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The best video games to take to a desert island

The best video games to take to a desert island

Shipwreck, meet Steam Deck.

We have bad news. You’re permanently stranded on a desert island with no hope of rescue. But fear not, for we also have some excellent news: you have an internet connection, your gaming platform of choice, and the choice of five games to be parachuted to your location. This leaves one fundamental question to be answered: How will you eat? What will you play?
After establishing the four following rules, we asked our community of passionate gamers what their choices would be and why.
  • The player population is always healthy
  • Your console will never break
  • You can’t use other streaming apps
  • You can’t use the game to call for rescue
We’ve grouped their answers by their rationale. Let us know what you think of our community’s ideas and submit your own in the replies!

Replayability and longevity

Did we mention there’s no way off this island? Good. That means you’re going to want games that take a long time to play. That includes games that can be replayed in different ways, games that take a lifetime to master, or - as is the case in the fourth suggestion - both.

Baldur’s Gate 3

It’s hard to argue with this suggestion from @LetitiaTHELemon. Baldur’s Gate 3 is a game you could play a dozen times and still miss a whole dungeon.
“I’d take Baldur’s Gate 3 for the longevity and the variety of playstyles: utilising the different classes and different dialogue options could give a really unique feel to every playthrough. With such immersive storytelling and memorable characters, it’d be easy to let the hours just slip away.”

Chess

Chess: the esports phenomenon that nobody saw coming. After 1,500 years, chess is as popular as ever so it should see you through a few decades on an island, right? @tyrannosaur (Philip) was the first person to suggest it:
“If I have all the time in the world, I may as well become a grandmaster. Among friends, I usually kick ass. But since getting the Chess app, I’ve realised I’m a little fish in a big pond. There are a lot of really clever opponents out there.”
There are more variations in a game of chess than there are atoms in the perceivable universe, so there should be enough to keep you busy. That said, why not treat yourself to a retro upgrade and play Battle Chess instead? Go on, you deserve it; make yourself a coconut piña colada while you’re at it. That’s what @lanah_tyra will be doing:
“I’ll join the aspiring chess grandmasters with this gem from the ‘80s I loved to play. Each piece has a unique animation when it takes out another piece, which was a pretty cool feature among the simple 2D chess programs of the day.”

Beat Saber 

@DaSamCheck has stretched the rules with a galaxy-brain move of taking a VR headset to the island. Beat Saber, his game of choice, also meets needs for music and exercise.
“Music has always been a passion, and Beat Saber is the perfect change of rhythm to my other games, pun intended! The game is just so addictive; I won’t get enough until I’ve mastered everything with absolute precision. Why? Because the game is just blimmin’ awesome, that’s why!”

Dwarf Fortress

Not to let DaSamCheck steal all the glory, @Schadsquatch has his own god-tier pick for a game that you could easily lose a lifetime to. If you haven’t heard of Dwarf Fortress, we recommend reading up on it because it has one heck of a dev story. It started as a text-only game in 2002; the developers have since spent two decades adding astonishing levels of detail. The tiniest decisions will have consequences for dwarven generations. It’s a game for those with a passion for the macro, the micro, and the nano.
“It is endlessly replayable. It has so much depth and craziness that you could get lost in your little fortress forever.”

Boundless potential

What’s better than a game that you can play over and over again? A game that never ends.

No Man’s Sky

Once you’ve walked across your desert island a hundred times, chances are you’ll want to see some new horizons. Enter Philip and his favourite game No Man’s Sky, in which not even the sky’s the limit.
“The exploration potential is limitless and - having put a couple of thousand hours into it and still loving it - I’m sure it will continue to keep me entertained. And if you’re stuck on an island, what would be more liberating than the ability to explore the universe? This would be my chill game.”

Minecraft

Alternatively, what about a game in which the only limit is your imagination? Well, that and the dimensions of a cube. We’ve all seen the screenshots and videos of incredible Minecraft creations; just think of what islanders like Philip could achieve with a lifetime!
“With a tonne of time on my hands, I could build all sorts of amazing things. I could build epic treehouses, castles, villages, and heroically long train tracks. There are some socialisation options in the realms, so I could do deathmatches or team builds with friends. I could also finally learn how to do all the interesting redstone tricks.”

Finishing the unfinished

From the uncompletable to completing the uncompleted; the next games are titles that our community members have always wanted to finish but never found the time to do so. If there was ever a time to truly embrace the grind, this is it. Endgame content, here we come!

Red Dead Redemption 2

I’m sure we can all think of a few games that we intended to play all the way through before life got in the way. Screw you, tax return. And you, washing up. For DaSamCheck, that game was RDR2.
“Does this even need an introduction? It’s hands down one of the greatest games of all time, and I haven’t even spent enough time to take in its true beauty - something I’ve been longing to do for a very long time. This desert island has given me just the opportunity.
“RDR2 is the true benchmark for open-world games thanks to its rich narrative, complex characters, and long list of things to do: intense shootouts, horseback chases, even being cleared out in poker. These activities could be games in their own right, but they’re all incorporated into one fantastic game. It’s perfect.”

Final Fantasy XIV

While the main narratives of MMORPGs do eventually end, there’s a lot of grinding to be done first and a lot of skills to max out on the side. So why bother climbing trees and fishing on your island when you could be getting XP? Lanah Tyra’s first choice of MMORPG is FFXIV:
“Being stranded on a desert island, I could finish all the content I haven’t had time for! Also [FFXIV producer] Yoshi-P promised to keep going for another ten years, so that will keep me entertained for a while.”

War Thunder

The next MMO is War Thunder, a vehicular combat MMO from Gaijin Entertainment known for realism and attention to detail. It’s been out since 2012 but - to many critics’ surprise - still maintains a sizeable active playerbase. Here’s DaSamCheck explaining why:
“I absolutely love War Thunder’s uniqueness. Although troubled, it’s the best MMO game featuring all sorts of military vehicles. Being stuck on an island means that the grind won’t be as bad anymore. But the graphics, the immersion, the uniqueness, and the massive selection of playable vehicles mean that I’ll be content.”

EVE Online

Next up, we have a Just About favourite: EVE Online. Two different Just About Video Games members flew the EVE flag, but only Schadsquatch has played it.
“I have been playing a tonne of EVE during the last few years. It’s definitely needed so that I can pass the mundanity of each island day. I might as well mine some rocks while I’m waiting to be saved.”
And here’s Lanah Tyra, one of many gamers who’s always been intrigued by EVE but has never taken the plunge:
“I’ve never had the time to play it, but it’s an amazing game with a good reputation. And it’s still going strong. A desert island would probably be a good time to get into it. Plus, I could write more bounty entries for Just About!”

Countering Loneliness

We’ve mentioned a few games that have social and multiplayer aspects, but as Tom Hanks’s Cast Away character and Wilson the coconut can attest, you don’t need real people to stave off loneliness.

The Sims

There are few better games for simulating life than The Sims (the clue is in the name). You can create your own family life, complete with a nine-to-five job and arguments around the dinner table. Here’s Philip:
“Assuming I’m all alone, I’d enjoy simulating normal, everyday life. The Sims is a good game, and it’d give me all the thrills of the suburban rat race I’m missing out on. Plus, if I’m stuck on an island, I’d probably need to build a shelter. I can practise my design skills before building my desert island home.”

Crusader Kings 3

Schadsquatch makes a similar case for a very different genre of game.
“Crusader Kings 3 has a lot of replayability. Plus, it offers interactive storytelling with meaningful implications for your characters and families. I’d need something like this to fill the void of having nobody else on the island.”

Comfort Games

Life on a desert island is hard. As well as loneliness, you’ll need to deal with homesickness. For that reason, you’re going to want some nostalgia-laden games that make you feel like you’re at home snuggled up safe and tight with no worries about starvation or tiger sharks.

Final Fantasy XII

Comfort games are always going to be an individual choice, but Final Fantasy XII holds a special place in both Lanah and Letitia’s hearts. Here’s Letitia first:
“It’s a real comfort game for me. It was the first Final Fantasy title that I felt compelled to beat. And I just love the characters, the story, the setting. Everything about this game is what got me hooked on the RPG genre in the first place.”
And now Lanah:
“It’s the first Final Fantasy that I bought for myself, so it will always have a special place in my heart. There are many class combinations you can play and different skill sets to try. I’d love to spend more time exploring suboptimal but fun party builds.”

Final Fantasy XVI

FFXVI makes it onto the list too. And you’ll never guess who suggested it. For those paying attention, you’ll notice that this is the third Final Fantasy game put forward by Lanah. It’s safe to say that they’re a fan.
“I love the game. It looks beautiful and the voice acting is amazing; I could listen to those voices for years. Again, there are different skill setups to try. And maybe with all that time on my hands, I could actually make some progress in arcade mode.”

Banjo-Kazooie

Schad goes really old school with his comfort choice, the 1998 N64 classic, Banjo-Kazooie.
“This brings back lots of fond memories for me. I would love to go back and replay this from start to finish. As a completionist, this game scratches that itch very satisfyingly.”

Ratchet & Clank

Schad isn’t the only one bringing a colourful comforting duo from their past. Here’s Letitia reminiscing about a core-memory game.
“I’d take the game that made me a gamer in the first place: Ratchet & Clank. I’ve played it more than any other game ever, and I never get bored of it. It’s so relaxing to just play something that you know so well and to just be good at it. On days where I just need to let my brain switch off for a bit so I can vibe, I’ll choose Ratchet & Clank in a heartbeat.”

Pokémon Legends: Arceus

Like many of us, Letitia has a nostalgic soft spot for Pokémon games. And Arceus would certainly be a smarter desert island choice than Pokémon Go.
“It’s Pokémon. It’s such a cosy franchise to play whenever you want. Legends Arceus was so different to other games in the franchise. Plus, it has such satisfying gameplay which would be fun for unique challenge runs or for trying to get a complete shiny dex. There’s also some length to the game if you want to be a completionist about it. You’d kill plenty of time before you even got to your challenge runs!”

The Crew Motorfest

We don’t all find our comfort in the same zones. If survival games are to be believed, the closest thing you’ll have to technology (cutting-edge gaming system aside) is a stick tied to a rock used for smashing crabs. DaSamCheck’s next choice is a game that would steer them as far away from this rudimentary lifestyle as possible and drive them straight back to their own comfort zone: the cockpit.
“I love the adrenaline rush of controlling marvels of engineering flying through the air or whizzing past at breakneck speeds on the ground. While stuck on my own island, Motorfest’s nice big island map will really get me thinking: ‘if only I had a Porsche now’. The game really improved on many of the shortcomings of The Crew 2. The option to either fly or sail across the waters makes for unlimited play, and the track builder lets people try out all of their favourite tracks and combinations.”

Pure love of the game

We have three more games on this list that don’t fit neatly into any category. They’ve been chosen not for longevity, replayability, or nostalgia, but for their pure excellence!

Fallout 4

We’ll start with Letitia’s choice. Beyond being a game that she’s deeply passionate about, the irradiated wastes of Fallout would make you feel grateful for your little island, no matter how barren it was.
“My first choice would be Fallout 4. I play it a lot, I stream it a lot, and I do challenge runs which provide me with many different ways to play. Those challenge runs have filled me with curiosity about the mechanics, what is and isn’t possible. Plus, mods add even more variety and content on top! I’ve become well known for my love of Fallout 4, so it’d be criminal not to take it.”

Super Smash Brothers

Some might opt for a game with lifelike survivalist mechanics to help them overcome the ruthless nature of island living. Others might opt for a game that allows them to reconnect with the society that they’ve left behind. As for Philip, he just wants to poop (not boop) some people off some cliffs.
“I’ve got to have a combat game in the mix, but I’m awful at FPS games. I’ve always enjoyed Smash Brothers, so I’ll bring it along and play as Yoshi. You’ve got to love the ability to use his tongue like a frog to eat other players and then poop them off the edge of cliffs as eggs. It’s a cute game, and I like that it has heaps of unlockable features.”

Grand Theft Auto 5

Our final entry is one that few could disagree with. Thanks to GTA Online, Rockstar’s masterpiece is a gift that keeps on giving. Over to Samuel:
“If I were in the comfort of my own home, there would be a massive list of games I’d choose before GTA 5, but not so in my precarious desert island situation. GTA 5 is an absolute juggernaut in the gaming world for good reason! It’s basically a giant sandbox island where you can do whatever you want. It strikes the balance between a gripping storyline (not as good as GTA 4) and the freedom to cause absolute mayhem and chaos. Meanwhile, the constant updates and mods keep things fresh and new. Let’s just hope that the internet has decent speeds, and it’s somewhere near the US so that I can find a good server too!”
They didn’t quite merit full inclusion in this list, but our members also recommend bringing Dragon’s Dogma, Skyrim, and Factorio.
Frankly, we’re a little surprised that one category of games wasn’t submitted: survival games that would teach essential crafting skills. Viva la crab smasher! Although there’s a risk that you’d end up with a virtual treehouse mansion while living under a singular palm frond IRL. Still, if it were up to us, we’d definitely bring along Stranded Deep or The Forest. Actually, probably best just make that Stranded Deep shudders with recollection of horrific flesh critters attacking in the night.
Instead, we now know that the best games to bring to a desert island are those with replayability, longevity, nostalgic value, and a taste of home. Did we need to know that information? Probably not. But we sure enjoyed learning it.

Is it just us or is the prospect of permanent maroonment looking pretty darn desirable right now? Let us know which games you’d bring in the comments below! Some text has been amended for brevity. You can find the original wording at the bounty post.
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