games / Columns

Top 8 ‘Mundane’ Games: Stardew Valley, The Long Dark, More

February 9, 2021 | Posted by Marc Morrison
Stardew Valley

Welcome all to another edition of The 8 Ball! This week I’m here to talk about mundane games. What do I mean by “mundane”? Well, games that don’t have a ton of action, where you do repetitive work, where the fantastic becomes normal, that sort of thing. There are a few games I might put on this list if I played them, they are: Microsoft Flight Simulator, Accident, No Time and PC Building Simulator but I have yet to try them. Let’s begin:

#8: Recettear: An Item Shop’s Tale

I really dug Recettear when I played it. It has a pretty cute story, a nice cast of characters and a really deep shop simulation mechanic. While you could sell baseline goods like apples and simple swords to townsfolk and adventurers, you really had to hire one of the heroes in order to traverse the dungeons, bring back the loot, so that you could then sell it in your store. That’s actually why it’s slightly lower on this list, you really have to do this adventure stuff to make progress with your store, which can get tedious after a while.

#7: SnowRunner

I love SnowRunner but it does have one fatal flaw in it. Like another game on this list, it’s all about hauling cargo from one side of the map, or even across several different maps, to another. You may have a mission to deliver a load of grain from the farm, in one map, across two or three different maps in Michigan, to a home. However, there are very few usable roads, so you’re going through muddy trails, up dangerous mountains, spelunking through water-filled bogs, and up icy stretches to get your cargo from place to place. The real problem I encountered with the game is that the cargo is very specific for the mission. Like, say, you have to develop two pallets of metal to a factory, you can’t just drop off two pallets of any old metal. It has to be the exact metal that the game highlights for you. This really sucks, at least in my view, since you should be able to use any item you find, so long as it fits into the requirements of the mission.

#6: The Long Dark

Now The Long Dark is a survival game with some pretty hardcore elements to it. You have to worry about hunger, thirst, being frozen, alongside carrying your gear, animal attacks, and so on. By that metric, it doesn’t fit here at all. But, I don’t play the game by those rules. I frankly turn almost all of that stuff off and just like to wander around a frozen Canadian wilderness. Even without most of the survival elements on, you still have to worry (somewhat) about health/thirst/hunger/weight, but it becomes a far less overall gameplay mechanic. Instead, I kind of just play like it’s a “Hatchet” adventure game, trying to find new things in the game and deeming what is best for living as long as possible.

#5: Stardew Valley

Now Stardew actually shares a fair share of elements with Recettear, with you selling goods (from your farm, not a shop), upgrading your own place, and venturing into dungeons to gain access to more specialized items/loot to sell. However, in Stardew, this last part is mostly optional. It is important to do in Stardew Valley but it’s not an overwhelming needs like in Recettear. Instead, you can just focus on planting/taking care of crops, taking care of the animals, fishing, or just hanging out with the various townspeople and becoming friends with them. Recettear has some hard goals in it, like repaying your loans so you don’t end up homeless, but Stardew is a far more relaxing and laidback experience.

#4: Planet Coaster

I tend not to like city-building/management sims. I really want to but I find most of them to be very hard to get into and the tools get overly-complicated so I can’t make what I would really want. Planet Coaster can veer into that at times, particularly in the sandbox mode, but I actually found the career mode to be well-designed for “boring” activities. It basically just gives you small areas for you to do specific tasks in, like making sure park attendance reaches a certain number, building specific attractions, etc. But it doesn’t go overboard with this stuff, and the tools are well-designed enough to actually get you up to speed.

#3: Hardspace: Shipbreaker

Now, Hardspace: Shipbreaker certainly has the appearance of an action game, but it’s really not. You are basically a glorified de-construction worker, breaking apart spaceships and putting the pieces in the appropriate spots. Parts go in the green bin, processed metal in the blue, and raw metal goes in the red, at least generally. Most ships have the same basic design though, so after 4 or 5 attempts it becomes a routine thing. While you might expect it to be some exciting, fantastical journey, it’s not. You are a garbage man in space and that’s what is great. It is making the science fiction of space ships/outer space into a humdrum job.

#2: House Flipper

House Flipper might actually be my number one but I’ve literally run out of things for you to do in it. I’ve completed every job, bought every house, unlocked every upgrade and so on. The game really needs a procedurally-generated mode where it can just build houses and missions for you to complete. That aside, I loved just tearing apart and then rebuilding houses. While it’s fun to do jobs for people, it’s more enjoyable to buy some dilapidated house and then design it yourself. Building another bathroom, or knocking out a wall to convert two bedrooms into one big one, is always nice. If only actual home improvement could be as easy as it is in House Flipper.

#1: American Truck Simulator

I honestly toyed with having both Euro Truck Simulator 2 and American Truck Simulator on here but for once I gotta be patriotic and have ATS on here only. I really love playing this game and I’m only using a gamepad not a full steering wheel or anything. It’s just a lot of fun going through the various west coast states, hauling trailers full of cargo from one place to the other. You eventually get enough money to buy your own truck, start your own business, and hire your own people so the money can start rolling in nicely. You also start getting driver upgrades, like not making you tired as much, or letting you carry more valuable or dangerous cargo, which nets you more money. If you ever want a more relaxed yet boring game, then American Truck Simulator has got your back.

For comments, list your favorite mundane games and why.

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