Video games offer a wide range of genres and gameplay styles, and there’s probably a game out there for everyone. But despite the variety of experiences, jumping into console or PC gaming can be daunting, especially if you didn’t grow up playing games. Luckily, there are plenty of great video games out there for first-time players — and no, we don’t mean casual “party” games like Mario Party or Jackbox, phone games, or ubiquitous classics like Pac-Man and Tetris. I’m talking about the kind of big-budget console and PC games you see advertised on TV and in stores.
To help the curious would-be gamers out there, we put together this list of 10 great games for new players. We chose games that are available on modern consoles like the Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, and PC. We also made sure to select games adults can play without feeling like they’re indulging in a “kid’s” hobby — although there are family-friendly choices here, as well.
Obvious picks like Mario Kart 8 and Animal Crossing: New Horizons were also left off our list. They’re good games that anyone can play, but everyone suggests those, so we’re not going to waste time on them.
That said, almost every game on this list has difficulty modes or accessibility settings that make the games easier to play (without feeling like you’re being pandered to), or are inherently easier to learn than most “hardcore” video games. Of course, there are way more games suitable for newbies than what we cover here. If you have a suggestion, drop it in a comment below — especially if you’ve recently gotten into games yourself.
Dragon Quest XI S: Definitive Edition
Japanese Role Playing Games (JRPGs) can seem daunting to newcomers, but Dragon Quest XI is gentle enough for first-time players, yet deep enough to satisfy hardcore fans. Everything about the game presentation — its story, characters, voice acting, art, and music — is charming and never falls into “tropey” anime caricatures. In fact, the game starts out as a rather rote high-fantasy adventure but turns into a tale of hope in the face of loss and failure that will appeal to more mature players.
Dragon Quest XI is a long game, but it’s designed so players can take things at their own pace. You’re never penalised for taking things slow. The game smartly provides a “previously on” recap segment every time you boot up your save to remind you of the story thus far. If you’re not sure what to do next, chat with your party members or seek out one of the clearly-marked NPCs (non-player character) in town for a hint. As for the gameplay, every system and menu is clearly explained in the tutorial menu, and the turn-based battles let players take as much time as they want between actions.
Available on: Nintendo Switch, PC (via Steam, Epic Games Store, or Microsoft Store), PlayStation 4 (and PlayStation 5), Xbox One (and Xbox Series X/S).
Yes, the name of this game is “Hitman,” and yes it’s a stealth-action game about assassinating people, but there’s more going on here than mindless violence.
Each mission in Hitman 3 (which also includes all of the content from the two previous games in the trilogy), is a clockwork puzzle filled with patrolling guards, innocent bystanders, and tons of helpful tools like disguises, alternative weapons, and plenty of opportunities for causing distractions. Players are free to choose how and when they make their kills: Pose as a chef and sneak into a restaurant’s kitchen to poison the target’s food, sabotage some furniture to make it look like an accident, or meticulously climb up to the rooftop of a building and snipe them from afar. You’ll have to think on your feet to dodge guards, alarm systems, and other traps, and ultimately make your escape.
While Hitman 3’s default gameplay settings let the player plan on their own, there are numerous difficulty and accessibility settings that can make the game easier, including the option to highlight exactly where your target is at all times, and you can turn on hints that highlight important objects or events.
Available on: Google Stadia, Nintendo Switch (via cloud streaming), PC (via Epic Games Store) PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S
The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD
The Legend of Zelda is a beloved action-adventure franchise that started all the way back in 1986, but of all the many games in the series, Skyward Sword is by far the easiest for new players thanks to its intuitive motion controls, a bevy of tutorials, and Fi: an ever-present guide that tells you where you need to go next. It’s a much more linear game compared to other Zelda titles, emphasising puzzles and dungeons over exploring the wilderness (especially compared to its direct follow-up, Breath of the Wild). Also, Skyward Sword’s storyline is a prequel and technically the starting point of the series’ overall continuity, so you won’t be missing anything if this is your first Zelda.
Skyward Sword originally released on the Nintendo Wii in 2011, but an enhanced port, Skyward Sword HD, launches on July 16 for the Nintendo Switch. This new version includes a new button-based control scheme, streamlines some aspects players found annoying about the original (such as Fi’s constant interruptions), and upgrades the visuals.
Available on: Nintendo Switch (original version also available on Wii and Wii U)
The Last of Us Remastered and The Last of Us Part 2
The Last of Us Remastered and The Last of Us Part 2 are award-winning action games set in a post-apocalyptic world where a strange fungus turned most of the human population into ravenous zombie-like creatures. Players take on the roles of Joel — a middle-aged man who lost his family during the crisis — and Ellie — an orphaned teen (and later adult) who is mysteriously immune to the fungus — throughout both games.
Players must sneak and fight through numerous environments as they travel across the ruined United States. However, unlike many modern games, neither one sets you loose into large areas with no guidance; every moment is expertly crafted so you know exactly where you have to go and why. And at times both games feel more like films than video games, thanks to the impeccable voice-over and motion-capture performances. The games also include scalable difficulty options, and The Last of Us Part 2’s many accessibility settings let players fine-tune the experience to be as easy (or as difficult) as they want.
The accessibility options make these games easier to play than most contemporary action games, and the cinematic presentation will feel familiar to anyone who enjoys movies or TV. That said, these games aren’t for everyone. The subject matter is grim. Like all good zombie (or in this case, clicker) fiction, the real conflict is how the survivors make do in such a hopeless world, and The Last of Us doesn’t pull any punches — nor does it pull the camera away during violent scenes. If you’re at all squeamish or dislike bleak stories, steer clear of these for now (and maybe try the Naughty Dog’s Uncharted series instead).
The Last of Us Remastered available on: PS3, PS4, and PS5
The Last of Us Part 2 available on: PS4, PS5
Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle
This game may feature Ubisoft’s Mario characters and Ubisoft’s Rabbids, but you won’t be timing your jumps or competing in minigame challenges. Instead, Mario + Rabbids is a turn-based strategy game where you move your small squad of characters across a map, engaging in tactical combat against enemies, and completing objectives.
Turn-based strategy games are normally deep, complex tests of your tactical planning, but Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle is a little more forgiving. With fewer stats to worry about and a quicker pace than other games in the genre, it generously lets you undo certain actions during your turn if you slip up. There’s still plenty of depth here, though; each character in your squad has its own arsenal of upgradeable weapons and unique skills to aid you in each mission, and you’ll need to use them effectively if you want to succeed.
Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle’s story and settings are a bit more “kid-friendly” than other games on the list — especially compared to other tactics games — which may put off players looking for a more “mature” experience, but the gameplay is excellent and makes it one of the best games on the Nintendo Switch.
Available on: Nintendo Switch
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Special Edition
Players fell in love with Skyrim’s vast landscapes almost ten years ago and many never left — there’s just so much to do and see. It’s also a great introduction to the series and open-world RPGs in general.
While the game’s main quest is good — you’ll slay dragons, travel to the lands of the dead, and get caught up in a brutal civil war — you’re free to play in whatever way you want. There’s just so much to do in this massive open-world RPG: unique landmarks to discover, countless side quests to take on, and ancient artifacts to acquire.
Players create their own unique characters then slowly specialise their abilities as they progress. You can be a lithe Wood Elf assassin, a magic-wielding humanoid cat, or even a nordic cheese collector. You can strike out into the cold mountains in search of vampires, build your own home and virtual family, join the ranks of prestigious guilds, and so much more. That might sound like too much freedom for inexperienced gamers, but don’t let Skyrim’s openness scare you away; it’s actually quite forgiving.
While some old-school RPG fans look askance at Skyrim’s streamlined gameplay systems, they’re perfect for new players: Skills, equipment, and other menus are snappy and easy to use; a quest log tracks your progress; and an onscreen compass highlights objectives and points of interest. There’s also a combat difficulty slider that lets you fine-tune the challenge level and options for playing in first- or third-person perspective.
Available on: Nintendo Switch, PC (Steam, Microsoft Store), PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S. (Original version also available on Xbox 360 and PS3)
Don’t be fooled by Slime Rancher screenshots — this isn’t a first-person shooter. It’s actually an eclectic hybrid between first-person adventure, farming simulator, and puzzle game. You wander around this cosy, remote planet sucking up adorable slimes and depositing them back at home base, where you feed and breed your herd of gelatinous blobs. Each type of slime has its unique traits and utilities, and as you explore the island and upgrade your home, you’ll discover new slimes that help you overcome various obstacles and challenges.
Slime Rancher is a great choice for players who want a chill, charming adventure. It never tests your reflexes, and there’s no combat to speak of. You select between three different modes at the start of the game: The main “Adventure” mode, a slow-paced “Casual” mode, and a “Rush” mode for players who want more of a challenge. While first-person camera controls can be difficult to grasp if you’ve never played a game like this before, Slime Rancher’s laid-back pace offers the perfect opportunity to learn.
Available on: PC (Steam, Epic Games Store, Microsoft Store), PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S
Super Mario 3D Land + Bowser’s Fury
Super Mario games are well-known for their family-friendly style and lighthearted themes, but the real key to their success is the excellent gameplay. Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury on the Nintendo Switch bundles two excellent games in one. The first part of the package, Super Mario 3D World blends the 2D and 3D gameplay styles the series helped define into an accessible platformer that fun to play alone or with your friends and family. The other game, Bowser’s Fury, is a 3D sandbox platformer. It’s a smaller adventure overall, but offers a totally different gameplay style with some of the best-designed levels in a Mario game to date.
Unlike many of the other games on this list, Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury is much more skill-based, and levels in both games add creative wrinkles to the traditional run-and-jump platforming gameplay. Thankfully, Nintendo’s developers are experts at easing players into the challenge, introducing new ideas slowly and intuitively. Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s doesn’t offer discrete “Easy” or “Hard” modes, but rather a dynamic difficulty scale that changes as you play. If the game notices you’re struggling, it will provide helpful bonus items and generous retries. Both Super Mario 3D World and Bowser’s Fury also feature extra post-game challenges after you complete the initial levels. These are optional, however, and you can beat the main worlds in either game without much trouble.
Available on: Nintendo Switch
Until Dawn is less of a traditional video game, and more of an interactive horror movie. The game’s scenario is a classic slasher flick setup: eight young adults are trapped in the woods during a weekend getaway. Creepy things start happening, and before long, people start dying — but the game lets you change the course of events each time you play. Hayden Panettierre and Rami Malek even voice two of the main characters, Sam and Josh, respectively.
Instead of controlling a character’s every move and action, players take on the role of the various survivors throughout the night. While you’re in control, you select the dialogue and actions of your character, and each option opens up a new narrative branch. It’s not just simple “this or that” choices, however; some quick-time events (QTEs) require precise timing and button inputs, such as outrunning the flamethrower-wielding killer that stalks the woods. The choices you make and how well you perform on the QTEs can unlock new scenes, or even change who’s alive by the end.
Until Dawn isn’t as interactive as the other games on this list, but it’s a great introduction to interactive media, especially for horror movie fans. If you dig the game’s approach, its follow-up, Man of Medan, is also available on PS4, PS5, PC, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X/S.
Available on: PS4 and PS5
If you think RPGs sound fun to play but you’re not that into fantasy or sci-fi, the Yakuza series might be what you’re looking for.
The first seven Yakuza games (and their remakes) are real-time action games, but the affable characters, heaps of side quests, and complex (yet surprisingly goofy at times) stories set in the world of Japanese organised crime are much closer in style to the narrative-driven presentation of most RPGs.
While Yakuza 0 is the best entry point into the main saga for new players, the most recent game in the series, Yakuza: Like a Dragon, might be a better pick for those who don’t like action-heavy combat, as it uses a turn-based battle system instead. Like a Dragon’s story is also mostly separate from the rest of the series and one of the few to feature full English voice acting, making it a good jumping-on point.
Another alternative is Judgment, a spin-off game that features the same gameplay and fictional world as the mainline Yakuza games, but is a grittier, more grounded story played from the perspective of private detective Takayuki Yagami.
No matter which game you start with, most offer multiple difficulty options for combat so you can focus on the story, if you prefer.
Available on: PC (Steam, Microsoft Store), PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S