Let's take a look at the best single-player video game out there. There's a lot to choose from and they fall into some different categories.
How far we have come from that table-tennis behemoth called Atari Pong. Most of you may not remember it or have even heard of the game. What was meant to be a training exercise created by Allan Alcorn in 1972, Pong turned into a massively popular “versus” game that employed two paddles and one ball on the screen. It would eventually be the impetus to start creating single-player video games and just one of the things we break down in our History of Gaming Consoles comprehensive piece.
As the ‘70s wore on, so did the advent of gaming consoles. It also saw the computer beginning to take center stage, offering more single-player video game options. It was a battle with the only winner being the consumer. But as the battle wore on and the technology became more refined, video games became more and more intricate. No longer were the games just shoot-em-ups. Stories were being told. Decisions have major consequences, many of which were the difference between life and death (as far as your gaming character was concerned).
Single-player video games were becoming very popular. Gamers loved getting lost in a new world video game where they had to fight dragons, battle pirates on the high seas, and become a superhero to save the Earth from destruction.
The 1980s saw single-player video game hit titles such as Prince of Persia, The Legend of Zelda, Super Mario Bros., Donkey Kong, Maniac Mansion, Dark Castle, SpeedBall, and Tetris. They were all brilliant for their time but soon gave way to more “intelligent” titles of the ‘90s. These included Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge, Gran Turismo, Resident Evil, Sonic the Hedgehog, Quake, Half-Life, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, and Super Mario 64.
As we turned the page to a new century, so did the gaming industry. The advances made in gaming technology were amazing. Single-player video games were booming with titles like Left4Dead, Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, Guitar Hero 2, Silent Hill 2, The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask, Bioshock, Deua Ex, and Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. From there, the popular titles continued to roll out sequel after sequel while the newer titles offered better stories and better graphics.
PCs were a massive hit for a while, but they took a downturn when the first video game console improved gameplay and graphics. Sony’s PlayStation and Microsoft’s Xbox began to dominate the industry. Hundreds of titles began to hit the market and consumers ate it up.
Now, we find ourselves in a buyers’ market when it comes to games. Endless choices, endless styles, and endless entertainment. But one question lingers – with all the choices past and present, what is the best single-player video game? Before we completely answer that question, let’s first determine what type of system we will be playing these top single-player video games on.
GAMING CONSOLE VERSUS PC FOR SINGLE-PLAYER VIDEO GAMES
No doubt the bulk of gamers play most of their single-player video games on one popular gaming console or the other. Here we are talking about PlayStation 4 or 5 or the Xbox Series S or X. But that doesn’t mean PCs don’t offer the same type of gameplay as one of the popular gaming consoles does.
It may all come down to how much money you are willing to spend. Any one of the gaming consoles could run from $300 to $500 or more, depending on availability or want. A gaming PC could easily cost you in the thousands.
One reason you may opt for a console over a PC is the number of games offered with a gaming console dwarfs what you can get on your PC. The options are endless with PlayStation or Xbox while PCs offer a limited, albeit impressive, selection. There is definitely some crossover with the more popular games, but if you are looking for more bang for your buck, PlayStation or Xbox may be a wise choice. For our purposes and to answer the above question, we are going to talk mainly about gaming consoles.
WHAT IS THE BEST STORY MODE GAME EVER?
There are two types of single-player video gamers – one who plays for the score and the other who plays for the story. Those that play for the story love to get lost in different worlds, different times, with different characters. Some video game stories are so well put together that they can often surpass the story ability seen in films or television.
Gamers would probably have many differing opinions on what the BEST story mode game ever actually is. Over the recent years, as video games have evolved and gotten more in-depth and cleverer with their storytelling, we have seen some of the best single-player video games ever produced. A few memorable mentions include Batman: Arkham Knight, God of War, Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, Half-Life 2, Red Dead Redemption, Telltale’s The Walking Dead, What Remains of Edith Finch, and BioShock. But perhaps the very best single-player story mode video game is…
Silent Hill 2. The game was released over 20 years ago from Team Silent and could be played on the PS2, PS3, Xbox, and Xbox 360 consoles as well as the PC. The game begins with a mysterious love story that finds James Sutherland searching for his wife after receiving a letter from her. The problem for James is that she had died one year earlier. As you traverse through the game, you get an immediate sense of what type of man James is. But it is the way you play the game and interact with the world (and story) surrounding you that has a major impact.
For instance, if you play Silent Hill 2 at half health or lower, you will get a much different ending because the game thinks you (James) have suicidal tendencies. Silent Hill 2’s symbolism plays a big role in the game as well. James’ sick, twisted psyche is on display with every creature you encounter as they are a manifestation of how troubled he truly is. By the time you have reached the end of the game, any sort of empathy you may have gained for James, in the beginning, will be completely gone. You’ll discover who the game’s true monster is. For a game that is over 20 years old, the storytelling is still top-notch.
WHAT IS THE LONGEST GAME?
The brilliance of these single-player video games is not only how they have the ability to pull you in with storytelling, but how long they can pull you in. Some video games are solid with their storytelling, but they can be extremely short and thusly unsatisfying. Then again, some of you out there may want your games short so you can move on to another. Here, though, we are looking for long. A completely engrossing game that will offer hours (sometimes in the hundreds) of entertainment.
Some games, such as The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind will keep you occupied for around 46 hours. That is a decent amount of time to invest. Dark Souls will cost you 50 hours of your time while The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is asking on average of 63 hours. Hmmm, for some reason that game seems like it takes much longer to complete. Still, we are just scratching at the surface of some of these game times.
We take a bit of a jump with Xenoblade Chronicles X as it asks for 70 hours of your undivided attention. If you like westerns, and who isn’t up for a good Clint Eastwood Spaghetti Western flick or a Mel Brooks western parody ala Blazing Saddles, then handing over around 73 hours of your time to Red Dead Redemption 2 shouldn’t be an issue. Fallout 4: GOTY Edition only needs 78 hours and Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas is requiring 80. As we being to reach triple digits, Dragon Age: Inquisition will only take you 84 hours to complete. Monster Hunter World needs at least 92 hours, and Persona 5 gets us very close to that triple-digit figure with 96 hours.
Now it’s time to get serious. If you get these following games, you are in it for the long haul and that long haul is, well, long. Final Fantasy XII takes that first big leap by asking you to devote at least 120 hours. Not to be outdone, ARK: Survival Evolved says 131 hours should about do it. If you like to build fun and fast things, then Roller Coaster Tycoon 2 is your jam. Be prepared to shell out 133 hours of your time to make it all happen. But the number one single-player video game that is asking you to devote hours by the hundreds (and we ain’t jokin’ here folks) is…
Animal Crossing: New Horizons. Say what? Yes, if you are taking on Animal Crossing: New Horizons you best be prepared to make it your life. Creating villages, and participating in seasonal gaming events, this single-player video game is asking for a lot. You are encouraged to visit your village on a daily basis to keep things running smooth and by the time you have completed everything that needs completing, you will have given up (drum roll please) a hefty and amazing average of 422 hours!
TOP 5 SINGLE-PLAYER VIDEO GAMES
So, how do you rank the best of the best? With the thousands upon thousands of single-player video game titles on the market, how does one choose the best? Well, we decided to take not only our experiences with these video games but also the rankings from very well-respected video game reviewers, to come up with our own final number.
The rankings of these titles are sure to cause some heated debate. Look them over and let us know what you think. The following are our top five:
5. THE LEGEND OF ZELDA: BREATH OF THE WILD
Link is back in action in one of the best single-player video games Nintendo has to offer. In this flagship game, The Legend Of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild Princess Zelda once again needs Link’s assistance. The game brings the familiar classical challenging puzzle elements along with rupee farming and duels of the small and massive sort. But what makes this the best in the Zelda series are the new elements the game introduces.
Combat, while fun in the past, is now much more difficult as Link has been given a variety of weapon choices, some of which lose their power over time. So, to make sure this doesn’t happen, it will be important for players to craft tools and potions to make sure Link is at his tip-top when fighting.
Fans of The Legend of Zelda series will be most pleased with this edition. It is at once challenging but very rewarding at the same time. So, lose yourself as Link and go rescue Princess Zelda.
TMB’S RANK: 93.5
4. GRAND THEFT AUTO V
This fifth edition of the popular series may actually be one of the most popular single-player video games of all time. Released in 2013, maker Rockstar has sold well over 150 million copies of GTA V. The single mode of the game is the draw here as gamers can be one of three characters – Michael, Franklin, or Trevor. What makes this popular is that you can be either of these characters on the fly, no matter what is happening in the game. As most Grand Theft Auto games are, this one is a wild ride. The writing/story is stellar and bringing in the first-person mode makes gameplay that much better.
If you liked the earlier version of this game, and who didn’t, Grand Theft Auto V just released the enhanced version for the PS5 and the Xbox Series XIS.
TMB’S RANK: 93.75
3. THE WITCHER 3: WILD HUNT
Way before Henry Cavill, Freya Allan, and Anya Chalotra became Geralt of Rivia, Ciri, and Yennefer respectively, there was a series of novels and video games. The main video game series launched in 2007 with The Witcher, continued on with the 2011 sequel The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings, and then ended (we hope not) with the best in the series and one of the best single-player video games of all time, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt.
Gamers start quickly as they are put in Geralt’s boots taking on mission after mission to not only track down his companions, but also prepare himself to battle The Wild Hunt – wraiths who ride undead horses whose only purpose is to enslave the human race. To get Geralt from here to there, he can take on side missions to make some money so he can build his armor, his weapons, and all the potions he will need to stop the Wild Hunt dead in their undead horses’ tracks. Some of these side missions include Geralt fighting against werewolves, ghouls, griffins, or a number of other deadly creatures who are hell-bent on terrorizing the common folk.
This open-world game is immediately breathtaking and not for the faint of heart. It requires some know-how and patience as some of the creatures Geralt and company will face are not so easily disposed of. The game is also rated for a more mature gameplayer as there is some nudity involved to go along with some gore. All in all, though, it is one amazing game, sure to give gamers hours of fun.
TMB’S RANK: 95
2. THE LAST OF US PART II
If you thought the original The Last of Us was a hoot, then you ain’t seen nothing yet. Naughty Dog, the game’s developer, has outdone itself with this sequel to one of the best games created. The Last of Us Part II picks up Joel and Elle’s journey with their new life in Jackson, Wyoming. But Joel’s actions from the first game have taken their toll in this second adventure, which moves the story out of Jackson and into the scary world it has become.
The game’s narrative is what pushes this single-player video game to new heights and while its emotional narrative caused some friction with its loyal following, the game nevertheless was rich with storytelling and graphically satisfying. We won’t get into the controversial nature of the story if some of you haven’t yet played the game but just know, that once you get going, you won’t want to stop, no matter what direction the game takes you.
The battles in the game are similar to the first as you will encounter Runners, Stalkers, Clickers, Bloaters, Shamblers, and even the Rat King. At times the fights can be frustrating but as they do in these types of games, what kills you can only keep killing you time and again until you figure out how to defeat it. Or something like that.
TMB’S RANK: 96.5
1. RED DEAD REDEMPTION 2
Fancy yourself a western? You must have because the original Red Dead Redemption was such a huge hit that Rockstar (yes, them again) simply HAD to create a sequel. Gamers wouldn’t have it any other way. While the first Red Dead focused on John Marston and his adventures, the Red Dead Redemption 2 told the story of Arthur Morgan, who was seen briefly in the first game. RDR 2 also focuses itself on the Van der Linde gang, of which Arthur (and John) are part. Dutch is the leader of the Van der Linde’s and his presence is felt throughout.
There is plenty to do in this open-world game. Arthur can travel alone on his quests or travel with the gang. His decisions affect how the game plays for gamers, with some decisions having a greater role than others. Some of the areas in the game will be familiar but there is plenty of new places to go and see. Arthur and the Van Der Linde gang need money and supplies to keep their health, so finding places to rob or completing dangerous missions is key to survival.
The story is engaging, the action can be fierce, and overall Red Dead Redemption 2 is the top single-player video game going. If you have not yet ventured into the western world of RDR or RDR 2, make sure you do. The gameplay in the first game is amazing, but it pales in comparison with what you get in RDR 2.
TMB’S RANK: 96.5
THE SINGLE-PLAYER VIDEO GAME HONORABLE MENTIONS
Based on our highly technical and professional scoring system, we do have some honorable mentions as well. These single-player video games received high marks for story, action, and gameplay but didn’t quite measure up to the five above. Nevertheless, they are solid entries for single players, games that are sure to entertain for some time. Here they are and we have also included their scores.
Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice (93), Ghost of Tsushima (92), Marvel’s Spider-Man (91.5), The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (91.5), Metroid Dread (91.5), Persona 5 Royal (91.5), and The Outer Worlds (90).
Not a bad list of top games, the five and the honorable mentions. Have you played any of these (we know, silly question)? Where does your list differ? What are your recommendations?
WHAT GAME HAS THE BEST CAMPAIGN?
Not to rehash, but there are two at the top of this list and they just so happen to be our two top-rated single-player video games – Red Dead Redemption 2 and The Last of Us Part II. You can’t go wrong with either campaign. Pick them, give them a try and tell us if we are wrong.
WHICH GAME IS THE MOST POPULAR GAME IN THE WORLD?
Of course, being the best single-player video game doesn’t necessarily mean you are the most popular. With all the hubbub surrounding The Last of Us Part II and Red Dead Redemption 2, it is easy (for some) to overlook the most popular game going – Fortnite. The game was announced way back at the 2011 Spike Video Game Awards when Epic Games told how the game would allow users to build forts, and gather resources, all with the goal of fighting off incoming enemies.
But then Epic went radio silent on Fortnite. It wasn’t until 2014 that fans got their first glimpse of the game and interest was once again stoked. Three more years passed before the game was released on PlayStation, Xbox, PC, and Mac. Fans were drawn in because of the free download and style of play. Since its release, Fortnite has easily become the most played single-player video game on the planet.
THE SINGLE-PLAYER VIDEO GAME FINAL THOUGHTS
Single-player video games are only getting better and that is a great thing for gamers. It doesn’t matter if you play them on one of the popular gaming consoles or if you prefer to do your damage on your gaming PC, there are plenty to choose from that will give you countless hours of entertainment. Let us know what you think of our top 5 and give us your top 5 so we can see how many we agree on. Happy gaming!