7 Indoor Games Worth Staying Home For

We are cruising through October, heading straight toward the cold of winter. Thankfully, the weather doesn’t hate us yet, and instead is filled with a nice crispness that makes me want to at least consider opening a window while I stay inside and play video games. Maybe I’ll just run out for my daily pumpkin spice latte.

If you too are looking to spend some time gaming this weekend, we’ve gathered together a fresh set of games to consider jumping into over the next few days. Let’s get to it.

Super Mario Bros. Wonder

Image: Nintendo

Play it on: Switch
Current goal: Run to the right and see what I find

Earlier this week, we posted a story about how Super Mario Bros. Wonder had leaked, advising people to be cautious of spoilers. Some folks scoffed in the comments. “Spoilers? It’s a Mario game,” reads one. “Spoilers? For a 2D Mario platformer? Jesus Christ, who cares?” reads another. Well, I do. In fact, I’m working harder to avoid spoilers for Wonder than I have for any game in a long time. I don’t even want to read reviews to find out what they’re praising. I want to discover what it has to offer for myself.

Listen, people. It’s hardly just narrative beats that can be spoiled. When Nintendo is firing on all cylinders, it often infuses its games with one gameplay surprise after another, and Wonder looks like it’s striving to reinvent the 2D Mario platformer. I still remember the feeling of awe I experienced the first time I saw Super Mario Bros., not on the NES but on an arcade cabinet at my local 7-Eleven. When the little plumber I knew from single-screen games like Donkey Kong and Mario Bros. ran to the right, a whole world of adventure opened up before him. For a while, Nintendo kept that thrill going with inventive, incredible games like Super Mario Bros. 3, but it’s been a long time since I felt like a 2D Mario game might actually rekindle a feeling of discovery and surprise.

Wonder, however, seems poised to do it. This weekend, I aim to find out. And I intend to find out for myself, by engaging in that most timeless and sacred of video game traditions: running to the right. —Carolyn Petit

Halo Infinite

Screenshot: 343 Industries / Kotaku

Play it on: Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, Windows (Steam Deck YMMV)
Current goal: Enjoy the early days of a Halo revolution (and maybe make a Forge map)

With Halo’s new season (“Reckoning”) you can now add campaign AI into multiplayer matches.. The series has had PvE via Firefight (the wave-based “horde mode”) and Warzone (a PvPvE mode from Halo 5, not to be confused with Call of Duty’s battle royale of the same name), but this update is a new frontier. Having a group of classic Halo alien bad guys right in the middle of a CTF match has never really been possible before, and the idea brims with remarkable potential.

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Thus far I’ve played on a remake of Halo Combat Evolved’s Blood Gulch map with full 12v12 players and 16v16 AI. It’s anarchy but it makes Halo feel fresh, particularly where it concerns the vehicles, which now have far more utility thanks to a much-needed boost in speed and greater protection for dashing through pits of absolute mayhem. And now there’s an ever-present player-vs-AI battle that can either fade to the background, mess up your day, or even be used for distractions.

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Another, nice, snowy map simply called Split PvE, has a Silent Cartographer feel to it, featuring as many as 32 AI across a large landscape that features multiplayer objectives like CTF. Under these conditions, the classic Halo experience of capturing an enemy flag plays unlike ever before. Convoys of warthogs and ghosts must travel long distances through difficult, embattled environments with a mix of players and CPU-controlled AI. Returning the flag back to your base becomes a challenging task of survival across a large environment.

This specific implementation of PvPvE in Halo is still fairly new and is entirely community driven right now. Time will tell if this evolves into something more refined and mature. For now, though, it’s neat to check out how people are learning to inject CPU bots into online Halo multiplayer. It’s even got me thinking about finally making a proper Forge map myself to try my hand at crafting some unique game modes.

Oh, and if you’re like me and have somehow been missing out on Husky Raid, then put a pin in what I said about AI in multiplayer mode and go check out that playlist. Like now. — Claire Jackson

Ghost Master

Screenshot: Sick Puppies

Play it on: PS2, Xbox, macOS (may not work with M-series Macs), Windows (Steam Deck N/A)
Current goal: Become an expert in ghost strategy

This weekend I’m playing the 2003 puzzle strategy game Ghost Master, which tasks you with being a…Ghost Master.

To be a Ghost Master, you need to command an arsenal of ghosts—most of which look like they’re made of green snot, some of which have boobs and nipples—into completing objectives like “scare the sorority girls” or “guide them to the hidden corpses.”

I love being a Ghost Master partly because the game’s 2003 graphics make everything look like it’s jelly just popped from a mold, which fills me with nostalgia and nightmares, and because the game dabbles with the absurd. Certain ghosts can only bind to certain qualities, like “emotional” or “murder,” and I like learning that, in the game, a toilet can qualify as either.

This weekend I’m aiming to improve my ghoulish strategy. I’ve so far only played this game as a reminder that my existence could be worse, I could be a ghost stuck in an upstairs bathroom. This thought has so far crowded out the few puzzle-solving abilities I have when I’m confronted with a new ghost, for example, that needs to be shooed from the chimney where it’s chained and put in my inventory. I’ll try harder this weekend and probably take an edible. — Ashley Bardhan

Mirror’s Edge Catalyst

Image: DICE

Play it on: PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, Windows (Steam Deck YMMV)
Current goal: Sightsee

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I don’t often replay games I’ve completed but for whatever reason I’ve been wanting to dive back into playing 2018’s first-person freerunning action game Mirror’s Edge Catalyst. Mind you, I won’t be replaying this reboot to the 2008 game so that I can experience its megacorp-centric story. I just wanna bask in that futuristic cityscape again.

To me, Mirror’s Edge Catalyst’s obstacle course world sang loudest whenever I took a beat from blitzing through it at breakneck speeds as protagonist Faith Connors to appreciate The City of Glass’ minimalistic architecture. Sure, I could scale the side of a building quicker than a hiccup or get enough momentum off of a wall run to punch some corpo stooge’s lights out, but if that’s all I did I’d be missing out on the sights.

As a kid, I used to boot up Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas just so I could stage an in-game road trip with the country radio. No gunfire, no five-star crime ratings, just vibes. I’m hoping I can recapture that carefree feeling with Mirror’s Edge Catalyst this weekend as well. If I’ve gotta sucker punch a couple of KSEC agents to achieve my City of Glass tourism, so be it. — Isaiah Colbert

Marvel’s Spider-Man 2

Screenshot: Insomniac Games / Kotaku

Play it on: PS5
Current goal: Get that platinum trophy

While I might have already wrapped the main story on Spider-Man 2, I have a lot of side content spread across New York City yet to complete. So this weekend, between sessions of Super Mario Bros Wonder, I will start chipping away at everything left in the game.

Usually, I’m not one to cross off every item in an open-world game’s long checklist of “Things To Do.” Too many other games to play! But with Spider-Man 2 (and the previous entries in the series) I always enjoy getting the platinum trophy. That’s partially because none of the trophies in the game are too intense or hard to get, and also because Spider-Man 2 is just a joy to play. I’ve already spent hours searching for collectibles and chests in Spider-Man 2 and not a moment of it will have felt like a slog. Making a massive game fun to 100-percent is impressive, and something I wish was true with all open-world games. — Zack Zwiezen

Void Stranger

Screenshot: System Erasure / Kotaku

Play it on: Windows (Steam Deck OK)
Current goal: Peace out or soldier on

Ever know a piece of art is good, possibly even great, but it’s really not for you? It sucks, because you see how excited its advocates are, how deeply it moved them, and you’re left wondering, “why is this not hitting for me?” Are you the problem? Is perhaps the game/movie/album not as great as people say? Is it just a taste thing? I think it is mostly a taste thing—and current mood, and openness to experience—but part of me also blames myself when everyone else is having a blast and I’m not, and I yearn to share in their joy.

That’s how I felt about Undertale, the indie RPG sensation that became a genre landmark (and permanently rewired many fans’ brains in the process). I felt left out, because as exciting as all the fan talk sounded, to get to what seemed like the good stuff—the weird plot beats, the genre deconstruction, the queer feels—you had to slog through very basic Japanese-style RPGing, a gameplay format I was tired of decades ago. (I tried the game, and bounced right off.)

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That’s where I find myself after an initial hour with Void Stranger, a recent adventure-puzzle game from System Erasure, developer of the terrific indie shmup ZeroRanger. Every spoiler-free thing I’ve heard about its storytelling, its meta elements, and the sheer inventiveness of this unassuming game had me hyped for a very special experience. Yet I was wary as well, and sure enough all I’ve experienced so far is uninteresting Sokoban (crate-pushing) gameplay and a mildly annoying save system interspersed with the occasional treat of wonderful art or dialogue.

Sokoban was already a hard sell for me on 1990s Game Boys. Should I keep pushing through to get to stuff that might interest me? Maybe, but apparently if I do I’ll be trudging (and re-trudging!) through floor after floor of these grid-based puzzles, and that hasn’t been feeling great so far. So arises the now-familiar tension: Is it worth forcing myself to eat the vegetables to get to the actual dessert I might enjoy?

Perhaps the Germans have a word for this feeling of ennui mixed with yearning.

Dunno how much more time I’ll give this game, but I can say this. A lot of people are just over the moon about Void Stranger, so I encourage you to look at its Steam / Itch pagesbrowse some reviews (or impassioned social media postings), and see if you like the vibes it’s transmitting. If you do, this might be one for the ages. For you, at least. — Alexandra Hall

Diablo IV

Image: Blizzard

Play it on: PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, Windows (Steam Deck OK)
Current goal: Rip through a Blood Harvests

The devil is in the details. After playing Diablo IV for a couple dozen hours when it first came out I’m back to plunge head-first into Season of Blood. I’ve only played an hour so far, taking my new Sorcerer up to level 12, but we are cruising.

Blizzard must really want players to come back, because it’s practically throwing XP and loot at me like the last kid trick-or-treating. I haven’t had much of a chance to start experimenting with the new vampiric builds, but I find myself already taking comfort in returning to the familiar rhythms of attack spamming and potion popping.

I don’t know if this will be the season that “saves” Diablo IV, not that a game that’s already sold 10 million copies needs saving, but so far, so good. I’m looking forward to leveling up in no time and banging away at the new endgame bosses by Halloween.

And those are our picks for the weekend. What games are you playing?