Video games are great! They let you explore alien worlds, live a life of exhilaration of missed heartbeats and adrenaline and, if the truth be known, a life of dubious virtue. But also collecting coins, matching candy, and saving the day. They can also be a little bit overwhelming for newcomers, with complex controls, confusing terminology, and OH MY GOD I’M DEAD AGAIN FUCK THIS.
I’ve seen people ask for their first game and get bombarded with complex, unwieldy titles. “PLAY GRAND THEFT AUTO” they cry, not understanding that using two sticks, four buttons, and four triggers, across walking, shooting, driving, and flying is a big ask.
Well. Here at Coaching for Geeks we know what’s up. We know how to ease you in gently. These are our choices for the best video games for people who haven’t really played video games before, but would quite like to play video games.
We’ve removed the complexity, the threat, the timers, the controls. That’s not to say all of these games are without challenge – some of them will chew you up the first time around. Others will simply let you experience a lovely story.
The majority of games you’ll find here are for the PC and to play them you’ll need a Steam account. Steam is a PC game store and library and it’s where you’ll be able to launch most of these games. Where possible we’ve provided Humble Store links so you can get the best price – we’ll also get a small amount if you use our links.
With that said let’s get gaming!
First up we have the classics, based on games you may have known all your life, and may have seven tried out. These take the classic formula and mix them up a little, while keeping the core familiar gameplay intact.
Invaders! Possibly from space! In this reworking of the arcade classic Space Invaders, the invaders have evolved, along with the graphics and soundtrack to make Space Invaders Extreme.
Easy to play – simply shoot up the screen to destroy the invaders, but with boss battles and hidden depths to rack up a high score, this one will keep you coming back for just one more go.
Pac-Man is the highest grossing game franchise of all time, raking in an estimated $2.5 billion and initially causing a shortage of quarters when it was released to arcades back in 1980.
Taking control of the titular Pac-Man, your goal is to navigate a maze, not just eating pac pellets, but luring the pesky ghosts into chasing you. Being chased around the maze by an ever lengthening conga-line of ghosts, before munching a power pellet which lets you gobble all the ghosts all in one go is a brilliant feeling, and the updated graphics and soundtrack make this a must play for everyone.
The better you do, the faster it gets, and goes from super easy to an impressive challenge.
Here’s where things get trippy. The classic wireframe arcade game updated with mildy brainmelting graphics. You’re a spacecraft of sorts, moving left and right on the edge of a wire grid. Enemies move towards you, shoot them all to progress to the next level.
Deceptively simple, Tempest 4000 also has that one more go factor that’ll keep you blasting away into the early hours.
Games for groups!
There are 6 Jackbox party packs and Jackbox Party pack 5 is probably the best. 5 different games are included and everyone can play along using their phone, tablet, or laptop.
From trivia, to filling in rhymes to make robots take part in rap battles, and more.
The 3rd party pack is a close second with more trivia, designing t-shirts and slogans, and comedy fill in the blanks.
Honestly you’ll have fun with any of the Jackbox Party Packs, or the spinoff Fibbage XL where you have to come up with convincing answers to questions to fool your friends.
Jackbox also published a guide on how to play Jackbox Games Online, so you don’t even have to be in the same room anymore!
Run, jump, collect coins/gems/rings/other and make it to the end of the level to save the princess/world/day.
Rayman’s heritage may not stretch back as far as Super Mario’s, but he’s had a lasting impact on gaming. Rayman Legends is a beautiful and beautifully crafted platform game that allows 4 players to join in the fun.
It layers on the complexity as you go, and can be frustratingly tough in places, but you’ll always have the option of a few levels to tackle. Cute, whimsical, and a delight.
Ah Mario. We couldn’t leave you out of this list even if you;re almost exclusively on Nintendo consoles. New Super Mario Bros takes the original Mario template, throws in 4 players, and lets them loose on the Mushroom Kingdom. A little more accessible than Rayman, it still packs a challenge towards the end.
Unlike Rayman, each character has differing abilities so you can make things easier for new players.
Sometimes games just want to tell a story, and visual novels are where its at. Often giving you choices which will impact how the story plays out, there’s usually no stress or worries here and you can take it at your own pace.
Imagine being a barista in an alternative Seattle, where monsters and creatures abound, having left the forest to form startups.
Coffee Talk serves up a game about listening to people’s problems and helping them by serving up a warm drink out of the ingredients you have in stock.
The story branches depending on your responses and there’s no wrong answers when dealing with a dramatic love story between an elf and a succubus, or an alien trying to understand humans’ lives.
Super chill while dealing with the difficult conversations we all have, no pressure, grab a cup and relax with Coffee Talk.
Amanda loved Arcade Spirits when she reviewed it for us. Set in an alternate timeline where the great video game crash never happened, Arcade Spirits puts you to work in a popular arcade.
You can customize your character’s name, look, pronouns, and develop your character’s traits through the choices you make.
Develop relationships, make friends, interact with the clientele and maybe get romantic. Arcade Spirits is charming, heartwarming, and sassy, with a few surprises along the way.
The game that took over social media for a while in You’re a dad. You’ve moved away with your daughter to a town full of single, datable, dads. Will you romance Teacher Dad? Goth Dad? Bad Dad? Or any of the other cool Dads in this game?
With minigames, sidequests, and a variety of paths and endings, Dream Daddy is similar to a visual novel, but with a bit more to do, and many more dads.
Manage your own matchmaking agency with the guidance of your fabulous boss, drag queen diva Kitty Powers! Match an endless parade of desperate clients with candidates from Kitty’s little black book and guide them through awkward conversations and dozens of perilous dating dilemmas..
Send your hopefuls out with the right look and perfect gift to maximise their chance of finding love. A simple selection of mini games coupled with Kitty Powers’ delightfully naughty sense of humour make this one fun to pick up and play for a while.
Wildcard – Hatoful Boyfriend
Let’s get a bit weird and have you as the only human student at St PigeoNation’s School for Birds. Attend school, live in a cave, choose who to talk to, whether to get a part time job, and which bird to get friendly with. Weirdness abounds as you progress through term.
Not everything is as it seems at St. PigeoNation’s Institute! Uncover dark conspiracies, unexpected twists, and hellish fiends bent on bringing on the apocalypse. The story can get really bleak, so expect things to get even more unusual than the premise suggests!
Solve puzzles. Win. These aren’t your simple jigsaws, and the puzzle game genre includes a world of subcategories that we don’t have time for today. From Tetris to tower climbing games, via skilifts,
Fusing the visual novel with picross puzzles results in Murder by Numbers. Solve Pixel Puzzles to find clues. Use those clues to interrogate witnesses.
Work your way to the truth…
…and uncover the mystery of Murder by Numbers!
Los Angeles, 1996. Honor Mizrahi was just an actress on a hit TV detective show. But when her boss ends up dead just minutes after he fires her, she finds herself starring in her own murder mystery. Teaming up with SCOUT, a reconnaissance robot thrown away after a mysterious incident, she sets out to clear her name – and a new detective duo is born! 90s fashions! Upbeat jams! Sass dialed up to 100! Questionable jokes! Drag queens! All that and more awaits… in Murder by Numbers!
Surely everyone knows of Tetris, the block dropping game that made the original Nintendo GameBoy, where completing lines makes them disappear. But what of Puyos? These colourful beans are also prone to disappearing when joined together. Combine the two for Puyo Puyo Tetris where you can pitch Puyos against Tetraminos, or flit between the two
Wildcard: Stephen’s Sausage Roll
So you think you can do puzzles good? Bit of a lateral thinker eh? If you want a massive challenge try Stephen’s Sausage Roll. A game of manipulating sausages so every side is cooked, this game is crazily tough, it partially cooked my brain instead of a sausage.
Point and Click Adventures
Pointing where you want to go with your mouse, and clicking to make your character do that thing is the name of the game with point and click adventures.
Eschewing the traditional 2D point a click aesthetic in favour of a first person view, The Haunted Island offers a comedic bite sized adventure that lasts around an hour.
Taking a call from his boss, Frog Detective (the second best detective there is) travels to The Haunted Island to solve the mystery of the ghost that lives in a cave. What follows is a simple adventure of finding the right items for the right people – the joy lies in their deadpan and super literal responses.
Viewing the mystery through The Detective’s eyes, in first person, will also help you develop those mouse skills for some faster paced games later on. The Haunted Island is the first Frog Detective adventure, with The Invisible Wizard being the slightly more substantial part 2.
Welcome to Thimbleweed Park. Population: 80 nutcases.
Five people with nothing in common have been drawn to this rundown, forgotten town. They don’t know it yet, but they are all deeply connected. And they’re being watched…
Designed by the godfathers of the genre, Thimbleweed Park is a little more traditional in style and humour. Find and use items, talk to people, get clues, and unravel the mystery. Comes with both casual and hard difficulties, a huge world to explore at your own pace, and a twisty-turny story littered with jokes.
Interactive FMV Movies
Real film or ‘full motion video’ plays and you make decisions, often against the clock, as to what the main character does. These films warrant repeat playthroughs to get to all parts of the story and discover new endings.
Maths student Matt gets caught up in brutal London heist while working a Late Shift. It’s your job to make the decisions that will lead to his fate, and make them quick.
Stay or run? Contradict the gangsters or play it cool? 180 different decisions cross the branching story lead to a variety of conclusions (I haven’t had a happy ending yet!)
High production values make this a beautifully shot interactive cinematic experience, which was written by the author of the 2006 Sherlock Holmes movie. Violent and bleak, not one for the kids.
As the last remaining survivor in a nuclear bunker, John’s daily routine is the one thing that keeps him sane. But when an alarm goes off, his mind starts to self-destruct.
He has to venture into long forgotten areas, recovering long repressed memories and unlocking the dark secrets of The Bunker. With a bit more gameplay, you choose where John goes, solve puzzles, and figure out what’s going on.
Shot on location in an actual bunker, Kelvedon Hatch, and starring Adam Brown (The Hobbit), Sarah Greene (Penny Dreadful), Grahame Fox (Game Of Thrones) and Jerome St. John Blake (Star Wars), this short and unnerving experience doesn’t include a huge amount of gameplay, but isn’t quickly forgotten
See also: Black Mirror: Bandersnatch on Netflix, or the kids, Minecraft: Story Mode, also on Netflix.
FMV Investigative Games
Again using real video, but with the twist of you interviewing characters to find out the truth. Less pressured and more cerebral in nature, these titles are intriguing and full of mystery.
Her Story sits you in front of a mothballed desktop computer that’s logged into a police database of video footage.
The footage covers seven interviews from 1994 in which a British woman is interviewed about her missing husband. Explore the database by typing search terms, watch the clips where she speaks those words and piece together her story.
The winner of numerous awards, Her Story is unlike anything that came before and set a new standard in interactive storytelling and is one that will have you scribbling on post it notes to find the truth.
Like an episode of Midsomer Murders crossed with Colombo, you explore a quaint village filled with oddballs who like to lie.
Find the cues, spot the lies, highlight contradictions and solve the case!
Camp and overacted, cheaply shot, Contradiction really should’t work, yet it;s charming and fun, and works great with a bunch of you crowded round the tv looking for the lies.
similar to Her Story but with a Loveraftian theme, you are a psychologist trying to solve a murder while treating the patients of Doctor Dekker. Type in any question and they’ll answer – this is really cleverly done to make it feel like they’re really answering you.
Do be warned, as a psychological thriller it can touch on some dark subject areas, and this is very much adults only.
Finding out who killed Dr Dekker is only one part of the puzzle; working out how to fix the chaos he left behind will be so much trickier… As well as providing clues to the murder, each patient has their own bizarre problem they need your help with – from time manipulation and re-animated loved ones to horrors under the sea.
“WTF is a Metroidvania?” I hear you. A Metroidvania usually starts with the player having very limited abilities. As you progress you’ll gain more and more powers – perhaps you can jump higher, run faster, have better weapons, which in turn gives you access to more areas, and more powers, and more areas, and more powers and so on.
The name is a portmanteau of Metroid and Castlevania, two games which established this style of gameplay in the gaming public’s consciousness.
These games are a little more challenging than the rest on here.
Playing as a cat in a robot suit you’ll explore a station, occasionally popping out in cat form to traverse water and tight corridors. You’ll fight bosses, acquire new powers, and try to save your owner who’s stuck in their crashed ship.
Gato Robot is in black and white and about £6 so you can find out if this genre is for you without spending too much.
Taking on a Mexican luchador theme, and exploring dual realms of life and death, Guacamelee has some tricky platforming and combat, but you can bring a second player along to help once you’re a short way into the game.
Guacamelee has a great sense of humour, even if some it is a little dated and reliant on memes of the past.
Drive fast, win. Whether its cars, bikes, jetskis, go karts, planes, snowboards or something else entirely, you gotta go fast. From arcade games with power ups and speed boosts to serious simulators which demand precision and control, there’s a whole world of racing out there.
Welcome to Paradise where every road is a race and every race has you smashing, bashing, and boosting your way to victory.
Featuring an open world full of shortcuts, simple controls, and arcade-like racing, combined with a smashing playlist to ram your opponents off the road to, too.
Go karts with added weaponry and speed boosts, set in the Nintendo Universe of Mario and more.
The lower speeds will ease you in gently as you learn how to use green, red, and blue shells (aka that spiny blue bastard) effectively, and additional help comes with brake and steering assist if you’d like it. As your skill grows you can turn these off, and increase the speed for more challenge. A classic, brought up to date for the Nintendo Switch.
Deck Building Roguelike Games
So you’re ready for a bit of strategy, but also want to take your time and consider your move? Enter the deck builders. Your actions are governed by a deck of cards which allow you to deploy units, cast spells, and more. Add more powerful cards to your deck and remove the lesser cards, while acquiring items and upgrades along the way. These games will test you, don’t expect to win for the first, second, maybe fiftieth time you try. But each time you do, you’ll add new possible cards, new characters, and new strategies to your game.
The game that added the ‘roguelike’ element to deck building games – this means your game is over once you lose, but you’ll start anew with the abilities, or in this case cards, you unlocked. Use your cards to fight monsters in your repeated efforts to Slay the Spire.
Easy to grasp, tough to master, you’ll be pondering your route to the spire – do you want to buy more cards, or fight more monsters? Rest to regain health or upgrade cards with powerful new abilities?
Randomised artifacts that offer new powers, and a number of different characters to play as keep things fresh as you embark on your quest to Slay the Spire.
Hell has frozen over and you carry the spark to reignite it. Playing similarly to Slay the Spire, but set on a train from hell with multiple floors to defend, Monster Train adds a little complexity to proceedings, as well as a graphical upgrade.
With multiple factions and scalable difficulty, Monster Train demands strategy, guile, and a bit of luck to succeed in defeating Seraph. Currently my most played game and comes with a hearty recommendation to everyone.
Weird Games that Defy Categorisation
Your father, the King of All Cosmos, has broken the sky. And so it falls to you, the price, to roll everything in the world up into a ball, and create new stars. The ball of souls, or katamari, starts off as small as a pea, and gets larger with every item that sticks to it.
Eventually you’re rolling up cats, people, houses and more. The katamari controls like a tank, and the time limits are tight, but if this one gels you’ll find a wealth of fun in this Japanese oddity.
It is a beautiful day in the village and you are a horrible goose. The game that spawned a thousand memes is actually very good. You are the goose and have a checklist of tasks to complete – how will you get the gardener wet? Well there’s a sprinkler in his garden that you can turn on, maybe if you stole his sandwich and left it nearby…
A mixture of puzzles and stealth, combined with aggressively honking at a boy in a bucolic english village, make this more thoughtful than it first appears.
Also it has a dedicated honk button. And if that doesn’t do it for you, all hope is lost.
I’m giving the LEGO games their own category because they’r brilliant and deserve it.. They’re a little bit wonky, a bit overdone, but they’re a great famiuly/beginner-freindly series of games.
What started with LEGO Star Wars back in 2005, has spawned a whole series of games where you can mix and match characters with different abilities, solve simple puzzles and run, jump, blast, and build your way to the end of level. Sporting a cheeky sense of humour that appeals to adults and kids, these are the perfect gateway to slightly more gamey games.
The series includes *deep breath*
(something of a bargain getting 3 games in 1)
In all honesty most of these are VERY similar, so pick your favourite franchise to get stuck into.
Then there’s LEGO City Undercover. You may have heard of the super violent Grand Theft Auto. What if you made the violence cute, made you an undercover cop, and put you in charge? Lego City Undercover is a little more complex than the other Lego games here, but is great fun to explore.
Welcome to video games! This doesn’t even scratch the surface. You’re gonna have a fun time.
What did we miss? What would you recommend to gaming newbies? Let us know in the comments below and we’ll add to this list of video games for beginners.