The Best Games of 2017 to Play While Listening to Podcasts

There's never been a better time for absentminded gaming.

Analysis by Caty McCarthy, .

Sometimes I just play games to relax. I'm sure you can relate. It's like my brain turns off and my thumbs work all on their own; meanwhile my ears are listening to a podcast. Any podcast. A comedy podcast. A gaming podcast. Another true crime podcast biting on Serial's style. Sometimes, I just play a game so I have an excuse to do something else while listening to a podcast. Sometimes I just play a game to mindlessly unwind.

2017 was a great year for these sorts of experiences. There were a lot of great time sinking games. Whether you were really into FIFA 18 or cruising along quiet highways of the latest New Mexico expansion in American Truck Simulator, there's never been a better time for podcast games. For me in particular, these were my favorites.

Love Nikki Dress-Up Queen

Love Nikki Dress-Up Queen is the most addictive mobile game I've ever played. Out of all the games I've played this year, I wish Love Nikki had a time counter of some sort. I need to know the probably hundreds of hours I've spent with it since it launched in May 2017. I need to see this unhealthy obsession in tangible numbers that will disgust me and make Siri become sentient and delete it off my phone for my own good. My days open and close with Love Nikki glued to my eyeballs. And over half a year later, I still can't seem to quit it.

Love Nikki Dress-Up Queen is a mobile dress-'em-up game. It's gotten a lot of comparisons to the Style Savvy series, a long-running Japanese dress-up series for the Nintendo 3DS and DS. But unlike Style Savvy, Love Nikki goes where most dress-up games haven't gone before. It has a quest structure, complete with chapters, where you style outfits to fit specific and sometimes extremely bonkers themes. Once I was tasked with wearing clothes appropriate for chasing after a criminal; another time I was set to abandon my feminine whims to dress like another dude.

More than anything, Love Nikki Dress-Up Queen stole my attention away this year, and somehow, I've still never dropped a dime on it. Oh, the pleasures of free-to-play games, and the lost hours we spend playing them.

Destiny 2

Destiny 2 is no doubt a flawed game. Its endgame progression grinds incentive to actually play to a complete halt. A lot of its guns just feel like reskins rather than something excitingly new. There's a lot in Destiny 2 that just feels incomplete, or poorly designed overall. And yet for most of the fall season, I couldn't stop playing it. And neither could my friends for a time.

While the endgame gripes and general concerns from its large player base is very real, I already feel like I've gotten my $60 worth out of the game from its launch, and then some. Destiny 2 became the game I solely played with friends; at least the ones who I wasn't already playing PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds with. Destiny 2 became a great podcast game too. I enjoyed blasting across its colorful worlds doing patrols, looting Lost Sectors, taking part in Public Events.

My coworker Mike Williams and I once talked about this too, during a recent USgamer Lunch Hour stream of the game's latest expansion Curse of Osiris. Destiny 2 is sort of like an active chatroom: you shoot, you loot, and you don't have to actively think much about it. And it feels good while you're shooting too. In that way, it was maybe the most podcast game of all the podcast games of 2017. Here's to hoping Bungie finally fixes that endgame in the New Year to bring me back.

Gravity Rush 2

I bounced in and out of Gravity Rush 2 throughout 2017. It was mostly because I kept having to delete it from my PlayStation 4 to make space for other games, but then as always, the itch to fly (or rather, fall) across Jirga Para Lhao would sneak up on me. Even if Gravity Rush 2 has one of the best (and most underrated) scores of the year, composed by Kohei Tanaka of Sakura Wars and One Piece fame, I'd find myself lowering the volume sometimes as I ran through side quests.

Whether Kat was power sliding on the sides of skyscrapers to deliver newspapers, or if she was plummeting to the dense houseboat-islands below the city, there was almost always a podcast chatting softly from my laptop. Considering that the sheer depth of exploring Gravity Rush 2's open world was about 99 percent of its fun, it made for an ideal podcast-tuning game.

Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp

Imagine the following sentence in an extremely Daniel Day Lewis in There Will Be Blood voice: I've abandoned my campsite. Yes, dear reader, in only mere weeks since Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp's launch, I've shuffled the game into my "games" folder on my phone, where it will probably collect dust until the end of time.

I have a complicated relationship with the mobile game. While I did enjoy my time with it, I fell off it as I do most mobile free-to-play games. But it wasn't because I hit some arbitrary wall or anything; I just felt like there was nothing worthwhile I was working towards after I got a sick half-pipe.

Yet for just a couple weeks, Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp dominated my free time. I had all the best villagers living in my campsite, turning lamps on and off for no discernible reason. I had K.K. Slider there too, who I hope will never stand from his stool ever again. While playing it, I listened to things. Music. Podcasts. Movies my partner was watching and I was too lazy to actually pay attention to. Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp was the ideal mobile game in a period where I was taking a minor break from Love Nikki Dress-Up Queen. Though when I fell off, I clamored back to the dress-up game like it was an old coat that had come back in style.

Splatoon 2

I know I said that Love Nikki Dress-Up Queen is probably my most played game of the year, but I still don't know the exact metrics for that. Whereas with Splatoon 2, Nintendo's sequel to the squid-kid multiplayer shooter, I've played "135 hours or more" at the time of writing this. While I definitely waned in the months after launch, wherein I owned all the gear and had my favorites all perfectly geared with abilities, recently I've fallen back into its bath of ink (thanks to a new update).

Splatoon 2, as with Gravity Rush 2, also has great music. But sometimes, I don't need to hear it. Sometimes I kick my feet up on my bed with my Switch portably in my palms. Sometimes I just play a podcast while I'm inking the turf I know so well. Splatoon 2 was really the first game that I truly utliized with the Switch in all its glory, aside from doing something similar for my Arms review (even if I've hardly played the game since). I podcast-gamed from bed, from the couch, from my desk with the flimsy kickstand propped back. Splatoon 2 is the sort of game designed to be played wherever, whenever thanks to its breezy three-minute battles. In 2017, it was my comfort food game because of that.

Xenoblade Chronicles 2

I'm not far into Xenoblade Chronicles 2. Yet, as the game's been rolling out layers upon layers of its seemingly complex battle system, I've found myself playing it while listening to other things anyways. Just over last weekend, I was catching up on the teen drama Riverdale, with the extremely anime Xenoblade Chronicles 2 between my hands from the same seat.

While not quite podcasting, it served the same exact purpose: my ears were concentrated elsewhere, while my eyes and hands were lasered onto the hybrid-portable Switch. I think of all the podcast-games I've adored this year, the majority of my most-played seem to come in portable forms, whether they're mobile or on the Switch. Maybe that's the future of solid podcast-abiding games: like a podcast, they're games you can conceivably take anywhere on-the-go. And that's a wonderful thing.

What were your favorite games you played to unwind while you listened to music or podcasts to this year? Let us know in the comments!

This article may contain links to online retail stores. If you click on one and buy the product we may receive a small commission. For more information, go here.

Comments 15

  • Avatar for Zebetite #1 Zebetite 8 months ago
    Neat article, but uh, you're kinda handicapping yourself if you play Splatoon 2 without sound. There's so many sound cues, from bomb tosses to bullets passing you, that not hearing them makes you dangerously unaware. If you can play that way, more power to you, I just can't imagine doing so myself (competitive tryhard hurr hurr).

    That said, I agree with everything else on the list. Solid article!
    Sign in to Reply
  • Avatar for catymcc #2 catymcc 8 months ago
    @Zebetite FWIW, I only play with sound on when playing Ranked. When I'm just on the normal mode though, all bets are off.
    Sign in to Reply
  • Avatar for shurn #3 shurn 8 months ago
    What I'm not the only one who does this?
    I also like to enjoy podcasts ( video game themed mostly ) while I whittle away my back log. That's what I do for monster hunter and RPGs. That's how I beat resident evil rev2 on switch just yesterday.
    Zelda is next on the list I try to do this with most games except future tone and ys or if the soundtrack is good ( xenoblade on 3ds the sound gets all my attention ). Shout out too axe of the blood god, the only way I get through my Saturday morning workout.Edited December 2017 by shurn
    Sign in to Reply
  • Avatar for Tetragrammaton #4 Tetragrammaton 8 months ago
    I played Xenoblade X while finishing s1 of Gotham. Xenoblade 2 requires too much concentration once you have all the combat bits unlocked. Blade (elemental) Combos, Driver (Break>>Topple>>Launch>>Smash) Combos, positioning, Blade switching, chain attacks, canceling, cooldowns... nope, can't multitask.

    Breath of the Wild though? Oh yeah.
    Sign in to Reply
  • Avatar for sketchlayerjosh #5 sketchlayerjosh 8 months ago
    As someone who does this sort of thing constantly, I appreciate the suggestions in the article!

    Personally, I'd nominate Breath of the Wild for this list as well. Play the Great Plateau bit with sound so you get the mood, and grab that remote for the 83 seconds worth of story that's in the game. Beyond that, though, it's great fun to just relax and explore Hyrule while listening to podcasts.
    Sign in to Reply
  • Avatar for donkeyintheforest #6 donkeyintheforest 8 months ago
    also pretty much any puzzle game; lately for me its been Puyo Puyo Tetris

    but splatoon for sure; any multiplayer game really, cause im not that hardcore (almost always get first place in turf mode though!)
    Sign in to Reply
  • Avatar for Vaporeon #7 Vaporeon 8 months ago
    In the late '90s, I played through Final Fantasy IX during the same holiday season that my family got the *N Sync Christmas album.

    So, every December, when I hear those songs, I want to replay FF IX... and every time I play FF IX, I expect to hear those songs.
    Sign in to Reply
  • Avatar for Godots17thCup #8 Godots17thCup 8 months ago
    I found that Picross S, like many other Picross games (& many puzzle games, in general), was great for podcast listening. While it lasted, anyway - there's a sizeable amount of content for the price you're spending, but I do sometimes miss the days of Picross DS when you could keep your Picross addiction going indefinitely with user-created puzzles and the free puzzle packs Nintendo would occasionally send out.
    Sign in to Reply
  • Avatar for MetManMas #9 MetManMas 8 months ago
    Bethesda Pinball, or more specifically, Doom Pinball,* has recently become a favorite "game to play when doing other things" of mine. Also Planescape: Torment came to iOS and Android this year and I'll definitely be playing that on the tablet while watching TV.

    * The Falllout and Skyrim tables can still be fun, but they get bogged down too much by the RPG lite elements (i.e. character creation, equipment, quests, FREAKING FLIPPER-NAVIGATED SHOPS AND INVENTORY) forced upon the game controlling various scoring factors. Pinball should not be like filing your taxes!
    Sign in to Reply
  • Avatar for AstroDemon #10 AstroDemon 8 months ago
    I love that you're exploring the idea of absent-minded gaming. It is such a huge genre these days, and I think about it a lot because many of my friends simply play games because it's something to do while paying attention to what you're really sitting down for. I wish I could get them to play more interesting games sometimes.

    A lot of folks only play these kinds of games, and I feel like I'm slowly sinking into the minority of folks who actually want to pay attention to the game I'm playing more than the podcast or TV show (usually). A game like Prey deserves all of my attention, but Destiny 2 rarely does. I'm okay with absent-minded games, but I like to acknowledge that games like Prey are really something special these days. I think once you get over how amazing the soundtrack is, Xenoblade 2 definitely fits as a more passive game, but story quests deserve my full attention.

    I just hope that these more passive games continue to be balanced in the industry by the more interesting ones.
    Sign in to Reply
  • Avatar for jacky1 #11 jacky1 8 months ago
    Thank you for an excellent blog. I love listing song always and thank you a lot for giving everyone remarkably brilliant opportunity to read from this site.
    Sign in to Reply
  • Avatar for VotesForCows #12 VotesForCows 8 months ago
    I can't imagine doing this, but it was an interesting read. If anything, I go to the opposite extreme. I often turn off video game music (sorry composers!) and just go with the sound-effects.
    Sign in to Reply
  • Avatar for doops #13 doops 8 months ago
    Only started doing this this year. Certain RPGs seem to lend themselves well.,. Grinding in P4G, Ever Oasis (which was a little sad since the music is so great). Etrian Mystery Dungeon was perfect for this, although losing my attention a few times ended badly. Miitopia seems like it would work well also but I only played the demo. Maybe Netflix should have a special channel for things to watch while gamingEdited December 2017 by doops
    Sign in to Reply
  • Avatar for Roto13 #14 Roto13 8 months ago
    Sometimes I play Destiny 2 specifically because I'm in the mood to listen to an episode of Retronauts.
    Sign in to Reply
  • Avatar for Macuelos #15 Macuelos 8 months ago
    The real problem with video games and podcasts is that 80% of the time, they are mutually exclusive for me. I can listen to a podcast, or I can play a game and let those tunes soothe me, but usually, I can't do it at the same time. At least not for the main game, that's when I listen to music. When I get to post-game, often I'll turn off the music and go for that podcast sound.

    Some games don't have very good or a large diversity of music, puzzle games, mostly. I love puzzle game Minimal, but I don't need music for that. Layton games, however, have some of the best music for puzzle games anywhere. Yesterday I grabbed my Wii U and played some Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of Sky even though I've long since finished the main game and even the post-game dungeons. At this point I'm just boosting my explorer rank and training some Mons (but only when they hatch from eggs, those have better stats). In the background, podcasts reign supreme. Right up until the final battle with Darkrai, the music was on for all story dungeons. Afterwards, music went off in favour of catching up on some podcasts.
    That's just the way it goes.
    Sign in to Reply