All of today's games are "endless" in some manner. Whether it be in dreams, memories, pursuits, investigations, or music creation. You can play them for as long as you like (mostly). Today, you're in charge of your own time.
Why play it? When the next "game director" claims that reaching emotions in videogames requires detailed facial expressions and orchestral music, I'll shove Bottle Rockets in their face.
This platformer runs for five minutes (the length of Aphex Twin's track Alberto Balsam) and in that time it had me sobbing. Oddly enough, that didn't happen the first time I played it, but during and after the second playthrough.
It reminds us of our loved ones, particularly those we have lost, with sentences evoking melancholy and memories that were never able to happen. It's a despairing tale of a daughter looking for her mother whom she lost to an accident in space. Many of us know the anguish that coils inside when grieving someone close; how we aspire to reach out to them. It never leaves instead getting buried beneath the skin. This is a game for when you need to let it out and cry.
It struck a personal note for me and struck it hard. Maybe it will for you, too.
Download on Game Jolt (Windows)
Why play it? The bizarre and short point-and-click tale of The Long Rain lives up to its Gilliam-esque collage. That's not too much of a surprise considering that it's very loosely based on Ray Bradbury's vision of Venus as a planet with rain relentless enough to send a person insane.
What I found most enjoyable were the touches of humor that separate it from Bradbury's depressing tale. The legless librarian is easily my favorite character. His bitter wit against those with legs is genuinely amusing, and his absurdly long arms suggest that he's contorted his remaining limbs to serve his every need. A man of incredible fortitude.
If you've got the time you should also check out Joe's more recent game Unnecessary Sentience. It re-uses the same assets for a slightly more grim tale. It almost feels like a follow-up to The Long Rain.
Download on Game Jolt (Windows)
Why play it? Between exploration, sophisticated visuals, and a music toy; S bears a satisfying and spontaneous performance.
This black-and-white watery landscape is silent until you come along with your tonal shapes and noise.
Doing away with any concept of a GUI, music is created by picking a shade between black and white, holding down the mouse button to swell the sound, and then flinging the resulting cube in front of you. You manufacture notes by accident and create a humming choir of diverse timbre all around you. Walking around afterwards to find your accidental harmonies is strangely satisfying.
Download on itch.io (Windows, Mac, Linux)
Why play it? Still screenshots have nothing on actually playing Dream Warrior. Dream Warrior is the melted butter on your videogame toast that you've always had a craving for but never found the equivalent taste and texture.
In this world, everything waves at you with the frivolity of color and rhythm. You're free to swim as you wish, free to swim in any direction, even the places you shouldn't. Go to the cosmic purples and the red chambers. Go to the glitchscapes where clones of yourself smear across the screen.
Everything you experience in Dream Warrior is intentional. Dream Warrior is an alternative dimension and the place you'd rather be.
Download on itch.io (Windows, Mac)
Why play it? Within the first five seconds of Grim Express a man is murdered right in front of you (in the dark). Thus commences your investigation into this murder mystery on a moving train.
It's a classic whodunnit with some of the flair of Brendon Chung's Gravity Bone. The clues are quite easy to find but weighing up each suspect is much, much tougher. You'll certainly want to replay this one, if not to find out who actually did murder the doctor, then to appreciate the subtle details of its set design and how the interconnected evidence steadily stacks up.
Download here (Windows)
Why play it? I could probably play The Little Tree Spirit forever. It's possible, too, as it depicts the endless climb of nature; up and up.
It becomes a gleeful performance as you collect blue seeds to grow the plant at the center. You also have to dodge the spiky spheres that threaten to disperse your load. They encourage you to stay focused while you climb on and on with plenty of rhyme but no reason.
If you don't find meditation in the repetition then you might frighten yourself with the loss of time spent pursuing a goal that doesn't exist. Don't do that: Let the pleasure flow and you should find calm and comfort.
Play on Newgrounds (Browser)