What games are "casual" games?
It used to be that when casual games were mentioned, they conjured up only a few titles, such as Peggle, The SIMS or Stardew Valley. Now, however, so many games and genres can fall into the casual category. We all lead busy lifestyles, and picking up a controller or a mouse at the end of the day to unwind should not feel like a chore, grinding or working on your character before you get any real enjoyment.
This is why games in the sports genre, arcade driving games, and even FPS can now be classed as casual.
Developers have realised that they were leaving a lot of gamers on the sidelines when it came to huge releases like Call of Duty or Modern Warfare, and to a lesser extent Fortnite and PUBG. For those of us who spend up to ten hours out of the house at work, coming home for a couple of hours gaming should be instant gratification, and not feel like work. Levelling up an assault rifle, or ensuring your character doesn't die the second they walk into battle is something that can be done a lot quicker by those who don't have to work for a living. Of course, there's always microstransactions. But there's no substitute for skill, and buying the most powerful gun does not mean you have a tactical edge, or know the maps any better than your enemy.
Starting a game at level 1 in any genre should mean you get to learn at your own pace while maintaining a high level of excitement and enjoyment that only increases the more you further your skills.
This is why a lot of developers are sidestepping "pay to win" in favour of making a level 1 experience top notch. You can literally pick up any of the games we talk about below and enjoy them from day one, and only increase your enjoyment of the game by progressing and levelling up.
Casual game examples
Now, this may be a crossover of genres, for sure, but it is absolutely worth mentioning in the same breath as casual gaming. As far as "pick up and play" games go, you don't get much better than a quick game of football.
With the FIFA series you don't need to have a lot of experience to immediately play against your rival team, because you can lower the difficulty and give them a thorough rinsing instead. Once you get to grip with the controls, playing the matches just gets better and better, and relies on your football knowledge and tactics winning out over your friends, online opposition or the FIFA AI players.
To play FIFA 2022 you will need the following specification to get the best out of the game:
- OS: 64-bit Windows 10
- Processor (AMD): FX 8150 @3.6GHz or Equivalent
- Processor (Intel): Core i5-3550 @3.40GHz or Equivalent
- Memory: 8 GB
- Graphics card (AMD): Radeon R9 270x or Equivalent
- Graphics card (NVIDIA): GeForce GTX 670 or Equivalent
- Online Connection Requirements: Broadband Connection
- Hard-drive space: 50 GB
- Online Connection Requirements: Broadband connection recommended. Internet Connection required to install and play.
These are not huge requirements by any stretch of the imagination, and an entry level PC will suffice, which will also be handy if you dabble with other games in a similar vein, such as the Football Manager series.
Games like Stardew Valley have been given the limelight in recent years thanks to their addictive gameplay and ability to get gamers uttering the magic words - "just ten more minutes".
The great news with simulations such as Stardew Valley is that they can be played on low-end PCs and laptops, and the experience is no better just because you spent £500 more on your rig. The game's popularity is down to the gameplay, and in 2022 it is still refreshing to see Stardew Valley and similar titles right up there with shiny AAA titles in popularity lists. As the years have rolled by, the focus has shifted from gameplay to looks in a lot of ways, so this is only a good thing for the gaming industry - a game that features tiny little sprites in a cutesy-cartoon style world is still capable of drawing a mammoth crowd, and retaining them.
The modern-classic, Cities: Skylines defines city simulation in 2022, and has a varied audience that ranges from the younger gamer right up to those who remember games being sold on cassette tapes. The draw and attraction of the game is in just how casual the gameplay is. Staunch supporters of this derivative game will tell you that it is indeed a meditative game, which involves just watching your city thrive and go about its daily business, but the real fun is in the building. Even the flaws can be ironed out; reviewers have said that the game feels sleepy, with an absence of events like natural disasters. Enter the mods that include tornado control, tsnuami editors and more.
Even though the sprawling cities can be quite large, you will not need an immense amount of graphics power, and will only need a moderately powerful CPU to play it - and play it exactly how the developers intended. A decent amount of memory is a must, as the game will dump a lot of data into RAM as you make changes across the city.
- Requires a 64-bit processor and operating system
- OS: Windows® 10 Home 64 bit
- Processor: Intel® Core™ i7 2700K | AMD® Ryzen 7 2700X
- Memory: 16 GB RAM
- Graphics: Nvidia® GeForce™ GTX 580 (1.5 GB) | AMD® Radeon™ RX 560 (4 GB)
- DirectX: Version 11
- Network: Broadband Internet connection
- Storage: 4 GB available space
As the specifications show, a mid-range PC or laptop will suffice, and you can enjoy a game like Cities: Skylines without breaking the bank.
Forza Horizon 5
I'm sure there are plenty of people who will agree and disagree with my choice of Forza 5 as casual game. This is a divisive opinion, and may belong in the sports/driving genre technically, but I think it belongs here based on my own experience.
Working eight hours a day and travelling for three more means I don't get as much gaming in as I used to, but I would be devastated not to be able to play some of the latest titles on Game Pass when they drop. One of the games I did this with was Forza 5. I realised that it may be very similar to its predecessors, and I'd be able to jump into and race or throw a car around a track whenever the need arose, so I was absolutely installing it on day one.
I found that Forza 5 really does belong under the casual game banner, because it is such a laid back approach to a very intensely satisfying driving game. With the myriad of settings you can make the game difficult, and if you just want that arcade experience, there's room for you, too. You can collect cars, race in multiplayer throwdowns and lots more to entertain you - regardless of the amount of time you have.
The specification needed to play Forza Horizon 5 is quite high if you want to experience it in all its glory, with ray traced paintwork and stunning landscapes.
- Operating system Windows 10
- Processor (AMD) Ryzen 5 1500X
- Processor (Intel) Intel Core i5-8400
- Memory 16GB
- Graphics card (AMD) Radeon RX 590
- Graphics card (Nvidia) Nvidia GTX 1070
- Hard-drive space 110GB
These requirements from the developer, as well-meaning as they are - are not exactly what the players of Forza 5 would recommend. Playground Games, in fact, go as far as to offer the 'ideal specification' you'll need to play the game as they intend:
- Operating system Windows 10
- Processor (AMD) Ryzen 7 3800XT
- Processor (Intel) Intel Core i7-10700K
- Memory 16GB
- Graphics card (AMD) Radeon RX 6800 XT
- Graphics card (Nvidia) Nvidia RTX 3080
- Hard-drive space 110GB
It's good to see devs understanding their market, and not selling a game with recommended specifications that would genuinely not play like their fans see on YouTube. The ideal specification allows you to experience all of the beautiful graphics and gameplay.
What laptop PC do I need for casual gaming?
Stardew Valley, The Sims, Minecraft, FIFA, NBA, Terraria, platformer games etc.
- Perfect for E-sports
- Ideal for less CPU/graphically demanding games
Halo Infinite, Forza 5, GTA 5, Minecraft (RTX), E-sports games, platformers, strategy, open world builders
- Ideal for AAA casual
- Capable of handling higher graphics requirements
- Good processing power for more demanding games
- Ray tracing & DLSS capable
Cyberpunk 2077, Red Dead Redemption 2, Halo Infinite, Forza 5, God of War, all other types
- Next level graphics and next gen processors to handle the highest quality and latest games
- Built for AAA performance in AAA games
- Capable of easily handling ray tracing, DLSS and other next gen technologies
- Futureproof system requirements for much longer
As you can see from just the few examples above, the PC or laptop specifications you need are going to be dependent on the type of game you play casually. With so many crossovers in the genres, and based on the kind of playing experience you want, you might need one of many specifications.
Once you know the type of games you're going to be playing, look at the recommended specifications, and then you have an idea where your specification needs to be.
If you think you'll probably want to dabble in something that is a little more demanding, then a mid-range gaming PC is ideal, and allows growth or upgrade. A high-end or extreme PC is only worth it if you are truly going to utilise the kind of power they house.
It is for all of these reasons, and with the opinions I've stated, for most casual games, a mid-range PC or gaming laptop will be perfect.