Hogging the Couch: The Best Downloadable Solo Games

Sometimes you just don’t want to play with anybody else.  Yes co-op is fun with friends, and competitive play can be a thrill, but sometimes you just want to curl up in front of a television, and play a game completely by your own rules.  These days, you don’t even need to leave your couch to buy the games!  Here is a list of some of the best games to do just that:

Bastion:  Bastion is one of those games that simply shouldn’t be as good as it is.  With their ambitious debut Bastion, Supergiant Games proved that you don’t need to be a huge or recognized company to create solid gold.  Bastion turned out to be a critical and commercial success, combining stellar third-person action with a unique active narrator that really sets it apart from any other title.

As “The Kid”, you wake up to a destroyed world with nothing but your wits.  As you embark on your quest, the narrator (excellently voiced by Logan Cunningham) follows along seamlessly, remarking on your actions.  The tight hack-and-slash controls and a diverse set of weaponry and special abilities would make it a great game anyway, but the sound design and water-color art style turn it into true art.  You are doing yourself a disservice if you haven’t played this masterpiece.

Limbo:  One of the more haunting titles you’ll ever play, Limbo takes puzzle-platforming to a new artistic level. A bevy of smart puzzles and clever secrets await you within this dark world, and, in all likelihood, a few gruesome deaths as well.  Limbo is many things: difficult, obscure and often startling, but it is never boring.

It doesn’t trouble itself with story too much, but as an exercise in pure game design, it is one of the best.  With nothing but jump and grab buttons available to you, Limbo strings together an impeccable gauntlet of challenges, requiring an equal mix of cerebral thinking and dexterous fingers.  Near the end things become a little more about fancy controller acrobatics than puzzles, but Limbo is a title no one should miss.

Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved 2: Fact: Geometry Wars was first seen as a loading screen diversion in Project Gotham Racing 2.  Another fact:  Geometry Wars is way more fun that Project Gotham Racing 2.  Yet another fact:  You should play Geometry Wars.  Retro Evolved 2 is the best way to do that, and it is an absolute blast.

Geometry Wars is a fast-paced, dual analog stick shooter that engages you on levels only a raver could understand.  A variety of fun game modes are included, as well as simultaneous competitive and co-op gameplay, but the basic framework stays the same:  killing as many geometrical shapes as you can.  It’s way better than it sounds.  Like Trials, a persistent leaderboard lets you know how much your friends are dominating you, and challenges you to beat them.

Castlevania: Symphony of the Night:  It may be a little aged at this point, it was released in 1997, but SOTN is on perennial “Best Game Ever” lists for a reason.  You did know where the second half of the term Metroidvania originated right?  That’s because it was perfected here.  Anti-hero Alucard became a huge fan favorite, and his journey through his father’s castle is one of the finest video game experiences available.

Dracula’s abode is home to some rich secrets, but one particular bit continues to be one of the most mind-blowing moments in gaming.  If you beat the last boss of the castle, Richter Belmont, in a specific way, an inverted version of the entire castle becomes available, complete with new treasures, enemies and the true last boss.  If you somehow haven’t played this gem, you need to scratch that off your bucket list.

Portal:  I know the whole Portal thing is overplayed, but this list simply wouldn’t be complete without mentioning it.  Besides, Portal 2 has been out long enough to where maybe it is time to replay the original masterpiece.  And yes, it remains as good as you remember, something that not all games, even great ones, can do.

Portal does more with less than perhaps any game before it.  It features one mechanic (portals) and one voice (GLaDOS), but, wow, what a mechanic and voice, and mechanical voice, those two things are.  I don’t know what twisted muse delivered the idea of this game to its creator, but I’m sure glad it did.  Genius puzzle design and a captivating story are the cornerstones of Portal, and they really set the bar for the industry.

Super Meat Boy:  Another game I would be remiss to neglect, Super Meat Boy fills a particular niche in the gaming community.  It isn’t for everyone; brutal difficulty and offbeat humor are rampant, but those looking for a challenge in their games need to look no further.  It is a hellishly good game, but Super Meat Boy really isn’t for the faint of heart.

You play as Meat Boy, who is trying to platform his way to his kidnapped girlfriend Bandage Girl, who was taken by the nefarious Dr. Fetus.  Yes, it is as ridiculous as it sounds.  Story aside, the gameplay is the true draw here.  Through dozens of ever-more-difficult levels, you will be dodging lasers, saws and needles as you try your hardest not to die again.  Because you will die…a lot.  Thankfully, a light atmosphere and quick respawn negate some of the frustration of repeated deaths.

Braid:  Last but certainly not least, Braid is my personal favorite game on this list.  When you look at the other games here, that is quite a feat.  The perfect blend of art, gameplay and story, Braid captivated me from the moment I picked it up, and still, years after playing it for the first time, I still find myself analyzing it in different ways.

Braid hit me like no other game I had played before.  The puzzles are difficult, but make you feel so smart when you finally complete them.  The art and music are top notch, and it features one of the best story twists in recent memory.  I’m a sucker for hidden endings, and Braid has one of the best (and most difficult) secrets that I wouldn’t dare spoil for you.  Braid is a game that everybody should play at least once.

Decided you do want friends over after all?  Check out the best co-op titles available.  If you’re feeling that competitive ache, it’s probably just gas.  Or you can read about the best games to claim bragging rights with.