The image of PC gaming as something that happens in a cramped study or a musty bedroom is fading. More people than ever seem to be happy plugging their rig into their TV and gaming on the sofa. Who wouldn’t want that? It’s comfier than an office chair.
Finding games that are truly suited for play in the living room requires a bit of research, though. After many hours of hard research, we’ve come up with 10 corkers. The things we do for you readers.
Some of these titles are picked for their ‘couch co-op’ support, others because they’re just the sort of thing we think you’ll want to play after a hard day’s work. A few are ready for a bit of generation-splicing family play too.
Do hardcore PC games make sense in the lounge? Some don't, but Divinity: Original Sin absolutely does. While it takes inspiration from classic RPGs like Baldur's Gate, which is best experienced in front of a monitor with a mouse glued to your hand, Divinity works like a dream in the lounge.
First, it supports gamepads, being optimised for PS4 and Xbox One as well as the PC crowd. And it's one of the few giant AAA role-playing games you can play in co-op with someone else, on the same TV.
We've lost track of the hours we've put into Divinity: Original Sin, but How Long to Beat puts the average 'completionist' time at 109 hours. At under £30 or $39 (around AUS$59), you can't argue with its value. It's a flat-out great game too, one packed with humour.
A bit of a throwback to the days of 90s lounge multi-player gaming, Trine 2 feels like a classic platformer. But it also has great 3D graphics, smart modern physics and puzzles better than what we remember from back in the SNES days. Well, apart from The Lost Vikings.
What takes it over the edge into a lounge must-try is couch co-op, with no need for split-screen. You can use a gamepad too, for the ‘lean back and relax’ feel. Trine 3 also supports the same lounge-friendly stuff but we think the second game was simply better. The newer one is too short and needlessly makes the game environment full-3D, giving away the pure vibe of the first two Trines.
This is what you get if you take “one more go” gaming, times it by six and then square the result. Trials Fusion balances frustration and reward like a trial biker teetering along a tight rope.
You tilt your rider back and forwards, grappling with the physics engine to avoid smearing your rider over the tarmac. It’s a casual mechanic, amped up for hardcore appeal. In the harder levels you might end up kissing the track 100 times getting to the end, but as you can restart in a fraction of a second, you end up frustrated at yourself rather than anything else.
There are two ways to approach multiplayer here: you can take it in turns, one crash per go, or there’s a versus mode where you try to get so far ahead the other racers end up off the screen. A hair-pulling riot.
Have kids? You need to try one of the Lego games. There’s a whole bunch on PC, and the latest is Lego Marvel’s Avengers. This takes characters and scenes from both the Avengers films and maps them out in Lego.
It’s a bit of a button-bashing collect-a-thon where just about everything can be destroyed, bursting in a spray of Lego ‘coins’. Two people can play on the same screen, taking on the role of one of the Marvel heroes.
Don’t dismiss this as a ‘baby’ game, though – it gets pretty tough. If you can’t stand superhero nonsense, there are now absolutely loads of similar Lego titles, including ones themed with the Star Wars, Jurassic Park, Harry Potter and Batman brands.
What would happen if you merged football and arcade racing? Maybe no-one asked that question, but Rocket League still popped into the world and is incredibly moreish.
It’s fast, a bit silly and the physics is inspired more by pinball than FIFA. Rocket League is arcade fun, but it’s still very easy to get scarily competitive over.
It has a massive following online, but you can also play on the same TV, using split-screen. You have to see Rocket League in action to get a real flavour of what it’s about. Track it down on YouTube. There are thousands of Rocket League videos there.
Back when we were playing games in the 90s, their worlds were usually very rigid, hand-made things. Beautiful, yes, but sometimes you’d just wish you could rip them apart just a little bit.
Broforce is a what might come out if a group of now-30-somethings got together and devised their perfect game. All the characters are not-so-subtle rip-offs of 90s action movie heroes like Blade, John McClane and Blade, while the action is a flat-out side-scrolling destruction fest. And the graphics are pure pixel art.
Up to four people can play at once, turning the screen into a joyfully chaotic mess.
Not just one of the greatest lounge games but one of the greatest games, full stop, is Portal 2. Most of you probably know a bit about this game already, but for the lucky virgins:
In Portal you use a gravity gun to make little teleporter holes in walls and objects. You might send a ball through a wall, only to pop up through a floor somewhere 20m away. It’s a dazzlingly clever puzzle game, but one with bags of atmosphere and a great story too.
The extra lounge factor comes in when you get someone else involved. While great played solo, you can also tackle Portal 2 co-op.
Sometimes you just want a game to take you ‘somewhere else’ after a long day’s work. Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons does just this, without asking for any massive time commitment. You can complete it in a handful of hours.
It’s a 3D action puzzler. A pair of brothers have to get to the Tree of Life to save their Father, and you have to guide them there. This is a quiet, contemplative game that gives your brain a light workout but will otherwise lower your heart rate and keep you all-round relaxed. It’s a delight.
Two people can play as well, each taking on the role of one of the brothers. Failing that you can switch between them on your own. The brothers helping each other to get past obstacles is the central premise.
Telltale’s adventure games make great lounge gaming fodder for a whole bunch of reasons. First, they feel right with a keyboard or a gamepad. There are no complex controls, which is why these classic adventure games work as well on phones as they do on PC.
Next up, anyone else in the living room is less likely to complain about you hogging the TV. The Walking Dead is a genuinely involving, often pretty emotional story. You’ll have your partner or house mate arguing with you over which survivor your should save. The game is split into TV episode-like chunks, although they’ll last for a few hours rather than 40 minutes.
Then, well, they’re also simply good games, balancing out story and puzzling. Telltale Games has been making this stuff for 10 years now. It knows what it’s doing.
Don’t like zombies? Other TellTale adventures worth checking out include Back to the Future, Tales from the Borderlands, Tales of Monkey Island and The Wolf Among Us.
Here’s a game you can just sink into blissfully, and forget whatever stresses have glommed onto you during the day. Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture zaps you into a fictional, but entirely believable, rural English village in which all the inhabitants have disappeared.
You stroll about, following a strange and apparently alien glowing ball, discovering what has happened by finding audio diaries. If you have a nice surround system or a good pair of headphones, the atmosphere produced by the soundtrack alone is hard to beat.
It’s engrossing, but won’t bogart too many of your evenings. We finished it in around six hours. It’s an experience you won’t forget.