Not everyone’s a gamer, it’s true, but we’re quickly approaching the ‘almost everyone’ point. According to the market research firm NPD Group: in 2020 video games generated more revenue than movies and music combined. That’s an absolutely staggering statistic, and it goes to show that video games are quickly becoming even more ubiquitous in society than movies and music.
If you aren’t a gamer yet, well, chances are you’ll become one eventually, because why miss out on what’s rapidly becoming the most popular art form in human history? And what’s more is that, today, you don’t even need to go out and buy an expensive PlayStation or set up anything on a computer to play games. Games are on our phones, and more importantly, they’re in the cloud.
Streaming almost entirely removes the barrier to entry for gaming, and if you’re somebody who frequents the What Hi-Fi? site, even if you aren’t a big gamer, you probably already have the tech to play games. From phone gaming to streaming games directly to a TV or just using whatever computer you have lying around, there are so many ways to play games today. Nonetheless, even if you can game, where do you start?
That’s where this article comes in. We’ve compiled the ultimate list of seven games you can stream, right now, that are a perfect fit for anybody who loves movies, even if you aren’t a gamer just yet. These games aren’t too mechanically demanding or complicated, and they focus on telling stories, which will feel very familiar to film buffs.
Now, you might expect to see major blockbusters on our list such as Uncharted or The Last of Us, and if you’re a non-gamer, you might have heard about games such as Fortnite or Among Us and think these might be good games to start out with. We aren’t recommending these games, not because they aren’t fantastic games, but because we’re focusing on finding games with amazing narratives that also aren’t mechanically complicated. The games below anybody can pick up, and even if you aren’t a gamer, you won’t be overwhelmed.
Before we get to our specific game pics, here are some tips for getting started.
What do you need to start streaming games?
The basics of what you need to get yourself gaming, if you’re planning on streaming, is a decent internet connection, a subscription to a game streaming service, a controller, and, of course, a compatible device you can play your games on. This may sound like a lot, but it's less than you might think.
First, the main subscription services you’ll want to consider are Xbox Game Pass, PlayStation Plus and Google Stadia. Which service you opt for will not only depend on what games you want to play but also what device you want to play games on. All these services support gaming on a phone or tablet, and some new Samsung TVs even support Game Pass out of the box. Stadia, meanwhile, is already built into TVs that run the Android TV or Google TV platforms (recent Sony and Philips models, for example), and can be added to those that don't via an inexpensive Chromecast device.
Additionally, all of these services also support game streaming directly to a computer, largely independent of how powerful that computer is. You could even opt to connect said computer to your TV in order to game on the big screen.
There’s generally a lot of flexibility with controller support, so if you pick up a mainstream model such as an Xbox or PlayStation controller, you’ll likely be all set, but you can check out the controller compatibility of whichever service you’re thinking about signing up for, too. In general, we recommend playing with a controller on as large a screen as possible, but ultimately, how you want to game comes down to preference and, often, convenience.
Depending on what you need, you’ll likely be spending money outside of a subscription, but costs will stay low. Chances are you’ve at least already got a computer you can stream to, in which case all you strictly need is a subscription that's roughly the same price as Netflix, and a controller that will set you back about £55 / $70 / AU$90 if you go for a fancy PS5 DualSense, and significantly less if you opt for a third-party alternative.
Also, if you’re planning to stream games to your phone, make sure you check to see whether the game you’re interested in is also available from the Apple App Store or Google Play. Some of the games on our list natively support mobile (we've noted which), and opting for that version will likely result in a better experience than streaming.
Now, on with the games!
What Remains of Edith Finch
Edith Finch sits at the top of the list when it comes to games that feel like an interactive movie. These kinds of games have been slurred as ‘walking simulators’, which implies they’re less than games and, instead, are just glorified cutscenes. In general, a game like that might be good for someone new to games, but if your game involves next to no interactivity, it’s easy to feel as if you’d be better off actually watching a movie. That’s where Edith Finch comes in.
This short, colourful game is all about telling the strange and mysterious story of Edith Finch and the troubled Finch clan, but while it’s very much a game in which you move from point A to point B to experience a narrative, it constantly offers up fresh, unique gameplay opportunities that are simple enough anybody can play but engaging enough that everybody will have fun with.
The weird and wacky world of Edith Finch, though, is by far the defining element of this game. Tonally, think along the lines of A Series Of Unfortunate Events, either the books, the movies, or the show, in which the subject matter is often dark and tragic but there’s also loads of witty comic relief. Plus, also like A Series…, Edith Finch is all about a twisted family with a mystery to be unravelled at the centre of it all. There’s drama, heartbreak, humour, and everything else here, and even if you’ve never played a game in your life, you won’t want to miss this.
Stream What Remains Of Edith Finch through Xbox cloud gaming or download it on iOS
Alongside Edith Finch, Firewatch is the other widely-acclaimed ‘walking simulator’ game that manages to both tell an emotive, evocative story while also providing enough interactivity and gameplay opportunities for gamers to feel like they aren’t just watching some kind of animated movie. Though, the acting on display in Firewatch as well as the tightness of its script are absolutely on par with any acclaimed film.
Firewatch stars Rich Sommer of Mad Men fame as Henry, a man reeling from his wife developing early-onset dementia, who takes a job as a fire lookout in Shoshone National Forest in Wyoming. The meat of the story comes down to Henry, alongside another lookout named Delilah he communicates with exclusively over a walkie-talkie, unravelling a mystery at the park.
This is a deeply artistic, sensitive game all about the struggles of maintaining adult relationships, especially in the wake of tragedy. Its art style is equally evocative, looking something like a painting in motion perpetually baking in the hazy, orange light of the golden hour. It’s a beautiful game to behold, a gorgeous story to experience, and it’s also a great game, too. There’s exploration to be done and lots of interactivity, but there isn’t combat to contend with or puzzles you have to solve, nothing too intensive.
Stream Firewatch through Xbox cloud gaming
The Walking Dead: Season 1
Telltale’s now famous The Walking Dead games are great for beginner gamers and the best place to begin with The Walking Dead games (or Telltale games in general), and it’s best to start with Season 1, as The Walking Dead Telltale games are based on the comics and don't, really, directly interact with the show. This means you can get your start in the world of The Walking Dead with Season 1. And don’t get too confused by the ‘season’ nomenclature, either, it just means that the game is split into bite-sized ‘episodes’ you play through.
Telltale games are unique in gaming, though they’ve spawned a bunch of imitators, in that they don’t have many puzzles or lots of combat and are, instead, almost completely composed of moving your character from location to location, and quick-time events. Quick-time events are little interactions where you are prompted onscreen to press a certain button or do a certain action to do something in-game. It’s like bowling with the guide rails but for video games.
So, while The Walking Dead isn’t a mechanically complex or intense game, and nor is it especially beautiful, it has another defining characteristic outside of its unique gameplay: making choices. Telltale games are all about decisions. You decide who to help, who to hurt, and what to do at pivotal moments, all of which coalesces into you enjoying your own unique story.
Stream The Walking Dead: Season 1 through Xbox cloud gaming or download it on iOS or Android
Life Is Strange
Remember when we mentioned Telltale’s unique type of game à la The Walking Dead has spawned a bunch of copycats? Life Is Strange is, perhaps, the biggest, most successful imitator in that it's a similar game all about player choice and limited gameplay outside of quick-time events, though Life Is Strange is a bit more interactive and has a few more puzzles than most Telltale games.
However, the big differentiating factor here is in the story and world. You might not be invested in the gritty world of The Walking Dead, or you just might not like zombies. Still, that kind of game is great for a beginner gamer, because it’s mostly about making choices, experiencing a story, and getting to know characters. Enter Life Is Strange.
While similar in format and structure to The Walking Dead (and also in episodic form), Life Is Strange is much more a high school young adult romance/mystery type of story. This sort of angsty coming-of-age tale remains ever popular in media, and it’s quite the approachable, accessible narrative.
Stream Life Is Strange through Google Stadia or download it on iOS or Android
Until Dawn is similar in gameplay to The Walking Dead and Life Is Strange in the sense that there’s a heavy reliance on quick-time events and player choice, but that’s where the similarities end. In Life Is Strange or The Walking Dead, it’s more like an interactive TV show (hence the episodes these games are divided into) with a predetermined story to tell that you can influence and change with the choices you make, but there are limits – like main characters can’t suddenly die randomly in the first episode.
Until Dawn, though, is more like an interactive horror movie. Any or all of the main characters can die at almost any time, and the game’s larger narrative is constantly changing as main characters start dying, often setting off chain reactions of events for one player that another player never experiences. Plus, Until Dawn is also a prettier, bigger-budget game than either The Walking Dead or Life Is Strange that even manages to pull in famous actors including Hayden Panettiere and Rami Malek.
If you consider yourself a film buff, Until Dawn is in many ways the perfect game to start off with. It’s cinematic and a complete narrative, rich with effects and strong performances, but it’s also very much a video game where the choices you make radically change the story and in which characters live and die. It’s the fantasy of being able to live through a horror movie and deciding what to do yourself, fully realised.
Stream Until Dawn through PlayStation Plus
Quantic Dream, as a developer, has become known for its take on the interactive movie game, too, making games similar to Until Dawn that predate it by years and years. Heavy Rain is the studio’s first breakaway hit interactive movie game reliant on quick-time events, and where Until Dawn is an interactive horror movie, Heavy Rain is like an interactive thriller where players catch a serial killer.
Gameplay is almost exclusively quick-time events in which you’re prompted to press buttons onscreen to control a character. Your character might be in a fight with another and those onscreen prompts appear as instructions for buttons to press in order to punch, kick or block. Then, whether or not you’re able to press each button prompted onscreen in time, there may be consequences for your character, such as failing to throw a punch and losing the fight.
Like The Walking Dead, Life Is Strange, and Until Dawn, player choice plays a huge role in Heavy Rain. Different characters can live or die, there are different endings, and even different resolutions to the mystery of the Origami Killer, depending on the choices you make. Once again, Heavy Rain is the interactive movie to the interactive TV show games on this list, with Heavy Rain being more of a thriller and Until Dawn more of a horror movie.
Stream Heavy Rain through PlayStation Plus
It Takes Two
Do you like Toy Story? If your answer is any flavour of ‘yes,’ then you need to play It Takes Two. Playing It Takes Two gives you the same feeling you get when you watch a Pixar movie, as the whole game is built around the concept of a married couple teetering on the edge of divorce being shrunk down and trapped inside their kids’ handmade dolls.
What’s more is that the central premise of It Takes Two is that it’s a co-op game, through and through. After all, it’s a story about a married couple, so you’ll need somebody to play each partner. You’ll work together with your fellow gamer to overcome obstacles and, ultimately, manage to realise something about yourself and the complex nature of relationships.
Whether you’re a parent with a kid, somebody with a significant other, or even just a friend with another friend, playing It Takes Two is itself a bonding experience that forces you to work together towards a common goal, uniting you in purpose and hopefully bringing you closer together as human beings. It’s a wholesome, silly animated movie but in video game form.
Stream It Takes Two through Microsoft cloud gaming
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