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SYFY WIRE Fallout 76

10 video games to scratch that exploration itch while you're quarantined

By Ben Sledge
Exploration Games

The longer we are forced to stay indoors, the greater the urge to get out of the house grows; that’s the lockdown equation. Self-isolating and quarantining in a locked-down world are paramount to our safety, but the four walls of our homes are starting to feel a little claustrophobic at this point and we are left desperately trying to quash our appetite for adventure.

Aside from adapting to working from home, setting up a mini-office, and trying to bypass Zoom’s 40-minute timer, entertaining ourselves indoors is proving surprisingly difficult. After all, there’s only so many times you can binge every episode of The X-Files... again.

However, thanks to years of practice, gamers are the authority when it comes to entertaining themselves without leaving our homes. Millions of players across the world load up video games as an escape from reality, to explore new horizons, and to connect with friends via the internet. After all, what better time is there than lockdown to join in with all the fun you’ve been missing?

Here are our picks for the best games to satisfy your urges for adventure from the comfort of your sofa.

01. No Man’s Sky

If you're itching to explore, there's no better way to do so than in a procedurally generated galaxy that keeps growing the further you explore. Jump in your spaceship to explore infinite universes, land on millions of potential planets, and document countless flora and fauna.

Every player, and indeed every playthrough, offers a completely different experience due to the procedural generation, and consistently brilliant updates — this time including mechs — mean you’ll struggle to find a better escape from reality. That is unless you've got a VR headset you can hook up to the game for full immersion and escapism.

Available on: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC

02. Forza Horizon 4

To call Forza Horizon 4 a racing game could be considered misdirection. It feels more like a driving simulator, and the races fall by the wayside as you cruise through the stunning British countryside in a car you could only dream of being able to afford IRL.

The faithful recreations of country roads and cities alike make Forza Horizon 4 the ultimate escape from lockdown boredom, so swap the four walls of your flat for the four wheels of a brand-new Mercedes and put the pedal to the metal.

Put on your driving shoes if you really want to feel alive.

Available on: Xbox One, PC

03. Death Stranding

Wandering a post-apocalyptic world as a glorified postman doesn't really sound like the makings of a brilliant game.

However, excellent performances from Norman Reedus and an all-star cast draw you into Death's Stranding's bleak future-world. Some story beats seem like they predict a post-COVID world a little too accurately to be entirely sure that creator Hideo Kojima doesn't have access to a time machine, but it's the small interactions that really make Death Stranding perfect for playing in isolation.

While a single-player experience, items you leave in the world such as ladders or bridges can leak into other players' games to help them out. In return, they can send a little thumbs up. Spreading positivity by doing small things to help each other out has never been more necessary than now.

Available on: PlayStation 4, PC

04. Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

If you own a Nintendo Switch and don't own Breath of the Wild, now is the perfect time to get stuck into the open-world fantasy RPG. If you loved the Zelda games growing up or have never encountered the franchise before, be prepared for vast exploration, hundreds of puzzles, and literally thousands of side quests (yes I'm talking about collecting Korok Seeds) to keep you occupied for hours.

Explore the beautiful world of Hyrule by foot, horse, or glider, and enlist the help of the Divine Beasts to defeat the evil Calamity Ganon who is intent on corrupting this beautiful world.

Available on: Nintendo Switch, Wii U

05. Half-Life: Alyx

While No Man's Sky offers a wonderful virtual reality experience, it is no match for strapping on a headset and loading up Half-Life: Alyx, a game made exclusively for the format.

Alyx pushes the boundaries of VR like no game has before, its stunning environments and gripping story feel incredibly real thanks to the seamless controls. This is the most immersive single-player campaign you can play in 2020, and likely will be for years. If you want an escape, this is the best way to do so — although it's also one of the most expensive ways to do so.

Available on: Most PC-compatible VR headsets

06. Fallout 76: Wastelanders

OK, I know what you're going to say, but hear me out on this one.

Fallout 76 was Bethesda's attempt at creating an online RPG set in their award-winning Fallout universe. We'll admit that Fallout 76 was pretty terrible at launch, but the Wastelanders update has breathed new life into the game, drawing players back to its portrayal of a dystopian West Virginia in the year 2102.

The addition of NPCs is vital to creating a positive online experience, but it's still your interactions with other players that can really make Fallout 76 a delight to play nowadays. With townships to build, mutants to defeat, and levels to grind, this could be a great way to while away the hours of isolation.

Available on: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC

07. Red Dead Redemption 2

The gaming community's favorite cowboy game could be the perfect game to play through isolation.

Firstly, there's the big old single-player mode. We’d estimate it takes a solid 50 hours to finish the main story quests, and that’s only if you ignore everything else the game has to offer. As well as the pure elation you can feel just by riding around the American West on your trusty steed and feeling the virtual wind in your virtual hair, you can also set off on side quests to collect bounties, complete challenges, or clearing enemy hideouts.

And then, you take your trusty revolver to the cutthroat gunfights of Red Dead Online to compete in cowboy-on-cowboy action with players from across the globe — all from the comfort of your own sofa.

Available on: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, Stadia

08. Celeste

Come for the best platforming game in years, stay for the beautiful characters and story. Celeste offers a journey up a dangerous mountain as one girl tries to conquer its peak — and her own inner demons. The infuriatingly challenging puzzles will keep you coming back for "one more try," but it's the beautiful writing and characterization that you can really get lost in.

This is a genuine treat to play, and recommended to everyone, even if you only think Mario and Crash Bandicoot are "fine, I guess."

Available on: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, Linux, macOS, Nintendo Switch

09. Sea of Thieves

If there's one thing we'd all love to do right now, it's to take to the oceans and never return. While a life on the waves might be the ultimate example of social distancing, most of us don't have a boat handy.

However, Sea of Thieves offers the best parts of the glorious open sea — so, sailing without getting wet — and is the perfect antidote to your cramped flat. Battle the Kraken, fight undead hordes for treasure, navigate around other players' ships to secure your booty, and have a wild time doing so. Every meeting with another player is completely unpredictable and equally likely to end by playing your accordions together as it is broadsiding each other with cannons and muskets.

Available on: Xbox One, PC

10. Pokémon Go

Our last game is a strange one, admittedly. Everyone remembers the summer of 2016, when everyone and their grandma was outside playing Pokémon Go.

That summer will be sung about for generations and is pretty much the exact opposite of what we're currently living through. However, thanks to the speedy efforts of developer Niantic, you no longer have to venture outside or into the tall grass to catch Pokémon. Intensive reworks to items allow players to turn their living rooms into Pokémon dens for all the catching fun — completely indoors.

Turn on AR+ for the best, augmented-reality fun: Challenge yourself to try to catch monsters dodging behind your sofa and popping out from behind the telly.

Available on: iOS, Android