The scenario: At any second, your best friend is going to pull into your driveway to pick you up for a night on the town. Perhaps youll grab a savory, nutritious meal from Taco Bell before heading to the local theater. Maybe youll go straight to the bar, where the two of you will proceed to talk about how you finally got a Thunderfury, Blessed Blade of the Windseeker for your Wizard in Diablo 3: Reaper of Souls. Your mind races with possibilities. Theres just one problem: Your friend is rarely on time. He or she could arrive in five seconds or ten minutes--so what game do you play in the meantime?
Choose a boring, shallow game, and you'll wish you played something else. Dig into a meatier game than time allows, and you'll regret having done it at all. No, when it comes to these frustrating scenarios--wanting to play a game but knowing you might have to turn it off at a moment's notice--only certain ones will do. They have to be nourishing in the entertainment value they provide, but also easy to put down. They have to be something like these.
I've never fantasized about being a pilot in the middle of a guns-blazing dogfight, mainly because I have low pain tolerance and love McDoubles far too much to risk getting exploded in the troposphere. Really, playing Luftrausers is probably as close as I'll ever get. And that's fine by me--this bite-sized 2D shoot-'em-up provides plenty of adrenaline-pumping thrills, all of which can be experienced without the fear of never being able to consume an unhealthy burger-thing ever again.
Luftrausers' simple premise is both immensely fun and utterly intense. By piloting a ship called a Rauser, you fly around the skies dodging incoming fire while battling gravity for control of your plane's movements, and enemies for your plane's continued existence. As you blast other aircraft, ships, and blimps into oblivion, you unlock exciting new ship components, which allow you to customize the ultimate aerial super weapon. Best of all, you can experience all of this in the span of two minutes flat.
Animal Crossing: New Leaf
What is Animal Crossing: New Leaf if not the perfect killer of time? Whether you've got 30 hours to spare, or--in this case--a mere five minutes, there are always things to be done in your fledgling town. As the newly elected mayor, so many unexciting-on-paper-but-actually-super-addictive tasks require your attention. And just about any of them can be completed in a couple of minutes.
There are fruits to pick and plant, weeds to pull, trees to chop down, fossils to find, fish and bugs to catch, a stalk market to invest in--the list goes on for days. Alternatively, you could just walk around town and catch up with all your goofy fellow residents. Just steer clear of that steroid-pumping chicken named Goose; that guy's a total weirdo.
Soundodger+ poses the question: What if music could kill you? If you have enough time to listen to a song while waiting for your friend to come pick you up, then you'll have time to play a round of this unique bullet hell game that turns the beats of songs into projectiles.
Load up one of Soundodger's many catchy tracks, and you'll find yourself in control of a small dot in a circular arena. As the selected song plays out, its pulsing notes shoot life-ending bullets in the form of triangles and blobs, which you'll have to dodge via your PC's mouse. It even features a neat slowdown mechanic by which you can slow the song temporarily to escape perilous situations. And though the music can't actually kill you, personally, your friend might once you're unable to stop humming those catchy songs.
Rusty's Real Deal Baseball
This free-to-play addition to the 3DS' eShop is surprisingly engaging. At its core, it's really just a collection of baseball-themed minigames, all of which are fairly entertaining (and brief in length). Thing is, to play the non-demo versions of said minigames, you have to purchase them from Rusty, a bipedal talking dog. And here's the interesting part: You can haggle with him to lower the real-money price of each game.
Say you don't want to pay $4 to unlock another series of minigames. You can play through the ones you already own to earn items, which you can then trade with Rusty to lower the price. Maybe he needs a shovel--which you just happened to obtain by playing a batting game. So you give it to him, and now he's charging $3.70. And so the process continues, all while he regales you with tragic tales of his marital strife, providing the basis for an unexpected emotional sojourn through a broken dog's life. A dog who really likes baseball minigames.
Remember the skating-game glory days of the '90s? OlliOlli recaptures all the trick-nailing thrills that the best Tony Hawk games had to offer--and it's not interested in wasting your time. Each of the levels in this 2D skater are roughly a minute in length, packed with tons of ramps and rails for pulling off awesome tricks for racking up points. Should you make it to the end of the stage, you'll be greeted by dozens of cheering fans, whose greatest worldly desires include high fiving you in celebration of your success.
Thing is, you might not ever see them--not at first, anyway. OlliOlli is super tough, and it takes a few practice runs to get the hang of its controls and fast pace. You'll no doubt spend your first few sessions face-planting time after time, but--as with the best things in life--persevere and you'll be handsomely rewarded for your efforts with a heavenly point pool and more high fives than your phalanges can handle.
Runner 2: Future Legend of Rhythm Alien
Don't let Runner 2's dulcet tunes fool you: This sidescrolling platformer is harder than heavy metal (MUSIC JOKES!). Its brief stages are perfect for moment-to-moment gaming sessions, providing plenty of 2D platforming challenge wrapped in a catchy soundtrack.
Here's the best part: The music actually provides action cues. You'll often need to jump, slide, or kick in sync with the beat of the soundtrack, making for a semi-relaxing experience that will still put your twitch reaction skills to the test. And because each stage only lasts a minute or two, you'll be able to crank through a few of 'em before you're out of time.
How, exactly, does one transform fishing into a ridiculous activity? The real deal actually seems quite the opposite; all you do is impale a living worm on a very sharp, barbed hook, and toss it in the water so it will simultaneously drown and be eaten alive. According to Ridiculous Fishing developer Vlambeer, you just need one addition to lace activities with a bit of ridiculousness: guns.
In this outrageously addictive mobile game, you play as an entrepreneurial fisherman. But you don't earn money from selling fish to market. No, you earn money by hooking them on your line, reeling them out of the water and into the sky, then blasting them away with an assortment of firearms, including--but not limited to--shotguns, pistols, miniguns, and rocket launchers. Score more cash, buy new lures and guns, blow up more fish, profit. Just don't try it in real life (trust).
FTL: Faster Than Light
This spaceship management roguelike can be played in minute-long chunks, and is the perfect game for those obsessed with everything space. FTL: Faster Than Light scratches an itch that fans of Star Trek, Star Wars, and Battlestar Galactica have had for quite some time. And it's awesome.
You're the captain of a spaceship, charged with ferrying a crew and some crucial intel to the Federation, all while escaping the ever-pursuing rebels. During your nail-biting journey, you'll have to battle enemy ships, issue orders to your crew members, and negotiate with third parties that could be friends or foes. Even if you can only play FTL for a couple minutes, you're bound to have an intensely awesome time.
There's no better game suited for a minute or two of play than Half-Minute Hero--and even if you sold your PSP on eBay three years ago, you can still pick it up on PC and Xbox 360. As its name implies, Half-Minute Hero is composed of various game modes that are (seemingly) 30 seconds long. And all of them are addictive takes on classic RPGs.
While exploring the overworld, you have an extremely limited time to level up by defeating enemies in automated battles. By entering towns, the lovely Time Goddess freezes time, allowing you to purchase new equipment, take up new quests, and spend hard-earned resources to reset your 30-second timer. And that's just the first mode. HMH's 8-bit graphical style taps into any nostalgia you might harbor for the NES era, and its gameplay is fast and fun, making it the perfect game for killing time when you don't know how much time you have to kill.
Theatrhythm Final Fantasy
Rhythm games in general are great options when you're strapped for time, but if you grew up on the masterful compositions of storied Final Fantasy composer Nobuo Uematsu, Theatrhythm Final Fantasy is a gift from the gods. It's packed with some of the series' more iconic pieces, spanning almost every major entry, and tasks you with swiping and tapping along to the beat while you embark on a mini adventure.
In practice, you'll navigate the overworld with your party of popular Final Fantasy characters, fights enemies in battle, and watch pivotal events from the series' rich history unfold to the backdrop of music that's been ingrained in your brain forever. Of course, if you don't like Final Fantasy, you could just as easily pick up Elite Beat Agents or Rhythm Heaven Fever--all are equally fantastic.
Have you ever struggled with finding great games to play when crunched for time? Hopefully some of these will help. Also, what other games would you recommend for these types of situations? Let us know in the comments below.
And if you're looking for more, check out 10 games that make you feel badass even when you suck and 8 classic games that haven't aged a day.