With the holiday season upon us, it’s high time for stress, commotion, and of course, a lot of really good food. Sometimes though, it’s important to take a step back and chill. Sometimes it’s with a book, sometimes it’s with some music, and sometimes you need something to take your mind off of things for a bit. Below is a thorough list of games I’ve played and enjoy, and that I find myself coming back to when I get stressed out. Some of them are story-based, some are open-ended, and others are whimsical enough for a good laugh. They’re all fairly short, too, so if you want to beat a game in a few hours, you can.
First off, I’d like to start with some games that don’t require a lot of mental attention. The purpose of these is, after all, to clear your mind. The criteria for each of the following categories is very loose; this is more of a subjective list than anything.
Abzu, Journey, and Flower
It’s no secret that I, as a human being, enjoy these three games. While providing an interesting and enthralling narrative, they allow players to take things at their own pace. The music is calming, too, as all three have a hearty musical element to them. They’re all single-player, though Journey does have a multiplayer mode. Especially with Abzu, which has a built-in screensaver and meditation mode, all of these games provide a game that allows you to slow down and enjoy the ride.
This is a little game I picked up during the Steam summer sale. It’s a short, 3D platformer, and while it is challenging at times, it provides a nicely structured environment. If you play through to the end of the game, you’re led to a spring which shoots you high enough to see the entire map you’ve been running around. It’s a nice little message from the developers and a heartwarming thank you for playing the game. It’s really cute and I’ll admit I blushed a bit. I’m a sucker for endearing devs.
Laid-Back Story Games
Second we’ve got games with an enthralling story. Something that’s a bit lighthearted, but not so lighthearted that it seems like a fairytale.
Some people aren’t a fan of walking simulators for the very reason I put The Beginner’s Guide on this list: they can be boring. The Beginner’s Guide interacts with the player, as it features the game’s developer talking about his relationship with an old friend. Again, it’s not meant to feel like a fairytale, and it does deal with some heavy themes. However, it doesn’t require much player interaction when it comes to the story so it’s fairly easy to zone out with.
Continuing on with the trend of heavy themes, Gone Home is a short adventure game in which you play Kaitlin, returning home from studying abroad for a year. Instead of finding your family at home, you find a note from your sister, Sam. It’s a game that encourages exploration at one’s own pace, and unfolds the story through things that you find: notes, books, and old magazines, to name a few. The ending is an endearing testament to the relationship that sisters have, in my opinion, anyway.
The two games in this part of the list come from that sense of humor that everyone’s got. Nothing has to make sense, and suspension of disbelief is crucial here. (Well, it is with any sort of media BUT we can discuss that later.) These next games are for those of you that want to experience a lot and question next to nothing.
The famed pigeon dating sim. If there’s anything that can get outrageous faster than a dating sim, please tell me. I’ve seen some rather unique ones. Hatoful Boyfriend is, simply put, a lighthearted crack at the genre with a surprisingly rich cast. It’s easy enough if you’re in the mood for a sappy story to get drawn in, and that’s where the magic is. As a plus, it’s wrapped up in a bizzare scenario where pigeons caused the apocalypse and humans died out, so there’s also that.
A game that screams absurd humor, which just recently released its director’s cut on PS4. Jazzpunk is filled with things to do on the side, and each of them is as rewarding as the next. The attention to detail in the game is nuts, and especially in the director’s cut. Almost everything that you can interact with has a satisfying, jovial response. It’s a refreshingly fun game, and if you haven’t played it before then you’re in for a treat.
Overall, it’s important to remember that while video games offer a basis for healthy competition, it gets to a point that’s often overwhelming. Among everything that’s happened lately, it’s important to step back and take care of ourselves instead of attempting everything at once. Take a break, breathe a little, and then keep going. Things can wait.
Cover image courtesy of DigitalSpy.