Short video games are a two-sided blade. On one hand, people who invest in games often want to get the most out of their investments (which explains the growth in popularity of open-world games). Therefore, games that are smaller can sometimes feel like “less bang for your buck” to some gamers. Yet the other side of the argument is a strong one. It could be said that some of the games on this list (which focuses on the shortest games ever made) can feel more rewarding or captivating than some games that are legitimately ten times their size.
What most of the shortest video games often do is focus on a proper story. As with most of the entries presented here, that focus ends up paying off with very compelling and often wholly original narratives. They are not bogged down with exposition or unnecessary side quests solely meant to lengthen the game time. What you will see here is, sometimes when a game has no filler, the end result can really be a masterpiece…no matter how long it takes to “beat” it.
What Remains Of Edith Finch
- Total Time: 3 Hours
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If you told someone you spent thirty bucks on a game that lasted you three hours, most people would scoff that it is a “rip off.” With What Remains of Edith Finch, that could not be further from the truth. What you get is a game that is unlike any other, with a story that punches you in the soul at least once every twenty minutes or so. Speaking personally, this game emotionally beat the heck out of me in ways my mental self wasn’t remotely prepared for.
And I loved every moment of it.
Focusing on a story about a family who thought they were cursed, you delve into each family member’s last moments on Earth. It’s not a “horror game” but rather an emotional drama (walking sim, which you will see a lot on this list), the game has some truly horrifying moments that burrowed under my skin and laid eggs. The bathtub scene with the child slowly drowning, captured in first-person. is something you will never forget.
Yes, the game is three hours, but it feels like it plays out for days because it is so tragic. Sometimes, some of the shortest video games can offer something quite special.
The Stanley Parable
- Total Time: Under 2 Hours
The Stanley Parable is actually sort of difficult to discuss without ruining what makes it so special for the few people who haven’t played it yet. The Stanley Parable is a walking sim (I warned you) that takes place in an office building. It includes a very droll narrator coming in and telling you the basic tasks you need to do.
However, The Stanley Parable is more like a free-thinking sim once you realize that you don’t have to follow the narrator’s instructions. You can essentially take them more like “suggestions,” and begin to do your own thing. Yet that is where the real charm of this game takes hold. The game is about choice, and that becomes increasingly clear.
The Narrator takes notice of your defiance eventually and the game’s Portal roots begin to show as he becomes increasingly frustrated with you. It genuinely gets hilarious and has a ton of endings, which makes replayability a must for this short-but-fantastic game. Yes, it is one of the shortest video games ever. However, that only allows you to play it over and over again without it being too difficult to deal with.
Limbo & Inside
- Total Time: 3 Hours
I had to lump both of PlayDead’s spectacular side-scrolling games together for the simple reason that they are both ridiculously good, but both ridiculously short. Again to reiterate, you really don’t notice the length of some of these games, because their ” beat in one night” energy is half of what makes them so memorable and enjoyable.
It also needs to be pointed out that this company’s visual style is breathtakingly atmospheric. From the soft reflections of shadows to the stark emptiness and loneliness of their settings. Their world-building is a sight to see.
Another wonderful thing about both of these games is that they are openly vague and cryptic, even upon completion. Limbo is the tale of a boy seemingly going through purgatory to save his sister. Although, strange details of the story unfold, and when it all ends, you question everything that just happened and see it in a new light.
Inside is the same way, but it tackles the subject of our professional lives and the toll that conformity takes on us (much like the above entry). Then when you finally reach the end of Inside, it goes full-body-horror and turns itself into something completely haunting. Truly, it is something you will not soon forget, despite its run time.
We’ve noticed that horror elements tend to work quite well in some of the shortest video games. They do not need 50 hours of run time to scare you half to death.
A Short Hike
- Total Time: 2 Hours
When the game itself has “short” in the title, at least you go in with lower expectations about length. This game tells you right off the bat “hike at your own pace,” and that really sets the tone of the game up perfectly. While A Short Hike is called an adventure game, it is honestly peaceful and pretty passive. That is all added to by that special Nintendo charm only they have.
The game tasks you with hiking to the top of a majestic AF mountain so that you can get cell phone reception. Possibly the most realistic game ever made, as we have all been in a scenario like that at some point in our own lives. What sets it apart is how you get there, and what you do. Obviously, in a two-hour game, you know there won’t be much. However, this game puts players in a very zen place where they feel immersed in the world and connected with the player character.
It’s nothing profoundly different, but with ratings off the charts, that tells you people don’t even notice the length. To us, that says a great deal about the game itself. People assume with some of the shortest video games ever that you cannot offer an immersive story or impressive gameplay, but A Short Hike proves this wrong!
- Total Time: 1 Hour
Yup, had to drop The Bouncer on you all because I have been far too nice in this article. There needs to be some venom spit here and there to keep things engaging. Do any of you remember this crazy Playstation 2 game by Square (of Final Fantasy fame)? Well, there isn’t much to remember outside of the fact that a full-priced game took roughly ONE HOUR TO COMPLETE, and was utterly broken at launch.
Add to that the overall insanity of this beat-em-up, which now has a surreal cult following online for just how campy and Japanese the whole thing feels. In the end, you have a “disasterpiece.” Honestly, I could probably talk about this game’s character design alone for 1,000 words, but you kind of need to see this game for yourself.
Well, at least now you know why it has a cult following…
- Total Time: 2-3 Hours
Superhot sounds deceptively simple, yet is incredibly layered in its execution. When you move, time moves, and when you stop, time stops. This is all executed in an FPS perspective in stark white environments with the villains and moveable objects all being in bright red. While the game may be short, it is an impossible thing to notice when you are deep into it.
Superhot (especially in VR) is a transformative game experience. When you start, you are terrible and have no idea what is going on. Yet after a few rounds, you get in this weird Neo from The Matrix Zone feeling and suddenly start pulling off stuff that should be impossible. You are shooting two dudes then throwing the empty gun at another guy across the room while literally stopping time to pick bullets out of the air and throw them back as projectiles.
When you get into the zone within this game, actual time ceases to exist and you are one with your avatar. Honestly, this game needed to be short, because if it was longer we would never get up from the couch and starve to death. It is like when the game ends, it breaks the simulation and your connection to it and you are like: Oh yeah, that was just a game.
This is what some of the shortest video games can offer. Wild rides that allow you to experience greatness without taking up your whole day, which Superhot proved.
- Total Time: Roughly 3 Hours
I feel like Mirror’s Edge walked (on a rooftop) so Superhot could run. Mirror’s Edge is a Playstation 3 game from 2009 that also takes place within a first-person perspective. Rather than it being a straight-up action game, it is more like a parkour simulator. While there is some shooting and punching, they are not the focus of the gameplay.
The gameplay consists of fluid movement, perfectly timed leaps, and a very fast-paced adventure that flies by in a brisk three hours or so. With most indie games, you tend to spend less cash knowing you will get a shorter experience. Thus, shelling out fifty bucks to beat a game in one playthrough was frustrating for gamers at the time, myself included.
They did address it with a sequel that was somewhat longer, but it still didn’t quite feel like enough for a full-priced game.
Speaking of full-priced games that are too short…..
Kane And Lynch: Dog Days
- Total Time: 3-6 Hours
Kane and Lynch: Dog Days needs to be brought up every couple of years to remind people that this piece of crap exists on the sidewalk of life. A sequel to the grimy Kane and Lynch game which focused on two-player co-op combat, Kane and Lynch two came out of the gate hated by all. This was for a multitude of reasons.
The first one being, this game was trying way too hard to be like a Tarantino film with absurd levels of violence and offensive language. It even includes male nudity, for some reason. Yet it was so poorly written you hated the characters, so there was no investment in wanting to keep them alive. It was overly dark and nihilist, and it left a really poor taste in quite a few mouths at the time. Heck, it even cost a gaming journalist his job.
Even outside of all that crap, it took well under five hours to beat. Plus, the gameplay itself sucked. Therefore, people were shelling out a chunk of their paycheck to play a crappy game as a man who is literally naked half the game.
Yeah, f**k this game.
- Total Time: 2 Hours
Journey might be the best example of a short game that delivers far beyond its expectations. Journey is such a meditative game, you can beat it while basically zoning out the whole time. That’s not in a bad way, as this is Journey’s reason for existing. In Journey, you are a scarf-clad nomad seeking…well..something.
The beauty of the game is in how little it tells you, and how much it shows you.
Consisting of you walking and flying over the ground, it can sound less than engaging. However, everyone who plays Journey tends to have a truly peaceful experience. In fact, many people have playthroughs that are very different, though similar. Journey basically showed people that if you give them a true experience rather than a cut-and-paste game, the length matters little. It still feeds the soul.
If you liked Journey, check out Abzu. It is like Journey but underwater and by the same developers. Abzu just as short and just as lovely as Journey’s Journey. People forget some of the shortest video games can offer so much as they do not try to do too much. They can give you a fun experience that you cannot always get from longer games.
Metal Gear Solid 5: Ground Zeroes
- Total Time: 1 Hour
Konami went from being one of the best game developers in the world to a bunch of money-hungry crap-heels who make slot machines now. Metal Gear Solid 5: Ground Zeroes was truly the first nail in their coffin. This was swiftly followed by them firing Hideo Kojima and canceling Silent Hills. Then still having the balls to use the Metal Gear name on a very subpar game (Metal Gear Survive, an anal fissure on the series).
For those who don’t know, Metal Gear Solid 5: Ground Zeroes is Konami CHARGING for a demo that other companies would’ve released for free. This game was just the first hour or so of Metal Gear V: The Phantom Pain, which they would release at full price a little further down the road.
Konami constantly told people Ground Zeroes was a stand-alone prequel. Yet it was actually a thirty-dollar demo for a game they would go on to charge another sixty dollars on. We’re not against many of the shortest video games on this list, but when you screw over fans, we aren’t a fan of that.
As I said, the people at Konami are a bunch of crap-heels.