Borderlands 3 Vault Hunters
Screenshot: Gearbox Software

Best casual games for non-gamers – A Holiday Guide

The gateway drug.

Some of my best memories of gaming are when I introduced someone, be it a partner or family member, to the vast world of video games. However, choosing the best games to introduce a non-gamer to the medium is no easy feat.

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Keeping it casual and getting the hook in with the right game

You need to know the person you’re trying to entice to really get them hooked. Dropping them straight into something like Eve Online would put even seasoned players off. But, similarly, if you go for something too simple, boredom will set in, and they’re lost forever. To find the perfect gateway drug, you need to choose your game wisely. Here is a selection of games I think are usually a safe bet for the non-gamer.

Super Mario 3D World

Super Mario Bros Wonder Special World Entrance
Screenshot: PC Invasion

This perfect platformer from Nintendo is the ideal introduction to the world of video games for non-gamers. The levels are beautifully designed and endlessly fun. However, what I think really puts it in the running for one of the best games for the newbie is the level of skill needed to start enjoying the game.

You don’t need to be a pro gamer to start making progress through Super Mario 3D World. If you have just picked up a controller, then the game will guide and support you until the mechanics become clear. Once you have really got to grips with how the game works, it’s already too late. The temptation to return to previously completed levels and 100% them with newly learned skills spark that fire of competitive gameplay that we seasoned players are all too familiar with.

Mario and friends are instantly recognizable in the gaming scene, and the familiarity just opens up the world of games to the non-gamers out there. The game can be enjoyed solo or even co-op, both locally and online. This makes it perfect to play together and stay engaged.

Borderlands

Best Casual Games For Non Gamers A Holiday Guide 2
Gearbox Software

The Borderlands franchise is getting on a bit, and I’ll admit, they kind of fell off. But, if you want to get a non-gamer into the loot-popping, gun-wielding chaos that is FPS looter shooters, these are the first picks.

The beauty of the Borderlands games and their many offshoots is that they are able to be played co-op. There is no better way to get someone who isn’t familiar with gaming into it than playing alongside them. Borderlands allows you to trade weapons, fight through the hilarious plotlines, and explore the wastelands together.

The inclusion of engaging characters and weird and wonderful weapons has just the right amount of distraction and narrative to make you forget you’re playing an FPS. It is a great way to casually introduce someone to shooters and get them hooked on the drug-like endorphine kick of a new loot box. It starts with Borderlands, and the next thing you know, they’re buying every single expansion pack for Destiny 2.

Play through the first Borderlands with a non-gamer and just see how soon they’re looking up how much the next game will cost.

Animal Crossing

Best casual games for non-gamers - A Holiday Guide
Image: Nintendo

If you’re familiar with Animal Crossing, then you already know why it’s on this list. It is sickeningly cutesy and even more sickeningly addictive. With its simple mechanics and surprisingly deep gameplay, it makes for one of the best games to introduce non-gamers to what the art form can really offer.

A lot of people think that gaming is all about Call of Duty and Fifa, but in actual fact, a huge percentage of the market is for the more cozy games. Titles like Animal Crossing are the ideal games to play while sitting on a bus, waiting for a friend, or pretending to work in your office. I think that this makes it ideal for the first-time gamer.

Animal Crossing is incredibly accessible but still offers a deep gameplay mechanic that makes the player feel like their game is completely their own. It is hard to explain the joy of an RPG to a non-gamer without them experiencing the immersion of an in-game world themselves.

The ability to form relationships and create your own little universe in Animal Crossing can bring people into the immersive world of RPGs. Often, incredible titles like Baldur’s Gate 3 may seem daunting to new players, but with an easy-to-swallow pill like Animal Crossing, maybe that door may just be opened.

Disney Dreamlight Valley

Best casual games for non-gamers - A Holiday Guide
Screenshot by PC Invasion

Despite being in early access for longer than Walt has been in his Cryogenic freeze, Disney Dreamlight Valley has already amassed a wide and varied fanbase. All you need to do is wave the hint of a Disney princess under a Disney fan’s nose, and they will drop everything and become invested. This franchising is what has brought a lot of non-gamers into the world of games.

Disney Dreamlight Valley offers an experience not too dissimilar to Animal Crossing but with a little more of a crafting aspect. It is up to the player to make their way through the various and instantly recognizable biomes of Disney. Using the power of collection, resource management, and friendship, you push back the forces of evil.

The classic storytelling and involvement of Disney favorites make this highly accessible game very appealing. Of course, Disney non-gamers will love the game simply for the chance to be around their favorite characters. However, the game also offers a lot of fun and immersion in its actual gameplay loop. It is easy to pick up, very lighthearted, and has plenty to keep any player occupied for hours.

Disco Elysium

Best Casual Games For Non Gamers A Holiday Guide
Screenshot: ZA/UM

This choice is one that will absolutely get certain types of people hooked on gaming but may put others off. Disco Elysium is a Marmite game: You either love it or you hate it. I am in the former party. If you have a non-gamer friend with a bleak sense of humor, a wicked imagination, and a love of great art and music, then this is the game that will suck them in forever.

The beauty of Disco Elysium for a new player is that it doesn’t require the hand-eye coordination that many others do. The game is a point-and-click adventure for the most part. Don’t let the simple control scheme fool you, though. The writing and many pathways the game takes mean that no one playthrough is ever the same. This game will have even the least interested non-gamer hooked.

Playing as an amnesiac alcoholic detective, it is up to you to figure your way through the mystery, not only of your own life but of the murder you’re wrapped up in. The writing team created something truly unique with Disco Elysium and won awards left, right, and center. The stunning art style is complemented by a soundtrack by the hugely talented British Sea Power.

The Last of Us 1+2

The Last Of Us Part 1 Clicker
Screenshot: Naughty Dog

This list wouldn’t be complete without one of the most monumental collections of the past 10 years. If any game is going to get a non-gamer invested in the beauty and harrowing storytelling available in the medium, The Last of Us is it.

Although The Last of Us games can be played on a mode that is all too realistically difficult, it is also possible to turn it right down. The Last of Us has a mode that focuses almost entirely on the masterfully put-together plot. The game becomes a lot easier, although the puzzles are still present. For someone who isn’t quite up to the head-clicking accuracy of a seasoned gamer, The Last of Us can still be enjoyed.

With the release of the dutifully faithful TV adaptation, it is also possible to enjoy this game a second time. The game comes back to life on the screen once it has been completed. However, as with films, I always recommend experiencing the source material first. Non-gamers will be instantly locked in as they experience the emotional rollercoaster of two of my favorite games.

For even more great gaming ideas, check out PC Invasion.


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Author
Leo Gillick
Leo is a Freelance Writer for PC Invasion. He has a degree in English Literature and Film Studies and more hours buried into videogames than he cares to admit. He has worked extensively in the Videogame and Travel writing industry but, as they say, get a job doing something you love and you'll never work a day in your life. He uses his writing as a means to support indefinite global travel with the current five year plan seeing him through Latin America.