A large part of the winter holidays is spending time with loved ones, be they friends or family, though this year may be a bit different. While we do enjoy hanging out with siblings, parents and relatives, if you've been cooped up with yours for the past few months already you may be itching for some time to yourself. If you’re looking for an escape this holiday and can find the space to do so, these are the perfect games to occupy a few hours of your life.
The best games to escape your family this Christmas
We've focused on mobile titles for this list, because some people won't have the chance to set up their console in front of the TV for long during the holidays. That means most of the titles below can be found on Nintendo Switch or iOS and Android.
Perfect timing for a Switch release, or grab the mobile version that's been out for a while, then jump into a Discord with your friends and ruin some relationships with paranoia! There's also a new airship map so even if you've rinsed the game a lot this year already, there's some fun to be had still.
Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity
Musou games are perfect for spending hours swiping away at mobs, earning that big Head Empty vibe that the holidays bring with them. There's a little bit of story to hook you into Age of Calamity, though, and it can feel like slipping into a cozy, familiar sweater with all those champion faces from the long-adored Breath of the Wild.
If you've been let down by other games in the cyberpunk genre recently, Cloudpunk could help remedy that. Much smaller in scale (basically a delivery driving sim) but with lots of lovely neon and flying cars that are supposed to fly instead of suddenly ending up flying for no reason. Tick off some deliveries and maybe run into an interesting story or two along the way.
What the Golf?!
It's not golf in any shape that we've seen it, but it is incredibly moreish fun. Just keep potting balls/barrels/houses to find out what the next strange interpretation of the golf swing mechanic will turn into. Is it a Superhot parody? Maybe it's a trials bike riding challenge? Oh, it's a joke about game development. Of course! Very, very good fun.
Civilization may well be the ultimate gaming time sink, and now that the series has arrived on Nintendo Switch it’s possible to crack on with advancing society anywhere and everywhere. Keep a game of Civ 6 on the go during the holiday period and you can pop out to hide in your bedroom, outside or even a cupboard for a break whenever needed. Just remember to keep track of time or you might miss Christmas dinner in your race for that technological victory.
If you’re looking for a game to dip into and out of in shorter bursts, Digital Sun’s Moonlighter might fit the bill nicely. Each run of Moonlighter’s dungeons or storefront days won’t take you more than ten minutes, and offers a wonderful loop of satisfaction. Raising funds to expand your shop or upgrade your gear can rarely go wrong, so there’s no chance of frustration. If life is stressing you out, soothe yourself with a short stint in Moonlighter’s beautiful land.
If you’re not one to get into the spirit of Christmas, Donut County — available in portable form on iOS and Switch — is the perfect chance to indulge in your grinchy tendencies without annoying your family. Fed up with presents? Cackle with delight as you swallow the possessions of everyone in town, ruining their days but making yours. Oh, and solve puzzles, progress the story and all that too of course…
Looking for something new to try? GRIS only released in December and could easily contest the title of most beautiful game of the year. Following the story of a young girl GRIS sees you help her deal with despair following a tragic event. It’s a gorgeous, emotionally investing tale, and while you’ll only get one playthrough out of GRIS, you can be sure it’ll stick with you for a while.
If GRIS doesn’t fill your need for a more poignant gaming session, Florence will do a good job of tugging those heartstrings further. A relationship story, Florence mixes comic strips with simple games to relay fleeting moments in a flourishing and floundering partnership. Though it may be short, the price for entry is low and you’ll find it hard to tear yourself away once the story begins.
Sometimes the simple pleasures are all you need to enjoy a good Christmas. Alto’s Odyssey is the perfect zone-out game, letting you admire the view as you slide ever onwards down its eternal slopes of relaxation. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, simply whack on some chilled music, take a seat and hit the slopes. Five minutes in Alto’s Odyssey and you’ll be refreshed enough to handle that family game of Charades. Well, maybe.
Red Dead Redemption 2
Getting time on the TV during the holidays is rarely easy, but if you’re lucky enough to find some private hours, RDR2’s expansive world is a fantastic place to lose yourself. Don’t expect Arthur Morgan’s outlaw family to be any more functional than your real one, but at least in there you can run off to spend hours hunting Moose if you want to! There's also been dozens of updates for Red Dead Online, which may also scratch the itch if you've played the campaign previously.
You’ll need plenty of time to settle down into the role, so Red Dead might be best to boot up after the rest of your family or pals hit the hay for the night. Just remember to wear a headset and avoid cursing when you accidentally ride your horse smack bang into a tree for the fifth time (just us?).
Those were the games we felt best suited to help you survive those family encounters, but feel free to let us know your own private gaming escapes in the comments below. Feel more festive after a break? Check out our party packed list of the best games to bring the family together this Christmas!