Video games have to be one of the few things where the word ‘addictive’ is a superlative rather than a warning. Some games have the power to swallow up people’s time to the point where whole days disappear in what seems like the blink of an eye – which is awesome! Unless they totally destroy your life/relationships/family, which isn’t so awesome.
The big question is, of course, what are the most addictive games of recent years? The titles that get their hooks so deep into your skin, you'll want to melt them down on a spoon and mainline them into your veins (please don’t actually do this). Here are the 9 games that will lure you in with a teaser sample, and never let you go – in a good way, of course.
Minecraft may look like it was made ten years ago, but it appeals to our deep-seated desire to construct things, much in the same way that Lego does. Creator Markus ‘Notch’ Persson believes the secret to the game’s addictive nature is the creativity it offers. Being able to build and create anything gives each person a truly unique experience, and is part of the reason why there are so many YouTube channels/videos dedicated to the game.
A massive success across multiple platforms, Minecraft’s universal appeal has taken up the time of young and old gamers alike. When playing, you’ll find that you’re rarely satisfied with the structure you’ve just built, and will probably want to add just one more floor or maybe stick a moat around the whole thing. Afterwards, you might want to try to find some diamonds or perhaps go and check out another player’s work. All of a sudden, you'll realize that you haven’t eaten in twelve hours and you've got work in the morning.
Candy Crush Saga is a little too addictive, especially as its microtransactions have ended up sending some people into financial ruin. The game features crack-cocaine levels of addictiveness, and at one point it looked as if it was part of a secret alien plan to enslave the world.
What makes Candy Crush so hard to put down? Well, part of the reason is that it features one of the best examples of addictive design you’ll ever find. It uses our positive association with food to draw us in - the same way that fruit machines often do - and it very slowly gets more difficult. The ever increasing challenge means that the bursts of dopamine we experience while playing the game become rarer and, therefore, more craved after.
Massively Multiplayer Online Games are designed with addiction in mind. It’s what makes the players stick around and, as in the case of Warcraft, keeps those monthly subscription rates up. The number of people who regularly play WoW may have dropped in recent years, but Blizzard’s behemoth is still top of the pile when it comes to paid subscriptions.
Most MMORPGs use the same techniques to keep people playing: by introducing new gameplay elements every time your character levels up, the urge to continue levelling is overwhelming. You’ll always have that "I’ll just grind a few more experience points" feeling when playing WoW, and it’ll never go away. Add to this the social element, raids, and the sheer number of activities to take part in, and it’s easy to see how World of Warcraft has been responsible for more relationship breakups than Snapchat and PornHub combined (maybe, that's not a real stat).
The Fallout games have always been known for their highly addictive qualities, and the fourth entry in the series is no different; in fact, a lot of people say it’s the most addictive of all the Fallout titles. Just ask the Russian man who sued Bethesda because of his “life-ruining” experience with Fallout 4. He claims his inability in stop playing the game resulted in him losing his job, wife and friends, and is suing for $7000 in damages for emotional distress. In reality, this is a bit like suing a porn site because you develop arthritis in your wrist.
In all fairness, Mr Lack Of Self-Control is right about Fallout 4 being hard to put down. Many times I’ve thought “I’ll go to bed after I clear out this area,” and all of a sudden the sun is coming up. And if the main game doesn’t dig its tendrils deep enough into you, there’s also the settlement building element, which can make hours disappear and your other half wish he/she hadn’t bought you the game as a present. Tell them not to worry, though, as it’s only got about 500 hours of gameplay.
No series nails the addictive, hack-and-slash, loot-em-up formula the way the Diablo games do. The series reached a peak with the Reaper of Souls expansion pack, which fixed many of Diablo III’s problems and introduced some excellent additions such as the Crusader class and Adventure mode.
Reaper of Souls should come with a ‘warning: addictive’ sticker like the ones found on cigarette packs. Few things in life are as satisfying as finding that elusive piece of loot you’ve been after for hours on end, and once you experience that feeling of discovery, you’ll want keep on playing so you can get your next hit.
There’s also the joy of levelling your character, the rewarding sensation of getting a build just right, and the urge to complete the games on ever increasing difficulty settings. It should be called Reaper of Social Lives.
MOBAs can be addictive, very addictive. And DotA 2 features one of the best examples of addiction-inducing gameplay design you will find. Never will just one round prove to be enough, as the elation that comes with winning is almost unparalleled – at least when it comes to video games.
It may be considered to have a steep learning curve, but part of the addiction comes from wanting to learn how to play the game and improve. When mastered, DotA 2’s depth and balance will keep you enthralled for hours on end. Plus, you’ll learn some shocking details about your mother’s sexual history.
It’s not surprising that what is reportedly the most played game in the world right now – with 67 million players every month and 7.5 million concurrent players during peak hours - is also one of the most addictive.
Multiplayer Online Battle Arena game League of Legends has become a global phenomenon in recent times. With those who play it finding that once you start to understand the game’s many nuances, being able to step away from the keyboard becomes increasingly difficult.
With over a billion hours of worldwide play every month, LoL's addiction level is astronomically high. With so many huge competitions offering big-money rewards, numerous streaming channels, and a slew of YouTube videos devoted to League of Legends, expect nicotine-style, anti-addiction patches to eventually appear as a way of weaning players away from the game.
Who would have thought that mixing soccer and RC cars would result in one of the most brilliant and terrifyingly addictive games in recent years? With so many modern titles requiring long play sessions to get the most out of them, Rocket League bucks the trend by offering immensely satisfying five-minute matches. But, like so many addictive substances, once you have that first hit, you’re hooked for life.
The game is so simple to learn, yet takes ages to master. You’ll be jumping out of your chair with joy one moment, and slamming your fists onto the desk with blood-boiling frustration the next. Not since the halcyon days of Speedball 2 and Sensible Soccer has sports(ish) game dragged you in and refused to let go. Stunning, fun, and addictive as hell – buy it!
Just because a game requires a lot of hours to ‘do’ everything, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s addictive. The Civilization games, however, can theoretically be played forever and are so life-destroyingly addictive that Firaxis advertises this fact as a huge selling point (check out the ad above).
Very few games can capture that ‘just one more go’ feeling like Civilization does. You’ll have a constant need to see what the consequences of your actions are once your turn is over. With its incredibly deep strategy, many user mods and infinite replay value, the Civilization series has turned healthy, well-adjusted individuals into shambling wrecks, desperate for one more go so they can show Gandhi where he can shove his non-violent resistance.
If you’re one of those rare people who have never played a civ game, give numbers 4 or 5 a try. Be warned, though, your life may fall apart as you refuse to the leave the PC and slowly turn into Eric Cartman during his World of Warcraft phase.