With exam season upon us, along with the jarring return to reality after Christmas, many of us could use a break in the form of some comforting and cosy video games. Whether providing comfort through nostalgia or low-stakes, peaceful gameplay and soundtracks, everyone has certain games they play when they’re having a bad day or just want to clear their head. Here is a list of games that, to Alice, feel like a warm hug.
Starting with an obvious choice, Animal Crossing: New Horizons is the game many people turned to during the first lockdown, back in 2020. There is a reason why YouTube videos like ‘1 hour of Relaxing Rainy Night Animal Crossing Music‘ are so popular.
The soundtrack and the adorable characters make for a relaxing gaming experience. I personally loved Wild World when I was younger and then went on to play New Leaf and New Horizons, which both have more freedom when it comes to customization.
This, again, is a very predictable addition to the list. Stardew Valley is the embodiment of a peaceful escape from reality- it’s literally the plot of the game; your character moves away from a boring city job to take over their grandfather’s old farm.
provides a peaceful break from fast-paced modern life
There’s something for everyone, and you can easily spend hours on end farming, foraging, mining, or socialising with the townsfolk. This game innovated the farm simulation genre and is a truly well-thought-out game with tons of things to do, but ultimately provides a peaceful break from fast-paced modern life.
Harvest Moon is essentially the same concept as Stardew Valley, though I would argue the latter is a better game. However, Harvest Moon is worth mentioning as it started the trend of farming games, and there’s something very calm and cosy about it. If you like Stardew Valley, then I would definitely recommend the franchise that it was inspired by.
Whilst The Sims 2 is most people’s favourite, I find The Sims 3 the most comforting, as I played it the most and had nearly all of the expansion packs. It’s not the most streamlined game of the franchise, and if you want smoother CAS and build mode definitely play The Sims 4, but The Sims 3 is my favourite.
I would particularly recommend the expansion pack Generations for cosy family gameplay. Although for me, the one that gives me the most nostalgia and comfort is the Supernatural expansion, which reminds me of the teen supernatural drama era (ah, simpler times).
A slightly random and lesser-known addition to the list, the award-winning game Flower is the perfect answer to a stressful month of deadlines and exams. Playing as the wind pollinating flowers and making the world a greener place makes a refreshing change from the grey English weather.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
The Legend of Zelda might not be the most relaxing or ‘cosy’ franchise, but Breath of the Wild is a beautifully designed game, and there is something peaceful about the less plot-driven gameplay and just exploring Hyrule.
The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker
It probably seems a bit weird that two Legend of Zelda games have made it on this list, but the series really does it for me in terms of comfort and nostalgia (which can be said for all of the games by Nintendo that I’ve mentioned).
cartoonish characters and whimsical art style
It’s my personal favourite game in the franchise. I remember playing it on the GameCube, and like Breath of the Wild, the game is very different to the others. With its cartoonish characters and whimsical art style with the familiar elements from Zelda, it’s a very enjoyable experience.
This one speaks for itself; most people who grew up in the ’90s or 2000s have played a Pokémon game (even if it was just Pokémon Go that one summer). Pokémon Diamond is super nostalgic and comforting to me, having played it on my DS. Exploring the Sinnoh region and collecting cute Pokémon makes for a fun and cosy game.
This is another nostalgic title- there’s not much to say other than it is a comforting trip down memory lane. Although, it did stress me out when you got a game over, and Gruntilda stole Banjo’s sister Tooty’s beauty and turned her into a monster.
Super Mario Sunshine
Can you tell I mainly played the GameCube as a kid? Super Mario Sunshine is honestly a frustrating game at times, but it is also full of character and bright colours. The game is set on the tropical island of Delfino, whilst all the main characters are on vacation- again a much-needed change from the cold January weather.
Though video games might be the last thing on your mind if you’re a student during this exam season, this is just one way to step back and take a much-needed break from your studies. I think it is essential to remember that even though this is an important time when you need to be focused, it is equally important to make time to do fun and relaxing things to look after your mental health, and also because not taking a break can actually make you less productive.
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