What are the best games for laptops? PC gaming isn’t always done at a desk with a monster rig and pro gaming peripherals. Lots of people game on laptops on the train home from work or away on holiday, but knowing what games run well on laptops and survive the transition from mouse to trackpad isn’t always easy. That doesn’t mean making do with the likes of Minesweeper and Solitaire, the best games for laptops can be every bit as compelling, beautiful and deep as their desktop counterparts.
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There are, naturally, lots of factors to consider when picking laptop games for your next long-haul trip. 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 you’ve not played ten times already. Here’s our selection of the best games for laptops.
What is it? If you’ve played League of Legends or Dota 2 then you’ll be very familiar with the formula of Smite. Matches see two teams of five gods face off across an arena packed with AI minions, the aim being to break into the enemy’s base and kill their titan. What Smite does differently is change the camera angle from top-down to third-person, and while that doesn’t sound like a big deal, it adds a genuine sense of weight to your abilities and makes attacks feel that bit more impactful.
Why is it great for laptops? While any MOBA veteran would swear by using a mouse, Smite is entirely playable with a trackpad. For the most part all you’ll be doing is pointing and clicking at a more than manageable pace. Abilities are tied to your keyboard too, so no need for a multi-function mouse with nine buttons and RGB lighting. As for hardware? While you might not be able to run it at max settings, Smite will hit a bare minimum of 30 fps on just about any modern machine.
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Want more? Here's our Smite review.
What is it? Runescape is an MMORPG that’s been improving and expanding for 15 years. By gaming standards that should mean it's weary and decrepit, but even now it's brimming with personality, fresh ideas and, astonishingly, players. For the most part it’s standard MMORPG fare: start with nothing and grind away for the best and most colourful gear in the game. As it’s been going for so long however, it also has hundreds of quests and content waiting for new players to dive into. And if you need any help getting to grips with things then just ask - Runescape boasts an exceptionally helpful and positive community.
Why is it great for laptops? Runescape started life as a browser-based MMO and has only very recently made the leap over to a client-based launcher. That means it still runs perfectly on any just about any rig imaginable, the only caveat being that you’ll need a reasonable internet connection to play it. It’s also very easy-going with regards to its control scheme - so long as you can click and use your number keys you’ll be on a level playing field with everyone else.
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What is it? A collectable card game (or CCG for all you youngsters out there) set in Blizzard’s enormous Warcraft universe. You fight against other players using decks of cards made up of 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’re defeated. It’s got a huge player base and an ever-evolving metagame, not to mention plenty of inventive expansions to keep it feeling fresh and interesting.
Why is it great for laptops? It’s a magnificently simple game, mostly static thanks to the fact that it’s a card game, and even when the magical effects fly it still won’t so much as threaten to bog down your laptop. 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 it also works flawlessly with a trackpad. This recommendation does come with one proviso though: you’ll need an internet connection to play, even against the AI characters.
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Want more? Here's our 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 largely what you’d expect from a 2D side-scroller. Get killed and your character is gone for good. Of course there’s a twist. Your hero is replaced not by a bog-standard clone, but by their heir: a new character who retains some genetic traits from their parent. Traits include dwarfism, ADHD, and I.B.S. Some traits make your next playthrough agonisingly difficult, like nearsightedness making anything in the distance blurry, others are there for laughs, like I.B.S. making your character fart with every jump.
Why is it great for laptops? The 2D pixel art is handy ensures that Rogue Legacy runs smoothly on even the weakest, tiniest netbook. Rogue Legacy can also be played entirely with the keyboard, meaning no smashing the trackpad into oblivion because it’s nowhere near as effective as a mouse.
What is it? A police investigation into the case of a missing man, taking place entirely at the personal computer of a detective. Petty meta, huh? Your job is to search through the police’s database of records and interview videos with a woman who knew the man, piecing the evidence together to form an idea of what happened and come to your final conclusion. With absolutely no guidance, the case is yours to own, and you can be as thorough or as sloppy as you want in your hunt for the truth.
Why is it great for laptops? The FMVs 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.
What is it? A turn-based tactics affair that looks like Dungeons & Dragons, but is actually a free-to-play CCG. Card Hunter is a homage to tabletop nerd culture, with dice, pizza and fantasy characters. Of course that’s just the framing for an intense, XCOM-like battle game with escalating dangers to overcome with each new turn.
Why is it great for laptops? Card Hunter used to be a browser-based game, which should tell you a lot about how well it runs on low-end rigs and laptops. It’s tabletop influence means the processor only has to handle 2D cut-out characters and playing cards, which means it can run on any setup. It’s entirely mouse-based, but the gameplay isn’t as demanding as CS:GO so you’ll be just fine with a trackpad.
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 curated campaign, you simply choose your captain’s ambition and get to work achieving that goal. On your way 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 as 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 the average laptop. There is a considerable amount of mouse control involved, so a proper mouse is advised, but you can certainly get by with the trackpad. The main reason however, is that it’s one of the best indie games ever.
Want more? Here's 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 cartoonish visuals that do a pitch-perfect job of conveying the story’s sombre mood.
Why is it great for laptops? The cartoon artwork is as undemanding as it gets.The combat is turn-based so you won't have to hand any speedy mouse movements, which is practically impossible on a track pad.
Crusader Kings II
What is it? A grand strategy game set in the Middle Ages, Crusader Kings II allows you to make all the military, religious, and legal decisions as your chosen country’s leader. Your goal is to forge your own dynasty, which of course involves heaps of homicide, regicide, and genocide; intentional or not.
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. You also get to make decisions at your own pace, so there’s no need for any rapid mouse movement or keyboard hammering.
Want more? Here's our Crusader Kings II review.
What is it? A game about playing a border control officer in a corrupt communist country. Check passports and visa papers of immigrants to make sure they meet the requirements for entry. Make mistakes and your pay will be docked. Fail to pay rent, bills, and medical expenses and your family will get ill and die. Sounds simple, but some immigrants may be worth making mistakes for…
Why is it great for laptops? At barely 50mb in size Papers, Please is tiny. Its pixel-art visuals are simple enough for any processor to fathom. A trackpad will do the trick to start with, but in later levels where time is pressing and there’s lots of paperwork you might want to make the leap to a proper mouse.
The Walking Dead
What is it? A beautifully harrowing tale everyone should experience, The Walking Dead is an adventure game that plays out like an interactive TV show. You play Lee, a convicted criminal who’s about to go through the toughest period of his life as he’s thrown into a zombie apocalypse rather than a prison cell. It’s violent, shocking, and touching on a moment-to-moment basis.
Why is it great for laptops? Thanks to its emphasis on story, a lot of The Walking Dead is watching and listening to characters talk and reason with each other. The more action-orientated sections only require a few stabs at the Q or E key to complete, making controlling Lee on a laptop surprisingly easy. Its comic-book visuals also keep hardware requirements very low, so most modern laptops should be up to the job of running it without issue.
And there they are, the very best games for laptops. Let us know your favourite laptop games in the comments below.