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Monday, August 8, 2022

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Nine of the best games to play while you listen to a podcast

Multitasking at its finest

When I’m exhausted, my goal with media is to help me shut my brain off so I can relax a bit. One of my favorite ways to do that, I’ve found, is to play games while listening to a podcast, show, or some music at the same time. Do I need to bombard myself with stimuli to shut my brain up so I can breathe for a minute? Who’s to say, but I do know that I think it’s a lot of fun.

At this point I feel like something of a gaming-while-also-listening-to-a-podcast connoisseur, and I’ve tried out a whole bunch of different titles so you don’t have to. Without further ado, here is my list of the best games to play while you’re also listening to something else.

Slay the Spire

Slay the Spire

Recently, this game has had a chokehold on me. Slay the Spire is a combination of my two favorite sub-genres in games: deckbuilding and roguelikes. It’s one of those games where the more time you put in, the more you’ll get out of it, because you get to know the decks really well and start maximizing your builds. Turn-based gameplay makes it perfect for picking up and putting down any time you want to, and this is also just a well-designed game full of fun surprises that more people need to know about.

Hades

Theseus is a real nuisance in Hades

So I have around 400 hours in this game, and while that’s because it’s a near-flawless action roguelike, it’s always because it was the perfect activity to keep me engaged while I was listening to my podcast of choice. It’s beyond worth it to play Hades the first time through with the sound on, trust me. Once you get a decent way into the post-game, though, you’ve pretty much heard everything there is to hear, and that’s when a podcast is perfect. 

Stardew Valley

Holding down a button to greet your Stardew Valley animals all at once is such a time-saver.

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. This is another game I’ve put way too many hours into, and for good reason. The gameplay might feel a bit repetitive to some after a while, but I find the routine relaxing, and the perfect way to keep myself occupied as I listen to, well, whatever I want to listen to. It’s a modern classic of a simulator game, which is a genre that lends itself well to listening to podcasts, music, or shows in the background.

Shadow of the Colossus

Shadow of the Colossus

I definitely recommend playing this one the first time through with the sound on, because it’s one of the most iconic soundtracks in all of gaming. In any subsequent playthroughs, though, this is a perfect game to use to pass the time. It has a much slower pace than more recent entries in the open-world action-adventure genre, which means it’s a great option while you’re traversing its expansive world. You might need to pause and concentrate during the boss fights, though.

Mario Maker

Super Mario Maker

A classic mistake while trying to beat an especially difficult Mario Maker level is to think too hard, or as my Southern grandma would have said, to work yourself into a lather. I find that listening to something else while I’m trying to beat a game that’s giving me trouble can be really helpful, because it keeps me from overthinking things, and distracts me just enough to get the job done.

The Binding of Isaac

The Binding of Isaac has gross sounds, so a podcast can help

I honestly prefer to play Binding of Isaac this way, because I find the sound design to be pretty grating. I know it’s supposed to be like that, but that doesn’t make it any more enjoyable. It’s another roguelike, which means it can be played in perfect bite-sized bits, and isn’t so overwhelming that you’ll miss whatever your podcast hosts of choice are talking about.

Forza

Forza Horizon

This goes for most racing games, but Forza can be a great way to keep yourself busy while listening to a podcast. Like a Hades or Cuphead, it’s a real-time game so you’re paying closer attention, and it’s easy to get into a flow state. I’ve found that paying attention to someone talking actually helps me play better, because I’m not overthinking what I’m doing.

Civilization

Civilization

Strategy games are another great option, because they require that same type of flow state, engaged-but-not-really kind of thing. You reach a point, too, where a lot of stuff is going on its own anyway, so it falls into just the right level of attention it requires from you. Civilization, and other like games, also don’t really require the average player to need the sound on, so it’s fine to have any other audio you want going on in the background.

Cuphead

Cuphead is weirdly easier with a podcast

The Mario Maker logic also applies here. I’ve been stuck on the same boss in Cuphead for weeks (again), and having something else to concentrate on helps keep me from getting too frustrated when I keep dying. At this point, it feels more like I need a podcast on to help get me through the game, rather than wanting to just have something on in the background. Either way, it works well for me.

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