In Defense of Afternoon Games — Bowser’s Fury and the Like

Mike Shepard
4 min readApr 17, 2021
Photo by Kevin Williams from Pexels

The last seven days (March 26th to April 2nd) have been exhausting for me. COVID has reared its ugly head in my workplace, again. My coworkers and I feel stressed out, burnt out, and at-risk from that and everything else going on. On a whim, I bought Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury for the Nintendo Switch and brought it home yesterday. Between lunch and dinner meal deliveries to our positive cases, my Friday was blessedly bereft of other responsibilities, so I popped up in the game cartridge and booted it up. I’d played through 3D World in the past on the Wii U, but was excited to try Bowser’s Fury and started a new file. After a few hours of on-and-off play, I had collected everything and beat the game with full completion. Popped the cartridge out of my Switch, set it back in its case, set the case back on my shelf. And even though I spent so little time on it in the grand scheme of things, I don’t regret the purchase.

As I’ve played more varied games, I’ve come to appreciate the shorter interactive experiences: the kinds that I can play through in an afternoon or an evening, or (in some cases) a weekend, that necessitate I only pay attention for a few hours or a couple days of broken-up play, but (and this is the important part) are nonetheless well-made. This can come through their storytelling, their gameplay, or a mix of both, but I appreciate a finely-tuned and condensed experienced over a large-scale time-suck.

Most of the games I’ve experienced in this vein are story-based, so I was very pleasantly surprised when I started playing Bowser’s Fury. This was hitting all the points I enjoyed about other short games, but was still a true Mario experience. It didn’t sacrifice anything in its length; it is still challenging, bombastic, and a blast to play through, even if it still only takes you the better part of a few hours to fully complete it. It’s still Mario, just filtered down to its core elements (per the 3D World mechanics, at least).

Not the title image to a game you’d think would only take a few hours to complete, right?

Back in older days, I would throw myself at games for days on end, striving for full narrative completion, or achievement-hunting, or character upgrades: behemoths like Mass Effect, Skyrim, or Borderlands would suck days of morning-to-night time away from me, sometimes with very little to show for it. And by the time it all ended, sometimes, it felt like more of a physical relief than an emotionally release. “Finally, I’m done with this, and now I can move onto a different game.” Shorter games tend to provide that emotional release of completion in a game-sense and completion in an emotional sense. “This game had an impact on me, whether through story or fun, no matter how long it sticks with me, and I appreciate it for that.”

Don’t get me wrong; Mass Effect is getting a rerelease in about a month’s time, and I will be throwing money at that to play it all over again, hours and hours on end of my favorite space opera to date. But all the same, there is something nice, something refreshing and kind to me personally, about how I can get to the mountaintop in A Short Hike in the span of a couple hours, if not less. Or get the full beginning-to-end tragedy of The Red Strings Club in an evening. Or realize how much I’m sitting on the edge of my seat after an afternoon straight in Orwell. A game can be vast and alive and a technological wonder…but sometimes, I only have a few hours to play, and it’s a privilege to know I can start and finish something in that span of time, and still feel that I made progress. That my time in this one digital world was worthwhile, even if it wasn’t that much time at all.

If you’re in the market for similar games that don’t take too long to play, but are enjoyable nonetheless, I recommend the following on Steam. Reach out to me for more!

- FAR: Lone Sails
- Killing Time at Lightspeed
- The Novelist
- A New Life
- Dear Devere
- Event [0]

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Mike Shepard

Just an amateur reminding himself of what he loves. Looking to write about all the things and experiences that make the end of the world worth living in.