I am a big, big fan of video games. It’s no secret, it’s been a fact since I was very young and it’s a hobby that has stayed fairly consistent throughout my life. Even now into my thirties, I find video games are my go-to entertainment. I’m not really into boxsets or binge watching (with a few notable exceptions) and we don’t watch a great deal of television. We have a three year old, we don’t really have control of our own things until around eight o’clock in the evening. But more often than not now, I find that I’m more drawn towards video games that help you relax and unwind, rather than the more action-based titles.
It’s easy to think that most video games revolve around violence, frenetic action scene and general ridiculousness. Don’t get me wrong; a lot of them are and that’s okay! They are fun and rewarding in their own way, but after a long day at work and when I’m in need of a break from reality, often I’m not in the mood to commit virtual atrocities in order to unwind. I need something a little calmer and simpler than that.
So with that said, here are the five best video games that will help you to relax and de-stress, even after the most rubbish of days.
Just for context here, I put off playing Abzu for a long time. I didn’t see the hype about it – it looked a little weird, you don’t really do a great deal in it, I didn’t get it. Then after a rubbish day, I decided to try it. When I say you don’t really do a great deal, I mean it. Instead, you control a scuba-diving robot (no, not kidding) who serenely navigates the ocean. There’s no voices, no action, and the only thing that your told is the names of some of the bigger marine animals you see along your travels.
The music is beautiful and the videos showing the game being played simply do not do the visuals justice at all. It’s very, very pretty when you start to play it and trust me, it is just what you need after a long, stressful day. Put on your headphones and be transported away from normal life for a bit with this one.
Probably the most obviously narrative driven game on this list, Firewatch is literally a game about a guy “getting away from it all”. Your character takes a job a fire watchman in a National Park in the United States. The character you play is physically alone for the vast majority of the game, and all of the story is delivered in dialogue over a two-way radio with another employee in another area of the park. It’s a simple story, but beautifully told and the voice acting is absolutely top-notch.
You don’t fight anything and you barely encounter any other characters. This leaves you to enjoy the scenery and listen to the story being played out in front of you. You can complete the whole thing in around five or six hours. It’s the perfect alternative to a simple, guilty-pleasure movie. If you have never played a video game before, you will be able to play Firewatch with ease.
Everybody’s Gone To The Rapture
This is a British-made “game”. I say “game” because it’s more a walking simulator. It’s a journey through a small, rural, deserted British village, finding out exactly where all of the inhabitants have gone. Now fair warning, this game can get incredibly eerie and downright unsettling at times, largely in part to the excellent voice acting throughout. If you’re feeling particularly emotional, you may want to skip this one. If you’re after something resembling Midsummer Murders meets Emmerdale, then this will be right up your street.
Again, you don’t need to have played a video game before in order to pick this up and play it. Throughout the whole game, you will not encounter another person at all, and you can get through it in one sitting if you’re invested enough.
Full disclosure: I have put an embarrassing amount of hours into Stardew Valley and I have nothing but good things to say about it. Again a game about a character leaving the ratrace for a simpler life on their own farm. The game revolves around your farm and the village of Stardew Valley, an its inhabitants. Over the course of this endless game, you make money, form friendships and romantic relationships with the eligible villagers. The relationships are noticeable and rewarding, and there are some immensely cute scenes involving your player and the other inhabitants. There is a small amount of combat, but it’s in no way stressful and it’s easy to get used to or avoid altogether.
Amazingly, this truly vast game is the work of one man and is a true labour of love. It’s something that shines through in the gameplay. Additionally, this is now a multiplayer game, meaning you can share the experience with those closest to you.
Portal & Portal 2
It’s not cheating to list two games in one if they’re sequels. These games are by no means new but they are truly excellent in every sense. They are puzzle games using, you guessed it, portals. They are probably the most challenging experience on this list, but the difficulty curve allows you to ease in gently. There’s a limited story, but your character Chell, never opens her mouth. Instead, you’ve got a smart-arsed robot overlord, Glados, basically goading you all the way through the first game. Fellow dim-witted robot Wheatley provides an additional element of storytelling in the second edition.
Both of these video games go at your pace, provide your brain with a bit of exercise and are ultimately very rewarding. The sequel also has a separate, two player mode, if you have someone who wants to help you solve the puzzles. Just the right amount of challenge and sass to help you forget your troubles and wash away the day.
So those are my favourite video games to help you relax, but there are definitely more out there that I’ve missed. What do you guys pick up and play to relieve the stresses of the most hectic of days? Let me know in the comments, because I’m probably going to have to give some of them a try!