A few months ago getting to my place of work involved a 40 minute bus ride, plus some time waiting to transfer between. At that time, I enjoyed playing Children of Mana, Pokemon and Animal Crossing (to name a few). Recently, however, I have moved jobs to somewhere a short bus ride away.
I tried playing Children of Mana, but I can't get through any of the later levels in five minutes. I might have time for a couple battles or a walk through a couple screens in Pokemon. In Animal Crossing I might be able to chat with one or two residents before it's time to save. This change in commute time served to be both a blessing and a curse, and life was sour as I got fed up and suffered through the 5 whole minutes of bussing without no digital gaming stimulation.
I'm on the hunt now, however, and have discovered these 5 games that you can turn on and play for 5 minutes and have fun and maybe even gain a sense of accomplishment.
1. New Super Mario Bros. (DS)
Relive your early gaming days with this speedy title. I imagine if you have a DS, you have this game. If you haven't then go pick it up! You can run through a level in under 5 minutes and getting through the menus doesn't take more than 10 seconds, nor does saving progress. As an added bonus, with some preparation and a friend with a DS, the single cartridge multiplayer is incredibly fun. It takes a bit of time to transfer the data to the other DS so you'll want to do that before you head out.
A word of warning about playing the multiplayer in public: You'll probably look like a pair of giggling buffoons, interspersed with bits of geek smack talk. If you're trying to hide your extreme geekiness, this may not be a good title.
2. Lumines (PSP) / Tetris (Any Nintendo handheld)
I imagine many will disagree with my combining these two titles into one, but the concepts are similar and I haven't spent enough time with Lumines to speak to it at any length. That being said, the time I have spent with it was fantastic. One of may twists on a common puzzle concept. If you don't own a PSP, any of the Tetris titles provide a similar experience. Load it up and go. If you're an expert with Tetris then maybe it won't quite suit your needs, but as a mediocre Tetris player if I start it on level 9 then I'm good to go - I probably won't last 5 minutes.
3. Mario Kart DS
Ah, Mario Kart. This was the series that introduced me to 4 player split screen play and consequentially leaving me with a permanent squint after days of playing this with friends on a 24 inch TV. I can usually run through two or three races before the end of my bus ride. Or, if I'm feeling creative (and patient), redesigning my kart logo on the bumpy ride can be fun.
4. Brain Age
Gets the brain going in the morning! This and my 9am coffee gets my day started pretty well. Open it up, run through the daily excercise (the quiet one of course) and then I'm done my commute. There are a couple longer ones, so it's not perfect for the trip but I can usually update my brain age before the end of the trip. While you may not be able to complete a sudoku puzzle in 5 minutes, the save function is easy and quick - click, and done.
One thing to note about this game, is its required use of the stylus. On a bumpy bus this may prove frustrating and could result in a dropped (and therefore lost) pen.
5. Street Fighter Alpha 3 MAX (PSP)
Power on. Beat opponent senseless. Power off. I have not spent too much time with this, in fact I've only given it about 10 minutes when I borrowed it from a co-worker. That said, it plays the same as any other Street Fighter Alpha series so you can imagine it's simplicity. Not much to say - Great game, and perfect for short bus rides!