Gaming

9 Short (But Sweet) 2021 Video Games to Complete This Thanksgiving Weekend – Newsweek


With the Thanksgiving weekend just around the corner, now is the perfect time to catch up on some of the video game releases that you might have missed in 2021.

It often seems like contemporary video games are just getting longer and longer. While that might seem like a positive thing from a consumer standpoint, as it means you’re getting more bang for your buck, the reality of the situation is that keeping up with the industry can become a tad overwhelming.

With so many blockbusters demanding hundreds upon hundreds of hours of your time, there’s just not enough room to squeeze them all in. Nobody can feasibly 100% behemoths like Cyberpunk 2077, Persona 5 and Assassin’s Creed Valhalla (not to mention the constantly updating live services, such as Fortnite) without making some sacrifices along the way.

As this is such a time-consuming hobby, even the most dedicated players will have to skip a few releases here and there, or barely touch the ones that don’t immediately grab them. This can lead to intense feelings of FOMO, especially when the “Game of the Year” lists start to filter through, and you realize you can’t even be outraged by them because you haven’t played half of the titles.

Luckily, the imminent Thanksgiving weekend gives everybody a chance to power through their backlog that has been steadily growing over the past twelve months.

To help you figure out which games are worth catching up on, and which are doable in just a few days, Newsweek has put together this list of short (but sweet) releases from 2021.

1. Call of Duty: Vanguard (6 Hours)

Call of Duty: Vanguard Screenshot
“Call of Duty: Vanguard’s” campaign takes about 6 hours.
Activision Blizzard

When it comes to their single-player campaigns, the annualized Call of Duty releases aren’t known for having prodigious lengths.

Yet even by this franchise’s skimpy standards, Vanguard feels especially meagre. Aggregate site How Long to Beat (which takes user-submitted times and calculates the duration of an average playthrough) suggests that you can blitz through the story in about 6 hours—and that honestly might be too generous.

While this slight runtime has been the subject of a lot of criticism, it does make the game an ideal candidate for squeezing into a Thanksgiving weekend. Then, after you’ve finished bashing Nazis in the campaign, you will also have plenty of time leftover to get stuck into the real meat of any Call of Duty package, which is obviously the competitive multiplayer.

Call of Duty: Vanguard is available on PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One and Xbox Series X/S. Buy it here from GameStop.

2. Psychonauts 2 (14-16 Hours)

Psychonauts 2 Questionable Area Waterfalls
You can have a reasonably thorough playthrough of “Psychonauts 2” in 14 hours.
Double Fine Productions

Depending on how sociable you’re feeling this Thanksgiving weekend, you might not have quite enough time to see everything that Psychonauts 2 has to offer. However, if you’re willing to lock yourself up like a hermit and completely eschew any familial obligations, then you should be able to get through the main story at least, as well as a good chunk of its side quests.

By our estimation, a reasonably thorough playthrough of this deliriously inventive platformer will take you anywhere between 14 and 16 hours. Completionists (who want to uncover every last secret) might want to set aside a full 24 hours instead.

Regardless of how much you decide to take on, you will have an amazing time with Psychonauts 2. If you don’t believe our gushing review of the title (which praised everything from its sharp writing to the imaginative levels and varied gameplay) then just look at how many nominations it managed to rack up at this year’s Game Awards ceremony.

Psychonauts 2 is available to purchase digitally on the PlayStation Store and the Microsoft Store. It’s also included with Xbox Game Pass.

3. Kena: Bridge of Spirits (8-10 Hours)

Kena: Bridge of Spirits Screenshot
“Kena: Bridge of Spirits” is on the shorter side if you don’t go after every collectable.
Ember Lab

Another big hit at the 2021 Game Awards, Kena: Bridge of Spirits is one of the year’s most feel-good and irrefutably charming titles (even if it does occasionally go to some darker places).

Boasting a visual style reminiscent of Pixar animation, old-school gameplay that harkens back to the PS2 era, and an engaging cast of characters that you will become immediately attached to, it’s an experience that is hard to dislike.

Not only that, but it’s an easily digestible one as well, with a story that can be polished off in less than 8 hours. That being said, you might get a little side-tracked, as some of the side content is really addictive. In particular, it’s tempting to just while away the hours searching for cute little hats to put your adorable rot companions.

Kena: Bridge of Spirits is a PlayStation exclusive. It can be purchased digitally on the PlayStation Store and there is a physical edition as well that can be picked up from GameStop.

4. Resident Evil Village (12-13 Hours)

Resident Evil Village Screenshot
“Resident Evil Village” is an addictive experience that you will likely binge through in a couple of sittings.
Capcom

Resident Evil Village is the ideal game to tackle over the Thanksgiving period, and not just because it’s about a dysfunctional family who must begrudgingly act civil during an enforced get-together.

The main reason it’s so well suited to this busy weekend is that you can chip away at it in quick sessions. Without giving too much away, the game basically encourages you to take it one area at a time with its unique hub-world structure.

Everything is linked together by the titular rural community, from which you must then venture into 4 surrounding areas, each of them offering a completely different experience. There’s the gothic castle (which is the more exploratory level), the haunted woods (which is the pure nightmare fuel zone), the murky damn (an elaborate boss fight) and finally the ominous factory that looms in the distance (the action-heavy portion).

Each of these distinct sections can be taken on its own as a bite-sized chunk, as they only take about 2 hours on average. Combine this with some optional backtracking, as well as a prologue and epilogue to bookend the story, and you’re looking at about 13 hours in total. You should definitely make some time for it in your schedule if you haven’t already, because it’s one of the year’s best.

Resident Evil Village is available now on PC, Xbox One, PS4, Xbox Series X/S and PS5. Buy it discounted now from GameStop.

5. The Dark Pictures: House of Ashes (6 Hours)

House of Ashes Screenshot
To a certain extent, “House of Ashes” has a fixed length. Unless you spend a very long time weighing up your decisions, it won’t take more than 6 hours.
Supermassive Games

To a certain extent, House of Ashes is expressly designed to be consumed in one or two sittings. After all, it is basically an interactive horror movie, much like Until Dawn, that moves along at a lightening pace.

If you have played any of the other entries in the Dark Pictures Anthology, then you will know pretty much what to expect here, although some of the mechanics have been refined and the camera system has been mercifully overhauled. As per usual, you control the decision-making of a group of prospective victims (one of whom is played by High School Musical’s Ashley Tisdale) and can either try to help them survive or purposefully lead them to a grisly end.

This time around, you are overseeing the actions of a U.S. military squadron (and one Iraqi Republican Guard) circa 2003. While investigating bogus intel about WMDs hidden in a nearby village, they find themselves entrapped in an underground temple that’s overrun with strange, bat-like creatures.

Given that it’s so heavily on rails, playthroughs of House of Ashes won’t vary too much in length (unless you get everybody killed in record time). It’s probably about 5 or 6 hours long. Of course, you can always elect to go through it a second or even third time to see the different permutations of the narrative and get better outcomes.

The Dark Pictures: House of Ashes is available now on Xbox, PlaySation and PC. Buy it here from GameStop.

6. Twelve Minutes (3 Hours)

Twelve Minutes Screenshot
“Twelve Minutes” is a little longer than its name suggests, but it’s still roughly the equivalent of a few episodes of TV.
Annapurna Interactive

Twelve Minutes isn’t exactly one of the most celebrated releases of the year but, with its incredibly polarizing ending, it is one that you will want to have an opinion about.

While this is a list of shorter games, Twelve Minutes does take more than 720 seconds to complete. Instead, the title is referring to the inexplicable time loop that James McAvoy’s unnamed protagonist finds himself caught in.

Channelling Bill Murray in Groundhog Day, you will have to learn how to maximize these 12-minute intervals by gradually figuring out efficient shortcuts, ways to prove what is happening to other characters, and solutions to seemingly unresolvable conflicts.

If you fail to meet the looming deadline, then your wife (played by Daisy Ridley) will be killed and you will have to start the whole thing over, albeit equipped with a little more knowledge than you were before.

Again, it’s worth bearing in mind that the reception to this game’s various twists and turns has been incredibly mixed. However, you can judge it for yourself this Thanksgiving weekend, as it only takes about 3 hours to reach the end credits and it’s all confined to just a handful of rooms. Plus, if you have an Xbox Game Pass subscription, then you don’t even have to worry about wasting money on something that you might potentially hate.

Twelve Minutes is available now on Xbox Game Pass.

7. Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury (16 Hours Combined)

Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury
On its own, “Bowser’s Fury” should only take a few hours, while “Super Mario 3D World” isn’t exceptionally long either.
Nintendo of America

This one is a bundle of two games for the price of one, but we’re only focussing on the Bowser’s Fury component here (Super Mario 3D World is a 9-year-old Wii U title that you should check out if you get a chance).

For anyone short on time, the good news is that the fresh content here can be beaten in as little as three hours. A completionist run might double that length, but it’s essentially no more substantial than a piece of DLC. If we are calling it DLC though, then it’s some of the best you will ever play.

Indeed, Bowser’s Fury is a phenomenally enjoyable morsel—with Mario’s characteristically amazing level design and fun mechanics—and you will likely find yourself hungry for more when it’s over. If that’s the case, then you can always dip into the remastered 3D World afterwards to get your fill there. While it’s not technically a 2021 release, it has aged remarkably well.

The Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury combo is available now on the Nintendo Switch. You can download it from the Nintendo eShop, or buy a physical copy from GameStop here.

8. The Medium (7 Hours)

The Medium Keyart
Like most horror games, “The Medium” does not outstay its welcome.
Bloober Team

If it seems like there’s a disproportionate amount of horror outings on this list, that’s just because titles in this genre tend to be on the shorter side by necessity.

Not only do horror game have limited budgets that inhibit them from being overly ambitious in scope, it’s also difficult to sustain a creepy atmosphere for too long. If you are being chased around by a serial killer, ghost or monster without any end in sight, it can quickly go from being scary to just plain annoying.

In short, horror games risk undermining their mystique if they outstay their welcome, which is why classics like Silent Hill 2, Amnesia and Outlast keep things brief.

Bloober Team’s The Medium is another great example of this, clocking in at a breezy 7 or so hours. The length of your run will largely depend on your knack for solving puzzles and how comprehensively you choose to explore its reality-warping levels but, any way you slice it, the game isn’t going to drag on beyond a weekend.

If you do decide that you want to give The Medium a go, it’s probably worth checking some content warnings beforehand, as the story does broach some extremely uncomfortable topics towards the end. Otherwise, it’s a terrific, psychologically unnerving experience that just flies by.

The Medium is available to download on PS5 and is also featured on the Xbox Game Pass service.

9. Metroid Dread (8 Hours)

Metroid Dread Screenshot
“Metroid Dread” speedrunners are already blasting through the game in under 2 hours.
Nintendo of America

With rave reviews across the board, Metroid Dread is not a 2021 release that you want to sleep on. The long-awaited sequel was generally considered to be worth the agonizing wait. In particular, it has been lauded for its smart level design, satisfying combat, tight controls and fun stealth mechanics.

The game only came out a few weeks ago, so there’s still plenty of time to catch up on it before spoilers become commonplace. If you get started this Thanksgiving, you should comfortably have it finished before the weekend is over. According to How Long to Beat users, the main story is only about 8 ½ hours long, which is par for the course with a Metroid outing.

To an extent, Dread has to be shorter than your average game, because this franchise has always catered to a loyal speed-running community. Metroid fans love working out how they can shave as many seconds as possible off their runs, for a shot at placing in the global leaderboards. In fact, pros are already submitting times that are well under 90 minutes for this game, and those records will no doubt be shattered as the best strategies are identified and people learn more effective tactics.

Metroid Dread is available now on Nintendo Switch. Click here to buy it from GameStop.

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