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The Best Games You Can Complete In One Sitting

Like many of you avid gamers out there, we could easily waste away entire weekends putting in playtime with the riotous Call of Duty installments, navigating our way through mysterious and mystical lands in The Legend of Zelda games, and even climbing to the top of (or trying to climb) the ranks in League of Legends. We couldn't think of a better way to spend our precious downtime, and we kind of wouldn't want to. (Games are just too good, guys.)

But what do you do when you haven't got days to spare finishing an epic RPG or action-adventure but still crave something exciting you can get lost in? Enter the sweetest short games you can complete in a single sitting. Let's take a look at the best below.

Limbo

Don't let the name fool you: Limbo won't have you feeling wishy-washy on whether you absolutely love it because, spoiler, you will. This Playdead-developed puzzle platformer became the indie title on everyone's lips in 2010, when it sizzled onto systems smack dab in the middle of summer. Believe us when we say the hype surrounding it is entirely warranted.

Limbo's core is fairly simple, placing its male protagonist along one stark linear track toward safety, but through its eccentric and eerie gameplay, things spiral out with complexity. The game's nameless boy is gripping onto the cusp of not only the "edge of hell" in a desolate forest, but also to the fringes of reality as he embarks on a journey to find his missing sister. There are, as you would expect, a handful of bumps in the road. Bleary-eyed bad guys and attack-induced bruises set Limbo's boy back, but that doesn't stop him (or you) from persevering.

Marrying a monochromatic color palette with a narrative that grips players tight and an ending that practically pulls the scales from your eyes, Limbo is easily one of the best ways to spend an afternoon with.

Average completion time: 4 hours

Inside

The little sister to Limbo, Inside carries with it many of the same elements (the two-toned aesthetics, the straight-line gameplay, the enthralling narrative that will have you questioning basically everything you thought you knew) but stands on its own as something so spectacular.

Like Limbo, Playdead's 2016 indie starlet broods in black and white and blends into its story an almost lethal dose of thriller thematics. The game's young male protagonist, whose name players never learn, ventures through a dark and drippy environment down rocky inclines, into dimly lit forests, across a farm of parasite-infected pigs, and finally to an seemingly abandoned metropolitan city. It's here that he encounters the most sinister figures he has yet: the humanoids and the Huddle. The deeper he dives into experimental laboratories and mind-control atriums, the more dangerous his world becomes.

Taking a dive into Inside will leave you breathless–especially once you reach the final scene–and have you madly crafting fan theories on what it all means.

Average completion time: 4 hours

Portal

This Valve-helmed puzzle platformer has become something of a gaming classic since its release in 2007. Supposedly part of the Half-Life series' sci-fi FPS lore, Portal transcends seems to transcend reason and physics alike as its players teleport themselves through labyrinth-like obstacles. Gamers settle into the character role of Chell, a silent young woman held prisoner at the Aperture Science Enrichment Center who must utilize a nifty portal gun to receive the game's ultimate reward: a slice of cake. Initially propositioned and later consistently combated by a pesky AI unit called GLaDOS (Genetic Lifeform and Disk Operating System), Chell isn't just looking for something to satisfy her sweet tooth; she's also fighting to stay alive as she jumps through the many portal hoops and toward a semblance of freedom.

A game that defies the laws of physics and expectations for a traditional one-player puzzler in a mashup of smarts and sly remarks, Portal is undoubtedly worth a few hours of your time.

Average completion time: 4 hours

Firewatch

For a game whose name and timeline may inspire some to seek out Billy Joel's 1989 slightly silly hit single, Firewatch actually has a deeply relatable core theme: isolation. The mystery adventure title developed and published by indie games company Camp Stano follows a man named Henry who, following both a personal life crisis and the many fires that rampaged Yellowstone National Park in 1988, has just become a fire lookout in Shoshone National Forest. All proceeds as normal (read: boring) for Frank in the first few weeks–until, that is, his reality begins to shift.

Unexplainable things start to happen to Hank and his supervisor and dispatch operator, Delilah. Because Hank is all alone in the sprawling Wyoming wilderness, Delilah becomes his lifeline. Firewatch's in-game dialogue options are players' only chances for survival, leaving the fate of the lovable protagonist hanging on a walkie-talkie and a word.

Average completion time: 4 hours

Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons

Rather than focusing on talk, this game (mostly) buttons its lips to get down and dirty in action. Developed by the Swedish Starbreeze Studios, Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons follows two brothers through puzzle after puzzle to their final destination: the village doctor who promises he can save the boys' ailing father from death, a fate already doled out to their mother. All interactions between in-game characters are spoken in a fictional language, meaning what you do is far more important than what you say.

What's also interesting is how players control Naiee and Naia: rather than maneuvering one and watching the other follow close behind, users move them both individually using their console controller's thumbsticks. This relatively unique mechanic plus the intriguing narrative and heartbreaking world means Brothers: A Tale of Sons may soon become one of your favorite fleeting games.

Average completion time: 3 hours

Hotline Miami

The name "Hotline Miami" alone should bring about images of neon lights, beautiful city slickers, and a feeling of impending insanity. Published by Devolver Digital in 2013, this blood-soaked shooter feels less like a gore war and more like a race through a high-stakes warren of mask-wearing, animalistic enemies.

The game places you into a swanky hotel in the middle of glittering Miami, but this time it isn't all fun, games, and over-priced cocktails. Rather, you're affronted by creepy, cryptic voicemails that imply mass murder on your part. Whether it's ensuring the celebrity guests are having a "lovely stay" or ridding an area of its "pests," bullet blasting, baseball bat bashing, and a blur of blood are to be expected in each of Hotline Miami's many chapters.

Framed in a slightly smarmy '80s aesthetic, Hotline Miami tacks on a wonderful synth soundtrack and unbelievably fun levels (even with the overt violence) to pull you in just close enough to deliver the final, crushing reveal—one that will only take you a few hours to reach. Trust us, it's not one to miss.

Average completion time: 6.5 hours

Journey

Journey is another indie darling, developed by thatgamecompany for the PlayStation 3 and grounded in a pure and simple narrative idea. The game ditches the overwhelming intricacies seen in popular titles and opts for a main goal many of us, on some level, can connect to: get to where you're going and reach the beautiful thing that may grant you solace. As you trek toward your final destination, a mysterious mountain, you'll encounter stunning landscapes sure to burn a lasting impression in your mind.

Going entirely without dialogue or exposition, Journey finds its merits in its ability to draw in an audience on a complete mystery and one single hope: that you may find someone else working their way toward the divine in-the-distance mountain.

Not only can this game be completed in a tiny two-hour sitting, it's also one you should play that fast. The juice of its story is sweetest sans save-and-return. Journey is a little strange and a whole lot stunning.

Average completion time: 2 hours

Oxenfree

Perhaps based on the quirky children's catchphrase used in jungle-gym games the world 'round, 2016's supernatural adventure game Oxenfree pairs up 2.5D-perspective play with gritty endeavors, ghoulish ghosts, and a ton of great dialogue.

Oxenfree players follow Alex, the teen protagonist on her way to the abandoned Edwards Island for one heck of a weekend party, and her gang of friends as they combat uncontrollable supernatural forces that possess, kill, and loop time at their discretion.

What is controllable, however, is Alex's speech; players can choose how she responds to other characters throughout the game, shaping events, consequences, and relationships. Many have applauded Oxenfree for its real-feel language, as the teens of the game often shoot out smart jabs, goofy jokes, and overlapping chatter at one another. Which is a good thing, considering you'll likely need some kind of distraction from the mind-melting trouble that awaits you.

Average completion time: 5 hours

Shovel Knight

A Kickstarter baby through and through, Shovel Knight proved itself as a full-fledged gaming force when it reached a whole slew of platforms in the summer of 2014. Taking the best of the retro and new-school game worlds, the Yacht Club Games-developed side-scroller offers up a blanketed but never boring play experience in nostalgic 8-bit graphics, filled with nefarious knights, dazzling treasure, and levels whose environments are super reminiscent of Super Mario Bros. and Zelda II: The Adventure of Link.

Playing as the titular Shovel Knight, gamers pour their efforts into conquering the Order of No Quarter, going head to head with forces of evil and taking them out with a few blows to the ... head. The main man's main weapon is his famous shovel, which he can use to jump, bounce, attack, and even dig up some underground goodies. Shovel Knight's difficulty and complexity increases as your playtime does, but the final victory is especially sweet once you've vanquished all the villains and stockpiled up a few dozen chests of gold.

Average completion time: 6-7 hours

Undertale

Okay, so we're stretching the "one sitting" timeframe a little bit here with this one, but it's far too wonderful a game to let go unnoticed. Though some say the average start-to-finish time has been set at just over 10 hours, others have noted that the game's main story takes about 6 ½ hours to complete, and a handful of players have knocked out all of Undertale's bosses and snagged themselves a satisfying ending in as little as 62 minutes—all totally doable lengths for a lazy Sunday.

In the Toby Fox-written (and developed ... and published) role-playing title, gamers traverse a multi-layered universe from a top-down perspective, taking on the identity of a small child to complete puzzles and knock out, smartly reason with, or run away from a slew of monstrous enemies. As players push through unpredictably narrative splits to an ultimate ending, various new gameplay elements come into the mix. These range from sinister villains and armor-plated canine warriors to psychological tests that'll have anyone needing a post-play self-reflection session. We won't spoil much, but just know that packed inside this seemingly simple, short game is a message that all choices matter.

With a blippy 8-bit soundtrack, a cast of insanely adorable pixel characters, and a rather philosophical thread-line buried deep into its narrative, Undertale is bite-sized and cozies up to magic.

Average completion time: 6.5 hours main, 10.5 hours with extras