indies you should plau in one sitting

Indies You Should Play in One Sitting – One and Done

We have been taught as gamers that bigger is better. More content equates to a better game. That’s the narrative that the industry has been pushing for quite some time now, and it’s the same narrative that is acting as an albatross around the neck of AAA development, and has led to some really bloated stinkers in recent memory.

It’s all but expected that AAA titles will need to have 25+ hours of content, and probably triple that if you count side content.

However, despite the absent-minded viewpoints of publishers with deep pockets and nothing better to do, there are a ton of games out there that last no longer than a few hours, yet manage to leave a lasting impression on players.

I couldn’t tell you the last time that a monumentally big AAA title has even come close to bursting through the metaphorical glass ceiling to enter my shortlist for my all-time favorites. It might even be as far back as The Last of Us.

However, there has been a bundle of touching, charming, and memorable bite-sized indies that have managed to do in a handful of hours what most big-budget titles can’t do with days worth of playtime on the clock.

They’ve managed to captivate me, evoke complex emotions, and check out on a high without overstaying their welcome.

These games are such special experiences that, for the optimal playing experience, players should carve out an afternoon, or even a full day to play them from start to finish.

However, you may be wondering what spectacular games you can even complete in one sitting, and why they are so special that they deserve your full, unwavering attention until the credits roll. Well, allow me to break it down for you. Here are some incredible Indies You Should Play In One Sitting. Enjoy!

Selection Criteria

Okay, so before we jump into this one, we should lay down some ground rules to ensure quality selections, and also ensure that one sitting doesn’t mean vegetating in front of a screen for fifty hours straight. These are the criteria that we considered when putting together this list:

  • Naturally, all games have to be indies
  • One sitting can be no longer than eight hours. Any longer, and I would be promoting unhealthy gaming habits.
  • All games selected must offer a richer experience if the player plays from start to end with no interruptions
  • All games selected must have a Metacritic aggregate score of 65+

Okay, get your snacks ready, and get comfy. We have some lengthy sessions ahead of us!

#1 – Journey

journey indies You Should Play in One Sitting
  • Metacritic Score: 92%
  • How Long to Beat: 2-3 hours
  • Reason to Play in One Sitting: An Unbroken cohesive experience

Journey is one of the first video games where people from other media-driven industries collectively cocked their heads and took notice of a title that transcended the medium, to be considered a work of art. So just as you wouldn’t watch half of an iconic movie, or browse half a famous art exhibit, you shouldn’t take any breaks when experiencing this magnificent gaming treasure.

Journey sees you play the role of the traveler as they journey to the top of a far-off mountain. A simple premise, but one that is full of trials and tribulations that serve as an artistic depiction of life, death, and the afterlife.

The game is tailor-made to offer peaks and valleys in both gameplay and players’ emotions as they play, making it one of the most brilliantly paced titles to ever grace our screens.

It has a sublime soundtrack, timeless visuals, and an anonymous multiplayer function which will see you naturally want to push on to the end to experience what Journey has to offer with your newly acquired pal. It’s a game that is over before you know it, but it will stay with you forever.

#2 – Return of the Obra Dinn

return of the obra dinn indies You Should Play in One Sitting
  • Metacritic Score: 87%
  • How Long to Beat: 6-8 hours
  • Reason to Play in One Sitting: You need to stay plugged in to connect the dots

We have seen a lot of games that urge players to be detectives and crack a case. Some have done it pretty well, like Heavy Rain, Disco Elysium, and Shadows of Doubt.

However, I would argue that none have done it better than Return of the Orba Dinn, a game that has you board the titular ship as an insurance representative to file a report of the events that transpired at sea. Sounds like a boring, bureaucratic slog, but as you soon find out, there is a seriously intriguing story to unravel aboard this vessel.

Through flashbacks, players will able to hear exchanges between crewmates, and examine tableaus of events to identify people aboard, and piece together how each person on the ship did or didn’t meet a grizzly end.

It’s a game I would recommend players take on in one sitting as you need to stay as connected to each event as you can, as each scene has a piece of the puzzle, and time away from this title will only make the process harder.

It’s a nautical epic that you don’t want to pass up on, and it’ll only take talented detectives about eight hours to complete. So get on the case!

#3 – Inside

inside indies You Should Play in One Sitting
  • Metacritic Score: 87%
  • How Long to Beat: 3-4 Hours
  • Reason to Play in One Sitting: Easier to make sense of the subtle story

I was torn on whether I should give Little Nightmares, LIMBO, or INSIDE a spot on this list. However, of the three, I would say that INSIDE is the strongest and offers a one-and-done experience that is chilling, challenging, and demands your full attention if you want to understand the world around you.

INSIDE is a 2D Side-scrolling puzzle platformer that has you play as a young boy who has escaped from his captors and must keep a low profile as he explores this dystopian setting to find a way to escape for good.

If you were to play this game in segments, it would still serve as a very competent puzzle platformer, but the rich world design and subtle plot points would be lost on you. INSIDE’s story and ending ask you to fill in the blanks and make sense of what has transpired, and only with a full understanding of the game as a whole will you be able to do that without googling ‘INSIDE story explained.’

It’s a title with excellent puzzles, a truly unsettling atmosphere, and a brilliantly paced runtime that makes for a perfect way to fill an afternoon.

#4 – Gone Home

gone home indies You Should Play in One Sitting
  • Metacritic Score: 86%
  • How Long to Beat: 2-3 Hours
  • Reason to Play in One Sitting: It’s up to you to uncover the story

Again, I was faced with the choice of either Tacoma, or Gone Home, and while I love Tacoma, Gone Home is easily the strongest of the two.

Gone Home sees you play the role of Katie Greenbriar, who has returned home to an empty house, and through exploring the huge estate, you must uncover why everyone is gone, and what has happened to everyone in your absence.

It’s an incredible walking sim that promotes deep exploration of the environment for clues, rewards players with further clarity for digging deeper into the subtle narrative, and also wraps things up with an outstanding ending.

I would argue that just about any walking sim should be played in one sitting as it is a completely narrative-driven adventure, but I would say that Gone Home especially needs to be played from start to finish, as none of the plot points are documented, you are given very little guidance, and only through examining the world around you can you make sense of your family’s whereabouts.

So breaking this up would mean you were constantly re-examining items and backtracking to remind yourself.

It’s only a 2-3 hour experience, though. So you should be able to see this one through to the end and still have most of the evening to yourself. This game serves as the blueprint for all walking sims that came after, so for a history lesson in this sub-genre, play this one!

#5 – Undertale

undertale indies You Should Play in One Sitting
  • Metacritic Score: 92%
  • How Long to Beat: 5-6 Hours
  • Reason to Play in One Sitting: For comedic value

I don’t think anyone would have assumed that Toby Fox’s indie gem Undertale would be the smash hit that it was based on first impressions.

Yet this RPG maker title which only cost $40,000 to make, managed to enamor critics and fans alike, cementing itself as one of the best indie games of all time. All this acclaim despite the fact that you can complete the whole game in around five hours. Ubisoft, take note.

This game serves as a satirical jab at all the staple gaming tropes from the decades that proceeded this game, and uses satirical humor, zany characters, bullet-hell style combat, self-referential, fourth-wall-breaking antics, and much more to delight players and provide unbridled fun.

The game has a killer chiptune soundtrack, a cavalcade of truly memorable and meme-able moments, and manages to be genuinely funny, which is a rarity in the industry.

So why play it all in one go? Well, because the game is constantly making callbacks, has a series of running jokes, and asks players to remember things that could prove to be important later. Meaning that taking a break could mean that you miss out on some great gags or interesting encounters. So do yourself a favor, fill yourself with determination, and complete Undertale in one sitting!

#6 – Norco

norco indies You Should Play in One Sitting
  • Metacritic Score: 89%
  • How Long to Beat: 5-6 Hours
  • Reason to Play in One Sitting: A complex narrative

Point-and-click adventures tend to be great candidates for one-sitting runs, but of all the options available, I believe that Norco stands head and shoulders above the rest.

Norco tells a surreal sci-fi tale following Kay as she returns to a southern town in Louisianna that is stuck in a state of arrested development due to the environmental wreckage and economic turmoil caused by the oil company, Shield.

She returns to a town she no longer seems to fit in, and must try to make sense of her deceased mother’s final weeks and uncover the other-worldly mysteries that are tied to her death.

To explain why Norco is special would be taking away from any potential player’s firsthand experience, as this game’s intricately woven narrative creates a fantastical version of a real-world setting, beautifully navigates themes relating to grief, religion, politics, the uncanny valley of futuristic practices like cryptocurrency and so much more.

Plus, it allows players to make choices that change the way their character views the world around them, allowing you to connect to this setting in a very intimate way.

However, what I will say is, this game’s story is dense. There’s a lot to unpack, and the game isn’t about to hold your hand and do it for you. You need to be switched on throughout, immerse yourself in the text, and only through a complete one-sitting playthrough will you have the ability to connect all the dots.

It’s the game you probably slept on in 2022, and it’s one you need to check out!

#7 – When the Past Was Around

when the past was around Indies You Should Play in One Sitting
  • Metacritic Score: 77%
  • How Long to Beat: 2-3 hours
  • Reason to Play in One Sitting: The evolving musical score

If you are looking for a rather artistic and unassuming point-and-click adventure that will quietly go about making you a blubbering fool, then look no further than When The Past Was Around.

I actually came to know this game because of the rather quick and painless platinum that comes with completing this game. However, this would lead to a happy accident that would cement this game as one of the most memorable indies I’ve ever had the pleasure of playing.

When The Past Was Around is a game that deals with loss in a truly touching way. Through the use of a dialogue-free narrative, and a consistent musical melody that changes with the plot points presented as a chameleon blends with its surroundings, this title tells a compelling silent story of love, loss, and how to let go.

Due to the subtlety of the storytelling medium alone, I would argue players would need to play this in one session, but I would also say that gaming score nerds will want to play this from start to end to truly appreciate the utterly staggering things that composer Masdito “ittou” Bachtiar manages to do with just a handful of repeating notes. It’s a hidden gem that I urge everyone to try!

#8 – Omno

omno Indies You Should Play in One Sitting
  • Metacritic Score: 82%
  • How Long to Beat: 3-4 Hours
  • Reason to Play in One Sitting: The easy-breezy, yet satisfying progression

Next up, we have a title that is cut from the same cloth as Journey in a lot of ways, telling a silent story that has players set off to a far-off destination, growing in competence along the way.

While I would say that Omno pales in comparison to Journey, it’s still an incredible experience that offers unchallenging but rewarding gameplay, an accessible and satisfying format, and a beautiful selection of locales to explore.

Whether it’s drinking in the colorful biomes of Omno, solving the mass of puzzles on offer, or simply enjoying the cathartic mechanics on show, there is something here for anyone that wants nothing more from a game than a medium to relax and unwind.

I recommend playing this in one sitting because of the wonderful pacing of the game’s progression. With each new location, the player gets access to a new skill which is a joy to play around with, new creatures to interact with, and fun puzzles to solve.

It’s this addictive format that will keep you pressing on to see more. It’s a game that’s over before you know it, so you should make time to consume this in full, banking it as one complete treasured gaming memory.

#9 – Season: A Letter to the Future

season a letter to the future Indies You Should Play in One Sitting
  • Metacritic Score: 80%
  • How Long to Beat: 7-8 hours
  • Reason to Play in One Sitting: The ASMR Vibes

In my review of Season: A Letter to the Future, I praised the game for its attention to detail regarding its sound design and ASMR-like qualities, amongst a trove of other things. Which is why I’ve plopped it onto this list.

There are some games out there that have the ability to put you in a complete state of relaxation, immerse you in the world it presents, and deliver an experience that stays with you long after the credits roll. Season is one such game.

The game sees you play as Estelle, a young girl who must leave their home to document the state of the world as they know it before the dawn of a new era. An era where all will be washed away and will begin anew.

You are essentially given the task of writing the history books for the generations that proceed you, and to do that, you’ll need to explore the land, meet colorful characters, and take a whole bunch of photos.

It’s a game with a soothing setting, one that has striking visuals and sound design, and one that won’t rest until you let out a deep exhale and let all your troubles melt away. If that sounds like the release you need, then play this one real soon!

#10 – SUPERHOT

superhot Indies You Should Play in One Sitting
  • Metacritic Score: 83%
  • How Long to Beat: 2-3 Hours
  • Reason to Play in One Sitting: To maintain a flow state

Hey, you ever wanted to adorn a dark trench coat, some ridiculous shades, and enter The Matrix? Of course, you have.

We all dodged fake bullets and ran up walls pretending we were Keanu Reeves, right? Well, the parkour may not be possible, but the bullet-time action certainly is when playing SUPERHOT. This is a typical FPS shooter with a twist.

Time only moves when you do, meaning that it’s an FPS meets real-time strategy game where planning your next move really matters.

It’s a short affair that will see you work through meticulously crafted levels, shooting, dodging, and throwing projectiles to be the last one standing, and hear that baritone voice reward you with the line ‘Super-Hot.’

You might think that this is a pretty arcade-like title, so why play it in one fell swoop? Well, partly because it’s short enough that you can, and it’s addictively fun. But also because it’s a very mechanically demanding game, and staying in a flow state will help you ace each level, become more proficient, and, indeed, be the super-hottest of them all.

#11 – Minit

minit Indies You Should Play in One Sitting
  • Metacritic Score: 81%
  • How Long to Beat: 1-2 hours
  • Reason to Play in One Sitting: You need to understand the loop

I’m a sucker for a game that sticks me in a perpetual time loop and tasks me with finding a way to beat the cycle. In fact, we have another one slotted in right at the end of the list, so that’s something to look forward to there.

However, before that, we look at Minit. A game that asks you to play in one-minute sittings, and in that time, you have to explore your surroundings, get to know the world around you, and find a way to progress a little farther each time with every inevitable death.

If I had to label it as anything, it would be a roguelike-puzzler.

It uses the classic top-down Zelda format to present a compelling time loop puzzle, in a cute pixel, monochrome style that is nothing short of charming, and best of all, the game can be beaten in as little as one hour if you really hustle, making it a title that’s great if you only have a short window to game.

However, I would urge all players to play from start to finish in one sitting, as this game can be rather hard to return to without starting over again. You need to have an intimate knowledge of the environment, the shortcuts created, and the clever workarounds. So to avoid getting dazed and confused, make this a one-and-done experience!

#12 – Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons

brothers a tale of two sons Indies You Should Play in One Sitting
  • Metacritic Score: 90%
  • How Long to Beat: 2-3 hours
  • Reason to Play in One Sitting: That emotional gut punch

Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons is a title that showcases in a rather unassuming way how one bit of clever design can be used to weave a powerful narrative. On the surface, this title is a puzzle platformer that requires the player to control two brothers simultaneously using twin sticks on a controller to venture out into the wilds to get medicine for their ill father.

The premise is simple, but over the course of the runtime, the game presents an unbreakable bond between the two siblings, the importance of family ties, and eventually, presents in a gut-wrenching fashion what it feels like to sever that bond.

Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons is a masterclass on how to combine game design and narrative to create something greater than the sum of its parts.

Which makes it an essential play for all indie fans. However, it’s also a game that deserves an unbroken playthrough, as the rich narrative and supporting gameplay mechanics culminate in an emotional sucker punch that will only take full effect if you have been with these two siblings for the whole journey, immersed in their story.

#13 – Unpacking

unpacking Indies You Should Play in One Sitting
  • Metacritic Score: 84%
  • How Long to Beat: 3-4 Hours
  • Reason to Play in One Sitting: Piecing together the timeline

This is one I was on the fence about adding to the list, because I can see the argument that completing this game in level-by-level increments could be a way to break up the monotony of sorting household items into their natural habitats.

However, I added this game to the list because, if you take time away after each move, you will inevitably miss the subtle stories being told through the items you own.

Unpacking, for those unaware, is exactly what you would expect based on the name. It’s a title where you unpack items and place them in your new home.

It’s a relaxing and cathartic experience, but also a very intimate experience that allows you to get to know your player character through the years through their most cherished personal belongings and their living quarters.

Some items act as little time capsules of a foregone era, like a Nintendo Gamecube, for example. Whereas others show where you’ve been, what company you keep, and how far you’ve come as a person.

None of this subtle narrative quite lands unless you play through the moves in relatively quick succession, noting the changing of the times, and how your items blend seamlessly into the home of the one you love. It’s a simple, but effective gaming format that takes one of the most loathsome activities on the planet, and makes it a soothing and fun experience.

#14 – Coffee Talk

coffee talk Indies You Should Play in One Sitting
  • Metacritic Score: 76%
  • How Long to Beat: 3-4 Hours
  • Reason to Play in One Sitting: To be the best barista you can be

I’ve never been a huge fan of visual novels, which is surprising because I love text-based adventures. However, visual novels tend to lack that one key component I crave. Control.

The story tends to happen around you, with you acting as a random bystander. Which, for all intents and purposes, is exactly what happens in Coffee Talk. However, on this occasion, I was pleasantly surprised by how interactive and immersive the experience was.

In this title, you play as the owner of a coffee shop that only opens in the dead of night, and your role throughout the game is to create the perfect drinks for all of your clientele, alongside getting to know their respective stories.

For the most part, these stories are interesting, the characters are relatable and well-written, and the setting where all mythical races co-exist in an otherworldly re-imagining of Seattle is fascinating.

You could play this game in chapters and still enjoy the story. However, I would argue that this one should be completed in one unbroken session, as the game regularly assumes knowledge, and will ask you to make a customer’s usual beverage, or ask you to remember ingredient combinations to create specialist brews.

Yes, there is a compendium of recipes, but for me, that just made me feel like a hack. So if you too seek to be a naturally gifted barista, and spend way too long drawing intricate latte art, then this is the game for you.

#15 – The Outer Wilds

the outer wilds Indies You Should Play in One Sitting
  • Metacritic Score: 89%
  • How Long to Beat: 10-16 hours
  • Reason to Play in One Sitting: There’s a lot to remember

Okay, so I’m going to break my session length rule for this last entry, but only because I feel this game is a special case where, if you can fight through the sleep barrier and play this game in one sitting, you absolutely should.

The Outer Wilds, much like Minit, places the player in a perpetual time loop where you can explore an entire mini solar system, but you only have 22-minutes to do so before the world resets, and you need to set off into the skies above Timber Hearth once again.

I regularly tout this game as the epitome of one-time epics, where returning to this for a replay will never be the same, and this is why playing this in one block is so rewarding.

The solar system in The Outer Wilds is one filled with incredible planets and locations, each with its own cool puzzles and environmental mechanics, and only through exploring and gaining an intimate understanding of how each area works can you begin to piece together the process needed to break the loop.

It’s a game that offers total explorative freedom, an incredibly atmospheric setting, complete with a killer soundtrack, and some of the most clever, cohesive game design ever. If that isn’t an endorsement to play this one, then I don’t know what is. Just a tip, though. Savor it, because you only get to experience this one for the first time once.

Honorable Mentions

dear esther Indies You Should Play in One Sitting
Dear Esther

There are just too many one-and-done experiences to give a spot on this list, but that’s what honorable mentions sections were made for, right? Here are all the one-sitting gems that you should check out after you exhaust the list above:

  • Dear Esther
  • Bastion
  • Doki Doki Literature Club
  • LIMBO
  • What Remains of Edith Finch
  • Child of Light
  • Dust: An Elysian Tale
  • Never Alone
  • Little Nightmares
  • Abzu
  • SOMA
  • Firewatch
  • Grow Home
  • Killer Frequency
  • Bramble: The Mountain King
  • Oxenfree
  • Donut County
  • Stray
  • The Artful Escape
  • Toem
  • Flower
  • The Unfinished Swan
  • Tacoma
  • Turnip Boy Commits Tax Evasion

FAQs

Question: How Long Are Indie Games Usually?

Answer: That’s like asking how long a piece of string is, because you have indies like Minit that can be finished in one hour, and you also have games like Disco Elysium that can make up to 30-40 hours. However, to generalize and estimate the average indie game length, I would say it would be somewhere between 6-8 hours.

Question: Which is the best One Sitting Indie?

Answer: This is a matter of preference, but for me, it has to be Journey, closely followed by The Outer Wilds. These are games that live rent-free in my head, and I can’t imagine that would still be the case if I had broken up the experience with regular breaks.

Question: What Are Some Indies You Shouldn’t Play In One Sitting?

Answer: There are some games that really shouldn’t be absorbed in one sitting, as they are too long, too dense, too intense, or the player can benefit from taking time away to let things ruminate. So here are just a few examples of games that need to be broken up over multiple sittings:
• Disco Elysium
• Spiritfarer
• Hades
• Hollow Knight
• Celeste
• Pathologic 2
• Neon White

Short and Sweet!

As you can see, there are some real standout titles that can be completed from start to finish in one sitting. Thanks to these games’ incredible pacing, all-killer, no-filler approach to game design, and in most cases, rich narrative throughout.

These games serve as bite-sized masterpieces that you can enjoy in full when you have a day to yourself, or if you are like me and can’t sleep at night.

I hope that this list helps you bolster your library with rainy-day games to play, and as always, thank you for reading Indie Game Culture.

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