Games nowadays are getting more and more content jammed into them. Open-world RPGs filled with hundreds of hours of content, live-service games with ongoing developments, and many more similar types of games are becoming increasingly common in the gaming industry. But sometimes you just want a quick game you can finish in one setting. That’s why we’ll be ranking the top 10 best short video games today!
While there’s absolutely nothing inherently wrong with longer games, having such a massive game with so much content to do can get overwhelming at times. That’s why I prefer to play tighter, more hand-crafted, shorter games. These types of games often leave a more memorable impression on me and tend to be more about the quality of content than the quantity.
Top 10 Best Short Games, Ranked From Good to Best
We’ll be going over our favorite games that can be completed in three hours or less.
ISLANDERS (1 Hour*)
First up on our list, we have the indie-city builder game ISLANDERS! This is a pretty unique city-builder compared to many others out there. For example, you do not have access to roads or utilities or anything else like that. There are different types of buildings that will interact with each other and objects in the environment. But it’s nothing like, say, Cities: Skylines. It’s best described as an “arcade city-builder.”
The goal of the game is to settle various islands while racking up the most amount of points. You are given a handful of specific buildings and structures that you can only place down when the game gives them to you. From there, you will need to place them next to certain objects in the world and next to other buildings. You’ll do this in order to gain points, which in turn is needed to unlock new buildings and new islands.
It’s not really a game that can be “beaten” per se, but I was able to get a lot of fun out of it in about an hour before I stopped playing. Due to the arcadey nature of the game, you can play it for much longer than that. There are also plenty of achievements to get that can boost your playtime. But if you just want a casual and fun city-builder to play for about an hour or so, then ISLANDERS is the one for you!
LEGO Builder’s Journey (2 Hours)
Up next, we have a game for all of you puzzle fans out there. It’s the game LEGO Builder’s Journey! This is a pretty simple but relaxing and fun puzzle game that sees you placing LEGO bricks down in the world to solve puzzles. Your goal is to get your character from one part of the screen to another, although this objective can vary quite a bit depending on the level you’re playing.
Every level in the game is made up entirely of LEGO bricks! As someone who was obsessed with the toy as a kid, it’s really cool to play a game like this. The gameplay works by picking up bricks on the levels and using them to do things like build bridges, activate contraptions, and create little creations that will help your character move from level to level.
The story follows the tale of a father and son as they go hiking for the weekend, only for the father to quickly become distracted by the duties of work and responsibility. The story is pretty simple but surprisingly sweet for a LEGO game. If you are looking for a casual and fun puzzle game with a good story that can be beaten in only two hours, then you can download this game for iOS, console, or PC!
VVVVVV (2.5 Hours)
Now for a 2D platforming adventure, it’s VVVVVV! This is a sci-fi game where you play as the captain of a ship that has teleported to a strange dimension. After teleporting there, the crew members of the ship have scattered all throughout the map, and it’s your job to get them back one by one so you can repair the ship and return home! It’s not the Last of Us by any means, but it doesn’t have to be!
The gameplay is very good in this game, and you’ll love it if you like 2D platformers. Instead of being able to jump up and down, how you navigate through obstacles in VVVVVV is by flipping gravity! You can invert it at any time to help you navigate over the many platforming challenges. There is a variety of different areas in the game with different gimmicks each time. This helps to keep the game feeling fresh.
I was able to complete my playthrough of the game in only 2.5 hours, and that’s with some exploration off the beaten path. You could probably beat it in less time if you want to. But why do that when the game is so fun? This is the perfect arcade-style platforming game to play on the go. If you have a Steam deck or a Nintendo Switch, this is definitely one of the games you should definitely pick today.
The Henry Stickmin Collection (35 Minutes)
Sitting pretty at spot number seven, we have the Henry Stickmin Collection! This is a package of several classic Flash games that have been compiled into one easy-to-launch application. The games follow the adventures of Henry Stickmin as he attempts to pull off a variety of high-stakes heists. From robbing banks and museums to saving the world, there is never a dull moment in this classic adventure game!
As for its gameplay, it’s essentially a choose-your-own-adventure type game. You’ll make a variety of different choices that can lead you to different outcomes in the story. The game is designed to have a lot of replayability, so you can go back and replay certain levels to see different outcomes. It takes on a more “quality over quantity” approach to its choices, which is a reason why the game is so short.
The Henry Stickmin Collection is also jam-packed with humor. If you grew up during the age of flash games, you’ll probably spot a few references to things you might remember from your childhood. This is a great game to play if you love games with multiple different endings, and are looking for a quick adventure to cheer you up on a sour day. The game is currently only available on iOS and PC.
Iron Lung (1 Hour)
If you love horror games, then you’re sure to love this next pick on our list for the top 10 best short games. It’s the game Iron Lung, made by game designer David Szymanski! This is a short and sweet science fiction tale set in the distant future. The game takes place after a mysterious event called “The Quiet Rapture,” in which all of the stars and life-sustaining planets in the known Universe vanished without a trace.
In the game, you play as a prisoner who has been promised his freedom in exchange for completing a scouting operation. You are tasked with operating a rusty old submarine that has been submerged deep underwater in a mysterious ocean of blood! You will navigate around the ocean using a front-mounted camera and some rudimentary controls to visit different spots on the ocean floor so you can gather data on points of interest.
The lore and premise of the game is very interesting, and the gameplay itself is very unique. The game gets really intense as it goes on, as your oxygen meter will dwindle lower and lower, forcing you to quickly complete objectives. It’s a pretty scary game with some very frightening moments, and I highly recommend it if you are a fan of David Szymanski’s other work or just really love horror games!
Lifeslide (3 Hours)
Halfway through our list, we have the game Lifeslide! This is a really cool indie game where you play as a paper airplane flying through the sky. You’ll need to use wind currents, boosts, and the force of gravity in order to navigate through a wide variety of different levels, navigating obstacles and trying not to crash. From dark caves to pine forests, to tropical islands, there are a lot of sights to be seen!
The level design is really the best part of this game. You need to use the environment in order to gain momentum and give yourself enough of a boost to get higher up. The game is for the most part fairly easy. But it can get challenging at times and it forces you to be careful with your flying. There’s also a progression system in the game! You can upgrade your paper airplanes and unlock new ones to fly.
Lifeslide is a really relaxing and fun game that you can finish in about three or so hours. It’s the perfect way to unwind after a long day at work. The gameplay is incredibly relaxing, and it’s hard to put it down once you get into the swing of things. Combine its great gameplay with the amazing soundtrack and the beautiful levels, and you have a game that is short but incredibly sweet.
A Short Hike (3 Hours)
For spot number four, we have the platforming game A Short Hike. In this game, you play as a bird vacationing on an island/national park with her aunt. While there, she runs out of reception for her phone and needs to take a short hike to the top of the mountain so that she can call her mom. The game sees you exploiting a beautiful, pixelated island full of unique and interesting characters.
You can jump and glide around the island to get higher and higher up the mountain. You can collect special golden feathers that will allow you to have more stamina. This lets you flap your wings more to help you get to where you need to go faster. There are also many different minigames for you to complete, such as boating and playing a game very similar to volleyball.
I really love how cute and charming this game is. It’s incredibly comforting to play! It’s one of those games that puts a big smile on your face while you’re playing. Considering its short playtime of about three or so hours, it never overstays its welcome. If you really love funny and wholesome characters as well as pixelated graphics and platforming, then this game is for you.
Honorable Mention: Flower (2.5 Hours)
Before we get into our top three, let’s briefly go over an honorable mention: Flower! I wanted to include this one on the list, as it was what inspired me to write this article. This is a game that originally came out for the PlayStation 3 in 2009. It is a relaxing and atmospheric game in which you play as flower petals float in the wind. You spawn in mostly open environments and need to fly around collecting more flower petals to grow bigger and bigger!
As you progress through each level, you will solve some very simple puzzles in order to progress through the game. The levels you explore will change and adapt as you progress through them. One area may be drab and gray before turning bright and colorful after you are finished flying through it. It’s really satisfying to see how the environments change and adapt as you complete each level.
This game has a soft spot in my heart, and I’ve been playing it off and on for many years. It’s a lot better than Journey in my opinion, although I understand if you disagree. Flower can be completed in about 2.5 hours. It doesn’t overwhelm you with a checklist of objectives, and it tries to keep its gameplay and story as simple as possible. And this simplicity makes it a very relaxing game to play.
What Remains of Edith Finch (2 Hours)
Kicking off our top three list, we have What Remains of Edith Finch! This is a pretty popular first-person adventure game that was released a few years back. It follows the story of a girl named Edith Finch as she explores an abandoned house that belonged to her family. The story is that her family is allegedly cursed, with all of the members of the Finch family dying strange deaths at a young age.
Despite this grim setup, there are quite a few moments of the game that are cheery and humorous. As you explore the abandoned house, you will gain entry to new rooms belonging to family members who have long since passed on. Their stories of how they lived and died will be revealed through short segments of unique gameplay. It can be anything from swinging on a swing to swimming underwater as a frog to sailing a ship through a fantasy land!
Even with its cheery moments and humorous jokes, the game has its serious moments that make you feel melancholic. It’s a game that gives you a perspective on the fragility of life and how quickly it can be taken away from you. If you are looking for a game that can give you some deep, memorable moments in a short amount of time, you should buy What Remains of Edith Finch.
Later Alligator (2.5 Hours)
Taking spot number two on the ranking, next we have Later Alligator! This is an incredibly fun and lighthearted game in which you play as a detective hired by Pat the Alligator, who believes his family is out to kill him! Set in Alligator New York City, you’ll meet a huge number of cartoonish and whacky characters and play a huge variety of minigames while jamming out to its sweet, jazzy soundtrack.
This game is very well written, and it’s incredibly charming and humorous. There are a lot of great jokes to be found here that make it a joy to play. Pat the Alligator is incredibly adorable and funny, and he provides some great commentary while you help him solve the mystery of what his family has in store for him. What’s more interesting is that this game has multiple endings.
Even though the game can be completed in only two and a half hours, there’s plenty of reason for you to dive back into it when you’re done. I won’t spoil anything, but the story gets pretty interesting on your second playthrough. This is a great game to play over the weekend if you have some free time to spare and are looking for a humorous game with lots and lots of fun minigames to try out.
Inside (3 Hours)
Taking the top spot on our ranking, we have the game Inside! This is a 2.5D puzzle platformer made by the same studio that made the game Limbo. In this game, you play as a strange boy all on his own, lost in a dystopian future. You will need to platform your way around difficult obstacles, avoiding a variety of freaky monsters and deadly traps in order to stay alive.
The atmosphere and tone of this game are incredible, and I absolutely love the world-building! It’s incredibly easy to get sucked into this bleak and dystopian future. I really don’t want to get into spoilers, but I will say that it gets dark and the game examines some scary themes. The music is incredible as well. Everything combines together to make one of the most memorable games I’ve ever played.
This is one of my favorite games of all time. The whole thing from start to finish is a wild ride full of tense moments and lots of good environmental storytelling. If you can spare the three or so hours it takes to complete it, you’ll walk away with an incredibly memorable experience. The game is available for purchase on iOS, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, and the PC.
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