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Best games for your work-from-home laptop

These PC games will run on almost any laptop, because you can't spend all day in Zoom meetings.

Dan Ackerman Editorial Director / Computers and Gaming
Dan Ackerman leads CNET's coverage of computers and gaming hardware. A New York native and former radio DJ, he's also a regular TV talking head and the author of "The Tetris Effect" (Hachette/PublicAffairs), a non-fiction gaming and business history book that has earned rave reviews from the New York Times, Fortune, LA Review of Books, and many other publications. "Upends the standard Silicon Valley, Steve Jobs/Mark Zuckerberg technology-creation myth... the story shines." -- The New York Times
Expertise I've been testing and reviewing computer and gaming hardware for over 20 years, covering every console launch since the Dreamcast and every MacBook...ever. Credentials
  • Author of the award-winning, NY Times-reviewed nonfiction book The Tetris Effect; Longtime consumer technology expert for CBS Mornings
Dan Ackerman
3 min read
Dan Ackerman/CNET

Working remotely is a little easier because you managed to snag a decent work-from-home laptop. Maybe it's a borrowed one from the office. Maybe it's a standard mainstream family laptop. Maybe you splurged on something new and ordered it online. 

But, chances are it's not a gaming laptop. No flashing lights. No alien, snake or alien-snake logos. Most importantly, no discrete graphics chip from Nvidia or AMD. 

That means your choice of games to sneak off and play in the middle of the day will be rather limited. No Doom Eternal. No Resident Evil 3. But don't worry, there are options beyond Minesweeper and Zork. 

These games, mostly new (or recently rereleased) are some of my play-anywhere favorites right now. Note that because I'm working remotely and don't have access to the dozens of laptops usually in the CNET Labs, I'm testing these on a Dell XPS 13, which is a nicer mainstream laptop, but without a separate GPU. Your mileage may vary, but almost all of the games below have graphics settings that can be dialed down even further for better performance. 

My new favorite casual time-killing game. This is a card-game-style 2D dungeon crawler, where your crew explores derelict spaceships for clues to a larger cosmic mystery. There are basically no in-game graphics options, but almost the entire game is told through still (or at best lightly animated) illustrations, so it played exactly the same on my casual laptop and my gaming rig. 

The art-house game of 2019, this point-and-click adventure follows a burned-out cop in a vaguely European dystopian future trying to solve a murder and stay sober enough to remember what his name is. I played it at full 1,920x1,200 resolution with anti-aliasing off and other graphics options set to low. It was very playable, but not as smooth as I'd like.

The battle royale shooter famously plays on anything more powerful than a pocket calculator, so no surprise here. That said, I had to crank the settings way down to get the frame rate in the mid-50s for most of the match, with some inevitable drops. There's a tool for automatically applying the best graphics settings, but that did nothing useful for me. I ended up settling on a 1,680x1,050 resolution and most graphics option set to low.

One of the great "lost" games of all time, this 1997 adventure had been unavailable for more than 20 years, mostly thanks to rights issues. It's finally been rereleased on GOG, the online game service best known for resurrecting classic games, tweaked to run on modern computers. Amazingly, it's one of the few retro classics that really holds up. Since the graphics are still '90s-era, this had no trouble running on my work laptop. A remastered version has also been announced, but there's no firm date on that yet. 

A throwback 2D mystery adventure, think of Thimbleweed Park as a Twin Peaks episode set in a county fair. If you get hit with some deja vu for lost LucasArts classics such as Monkey Island and Maniac Mansion, that's because some of the same team worked on this.

For further game suggestions, see our previous collection of games that will run on almost any laptop, with even more picks in the gallery below. 

More games that will run an (almost) any nongaming laptop

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