All the video games that cured my gaming burnout

If you've fallen out of love with gaming, these excellent titles may fix you.
what the car video games to cure gaming burnout

I’ve played a lot of video games in my time – many for work, and many for the pure joy of it. Video games are entertaining, transformative slices of media, and they allow you a wonderful escape from the real world. But the older you get, and the more games you play, the more you need to stay engaged with them.

There’s only so many open world adventures with extraneous collectibles you can play before you tire of the format, or begin to see repetitive patterns. If you’ve ever found yourself going through the motions, completing video games for the sake of it, and only later realising you’re not actually engaging with the journey, you’re not alone.

Gaming burnout is very real – and while it can be a symptom of more serious conditions, every time I’ve hit a wall with games, it’s largely been down to tangible factors: repetitive gameplay, grinding mechanics, and a real sense of deja vu. Some video games are fairly homogenous, and generically good. That’s totally fine! You can play them, and still enjoy them – and perhaps for newcomers, they’ll present something novel – but if you’ve seen it all, and done it all, you likely won’t get much from these games.

Read: 5 Cozy Games to Try When You Feel Overwhelmed

In those moments of gaming burnout, I’ve briefly considered that I’ve fallen out of love with video games. That perhaps I’ve grown out of the gaming audience, or that it’s time to find new avenues for joy. And then, I’ve stumbled upon an absolutely fantastic burnout-killer that makes me remember just how good video games can be.

These are the games that shook me out of my slumber, and reminded me exactly why video games are great. If you’re struggling with sameish games or feeling the impact of burnout, these games may lift you up and out.

The Case of the Golden Idol

the case of the golden idol video games
Image: Color Gray Games

The Case of the Golden Idol is one of the most novel point-and-click video games you’ll ever play. Across a loose story, you’ll be introduced to a strange cast of characters, each with their own hidden secrets and agendas. In static dioramas, you’ll explore various clues that will identify each character, while picking up key words relating to items that will reveal a central mystery in each scene.

You’re basically penning a storybook by solving exactly what happens in each chapter, and then tracking those changes between scenes, to work out who the villains are, and what they’ve done. You’ll need your thinking cap on for this game, but it’s so engaging that you’ll be absorbed instantly.

Marvel’s Midnight Suns

deadpool midnight suns dlc pack release date
Image: Firaxis / 2K Games

Marvel’s Midnight Suns isn’t a game for everyone. If you don’t particularly like Marvel heroes, supernatural shenanigans, or card-based strategy, it’s likely not the game for you. But personally, it was fantastic for me. This game pairs moreish card-based strategy battles with a strong narrative about the forces of hell, and a light dating sim, for an entirely unique adventure that’s easy to fall in love with.

Midnight Suns deserved (and still deserves) far more attention than it got. Its writing is snappy and funny, its combat is incredibly well-refined and satisfying to master, and you can even make an entirely separate game of exploring its overworld, unlocking new areas, and finding each of the game’s Tarot Card collectibles. I love Midnight Suns, and it broke me out of a fugue in 2022.

Read: Marvel’s Midnight Suns review – Friendship triumphs over evil

Cult of the Lamb

cult of the lamb best pc games
Screenshot: Massive Monster / GamesHub

Australia makes incredible video games, and Cult of the Lamb is a core example. This game is practically designed to tickle your brain, with lovely and moreish cult-themed mechanics, combined with addictive roguelike combat through various eldritch dungeons. It’s the two facets of Cult of the Lamb that make the game sing – you’ll spend time fighting your way through dungeons with new weapons in each run, and once your long journey is over, you’ll be able to spend time enjoying the spoils of your conquest – building up your cult with new followers, crafting them homes, and allowing them to worship you.

Cult of the Lamb manages a lovely balance of cosy and horrific, making it a novel game in multiple genres. You can grow your flock as little or as large as you like, while spending your time hopping into dungeons to take down towering beasts. With challenge and reward in equal measure, Cult of the Lamb is a wonderful time.

What The Car?

what the car video games
Image: Triband

If you’re in the mood for some lighter-touch puzzles, or a spot of silly glee, I’m convinced What The Car? has the potential to rewire your brain. In this silly physics game, you are a car attempting to travel along a track, as various body horror-like morphs change up your body. Sometimes, these are simple: in one level, you’ll gain a jetpack. Sometimes, your tiny legs will become gigantic, allowing you to leap across roads at speed. Sometimes, you’re not even a car.

Each level presents a surprising new challenge, which means you’ll need to change up your techniques with every track. It’s a wonderful brain exercise, and perfect for short bursts of fun. Currently, What The Car? is available on mobile via Apple Arcade – but it’s also coming to PC in 2024, so keep an eye out if you’re keen.

Alan Wake 2

alan wake gameplay live action
Image: Remedy Entertainment

If you think you’re tired of survival horror action-adventure video games, think again. Alan Wake 2 would like a word. While this game certainly complies with the tropes of traditional survival horror video games, it also presents so much novelty in its narrative, world design, and overall format. For one thing, much of the game plays out in live action, so it’s more akin to an immersive, cross-media slice of entertainment than it is to traditional video games.

Then, you get to the story – and gosh, the story of Alan Wake 2 is good. It’s got elements of Resident Evil in its survival horror gameplay, as beings crawl from the shadows to attack you. But even this action twists and turns, with creepy visual cues and consistently surprising levels paving the way for a story filled with strangeness and surreality You’ll need to play the game twice to experience the “full” story, but trust me, you’ll want another go around its loop.

Read: Alan Wake 2 Review – Save The Writer, Save The World

Resident Evil 4 (Remake)

Resident Evil 4 Remake
Image: Capcom

Speaking of Resident Evil – the Resident Evil 4 remake released in 2023 is frankly excellent. Prior to playing this game, I had never tried a Resident Evil. I’d assumed I was scared too easily to tackle it, and that I would be too frightened to conquer its many puzzles. With some pressing from friends, I tried out this game, and immediately found myself purchasing other Resident Evils to play afterwards.

While the game is a horror title, it’s more action-oriented than anything else. You’ll face off against zombie-like creatures in a range of tight, cloistered corridors – and there’s one particular segment with knight’s armour that is wild – but for the most part, Resident Evil 4 is more of a very clever puzzle game. You’ll run and gun your way through terrors of all sorts, but what you’re really trying to do is find particular objects to unlock new areas, and solving environmental puzzles with quick thinking. If you’re the sort of person that loves a good challenge, then Resident Evil 4 (Remake) ticks boxes for action gameplay and its well-designed puzzles.

Spyro Reignited Trilogy

spyro reignited trilogy humble bundle
Image: Activision Blizzard

After all that horror, you might like something nicer to soothe you. To that end, I highly recommend Spyro Reignited Trilogy, even if you lack the nostalgia of having played the original video games as a child. The Spyro games are absolutely perfect in every way, and the Reignited Trilogy is the first game I turn to when I need to be reminded of how good games really are.

Within each game, you’re playing as the titular dragon, Spyro, as he contends with various enemies causing chaos in his world. Like every good platformer, each game is split into multiple worlds and levels, with each having their own collectibles and mini-puzzles. You can jump into one level or a few, and then take a break, picking it up whenever you feel like a blast of wholesome platformer goodness. I maintain that Spyro the Dragon is the perfect distillation of what a good game is: it’s got the right amount of challenge, plenty of puzzles, and a real sense of warmth you’ll feel in your bones.

Two Point Hospital

two point hospital pandemic
Screenshot: GamesHub / Sega

I lost dozens of hours to Two Point Hospital in the pandemic era – it’s just that fantastic. In this hospital management sim, you’re tasked with building a hospital, room by room, as patients with all sorts of strange issues present themselves. You’re contending with things like a “pandemic” where patients get pans on their heads, and diseases which turn folks into sad clowns. It’s silly and funny, and a wonderful time – particularly if you’re looking to engage your mental muscles.

Managing a hospital does come with its own challenges, as you’ll need to manage your spending and ensure you don’t get into serious debt but for the most part, Two Point Hospital allows you to have an absolutely raucous time. There’s plenty of shenanigans you can experience in your medical journey, and you’ll be well-rewarded for indulging in them.

Read: When the world went wrong, Two Point Hospital was the perfect escape

The Darkside Detective

darkside detective point & click adventure games
Image: Spooky Doorway

The Darkside Detective is another excellent point-and-click adventure that’ll bring you out of a slump with cracking humour and supernatural mystery plots filled with easter eggs and secrets. The game is a love letter to pop culture, with each case nodding towards the icons of horror – but it shines brightly in its own right, as a clever point-and-click puzzler that modernises the genre. It’s a bit similar to classic games like Monkey Island, but it’s also far more approachable, with cases broken up into bite-sized stories you can tackle at your own pace.

After bouncing off countless, incredibly difficult point-and-click video games, The Darkside Detective was a wonderful reprieve. There’s some jokes in this game that still do the rounds in my head, thanks to snappy writing, and very knowing humour. If you’re looking for a (relatively) short game that makes a solid impact, The Darkside Detective is a must-play.

Disco Elysium

disco elysium weird games
Image: ZA/UM

Disco Elysium is unlike most games. It’s bold, creative, surreal, and filled with complexity. In one moment, the game’s protagonist is battling a strange look on his face. In another, he’s greeting a mythical cryptid which may be the product of his addled mind. There’s so much to say about Disco Elysium. It’s a incredibly novel adventure that is a seminal text in modern gaming. If you’re looking for something new and fresh, an engaging narrative, and vivid creative ideas, this is the game you need to play.

At this stage, I may be preaching to the choir. Disco Elysium is a known quantity. But I can’t express how much this game reshaped my perceptions of what gaming could be, and how it can engage the senses and the mind. If you’re feeling like video games are all the same, or you haven’t tried anything new lately, the cure is absolutely Disco Elysium.

Leah J. Williams is a gaming and entertainment journalist who's spent years writing about the games industry, her love for The Sims 2 on Nintendo DS and every piece of weird history she knows. You can find her tweeting @legenette most days.