Question Weekend Question: What's your favorite 'casual' game?

PCG Jody

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Dec 9, 2019
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I ask the PCG staff a regular Weekend Question and post the answers on the site. If you'd like to throw in an answer here, I'll squeeze the best into the finished article!

This week the question is: What's your favorite 'casual' game?

Nobody agrees on what defines a 'casual' game of course, but if you really want to get into the weeds here's your starting point. It should ideally be something you can pick up and play, which is perfect for short sessions but also has no stopping point so you can play every day forever. It doesn't have to be easy—just easy to get into. Match-3 puzzle games like Bejeweled are casual games, but so are Solitaire and Tetris. Basically everything PopCap published, but also Hidden Folks and Mini Metro and Forager.

What's your fave?
I had to think about this for a while, as I think most games I play don't count as casual and the casual games I have tried I didn't really care for. However, there is one casual game that I played for quite a while and which I can see myself returning to: Hex Frvr. I got pretty good at it too.
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I had to think about this for a while, as I think most games I play don't count as casual and the casual games I have tried I didn't really care for. However, there is one casual game that I played for quite a while and which I can see myself returning to: Hex Frvr. I got pretty good at it too.
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I have some Mahjong games, and my grey matter is now more FreeCell than brain cell. But my go-to casual 'games are usually AAA games played in a casual (disposable) way.

e.g. Civilization. Civ 5 for me. Matches can be mammoth, but my favourite part is usually the early exploration - revealing a new and mysterious new world, tearing open goody huts like a kid on Christmas morning, finding that natural wonder as Isabella. But only for the first ~50 turns - i.e before the AI double-declares and the slicefest begins.

Rolling Civ maps is like giving yourself calorie-free kinder surprise.

Skyrim with Live Another Life is also a great candidate. Same deal. Roll a start, see where the winds take you. If you treat your toon as disposable, you can just enjoy the free roam with no hassles, no pressure, and no need to continue the game beyond that session.
Two candidates for favorite casual games to play in-between games are and Town of Salem. They are super useful distractions after I've just finished a lengthy grand strategy campaign or a long stint in an open world RPG, and nice little diversions. is great for that drop-in/drop-out ultra-easy to pick up and put down when you're at the end of a long, exhausting day and just want a few little shots of endorphin in the thinking meats before bed. A few well-placed attacks, a nice coasting time to gobble up little pellets until you're of decent size, and a definitive end. It's classic survival PvP boiled down to the most basic state. It's what I play if I'm short on time but want a few minutes of pleasurably agonizing frustration and glee.

Town of Salem is a more deliberate effort for stretching the strategic and manipulation muscles, since it requires either deduction or deception depending on the random role you're saddled with as townspeople trying to figure out who the bad guys are. I've taken immense joy to running out the clock in the role of Serial Killer, leaving murderer's notes in full Zalgo text:

T̷̟͔̑̈́h̴̻̗̬̿̑̔ỉ̶͕̖̕̕ṣ̷̅̌ ̸̧͉̓͠ţ̸͔͘ȏ̵̳̼w̵͓͌̈́ṉ̵͠ ̷̰̿m̸̢͐̇͗u̷͍͓̇s̵̼̑̀t̴̺̟̾̏̀ ̸̻̙̦̿̾b̵̥̃̕ë̴̍͝ͅ ̴̛̯͖̈́̈p̷̲̋͆̕͜ú̶̻͍̑ͅr̷̢͉̪͗ĭ̵̡̘̘̀f̴͉͍̒̎̕į̸̺͂ͅę̵̞̮̃͝d̸̳̰͊,̵͓́͘ ̶̗̫̎a̵̝̜͜͠n̶̢̜̐͝d̶̤̔͆͌ ̵̘̮̅Ḯ̵̪ ̴̨͘a̵̜̅̀m̴̲̒ ̷̠̲̑̚ț̷͇̆ĥ̴̩e̶͙͊̇͊ ̸͓̳̇͌̒c̷̘̖͛̋ͅl̴͇̓́e̴̩̭̒̀̈͜ȁ̵̰̼̂̈n̶͎̖̦̓͂s̴̛͙͔ḭ̷̗̑̆͆n̸̙̗͈̄g̷̣̱̭̓̔̓.̴̯̹̍

Or ending up in the role of Witch and giving a run-through of the Hocus Pocus "I put a spell on you." lines right before being burnt at the stake.

Ah say ento pi alpha mabi upendi! In comma coriyama! Ay, ay, aye, aye say bye-byyyyyye! Bye bye!

It's just good solid fun and games last 15 minutes or so. The mechanics are wonky to learn, but once you've got them, it's stupid fun.

Lately when I'm winding down at the end of a play session I'll do some fishing in WoW Classic while listening to a podcast. It's not really the same as playing a casual game but I've come to realise I don't enjoy those. I don't like phone games, clicker games, idle games, etc. If I'm gaming I mostly just go all in and look for a proper, 'hardcore' experience.

The closest I've come to playing a casual game this year is Animal Crossing: New Horizons, but there's really nothing casual about it. The fanbase is rabid and people go out of their way to optimise their play sessions. For me, I was done after I had unlocked the last upgrade. I don't care about customising my island, clothes, house or furniture and I don't care about collecting all the wildlife. It was fun for a while but had the pandemic not happened, I never would have bought a game like that.
Jan 17, 2020
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Definitely Slay the Spire. Although I tend to get pulled in and end up playing to the end of a run. Have turned to it in lockdown like an old friend. Haven't always got the headspace for complicated rules/ personality building or fighting. The way the difficulty ramps up gently ensures you always get a challenge, to fully occupy your brain. The daily challenges are often quite bonkers, forcing you to develop new strategies and re evaluate cards when you think you've already exhausted every option. The closest thing I know to pulling the duvet over your head and hoping nobody wakes you up until it's all over.
I used to really enjoy PC pinball games. There was one emulator in particular that I used to love, but I lost it on a bad SSD drive several years back, and haven't managed to track it down again since. (Maybe it got a cease and desist since 80% of its machines were trademarks of other companies? *shrug*) Anyway, I've tried Pinball FX, and it's okay, but for some reason it doesn't draw me in as much. My favorite was probably Epic Pinball, decades before Epic became hated by so many.
Aug 5, 2020
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quite possibly rainbow six Siege.

i know its got a fairly toxic community at times, and the learning curve is steep, but that doesnt really matter when im a casual only player (rank 100 and still never played a match of ranked.)

its not hard to get into either, just find a map and pick your favourite meme strat.

or, warframe. the grind is so long you could be going for months at a time then realize omg ive only farmed out 2 frames what am i doing
I have 2 fav casual games—that's acc to the industry definition of 'casual games'.

1. The Royal Envoy 4-game series, one of very few casuals where I recommend getting the Collector's Edition—each one has ~30 extra levels. It's a town builder & resource management game.

2. The original Plants v Zombies is the best value casual I've played. Good humor, good fun, good game.

Non-casual games I like to play casually are:
Civ4, the first 1/3-1/2, then re-roll.
Far Cry Primal, it's a beautiful world to just wander around looking for trouble—and riding the sabretooth has its moments too.
Aug 24, 2020
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Definitely the Sims 4. my whole family has fun sitting on the couch and watching our little sim family screw up almost everything in their hilarious little lives.

it may not be quite as "casual" but I also really enjoy 20XX . It's "that game" whenever I have only a short burst of time to game, it's perfect for work breaks for example.


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