You’ve finished a training patrol, cleaned your weapon, cleaned your gear, grabbed an MRE, sat in the hot wash where you got feedback from the training, and now find yourself with a free few minutes before your next bit of training.
What do you do? If you say, “Read your skill level 10 book,” then I don’t have much for you other than, “Get a hobby.” But if you already have a hobby and if that hobby is gaming, I have a whole list of games to take on your next field exercise.
As a soldier, my training exercises were usually on the drop zones of Fort Bragg or on Northern Training Area VIII. Believe it or not, cellular companies hadn’t prioritized those areas, and keeping devices in airplane mode was a hard rule that was occasionally even enforced. So if you wanted to play a game, it had to be offline.
Unfortunately, today that’s getting harder and harder as more games require a constant connection to a server. But there are still some games out there that work offline. And most of them are also easy to pause and to play in short bursts, meaning you can save or pause the game if a training inject comes in.
1. Vampire Survivors
The artwork feels a lot like the old Castlevania games, if that strikes a nostalgic note for you. And even if it doesn’t, you’ll still love this game. Monsters attack you from all corners of the screen, and you move your character to avoid hits while aiming your own projectiles against them. Levels last 15-30 minutes, but you can exit early and keep anything you earned. An internet connection isn’t required, but you can get an extra revive for free if you’re able to watch an ad.
2. Organ Trail
I did not misspell “Oregon Trail.” The title is a pun, and the whole game is a fun, slightly morbid remake of the western history game. Do you and your squadmates have ridiculously long conversations about who would best survive a zombie apocalypse? (Of course, you do.) Well, now you can prove it to each other by trying to reach Safe Haven. And if dead flesh is your thing, this game has a lot of fan service for zombie movie and game lovers.
3. Alto’s Odyssey
This endless runner is all about beautiful vistas and quick tricks to avoid crashing. The player controls a sandboarder moving across picturesque vistas. Levels can go for as long as you can avoid crashing. It’s simple, you can pick it up at any time, and it really lets you turn your brain off. One potential downside: There’s always the risk you get called away in the middle of a long run, but that’s life in the military.
4. Slice & Dice
Take a team of five characters through dungeons, gain loot, kill monsters and do all of it by rolling six-sided dice. It sounds simple, but the game includes a lot of mechanics to keep things fresh, including items and lots of character classes. Each run has 20 levels and a final boss.
5. Mini Metro (or Motorways)
Mini Metro calls on the player to build from scratch a transit system for a small city. The lines of passengers steadily increase as the player tries to get them to more and more destinations. Each run starts fairly simply but quickly ramps up. The player can pause at any time, either to redraw the entire system or to dig a fighting position. You know, whatever.
A newer and very similar game, Mini Motorways, is essentially the same but has the player building roads for car travelers.
6. Ace Attorney Trilogy (Or Most Any Other Ace Attorney Game)
Say hello to Phoenix Wright, ace attorney. Phoenix and his colleagues are defense attorneys who do their own investigations and interrogations to prove their clients’ innocence. The cases are interesting puzzles, and the players have to apply logic and look for Holmesian hints as to what really happened. Solve mysteries, play at your own pace and watch unhinged displays of legal advocacy.
Hoplite is easy to learn but will crush your spirit. This tactical dungeon crawler sees the player navigate procedurally generated dungeons as monsters and guards attempt to stop them. Gameplay is bite-sized, so you can easily squeeze in a run to wind down before bed. But be warned: It’s hard. So you might go to sleep more frustrated than relaxed if you take it too seriously.
8. Stardew Valley
Stardew Valley made the list of Wikipedia’s greatest video games of all time. It’s often described as a “farming simulation,” which, no. But it does follow the player’s character as they inherit a farm, fix it up and explore the area around it. It includes a bit of cave crawling when you want bite-sized combat, and a lot of planting, harvesting and clearing of land to soak up idle minutes between training.
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