Five Games that Are More Fun to Watch than Play

This has been a post long-brewing with a former roommate of mine, but I finally sat down and rounded out a list we’d been discussing for a while.

When playing certain games, my friend noticed that he was having a lot of fun just simply…watching. Thinking back, I remembered something similar happening with a few titles over the years, as I went over to friend’s houses and saw them play single player without me. Sometimes it was boring, but for a few titles? It was actually blast to watch, and I actually had more fun before I took the controller.

These five games I’ve found are either a lot or a little bit more fun to play when watching. Feel free to disagree or add your own.

1. God of War

Hear me out. God of War is fun to play. There’s nothing like jamming on four buttons at once, telling yourself you’re doing actual purposeful combos as you butcher legions of mythological creatures. But the problem is that the game is actually a touch more fun to watch than play. Why?

It’s easy, quicktime events. The game is full of them, and almost ever large enemy or boss encounter will be chock full of those moments where you have to press X in half a second to properly disembowel a minotaur, lest you get gored on its horns.

These events are stressful to the player, who is constantly searching the screen for the next button he must press immediately or risk death, and he cannot focus on the glorious carnage that’s actually being performed as a result of his actions. A viewer, on the other hand, can experience every visceral detail of these events with mouth open, not worrying about the next button press.

2. Starcraft

This one was too easy to cite, and it’s the only selection I’ll be making based on “eSports” criteria. Yes, professional Starcraft is watched the world over by millions of fans, and there’s a reason for that. If you know what the hell is going on, the game is pretty damn exciting.

In fact, it’s a prime example of a game that’s more fun to watch than actually play yourself. Playing SC for many results in “ladder anxiety” that stems from a fear to make wrong decisions in a game, lose said game, and then be trash talked after said game. While it’s fun to win, the stress of losing (and losing a lot) often can take a lot of the fun out of playing.

But watching? Weekend long tournaments go by in a breeze if you’re watching pro players you’re familiar with, competing at skill levels you couldn’t even dream about reaching. I’ve caught myself more than a few times throwing my arms up in the air during a particularly fantastic moment, something I rarely do while watching actual sporting events.

3. Grand Theft Auto

Perhaps this is one exclusive to me, but at least back when Grand Theft Auto III came out when I was a kid (errr, tween?), I always enjoyed watching my friends try to outrun the cops or gun down gang members.

There was just something nice about not having to concern yourself with mission objectives or imminent arrest or death. You just got to sit there and watch your friend unleash pure destruction as you sat and laugh at each cop car hitting a tree or pedestrian hitting their windshield.

Watching Grand Theft Auto is like an endless Michael Bay movie with all the inane dialogue stripped away and replaced by drive-bys in ice cream trucks.

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  1. Interesting, watching pro-Counter Strike has always been more fun for me than playing it.

    PS. I’m not sure this needed to be on 3 pages.

  2. There has always been a bundle of games I found more fun to watch than to actually play. When I was really young – like 4 or 6 years old – I used to watch my dad play the original Legend of Zelda on NES. The Resident Evil series has always been on this list for me as well. My ex-roommate used to love watching me play Fallout 3 and Skyrim, and I could watch FIFA matches all day long.

  3. Completely agree on having God of War here. Just sitting there and watching the action/set pieces and enjoying every detail of the game.

    I’d like to point out that the Uncharted series should be in there somewhere. I’ve played it with my friends watching behind me and no one in the room got bored. Those games, aside from being great, are actually very cinematic. Heck, you even posted a youtube video of an Uncharted movie a few weeks ago.

    Sports games are not allowed in this list I assume because they’re obvious answers?

  4. While not automatically worthy of this list, If a player sticks to storyline (and loyalty, in 2) missions, Mass Effect can be an awesome ride for viewers. The trouble comes when the player wants to side-quest about to level, or scan planets, or whatever. Actually, on reflection, most of ME3’s mission are spectator worthy, main story or not (Save biotic students, Disarm Bomb, investigate A/Y Monastary, etc.).

  5. I was never a fan of the Final Fantasy series, but my roommate at the time (mid-90’s) was a die-hard one. I enjoyed many countless hours just sitting and watching him and also discussing with him what was going on while he played.

    Excellent post, BTW. Something not many people consider, I think.

  6. I don’t know if it’s more fun to watch than play since I only watched my roommate play it, but Assassin’s Creed games are basically mini movies if you’re watching someone else play.

  7. GTA, MGS and Burnout Paradies more fun to watch than play?
    LOL no.

    And GoW isn’t fun to watch OR play. That whole franchise blows.

  8. I’d put dark souls in here; the player has to constantly keep on guard so that he doesn’t die and lose all of his money/experience while the viewer has the position of reveling in the player’s constant dying.

  9. My wife says LA Noire is one of these. I wouldn’t know, as I was the one who played it. She also likes watching me play the Mass Effect games.

  10. Well, if you’re in Korea, there’s a channel where you can watch SC. It was pretty much the only channel I kept my TV on because it was all I understood.


  11. Fighting games like soul caliber, especially if the players you are watching know what they are doing. Rockband and guitar hero as well, when you can actually see the players, at least the ones playing on harder difficulties and seeing the hand movements mixed with the lighting up of the screen as they hit every note correctly. Resident evil games I can see being more fun to watch, especially in the later versions where the combat got more intense. The great thing about watching someone play a video game as opposed to a movie is that when you yell at the guy on the screen about an incoming bad guy they can actually hear you >.<

  12. Not sure if Burnout or MGS are more fun to watch than play, but they are definitely entertaining to watch. Although from what friends have said, and what I myself have experienced, I feel that some of the Resident Evil games might have deserved a spot on this list.
    And as Charlie Ward said, I expect LA Noire to have the same effect, but I have not personally played/watched the game myself.

  13. In burnout you can restart a race without having to go all the way back to the traffic lights and the indicators on the car tell you which route to take if you can’t be bothered mapping one out yourself

  14. Well dunno if some games are more fun watching then playing, but i would say that some (if not all) the mentioned games even from the comments are fun to watch. I would also add Heavy rain and Fahrenheit, and HoN/Dota/Lol (pro matches). I also enyojed watching my friends play C&C generals in Lan parties, but I never played it so i dunno if it is more fun to play then watch.

  15. I think the makers of Metal Gear Solid series realize how sometimes their game is more fun to be watched than played. If you got the Limited Edition copy of Metal Gear Solid 3 it contained a disc that was nothing but the cut scenes edited into a movie format.

    I greatly enjoyed playing MGS II and III but I would definitely agree that the first and fourth are more fun to watch.

  16. Disagree with God of War, don’t care about the rest.

    The quick time event’s may have been a bit ‘bleh’ in GOW1 and a little better in GOW2 but they completely perfected them in GOW3 where you didn’t have to look away from the action to see the button prompts as they corresponded with the controller layout and had a white light flash by them which is very easy for the eye to pick up which makes sure the player can respond to QTEs quickly.

    God of War is the best franchise out there, it’s just as fun to play as it is to watch. I remember playing GOW3 in front of 10 people on my big screen a few weeks after the game came out and they were all loving it! No other game has entertained them as much, and of course I was having a excellent time playing it because everything was just so perfectly crafted in that game, just a pure masterpiece.

  17. My roommate has been playing BioShock, to the point that it’s become a household event. Everyone sits down on the couch and we have drinks together. It’s a game we all enjoy watching, but don’t have the testicular fortitude to play through on our own. There really aren’t any side-missions, it’s just one straight play-through filled with jumps and ‘oh shit’ moments that are just as scary for the people watching as for the player.

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