When do you find time to listen to podcasts? Even when the latest Gone Medieval podcast promises to explore the latest discoveries linking Vikings with the Azores, or Dan Snow is unpacking the origins of human society, it can be hard to reserve a moment to enjoy them.
But there’s a type of video game that’s perfect for playing while listening to podcasts. These are games of pure, single-minded purpose. They aren’t intent on testing our wits, or engaging all our faculties of focus, memory and logical reasoning. More often than not, they are happy to let us get from A to B. Below, we’ve put together ten of our favourite podcast games.
Simulation games naturally occupy the sweet spot of deliberate action and player-driven storytelling that make them excellent podcast games. Thanks to the nature of belching truck engines in SnowRunner, there are few audio cues you’ll miss while absorbed in the stories of, for example, war reporters in the Pacific.
SnowRunner layers the point-to-point missions of traditional truck simulators with environmental challenges and more desperate fuel situations. The result is an incredibly absorbing distraction, albeit with plenty of negative acoustic space which can be filled with podcast company. Just keep your eyes on the road.
2. Total War: Three Kingdoms
The turn-based campaigns of Total War are a perfect scaffold for your favourite podcasts and audiobooks. Each turn is devoted to managing different aspects of an empire. As a result, there’s little time pressure and few characters talking at you that might cause a headache. Civilization VI is similarly a great podcast game. Maybe press the pause button when the battles start.
3. Death Stranding
Death Stranding’s big ambitions, which include enrolling the likenesses of Norman Reedus, Mads Mikkelsen and Léa Seydoux, may have been pointing in another direction, but its grandiose version of the delivery game makes it an instantly recommendable podcast game. In a crippled future Earth, the player hikes great distances with the aid of novel gadgets.
4. Microsoft Flight Simulator
In a similar vein with SnowRunner, Microsoft Flight Simulator and other titles based around travelling like Sea of Thieves are often happy to offload story responsibilities onto the player. That means that while you’re cruising at high altitude to the hum and buzz of engines and instruments, there may be a part of your mind itching for a narrative hook.
What better accompaniment to your flight joining up the islands of the Polynesian triangle, or your seafaring adventures in Sea of Thieves, than the wisdom of Christina Thompson, author of Sea People: In Search of the Ancient Navigators of the Pacific, on the Ancients podcast?
5. Ghost of Tsushima
When the game world is intended as a main feature, as in Ghost of Tsushima, there’s plenty of enjoyment to be had in wandering it paired with a podcast. Ghost of Tsushima is set on Tsushima Island during the first Mongol invasion of Japan.
As you prowl through its spectacular world or experiment with the photo mode, get the audio balance right and your choice of podcast will be embellished with the game’s memorable music and recorded birdsong.
6. Assassin’s Creed series
Once the main storylines are cleared and the important dialogue is out of the way, the expansive land and seas of the Assassin’s Creed games recommend themselves to podcasts. Riding across Attica, sailing down the Nile and climbing through the fjords of Scandinavia are all heightened by the companionship of a knowing narrator such as Tristan Hughes or Cat Jarman.
7. Red Dead Redemption 2
The remote Grizzlies in the far north of Red Dead Redemption 2’s interpretation of the American frontier are stunning in their austerity, and reduced to a peaceful quiet through the general absence of humans. Rambling solo astride a horse or hunkering down to manage your hunting supplies make for perfect opportunities to open up a podcast.
8. Grand Theft Auto Online
Competitive multiplayer games can be much too tricky to play with podcasts on at the same time. But if you’re content to while away the time role-playing as a Californian stuck in a Los Angeles traffic jam, GTA Online is a perfect podcast game.
Spend a few hours tuned in while touring Rockstar’s Los Santos, and you’ll come across sunny beaches, moody inner-city streets and landmarks ripped directly from Hollywood films.
It’s easy to lose track of time exploring the procedurally-generated, purgatorial landscape of Valheim. A survival game comparable with Minecraft, it may appear at first as no more than a compelling feedback loop with glossy illumination effects, but it’s a diverting experience. Without friends to collaborate with, there’s inspiration in heaps for your constructions to be found in historical podcasts.
10. Lonely Mountains: Downhill
Games with killer stories can be counterproductive when trying to settle on a good podcast game. What matters more is a sense of place. And few games capture the spirit of adventures outside better than the unassuming Lonely Mountains: Downhill.
It delivers a rewarding sense of progression when played to beat times, but it’s a hugely relaxing game when played simply to reach the finish line. A podcast is perfect for the latter playstyle, though it’s almost a shame to ride over the gorgeous sound production in the game.