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11 Time-Sucking Games to Get You Through the Holidays

Need a few games to play during the holiday break? Here are a few that will make those slow days fly by.

Playing video games during the holiday break is a sacred thing. For over 25 years I've always used this time between Thanksgiving and New Year's to dump a ton of time into my favorite games.

It's the perfect time to do it, because most of us have fewer responsibilities during this time. Work/school is winding down, and even though we spend more time with family... you can only do so that much without taking a break.

That's why I put together a list of some great games to dive into over the next few weeks. Each of these titles can eat up dozens of hours alone -- if not hundreds. So pick your favorite genre, grab some Mountain Dew and Doritos, and dive in. 

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Special Edition

This is my favorite game of all time. I've had at least a dozen different characters and dumped over 400 hours into it. That said, as I replay this game right now, I'm finding things I'd never done before! Side quests, locations, characters, etc. There's just so much here. 

Even if you don't consider all of the quests and locations to explore, there are a ton of ways to play. Want to dual-wield axes and wear nothing but your underwear as a lizard man? No problem.

Interested in just becoming the most expert craftswoman in Skyrim and not do a lick of combat? You can do that too. 

The options are unlimited -- just like the replay value. 

Dying Light

Zombie games are "in". People love fighting the undead -- there's just something immensely satisfying with slaying things that want to eat your brains.

But they aren't all created the same. Dying Light is head and shoulders above most zombie games for a few reasons:

  • Awesome side quests
  • Parkour 
  • Weapons crafting
  • Bandits (Just like The Walking Dead, zombies aren't the only scary things out there in the post-apocalyptic world.)

Even though the combat is tough at first, you get used to it. And similar to other RPGs, you become stronger as you progress, making destroying the undead much easier (and more enjoyable) later in the game.

And it's a long game. Dumping at least 20 or 30 hours in the game is very common, and some people report playing over 80 hours before "completing" it.

Stardew Valley

At the opposite end of the spectrum of creepiness and destruction is Stardew Valley. Even though there are monsters to slay and caves to explore, the core of this game is much more peaceful. 

The general idea is that you're managing a farm. But it's more complex than that, because it's like Farmville meets The Sims meets Cafe World meets Minecraft meets Zelda. You can raise animals, grow crops, mine minerals, marry hotties, build relationships with townspeople, cook food, visit a museum, collect artifacts, etc.

It's generally a much more relaxing game. But because there's so much you can do, it's a great way to unwind and kill time during the holidays. 

Especially after staying up until 2 a.m. smashing zombies or dragons.

Sid Meier's Civilization V

The strategy game genre is another good one to sink some time into. You can always get better, and its fun to play as different factions to get a different perspective.

Civilization V lets you go up against some of the greatest military leaders in history. As you set out to conquer the world, you never know what to expect. Countries that are bitter enemies in real life may team up against you. Or you may think that you just discovered/developed something incredible, only to have half the world declare war against you because of it. 

Even though I personally have always been more of a fantasy/sci-fi strategy gamer, this one is a clear winner to eat up some hours before school or work starts back up. 

No Man's Sky

This one is a mixed bag. Even though it didn't quite live up to its expectations, it's still not a bad choice -- especially if you've always wanted to become a space explorer more focused on just seeing different things than fulfilling fetch quests in an RPG or conquering the world. 

No Man's Sky offers a lot to see, and you can constantly upgrade your ship to make it the most badass thing your side of the universe. And the recent Foundations update has only added to that -- with base building and even more customization options, plus more promised in future patches. 

The only bad news is that since the universe is so big, you're highly unlikely to see other players. So even if you found the coolest planet to hang out on or built an amazing ship, nobody else will see it. 

Bummer.

The awkward-looking creatures almost makes up for that, though. 

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

As someone who didn't finish either of the prior Witcher games, I almost felt like I didn't deserve to play this one. If I couldn't swing the first two, why did I have the right to play the third?

Of course that's silly, and I'm glad I quelled that inside voice. I dumped over 40 hours into this game before the DLC even came out. 

That isn't completing all of the side quests, either. There were a lot I didn't get to finish because I was too high of a level. Plus I'm sure I didn't find all of them.

So what did I do during those 40+ hours? Well...

  • Killed werewolves, griffons and drakes
  • Avenged village craftsmen, elders and lovers
  • Turned bandits and bugs against each other while I just laughed
  • Charged into battle so toxic (but strengthened) from potions that my face looked like something from Dying Light
  • Burned harpies out of the sky with fire spells
  • Blew up teleportation portals with bombs

...oh yeah, and played a TON of Gwent. Probably the best video game mini-game ever created. 

Bottom line? This game is awesome. 

XCOM: Enemy Unknown

If you've ever seen a movie like Starship Troopers that made you want to shoot aliens in the face...this is your game. 

The cool thing about XCOM is that it combines several strategy elements into one beautiful game. In combat, you have to be smart about balancing your team with the right equipment and skills. In research and development, you have to prioritize different things based on your situation. Is learning more about that alien technology really the best way to assign your scientists right now?

But politics also come into play. Your job is to save the world, but it's a big world to save. You may have to make sacrifices and let the aliens take over a continent or two so you can adequately take care of the rest. 

So it's world strategy meets tactical combat with shotguns, grenades, miniguns and snipers with freaking jet packs.

Awesome.

Grand Theft Auto V

No other game can really compare to Grand Theft Auto. Even though some series like Saints Row have similarities, it's difficult to match the epic openness of this GTA title. 

Want to rob banks? Do it.
Feel like blowing up cars, planes, or boats just because? Do it.
Ever have the urge to stick it to cops just because? Do it. 
Considered what it'd be like to be part of a drug ring or mafia? Do it. 

This game is ridiculous -- not only in all of the different crimes you can commit, but in how many different ways to play. You can go skydiving, fly planes, drive boats, carjack anything you want...it's all there. 

There is a campaign, but because this game is so open world, you'll probably keep playing long after finishing the main story.

Even though it won't exactly help you get into the "holiday spirit," it might be a good way to blow off some steam after catching flak from Uncle Frankie. 

Fallout 4

Getting back into the RPG realm, Fallout IV has literally ruined peoples' lives from taking up so much of their time. 

Of course you can't blame the game. Bethesda sought out to make a worthy successor to the open world of Fallout 3, and they did a great job. This game is a blank canvas just waiting for you to make your mark.

First off, you have a lot of different playstyles. Want to rock a revolver? No problem. Like the idea of zapping enemies with a laser musket? That's fun too. Or you can go the (unexpectedly) overpowered melee build using your fists, bats, sword -- whatever.

But it's more than that. There are unique companions that will join you. Tons of side quests to learn more about the world of Boston after the apocalypse. Location after location filled with loot and enemies ranging from mutated Chameleons (i.e. Deathclaws) to mutated bugs and people.

...basically, lots of mutated stuff.

Again, this isn't really a "holiday spirit" kind of game. But it's not difficult to spend hundreds of hours in this game, so it's a great choice to suck up some break time.

Starbound

When you think of a sandbox game, you may think of some of the others already mentioned. Skyrim, Dying Light, Fallout 4, etc. But Starbound is a 2D open-world game that, similar to No Man's Sky, is largely about space exploration. But you can actually do a lot more.

For example, as you interact with planet inhabitants, you can build relationships (kind of) with them. If you give them gifts, they may ask to join your ship's crew. Or as you explore, you can capture monsters that will then fight with you.

Don't want to explore the universe or fight baddies? No problem. You can just settle down and build a farm.

This game is similar to Stardew Valley in some of these respects -- but generally speaking, it has a more pointed focus on the exploration side of things. 

Rocket League

Okay -- this one is a bit different. The rest of the games on this list have been primarily single player games that were either open world or just offer lots of replay value. 

Rocket League is different in that it's focused around a multiplayer structure. The premise of the game is playing soccer with cars! Even though this sounds a bit silly and simple, it's amazingly fun.

The action in this game is just ridiculous. If you boost into the rear of an enemy, you blow them up. You can jump and flip in any direction to "kick" the ball. Driving up the side walls is also a big part of the game. All in all, it makes for some pretty hilarious plays that make this game really addictive. 

The best part is that this game is very family-friendly. So whether you're hanging out with Grandpa or your 8 year old nephew, Rocket League is a great option.

Conclusion

Obviously these aren't the only long video games you can play during your holiday break. From other multiplayer games like League of Legends to long-ish RPGs like The Technomancer, the list is endless. 

But these are a few of my personal favorites -- and because you have several genres here, hopefully one suits your fancy. Enjoy!

Published Dec. 16th 2016

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