. You can play around with the different costumes or weapons, or again just drive around town like a maniac. I have found that it's dangerous for me to drive in real life after playing one of these games, as I want to smash into other vehicles to get them out of my way like I would in the game. I love games where you can collect things and games where you can customize things. This game has a decent amount of both. Maybe I need therapy, but I find it hilarious to dress up in an S&M gimp costume and attack people with the Violator. The story can be a little boring to play, but just like Vice City there is a lot of fun to be had just running around wreaking havoc.
3. Destroy All Humans: Path of the Furon
This game is set in the 70's. Maybe I just have a thing for era themed games, I don't know. Anyway, this is a game where I can play the story when I want to kill time. The missions are not normally overly long, and you don't immediately have to go into the next one each time you complete one. If you don't feel like doing missions, you can run around one of the towns collecting brains to upgrade your equipment, looking for collectibles, reading people's minds, or causing mass outbreaks of disco dancing. There are a lot of fun 70's references to remind people of just how insane this decade was. I wish there were more places to go, but it is open world so you are free to roam where you will in what there is. There are also Challenges set up that are basically obstacle courses where you try to beat your best time. These can be a lot of fun. There are also odd jobs you can take, which include references younger players just won't get like Cher's relationship with Gregg Allman. That one really cracked me up. The Feature Presentation screen at the beginning made me fall in love with this game. There is also a great Jack Nicholson moment. There are a few different weapons to play with. If you take a break from the story and decide to just run around and harvest brains, you are still making progress as the brains can be spent on upgrades which will make playing the story line easier. You can also travel back to previous stages, so if you didn't get all the collectibles before finishing a stage never fear. If you are too young you might not get as big a kick out of this game as I do, but it is still a lot of fun. There is a gun that creates a giant people eating plant. What more do you need?
4. Naughty Bear
Looking back over my list so far, it may seem that I use video games to act out certain psychotic tendencies I might have. Naughty Bear only serves to reinforce that impression. The object of the game is to frighten and murder the other stuffed bears who live on the island you inhabit. The more scared you can make them, and the more gruesome your murders, the more points you rack up. You unlock different challenges and abilities by completing the ones currently available. Sometimes you have to accomplish your goals without being hit, or even seen. Sometimes you have a specific target, and sometimes you just have to kill everyone. You can drive bears insane from sheer terror. You unlock costumes as you go that not only make your bear look cooler but give you different abilities to help you complete your missions. There are various weapons and traps you can use. The finishing moves are a lot of fun to discover, as are the different ways to use the environment itself against your victims. My one complaint in this game is the setting never seems to change. I have to admit though that I have never played it all the way through, possibly because I never play it for more than a couple of hours at a time. Don't take this as an indication that the game isn't fun though! It is a great way to kill a couple of hours and indulge your darker side at the same time. All the fun of playing as a serial killer, with lots of cuteness and whimsy thrown in as well.
5. Civilization Revolution
I love turned based strategy games and this is one of my favorites. It is a very quick play. I can usually get through an entire game in under three hours. You choose your civilization. The civilizations to choose from come from different eras and parts of the world. You can be the Egyptians, the Japanese or the Americans for instance. Each civilization starts off with different bonuses. You start off at 4000 B.C. and every turn is at first 100 years. You build armies, learn technologies, create culture and finance. You can go to war with the barbarians that inhabit villages around the map, or with your neighbors. If yo are of a more peaceful bent, you can initiate diplomacy with the other countries instead. You can create settlers and found more cities to spread your influence. As time goes by the turns eat up fewer years. As your technology increases your armies become more advanced. There are four ways to win this game. A military victory means that you have captured the capital of the other 4 civilizations in the game. A cultural victory is when you have achieved a cultural level high enough to build the United Nations. A financial victory can happen if you get enough money to build the World Bank. Or you can get a scientific victory through advancing your technology enough to build a spaceship and send it off to Alpha Centauri. There are a lot of different maps and scenarios you can play through as well. This game has definitely eaten up hundreds of hours of my life, and is one that I almost never get tired of playing.
This is one that I think I will get quite a bit of agreement on, as I know a lot of people who play Skyrim just to run around killing time when they are bored. The fifth game in the Elder Scrolls series, the game is just really nice to look at. It looks beautiful, and there are lots of nooks and crannies to explore. I myself can spend hours either making armor or mixing potions or building up one of the other many abilities you can train in the game. There are a ton of side quests to play if you need more structure but don't have time to get sucked into the main story of the game. It can be a lot of fun just roaming the countryside, enjoying the scenery and looking for random beasts or people to kill. I have dedicated a room in one of my houses to storing up all the treasure and artifacts I have collected in the game, creating my own little version of a dragon's horde. You can assassinate people, rob houses, buy a stake in businesses, there are just so many things to do in this game. For me personally, killing dragons almost never gets old. And every time you boost a skill you inch closer to leveling up, so this is another game where goofing off can help you when you decide to really sit down and invest some time playing through the story. This may sound kind of weird, but I even enjoy decorating my houses (for those few of you who somehow haven't played this games, yes you can buy multiple houses) and dressing up the mannequins with my different suits of armor and clothes I have accumulated. This is a game that seems designed to help you burn away extra hours better than most others.
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7. Injustice: Gods Among Us
Once upon a time fighting games used to be the best. I'll be honest, I still like to dust off Punch Out every now and then. Mortal Kombat 3 was the sole reason I bought a Genesis. But they have gotten kind of old now. The last fighting game I really got into was Mortal Kombat Armageddon. Then Injustice: Gods Among Us came out. It is basically Mortal Kombat but with DC superheroes. But I love DC superheroes, so that is good enough for me. I still enjoy fighting Superman as Batman, it never gets old. Besides the obvious heroes like Supes and Bats and Wonder Woman, there is also a nice selection of lesser known heroes and villains to play. Killer Frost and Solomon Grundy are in the game, with characters like Zatanna and Lobo available as DLC. You can play through the story line, or in battle mode which is a series of fights, or or in S.T.A.R. Labs missions which is a fight where you must meet certain conditions to win and get points. You gain XP with each fight, and each level unlocks bonus content, mostly art you can use to spiffy up your profile on the game. The big special moves are pretty cool to watch. The one complaint I have about the game is that in order to unlock some things you have to play the mobile app version of the game. I don't want to have to play another game to unlock things in this game. The things that are unlocked in this way are just swag and don't affect game play, so it is really no that big of a deal. Overall, this is a fun game that is easy to dip in and out of.
8. Final Fantasy Tactics
The Final Fantasy series is probably my favorite game series of all time. Final Fantasy 7 is in my opinion the best game ever made. Of course a regular Final Fantasy game isn't something you want to play unless you have a great deal of time to invest. However, Final Fantasy Tactics, while still having a complex story line, is set up in such a way that you can easily play it in short bursts. At first you have to play the story line in order to unlock the new places to fight. I have played this one through to completion a few times, and I have a game saved just before the final series of battles. This gives me the whole map to play with. This is a turn based strategy game, where you control your team on a hex based map. Each character has attributes, and a job which gives them special skills. You get XP to level up your character and JP to level up their job skills. You can change their job if you want, and new jobs become available as they train certain skills. I have always wanted to have a character who has mastered every job in the game, but haven't made that happen yet. Once you have unlocked certain jobs, you can also lure certain monsters to join your team. Chocobos can either fight for you or your human characters can ride them. The other monsters all have special skills they can use to fight for you. They level up just like the humans. There is a robot you can find and have join your team who is awesome. The coolest thing in the game though is you can find Cloud from Final Fantasy 7 and have him join your team. You can also find his sword on a different map, and this allows him to use his special attacks. Besides the story line and random encounters with monsters and enemy soldiers, there are side jobs you can send your team on that will earn you money and help them level up, and you can gain special artifacts from them. The story for this game is really good, too. This is one of my favorite games of all time, to be honest. In fact, I was one of the few people who didn't play Ocarina of Time because I was too busy playing this game constantly. Being a PS1 game, this one can be hard to find if you don't already have it.
9. Borderlands 2
I'm usually not that into first-person shooters. Bioshock and Borderlands have been the 2 exceptions to that. Bioshock is of course a time sink that you only want to pick up if you don't need to be anywhere. Borderlands 2 though, is a game that you can safely kill a few hours without worrying that you'll stay up too late and as a result oversleep, causing you to be late for work again so you get fired. This is one of those games that is just so ridiculous that it is amazing. It pokes fun at movies and other games in ways which you really have to pay attention to get (or sometimes not so much). It has like a million different things to unlock, including costumes and abilities upgrades. And your abilities upgrades count towards all your characters. It's a fun game with interesting environments to play in. The game pokes fun at pop culture and has a good sense of humor. It goes a little over the top with violence, but that is part of its sense of humor. If you just have a couple of hours to kill and can't settle into anything, I don't suggest playing the story kine, as it can get addictive. But you can have a good time just roaming around and finding stuff to shoot too.
10. Dead Rising
This is another game I have never played through to the end. In fact I have never even tried. It is more appealing to me to just spend my time killing zombies. Maybe some day I will actually try playing the game the "right" way, but so far I've never felt any need. I have also never been compelled to try the sequels. Maybe they are great, I don't know. I feel this this is the only wander around and bash zombies in the head with stuff you find game I need. The story of the game is that you are a news photographer who gets trapped in a mall during the zombie apocalypse. You are supposed to try to save people or whatever, but I never do that. I wander around and find things to kill zombies with. My favorite so far is going outside and running them down with the lawn mower. It is pretty great. I suppose it's possible that I might unlock new ways to kill them if I actually played through the story. I might find out someday. For now, I still have fun with the game without the need to try to advance or beat it or anything. The game is fun in spite of itself almost.
What Do You Think?
So those are the games that I turn to when I don't have time to settle in for some really serious gaming. I can dip my toes in and get back out without worrying that I might spend longer than I should. So what are your favorite games for killing time? Let me know in the comments.
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.
Edwin B Lowry from PA on October 02, 2016:
A while ago I was hooked on World of Warcraft, but now I usually load up GTA V when I want to kill some time. That game just never gets old!
Gracchus Gruad (author) on August 23, 2016:
I love Sleeping Dogs and considered putting it on the list too.
Ced Yong from Asia on August 23, 2016:
I still play Skyrim to kill time too. Most of the time nowadays, I just wander about, since I've completed almost everything.
Another time killing game of mine is Sleeping Dogs. I just can't get enough of 3D Hong Kong.