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25 best video games to help you socialise while self-isolating

Guardian Technology 17 Mar 2020 07:00
Constructive … worldwide favourite Minecraft lets groups of eight play together. Photograph: Microsoft

In this time of quarantine and isolation, we all need to keep up both our social interactions and our spirits. Playing video games with friends online is the perfect solution. You don’t have to be good at them, that’s not the point – online games provide a location to meet up, chat and have experiences together that may or may not involve blowing stuff up.

Here is a range of titles that can be learned and enjoyed by both complete beginners and veteran gamers. Whether you have an old laptop or the latest smartphone, there’s something here you can play with pals even if they’re far away.

Console games – Keith Stuart

The Xbox One and PlayStation 4 are excellent machines for playing with and against remote friends. They’re easy to set up online (you’ll need to pay a fee of around £45 a year for access) and they both have very intuitive “Party Chat” functions which let you talk to your friends via a gaming headset while playing – in fact you can chat between games too, or even while watching Netflix on your console. Things are a bit more complicated on Nintendo Switch which requires you to download a mobile phone app in order to chat with friends, but even then only a minority of games support the feature. So all our recommendations are primarily based on Xbox and PlayStation.

Friday 13th
(Nintendo Switch, PC, PS4, Xbox One)
Star in your own slasher movie with up to seven friends, as teens desperately try to escape the murderous clutches of Jason Voorhees. One player is randomly selected for each round to play the killer, then everyone else has to work together to escape the camp. There are numerous weapons and items to discover and side missions to fulfil, and it all adds up to a tense, exciting experience. Dead By Daylight offers a similar experience with a wider range of monstrous homicidal enemies.

Golf Clash
(iOS/Android)
Armchair golfers who like to play with friends are well-served on mobile: see also Super Stickman Golf 3 and Golf Battle. What I like about Golf Clash is partly the rapid-fire matches: if you come up against someone much better than you, the pain is over fairly quickly. But I also like the sense it gives you of a big community of players out there, including your Facebook friends.

Clash Royale
(iOS/Android)
Now four years old, this is one of the games I’ve tended to play heavily for a while, then drop out of for a year before firing it up again, and spending a week getting royally duffed up while I get to grips with all the new features. I’m firing it up again now, though, because Clash Royale’s blend of card-collecting/deck-building and strategic battles remains magic. But also because its clans system, where you can band together with friends for friendly matches and card-swapping, is one of the better mobile-game recreations of real-world networks.

Sociable Soccer
(iOS)
You can guess a football-loving gamer’s age by whether they go misty-eyed at the mention of Sensible Soccer. Some of the team behind that series are back together for Sociable Soccer, an Apple Arcade exclusive. It’s more than just an homage to Sensi’s wonderful pinball-esque gameplay either: there’s an inventive card-based team-building system and a meaty 60-hour campaign mode to keep anyone busy. Plus there’s a new online multiplayer option, which right now is teaching me just how far my standards have slipped since my glory days of Sensible Soccer.

Kahoot!
(iOS/Android)
This isn’t a traditional game: it’s a website (and apps) for playing, creating and sharing multiple-choice trivia quizzes about… well, about pretty much any topic you can think of. Designed to be used by schools as well as by parents and children at home, there are subscription options but you can do a lot with it for free. In my house we’ve been casting a quizmaster’s phone to the TV screen and getting everyone to play on their phones, which works really well. Plus – not to tempt fate – it could be a genuinely useful tool for parents if and when schools in the UK close, and we’re all scrabbling around for good home-learning tools.

Tick Tock: A Tale for Two
Windows/Mac (Steam/itch.io)
To make the best of a bad situation, try a game that is better when you’re not in the same place. In Tick Tock: A Tale for Two, you and the other player see different versions of the game’s mystical world and must communicate effectively to solve the puzzles.

Worms W.M.D.
Windows/Mac (Steam)
For a bit of nostalgia, Worms W.M.D. is a more modern-looking interpretation of the classic turn-based battle between teams of worms, wacky weaponry included, from bazookas to blow torches to banana bombs. And with its cartoon violence, it won’t matter if your kids glance over at your screen.

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