Some industry bigwig once said that single player games were outright dead, and that online multiplayer games would be the future of gaming.
Well, yes and no. Are online multiplayer games huge? Absolutely.
But on the other side of things, are single player games dead? Not in the least.
Even AAA studios still seem to recognize the value of a strong single player experience, and we’ve continued to get plenty of them in the form of Zelda, Horizon, and the From Software series of soulslikes.
Over in indie land, single player experiences completely dominate the space.
We have hand-selected a small number of ‘cool’ single player games: pc games, that is.
Our interpretation of the word ‘cool’ here involved us looking for games that are a bit less well-known than the more obvious answers.
And as for whether you’ve heard of these games before, yeah, there are probably at least a few that you’ll recognize, but we wanted to highlight the fact that these are not usually the games brought up in online conversations about the biggest and best single player gaming experiences out there today.
We’re not going to be talking about Red Dead Redemption 2 or Bioshock or Breath of the Wild or The Last of Us Part 18: The One Where Everyone is Still Angry and Sad and That’s Artful, Apparently.
[Also, check out our list of great free single player games on Steam.]
Ok, if you’ve been into video games for more than 10 years at this point, then you’ve probably at least heard of Braid at some point.
Braid is definitely one of the earliest bona fide indie games to catch on with a massive mainstream audience, and that’s gaming mainstream, not mainstream RE dominant culture.
This game was also a pioneering entry in the subgenre of indie puzzle platformers that feature a lead character with a big head in a slightly spooky world.
You can get this game for cheap on Steam nowadays, especially when it happens to go on sale.
Just keep in mind that some of these puzzles are tough, and if you don’t fancy yourself the video game puzzle-solving type, you’re probably going to be spending a lot of time looking at walkthroughs that struggle to explain complex character movements and time manipulation.
From the developers of a fascinating virtual “toy” called Townscaper, Dorfromantik is technically a city-builder, but that doesn’t do it much justice.
City builders usually ask the player to, well, build a city in a way that makes sense and to fend off many of the problems inherent to large cities, like traffic, zoning, revenue, and natural disasters.
Heck, Sim City was working on that premise 30 years ago.
But Dorfromantik is more of a puzzle game, and even that description feels like it falls flat.
You have a bunch of six-sided tiles, and you have to place them next to existing tiles.
Each tile has its own set of components, such as houses, rivers, trees, etc. Generally, it’s good to combine the same components into larger groups.
Suddenly, you might have a large forest, or a beautiful town.
Then, there are quest tiles that require a certain arrangement of elements.
It’s inexpensive, addicting, and wholesome.
From the team behind Sludge Life, High Hell is an arcade FPS (first-person shooter) that just oozes style and speed.
These levels move fast, and they demand some pretty spot-on reflexes from the player.
It’s not the most difficult game in the world, but there’s plenty of challenge to go around, especially on the first run.
This pixel-art roguelike is heavily reminiscent of the long-lived and dearly beloved adventure game Terraria.
But here, the goal is to make it as far as you can without dying, hopefully collecting health and new weapons/abilities along the way.
Noita was a collaboration between several established indie developers, and it has a lot to offer in terms of discovery and replayability.
Super Flight is a small game, both in terms of gameplay scope and price point. Full price is about $3 US, and the premise is very simple: fly around and get points by getting close to stuff without crashing into it.
That’s really about it. You’ll get a sense of the controls quickly, but it actually takes a lot longer to get a feel for the way that wind and air current push you around, especially when flying close to objects.
The character model is a collection of rectangular prisms, and there’s variation in the color palette of the environments, but the core of the game stays the same.
It’s also definitely a single player experience, with the biggest challenge being to overcome your previous high score.
This game isn’t actually out yet, but the free demo (Unbeatable [white label] is, so we’ll let it slide into the list here. Also, it’s just impeccably fun.
Unbeatable is an anime-inspired rhythm game about a world where music is illegal.
We don’t know much of the story so far, especially since the demo only gives us small hints of character development and plot.
But the gameplay is all about rhythm action.
You have two button commands: any of the face buttons for up and any of the d-pad directions for down.
But the game’s prompts make use of some varied button combos that will keep you on your toes, particularly when you venture past the Normal, Easy, and Beginner difficulties.
We can’t say enough about what an exciting demo this is, and if you’re already a fan of rhythm games, go get it right now.
Environmental Station Alpha
This teeny tiny metroidvania is shockingly deep compared to its visual style.
Environmental Station Alpha, or ESA, looks adorable, but the gameplay can be uniquely challenging.
Also, this dev went on to work on Noita, so our list has a bit of fun interconnectivity.
The indie game landscape is chock full of pixel-art metroidvanias, but this is still one to put on your wishlist, or buy, if you can spare the $10 or so.
Disco Elysium is another entry on this list that’s fairly famous. It made a big ol’ splash the year of its release.
And boy howdy is this a hefty single player experience. If you’re into great storytelling and player agency, Disco Elysium has got you covered about a hundred times over.
It doesn’t go on sale very often, and it still hasn’t made its way to Switch, but if you’re looking for great narrative PC games for a lone player, this one is it.
Just play it. Stop lingering on this page, even though it’s good for our analytics.