In February, we ran a sweet piece by James about games he’s played with his Valentine. It made me smile and reminisce about my own history of couple gaming.
Console Guy and I didn’t actually game together until after we married, despite being long-time gamers. The first game we finished together, Uncharted 2, was actually a single-player title. We went on to discover other single-player games that worked for us. On the other hand, some co-op games seemed perfect at first but didn’t suit us in the end.
Here, I’ll talk about single-player games we’ve played, closing with thoughts about genre. (The next article, Part 2, will cover multiplayer games.)
Setting Off to Uncharted Lands
The Uncharted action-adventure series started us on gaming together in 2016. The PS4 had just launched several months earlier, and Console Guy was eyeing it greedily. I was against splurging on another console, but the breathtaking vistas of newly released Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End gave me pause.
Someone said, “You should play it together. I mean, you guys have same names as the main couple!” Uncharted 4 was a PlayStation exclusive, so that changed my mind and we embarked on a rip-roaring Indiana Jones-style adventure. But we began with Uncharted 2 and 3, eventually playing Uncharted: The Lost Legacy too.
I flailed in the combat sections, being dreadful at first-person shooters. Console Guy found it amusing at first. But after watching me flail several times in a row, he would take over. I was happy to give up the controller by then.
But it also meant watching him get stressed during big mob fights. Initially, I would cheer him on: “You can do it!” After dying multiple times, he would get very upset and I got annoyed over that. “Relaaax, it’s just a game!” We’d get past that mob and carry on. Then another mob would appear, and our reactions played out again like a song on repeat.
Still, there were relaxing sections too. For me, these were the puzzle-solving moments. Console Guy doesn’t enjoy puzzles, so he would pass the controller. When it was time for exploration and platforming, we took turns equally.
Despite a disparity in our action-gaming skills, we both had a role to play. And though combat was occasionally challenging, there was a lot to enjoy apart from basic gameplay: the amazing set pieces, the likeable characters, and an engaging story. So despite moments of tension, we enjoyed our Uncharted journey, enough to finish 4 titles in the series.
An Ace Attorney and His Assistant
We’re currently playing The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles. Compared to our earliest games together, the Ace Attorney series is a different experience altogether. A mix of visual novel and adventure, it’s laid-back and requires little in the way of hand-eye coordination skills.
Combining two 3DS titles, Great Ace has 10 meaty episodes, each a criminal case to solve. Though designed as a single-player game, two brains can definitely work together on this one.
Being rather long-winded, Great Ace may not be the strongest Ace Attorney game but it has some lovely features. Besides the interesting premise (two young Japanese find themselves in 19th century London), we like the Story Mode feature that auto-plays the game like a movie. That comes in handy when we’re tired and feel like wearing nightcaps instead of thinking caps. With a one-button push, Story Mode can be turned on or off. It’s great for kicking back with a bowl of chips.
But despite having the power of auto-play, we’ve never been slower at finishing a game. We started Great Ace when it launched in September 2021, and 6 months later we’re only 70% through! Perhaps we got a little bored.
Or maybe we’re finding it harder to make time for each other, especially now that we’re parents. With only an hour of free time before midnight, I prefer having introvert time on my own. But I’m glad we make a little time for gaming together, even if it’s once in a long while, just watching a courtroom melodrama unfold.
Choosing a Solo Game for Two
Here are my thoughts on picking a genre.
The easiest games for us to get into were choice-driven adventure games. These games don’t require masterful fighting skills. They’re like watching a movie, except you get to make decisions that influence the plot significantly. Bear in mind, though, that this sub-genre often deals with intense, even disturbing, themes and may be too heavy if you just want to relax and laugh. Many well-known titles in this category are rated Mature or 18+, so I won’t delve into them here. But other titles, like Oxenfree (rated Teen), are less edgy.
Traditional point-and-click adventure games offer puzzles instead of plot choices. LucasArts titles like the Monkey Island series are highly recommended for great dialogue and humour. As for “pure” puzzle games, The Witness is a good one. While it involves a bit of exploration, no-platforming skills are required. These genres aren’t Console Guy’s cup of tea, but they’ve worked for some couples.
We’ve made good progress with action games like Horizon Zero Dawn. For Horizon, it helped that I could hold my own ground in most battles. And when I wasn’t playing, it was still thrilling to watch gargantuan dinosaurs being taken down. Action games can be great for a couple’s night if you find one appropriate to your skill level.
We had less success with single-player RPGs, quickly abandoning big games like Final Fantasy VII Remake and Monster Hunter Stories 2. All great games, but they didn’t work for us as a couple. One of us would get bored watching. Or get dizzy from motion sickness. Or feel put off by the learning curve, inventory management, or overly frenetic battles.
It made me wonder if the RPG genre lends itself less well to couple gaming unless the RPG is designed specifically for co-op play. But I suppose it really depends on each couple.
Recalling the single-player games we’ve tried over the past 5 years, less than half worked out. Naturally, we had more successes with games designed for two or more players.
In my next article (Part 2), I’ll talk about the multiplayer games we’ve played—which ones were a blast and which ones flopped.