Don’t Starve Together
(PC, PS4, Xbox One)
Okay, the title is pretty grim, but this four-player cooperative survival game is strangely endearing. The idea is to survive in a hostile world as long as possible, gathering natural resources in order to make fires, cook food and craft weapons to fight off the extremely unfriendly indigenous wildlife. A pretty effective way of discovering which of your friends you can rely on in a life-or-death situation.
Mobile games – Stuart Dredge
The paradox of “mobile gaming” is that much of it happens when people aren’t mobile at all: they’re sitting on the sofa, lying in bed or (caveat: not recommended) perched on the loo. Most of those games will run happily on a recent (say, from the last three or four years) iPhone or Android smartphone, although a few of them – Sociable Soccer and Butter Royale – are iOS-only and a part of Apple’s £4.99-a-month Apple Arcade subscription.
Armchair golfers who like to play with friends are well-served on mobile: see also Super Stickman Golf 3 and Golf Battle. What I like about Golf Clash is partly the rapid-fire matches: if you come up against someone much better than you, the pain is over fairly quickly. But I also like the sense it gives you of a big community of players out there, including your Facebook friends.
One of the oldest mobile games still being actively supported – it had been first released in 2009 – Words With Friends might be a marvellous tonic for anyone in self-isolation. You can have a bunch of its turn-based Scrabble-like matches going on at once, including in-game chat – and if your real-life friends aren’t playing, it’ll match you up with strangers.
This may be a controversial pick: I was as unsure as many people about Mario Kart Tour when it first came out for smartphones in September 2019. Its freemium model wasn’t super-aggressive by mobile standards, but it still stuck in the craw for Mario Kart. What’s changed my mind, though, is the recent addition of a proper multiplayer mode, including friend-matchmaking. It’s still second-best to playing online on a Switch or even a 3DS, but if you don’t have those available, this may grow on you as it has done on me.