The “best podcast games” isn’t an official gaming term, as far as we’re aware, but you can probably guess what we’re talking about. Our digital lives are positively inundated with podcasts, audiobooks, YouTube series, reruns of favorite TV shows — basically, digital distractions that command about half of our attention. To occupy the other half, we often turn to video games.
As such, the Tom’s Guide staff has compiled our favorite “podcast games,” suitable for keeping your hands and eyes busy while your ears soak up all of that audio you’ve been meaning to catch up on. While level-grinding in RPGs is the archetypal example, it’s far from the only way to pass the time. Our list includes massively multiplayer online games, sports sims, roguelikes, racers and more. Now, you can finally catch up on your podcast backlog and your gaming backlog at the same time.
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla
I’ve written at length about Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, and I can never quite decide whether I have more positive or negative things to say about it. While it has solid gameplay, an involved story and a likable cast of characters, it also goes on way too long and inundates players with mountains of tedious busywork. The main game can easily take more than 100 hours to complete; with all the myriad expansions, we’re well north of 150.
Still, Valhalla’s seemingly endless side content does at least provide an excellent excuse to listen to podcasts, audiobooks or YouTube discussions. Clearing out yet another bandit camp or discovering a dozen more resource caches doesn’t require much brainpower. And you can always pause your podcast when you reach the next critical plot mission — although that may well be hours away. — Marshall Honorof
If I'm binge-listening to a podcast series, there's only one game that I can play for multiple hour-long episodes at a time, and that's the classic grand strategy game Civilization VI.
As a turn-based game, it doesn't matter if you pause Civ 6 for a bit to listen to a particularly interesting section or tab out to skip past the adverts. It's also easy to synchronize your listening and your game-playing, since a typical game of Civ is going to last far longer than any one podcast, but equally can be suspended and saved whenever you feel like doing something else.
It's also helpful to have a podcast distracting me from over-thinking my decisions in-game. It's nice to be able to tune out for a spell with whatever thrilling anecdote or revelation the podcast hosts are sharing at a given moment, then re-focus on where exactly I'm going to place my next district when I'm ready. — Richard Priday
Crash Team Racing: Nitro-Fueled
When I’m listening to a podcast, it’s normally to chill out, and nothing takes me back like Crash Team Racing:Nitro-Fueled. The PS1 original is one of the first games I ever played and I know the tracks better than the streets in my hometown. Playing against the computer is no real challenge these days but is still great fun, especially when you can pull off the notoriously hard Roo’s Tubes shortcut. When I dare go online, having a podcast playing makes me feel like some kind of Baby Driver style savant and keeps me from over-thinking about the other racers.
The best mode for podding however is the time trials. These require you to reach an almost zen like state as you chase after some fiendishly difficult times, sometimes against the developers themselves! If it wasn’t for a good podcast, these could become a frustrating time sink. — Andy Sansom
Elden Ring probably doesn’t immediately come to mind when you think of games you can play while listening to podcasts. FromSoftware’s open-world action RPG is certainly challenging, with many sections and boss battles commanding your full attention. However, you’ll also spend a great deal of time replaying certain locations in order to grind for experience points to level up — which in turn helps mitigate some of Elden Ring’s challenges.
During these relatively mundane moments, I’d fire up a podcast to ensure I wouldn’t stop level grinding out of sheer boredom. In fact, there were many times I kept playing beyond the time I’d allotted myself simply to continue listening to a podcast or perhaps start up another episode. I actually ended up being somewhat overpowered by the time I finished Elden Ring because of this, but at least I got to tear through a bunch of great podcasts. — Tony Polanco
Fall Guys may no longer be dominating the gaming conversation as it did for a fleeting moment back in the summer of 2020, but I’m still hooked on this colorful online battle royale. There’s just one problem, its soundtrack and audio effects are among the most grating in all of gaming.
Fortunately, this issue can be resolved with the use of my TV’s mute button and a preferred podcast. Naturally, a comedy podcast syncs up nicely with the game’s silly tone. Even better, I’ve also discovered that listening to podcasts actually helps my in-game performance as I’m more relaxed and less prone to silly errors that lead to any early elimination.
In fact, it’s been so long since I’ve played Fall Guys without listening to a podcast, that I can barely remember what the menu music sounds like — and I see that as an absolute win. — Rory Mellon
EA’s quest to create the most authentic simulation of soccer has seen the FIFA series take a great many strides over the years, but one area that lags behind is the in-game commentary. Unbearably bland and often barely describing what’s actually happening on the pitch, I always find myself reaching for a podcast when I settle down for a session of FIFA 23.
An engaging podcast also helps to make the slightly less engaging aspects of playing FIFA a little more tolerable. Menial tasks like reshuffling my roster or shopping in the transfer market are a lot more enjoyable with an audio distraction. Plus, I like to pair FIFA with one of my favorite soccer podcasts (shout out to Pod on the Tyne) for a nice bit of synergy. — Rory Mellon
Final Fantasy XIV
Final Fantasy XIV is an online RPG with an intricate story, an active player base and a huge variety of activities to complete. As such, much of the game demands your complete attention, whether you’re experiencing a huge plot twist in an intricately animated cutscene, or coordinating a dungeon run with a group of dedicated adventurers. However, a good chunk of the game is also repetitive busywork. You can run low-level content to level up secondary classes; you can gather resources for the game’s extensive crafting system; you can even decorate a house or raise animals on a farm. These are excellent opportunities for listening to something in the background.
Just be sure to pause the podcast when you start queueing up for multiplayer content, though. That usually demands your full attention, and your fellow players will notice if you’re not giving it. — Marshall Honorof
There’s a lot to do in Stardew Valley, and by its very nature everything happens slowly and calmly — letting you more or less switch off your brain in the process. That’s a big part of what makes the game so relaxing, and the perfect way to unwind and lose several hours in a virtual world.
You can enjoy Stardew Valley on its own, but it’s also the perfect companion for any kind of audio entertainment. The fact is you don’t need to focus 100% of your attention on the game for 90% of your playtime. That means your brain can easily focus on your favorite ongoing true crime series without wrecking your in-game progress. — Tom Pritchard
Street Fighter V
Some people like to hit the gym with a podcast in their ears, and similarly I like to boot up the training mode in Street Fighter V and practice my combos. Training of any kind can be a grind, but perfecting my inputs and nailing timings becomes a lot more tolerable with some audio entertainment.
That still applies when it's match time too. You likely won't be listening at full concentration when you're trying to duke it out with your virtual opponent, but a lightweight podcast that you can easily catch up with in the breaks between rounds is perfect for this. — Richard Priday
Tales of Arise
I started playing JRPGs relatively late in life, with my first being Shining the Holy Ark on Sega Saturn in the late 1990s. Even then, I realized that listening to music (and eventually podcasts) while level grinding went together like peanut butter and jelly. It’s a practice I still continue today.
Even more than Elden Ring, Tales of Arise is a great game to play while listening to podcasts since level-grinding is relatively passive. It’s rare when enemies can get the drop on you since you mostly need to initiate combat. And if you’re at a decent level, it will be difficult for foes to kill you, even if you’re not paying attention. Because of that, listening to a great podcast makes level grinding in this game (or any JRPG) tolerable. Like Elden Ring, I also became very overpowered in Tales of Arise because listening to podcasts made me level grind more than I should have — which I don’t see as a problem. — Tony Polanco
Poncle’s Vampire Survivors was one of the surprise indie hits of 2022, and it’s the definition of a great podcast game. Fire it up and you’ll find yourself presented with a simple challenge: Pick a character and use an assortment of auto-firing weaponry to survive endless waves of enemies until you die.
It’s a great podcast game because it’s basically designed for you to be doing something else while playing, as all you do in each stage is move your avatar around. This basic challenge proves satisfying thanks to a familiar treasure trove of upgrades to churn through as you earn gold and experience points for surviving, as well as some quirky surprises to discover. If you (like me) dismissed this game at first glance because it looks so simplistic, don’t—the vintage Castlevania sprites bought and used to make Vampire Survivors disguise its depth, complexity and potential to create nail-biting climactic battles. — Alex Wawro