Five Essential Games for Podcast Listening
If you’re a modern person with modern tastes, I’m betting you have a podcast backlog that’s several days long. But there’s something unnatural about just sitting there and listening to podcasts. Podcasts are best when you’re cooking or folding laundry. Podcasts are best when they’re providing company for a task that doesn’t require your full attention.
The best video games to play while listening to a podcast are the type of games that have minimal reading required. Your brain can only process one stream of language at a time, and it’s annoying to pause and unpause your podcast, or to rewind when you realize you blanked on the last few minutes.
The traits that make a game a good podcast game are:
- Sparse writing and dialogue.
- An emphasis on trial and error.
- Story telling primarily through environment and atmosphere.
There’s certainly a lot of reading to go through if you’re so inclined, but the beauty of Skyrim is that it’s all optional. There’s not much dialogue (unlike successor, Fallout 4). The books can be carried with you, notes are short. Companions get in the way more often than not. Instead, Skyrim is at its best when you’re exploring its beautiful environments, sniping a draugr, or just exploring the vast expanse of Skyrim.
Pairs well with: The Adventure Zone (funny, deep characters, anarchic)
4. Invisible, Inc.
You control a cyberpunk spy team in this stylish rogue-like, requiring deliberate actions and thoughtfulness. It also lends itself to the natural trial and error that comes from learning its systems. The little exposition that does exist is subject to being tread and retread in the perma-death mechanic. The world-building comes from meeting new characters and seeing the way they interact, rather than any explicit exposition, so there won’t be much reading required.
Pairs well with: You Must Remember This (accessible, educational, bitchy)
3. Binding of Isaac
Binding of Isaac is a gross, theological rogue-like where you play as a young boy who is thrown into a basement by his crazed mother. The bulk of the story-telling is found in the items and upgrades that you pick up. And there’s actually a wealth of story here. It’s just that, like Invisible Inc., the story doesn’t come from reading found notes or listening to logs found on dead bodies. Binding of Isaac is a game that necessitates luck, reflexes, and a strong stomach.
Pairs well with: Lore (dark, bite-sized, spoopy)
This entry in the Souls is just as lore-rich (and frustrating) as any of its predecessors. But I’ve always found that Souls stories are best when they just wash over you. There’s a wealth of story here, to be sure; a deep well of Lovecraftian references and mythos. But the breadth of it is difficult to discern without the sharp-eyed Souls community. Even if you were paying full attention, it’d be a monstrous task to get a grip on every detail of the Bloodborne world. Ideally, you should play Bloodborne with a podcast, and then go watch the many lore analysis videos out there.
Pairs well with: Reply All (stylish, racy, M. Night Shyamalan-esque)
1. Stardew Valley
This game begs to be podcasted over. This Harvest Moon-like game is easy to sink dozens of hours into. The vast majority of the game is spent working on your land, fishing, mining. There’s an almost zen-like state of mind that you find yourself in. Building relationships with the characters and attending festivals results in cute scenes that are usually no longer than a few minutes. In the mean time, enjoy the meditative trance with a good podcast.
Pairs well with: Friends at the Table (dense, esoteric, anime)