Gaming is so wildly popular and widespread, available on a vast range of devices from traditional games consoles, like the PS5 and Xbox Series X, to smartphones and tablets, like the Samsung Galaxy S22 or iPad Air. But as a result it can also be a little daunting for people new to digital gaming to enter.
There's an expectation to intuitively know certain controls, such as how the triggers of a controller are nearly always used for acceleration and braking in racing games. And the graphics of modern games can be so detailed and realistic, they can almost be overwhelming.
To combat this, we've got a selection of the best games for new gamers. These will ease you into the gaming world with the most gentle of learning curves. And for established gamers, these titles offer a casual respite from the more hardcore games.
So read on for our top picks of games ranging from easy-going sims to pick-up-and-play multiplayer titles, even if you've never picked up a controller before.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons
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Even if you don’t play games, you’ve probably heard of Animal Crossing: New Horizons (opens in new tab). Nintendo’s colorful new life simulator has taken the internet by storm, as people all over have escaped the chaos and isolation of everyday life to retreat to a vibrant getaway island that you can grow, customize and play in however you see fit. New Horizons’ accessible gameplay and relaxing pace make it the perfect game for new gamers, as you’ll spend most of your time catching creatures, planting trees, selling and buying goods and talking to fellow villagers as you watch your island turn into a thriving social hub. And with a huge online community and various multiplayer options, there are plenty of people who can help you along the way. - Mike Andronico
Batman: The Telltale Series
If there’s one thing that unites us — young and old, gamers and non-gamers, pop culture aficionados and casual fans — it’s that almost all of us love Batman. From his tortured secret identity to his colorful rogues’ gallery, something about Batman speaks to us from the comic book page, the silver screen and, yes, even the video game console. In Batman: The Telltale Series, you’ll take control of both Bruce Wayne and Batman as you play through an original origin story for some of the Caped Crusader’s greatest foes, such as the Penguin, Two-Face and Catwoman. Like most Telltale games, Batman is a point-and-click adventure, meaning there’s no complex combat system. It’s all about dialogue, story choices and solving puzzles, with the occasional break for some simple button-prompt battles. - Marshall Honorof
The Jackbox Party Pack
No one ever said you had to dive into gaming all by yourself. The Jackbox Party Pack (opens in new tab) is perhaps the best multiplayer series available today, at least if your tastes skew to silly, slightly off-color party games. There are six Jackbox Party Packs from which to choose, and each contains a different group of quirky titles. Highlights include Fibbage, in which players compete to make up the most convincing lies, You Don’t Know Jack, a slightly risqué trivia game and Mad Verse City, where players write rhymes for giant rapping robots. Jackbox Party Packs have very little learning curve, and you don’t even need a controller to play them; you simply jump in with your own computer or smartphone. And if you don’t like one minigame, there are dozens more to try. - Marshall Honorof
Rather than overload you with story and gameplay mechanics, Journey finds success in the simplicity. Currently free right now on PS4, Journey gives you a mission of finding your way. Specifically, you're a cloaked figure, in a gorgeous and seemingly-infinite desert, trying to find safety. In order to do that, you'll need to grow your scarf, which is somehow connected to how high you can fly.
Soaring around the architecture of this desert landscape is also enabled by interacting with other cloaked figures you see around the island. As you explore its world, you'll see hieroglyphics that appear to tell some kind of story, and other cloaked figures that might help you find hidden passages. As Journey's sweeping score soars along with you, and calms you through your … well, journey … you'll wonder why you ever tried those maddeningly frustrating Call of Duty games. - Henry T. Casey
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe
There's something about Mario Kart that's absolutely irresistible to gamers and non-gamers alike. You've almost definitely played Mario Kart at some point, whether it was at a party, in a college dorm room or simply hanging out at a friend's house. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe (opens in new tab) is the latest entry in the Mario Kart series. While it's not the kind of game you can sit down and play for hours and hours at a time, it's a great way to spend a spare 30 minutes or so, particularly if you have family or house-mates with whom to share the experience. Even if you play by yourself, you can still earn tons of unlockable items for the game's 40+ playable characters. - Marshall Honorof
Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Trilogy
If you’ve been surviving quarantine by marathoning Law & Order reruns, why not try taking on some over-the-top legal cases yourself? Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Trilogy gathers the first three games of the Ace Attorney Trilogy together into one convenient package. In these interactive visual novels, you’ll take on the role of Phoenix Wright: a hapless, tenacious defense attorney whose clients find themselves on the wrong ends of seemingly airtight murder charges. Gameplay is pretty simple, as all you need to do is gather evidence, listen to testimony, press witnesses for further information and expose contradictions. The cases get progressively tougher, though, and the contradictions get harder to spot. - Marshall Honorof
Professor Layton and the Curious Village
A quaint European village. A charming professor and his precocious young apprentice. A last will and testament that kicks off a wild treasure hunt. This isn’t an Agatha Christie mystery; it’s Professor Layton and the Curious Village. In this adventure/puzzle game, the titular professor and his sidekick, Luke, explore the remote village of St. Mystere, where solving riddle after riddle could make them very rich — or unearth even stranger secrets. The puzzles in this game are all logical and mathematical brain teasers, meaning there’s no “gameplay” required beyond moving from place to place, finding hidden objects and writing in your answers. It’s still a challenging experience with a good old-fashioned mystery at the center. - Marshall Honorof
Persona 5 Royal
The expanded version of a popular and beloved Japanese role playing game, Persona 5 Royal (opens in new tab) fixes the one problem with the original and adds a lot more content. I'm recommending it to new gamers for a couple of big reasons, starting with the fact that half of the game is a high school life simulator, where you manage your time with friends and teachers and build bonds with the folks in your life. An utterly different kind of gameplay than most might be familiar with, this half of the game is more than fulfilling emotionally, as you better get to know those around you.
Those strong bonds and friendships come in handy on the other side of the game, where you and your fellow classmates are invading the minds of corrupt local adults. This is where the game's traditional RPG elements come in, but don't worry about a learning curve. Persona 5 Royal does a fantastic job of holding users' hands as they begin to learn about the game, always giving visual cues to help you find what to do. All the while, Persona 5 Royal's stylish visuals — it's practically dripping with cool — and wonderful soundtrack will have you amazed with how deep this game can get. - Henry T. Casey
Portal is a first-person game where you wield a gun, but it's not violent, and it's not a shooter. Instead, you take control of Chell: a prisoner in a futuristic lab who must run a series of complex — and hilarious — science experiments. Armed with a "portal gun" that shoots blue and orange portals onto any receptive surface, she can transport her way around self-contained puzzle rooms, solving intricate brainteasers and working out just why she's been imprisoned in the first place. With a sharp script, an extremely gentle learning curve and a short playtime (two to three hours is all you'll need), Portal is a welcoming experience for new gamers, and a perfect way to learn how to navigate 3D levels. - Marshall Honorof
Untitled Goose Game
Unlike any game I'd ever played before, Untitled Goose Game (opens in new tab) is incredibly simple and fun, at least in the beginning. You're in the webbed feet of an obnoxious goose who goes around picking up items in its bill and honking at the townsfolk. That doesn't sound like a game, but you soon get a list of anarchic chores to accomplish that range from stealing items to setting up pratfalls for the locals.
Each "level" of Untitled Goose Game is a different scene or home, and once you've played a little of the game, you'll grow accustomed to its internal logic. Before you know it, you'll be setting up mini Rube Goldberg machines, ruining one citizen's day after another. It's all tied together by an adorable cartoonish aesthetic and a delightful soundtrack. - Henry T. Casey