Highlights Gaming sound design has improved significantly, with some AAA games comparable to modern films, but there are times when players prefer to listen to a podcast while gaming. Animal Crossing: New Horizons , Minecraft , and most platformers are ideal games to play while listening to a podcast due to their relaxed gameplay and minimal dialogue or cutscenes. Simulation games like Farming Simulator , Microsoft Flight Simulator , and management games like Cities: Skylines are perfect for playing while listening to something else. Elden Ring and The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom are also good choices due to minimal cutscenes and an open-world setting.
One of the many aspects of gaming that has improved by leaps and bounds over the last few decades is sound design. Although visual improvements between console generations are the most instantly noticeable change, sound design has also been making constant strides to the point where some AAA games today are comparable to modern films.
Despite this, there are times when players would rather turn their volume down and listen to their favorite podcast instead. Moreover, some people are only really interested in listening to the podcast and just want something to do with their hands. Thankfully, there are numerous games available today that don’t require players to read much text or watch many cutscenes, making them perfect for gamers to play while some of their focus is elsewhere.
Updated on August 17, 2023, by Jack Pursey:Finding a game to play while listening to a podcast or audiobook is tougher than it used to be. Many AAA games today aim to fully engross players in their game’s world, often with near-constant dialogue that has replaced traditional cutscenes in some games. Sony’s console exclusives are known for this in particular, with games like God of War: Ragnarok having characters interact with each other or talk to themselves for hours on end. Thankfully, there are plenty of modern alternatives that don’t require much listening from the player, meaning they can put a podcast on in the background missing out on anything vital. This list has been updated to include some more great games to play while listening to podcasts.1 Animal Crossing: New Horizons
Animal Crossing: New Horizons rejects many numerous gaming norms, such as enemies, combat, and set objectives. Instead, New Horizons, like its predecessors, simply puts players on an island and lets them create their own paradise.
The game is deceivingly addictive and easy to get lost in, as the personal tasks that players set for themselves become tantalizing goals that many will happily sink hours into completing. The game’s laid-back, relaxing tone makes it a perfect option to play while listening to a podcast.2 Civilization 6
For those who are new to the Civilization series, Civilization 6 may seem like an odd choice for this list. The game is overwhelmingly complex for new players to get to grips with and filled with text screens for players to absorb. However, there will come a time when the game will click with players, and they’ll be able to switch off any help and guidance.
Once players reach that stage, which comes around surprisingly quickly, Civilization 6 becomes an ideal game to play while listening to a podcast, as players will find themselves glued to the screen as they can’t resist but play another turn again and again.3 Most Platformers
When looking for games without much text, dialogue, or cutscenes, the platforming genre is a great place to start. Although there are some exceptions, most platformers spend very little time setting the stage or telling a complex story and just give players a generic goal before letting them jump straight into the action.
Most platform games follow the Super Mario 64 blueprint of storytelling, where Peach tells Mario she’s baking a cake; Mario hears she’s been kidnaped; then there’s virtually no story whatsoever until the very end, where Peach finally bakes Mario the cake she promised after good prevails over evil.4 The Witness
The Witness is an open-world puzzle game that was designed by Jonathan Blow, who is best known for his work on the highly-influential indie game Braid.
In terms of the game’s sound design, The Witness predominantly just has ambient sounds,and dialogue is reduced to a handful of optional tape recordings. Listening to podcasts or music can be distracting in some puzzle games, though it’s not much of an issue in The Witness as players are free to explore the island and solve puzzles at their own pace, with only a small handful of the game’s many puzzles implementing time constraints.5 Farming Simulator Series
The Farming Simulator series has had a huge influence on the simulator genre in recent years. The series spiked in popularity during the 2010s when the game became a meme online, and many people played it as a joke before realizing that there was actually a lot of value in seemingly mundane simulator games.
The Farming Simulator series isn’t going to make players cry from a gripping story or pump their fists in excitement after completing a tough level, though it offers engrossing simplicity with plenty to aim for and work towards, keeping players engaged and making it an ideal game to play while listening to something else.6 Microsoft Flight Simulator (2020)
Another excellent simulator game to play while listening to a podcast is Microsoft Flight Simulator. The game was released on PC in 2020 before arriving on Xbox Series X/S the following year; the game was highly praised by critics and received stellar Metascores of 90 and 91.
Like Farming Simulator, Microsoft Flight Simulator requires the player’s full attention for at least the first hour as they learn the controls and mechanics, but once that’s done, they can set off on a journey of their choosing and explore some of the world’s most iconic locations, all while listening to their favorite podcast.7 Minecraft
Minecraft received its full release over 10 years ago now, and it has already sold over 200 million copies, making it the second highest-selling game of all time, behind only Tetris.
Minecraft is, in many ways, the ultimate open-world experience, as it has a completely hands-off approach in regard to how much guidance it gives the player. Minecraft trusts its players to create their own objectives, secure in the knowledge that one’s own imagination will create a lifetime’s supply of stories. The game’s Creative and Survival modes are both ideal for podcast listening when playing alone, as time will fly by as players create ginormous structures or mine for diamonds.8 Elden Ring
Elden Ring was released in February 2022 and was a roaring success both critically and commercially, with over 20 million copies sold and a whopping 96 Metascore. Elden Ring sticks to FromSoftware’s tried and tested Soulsborne formula, with punishing levels of difficulty, minimal cutscenes, numerous items and weapons to find, and memorable boss fights all appearing in the game.
The lack of cutscenes and the fact that players will often be fighting the same boss or struggling through the same area for a while has always made Soulsborne games a good choice to play while listening to a podcast. Elden Ring is by far the best game in the series for podcast listening, though, due to the implementation of an enormous open world that players can spend hundreds of hours exploring at their own pace.9 Cities: Skylines
Cities: Skylines is a management game that gives players the daunting task of building a thriving city from scratch. Players aren’t just tasked with making their city look nice, as they must also take into consideration real-world issues, such as pollution, budgeting, and traffic congestion. This may sound like the furthest thing from a relaxing experience on paper, but once players get into the swing of things, Cities: Skylines becomes an engrossing yet laid-back experience as players meticulously develop their city over many hours.
Like some of the other games on this list, Cities: Skylines can be tricky to learn at first, but once players have a grasp of all the mechanics, it becomes a great choice to play while listening to something else.10 The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom
In terms of gameplay, The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom picks up where its predecessor, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, left off. Like Breath of the Wild, 2023’s Tears of the Kingdom gives players an enormous open world to explore and lets them venture in any direction that they want; in Tears of the Kingdom, these directions now include up into the sky and down into the depths of dark, gloomy caves.
Due to the size of the game’s map, players will often find themselves adventuring for hours without coming across an NPC to talk to, so it’s certainly viable to put a podcast on without having to worry about being frequently interrupted by cutscenes or dialogue.