My Favorite Computer Games & Apps

I’m not a hardcore gamer, but I do love playing games. These are my favorites. Most of the computer games link to Steam and apps link to Amazon.

Recommendations are very welcome!

 

ACTION

It helps to have a controller (such as Xbox or Steam) to play a lot of action games on the computer, and a wheel to play racing games.

Ages 3+

Catch a Falling Star. A simple game where you catch falling stars in a basket, with meditative music. Totally nonviolent. Playtime: 4-6 hours.

Grow Home and Grow Up. In the first game, you are a little red robot trying to climb a giant beanstalk in a low-gravity environment. In the second game, you use a wider variety of plants to reach the moon. Both games are quite an intense experience for those of us who are afraid of heights. Totally nonviolent. Playtime for both games: 8-17 hours.

Just Dance.

Ages 7+

140.

6180 the Moon.

Audiosurf 2. Drive a tiny spaceship through a psychedelically colored racetrack while listening to music. It’s really a neat game because the racetrack changes according to the music, which creates a very immersive experience. You can see people playing this game to a lot of popular songs on YouTube. Totally nonviolent. Playtime: Infinite.

Bit.trip Beat. Like a rhythm game version of Pong, you repel dots and lines in patterns, and if they get past you you lose points.

Celeste.

Diamo XL.

Duet.

Dyad. Spin through a cylinder in space to collect chains of the right pieces and avoid hitting bad pieces. Not for people who are susceptible to getting motion sick from games.

Fotonica.

Freefall. Fall through abstract, psychedelic colors while trying to avoid hitting any of them. Totally nonviolent.

Galaga. Move your spaceship left and right at the bottom of the screen to shoot the aliens that are coming at you.

Getting Over It and Golfing Over It. In Getting Over It, you are a man sitting in a cauldron, trying to climb a mountain and up into space by swinging a hammer to catch onto things. Many people find this ragequit material. In Golfing Over It, you are trying to shoot a golf ball over a similarly aggravating terrain. Totally nonviolent, except for any violence the player might do to their computer or surroundings.

Gravity Ghost.

HelloRun.

Ink. With a similar idea to The Unfinished Swan, the world around you is black and invisible until you splatter rainbow-colored ink on it, to discover the platforms and obstacles around you. In a lot of levels you must avoid getting hit by a rainbow of paint drops while you are platforming. While the game starts out whimsical and pretty, it ends up being quite hard, by my standards, and trying to get all the collectibles and achievements is brutal. Playtime: 2-8 hours.

Intralism.

Line Rider.

Linea.

Love.

Melody’s Escape. Avoid obstacles that appear in time with whatever music you’re listening to in this side-scrolling rhythm action game. Totally nonviolent.

oO.

Orbt XL.

Race the Sun. Speed a small spaceship around tons of obstacles as you try to get as close to the sun as possible for as long as possible before it sets. Totally nonviolent.

Shatter.

Space Invaders Extreme.

Split Bullet. You are a small white square. Shoot lines to stop other approaching shapes from touching you for as long as possible in this abstract action game.

Super Hexagon.

Trapper’s Delight. In this co-op game, you and your friends lay out a variety of traps, some visible and some hidden, on a board, and then you all try to get across the board without dying.

Void Invaders. Very much like Space Invaders.

Ages 10+

Aaero. In this rhythm action game, you play as a small spaceship navigating through a science fiction setting at speed and in time with the music. You also shoot as some droid ships and boss creatures made out of rock while you’re flying. Playtime: 4-5 hours.

Bastion.

Brigador. Play as a wide variety of different robotic mechs, fighting other robots to try to reclaim a city in top-down combat.

Feist. The aesthetic and basic plotline is very much like Limbo, but in this game, rather than playing as a boy, you are what I can only describe as a “battle tribble” searching through a hostile natural environment for your captured kin. There are some puzzle-type scenarios, but mostly it’s an action platformer game.

Figment. You play as a middle-aged man, accompanied by his catty daughter in the form of a bird, who is exploring a fantastical world within his mind in an attempt to regain his memories and reconcile his past while he is in a coma after a car accident.

Hollow Knight. An extensive, adorably creepy Tim Burton-esque platformer. Has a lot of mapping navigation elements as well, which I enjoy.

N++. In this minimalist physics puzzle platformer, maneuver your stick-figure character through a low-gravity environment, trying to collect the gold pieces while avoiding hitting all the things that will kill you if you touch them. It’s not that hard to pass levels, but if you want to be completionist about it and get all the gold pieces, it’s pretty brutal. You can also play with up to three other people, where you compete against the other player(s) to see who can finish levels the fastest. Playtime: 30-90 hours.

Ultimate Chicken Horse. In this co-op game, you and your friends all design the platforming and obstacles that you will all have to get through. You get points for getting through without dying, and points if one of the contraptions you placed takes out one of the other players.

Ages 13+

Beyond Good and Evil.

Cuphead. With all the nostalgia and nightmare of 1930’s cartoons, you and your brother are two cups who inadvisedly made a deal with the Devil and now must battle your way through various bizarre worlds to find others who have also made a deal with the Devil and tried to reneg on it. This is, at least for me, a very hard platforming game. There’s an option to play with another person, which I think is a lot more fun, and strangely also seems to make it even harder. The game also has the option of beating levels without shooting anything at all, for which you get a Pacifist award, which I love. However, I would recommend looking up a list of bugs, as there are some things that haven’t been fixed and can affect gameplay if you aren’t looking out for them.

Megaton Rainfall. You are a God, fighting alien spacecraft over Earth cities while trying not to kill anyone down below. Things get increasingly interesting the higher the levels go.

The Metronomicon.

Star Wars Battlefront. Though there are some campaigns where you fight humans or sentient creatures, you can choose only campaigns where you fight droids. However, although campaigns are technically nonviolent when fighting droids, this game doesn’t feel nonviolent, so I try to play it more intermittently than habitually. The success of the battles is significantly dependent on strategy as well as fighting skill, which I enjoy.

Trine series.

Adults

Half-Life series. The Half-Life games are more violent than what I usually tolerate, but I love them. It helps that they’re pretty old and the graphics don’t seem very realistic at this point. It also helps that they hit my anarchist buttons in a most gratifying way: you aren’t just saving the world from some baddies, you’re saving the world from a dystopian government. Both Half-Life 1 and 2 involve fighting both aliens and humans, more heavily aliens in Half-Life 1 and more heavily humans in Half-Life 2. There’s also Half Life: Opposing Force and Half Life: Blue Shift, which both take place during the same time period as Half-Life 1. Opposing Force is from the perspective of one of the HECU Marines sent to purge Black Mesa, and Blue Shift is from the perspective of one of the security guards, about his fight for survival during the Black Mesa incident. Most games I play once, I’m pretty completionist about it, and then that’s it, but Half-Life 1 in particular I end up coming back to every couple of years and remembering why I love it all over again. BTW, if you haven’t seen the two Freeman’s Mind series on YouTube, I highly recommend them.
Black Mesa and Half-Life: Source

Little Nightmares. A quite insidiously scary stealth action horror game. Very, very anti-meat, which is disturbing enough as a vegan, but would probably be even more repulsive if you eat animals.

-Apps-

Grow. Move your tablet to swim and eat fish that are smaller than you while avoiding getting eaten by fish that are bigger than you.

Smash Hit.

Wormis. You are a brightly-colored worm. Eat candy and worms (other players) that are smaller than you to grow bigger, while avoiding getting eaten by worms that are bigger than you.

 

ESCAPE ROOM

-Games-

Ages 13+

We Were Here and We Were Here Too. In this co-op game, two people are isolated from each other in a gothic castle, and must communicate clearly about the complicated things they are each seeing and doing in order to get out, even when time is running out for one of you. Unfortunately, it cannot be played by people who are partially colorblind (like my brother), as there is an extensive maze puzzle where both players have to be able to distinguish between apparently identically-valued red and green color markers. Playtime: 1 hour.

 

EXPLORATION

With exploration games, the main thing I look for is that the game is beautiful.

Ages 3+

Abzu. This is easily the most beautiful game I’ve ever played. When I have children this is the first game I want to play with them. Now if only Journey, Flow, and Flower would come out for the computer or tablet.

Aquaria. A magical, extensive side-scrolling underwater exploration game. Has a fair amount of mapping navigation elements as well, which I enjoy.

The Herbalist. In this Russian game with a very pagan feel to it, you are a young woman who collects herbs and makes potions according to her great-grandmother’s grimoire. There are a fair amount of directly-transliterated English words written in the Runic alphabet to read. There is some nudity, but it is in nonsexual contexts, like diving in a lake and being in a sauna. If you have children I recommend previewing it first to see if the nudity is acceptable to you.

Nephise, Nephise Begins, and Nephise: Ascension.

Ages 10+

Aporia. You are the last person from a society where everyone is either dead or in suspension. Explore this beautiful, dark, dreamlike world to try to figure out what happened and why you in particular are the only one left. Can you restore the people who are in suspension back to life – and do you even want to? There are some puzzles, but that’s definitely not the main focus of the game. It’s good if you want an atmospheric exploration game where you can get caught up in another world. And, without spoilering anything, it also has a good family relationship.

Rime. You are a Greek boy washed ashore on an unknown land. You explore the beautiful natural environment, and many ruins, which you can awaken with blue Atlantis-like light by calling and singing. There are objects to collect, a few pretty simple puzzles, and the game has significant platforming elements as well. However, there is also a giant burning eagle you have to fight and some dementor-like shades, which in my opinion makes it too scary for young children.

Sword & Sorcery.

-Apps-

Orrery. A beautiful app that depicts our solar system, with planetarium-like music.

 

MISCELLANEOUS

-Games-

All Ages

Car Mechanic Simulator. Figure out what is wrong with a car, get the right replacement parts, and use the correct tools to fix the problem. I had no interest in cars whatsoever before this game turned them into mechanical puzzles for me. Playtime: 10-25 hours.

Minecraft. With mobs, or when participating in multiplayers where you fight other people, ages 10+. But on Peaceful or Sandbox, when you are collecting materials, building structures, and creating machines to exploit the physics of the game and collect resources faster, this is a wonderful game for all ages with great potential for creativity. There are a lot of books and YouTube channels about building in Minecraft that can provide instruction and inspiration, and even a course that teaches programming based on Minecraft. Playtime: Infinite. Also available as an app.

Pottermore. Play in the Harry Potter universe online.

Ages 10+

Motherload. In this free online game, you are a miner on an outpost planet. Collect enough ore and treasure to make enough money to get to the secret at the center of the planet. Playtime: ~4 hours.

Ages 13+

Don’t Starve. Escape many perils while stranded on an island in this steampunk survival game, all while trying to collect enough food to stay alive. I wish you could also play the older, simpler version of the game where the islands were circular and there were fewer mechanics, but the updated version is certainly jam-packed with plenty of things to keep you on your toes. There is also a co-op option, called Don’t Starve Together. Playtime: 35-165 hours.

Majotori. Answer nerdy trivia questions correctly in order to save your characters and give them happy storylines instead of death and disappointment. You can control the frequency of questions from different categories: movies and TV shows, video games, anime, and “miscellaneous,” which is basic questions on things like mythology and vexillology. Much more fun when playing with another person, in my opinion. Playtime: 2-6 hours.

Quiplash, Fibbage, and You Don’t Know Jack. These are party games where each person submits an answer to a question, and everyone votes on their favorite. The person who gets the most votes by the end of the game wins. In Quiplash you are trying to come up with a clever and funny answer to a question (“What’s the best thing about being thrown into a volcano?” “When Scotty beams you up.”). In Fibbage, you are trying to come up with a plausible lie that sounds like the correct answer to a question (“What was Amerigo Vespucci’s profession?”), while voting on the correct answer yourself (he was a pickle merchant) and not falling for anybody else’s lie. You Don’t Know Jack is a pretty standard trivia game.  All three games can be awesome if playing with awesome people.

-Apps-

9 Elefants.

-Useful Apps-

Graphing Calculator. We all need a graphing calculator.

Norton. This is the security program I use on my computer and tablet.

Note Pad. An easy way to write things down when using your tablet, and lets you make multiple documents. There’s no autosave though, so be sure to hit Save obsessively as you write.

Overdrive. If your library system has Overdrive, thank your lucky stars and get this app.

 

NAVIGATION

These games require extensive navigation using a compass and map. I would say these are my favorite navigation games, except that these are the only navigation games I know of. I love this genre, and I wish there were a lot more games like this.

-Games-

Ages 13+

Firewatch.

Kholat.

Miasmata.

Adults

Alien: Isolation. Set in the universe of the Alien movies and taking place between Alien and Aliens, this horror game is told from the perspective of Ripley’s adult daughter Amanda, who is trying to find out what happened to her mother. There is, naturally, an alien. Requires map-reading and navigating through a labyrinthine space station, and stealth-based strategy. Playtime: 18-32 hours.

 

PUZZLES

-Games-

All Ages

Archaica. An entire game of laser puzzles, in a beautiful Atlantis-like setting. I found it unexpectedly challenging. Playtime: 6 hours.

Armadillo Run. A physics-based puzzle game where you have to build contraptions to get your ball (actually a rolled-up armadillo) to the finish line.

Art of Gravity. In this physics puzzle game, you have to figure out where to drop balls through space in order to knock out all the blocks in a dominoes-like way. Playtime: 2 hours.

Bejeweled 3. Bejeweled is the matching puzzle game that defined all matching puzzle games. This is the most recent version, with tons of options and challenges. Playtime: 4-50 hours.

The Bridge. Gorgeous, challenging M.C. Escher-esque puzzles. Playtime: 4-7 hours. Also comes as an app.

Campfire Cooking. An adorable rotation sokoban puzzle game like Stephen’s Sausage Roll, but with better graphics and things I enjoy cooking more than sausages (marshmallows, fruit, and vegetables). Starts off pretty easy and gets pretty challenging by the end. Playtime: 5 hours.

Cogs. Get puzzle boxes to open and simple machines to operate by manipulating the gears and slider puzzles in this steampunk game. Playtime: 5-14 hours. Also comes as an app.

Cosmic Express. House adorable aliens in little homes by placing railroad tracks in a limited space, all set to planetarium music. As far as what gameplay does to my brain, this is the closest game to The Witness I have ever come across.

EteRNA. Bond RNA pairs to create the desired shapes when the RNA folds. Like Fold It, people who play this game have made some real-life discoveries, with Fold It in medicine, and with this game in genetic engineering. Highly recommended if you like hard puzzle games.

Fold It. An online game where you fold and unfold proteins and figure out how their structures work. It’s really enjoyable if you like hard puzzles, and it’s more than a game – people who play this game have made some directly useful discoveries in science and medicine. Playtime: Infinite.

Galaxy Zoo.

Hexcells, Squarecells, and Crosscells series. Hexcells is like Minesweeper, but on a grid of hexagons to make it harder. Also comes as apps.

Hidden Folks. A delightful, hand-drawn search-and-find with riddles, like Where’s Waldo? or I Spy, but interactive. Playtime: 4 hours.

Hook. This is kind of like a puzzle version of pick-up sticks. You try to remove many lines stacked on top of and entangled around each other in the correct order so that you won’t hit a snag later on. Playtime: 1 hour.

The House of Da Vinci. Kind of like the Room series, this is a whole game of beautiful puzzle boxes. Playtime: 5 hours.

Klocki. Rotate and exchange pieces to get the lines on the pieces to all connect together, like a 3D pipe puzzle. Playtime: 1 hour.

Knights. An entire game of chess puzzles using only the knight piece. Playtime: 4-7 hours.

Kombine. A straight-up puzzle game, combining pieces on a board to get bigger pieces until you win.

Linelight.

LineWay.

The Misadventures of P.B. Winterbottom. This steampunk puzzle platformer is like an entire game of the time shadow levels in Braid and Talos Principle. The main device is using a Victorian-era camera to record yourself, so there can be multiple versions of you accomplishing different tasks in the puzzle simultaneously. Playtime: 4-9 hours.

Miss Clue Jane Austen Mysteries: Peril in Pemberley. Playing as the daughter of Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet, explore Pemberley, its grounds, and the nearby village to solve a mystery by interviewing characters and solving environmental puzzles. Playtime: 4 hours.

Nancy Drew. A wonderful, expansive series of mystery puzzle games, with Beginner and Difficult settings. The most recent games have better graphics than the earlier ones. See a complete list of the games here. Playtime: 5-10 hours per game, and there are 32 games. Two games, one of which isn’t available as a computer game, are also available as apps.

Oik series

PEG

Peggle. The definitive arcade puzzle game. Playtime: 4-40 hours for Peggle, 4-15 hours for Peggle Nights.

Pipe Push Paradise.

Push

Qop series. These are two sliding block puzzle games. Playtime: 1 hour for each game.

Quell series and Quell Zen. Peaceful sliding block puzzle games, where the block is a raindrop. Playtime for first three games: 10-22 hours total. Also come as apps.

Raven’s Progressive Matrices.

Refunct

The Room, The Room 2, and The Room 3 (currently only as an app). Solve gorgeous steampunk puzzle boxes, with some magic mixed in. Playtime for all three games: 11-13 hours total. Also come as apps.

Samorost 2 and Samorost 3. These games are a mixture of logic and insanity. You are a tiny, musically-inclined space alien who goes exploring and discovers many strange, and some beautiful, things. The puzzles themselves are not hard – the real challenge is in figuring out what exactly the puzzles are and what you’re meant to be doing with them, which makes these interesting puzzle games. Playtime: 1 hour for Samorost 2, and 4-6 hours for Samorost 3. Samorost 3 also comes as an app.

Scribble. Draw bridges and scribble over explosives before anyone hits them in order to save your creatures, called blots, in this free online physics puzzle game.

SiNKR

Sparkle Unleashed. A matching puzzle game that’s very much like Zuma.

Stephen’s Sausage Roll.

Swapperoo. Also comes as an app.

Tri: Of Friendship and Madness

WayOut

The Witness. This is the puzzle game to end all puzzle games. Solve difficult IQ-type puzzles in a beautiful world, then expand to ingenious perspective puzzles. There are tons of hidden secrets and additional puzzles for the clever and motivated. I hope another game like this is made in my lifetime. Playtime: 20-50 hours.

World of Goo. Use goo balls to build bridges to rescue the rest of the goo balls in this extensive, eccentric physics puzzle game. Playtime: 6-14 hours. Also comes as an app.

Zen Bound 2. Rotate a figure to wrap it in rope, trying to cover as much of the surface area as possible.

Zenge

Zoombinis. Ah, my childhood. Recognize patterns fast in order to get all of your zoombinis safely through various strange obstacles and to their new homeland. There are multiple difficulty levels, the hardest of which can be a challenge for adults as well. Playtime: 1-3 hours for each of the 4 difficulty levels. Also comes as an app.

Zuma. A classic matching puzzle game.

Zup! series

Ages 10+

Human Resource Machine. Learn programming while trying to be a good factory worker in this darkly humorous game. Playtime: 4-8 hours.

Mushroom 11. In postapocalyptic London, you play as a green fungus that grows when part of it dies. Therefore you move by erasing one end of the fungus and making the other end grow. The game is made up of physics puzzles, which a lot of people find frustrating anyway, and combined with the mechanic for movement a lot of people find this game ragequit material. Personally, I think it’s a cool mechanic, and the physics puzzles are challenging. However, I sure wish it would come out on the tablet, as I think the erasing mechanic would be a lot more suited to using a finger than the mouse. Playtime: 5-7 hours.

Obduction. You find yourself the occupant of a section of Earth that has been transferred onto an alien planet. Travel to other alien planets, figure out what happened, and see if you can get back to Earth. It’s mostly a game of very natural environmental puzzles, like fixing machines, inputting codes to get things to open, and figuring out what you’re meant to be doing next. Playtime: 12-19 hours.

The Talos Principle. This is the most challenging environmental puzzle game I’ve ever played. In a world where humans have gone extinct, an AI must solve puzzles in a simulated environment towards an unknown purpose, guided by past iterations of himself and – God? There are multiple possible endings, only one of which is true success. Playtime: 15-30 hours for the main game, 7-14 hours for Road to Gehenna.

Ages 13+

Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons. Two brothers solve environmental puzzles in this beautiful, heartfelt game. This is an interesting puzzle game because you control two characters at once. Playtime: 3-4 hours. Also comes as an app.

Limbo. A boy must travel through a twilight world and outwit many perils to find his sister in this side-scrolling puzzle game. Playtime: 4-7 hours. Also comes as an app.

Portal and Portal 2. If you haven’t played this stop reading this list and go do that right now! Playtime: 3-9 hours for Portal, 8-20 hours for Portal 2, and 8-11 hours for Portal Stories: Mel, or 20-40 hours for all three games total. I also highly recommend checking out the cornucopia of Portal 2 community-made maps. Cubi is a good place to start.

The Sexy Brutale.

The Turing Test. A human, guided by an AI, attempts to break through the barriers (environmental puzzles) set up by a crew on a space mission to Europa that has cut off all contact with the outside world. But are you the human or the AI – and are you the hero or the villain? It’s an interesting puzzle game in that it requires changes in perspective, between the human and the AI’s cameras, to solve many of the puzzles. Playtime: 6 hours.

Adults

Vanish. This is a very challenging maze puzzle in a horror setting. The map auto-generates each time, so you have to really solve it and not just memorize the layout. It’s free online.

-Apps-

4096 and 2048 Fibonacci. Combine numbers in a limited space until they add up to 4096. The difficulty is in keeping everything organized and doing effective damage control if you make a mistake. The second game, rather than doubling numbers, involves combining Fibonacci numbers, which requires somewhat of a different strategy.

Acrostics Crossword Puzzles. Exactly what it says on the tin.

BeeCells. An unusual territorial puzzle game in a grid of hexagons.

Blendoku. Sort colors by shade. Quite a beautiful simple game.

Candy Crush Jelly. This game makes it so that it’s virtually impossible to complete the level without spending money for more moves, which is fantastic if you’re looking for a challenging puzzle game. I love that it’s set up so that people who are inclined to cheat like that have to literally pay for it. I’m in the 400s levels and haven’t spent a single cent, so it can be done.

Classic Logic Problems, Logic Puzzles for Education, and Logic Puzzles. The first is a free sampler of logic puzzles. The second is simple logic puzzles that teach you how to do them. The third is a very nice collection of logic puzzles, with possible add-on packs, including ones with harder puzzles.

CrossMe Nonograms and CrossMe Color Nonograms. Large nonograms. It helps to have a stylus for these, as the boxes are tiny.

Cryptograms. Simple 1:1 letter equivalent codes, that spell out quotes by famous people.

Dominoes. Tons of different types of dominoes games, most of which are not hard.

Farm Heroes. This game works in a similar way as the Candy Crush games, but with cute vegetables.

Feed the Cat. Feed doughnuts to kittens in the most adorable sliding block puzzle ever.

FlipPix. Nonograms, hexagon puzzles (atsumari), and jigsaw puzzles, all with a picture revealed when you complete the puzzle.

Flow Electric. Rotate each piece of the puzzle until all of the lines connect to each other in a closed circuit. Lots of levels and progresses nicely from easy to hard.

FreeCellPlus. This is FreeCell, a type of solitary.

Furiosity. Change the color of all the squares by clicking on them. The tricky part is that when some of the squares are clicked on, they reverse the colors of other squares as well, so you have to get a system going.

Griddlers Plus. Huge nonograms with teeny tiny boxes. I definitely recommend using a stylus.

Guess the Code, Code Breaker, and Mastermind. These are all the game Mastermind. The first two have Easy, Medium, and Hard levels. Guess the Code has nicer graphics, but Code Breaker is better for younger children because the Easy level starts you off with fewer colors. The third app is good if you want a really hard game, because it lets you play with up to 8 pegs rather than the usual 5.

The Hearts. A simple, pleasant matching puzzle game.

Hidden Garden. A large collection of beautiful search-and-find puzzles with nice music. To make them harder, turn down the brightness on the tablet.

Logic Puzzle Games Pack. Very simple graphics, but an appealing collection of 32 different types of puzzles. There are no instructions, so if you aren’t familiar with a type of puzzle you either need to logic your way into it or look up how to play it.

Mensa IQ Test. A good casual fluid IQ test for adults, and a challenging puzzle game for children. Put your tablet on Airplane Mode before starting to block ads.

Mind Games Pro. Brain-training games.

Minesweeper

Puzzle Gallery and Magic Jigsaw Puzzles. Nice collections of jigsaw puzzles.

Scrabble

Sudoku: A Game of Patterns. This is a very hard version of sudoku.

Sudoku Quest. I have yet to find an app of sudoku I really like – but at least here the numbers are color-coded. The puzzles are not hard, but they’re set on a timer to make it more challenging.

Tetris and Tetris Blitz

Trionix. This is very much like the Japanese game go, in a science fiction setting.

Triplex. Very hard spatial reasoning puzzles. I often have to sleep on it in order to solve levels, which makes it slow going but gratifying.

Where’s My Water? and Where’s My Water? 2. Transfer water between broken pipes in order to let your adorably frustrated crocodile take a bath.

Word Hunt. Enjoyable word searches with nice graphics, tons of themes, and Easy, Medium, and Hard levels. Each game is also timed so you can beat your times for each level of each theme.

Word Puzzle for the Holiday Soul. Vertically unscramble letters to get nice quotes about Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s. The game does a good job of starting the puzzles off pretty easy and getting incrementally more difficult.

 

STRATEGY

-Games-

All Ages

ChessCube. My favorite online forum for playing chess. After playing a couple of games you receive a standard chess ranking number, and games are matched automatically with people who are ranked similarly to you. Your ranking goes up or down depending on whom you win or lose to. Online chess is great (and ego-shattering) if you don’t have anyone in real life who can beat you at chess. It’s also an easy way to find out what your chess ranking number is.

Children of the Nile. It gives me so much pleasure that this is available on Steam now. This is a civilization builder set in Ancient Egypt, requiring good strategizing and organization to make your city a success. There are challenges that can be completed, or you can work open-ended on building your ideal city. There are options for building a military and going to war, but nothing graphic. Playtime: 150 hours to complete all the challenges on both games.

Dig Dug. Dig paths underground to take out underground enemies before they take you out.

Inversus. Like a real-time version of the board game Othello, you play as either black or white, trying to turn the whole board to your color, while your opponent tries to turn the whole board to their color. You can play against the computer, or play online against other people.

Lines. Place color dots on line figures so that, when the colors spread out, the figure will be covered with more of your color than with the other colors already on the board.

Pac-Man. Eat the dots, avoid getting eaten by ghosts, and decide when to eat cherries to turn the tables and eat the ghosts yourself. Also comes as apps: Pacman and Pacman Arcade.

SimCity 4

Town of Salem. This is the parlor game Werewolf/Mafia made into an online computer game.

Ages 10+

FTL: Faster Than Light. An engaging strategy game set in space. You fight a combination of drones and manned spacecraft in this game. However, the graphics are so retro the fighting seems pretty abstract to me, more like playing Battleship than fighting people. Playtime: 10-125 hours.

Ages 13+

Crusader Kings

Europa Universalis

Kingdom Rush and Kingdom Rush Frontiers. Stop fantasy creatures, like trolls, giant spiders, and yetis from entering your kingdom in this tower defense strategy game. The art style is very non-realistic and even kind of cute, despite the occasional skeleton army or hoard of the undead, but it is definitely still a violent game. I love it to bits, though. Also come as apps.

Rise of Nations

Rome: Total War

Transistor. Fight robots as you battle your way through a brightly colored city with dystopian undercurrents in this cyberpunk game. It’s an unusual strategy game in that you fight by pausing the game and planning out your moves in advance, then seeing how it turns out. You’re weakened after each round, so it can be bad news if you leave loose ends in your plan.

-Apps-

Hexario. Trace a line around a field of hexagons to capture as much territory as possible. You can eliminate other players by running into their line, but they can do the same to you. There are a fixed number of players in each round (I’m guessing about 50), and you win by taking out all the other players on the board.

Stratego

 

TIME MANAGEMENT

Time management, a genre which is fun if you think stress is entertaining…

Actually, I highly recommend time management games, because once things get complicated it feels rather like N-backing – you have to keep a lot of different things present in your mind at once and stay mentally organized and on the ball. Except it’s a lot more fun than N-backing.

-Games-

All Ages

Cook, Serve, Delicious! series. The first game also comes as an app.

Overcooked. This is an obstacle-laden time management cooking game that works best when playing with other people (up to four players total), which also makes it a teamwork challenge. Playtime: 6-15 hours.

Ages 13+

911 Operator. Take calls, collect information, and send police, ambulances, and fire trucks to emergency locations. In some cases you also have to provide accurate first aid or safety information to the caller about how to handle the situation until help arrives. The game lets you play in pretty much any city in the world, with a real map and locations. You can slow the game down or speed it up to make it less or more difficult.

-Apps-

Kitchen Scramble. Operate a food truck and cook everything your customers order before they get mad at you for making them wait. A lot of time management games eventually manipulate it so that you can’t make enough points to pass levels without spending money, but this game hasn’t done that so far.

Memory Dual N-Back and NBack Free. N-backing is really hard, but is supposed to be really good for your brain. The way it works is you see a random sequence of numbers, and hit a button every time you see a number that’s the same as the number x-back. So if I were playing 2-back and got the number sequence 1-9-4-9, I would hit the button for the second 9, because there was also a 9 two numbers back. But I wouldn’t hit the button for the 4 because there was a 1 two numbers back, not a 4. It’s hard because you have to be remembering the numbers you just saw at the same time as you’re memorizing the numbers you’re currently seeing. Apparently people can play as much as 15-back. To make it even harder you can also have a simultaneous sound sequence that you have to keep track of in the same way that you’re keeping track of the number sequence, but only the brave mess with that.

Supermarket Mania Journey.

 

YOUNG CHILDREN

While there are many other games on this list that I think are suitable for children, this section is for games specifically designed for young children. I think these games are ideally suited for children 3-7 years old.

-Games-

Humongous Entertainment Collection. Simple mystery and exploration games in zany environments, with basic problem-solving. My favorites are Spy Fox in Dry Cereal, Spy Fox: Some Assembly Required, Putt-Putt Saves the Zoo, Putt-Putt Travels Through Time, Freddi Fish: The Case of the Haunted Schoolhouse, and the Buzzy the Knowledge Bug games. Playtime: each game takes about 2 hours to complete, and there are 35 games in the collection. Though children can spend noticeably longer on each game – my brother and I spent many weeks playing all the different plotlines in the Spy Fox games. Many are also available as apps.

-Apps-

Arthur’s Birthday. In this game from the Living Books series, Arthur and his friend Muffy are having their birthday parties on the same day. What will their friends do to resolve the conflict?

Arthur’s Teacher Trouble. In this game from the Living Books series, Arthur is scared of his new teacher, Mr. Ratburn, and having trouble preparing for the school spelling bee. What will he do?

The Berenstain Bears’ Big Bedtime Book. Brother and Sister Bear get six fairy tales read to them.

The Berenstain Bears’ Christmas Tree. The Berenstain Bears go on an adventure looking for the perfect Christmas tree, encountering a number of animals on their journey.

The Berenstain Bears Collection. Many Berenstain Bear stories made into games. Includes Bedtime Battle, The Big Spelling Bee, Go on a Ghost Walk, Hug and Make Up, Really Big Pet Show, and The Trouble with Chores.

The Berenstain Bears Do Their Best. The Berenstain Bears enter a kite-flying contest and face derision from other contestants for their homemade kite. Will they be able to ignore the discouragement and do their best in the competition?

The Berenstain Bears Faithful Friends. Sister Bear makes a new friend, but finds that her best friend is jealous of her new relationship. What will she do?

The Berenstain Bears Get in a Fight. In this game from the Living Books series, Brother and Sister Bear are in bad moods and mad at each other. How will they be able to make up?

The Berenstain Bears Give Thanks. The Berenstain Bears celebrate Thanksgiving and put on a play of the first American Thanksgiving.

The Berenstain Bears in the Dark. In this game from the Living Books series, Sister Bear becomes scared of the dark, but learns to govern her fearful imagination.

The Berenstain Bears Sick Days. Sister Bear is sick and needs Mama Bear to take care of her.

Duck Duck Moose Reading. A reading game which revolves mostly around feeding letters to animals, that teaches letter and sound recognition. Quite challenging for young children, as the letters are moving and go by pretty fast.

Go Fast Cooking Sandwiches. A great first time management game.

Harry and the Haunted House. In this game from the Living Books series, Harry and his friends explore a haunted house in search of their lost baseball. When I was a child I found this game so scary I could barely play it (though as an adult I don’t see what I found so scary about it), so it might be advisable to play with your child.

Itsy Bitsy Spider. Direct a spider up the water spout and then back down again. There are many little things to explore, like a mouse that comes out of a flower pot, eggs that have different musical tones, and a caterpillar that hatches into a butterfly.

Little Monster at School. In this game from the Living Books series, go through the school day with Mercer Mayer’s Little Monster. He does many activities, and turns a conflict with another boy into a friendship.

Ruff’s Bone. In this game from the Living Books series, a dog named Ruff goes on a fantastical adventure to try to find his bone.

Sago Mini series. There are a bunch of these little games, where you do various simple activities like ring a doorbell, feed a character a cookie, and direct where a bird flies.

The Tortoise and the Hare. This is my favorite of the old Living Books computer games that have been made into apps. Wonderful for young children. Hopefully Stellaluna and Sheila Rae the Brave will be made into apps as well.

 

 

 

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