Best Short Games

Best Short Games

In an age dominated by open-world and live-service projects, streamlined games can make for a refreshing change of pace. As immersive and enjoyable as it can be to drop 100 hours into Persona 5 Royal, The Witcher 3, or the latest Assassin's Creed, sometimes nothing hits as hard as a story consumed in a single sitting.

While there are not all that many AAA titles that can be completed in the span of a few hours, the same cannot be said for the indie scene. In fact, some of the greatest independent releases of all time are roughly the length of a movie. What are the best short games?

Updated on May 5, 2024:A few more of the greatest short games ever have been added to the discussion; specifically, two standout entries from franchises published by Konami.

To qualify, a game's average "main story" length on HowLongToBeat must be under 5 hours. Roguelikes will not be considered since repeat playthroughs are the norm, and fighting games will be omitted since they (typically) focus on multiplayer.

Before Your Eyes

Metascore: 79

Before Your Eyes
Platform(s)PS5, PC, Mobile
ReleasedApril 8, 2021
DeveloperGoodbyeWorld Games
Genre(s)Adventure
How Long To Beat2 Hours

Skybound's Before Your Eyes uses a unique gameplay gimmick to tell an engaging and moving plot that chronicles a person's entire life. Using the webcam, players can exercise control through their eyes, with blinking sending the story forward. It is a unique idea that has not been explored all that much by the gaming industry, and it is executed well. Narratively, the game revolves around Benny, a guy who has just died. As the afterlife awaits, players are tasked with experiencing Benny's memories to determine whether he is worthy of a favorable judgment. Starting from childhood, the campaign covers important moments from his life, all the while tackling mature and relatable themes.

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Before Your Eyes might not have the name recognition of a few other short but sweet games, but it deserves appreciation for thinking outside the box without succumbing to innovation at the expense of player enjoyment. The story is generally great, and it is the perfect length as well. While it is possible to use a mouse instead of a webcam, the game was designed with the latter in mind, and that method should be used whenever possible.

Metal Gear Solid 5: Ground Zeroes

Metascore: 80

Metal Gear Solid 5: Ground Zeroes
Platform(s)PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, PC, Xbox One
ReleasedMarch 18, 2014
Developer(s)Kojima Productions
Genre(s)Stealth
How Long To Beat2 Hours

Ground Zeroes was, essentially, a glorified demo for The Phantom Pain, albeit framed as a prologue. More than anything, the 2014 release introduced long-time fans to the upcoming entry's gameplay loop, one that emphasized player freedom and preparation. Revolving primarily around one map, players must complete a series of missions, with each one encouraging creative thought and different solutions. The Phantom Pain would build nicely on Ground Zeroes' free-flowing nature, delivering by far the best gameplay in the Metal Gear Solid franchise.

Nowadays, there is very little reason to revisit this prologue, relegating Ground Zeroes to a footnote in the license's history. Nevertheless, this release was a big deal when it originally came out and did its job of building up momentum for its successor.

Sheepy: A Short Adventure

Steam User Rating: 99%

Sheepy: A Short Adventure
Platform(s)PC
ReleasedFebruary 6, 2024
Developer(s)MrSuicideSheep
Genre(s)Platformer
How Long To Beat1 Hour

On paper, a game that lasts roughly an hour being free-to-play sounds about right; however, Sheepy: A Short Adventure oozes so much quality that it could have easily gotten away with charging a bit of money. As it currently stands, this short but sweet title sits among Steam's most memorable freebies, particularly when talking about single-player projects that are meant to be completed in a solitary sitting. Utilizing a clean and atmospheric graphical style reminiscent of the Ori franchise, Sheepy follows the eponymous toy as it explores a fallen world that has seen far better days.

Considering its extremely brisk length, this campaign feels surprisingly complete. Players unlock a few abilities, the stages have some collectibles, and the story even incorporates a couple of boss fights. While not necessarily unique to the platformer genre, Sheepy executes the basics extremely well, delivering an experience that is compact and satisfying.

The Room Trilogy

Metascore: 88

The Room
Platform(s)Switch, PC, Mobile
ReleasedDecember 13, 2012
Developer(s)Fireproof Games
Genre(s)Puzzle
How Long To Beat3 Hours

Those looking for a great puzzle game without exceptional length should check out The Room Trilogy. Each of these titles can be completed relatively quickly, though the amount that a player spends in these adventures is directly related to how long it takes them to solve the puzzles (and some of them are pretty intense).

Each of The Room games is meticulously crafted with beautiful visuals and an incredible atmosphere, giving players a calm yet creepy space to solve some pretty intense mind-bending puzzles. There's an underlying story as well, for those seeking something a bit narrative-driven.

Katamari Damacy Reroll

Metascore: 87

Katamari Damacy Reroll
Platform(s)Switch, PS4, PC, Xbox One
ReleasedDecember 6, 2018
Developer(s)MONKEYCRAFT Co. Ltd
Genre(s)Adventure
How Long To Beat5 Hours

A remake of a PS2 classic, Katamari Damacy Reroll is just a good time. The right type of absurd, the story follows the Prince as he travels across the universe to collect enough items to create the moons and stars, a result of his father, the King of All Cosmos, destroying them. The gameplay revolves around rolling huge balls, with the scale expanding as the campaign progresses. While the core concept is bizarre, Katamari Damacy Reroll's gameplay is accessible and immediately understandable, and it is simply gratifying to gradually roll up gigantic makeshift balls.

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A playthrough that focuses on the main story will not take very long to complete, but Katamari Damacy Reroll is quite replayable as levels can be revisited to achieve a better score. Provided the loop hits the mark with someone, they might find themselves returning to this title endlessly.

Streets Of Rage 4

Metascore: 87

Streets of Rage 4
Platform(s)Switch, PS4, PC, Xbox One
ReleasedApril 30, 2020
Developer(s)Guard Crush Games, Lizardcube, Dotemu
Genre(s)Beat 'Em Up
How Long To Beat3 Hours

Strictly speaking, most beat 'em up arcade-style games are under 5 hours. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder's Revenge, The Punisher, and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: The Game can all be completed within roughly two hours, although newcomers will likely have to put in a lot more time before they see the credits. Basically, these games pack a considerable punch, and they extend their mileage by maintaining a high level of difficulty. This is a byproduct of the arcade age, an era that brought the best (and worst) out of the beat 'em up genre. Nowadays, these sorts of releases are not all that common, and when they do appear, they are usually throwbacks to yesteryear.

Streets of Rage is probably the most famous beat 'em up franchise of all time, and the '90s trilogy is still great by most metrics. Consequently, Streets of Rage 4 needed to carry a heavy legacy as it tried to honor the past while bringing the license into the present. For the most part, the sequel achieved its goal by successfully expanding on the Streets of Rage formula in a way that preserved the franchise's lineage.

Streets of Rage 2 or 3 could have made the grade as well, so the fourth entry serves as a representative for the franchise as a whole.

Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon

Metascore: 82

Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon
Platform(s)PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, PC, Xbox One
ReleasedApril 30, 2013
Developer(s)Ubisoft Montreal
Genre(s)FPS
How Long To Beat5 Hours

Compared to modern Assassin's Creed games, Ubisoft's Far Cry projects do not tend to be discouragingly long. Most campaigns can be completed in roughly 20 hours, which is a fairly accessible length for open-world releases. While they might not be endless by the genre's standards, they are still not short and cannot be completed within 5 hours, secret endings notwithstanding. The only exception is Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon, a standalone expansion that can be played and enjoyed without prior knowledge of the main game.

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Parodying '80s action movies, Blood Dragon casts players as a commando who is on a mission to stop a disgruntled agent with a sinister plan fit to carry a two-part episode in a Saturday Morning Cartoon. Obviously, saving the day involves blowing everything up, something the game excels at. Blood Dragon features open areas that grant players the freedom to approach missions how they see fit, mimicking the open-world nature of the mainline entries.

GRIS

Metascore: 84

GRIS
Platform(s)Xbox Series S, Xbox Series X, Switch, PS5, PS4, PC, iOS, Xbox One
ReleasedDecember 13, 2018
Developer(s)Nomada Studio
Genre(s)Puzzle, Platformer, Adventure, Indie Games
How Long To Beat4 Hours

Gris is a beautiful game about grief and healing, with the story chronicling a girl's trying journey as she tries to bring color back into her life. An art project born in a post-Journey world, this short indie title oozes charm, personality, and creativity. Narratively, Gris can be quite subtle, at least in its opening hour or so, and it is mainly seeking to elicit an emotional and visceral response through its visuals.

Due to a past trauma, Gris' world is not only in disarray but also in black and white, and the recovery process is represented through a steady introduction of colors. This creative decision perfectly complements the story, creating a holistic experience in the process. Gameplay-wise, Gris is quite straightforward, although it is never boring either.

Firewatch

Metascore: 87

Firewatch
Platform(s)Switch, PS4, PC, Xbox One
ReleasedFebruary 9, 2016
Developer(s)Campo Santo
Genre(s)Adventure
How Long To Beat4 Hours

From his watchtower, Henry gazes across a national forest, a place that radiates beauty and loneliness in equal measure. Hired to serve as a lookout and to ensure nothing terrible happens to the woods, Henry's life becomes complicated when a few teenage girls show up and, eventually, disappear.

While it might have fairly simplistic exploration-based gameplay and just two main characters, Henry and his boss, Firewatch makes up for it with a well-written story and an immersive atmosphere. Players are allowed to shape Henry's future through the choices they make and their interactions with Delilah, creating a personal experience that lingers in the mind long after the credits roll.

Pistol Whip

Metascore: 90

Pistol Whip
Platform(s)PS5, PS4, PC
ReleasedNovember 7, 2019
DeveloperCloudhead Games
Genre(s)FPS, Virtual Reality
How Long To Beat2 Hours

The virtual reality scene is filled with bite-sized experiences designed to keep someone entertained for short bursts rather than extensive marathons. Most of these releases are one-and-done affairs, but some of the best VR titles manage to be short and replayable. Pistol Whip is one of those games.

9:27
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A first-person shooter with a rhythm backbone, Cloudhead's game feels like a natural progression of arcade light gun shooters, and it is a perfect fit for VR. Players are guided through a series of corridors as they must shoot everyone that stands in their way while avoiding bullets. Simple but fun.

Astro's Playroom

Metascore: 83

Astro's Playroom
Platform(s)PS5
ReleasedNovember 12, 2020
Developer(s)ASOBI Team
Genre(s)Platformer
How Long To Beat3 Hours

Astro's Playroom comes bundled with the PS5 as a free-to-play game that introduces players to the wonders of the DualSense. Essentially, it is a tech demo that is intended to give users something to sink their teeth into before they jump into meatier projects. Despite all of that, Astro's Playroom is still among the better PS5 console exclusives, and the game is filled to the brim with loving nods to PlayStation's history.

As far as 3D platformers are concerned, Team Asobi's title plays like a dream and looks absolutely amazing. Astro's Playroom even shakes up its gameplay fairly frequently, which is something a 3-hour pack-in game could have easily gotten away with not doing.

Unpacking

Metascore: 86

Unpacking
Platform(s)Switch, PS5, PS4, PC, iOS, Android, Xbox One
ReleasedNovember 2, 2021
Developer
Genre(s)Puzzle
How Long To Beat4 Hours

Even if the process is often complicated and rarely fun, moving homes represents the start of a new chapter in someone's life. Unpacking focuses specifically on these moments, granting snapshots into a person's life by showcasing their possessions as they settle down in a new place. A relaxing puzzle game, players simply have to move the packaged items into their new spaces; meanwhile, they pick up context clues regarding the protagonist's situation and personality.

Unpacking has both an inspired and off-putting premise. On the surface, unpacking boxes might sound incredibly dull, but the concept is executed with finesse and warmth. The result is a surprisingly touching experience.

Little Nightmares

Metascore: 83

Little Nightmares
Platform(s)Switch, PS4, PC, Stadia, Xbox One
ReleasedApril 28, 2017
Developer(s)Tarsier Studios
Genre(s)Survival Horror, Puzzle, Platformer
How Long To Beat4 Hours

Side-scrollers might not be known for horror games, but the perspective has produced more than its share of great fear fests. Generally, these projects are unsettling and creepy rather than downright scary, and those two adjectives describe Little Nightmares to a T. As Six, players must navigate a dystopian hellscape called the Maw, with each level centering around a terrifying humanoid creature.

For the most part, Little Nightmares plays out like a stealth platformer, albeit one that frames most of its encounters as puzzles. With minimal dialogue and a focus on environmental storytelling, Tarsier succeeds in weaving a haunting tale that smartly builds a larger world while developing Six as a character.

Doki Doki Literature Club!

Metascore: 78

Doki Doki Literature Club!
Platform(s)PS Vita, PC
ReleasedSeptember 22, 2017
DeveloperTeam Salvato
Genre(s)Visual Novel, Horror
How Long To Beat4 Hours

Doki Doki Literature Club! is available in two forms: The free original game and the Plus! version. While both iterations have main stories that fall under 5 hours according to HowLongToBeat, in reality, players will need to play through the campaign a few times to see all the routes. Therefore, while a single run should last less than 5 hours, most people might not feel done at that point.

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Regardless, Doki Doki Literature Club! is a fantastic enough game to warrant a mention. Initially presented as a visual novel/dating sim hybrid, the game eventually morphs into something else entirely, resulting in an unforgettable and periodically horrifying journey. The Plus! version adds a few side stories that do a great job expanding on the characters; that said, the free version will likely satisfy most people who are just looking for a visual novel to try out.

Metal Slug 3

Metascore: 78

Metal Slug 3
Platform(s)Arcade, Switch, PS4, PS2, Xbox (Original), Xbox 360, PC
ReleasedJune 1, 2000
Developer(s)SNK
Genre(s)Shooter
How Long To Beat2 Hours

Metal Slug 3 is a contender for the greatest run and gun game of all time, a statement that could also extend to a few other entries in the franchise. Due to its arcade origins, SNK's game is very difficult, to the point that most players need to get quite a bit of practice in before they can realistically finish the campaign. Obviously, complete runs are more doable on consoles, although Metal Slug 3 packs a punch regardless of someone's chosen platform.

Metal Slug 3 is inherently replayable due to the quality of its gameplay, but the campaign even includes a few different paths to shake things up. Featuring tight and satisfying gunplay along with detailed visuals and awesome boss fights, SNK produced perfection with this 2000 release, and the game holds up beautifully.

To the Moon

Metascore: 84

To the Moon
Platform(s)Switch
ReleasedNovember 1, 2011
Developer(s)Freebird Games
Genre(s)Adventure
How Long To Beat4 Hours

To the Moon revolves around a dying man's wish to visit Earth's natural satellite. In order to satisfy this desire, representatives of a company known as Sigmund Corporation infiltrate the guy's mind in order to craft memories suggesting that he has fulfilled his unique ambition. As they delve deeper into the client's history, they steadily piece together his backstory and psyche.

Freebird's 2011 indie release garnered critical acclaim upon its debut, and the game has aged beautifully. Now, To the Moon is entirely driven by its narrative, to the point of barely featuring any significant gameplay. While this decision could be off-putting to some players, it makes sense in this circumstance.

Superhot

Metascore: 84

Superhot
Platform(s)Switch, PS4, PC, Xbox One
Developer
ReleasedFebruary 25, 2016
Genre(s)FPS
How Long To Beat3 Hours

Superhot is a stylish first-person shooter with a strong core mechanic: enemies only move when the player does. This change gives the gameplay a strategic component, as players must carefully analyze a situation to determine the smartest course of action.

Featuring a single-player campaign spread over 31 levels (including the finale), Superhot is short and sweet. However, the game offers great bang for a player's buck through the implementation of an endless mode that provides plenty of replayability. Still, if someone just wants to run through the stages, they can get this one done quickly.

Flower

Metascore: 91

Flower
Platform(s)PS Vita, PS3, PS4, PC, iOS, Android
ReleasedFebruary 12, 2009
Developer(s)Thatgamecompany
Genre(s)Adventure
How Long To Beat2 Hours

Tranquil and beautiful, Flower is an art game that teleports players into the dreams of flowers. Taking charge of the wind, players guide petals through fields, with each gust injecting life into the surrounding landscape. Consisting of six relaxing levels, Flower is short and sweet, although the game manages to explore quite a few themes despite its brisk runtime and unchallenging gameplay.

Thatgamecompany would go on to create Journey in 2012, which tends to overshadow Flower. While the former is the more memorable overall experience, the latter is nevertheless a special and timeless release.

Donkey Kong Country

Great Visual Style Blended With Solid Gameplay

Donkey Kong Country
Platform(s)Game Boy Color, Game Boy Advance, SNES
ReleasedNovember 24, 1994
Developer(s)Rare
Genre(s)Platformer
How Long To Beat4 Hours

Rare is responsible for some of the greatest games of all time, and the Donkey Kong Country series might be the developer's crowning achievement. While Diddy's Kong Quest is often cited as the franchise's peak, the sequel clocks in at just over 5 hours; luckily, the original DKC meets the criteria and is also a masterpiece.

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In 1994, the game's pre-rendered visuals were a sight to behold, and they showed that the aging SNES still had the ability to WOW audiences. Although a few aspects of the package are naturally dated in this day and age, DKC holds up well considering it is roughly 30 years old. The gameplay, soundtrack, and unique presentation ensure Rare's title will be forever revisited.

What Remains Of Edith Finch

Metascore: 92

What Remains of Edith Finch
Platform(s)Xbox Series S, Xbox Series X, Switch, PS5, PS4, PC, iOS, Xbox One
ReleasedApril 25, 2017
Developer(s)Giant Sparrow
Genre(s)Adventure
How Long To Beat2 Hours

A prime example of the polarizing "walking sim" genre, What Remains of Edith Finch is a narrative-driven exploration game about the eponymous character's return to her family home. There, Edith visits her relatives' rooms as she learns the cause behind the tragedies that define the Finch household.

What Remains of Edith Finch is an oddly relaxing experience, despite the story's mature and heavy themes. Players are given relative freedom to explore the Finch estate, and this world is punctuated by subtle environmental storytelling.

  • https://www.msn.com/en-ph/entertainment/gaming/best-short-games/ar-AA176rM2

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