Note: This article has been updated, and may be subsequently updated in future, as more gamers reveal their shame games.
We all have games that we don’t want to tell people we’re into.
It may be Fortnite, it may be Minecraft, or it may even be that one game that you saw in a mobile ad once that looks like it was made in a day for the sole purpose of shovelling ads into the players’ eyes. But it wastes some time. It gives you quick satisfaction. You love it, but there’s a part of you that also hates it.
Guilty pleasure games are those exact games. Sometimes we simply don’t play all the ‘cool games’ that people generally play, or sometimes we play the games that everybody plays but that, in turn, makes us uncool. It’s all very stupid and confusing, but we really do live in a society.
My shame game
My guilty pleasure game for a very, very long time was the Kim Kardashian Hollywood game on mobile phones. I put a lot of time (and embarrassingly, more money than I’d like to admit) into that game. For what reason? I don’t know. I still can’t fully process it to this day. I almost feel like I blacked out, and then suddenly I was an A-list celebrity hanging out with my close personal bestie, Kim Kardashian. It is my greatest gamer shame.
Ever since then, I swore to only play mobile games that I have to do a single payment for, be it the price of the game or the price for no more ads. If it’s good enough, I will pay the price. However, I stopped playing games with in-app purchases after Kim Kardashian Hollywood because I clearly have no self-control and am a huge cringelord.
I didn’t want to be alone in my shame, so I also decided to reach out to my co-workers and our Kotaku Australia readers to hear about what their guilty pleasure games are, and honestly? I’m very happy with the responses.
The thing is, not all these games are shameful. Some of these games aren’t even bad. But shame and embarrassment comes from within, and perhaps bringing them into the light will clear us of our shame.
My guilty pleasure is playing Call Of Duty (campaign mode) to relax when I’m stressed AF. It’s my go-to franchise to forget real life for a hot second and be fully immersed in the gameplay.
I went through a big phase of playing those anime boyfriend simulators a few years ago and I still think about them.
I was hella thirsty for those two-dimensional men and the stories were a guilty pleasure I liked to follow along. Sometimes I was very tempted to pay the $2 just to get to the next chapter of the story — but thankfully I wasn’t that addicted.
I guess I’m ashamed of it because I’m in a loving, long-term relationship but it was honestly a bit of fun that’s free and just as good as they look in those Facebook ads. God forbid my boyfriend finds out and makes fun of me for it lmao.
I cringe as I write this but… I used to play Episode. Yes, that spammy ad game that you sometimes see clog your Facebook feed. I secretly loved playing it because it reminded me of games I used to play, like Stardoll, Sims (and Omegle!), but with the added drama of affairs and fame.
As a teenager, it was titillating stuff. It’s long been deleted off my phone but I still do linger over their Facebook ads…
When I was in primary school, I had a Hamtaro Game Boy Advance game I quite liked playing — think it was called Ham-Ham Heartbreak. I was really careful to never play it in front of my friends. As far as my friends knew, I was the Legacy of Goku and Pokémon guy, but in the darkness, I played Hamtaro.
One day I was at a family friend’s house, and I was playing Hamtaro, secure in the knowledge that it was just adults around, and no one would care to spy at what I’d be playing in my little corner of the lounge room. Then my mum’s friend’s son came home — he was older and cooler. I saw him approach me so I quickly pulled the cartridge out and stuffed it in my pocket. I didn’t even save the game.
He asked me what I was playing, but my dumb eight-year-old brain couldn’t come up with anything smarter than “nothing” — even though I was clearly playing something. He asked to see my Game Boy and I handed it over to him, reluctantly. After some gentle prodding, I eventually gave in and pulled the game out of my pocket and he just laughed. I still think about that now, almost two decades later.
Call of Duty. I keep playing it because the gameplay loop and the satisfaction of getting a kill is absolutely unbeatable. Call of Duty has mastered the reward factor through its tight controls and constant reward mechanisms.
I’m ashamed of it because of war crimes, obviously. The game has turned war into a circus, making light of the worst of humanity by turning it into mountain dew sponsorships and weed jokes.
Fortnite, Minecraft, EVERY Pokémon game, especially Pokémon Showdown.
Fall Guys sucked me in with its simplicity, competitiveness and its adorable characters. I will literally do anything for these colourful beans. I know a lot of people say Fall Guys is a “dead game” but it continues to live while I’m still playing it.
I may or may not have downloaded that water sort puzzle that was showing up as ads on Beatstar. It started as a way to calm down and do something utterly mindless and now I’m addicted to getting all the colours into the one tube. Please keep me anonymous, I am an embarrassment to my entire family.
Even as a child, I recall keeping this on the down-low because it wasn’t cool. As a wannabe horse girl, I used to play this Mary-Kate & Ashley Olsen horse riding game. I believe it was on GameCube, which maybe feels like the most shameful part of the story? I’m not gamer enough to know. I reckon I played another MKA number too; I remember driving them around in Jeeps. Bless. Good times.
I, um, have been harbouring a mild addiction to Microsoft Jewel for a few months now and I’m definitely not proud of this.
Crash Bandicoot 1-4. I’m not proud to say it’s quite literally the only game I play on my PlayStation, which feels like a shameful waste — but there’s just something about it that means I never get bored playing.
Not only is it really nostalgic, but it’s a big stress reliever. When I’m playing, protecting that little orange dude from being blown up by nitro crates is my only focus.
I play Fortnite like it’s still 2016. I’m ashamed because my nine-year-old brother also plays it…
Extreme Warfare Revenge. A 20+ year old text-based wrestling game where you run a company and create the storylines. It’s just very hard to explain to people when they see me playing it as it looks incredibly bland/lame.
Still got a huge soft spot for the admittedly pretty awful (but very charming) Sid Meier’s Railroads!. It’s really not a great game — train or otherwise — but it just feels like happily playing with a toy train set.
Like, the little bridges unfold like paper models when they’re built. It plays bluegrass music about the cities you’re mousing over.
Railroad Tycoon has strategy, depth. I still play it. Railroads! is just happy… but mediocre.
The Urbz back in the day. Closest thing we got to a Busting Out sequel and it was so trashy. In hindsight, having the Black Eyed Peas in it was pure cringe and only my complete ignorance of any and all contemporary music saved me.
So, during early 2021, my friend downloaded MudRunner on his PC as a lark and invited me over to check it out. Almost instantly he was turned off it because it’s a pretty dry trucking simulator, but for reasons I cannot understand, I was drawn in.
This turned into a 2-hour stretch of me driving various trucks around an island with no real aim or purpose, just vibes, while my friend deeply wished he hadn’t invited me over. We were also listening to an exclusively CCR (Creedence Clearwater Revival) and Lynyrd Skynyrd playlist to complete the aesthetic.
Two Dots. I like playing it because I get a feeling of accomplishment while zoning out for the day. I’m ashamed of it because I should be doing better things with my time.
Sort Puz – it’s basically sorting coloured liquid into test tubes. I like it because it’s really simple but still difficult to beat some levels, so it’s satisfying when you pass. I’m ashamed because I fell for in-app advertising for it on another app, it’s such a silly concept and I’m on level 1660…
Should we really be ashamed of the game that brings us shame?
I don’t know about you guys, but these actually rock to me. Hearing people tell their shame game stories of sorrow, how they would (or still do) hide these games from their friends and families out of fear of getting dunked on? It fills me with joy.
Why joy? Great question. These are all formative experiences. When we play games in secret, we channel an incredibly true and honest version of ourselves. That’s not to say that the guilty pleasure games define us, but that they simply reflect a side of us we don’t see too often. The side that loves to dress up, the side that loves to ride horses, the side that wants to keep on truckin’.
It’s beautiful, isn’t it? At the end of the day, there’s no shame in any of these games. I play plenty of games that other people would poo-poo, but they bring me joy so why the hell would I stop?
And why should you either? If a game brings you joy, play it! If it bleeds you dry like Kim Kardashian Hollywood or Candy Crush, maybe play something else and then reflect on why it was a bit funny in the end.
And now it’s your turn. What’s your guilty pleasure game? Get it out in the open, free yourself from the chains of ‘cringe’ that hold you back.
*Some names have been changed at the request of the shame-gamers, in order to protect said individuals from personal embarrassment.