The best video games to move with when you can't hit the gym
It can be hard to find the motivation to exercise while quarantined in your home for most of the day, but physical fitness games can help when you're looking for a fun way to keep your feet moving. If you're an intense gym-goer, these games might feel like a step down from your normal routine, but they can still provide a decent amount of physical activity for all you less active folks (like me). While there are countless workout games out there to choose from, below are a few of my personal favorites.
Nintendo Jump Rope Challenge
If you have a Nintendo Switch, then drop what you're doing and download this free game right now. Nintendo Jump Rope Challenge is a simple-yet-adorable game that's perfect for adults working from home. All you have to do is detach the two Joy-Con controllers from the side of the Switch screen, hold them like jump rope handles, and start jumping. The game will keep count of your jumps and encourage you to do at least 100 hops per day by tracking your activity on a daily and weekly basis.
If it feels like a game particularly suited for people working from home, that's probably because it was made by Nintendo developers who've been stuck working from home. The devs wanted something fun that could get them moving during breaks, so they created this game for a quick jolt of activity.
My very middle-aged mother wanted to try this cute little game when she saw me playing, and luckily the game comes with a handy two-player mode for moments like this. After starting the game, hit the minus or plus button to add a second player, hand one of the Joy-Con controllers to your pal, and start jumping.
Nintendo Jump Rope Challenge is available on the Nintendo eShop until the end of September 2020.
Ring Fit Adventure
Ring Fit Adventure for the Nintendo Switch is a hot item that became extremely hard to find in stores as people snapped it up right when nationwide pandemic-related lockdowns began in March. Physical copies were sold out on both physical and online stores and digital copies didn't exist due to the equipment the game comes with. Nintendo confirmed the shortage and promised that more copies were being manufactured in May, but admitted that there could be a delay as their factories recovered from the impact of Covid-19.
I got my grubby hands on the game last year, when it released in October, and have been playing it off and on ever since. This game is highly sought after for a reason — it's actually way more intense than I expected.
Ring Fit Adventure focuses on aerobics and resistance training to get you sweating. By placing Joy-Con controllers in the accompanying thigh strap and resistance ring, the game can detect — with shocking accuracy! — how players are moving, when they're slowing down, and who's slouching on their form. There's really no mercy to be had in Ring Fit Adventure; the highest difficulty levels can really pile on the reps and the in-game timer only tracks minutes when you're active, not lingering in menus, which means aiming for 30-minutes of in-game activity can sometimes take an hour or two in real life. Needless to say, this game, if you can find it, is definitely one to grab if you're looking for a good sweat.
Just Dance 2020
Sometimes the best form of exercise is the one that doesn't feel like exercise at all. The Just Dance series knows how to use the power of dance and makes sure to ramp it up to a hundred with its colorful dancers, at-times demanding dances, and flashy backgrounds.
The latest game in the series, Just Dance 2020, takes pop music from all over the globe and uses dances with repetitive motion to get people moving. It's not too difficult for newcomers to pick up, though it'll definitely take a few tries to understand what the game is looking for. Thankfully, the incredibly enthusiastic dancers on the screen, and the instructions on the lower right, are there to help you figure out how to keep your limbs from flailing too much.
Just Dance is good whether you're dancing alone or with a small group of friends. Once you get past the feeling of embarrassment that comes from dancing like a goof, you'll start to really enjoy how much it makes you move around. Just Dance 2020 is available for the Nintendo Switch, Nintendo Wii (!!), PS4, and Xbox One.
Released in 2018, Fitness Boxing for the Nintendo Switch might look a bit janky at first, but it manages to play fairly well by holding the detachable Joy-Con controllers in your hands in lieu of actual boxing gloves. This game uses music, varying play speeds, and different boxing punches — such as uppercuts and jabs — to get you shadowboxing to the beat.
There's a lot of customization available for players, and even a two-player mode where you and a buddy can play at the same time to either train or play a virtual match against each other. Reviewers noted that the motion controls were either too sensitive or slightly off at times, which impacted how well they did in the game due to incorrect or mistimed inputs. But reviewers also praised it for doing its job as a fairly good introduction to boxing that isn't as demanding as a professional trainer.
Players with injuries have said Fitness Boxing was good for some easygoing cardio, and other reviewers attested to the game's higher difficulty levels making them feel sore the day after. I wouldn't say it's as good as Ring Fit Adventure, but it wouldn't be a bad choice if you're looking for an alternative and don't feel like dancing.
Zumba: Burn It Up!
If you've ever done Zumba in real life, then you know how high energy and hectic it can get. The Zumba-licensed video games are no different with their Latin-inspired background music and actual human trainers to dance with. The latest game, Zumba: Burn It Up, is another Nintendo Switch exclusive that takes advantage of the motion-controlled Joy-Cons to detect your movement.
The game is very similar to Just Dance in the sense that you're following the on-screen trainers' moves and earning points based on your accuracy. It offers multiple sessions that can be combined into 15, 30, or 45-minute classes, allows you to track and customize your workouts, and can be played by up to four players.
I appreciate the Zumba games because I'm way too self-conscious to try any of these moves in an actual group. In my home, I can trip over my own feet and step on my own heels in private without feeling like an absolute penguin in front of others. And, just like real-life Zumba classes, the Zumba games can undoubtedly get your cardio up if you're putting your all into it.
Wii Fit & Wii Sports
These Nintendo Wii games are over ten years old by now, but they still offer a less intense amount of activity that's suitable for children, folks with injuries, and seniors. They were big names in the public during the early 2000s for their novelty and popularity; Wii Sports was that game that grandma could play with her grandkids and Wii Fit introduced yoga to players who would've never tried it otherwise. Researchers began recommending a Nintendo Wii along with these games for the mental and physical health of elderly adults in senior homes.
In my opinion, these games still hold up as entertaining, easy to pick up, and fun motivators to stay active and moving. The graphics aren't much to look at and the equipment (such as the Balance Board) can be hit or miss, but Wii Sports and Wii Fit still manage to keep you aware of your body, your balance, and demands your concentration as you exercise.
Virtual reality hasn't quite hit the way people hoped for — or maybe our expectations were skewed by way too many sci-fi movies — but there's still potential for some good physical activity due to the nature of VR. Controls are usually motion controlled in some way, requiring you to sway or move your arms to play. Even the most sedentary games that you can sit down to play might get you moving, just because it's a natural reaction to getting surprised by an enemy.
However, the VR game I'd recommend for the most movement would be Beat Saber, a rhythm game that requires players to dodge walls and swing lightsaber-like swords to cut through symbols based on the direction of the arrows and the beat of the music.
It's a very physically involved game that might make you look ridiculous, but you'll definitely feel like a Jedi badass as you artistically cut through your obstacles to the pounding bass of a song. It's not exercise in the traditional sense of using reps and resistance or weight training, so don't expect huge gains here, but it's a fun bit of high-tech activity that not even gyms can offer.