9 Games You Can Beat in an Afternoon (and 3 You Can Tackle in a Weekend)

9 Games You Can Beat in an Afternoon (and 3 You Can Tackle in a Weekend)
Screenshot: IGN/YouTube, Fair Use

Friends, I just finished a 140 hour platinum trophy playthrough of Elden Ring — the latest masterpiece from creator Hidetaka Miyazaki, of Dark Souls and Bloodborne fame — and I am tired. Wrung out. Depleted.

I love a massive game that takes me weeks to complete. (I mean, I’ve got an upcoming book about the history of Japanese RPGs; my relationship with epic games is a longstanding one). But sometimes I need something different. Something that scoops me up for a day or two, delivering a complete experience I can walk away from feeling satisfied and restored — and that’s the kind of game I needed after Elden Ring. So I’ve gathered up 12 games that can be completed in under 10 hours, according to the crowdsourced statistics on How Long To Beat. I’ve broken these down into two categories:

Afternoon Games: Weekend Games: 6–10 hours to complete

These games run the gamut from narrative-driven visual novels, to tight action platformers, to rhythm-based roguelikes and complex first-person puzzlers. There’s something here for every type of gamer without a lot of time. And hey, given their relative bite-sized play experiences, they’re also the perfect opportunity to explore outside your wheelhouse.

Afternoon: Life is Strange: Wavelength

I’m an enormous fan of Life is Strange: True Colors and its loveable cast of misfits (it’s a perfect weekend getaway game). This standalone prequel chapter complements the main game perfectly, while also serving as a compelling jumping-on point for newcomers. Set before the first game’s protagonist, Alex Chen, arrives in the sleepy mountain town of Haven Springs, Colorado, Wavelengths allows players to explore the life of fan favourite Steph Gingrich, who first appeared in Life is Strange: Before The Storm, and who plays a major role in True Colours. Steph is a fascinating, charismatic character who dodges queer stereotypes, has room to grow, and presents a complex personality ripe for exploration. More Life is Strange is always a good thing, and Wavelengths hits all the right notes for longtime series fans and new players alike.

How Long To Beat? 3 hours

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X and Series S, Microsoft Windows, Google Stadia

Afternoon: Firewatch

You want ambience? Firewatch has it. You want a ridiculously charming protagonist? Firewatch is your game. You want a gradually unfurling story about solitude, friendship, and heartbreak? Firewatch revels in these things. Set in the late 1980s in Shoshone National Forest, Wyoming, Firewatch is a narrative-driven first-person adventure that sees the player exploring the lands surrounding a fire lookout tower — chasing off pesky teenagers, watching for smoke plumes, and, uh, investigating government conspiracies? Along the way, it tells a compelling story about a husband grappling with his wife’s early onset dementia, our connections to our own selves, and the primal healing nature of the wilderness. With a twist ending that shocked and upset a lot of people at the time of its release, Firewatch is sure to leave you pondering long after the credits roll.

How Long To Beat? 4 hours

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Microsoft Windows, Linux

Afternoon: Radical Dreamers

You probably know Chrono Trigger — the 1995 Super NES game widely considered to be one of the best Japanese RPGs of all time — has a sequel, the divisive Chrono Cross. But did you know that wasn’t its first sequel? Released shortly after Chrono Trigger in 1996, Radical Dreamers is a text-based visual novel that was originally available only briefly on Nintendo’s long-defunct Satellaview service, and never made officially available in English until now. To the surprise of pretty much everyone, the Square Enix’s recent remaster of the sequel, Chrono Cross: The Radical Dreamers Edition, includes a fully-translated version of Radical Dreamers — bridging the gap between Chrono Trigger and Chrono Cross and serving as a sort of non-canonical pseudo-sequel to the first game and a direct inspiration for the second game. It’s a treat for longtime fans and a historical curiosity for newcomers, and certainly worth an afternoon for anyone curious about the evolution of one of the most interesting Japanese RPG series of all time.

How Long To Beat? 3 hours

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Microsoft Windows

Weekend: Metroid Dread

Oh, Metroid Dread. When it first released, the discourse swirled around its challenging difficulty, especially compared to some older entries in the long-running series, but when Nintendo released “Rookie Mode” DLC a few months ago, the game went from frustrating to perfectly recommendable. While more linear than most 2D Metroid games (excluding the last mainline entry, 2002’s Metroid Fusion for the Game Boy Advance), its amped-up combat, fluid controls, beautiful environments, and memorable bosses make it one of the series’s best — which is saying a lot considering the number of classic Metroid titles have been released since the series debuted in 1986. Draw the blinds, grab some snacks, and sink into the alien environs of the planet ZDR. You’re gonna get lost, you’re gonna forget what time it is, you’re almost certainly going to forget to go to the bathroom — but you’re gonna love every second of it.

How Long To Beat? 9 hours

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch

Afternoon: Cadence of Hyrule

Part rhythm game, part roguelike, part action-puzzler, this Zelda spinoff based on Brace Yourself Games’s delightful Crypt of the Necrodancer is tough-as-nails until the beat takes ahold and carries you through to the end of the game. With stunning pixel art visuals, earworm remixes of famous tunes, and addictive gameplay, Cadence of Hyrule is one of the Zelda series’ most unusual entries, but also one of its most surprisingly satisfying.

How Long To Beat? 5.5 hours

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch

Afternoon: What Remains of Edith Finch

Walking Simulators — as the genre occupied by games like Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture, Dear Esther, Gone Home and the previously mentioned Firewatch are colloquially known — have a reputation for being… boring. What Remains of Edith Finch respectfully buries that notion with a tense, oftentimes surreal story about a young woman’s return to her family home. As the protagonist unravels the mysteries of the Finch manor on a small Pacific Northwest Island, she discovers her family’s dark secrets amidst a truly psychedelic adventure. It’ll wow you with its scenery, you’ll jump at shadows, and as it all wraps up, you’ll cry your guts out.

How Long To Beat? 2 hours

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, iOS, Xbox One, Microsoft Windows

Afternoon: A Short Hike

I wrote about A Short Hike in my “11 Soothing Games That Will Restore Your Soul After ‘Elden Ring,’” but it’s just too good not to include here too. No combat, light puzzle-solving, and a major exploration make this game from Adam Robinson-Yu a cathartic experience that just feels good to play. As you explore the small island by foot and by wing, you’ll get major Link’s Awakening vibes, and though the main “story” can be completed in about 90 minutes (or less), you’ll probably find yourself returning to it over and over again, because it’s such a wonderful world to explore.

How Long To Beat? 1.5 hours

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Microsoft Windows, Linux, macOS

Weekend: Return of the Obra Dinn

The less I tell you about Return of the Obra Dinn, the better. So I’m not going to say anything other than that you’ve got to play this expertly crafted, gorgeously visualized puzzle box from Lucas Pope. Oh, and bring a note pad.

How Long To Beat? 8 hours

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, macOS, Microsoft Windows

Afternoon: Portal

This classic needs no introduction, can be played on game consoles and operating systems spanning back over a decade, and remains, despite its age, one of the finest, tightest gaming experiences ever made. Using a special tool that can create two connected portals, players navigate complex 3D environments by utilising the game’s cutting edge-at-the-time physics to solve hilarious and impressively clever puzzles as they progress through a story that gets progressively dark as they pursue a promised slice of cake. A classic in every sense of the word.

How Long To Beat? 3 hours

Platform(s): Microsoft Windows, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, OS X, Linux, Android, Nintendo Switch (coming soon)

Afternoon: To The Moon

As a JRPG-obssesed writer I’ve dabbled in RPG Maker over the years, but never made it past the first village and very predictable inciting incidents. Needless to say, I’ve never even dreamed of creating something as emotionally complex, nuanced, and memorable as Kan Gao’s To The Moon. Part visual novel, part point-and-click adventure, part RPG, To the Moon shows how far video game narratives have come since Mario first found out the princess was in another castle, and how much potential they contain for imparting lasting stories.

How Long To Beat? 4 hours

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, Android, iOS, Microsoft Windows, macOS, Linux

Afternoon: Oxenfree

Like What Remains of Edith Finch, mentioned above, Oxenfree takes place in the moody Pacific Northwest (immediately making it feel like home to your dear, PNW-residing author), but the rain-filled backdrop plays home to a story full of supernatural elements that quickly veers off the familiar path. With its pairing of otherwordly mystery and a teen cast reminiscent of Stranger Things, Oxenfree is a modern mashup of adventure game and visual novel with an emphasis on story and character. With its evocative art style, endearing cast, and thrilling supernatural story, Oxenfree leaves a unique mark on everyone who plays it.

How Long To Beat? 4.5 hours

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Android, Xbox One, iOS, Microsoft Windows, Linux, macOS,

Weekend: Owlboy

Incredible pixel art graphics? Check. Fun platforming and diverse environments? Check. Surprisingly robust story? Check. D-Pad Studio’s Owlboy puts the player in control of a young, humanoid owl named Otis. Exploring the sprawling land in the sky, Otis survives a pirate attack before setting out to find the truth behind his skybound world and the mysterious land below. Combing flight and ranged combat with more traditional platforming elements, Owlboy is a blast to play from start to finish, and surprises with some genuine thoughtful story moments without outstaying its welcome.

How Long To Beat? 8 hours

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Microsoft Windows, Linux, macOS

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