PC gaming isn’t always done at a desk with a power-house of a machine. Many of us play on laptops we picked up primarily for work. Some of us want to play something that’s not a match-3 mobile game when we’re on the train and so bring our laptops along for the ride. But finding the best games for laptops isn’t always easy.
There are so many factors. You need something that doesn’t demand too much processing power, something that won’t ruin your fun just because your mouse is a trackpad, and something that’s not just an old classic you’ve played ten times already. So what are the best games for laptops? These are our picks.
What is it? A collectable card battle game set in the Warcraft universe. You fight against other players using decks of cards that contain various magic spells, weapons, and minions that will fight for you. Using these and your chosen character’s special abilities, you must hammer away at your opponent’s 30 health points until they have nothing at all and explode in a kaboom of firework fun. It’s got a huge player base all contributing to an ever-evolving metagame, and inventive expansions have kept the game fresh and alive.
Why is it great for laptops? It’s a magnificently simple game, mostly static thanks to its playing card nature, and even when the magic effects fly it’s never particularly taxing on your PC. The drag-and-drop card gameplay makes it absolutely perfect if you’re playing on a touchscreen laptop or one of Microsoft’s Surface tablets, but also works flawlessly on trackpad. This recommendation does come with one caveat though: you’ll need an internet connection to play, even against the AI characters. Only for on-the-go play if your train carriage has wi-fi.
Take a look at our in-depth Hearthstone review.
What is it? A platformer with roguelike elements, Rogue Legacy sees you march a little knight into the bowels of a randomly generated dungeon on a mission to defeat five bosses. Run, jump, hit things: it’s all what you’d expect from a 2D side-scroller. However, let yourself get killed and your character is gone for good. They will be replaced instead by their heir; a character who is brand new, but has genetic traits from their parent. Traits include dwarfism, ADHD, and being colour-blind.
Why is it great for laptops? The 2D pixel art is handy for ensuring that Rogue Legacy runs smoothly on even the weakest little netbooks, but key to the recommendation is that Rogue Legacy can be played entirely with just the keyboard.
Guild of Dungeoneering
What is it? A dungeon crawler where you build the dungeon. Using cute little pencil-drawn cards, you lay down sections of a dungeon like pieces of a jigsaw, which your little hero character then explores at his own leisure. There’s an end goal location, and the trick is to effectively use dungeon pieces to create a straightforward route to the exist, whilst also providing ample looting and battle opportunities to help level your hero up.
Why is it great for laptops? The 2D, school sketch-style art means it's exceptionally undemanding, you your integrated graphics chip won’t struggle. Placing cards can be easily achieved with a trackpad, and the combat is a simple turn-based card game with no fiddly mechanics.
Point your eyes in the direction of our Guild of Dungeoneering review.
What is it? A police investigation into the case of a missing man, taking place entirely at the desk of a detective. Using a computer to search through the police database of records and interview videos with a woman who knew the man, you’ll have to piece together the evidence to discover exactly what happened, and come to your final conclusion. With absolutely no guidance, the case is yours to own, and you can as thorough or as sloppy as you want in your hunt for the truth.
Why is it great for laptops? The VMVs and basic computer interface are undemanding on your graphics processor. The slow, leisurely pace of the game means you won’t be caught out with quick or complicated control demands, which is ideal if you don’t have a mouse, or are playing on a cramped small-screen notebook.
Track down our Her Story review here.
What is it? A turn-based tactics affair that looks like a game of Dungeons & Dragons, but is actually a collectable card game. It’s a homage to tabletop nerd culture, with dice and pizza and fantasy characters, but that’s just the framing for an intense, XCOM-alike battle game with escalating danger.
Why is it great for laptops? Card Hunter was originally a browser based game, which should tell you a lot. It’s tabletop influence means everything looks like 2D cut-out characters or playing cards, and as such it’s a simple, non-demanding game. It’s entirely mouse-based, but you won’t be at a disadvantage with a trackpad thanks to the slower, turn-based nature.
Deal yourself our Card Hunter review.
What is it? A seafaring roguelike where you captain a ship and sail it through the grim waters of a gothic Victorian London. Rather than having a pre-set campaign, you choose your captain’s ambition, and ‘complete’ the game upon achieving that ambition. On your way to that ambition, you can trade goods, fight at sea, and engage in small story missions with the residents of the islands you sail around. Keeping danger at bay is paramount: death is permanent, although your successor may carry on certain elements of your original character if they are closely related.
Why is it great for laptops? The 2D, top-down graphics are simple enough to run on a laptop unhindered. There’s a lot of mouse work involved, so a proper mouse is advised, but you can certainly get by with the trackpad.
Shine a light on our Sunless Sea review.
The Banner Saga
What is it? An RPG with turn-based tactical battles following the journey of two camps of warriors as they trek across a war-torn land inspired by viking folklore. It’s beautiful thanks to its cartoon Ralph Bakshi-inspired visuals that really convey the somber mood of the tale.
Why is it great for laptops? The cartoon artwork is sparse with animation in the character-building story sections, and being 2D the game is pretty undemanding on your laptop’s hardware.The combat is turn-based (think XCOM-meets-Tolkien) which means that it doesn’t require any fast response mouse movements that’s absolutely impossible on a track pad. You’re free to take your time to ponder your next sword swing or arrow volley, which is also handy in case that chap sitting next to you on the train keeps interrupting your flow.
Fly the flag for our Banner Saga review here.
What is it? An incredibly twitchy arcade game where you guide an arrow through a series of mazes that appear from a pulsing hexagon. It’s all about fast responses and memorising the patterns of the mazes which appear in time to the music.
Why is it great for laptops? Super Hexagon is an obvious choice when it comes to laptop games considering it’s little more than pulsating hexagon shapes. But it’s the simplicity of its design that makes it perfect for a laptop. Using literally just the left and right arrows to navigate the mazes of walls, you won’t need to lug along any peripherals or bulky gadgets. The perpetual challenge it offers makes it a game that you’ll come back to again and again, but its quick burst of adrenalin gameplay is something that’s perfect for short trips or lunchtime breaks.
Divinity: Original Sin
What is it? An isometric RPG created from the classic mould with flavours of Baldur’s Gate and Planescape: Torment. Taking control of two mercenaries, you head out into a massive world to investigate a murder, but soon turn your gaze to more cosmic problems. Quests are plentiful and there’s an astonishing amount of freedom to do as you please.
Why is it great for laptops? It’s the perfect companion for a long train journey. Even if your laptop is creaking in both the hinge and processor departments, Divinity: Original Sin should run without too many problems. Its massive yarn will keep you more than occupied on a return trip from Edinburgh to London, and the turn-based combat doesn’t demand any fiddly control inputs that are impossible on a half-size keyboard and trackpad.
Original Sin also handily makes use of Steam’s cloud saves, meaning that when you can get access to a desktop you can continue your adventure where you left it without messing around with USB sticks and folder directories.
Level up with our Divinity: Original Sin review.
Child of Light
What is it? Ubisoft’s adorable JRPG-alike where every character speaks in rhyme. It tells the story of Aurora, a princess dragged from Austria in 1895 to the mystical land of Lemuria. With the help of fairytale companions, Aurora must reunite with her father.
Why is it great for laptops? Child of Light’s art style is intensely beautiful but, like The Banner Saga, the hand-painted visuals don’t ask much of your hardware.There’s a fair bit of mouse action in the game controlling a little firefly that heals friends and confuses foes, but it’s nothing beyond trackpad capabilities, and the combat’s focus on tactical choices rather than quick movements certainly helps out.
Read our impressions of Child of Light here.
Crusader Kings II
What is it? A grand-strategy set in the Middle Ages, Crusader Kings II allows you to make all the military, religious, and legal decisions in your chosen country. Your goal is to forge your own dynasty, and avenues of homicide, regicide, and genocide are all applicable in your quest for power.
Why is it great for laptops? There’s next to nothing going on in Crusader Kings II when it comes to graphics - it’s just a big, static world map with pop-up boxes detailing the events of the world. This makes it absolutely ideal for laptops lacking dedicated graphics chips. Decisions are made at your own pace, so there’s no need for fast mouse reactions or repeated hammerings of your delicate keyboard.
What is it? Fez is a 2D adventure platformer with a 3D world. At the push of a button you can rotate the entire cube-shaped world around to see all its sides and reveal new places to go and solutions to puzzles not visible from the other planes. Moving around is as much of a puzzle as the actual puzzles themselves, making Fez a real brain-bender of a platformer.
Why is it great for laptops? The world of Fez is built up in a 16 bit style akin to games of the 90s. So despite being colourful and detailed, there’s nothing complicated for your laptop to do when running Fez. It’s also completely keyboard controlled, so only having a trackpad won’t make you throw your laptop out the window.