Kazuma Kiryu returns from prison in “Yakuza 6: Song of Life” and discovers that one of his wards is in trouble and had a baby. (Sega)
Californians face a bleak winter where staying at home is more important than ever. The spike in coronavirus cases is overwhelming hospitals, and the best way to curb cases and save lives is to hunker down for a few weeks.
For those who have binged all of “The Mandalorian” and are now looking for new ways to pass the time, they can turn to video games. It’s a business that has proved resilient amid the pandemic. While movies and concerts are on pause, gaming has remained a stalwart pastime. Its flexibility lets it fit in different niches of our lives. Looking for a 5-minute time waster while waiting for the tea to brew? There’s a game for that. Looking for an epic adventure to get lost in? Several games can accommodate that need.
With that in mind, here are games that will tide you over until the worst of the pandemic ends.
PERFECT BITE-SIZE GAMING
“What the Golf?’ — Don’t confuse this with the “PGA Tour” series, it’s far from the technical golf game that enthusiasts are used to. The goal and mechanics are simple. Players have to get an object in the hole. On touch devices, they do that by pressing their finger to the screen, pulling their finger back and letting go in an almost slingshot motion.
That’s where the similarities to the actual sport ends. “What the Golf?” is wacky and more like the miniature version. Players will hit multiple balls at once hoping to get one in the hole. They’ll encounter bizarre rules and challenging obstacles. The beauty of the game is how it constantly reinvents and riffs off the rules of golf to create an experience that’s always fun and challenging.
It’s one of those games that is easy to pick but difficult to master.
Time commitment: Short. The levels take 5 minutes to finish at the most.
Platform: Nintendo Switch, Apple Arcade and PC
A NEVERENDING STORY
“Genshin Impact” — This open-world role-playing game gave out “The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild” vibes early on but turned out to be a project that’s entirely different. It’s an open-ended action role-playing game that’s easy to get into and compelling enough to hold fans attention with a smooth onboarding process.
Wherever players fire it up, “Genshin Impact” looks gorgeous with an anime-inspired character design and a large roster of characters. The overarching plot of the campaign is to find a lost sibling after being separated in a battle against an unknown god. As a Traveler, players will explore the world of Teyvat in hopes of being reunited with their sibling, and they’ll run across a plethora of allies — each with their own fighting style — in the campaign.
Time commitment: Endless. This is a game that will grow over time, but the good thing is that because it’s on several platforms including iOS devices, players can easily pick up and play the game in shorter spurts.
Platform: PlayStation 4, PC, Android and iOS
GAMES FOR THE LONG HAUL
“Assassin’s Creed Mythology Pack” or the “Yakuza” series — If you really want to get lost in a video game world, look no further than these two franchises. The recent “Assassin’s Creed” games are a perfect entry point to the series with a new modern day protagonist in Layla Hassan and three distinct trips to the past focused on Egypt in “Assassin’s Creed Origins,” Greece in “Assassin’s Creed Odyssey” and Dark Age England in “Assassin’s Creed Valhalla.” The adventures are huge time sinks with each game easily taking more than 50 hours if players want to finish the main story and pick up extra side quests.
For those who want to stay busy until the vaccine is out for everyone, a good bet would be trying to play through the main “Yakuza” series. That’s eight games, starting with “Yakuza 0” and moving through the list to the latest, “Yakuza: Like a Dragon.” The games are expansive with a story that builds on itself over time. It can feel more like a telenovela than a Japanese video game at times with odd twists and turns.
With a majority of the games taking more than 50 hours to complete, the “Yakuza” series has more than enough content to satisfy players over the next few months. With the addition of remasters and collections, players can easily play through the series on the PlayStation or Xbox family of consoles.
Time commitment: The “Assassin’s Creed Mythology Pack” will take 217 hours to complete — give or take a few side quests — judging by the results from HowLongToBeat.com. That’s enough to last at least a month if players treat the game like a job, but ideally, it can take players through March. The “Yakuza” franchise is a much bigger project and will take more than 367 hours to complete. If playing it casually, that could last players until April or May.
Platforms: Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5
A MEDIUM-SIZE ADVENTURE
“Cyberpunk 2077” — Yes, CD Projekt Red’s newest project has issues on consoles. They’ve been well-documented and have even reportedly led to a lawsuit, but those who picked it up on a high-end PC or through Google Stadia are in for a treat. The game leverages its deep sci-fi lore and flexible gameplay to create an engrossing experience.
Players customize their version of the protagonist V. and take the hero through a conspiracy-rich campaign in and around Night City. The narrative keeps players hooked and the variety of builds and the open-ended mission design means that players will find new ways to solve challenging problems.
It’s a game that has the potential to be as long as anything from “Assassin’s Creed” new series though “Cyberpunk 2077” is done so much better that players can’t help but fall under the campaign’s spell.
Time commitment: The game runs about 50 hours if you want to really dig deep into the game. With the different build, a player can find new ways to tackle the game increasing its replayability.
Platform: PC, Stadia. It is playable on Xbox Series X|S and PlayStation 5