Five Xbox One games for when you're short on time

By Heidi Nicholas,
One of our recent polls asked whether your gaming habits have changed following recent events. Most of you said at the time that your gaming habits have stayed much the same. A lot of you said you even have more time to play, and some that you've found yourself with less time to pick up the controller. Since then, more stringent lockdown measures have gone into place across several countries, and so, for those of you who might now have less time than ever before to play, whether you're still working, looking after family members, or attempting to wrangle your kids now that schools are closed; we've made a list of some of our own choices for some great games to pick up and play if you're short on time. All of these titles are in Xbox Game Pass, and several have co-op capabilities, if you're also looking for a game to play with your family. These are just a few of our personal picks; if you've got your own suggestions, let us know in the comments!

Riverbond

Riverbond

This game is perfect to pick up if you’re short on time. It’s an action-adventure title in which you are, in theory, aiming to help the people of Riverbond and rescue the leaders of the Eight Worlds. In reality, it’s just ridiculously satisfying to set about whacking everything in the game’s voxel world and watching it dissolve into a shower of tiny blocks. As you advance through the game, charging with gleeful destruction at everything from actual enemies, to flowers and chickens, you unlock more weapons and skins. In Riverbond, you can be a watermelon armed with an umbrella. You can help the citizens of Riverbond, or use that umbrella weapon to demolish their belongings. There’s co-op for up to four players, so it’s also a good game to play with your family. It’s bright, colourful, and a lot of fun. Plus, if you’ve been missing that addictive “achievement unlocked” twinkle, the Riverbond achievements are pretty easy to get — you can unlock a fair few just by starting certain levels.

Overcooked! 2

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The succession of short levels in Overcooked! 2 make it perfect for if you’re just as short on time, and if you’re looking for a game to play with your kids or other family members. The increasing difficulty of each level makes it one of those easy to learn, difficult to master games, and the progression through new areas, learning new recipes and coming up against new obstacles, keep the game from becoming even a tiny bit stale. It’s one of those dangerous games you promise you’re only picking up “just for two minutes” before you look up after cooking your fifteenth pizza and realise hours have passed. Even so, having less time to play this wouldn’t necessarily be a drawback: despite its cutesy appearance, Overcooked! 2 has probably caused more arguments than a lot of other games out there, and it’s probably best for your all-round family happiness to put this game down from time to time. After all, it’s all fun and games until there’s nine seconds left on the clock, no clean plates, the hot air balloon you are, for some reason, cooking on is now falling through the sky, and you and your partner are both trapped on the same side of the kitchen.

Children of Morta

Children of Morta

This rougue-lite action RPG is another perfect one to dip in and out of, as you progress through the game with successive dungeon runs. Its beautiful story is simply told, meaning even if you can’t pick it up for a few weeks at a time, it’s still pretty easy to remember what’s going on. Plus, each dungeon run is wrapped up neatly with a little summary of how well you did and what items you found, while your house — the hub you return to inbetween — is gradually filled up with the souvenirs you find, acting as a nice reminder of what’s been achieved so far.

Children of Morta is, at its heart, a story about family. The Bergsons family are the last defence against the Corruption which is gradually spreading across their world. The story is presented in neat, clear little chunks, all narrated in a gentle, storylike manner, but there’s a wealth of lore behind it. The game’s happy to let you explore as much of that lore as you’d like via manuscripts and journals buried in the dungeons. To emphasise that family theme, you don’t play as just one character, but as most of the members of the Bergsons family. The game encourages you to try other characters, by implementing a “corruption fatigue” system, which limits the health of a family member if you play as them for too long. It’s easy to pick it up and get straight back into it — a couple of seconds is all it takes to start you out on a new dungeon run. It’s a lot harder to put the controller back down; the “just one more run” temptation only gets stronger the more you play.

Bad North

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Bad North is perhaps even easier to jump back into than Children of Morta; there’s not so much a story as two powerful, driving aims: to make it all the way through the chain of islands, and to stay ahead of the wave demolishing everything behind you. It’s a simple premise: you control your units — pikes, archers, infantry and so on — and deploy them across each island to repel the Viking invaders. The gameplay is just as simple, and infinitely satisfying. Each island is surrounded by mist, and you have a few seconds warning as the boats approach, to decide where to position your troops. You give your orders, and watch those troops bounce happily across to their positions. The sweetness of the art style and the adorable noises of the characters makes the sudden violence all the more shocking; they leap on the invaders and splatter blood everywhere, leaving that pastel-coloured landscape covered in red.

Bad North cleverly lures you in with some simpler tutorial levels, letting you think you’ve got the hang of things. This doesn’t mean it’s easy, though; before long, your island is swarmed with invaders, your troops are perishing, and panic begins to set in. Each island is different, and you have to take the terrain into account when positioning your troops. Boatloads of archers could take out your infantry if they’re too close to the open shore, while pikes are fantastic at holding narrow paths against invaders. It’s amazing how quickly you become invested in the game and attatched to your troops: losing a commander — and it is a permanent loss — feels like a real blow. It doesn’t matter whether you’ve got six minutes or 60; Bad North can be played in short bursts, from island to island, or as a drawn-out hardened war.

Rocket League

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Rocket League has to be mentioned on this list. It's endlessly fun, no matter how good or bad you might be at it, and the ideal game to pick up and play with your family and friends. There's a variety of arenas and modes to keep the game feeling fresh, and the sheer ridiculousness of your tiny car zooming to the goal, wearing a fez and trailing sparkles, only to be pushed back and sent sailing through the air by the explosion as someone scores a goal, is intensely addictive. Rocket League has single-player, local and online multiplayer, an endless array of customisation options, and a number of different modes. It's pretty much always in the top ten of our Xbox Gameplay Chart, and is all-round a perfect contender for the best game to pick up when you've only got a few minutes to play.

That's just a few suggestions of some great games to pick up if you're short on time. This is a stressful time for everyone, and we hope that one or two of those suggestions might be helpful for anyone looking for a good distraction, especially if you're finding yourself busier than ever and without much time for your hobbies. There's also so many more options to choose from, including a lot of Xbox Game Pass titles. If you've got your own suggestions, let us know in the comments!
Heidi Nicholas
Written by Heidi Nicholas
Hey, I'm Heidi! I've just finished studying a Masters in English Literature, but I've been obsessed with gaming since long before then. I began on the PS2 with Spyro, before graduating to the Xbox 360 and disappearing into Skyrim. I'm now a loyal RPG fan, but I still like to explore other genres — when I'm not playing Assassin's Creed Odyssey, or being lured back into Red Dead Redemption 2 or The Witcher 3!