I’ll be honest, lately, between work, wedding planning and everything else on my plate, I have been going through a fair amount of stress. We all know that there are so many different ways to decompress and distress, like a long bath, curling up with a good book or talking to somebody. But let’s be real here, therapy is damn expensive, so I have always found myself gravitating towards video games to help me feel a little more relaxed after a long day.
There is something just so comforting about the ability to pick up a controller and worry about something outside of day-to-day life. In the world of video games, I no longer have to worry about how a work project is performing or whether or not the guest book I ordered is going to be delivered in time; all I have to worry about is discovering a new world or achieving a tangible goal.
But the thing about video games is far too many times they can cause just as much stress as they cure. Between terrifying monsters, tight time limits and advanced controls, some games may be more likely to increase your blood pressure. That is why this week, I took some time to consolidate some of my favorite low stress, gorgeous and most relaxing games to play when you need a mental break.
Supported Consoles: PS4, PS3, PC (Arriving 2019)
Mesmerizing, gorgeous and tranquil – these are the words that come to mind when I think of ABZÛ. ABZÛ’s storyline is built around a diver who explores a mysterious hidden world deep in the ocean. This game is an aquatic visual feast, with a plethora of colors, aquatic life, calming sounds, and relaxed playing style. Most importantly, this game easily has one of THE BEST game soundtracks I have ever heard. It is whimsical, soothing and really gives me Miyazaki vibes. To be honest, I have lost count of how many times I have binged the soundtrack at work. Finally, if you are a fan of the previously mentioned Journey, you are going to love ABZÛ as it was orchestrated by the same art director.
Supported Consoles: PC, PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch
Donut County is easily one of my all-time favorite games that I’ve played thus far. The storyline focuses on a small town called Donut County, where sinkhole controlling raccoons are wreaking havoc on the town by sending everybody’s belongings to the Trash King via swallowing them up. Have I lost you? If so, don’t worry, even past the storyline the gameplay is genuinely so entertaining and genuinely soothing. The focus of the game is to suck as many items as you can fathom into an ever-growing sinkhole that you control. There is something so insanely comforting over the satisfaction of clearing a level in this game, and my very favorite part of the whole thing is the pacing and challenge of it. You aren’t just mindlessly hovering over items; instead, each level offers its own unique challenges and puzzles to keep you on your toes. Not only is Donut County a fun, relaxing challenge to pick up after a long stressful day, it is also just plain adorable.
Supported Consoles: Nintendo Switch, PS4, PC, Mobile
While I have tried my best to give Stardew Valley a chance, I can’t help but always gravitate back towards my Harvest Moon games. There is something about Harvest Moon that is extremely nostalgic and comforting to me. The goal is simple and easy to follow and there is something incredibly soothing about the predictability of the game. I know that every morning I will have to wake up and harvest my crops, that the carpenter I am trying to woo will be standing at his shop at this exact time, and that my neighbor down the road’s favorite food is omelets. I always find comfort and relaxation with the Harvest Moon series when I feel as though I am going through a lot of change or stressful events. Because sometimes it is just nice to know that the worst thing that can happen is forgetting to water my crops.
Supported Consoles: Harvest Moon games have been on every Nintendo console since Super Nintendo. The most recent edition of the series is Harvest Moon: Light of Hope available on Nintendo Switch.
Have you ever wanted to play a game located inside a fairytale book? If you answered yes, Child of Light is the game for you. Child of Light is a 2D RPG game where you play Aurora, a young princess who finds herself trapped in a world of darkness, determined to become reunited with her father. While the gameplay itself is increasingly challenging and is very reminiscent of Final Fantasy and other RPG games, there is something about the art direction in Child of Light that never fails to draw me in, especially when I am feeling stressed. The illustrations are beautiful, the script is clever (characters only speak in rhymes) and the soundtrack is relaxing. This game is perfect for when you are looking for a good challenge with plenty of combat, but aren’t quite in the mood for intimidation or blatantly stressful enemies.
Supported Consoles: PC, PlayStation Vita, PS3, PS4, Xbox One, Xbox 360, Wii U, Nintendo Switch
If you are into collecting things and need a daily dose of cute, Slime Rancher is the game for you! I remember when I first downloaded this game off of Steam, I literally played it non-stop for a week. The concept of the game is simple, you are a rancher whose goal is to collect adorable creatures called Slimes and sell their plorts (ok, basically their poops) for profit. The concept is odd to say the least but the gameplay is incredibly entertaining. There are no time limits or stressful goals. In Slime Rancher, you can really go at your own pace, explore however much you feel comfortable and aim to collect the ever-expanding Slime breeds. Each and every breed also carries their own unique traits and challenges – for example, Phosphor Slimes will disappear if they are left in the sun, while Boom Slimes have a tendency to explode. There is something so relaxing about taking care of your little virtual pets, feeding them their favorite snacks and keeping them happy.
Supported Consoles: PC, PS4, Xbox One
I seriously have no words for GRIS besides that it is a freaking WORK OF ART. This game is gorgeous, expansive and downright calming. The art direction in this game gives me serious Steven Universe vibes, taking full advantage of muted pastel tones and dreamy landscapes. In this game, you play as Gris, a girl who has dealt with a painful experience and finds her sorrow is manifested back into the clothes she wears. Besides the soundtrack and art, my favorite part of GRIS is how much of the game you spend as a tiny little dot amongst the expansive worlds. This sidescrolling style game never fails to make me think a little deeper and realize that the world is so much bigger than myself.
Supported Consoles: PC, Nintendo Switch
When a cup of tea or face mask just won’t cut it after a long, stressful day, try picking up a controller and letting yourself be absorbed into a universe far unlike your own. With a few magical storylines, aesthetically pleasing images, and gorgeous soundtracks, these relaxing video games may help to put you in a relaxed mindset.
Do you have any video games that never fail to help you relax or calm you down? Share your favorites in the comments below.