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BLOG – Video games to play when you only have one hand

About a month ago I broke my finger. It is a long story but I was helping a FedEx delivery guy at work get a pallet jack down from his non-lift gate truck.  As the heavy unevenness of the jack landed on the ground, my finger got caught between the wheel and wheel housing, crushing my finger in the process. Sure it physically hurt and there was blood everywhere but my frustration outweighed my pain.  Why?  Because that is my trigger finger (I am right handed and this was my right index pointer finger) and now I can’t play games. Not playing games when you run a website based on video games is a problem. Further, typing and using a mouse is also next to impossible, not to mention simple tasks like getting the keys out of your pocket or turning a door knob. Why couldn’t I have broken a toe?

A busted trigger finger is a horrible thing to break when trying to play games. It is difficult to hold a modern controller with a finger splint and there is no chance of hitting the bumper or trigger buttons with any sort of accuracy or speed as there is no tactile feedback whatsoever. Not good.

This first-hand experience got me thinking: I can’t be the only one, and there has to be games I can still play. My heart goes out to anyone who wants to game but has difficulty due to any physical ailments. Thankfully, Microsoft took a decent first step in addressing this issue.

Because I couldn’t play many games because of a busted finger, I wanted to compile a list of video games that can be played with one hand or minimal input, old or new. So if you have one hand, or a temporary gimp finger like me, here are some games that can still be played due to their slower pace.

But first, let’s quickly establish some games that absolutely will not work when playing one handed.  First person shooters are the best example.  There is no way to use both analog sticks, the face buttons, and triggers in a fast paced environment when only using one hand. Platformers is another good example as the player has to often move and jump at the same time. Many sports games and fighting titles become nearly unplayable as they always use multiple buttons in combination with directional controls.  These types of games would not be easy to play or enjoy.

Here is a list of games that can be (somewhat comfortably) played one-handed:

#1 – Pac-Man


The arcade original has not only been a fan favorite for decades across the globe, all play control is handled through a single joystick (and technically one button to actually start the game and maybe you need some fingers to drop in a quarter).  If you really had to, this game can be played with your toes, the palm of your hand, or probably your nose if you really tried.  Pac-Man has to be the best example of a game to play one handed.

#2 – Super Monkey Ball
In a way, Super Monkey Ball is almost like farfetched Pac-Man just in a 3D space as it only requires the use of a single analog stick. Sure ghosts are not chasing you around a looping maze but you are collecting bananas like Pac-Man’s gobbling white dots. To be fair, there are some Super Monkey Ball titles that include mini games that require button presses, and the HD port of Banana Blitz includes a jump feature, but the player only needs to keep balance by using a single analog stick which makes this a great option for one handed play. Marble Madness is another alternative.

#3 – many RPGs

Mobile versions have touch controls, good for one hand

The good news about RPGs, many of them can be played with only one hand. One handed players will have difficulty with games like Xenoblade Chronicles or Final Fantasy XII as they require use of every button on the controller in real time.  However, older RPGs like Final Fantasy 1-6 or even Chrono Trigger can be played with one hand. Players can move with the d-pad then easily tap the confirm/cancel buttons with the same hand. Are these games easier to play with two hands? Of course, but they can still be enjoyed even when using one hand to switch to both sides of the controller. And maybe stay away from the Mario & Luigi RPGs as they often require multiple timed button presses.

#4 – Rogue titles
Typical Rogue titles are unique as the playable character is placed on a grid and enemies move and act when you do.  This means one handed players can tap a direction on the d-pad then press a face button on the other side of the controller when ready without penalty.  With the explosion of indie Rogue titles now available, there are plenty that disabled gamers can enjoy without the stress of quickly needing to press buttons. Examples: Quest of Dungeons or any Shiren game.

#5 – Nintendo Badge Arcade (3DS)
If you have not heard of the Nintendo Badge Arcade, it is a free 3DS app that rewards players with “badges” in which to decorate the 3DS home screen.  Using an interface of a typical claw catcher you would see at any arcade or kid fun-zone, the game now gives the player 2 free plays each real world calendar day.  More free plays can be earned using the once-per-day practice catcher. The best part is, you only need one hand.  In fact, the game only uses one button and couldn’t be simpler. You are only going to play this for a few minutes before you use your daily free play (unless you want to pony up for some micro transactions) but ideal for one handed players nonetheless.

#6 – Tactical RPGs
Like #3 listed above, most tactical RPGs can be played with one hand. Most of the time, the player is controlling a cursor on the screen, then needs to press a couple face buttons to launch a physical or magical attack, as pretty much the whole experience is played from a menu.  Since no fast movements or button combinations are necessary, TRPGs are a great choice to get a hardcore experience with minimal input.

Examples: Advance Wars (GBA), Advance Wars 2 (GBA), Advance Wars Dual Strike (DS), Vandal Hearts 1 and 2 (PS1), Tactics Ogre (PS1/PSP), Final Fantasy Tactics (PS1/PSP), the Disgaea series.

#7 – most Golf games
I know I mentioned sports games are usually not a good option for one handed players but golf games are a good exception.  Since most golf titles incorporate the 3-click rule, they can easily be played with only one hand. Line up your shot, then tap the shot button when ready.  Since golf is a slower paced game anyway, one handed players should feel at home playing one of these titles. But if Golf isn’t you think, there are a few bowling games that only need one hand.  Pool/billiards is another decent option.

Examples: Golf (NES), Mario Golf series (Nintendo), Hot Shots Golf/Everybody’s Golf (Playstation)

#8 – any Animal Crossing game
Although things happens at certain times of the day, the entire Animal Crossing experience is always casual.  Having two hands on the controller makes for a more fluid experience but the game can be played solo handed if needed.  From walking around town, selling items, digging for fossils, fishing, and catching bugs can be done with one hand.  The later Animal Crossing games also included multiplayer so you can have a friend try and help as well.

#9 – the Art Academy games
Assuming you can access to your preferred hand, players can enhance their drawing and painting skills using only a stylus on a touch screen.  Nintendo handheld titles are not really games as they are educational tools designed to make learning and developing a skill entertaining.

Example: Art Academy Lessons for Everyone (3DS)

#10 – Chess/Card games

Pokemon’s card game is another example

Most board games can be played with one hand.  Video game versions of chess, card, and casino games are no different.  Just stay away from the Mario Party series as many games require both hands.

Examples: Chessmaster, Uno, Vegas Stakes (SNES), Ultimate Card Games (GBC)

#11 – Point and Click titles
If you have one hand, you can play classic point-and-click games as you really only need one finger.

Examples: pretty much any Lucas Arts games like Escape From Monkey Island or Manic Mansion

#12 – Light Gun games


Holding a pistol controller only requires one hand. Sure, it is more comfortable to use two, but one is enough to get the job done.

Examples: Time Crisis, Point Black, and many games at a local arcade like T2 or Revolution X

#13 – Kinect games
Remember the Kinect? If you do, it is probably best you don’t.  However, if you have limited hand movement, hopefully you have some body movement available.  Jumping around in front of your TV might make you look like an idiot, but so is holding a controller with a finger splint.

Examples: Kinect Sports, Kinect Adventures, Happy Action Theater.

Also try Wii Fit or other Wii Balance Board titles.

#14 – Wii Sports
Nintendo’s success of the Wii boiled down to the simplistic of the controller. Basically acting as a TV remote with motion sensitivity, many games focused on movement over button presses. Wii Sports, Wii Motion, and Wii Play are probably the best examples of this.  One handed players might be better waving a wand around as opposed to button mashing.

Curious to know what injuries you might have experienced that prevented you from playing games.  Did you find any creative solutions that allowed you to play games while injured? And what other games are good examples of one-handed play?  Let me know in the comments below or hit me on Twitter.

By: Zachary Gasiorowski, Editor in Chief myGamer.com
Twitter: @ZackGaz

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