As a regular gamer I utter, 'I'll stop after this level'
or 'just another five minutes'
more times than I'd like to admit. The most addictive games are characterized by their ability to keep players fixated on simple gameplay, while doling out endorphin-satisfying feedback for completing tasks, all the while increasing difficulty level with each minute. Here are 10 titles which you probably don't want to pick up if there's a looming deadline or social engagement on your calendar...but you'll want to play anyway!
PAC-MAN Championship Edition DX
XBLA: $10 / Playstation Network: $10
Namco took their most famous mascot and injected him into a faster, more intense version of Pac-Man optimized for modern console controls. The familiar maze is now separated into two halves that constantly shift and change as players progress. High scores can be achieved through strategies familiar to old school Pac-Man gamers: focusing on collecting pellets or stringing combos by chomping on ghosts.
Mario Kart 7
Nintendo 3DS: $30.40
When I'm in the mood for a virtual race around the track, my first choice is always Mario Kart. Each Nintendo console has had their own edition, and the latest 3DS edition raises the bar a little higher thanks to a few gameplay options. Players have access to the full roster of characters from the Mushroom Kingdom with this 3DS edition offering a visual upgrade and a few changes to track design, including 16 "Retro" tracks. If you've ever played Mario Kart, you're already aware of its addictive gameplay...it's more of the same here.
Steam: $20 / XBox 360: $1.99 / Playstation 3: $7.51 / iOS: $1
A puzzle game (in)famous for its ability to induce meek, 'just one more level' begging time and time again, Bejeweled challenges players with a board of gems where moves are made by swapping any piece with another with the goal of lining three in a row, either vertically or horizontally. This sequel takes the franchise to the next level with updated graphics and more game modes than you can shake a stick at. Bejeweled has been replicated numerous times, but this edition proves the original is always the best (and most addictive).
Nintendo DS: $17.84 / XBLA: $10
Why Meteos hasn't been adapted for smartphones or tablets yet is beyond me. Meteos was the title that sold me on the Nintendo DS during its launch, when the concept of a second touch-screen initially felt just too bizarre to wrap my head around. The game's objective: aim and shoot to line up three or more matching blocks ("Meteos") as they continually rain down from above. Match three or more similar colors to build a rocket platform to launch them into space and clear the board.
Steam: $10 / Mac App Store: $7 / XBLA: $5 / Playstation Network: $10 / iOS: $5 / Android: $5
Any game that turns songs on my iPad or PS3 into an epic battle automatically piques my interest. However, just that alone wouldn't justify a game. But thankfully Beat Hazard's twin joystick controls, partnered with a satisfying array of equippable weapons and modifications makes this game a truly satisfying music-based arcade shooter. Beat Hazard is my personal go-to title for down time, allowing me to sit back, load up a song from my own song library, and blast some aliens and space rocks.
XBox 360: $27.90 / Playstation 3: $21.30 / iOS: $5
"Madness" is the one word summing up the world and gameplay of Katamari Damacy. Taking on the role of the Prince of the Cosmos, it's your job to collect as many objects using the katamari ball by rolling across sprawling landscapes (as long as the object isn't bigger than your collected mass), in the process creating planets and stars. Players start small, from a living room floor initially littered with small items like buttons and paper clips, then later escalates to a setting filled with larger objects like people, buildings, and even mountains to collect! It all sounds crazy until you play Katamari, but its ridiculously addictive nature is undeniable.
Steam: $15 / XBLA: $10 / Playstation Network: $10 / iPhone: $1 / iPad: $1
I had often heard of Peggle, notorious online for being ridiculously addictive. After taking advantage of a recent app store sale, I quickly understood why it had earned a reputation for being a time-killer. A clever, colorful mix of the pre-video game era Japanese parlor game, pachinko, merged with video game classic, Breakout, the goal is simple: hit all the red tiles by shooting silver balls at them. There's nothing quite as exciting as the feeling right before you're about to strike the final target and the game goes into super slow-motion, your success soon rewarded by a fireworks show with Ode to Joy playing the background in celebration.
Nintendo Wii: $19.99
If you own a Nintendo Wii, you definitely know Wii Sports, as it was bundled with the console. But it might have been a long time since you've played the now-classic party game, and I think it's definitely worthy of a dust-off and revisit. Cute looking Miis, ridiculously catchy music, and easy to grasp move controls made the instant classic a superior addictive motion capturing gaming experience when compared to Kinect Sports or Sports Champions then and still today.
Elite Beat Agents
Nintendo DS: $19.98
Casual rhythm games are perfect for those afflicted with two left feet [raising hand], since they aren't demanding (nor require you to step onto a dance floor). Elite Beat Agents is a funky, wacky, and fun music title where players swipe and tap in rhythm to pop/rock hits such as YMCA, Canned Heat, and even You're the Inspiration from Chicago. Just remember to put on our headphones before playing, so as not to bother those nearby with your constant tapping!
Plants vs. Zombies
Steam: $10 / XBLA: $15 / Playstation Network: $10.50 / iPhone: $1 / iPad: $1 / Android: $1 / Windows Phone: $5 / Others
Pop Cap Games seems to have the formula for producing addictive games down to a science. Plants vs. Zombies is their uber-popular 'tower defense' game that has players setting up offensive weaponry positioned to defend against an invading and clever army of lumbering undead. Players take the role of a faceless survivor cooped up in their home against a non-stop onslaught of marauding zombies using aggressive plants strategically to fight them off. Yes, the premise is silly, but the game's addictive gameplay is as non-stop as the zombies themselves.
(Images: Jason Rodway; all other titles as linked above)