Attention, employees of Review Geek: You are forbidden from reading this article. You absolutely may not play any of the following games during your assigned work hours. Especially during video meetings. I repeat: Do not play any of these fun, interesting, low-intensity games while your boss is trying to talk to you on Zoom.
Now that that’s out of the way: Are you incredibly bored during a work-from-home meeting, via Skype, Hangouts, Zoom, Facetime, et cetera? Have you ever caught yourself checking the news or your social media feeds while people discuss something that has nothing to do with you? Why not replace that dead time with a fun game?
We’ve selected 10 games, and many more like them, that are perfect for playing during a remote meeting. They all hit a few common points: They don’t require constant attention, they can be played with little or no sound, and they can be stopped at more or less any time (if you actually have to do something in your meeting). Most of them can be played mobile, but a few can also be played in the browser on another tab or monitor, or as a standard PC game.
Look, we’re not trying to tell you to slack off at work. We’re just trying to keep you awake while you’re working, right?
Strategic Card Battles: Hearthstone
Blizzard’s free-to-play card game owes a lot to real-world card games like Magic: The Gathering and Yu-Gi-Oh, but its all-digital presentation is truly unique in both structure and play mechanics. The core of the game is an online two-player affair, with alternate turns and a one minute timer. But if even that requires too much attention, you can play the single-player story and dungeon modes without any time pressure. I’m a big fan of the eight-player Battlegrounds mode, which doesn’t require an existing card collection to dominate.
Hearthstone is available on Windows and MacOS, as well as mobile versions on iOS and Android (and the Android version runs well on Chromebooks, too). If you like Hearthstone, check out Magic: The Gathering Arena, DOTA Auto Chess, and Teamfight Tactics, too.
Breakout, Chilled Out: Ballz
Ballz (you, in the back, stop that giggling) is a title from casual game masters Ketchapp. It’s a lot like the classic arcade game Breakout, but you don’t need to move the paddle around: Just fling your balls (I said stop it!) once to get the correct amount of hits on each block. At higher levels, and with hundreds and hundreds of balls, it might take 20 minutes for the level to run its course. It’s perfect for zoning out while someone goes over TPS reports.
Turn-Based Tactics: Into The Breach
I love this pixelated little game, which is a combination of chess and the robots-on-alien monsters action of Pacific Rim. Pit your three giant robots against bug-themed aliens on small grids, and develop your tactics to beat the overwhelming odds of Into the Breach. It’s entirely turn-based, like the old Final Fantasy Tactics or Advance Wars games, so you can take as much time as you need to plan out your next move (or answer that question about your calendar).
Slide to Solve: Threes
Threes has graduated from a simple mobile game to a certified puzzle classic. Often imitated but never duplicated, its tricky number-combining gameplay can go on for days (or weeks, if you’re really good). Once you get into the groove, you’ll find yourself pulling your phone out for a few more combinations and smiley-faced numbers almost anywhere … including your meetings with marketing.
Once You Click, You Can’t Stop: Universal Paperclips
“Clicker” games, in which all you do to advance the story or structure is click or tap over and over, are ideal for playing while other people are watching your face. In that sense, Universal Paperclips might be counter-intuitive: Its simple text-based interface deals with some sci-fi concepts that might just blow your mind. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.
Drama Is in the Cards: Reigns
Reigns is a fascinating little game about managing a kingdom … but all you really have to do is make yes-or-no choices. It’s kind of like Tinder, if you’ve ever used it, except you’re choosing between royal advisors and international invasions. If you screw up, you might just die … but don’t worry, your royal heir will take over just where you left off. And none of your advisors will care if you close the app for a minute to justify your expense report.
A Built-in Standby: Minesweeper
Oddly, Minesweeper isn’t built-in to Windows anymore. But if you’re reading this article, you’re probably old enough to remember when it was. The grid-based bomb-finding game is ideal for killing a few minutes of time, but if you get a grid big enough, you might just blast away an entire hour’s worth of meeting dullness. Just make sure you’ve muted your microphone for when you trip that inevitable bomb.
The original Minesweeper is available in some form on more or less any platform, though you might have to hunt to find a truly free version. Ditto for other built-in classics like Solitaire, Hearts, and Snake.
Isometric Exploration: Monument Valley
Monument Valley is a great mobile game all on its own—you don’t need to wait for a video meeting to check it out. But it also makes a pretty great companion to said meetings, thanks to small beautiful puzzle stages that don’t require twitch reflexes or timing to complete. Just try not to get too absorbed into the simple story and visuals, even with the sound off.
Gotta Catch ’em All: Pretty Much Any Pokémon Game
Almost any old-fashioned RPG with turn-based combat and a lack of twitchy elements would work here. But as far as I know, Pokémon is still far and away the most popular RPG on the planet. The monster-catching mechanics let you take your time and pause anywhere, at least in the main series of games, so it’s a great game that you can tackle for hours or in small bursts. Note that a lot of the spin-off games (like the location-based Pokémon GO) don’t work for this roundup.
The latest full Pokémon release is Sword and Shield for the Switch, but any DS or Game Boy game (or an emulated version!) would work, too. If monster fighting isn’t your bag, try similar no-pressure RPGs like Breath of Death VII, Knights of Pen and Paper, or the Ace Attorney collection.
Cubicle Farming: Stardew Valley
Stardew Valley is a bona fide phenomenon. It’s the spiritual successor to old-school farming “simulators” like Harvest Moon, which includes a side helping of slice-of-life elements, like finding a spouse and raising a family. While I wouldn’t call the game “easy,” it includes enough busywork and day-to-day objectives that you can make a lot of progress in the space of a PowerPoint deck, so long as you skip the short dungeon sections.