2021 sure feels a lot like 2020 just forgot to end, and a full year spent inside has resulted in most of us spending even more time in front of our computers than usual. A full day of clicking and typing for work can transition into an evening of clicking and typing in a game without even getting up. These repetitive routines can be hard on the wrists, and sometimes after a long day (or week, or year) we just need some games that are a little easier to interact with.
It's surprising how fatiguing and click-heavy even turn-based strategy games can be. They may let you set your own pace, but they often still have layers of menus to click through and vast maps to scroll around. Players suffering from arthritis or similar conditions may not have the option of comfortably playing even if the clicks can wait.
This is a collection of games that aren't quite as click-intensive as the average FPS or action game, and most have the bonus of fitting into a flexible schedule. You can even multi-task them with your Zoom meetings if you're feeling brave—don't worry, we won't tell.
None of the games here have a high actions-per-minute requirement, and many of them should work well with eye tracking for a truly hands-free experience. On top of that, none of these games have real-time constraints (outside of optional multiplayer). You can leave them up on your computer and they'll be exactly where you left them when you walk away to tend to your child's home classroom or sign for a package. Even if you're just looking for something to do while watching Twitch on a second screen, this list should have a lot to offer.
The game that became a social phenomenon in 2020 also happens to be very light on input. You'll spend the majority of your time in Among Us yelling at people and ruining friendships through deceit, which is… more fun than it sounds. You can't exactly walk away from a round in the middle of it, but games are pretty quick, there's downtime if you get murdered in cold blood by someone you thought you could trust, and the only repeated clicking is trying to swipe that stupid card over and over and over and oh I died.
Or try: There's an opportunity for a different kind of social interaction through sites designed for asynchronous play for board games such as Board Game Arena or Yucata. Both sites offer the ability to take a turn every day or two based on how you set games up.
Developer: Buried Signal
Gorogoa is possibly the prettiest game on this list and is about as relaxing as it gets. This is a zen puzzler that starts with simple mechanics and seems to be just about sliding smaller images together to make larger ones. The complexity grows over time, as does the wordlessly told story. The art and sound design here is truly special and you may find yourself zoning out just listening and looking at the gorgeous hand-drawn panels.
Or try: Gris is another gorgeous wordless game. It's a platformer, though you're not going to have to do Super Meat Boy-level movement to clear the levels. Baba Is You is a much deeper puzzler that will make you feel clever when you solve each level and give you a headache in the process.
Into the Breach
Developer: Subset Games
Some turn-based games try to hide information from you, but Into the Breach is different. Every action is illustrated each turn—not only do you know the position and health of all enemies at all times, but you know what they're going to do, what they're going to hit, and how much damage they'll incur. But even with all of this information in a relatively small stage, this game is hard, even though you're only managing three units on a non-scrolling map! The tight level design and elegant presentation of information means you can spend most of your time in Into the Breach looking and thinking rather than clicking through menus. And you better think hard, because even small mistakes will have dire consequences.
Or try: FTL is another phenomenal game from the same publisher and has a bit more real-time interaction if you want it to, and shortcut keys that can limit your time with the mouse. Expect it to be a bit more input-heavy than Into the Breach in heated moments, though.
Return of the Obra Dinn
Developer: Lucas Pope
Have you ever wanted to be a pirate? What about a claims adjuster? What about a claims adjuster… but for pirates? Return of the Obra Dinn is a first-person adventure game where you investigate an empty pirate ship with a magic stopwatch that lets you travel to the moment of a person's death to figure out what happened to every single one of the 60 passengers aboard. It's extremely compelling, and Pope's distinctive artistic touch, in the sound design and Mac-inspired 1-bit graphics, is striking. It shouldn't work... but it does. The first-person navigation is straightforward here, and clicking is only there to lead you into cinematic moments. The game is also playable with a controller if you'd prefer.
Or try: Firewatch has an order of magnitude more dialogue, but has a similar perspective and slowly unfolding mystery. Games like Gone Home and What Remains of Edith Finch also explore the first-person adventure mystery genre in a compelling fashion and require little input beyond pushing an analog stick.
Simulacra and Simulacra 2
Developer: Kaigan Games
What could be creepier than looking through someone else's phone? Well… what if the phone was haunted? Simulacra and its sequel explore the found-phone genre with classic horror vibes. There are jump scares, there are game mechanics that will have you checking behind your chair while you play, and if you're focused you can finish this in one sitting (though there are multiple endings). Just make sure you play with headphones on. Trust us.
Or try: The found-phone genre is pretty specific, so expect similar tropes. A Normal Lost Phone takes a similar form as Simulacra but tells a very different story without any of the horror elements, instead opting for a charming visual style and a deep dive into personal identity.
Slay the Spire
There are a ton of options in the digital card game space—many thanks to the success of Slay the Spire—and many of them are low-input friendly, but Slay the Spire has no turn timers and no multiplayer component. It's just you, the cards, and a tower of enemies waiting to kill you. The game's four vastly different characters, unlockable difficulty settings, and endless combinations of cards make for an extremely replayable "just one more run" game that can be squeezed in between meetings or binged for an entire weekend. It's also controller-compatible which eliminates some clicking and dragging, and some decks are naturally lower APM. Press Heavy Blade, delete enemy.
Or try: Monster Train is directly inspired by Slay the Spire (say that five times fast) and offers a tower defense approach to the deckbuilding genre. If you have a consistent internet connection and you're already involved in an online game like Hearthstone or Legends of Runeterra, both titles have untimed single player modes that can be relaxing and played at your own pace.
Developer: Four Quarters
The best way to avoid too much clicking is to let the game play itself! Loop Hero is a brand new pixel art roguelike where you're more of a map manager, and the combat is automatic. You'll have to build map elements, equip your hero, and watch closely as the protagonist manages themselves in combat. But even if you're not conducting the attacks, this game is very difficult to play while doing something else. You'll find yourself staring at every single attack, wondering if you'll escape this combat unscathed or if you'll get a legendary weapon drop. It's surprisingly engrossing and we can't wait for its Early Access launch in March.
Or try: The auto-battler roguelike genre includes some great indie games to explore. Astronarch is a charming party-based auto-battler developed entirely by Dale Turner and released earlier this year. It's more involved than Loop Hero and requires a bit more effort with positioning and item assignment, but there's a lot of depth here and it's worth checking out.
- Loop Hero tips guide: Kick ass in the grim 'n grindy RPG
- Loop Hero classes: Here's how to choose your hero
Bloons TD 6
Developer: Ninja Kiwi
Yes, tower defense is still alive and well in 2021. The Bloons franchise is well-known, but many may not know that the sixth entry in the franchise is cross-platform with cloud saves, constantly balanced, and home to a thriving community that includes high level competition. And make no mistake that there's a lot to unpack here beneath the exterior of cute monkeys. There is no universal strategy to consistently win, and the game's highest difficulty requires very precise tower placement. Plus… did I mention the monkeys were cute? Especially when they're dressed up like little pirates!
Or try: If you remember Bloons, you may remember Kingdom Rush, and that franchise is also alive and well. The newest entry has you playing as the bad guys, and sometimes being a bad guy is fun. Keep in mind this is not a dramatic departure from the usual formula, though there are more towers than most entries to keep things interesting. Sometimes you just want a comfortable experience and Kingdom Rush Vengeance delivers.