With little fanfare from my corner, I present to you a curated list of all the video games that help our writers relax. From wildly popular first-person shooters to the soothing exploration of an indie favorite, the avid gamers here at FemHype have personally organized your next self-care remedy. Don’t forget to let us know in the comments what game helps you relax! Let’s build this list for all the over-caffeinated, over-worked souls out there looking to unwind.
If I’m stressed out and I want to relax, I usually go to puzzle games as a genre in general—something that’s simple to understand but lets you immerse yourself in the problem in order to solve it. It may sound counterintuitive that I would want to solve more problems while trying to relax, but usually the games are simple, beautiful, and have amazing atmospheric music. Some of my recent favorites that I’ve played through are:
I certainly love looting in Borderlands and shooting bad guys, but if I want to relax with my feet up on the couch on a Sunday, my go-to is a new, beautiful, slow game where I can be amazed and have fun at the same time.
I am going to be cheap and make this a big ol’ toss-up between Super Mario Galaxy and Mass Effect. I know these games couldn’t be more different, but hear me out! I’ve found that when games make me relax effectively, it’s often done in two specific ways—by either surrounding me with a lot of soothing elements or making me feel like I’m in another world entirely. Super Mario Galaxy‘s combination of intuitive gameplay, glowy visuals, and rich soundtrack (easily my favorite in the series) is a one-way ticket to No Anxiety Land for me. Every time I sit down with the game and coast carefree on floating planets and stars, I feel like I just got a fine massage.
Mass Effect, on the other hand, is a borderline do-it-yourself Mad Libs space opera that sucks me in every time without fail, even though I’ve played through it thrice—and that doesn’t count the DLCs and Let’s Plays I’ve watched on YouTube! For a few hours at a time, I can forget taxes and completely invest myself in this epic world, its characters, and its issues as someone whose only limitations are passion and motivation (an especially apt fantasy for a working-class minority). In short, it’s escapist stress relief that makes me feel feely feelings. For anyone who hasn’t gotten their hands on these two games, I highly recommend them.
Currently the go-to relaxation game for me is either Mass Effect 2 or 3. The story and the visuals are really nice and quite immersive. The music and sound effects also pull you into things. The shooter aspect of the gameplay does ask you to take cover and fight smart. That helps me to relax, let out my stress, and just simply chill. When I just want to curl up in the virtual world, this is certainly my game of choice right now. Besides, any chance to run around with characters I adore is great fun.
When I’m looking to kick back and relax, I can always count on Minecraft to settle my brain. There are different ways to relax, and different flavors of stress to account for, and Mojang seems to have all of my bases covered with this particular title. If I need to just zone out for a bit and do something mindless, I can strip-mine a mountain and soothe my anxiety away with the rhythms of my pickaxe. If I’m angry and need to kill some things, creepers, zombies, and skeletons will be the victims of my wrath. If I need to keep my mind distracted, I can actively explore the world and search for caves and abandoned mineshafts, or I can gather plants and animals to start a farm. If I’m feeling social and need to be with people, I can join one of the many friendly servers out there and build something to be proud of with awesome people.
I suppose this is obvious, but for me my most relaxing game would have to be Journey for the PS3. It’s not because the gameplay itself is relaxing, but the game takes you through many stages of a gorgeous and uplifting journey. There are people who will help you on your way and when I’m having a stressful time, it’s nice to just let them lead me around and softly be reassuring. In Journey, everything ties in together. The music, the visuals, the way that it feels to fly around and the way that you coo to communicate with other players just brings it to another level for me. More than just comfort, Journey allows me to relax and leave the game feeling recharged, like I’m ready to take on the next challenge.
The only other game that even comes close has a high nostalgia feeling for me and that is The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. Even without nostalgic feelings, Journey is able to surpass that and take away all my tension by the time I’m done playing.
My go-to de-stress/unwind game has got to be the Starlight series. They’re a series of flash games with calming music, nice atmosphere, and easy gameplay. The whole point is just to rotate the stars until the image appears, and it’s very fun despite its simplicity! I’ve always been fond of space, and the colors and tones of these flash games certainly do the trick if I’ve had a rough day, a panic attack, or just need to calm myself down before bed. The Starlight series will continue to be one of my favorites from my early days of flash gaming, and I think it could really help other people unwind as well.
It probably doesn’t surprise anyone who follows me on Tumblr, but my go-to game for pretty much everything happens to be the Mass Effect series. I’ve always been most comfortable in a sci-fi setting—whether it was books, movies, TV, or even music. Media that reminds me of future possibilities just has a way of bringing me (ironically) down to Earth. Mass Effect in particular combines a lot of elements quite nicely to serve many purposes. If I’m feeling stressed and just want to chill, the Normandy’s low-key hum and beautifully rendered setting feels a lot like home. On days when I need to let loose and vent some steam, there’s nothing quite as satisfying as getting in a few good headshots on some reaper husks. And don’t get me started on the music! I’m not ashamed that I’ve logged quite a few hours in-game simply setting Shepard up in her room and letting the radio run.
Considering the lack of a difficulty toggle and the fairly challenging nature of some of the bosses, you might think I was trying to be different by saying these games. You’d be partly right. Still, I do find playing Borderlands to be quite relaxing—when I’m not dealing with the frustrating level design that’s present in parts of the Pre-Sequel.
Borderlands has these shoot and loot mechanics that lull me into a flow. The games are also quite easy to get into. You learn how to play through trial and error, and it’s quite intuitive that way. The writing is often wonderful and hilarious. At the same time, if you turn off the audio, you could happily listen to a podcast whilst playing. Also, if you get stuck at a particular point, there’s plenty of side-quests to indulge in. The art style is vibrant and cartoony and just cool to look at. So yeah, Borderlands! You know, I’d live on Pandora if I could. Well, I mean, if I was completely invulnerable to all forms of attack.
Addendum: I would like to note that, despite my complaint about the level design, Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel was rather underrated. It’s a shame the company that made it (2K Australia) closed.
As odd as it may sound, the game I use to relax is Saints Row 2. Okay, so the graphics may not be the best thing in the world, but graphics don’t make a game and they certainly don’t determine the relaxation factor. The music stations help me relax, especially because there are a lot of my favorite artists on those stations (Paramore!!). Driving around in my incredibly expensive car that I totally didn’t use cheat codes to acquire relaxes me as well. Plus, Stillwater is quite the pretty place when you discount the slums and drugs. And weapons. (And my character’s pretty hot. 😉)
Probably the best part of this game is how I roleplay it in my head, pretending my character is romancing Shaundi, one of the lieutenants of the Saints. I mean, seriously. She’s awesome. And also how my character hangs out with Pierce while singing along to the radio or kicking some Ronan butt with Johnny. Yeah, this game is both fun and relaxing for me.