21 votes

What are your favorite short games?

I don't have nearly as much time to game as I used to, and as such, I tend to prioritize games that are quick to finish over those that want my attention for a long time. Thus, I'm curious to know: what are the best short games you've played?

I'm going to arbitrarily set "short" at a threshhold of 3 hours or less.

Furthermore, I'm referring to games that have a defined start and end, rather than potentially infinite play sessions. That means a game like The Binding of Isaac wouldn't count despite the average play session being much less than 3 hours, but a game like Gone Home would.

If you're not sure about a game's length, check HowLongToBeat for crowdsourced runtime data.


Here's a table of recommendations mentioned in the thread, and their approximate time to complete from HowLongToBeat (using the "Main Story" category).

Game Length (hours)
140 1
1979 Revolution: Black Friday 2
A Dark Room 3.5
ABZÛ 2
Another World 2.5
The Beginner's Guide 1.5
Brothers - A Tale of Two Sons 3
Cave Story 7
Digital: A Love Story (1) 2
Analogue: A Hate Story (2) 3
Distance 2
Dr. Langeskov, The Tiger, and The Terribly Cursed Emerald: A Whirlwind Heist 0.5
Firewatch 4
Flower 2
Gone Home 2
Gunpoint 3
Her Story 2.5
Hexcells 2
INSIDE 3.5
Into the Breach 5
Jazzpunk 2
Journey 2
Kamiko 1
LOVE (1) 0.5
kuso (2) 0.75
Membrane 3.5
Moss 4
My Friend Pedro 4
NaissancE 4
A Normal Lost Phone 1.5
Papers, Please 4.5
Portal 3
Refunct 0.5
Rez 2
The Room 2.5
The Room 2 3
Rumu 3
Sagebrush 2
Samorost 0.25
SEPTEMBER 1999 0.09167
Spirits of Xanadu 3
The Stanley Parable 1.5
Stories Untold 2.5
A Story About My Uncle 3
Subsurface Circular (1) 2
SUPERHOT 2
Quarantine Circular (2) 2
To the Moon 4
The Unfinished Swan 2.5
What Remains of Edith Finch 2
Xeodrifter 3

41 comments

  1. [2]
    moocow1452 (edited ) Link
    The Stanley Parable and The Beginner's Guide are also real master classes in short games that do what they want to do and are great if you just want to pass a controller around and show it off...

    The Stanley Parable and The Beginner's Guide are also real master classes in short games that do what they want to do and are great if you just want to pass a controller around and show it off like a movie.

    10 votes
    1. kfwyre Link Parent
      I loved both of those. It's also worth mentioning their sibling game: Dr. Langeskov, The Tiger, and The Terribly Cursed Emerald: A Whirlwind Heist. It's only tangentially related in that the...

      I loved both of those.

      It's also worth mentioning their sibling game: Dr. Langeskov, The Tiger, and The Terribly Cursed Emerald: A Whirlwind Heist. It's only tangentially related in that the designer also worked on The Stanley Parable, but it fits right in with the first two in terms of feel, execution, and theme.

      2 votes
  2. [4]
    CharlieConway Link
    The only game I can think of that matches your max time criteria is What Remains of Edith Finch. It's a walking sim with an odd little story that I'd definitely consider worth spending 3 hours or...

    The only game I can think of that matches your max time criteria is What Remains of Edith Finch. It's a walking sim with an odd little story that I'd definitely consider worth spending 3 hours or so on.

    8 votes
    1. gpl Link Parent
      I'm super intrigued by this, I saw it on steam the other day. The story looks super interesting.

      I'm super intrigued by this, I saw it on steam the other day. The story looks super interesting.

      2 votes
    2. Douglas Link Parent
      The house that game takes place in is ridiculously gorgeous.

      The house that game takes place in is ridiculously gorgeous.

      2 votes
    3. balooga Link Parent
      Oh, interesting. Elsewhere in this thread I recommended The Unfinished Swan, but apparently that's made by the same studio as Edith Finch. I've never heard of this one before. A brief (to avoid...

      Oh, interesting. Elsewhere in this thread I recommended The Unfinished Swan, but apparently that's made by the same studio as Edith Finch. I've never heard of this one before. A brief (to avoid spoilers) search suggests the two games might be connected in some way... I'll have to check this out.

      2 votes
  3. [3]
    Whom Link
    Subsurface Circular, a pretty excellent conversation-based mystery/detective game. It's made by the Thomas Was Alone team, so you can expect it to be a clever little experience, which it is, but...

    Subsurface Circular, a pretty excellent conversation-based mystery/detective game. It's made by the Thomas Was Alone team, so you can expect it to be a clever little experience, which it is, but it's also thought-provoking enough to be more than a novelty. The devs call it a "graphical twist on the classic text-based adventure," and I...wouldn't really agree with that assessment, but all the important stuff is text dialogue, so if you like that kind of thing then absolutely go for it. For me, conversations are the #1 thing I care about in games, so this was a treat.

    It'll stick with you.

    7 votes
    1. emnii Link Parent
      Follow it up with Quarantine Circular, which isn't a sequel but a different story in the same format. You play several characters who have a chat with an alien.

      Follow it up with Quarantine Circular, which isn't a sequel but a different story in the same format. You play several characters who have a chat with an alien.

      4 votes
    2. kfwyre Link Parent
      I loved Thomas Was Alone and Volume, but never got around to this one despite it looking interesting on release. Thanks for putting it (back) on my radar!

      I loved Thomas Was Alone and Volume, but never got around to this one despite it looking interesting on release. Thanks for putting it (back) on my radar!

  4. [2]
    emnii Link
    Jazzpunk - This is Airplane or Top Secret in video game form. It's just a constant string of gag after gag. It's a first person game with some very light puzzle solving, but the whole point is to...

    Jazzpunk - This is Airplane or Top Secret in video game form. It's just a constant string of gag after gag. It's a first person game with some very light puzzle solving, but the whole point is to walk around and gawk at every ridiculous thing they crammed into it .

    INSIDE - Sidescrolling platform/adventure game in a dystopian setting. The less said about the story, the better, but you walk to the right, do some platforming, and solve some fairly clever puzzles involving game physics. I think this one lands under 3 hours, though my personal play time is at 4. I think I was achievement chasing though.

    Rez - It's a rail shooter, except it's got a very distinct wirefame art style, excellent soundtrack, and the gameplay is intended to match up to the music. The developers did their best to tie together the music to the visuals to the pulse of the feedback in the controller and it makes for a really unique experience.

    5 votes
    1. Octofox Link Parent
      Jazzpunk is just so weird its amazing. I don't think I got to the end of it but its such an experience.

      Jazzpunk is just so weird its amazing. I don't think I got to the end of it but its such an experience.

      3 votes
  5. [3]
    aymm Link
    I recently played Firewatch and greatly enjoyed it! It's a bit longer than your limit, probbaly around 4 or 5 hours

    I recently played Firewatch and greatly enjoyed it! It's a bit longer than your limit, probbaly around 4 or 5 hours

    5 votes
    1. [2]
      blitz Link Parent
      Without getting too much into spoilers, I felt like the pacing was great for about 2/3 but the actual ending turned out to be a massive letdown.

      Without getting too much into spoilers, I felt like the pacing was great for about 2/3 but the actual ending turned out to be a massive letdown.

      3 votes
      1. Wes Link Parent
        I hear that a lot, but I actually thought the ending was perfect. I had no complaints.

        I hear that a lot, but I actually thought the ending was perfect. I had no complaints.

        2 votes
  6. hook Link
    I had great fun finishing Kamiko with the first character and will return to finish it with the other two characters and perhaps even improve my performance on the first one. Another one that...

    I had great fun finishing Kamiko with the first character and will return to finish it with the other two characters and perhaps even improve my performance on the first one.

    Another one that might just be around 3h (3½h according to HowLongToBeat) is Membrane – quite an interesting puzzle platformer with an slightly psychedelic (think Beavis and Butthead when they to drugs) vibe.

    Also I hear good things about Xeodrifter, but other than a few minutes haven’t played it yet much. Seems cool though.

    If you don’t mind the classics Another World is an absolute gem and has a pretty good HD remake out now. It’s much shorter than its spiritual brother Flashback, but IMHO has more ambience.

    4 votes
  7. [3]
    rkcr Link
    thatgamecompany makes stellar, short games. In particular, I got through one stressful time in my life by continually replaying Flower, and Journey is still one of my favorite games of all time.

    thatgamecompany makes stellar, short games. In particular, I got through one stressful time in my life by continually replaying Flower, and Journey is still one of my favorite games of all time.

    4 votes
    1. [2]
      fandegw Link Parent
      I recently played Journey because it has finally comed to PC through Epic (here). And I was surprised by not liking it, all because of the mechanic of the jump and the need to recharge it through...

      I recently played Journey because it has finally comed to PC through Epic (here).

      And I was surprised by not liking it, all because of the mechanic of the jump and the need to recharge it through AI driven carpets.

      This seems like a big nitpicking, but the way this mechanic is used in the game annoys me a bunch.
      The purpose of the game is to go through renmants of an old unknown civilisation as what seems to be a character originating from it.
      The carpets seems to represents the ancient wildlife of this particular zone, and it seems there is a symbiotic relation between the character and them. So in theory having them serves a purpose in the gameplay is a very good idea.

      But the way it is setup creates the inverse feeling/desire in the player as what the devs seems to have wanted.

      By linking them with the only very fun mechanic in the movements of our character, it creates this moment to moment gameplay where the player is not seeking the beautiful archictecture / landscapes, but is much more going through it to search for these small white lights orbs which upgrade the length of our jump while zigzaging in the scenery to go through each carpets location to be able to go more rapidly to it.

      So instead of taking pleasure in seeing this beautifully crafted scenery, I spent the majority of it optimizing my movement. I don't think their original goal was this when they thought of this game.

      I found Abzû to be more successful in this regard, where the "boost" passively recharge, which feels more like the respiration mechanic in NaissanceE and comes naturally as a rythm to follow.

      But maybe I was disappointed because I recently played Outer Wilds which has none of the collectibles that fills most of the exploration games, and is wondrous as creating a small but rich in surprises exploration game.

      2 votes
      1. rkcr (edited ) Link Parent
        You were min-maxing a game that is meant to be a journey. I can see how that would ruin the experience. The cape length doesn't even matter... you can get through the entire game without adding to...

        You were min-maxing a game that is meant to be a journey. I can see how that would ruin the experience. The cape length doesn't even matter... you can get through the entire game without adding to your cape.

        Did you ever get a partner in your playthrough? If you didn't link up with anyone, that also makes the experience a lot worse.

        4 votes
  8. whbboyd Link
    I would highly recommend Portal (the first one), if you haven't played it already. It's a quick first-person puzzle/platformer with minimalist but excellent writing, and of course it's now an...

    I would highly recommend Portal (the first one), if you haven't played it already. It's a quick first-person puzzle/platformer with minimalist but excellent writing, and of course it's now an integral part of video game culture and history. Howlongtobeat says three hours, but I don't think it took me that long; regardless, it's surprisingly quick.

    4 votes
  9. ruspaceni Link
    I really love cave story. Something about it is just so captivating, even the older one (free to download and play). If you don't mind platformers then I'd suggest checking it out. I'm not usually...

    I really love cave story. Something about it is just so captivating, even the older one (free to download and play).

    If you don't mind platformers then I'd suggest checking it out. I'm not usually into them, but every once in a while I'll still go back to get my favourite ending.

    e: just checked the 'how long to beat' listing and apparently its way longer than I remember it being at around 7 hours

    4 votes
  10. gpl (edited ) Link
    A Dark Room is a fun and short text-based browser game.

    A Dark Room is a fun and short text-based browser game.

    4 votes
  11. Omnicrola Link
    In the VR category, I would highly recommend Moss. It's about 4-5 hours total, but as a puzzle platformer it's easy to pick up and put down on small intervals.

    In the VR category, I would highly recommend Moss. It's about 4-5 hours total, but as a puzzle platformer it's easy to pick up and put down on small intervals.

    3 votes
  12. Hypersapien Link
    I don't know about 3 hours or less. If you bumped it up to 5 or 6 hours, I'd definitely recommend What Remains of Edith Finch and Rumu. They're both puzzle games where you're playing through a...

    I don't know about 3 hours or less. If you bumped it up to 5 or 6 hours, I'd definitely recommend What Remains of Edith Finch and Rumu. They're both puzzle games where you're playing through a storyline.

    In What Remains of Edith Finch, you're playing a 17 year old girl who is the last surviving member of her family exploring the house she spent her childhood in that she just inherited. You play through how the rest of her family members died.

    In Rumu, you're a newly created AI vacuum cleaner being taught and tested by the house's main AI computer. It has a bit of a "Portal" feel, but with a very different twist.

    3 votes
  13. [2]
    nothis (edited ) Link
    "140" I'm not really into rhythm games so it's somehow even more special to me how that game totally drew me in. Heck, I'm not even that into raw, "minimalist" aesthetics and it even gets that...

    "140"

    I'm not really into rhythm games so it's somehow even more special to me how that game totally drew me in. Heck, I'm not even that into raw, "minimalist" aesthetics and it even gets that right in an astonishing way. It's basically a... rythm-based puzzle platformer? None of these attributes overshadow the others. If there's "puzzle" elements it's more like the harder (but not that hard) platforming sections in Celeste where you have to carefully take into account the right order of how to do jumps and when to hit platforms. The rhythm elements are not "press the A button with the beat" endurance challenges but rather require you use rhythm as a guide for doing difficult jumps and reacting to environmental changes.

    There's 3 chapters and even "end bosses", all introducing some new mechanic with increasing difficulty. It's one of my favorite "tightly packed" game, there's so much good stuff in such a simple, short experience. Nothing is wasted.

    Oh, and, of course, the music is pretty good, too!

    3 votes
    1. kfwyre Link Parent
      140 is excellent. I've played through it three times just to enjoy the experience of the music unfolding through gameplay. My only complaint is that I simply hate the boss fights. If I didn't have...

      140 is excellent. I've played through it three times just to enjoy the experience of the music unfolding through gameplay. My only complaint is that I simply hate the boss fights. If I didn't have to suffer through those, I feel like I would boot it up more often and go through it just for the pleasure of listening to the music in conjunction with the gameplay. It's basically a playable electronica music album--similar to Rez, mentioned elsewhere in this thread.

  14. kayelcio Link
    This may not be what you're looking for, but your post reminded me of how much I loved Samarost back in the day. The graphics hold up pretty well considering it's 16 years old and runs on flash,...

    This may not be what you're looking for, but your post reminded me of how much I loved Samarost back in the day. The graphics hold up pretty well considering it's 16 years old and runs on flash, but I'm sure if you compare them to modern games they're nothing special.

    3 votes
  15. synergy Link
    to the moon short rpg maker game but the story was amazing and the sound track by Laura Shigihara adds to the emotions the game gives you

    to the moon

    short rpg maker game but the story was amazing and the sound track by Laura Shigihara adds to the emotions the game gives you

    3 votes
  16. ntgg Link
    A story about my uncle is a fun first person platformer, that iirc takes only like 3-4 hours to beat. It has a decent story, and a grappling hook, so it's pretty good.

    A story about my uncle is a fun first person platformer, that iirc takes only like 3-4 hours to beat. It has a decent story, and a grappling hook, so it's pretty good.

    3 votes
  17. [2]
    hook Link
    Oh, I remembered another one that I absolutely adored: Digital: A Love Story – it’s basically a visual novel, that’s a a hacking/detective adventure game with a (specific kind of) love story with...

    Oh, I remembered another one that I absolutely adored:

    Digital: A Love Story – it’s basically a visual novel, that’s a a hacking/detective adventure game with a (specific kind of) love story with retro text-based(-ish) graphics (bonus points: it runs on Linux as well and is released as a free download under CC-BY-NC-SA-3.0). It takes 2-3h to finish and it was an absolute gem.

    3 votes
    1. Akir Link Parent
      The sequel, Analogue: A Hate Story is also extremely worth a play, though it may be slightly longer than 3 hours. You will have to pay for it, though.

      The sequel, Analogue: A Hate Story is also extremely worth a play, though it may be slightly longer than 3 hours. You will have to pay for it, though.

      2 votes
  18. balooga Link
    I recommend The Unfinished Swan if you enjoy thoughtful, atmospheric stuff. It's a bit like Portal: a non-violent 1st person puzzler with interesting game mechanics. Doesn't take too long to beat...

    I recommend The Unfinished Swan if you enjoy thoughtful, atmospheric stuff. It's a bit like Portal: a non-violent 1st person puzzler with interesting game mechanics. Doesn't take too long to beat but getting there is a fun journey.

    2 votes
  19. ammut Link
    I enjoyed "Into the Breach". Its a strategic game similar to chess, but you manage an army to take down an invading bug race. The same people who made "Faster than Light" also made this. Easily...

    I enjoyed "Into the Breach". Its a strategic game similar to chess, but you manage an army to take down an invading bug race. The same people who made "Faster than Light" also made this.

    Easily beat or lost in under 3 hours. Many hours of replay value.

    2 votes
  20. Gyrfalcon Link
    A while ago I played Gunpoint. It's a neat little stealth puzzle game, where you have to hide from the bad guys and rewire their defenses to defeat them.

    A while ago I played Gunpoint. It's a neat little stealth puzzle game, where you have to hide from the bad guys and rewire their defenses to defeat them.

    2 votes
  21. CrazyOtter Link
    Papers Please would be a good option. Short, well crafted, unique game.

    Papers Please would be a good option. Short, well crafted, unique game.

    2 votes
  22. bilbodwyer Link
    I just got finished playing My Friend, Pedro on the Switch, and I really enjoyed that. If you're not fussed about getting a high score in each level you could probably blast through it in about 3...

    I just got finished playing My Friend, Pedro on the Switch, and I really enjoyed that. If you're not fussed about getting a high score in each level you could probably blast through it in about 3 hours or so.

    2 votes
  23. [2]
    Douglas (edited ) Link
    This probably doesn't fit in anywhere with these other titles, nowhere near it, but I really liked the short game SEPTEMBER 1999. It was cleverly executed, it looked remarkably good for being one...

    This probably doesn't fit in anywhere with these other titles, nowhere near it, but I really liked the short game SEPTEMBER 1999.

    It was cleverly executed, it looked remarkably good for being one developer (have there been other games to do the VHS look?), and it made me want to see more. Once you get past the lack of gameplay and recognize what you're doing, there's a brief little "click" moment in your mind making you just like "ah-ha, I see."

    It's only five minutes long (there's no way around that time length, you can't play longer/shorter) and free. If anyone has any recommendations like it, I'm all ears.

    2 votes
    1. kfwyre Link Parent
      Just played through it. That was a clever and creepy five minutes. It reminded me of a game that used to be on Steam called Moirai. It was somewhat similar (though it had a more old-school, pixely...

      Just played through it. That was a clever and creepy five minutes.

      It reminded me of a game that used to be on Steam called Moirai. It was somewhat similar (though it had a more old-school, pixely aesthetic). Unfortunately, the devs had to shut it down. The premise of the game is given in the article:

      Since it’s no longer playable and locks players at the title screen, I’ll give you the abridged version. You wander through a cave, looking for a missing person. Eventually you come upon a bloodied character and you have the choice of killing them or letting them pass. After exploring some more, you eventually go to leave, only now you’re covered in blood. You come across another character and the game ends with you in the position of the character whose fate was just in your hands.

      If you input your email address, the game tells you your fate when the next player entered the cave.

      The article doesn't state that you actually got to type in a message that the incoming player would read, with the problem being that the incoming player has no idea that the person they're encountering isn't a pre-scripted NPC. It wasn't the same "click" as SEPTEMBER 1999, but it was similarly effective.

      Also, it looks like the developer has teased a standalone sequel: DECEMBER 2000

      2 votes
  24. kfwyre Link
    I figure it's only fair that I share some of my own recommendations. Here are some that I particularly enjoyed but that haven't been mentioned in the thread: 1979 Revolution: Black Friday (2...

    I figure it's only fair that I share some of my own recommendations. Here are some that I particularly enjoyed but that haven't been mentioned in the thread:

    1979 Revolution: Black Friday (2 hours)

    This is a Telltale-style adventure that takes place during the Iranian Revolution. It's not perfect, but I appreciated it's largely successful attempt to be a playable, real-world docu-drama. Compelling and informative.

    Brothers - A Tale of Two Sons (3 hours)

    A great single-player co-op puzzle adventure. You control two brothers, one on each side of your controller, and have to get them to work together to proceed on a journey. Very well-executed.

    Distance (2 hours)

    Most racing games aren't praised for their narratives, but Distance legitimately has a good one. Great levels and atmosphere. I've seen it called "driving survival horror", which is a pretty apt description.

    Her Story (2.5 hours)

    Essentialy a playable Law and Order episode. You search through footage from a police database and piece together what happened from different clips. Intriguing and thought-provoking.

    Hexcells (2 hours)

    Minesweeper, but with hexes and hand-crafted puzzles. Each pattern is entirely solvable through logic (so there's no guessing), and the later puzzles add in extra rules. Very polished. Has two longer sequels, which are also excellent.

    LOVE (0.5 hours) and kuso (0.75 hours)

    Simple yet very satisfying retro minimalist 2D platformers with rich, often sprawling level design.

    A Normal Lost Phone (1.5 hours)

    You find a phone that's been left unlocked. Go through the apps to learn about the owner. It's essentially a slightly-differently structured VN as you'll spend most of the game reading, but it's got a thoughtfully told story.

    Refunct (0.5 hours)

    Very simple first-person platformer. Land on platforms to activate them; activate all platforms to finish.

    The Room (2.5 hours)

    This is well-known enough to probably not need a synopsis, but just in case: it's a series of puzzle-boxes with great presentation and clever solutions. Has two sequels, the first of which would also fit my criteria (3 hours).

    Sagebrush (2 hours)

    Explore and investigate the now-abandoned encampment of a former cult. Unsettling and provocative.

    Spirits of Xanadu (3 hours)

    An indie love letter to System Shock 2--unsettling atmospheric creepiness onboard a derelict spaceship. Good story and good execution.

    Stories Untold (2.5 hours)

    A series of standalone episodes that play with retro adventure gaming tropes (e.g. text input) in a modern setting. Spooky and satisfying. I'd recommend going into it knowing as little about the game as possible, as spoilers will ruin some stuff for you.

    SUPERHOT (2 hours)

    This is another one that probably doesn't need introduction, but just in case: it's a FPS with a gimmick in that time only moves when you do. Quick, innovative, and entertaining.

    2 votes
  25. [2]
    stromm Link
    Solitaire. 3-card draw. Goes on every device I get.

    Solitaire. 3-card draw.

    Goes on every device I get.

    1 vote
    1. moocow1452 Link Parent
      Technically a Roguelike, right?

      Technically a Roguelike, right?

      1 vote
  26. Codo_Sapien (edited ) Link
    Roguelikes! Sitting back down...

    I'm referring to games that have a defined start and end, rather than potentially infinite play sessions. That means a game like The Binding of Isaac wouldn't count despite the average play session being much less than 3 hours, but a game like Gone Home would.

    Roguelikes! Sitting back down...