The best PC games to play while you pretend you're being productive working from home

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If you're working from home due to the global coronavirus pandemic, you're likely facing some new challenges, such as figuring out which games to play while pretending to work from home. That's a tough decision, but we've got your back.

Even without anyone looking over your shoulder, juggling gaming and work is a fine art. While you might be tempted to log into Destiny 2, the reality is games like that tend to be too involved—you have to focus 100 percent, and God help you if your boss suddenly calls wanting a status update. That's why I've rounded up some great games that you can play on your terms and that don't require too much focus or input to enjoy. These games are also especially good if you're being forced to use software like Zoom to telecommute to work because they're chill enough no one will realize that instead of staring at an Excel spreadsheet, you're actually conquering ancient China. (Just don't let Zoom narc on you.) 

Total War: Three Kingdoms 

Any turn-based strategy game is a great choice if you want something to play while juggling other tasks, but Creative Assembly's latest is easily the best in the series thanks to a refined diplomacy system that gives China's Three Kingdoms-era warlords much more personality than I've seen in similar grand strategy games. Each faction is well-realized and evocative of their warlord's real-world history, like Yuan Shu's fervent need to form alliances or Tao Qian's resolute faith in a crumbling bureaucracy. While I love the massive scale of Total War: Warhammer 2's grand campaign, Three Kingdoms' personality puts it ahead because it breathes so much character into factions that, in other games, often feel lifeless or arbitrary.

What's perfect about Three Kingdoms, though, is that you can easily jump in and out of playing without losing track of what's going on. On the campaign map, everything is turn based so you can take your time plotting your next move, and even the real-time battles come with a pause feature (or you can just skip them altogether and trust the computer to decide the outcome). It's also a game that you can easily play for hundreds of hours, which is great if you're stuck in self-isolation and in need of a good distraction. Each faction is so unique it can sometimes feel like you're playing a different game. Lu Bü, for example, is all about sowing bloody chaos and keeping up his momentum from turn to turn, while Cao Cao excels at manipulating rival nations into fighting one another for his gain.

If Total War just isn't your style, give XCOM 2 a shot. It's less about grand strategy and more about maneuvering an elite squad through fatal combat encounters. If both are still too intense, Into the Breach is a fantastic micro-strategy game from the makers of FTL.

Slay the Spire mods

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Slay the Spire 

Card games have been the preferred method to kill boredom since time immemorial, but a lot of modern CCGs, like Hearthstone, focus too much on duels against other players with a limit on how long you have to complete your turn. That's not ideal when you're juggling other things, but Slay the Spire is a singleplayer card game roguelike that you can play on your own terms—and it was one of the best games of last year.

Each playthrough tends to feel different because you'll find different monsters and find different cards and items along the way, and the number of deck strategies you can create is mind boggling. It's a complex game, but it's presented in such an intuitive way that you can easily play a few rounds, jump out for a few hours, and come back without feeling lost. And because Slay the Spire is so challenging, it'll probably take dozens of hours before you ever reach the final boss, let alone defeat them.

If Slay the Spire isn't your jam, try out Dicey Dungeons, a deckbuilder roguelike that fully embraces randomness by incorporating dice rolls into everything you do. If you just hate cards, though, give Darkest Dungeon, a punishing turn-based roguelike RPG, a shot. 

(Image credit: CCP Games)

EVE Online 

You might think that an MMO about player-built space empires fighting for control of a virtual galaxy would be full of chaos and action, but EVE Online is actually a pretty chill experience 99 percent of the time, at least so long as you don't actively wander into more dangerous areas or haul exorbitantly expensive goods without an escort. It can even be a little boring, which is perfect if you want something to idly poke at in between work-related tasks.

Though EVE Online's most exciting activities involve blowing up other players, there are dozens of things you can do to make money and have fun while working. The most profitable and least risky is to get into market trading, buying low and selling high at one of EVE Online's main trade hubs. Other players while away the hours mining ore, which can be done without actively paying attention but does present risks since other players love to blow up idle miners. With a little bit of practice, you can even run combat missions against the computer without having to pay much attention, or go hunting for lost relics using a cloaked exploration ship—you just need to always have an escape route ready so you can quickly drop everything should you suddenly have to look like you're working.

What's so fun about playing EVE, even if you're doing it passively, is that you're participating in a massive virtual galaxy full of other players. It's satisfying to slowly carve out your own corner of the galaxy, whether you're actively defending territory or just playing the markets to make a few billion ISK to spend on expensive ships.

If EVE Online is just too slow, Black Desert Online is a gorgeous MMO that caters to idle playing by letting you autopilot between destinations or even fish automatically while the game is minimized. 


(Image credit: Jake Hollands, Devolver Digital)


Look, we're all ashamed by how many hours we've wasted playing Cooker Clicker or other idle games that end up becoming full-time obsessions. But Spaceplan is different: It's a clicker with a bizarre sci-fi story and a great soundtrack. The gist is that you're stuck on a stranded spaceship and the only energy source you have at your disposal is potatoes, so you craft starchy satellites and launch them at nearby planets to learn more about this strange solar system and unlock better tools so you can harvest more potatoes to create more energy. You know the drill.

But Spaceplan's secret weapon is its weird story that you'll slowly uncover as you fill the solar system with more and more spuds. It's all delivered through text, and you don't have to worry about leaving the game unattended for long while you focus on work. The only downside is that, unlike infinite clicker games, Spaceplan does have an actual ending that you'll reach after several hours. This isn't an infinitely playable game like others on this list, but it's so unique you should try it anyway.

If Spaceplan is over too quickly, try out AdVenture Capitalist, which takes clicker games to the extreme as you built a financial empire that would make Jeff Bezos jealous. 

Steven Messner

With over 7 years of experience with in-depth feature reporting, Steven's mission is to chronicle the fascinating ways that games intersect our lives. Whether it's colossal in-game wars in an MMO, or long-haul truckers who turn to games to protect them from the loneliness of the open road, Steven tries to unearth PC gaming's greatest untold stories. His love of PC gaming started extremely early. Without money to spend, he spent an entire day watching the progress bar on a 25mb download of the Heroes of Might and Magic 2 demo that he then played for at least a hundred hours. It was a good demo.