So, you just got back from your 9-to-5. You’re settled in on your couch, exhausted from a relentless day at the office, ready to play some video games… but today is different. You don’t feel like shooting down Tracers in Overwatch, hiding from zombies in Resident Evil 7, or questioning your moral convictions in Detroit: Become Human. You need something a little less demanding – something cathartic, peaceful, and nuanced. We understand! There’s almost nothing better than a “relaxation game” to play after a grueling day. Whether it be a quaint puzzle game, or a sprawling, open-world, artistic adventure, some games are made for the sheer joy of relaxation. So, here are five relaxing games that you can play after a tedious day on the job.
At its core, Stardew Valley is a manual labor simulator – it really shouldn’t be enjoyable. You’ll plant and water crops, raise animals, fish, mine, and forage almost daily – all tasks that anyone would call “tedious” in real life. Yet, when you’re in heat of the moment, feeding chickens and watering melons, there’s something subliminally relaxing about the day-to-day grind. Maybe it’s the gorgeous 16-bit art-style that makes it so enjoyable, or maybe it’s the innate human desire to succeed, to push forward, to thrive. Who knows! Point is, at the end of every virtual day, you can let out a sigh of relief knowing that you pushed forward the success of your farm. Now, if only real life were that easy…
If you’ve ever a played any Sudoku before, you’ll love Picross. It’s a puzzle game where you fill in a grid of squares based off of the numbers on the side or top. There’s a constant back-and-forth mind game of filling in squares, then seeing what new options those squares opened, just to go back and fill in more. It’s just challenging enough, but also simpler than other puzzle games out there. While it can be played with pen and paper, Picross works especially well as a touchscreen video game, giving real time feedback, hints, and background music. That’s where Picross S, the latest Picross game for Nintendo Switch, comes in – with 300 varied puzzles, you’ll be solving grids for hours and hours in a classic cathartic puzzler like no other.
Steamworld Dig 2
Imagine a Metroidvania game mixed with Dig-Dug, but with robots in the wild-west. Throw in some RPG mechanics and a gorgeous art-style, and what you’ve just pictured is Steamworld Dig 2, a fantastic underground adventure that’s available on almost every current platform. Dig 2 absolutely nails the feel of the Metroidvania genre, but the thing that makes it the most relaxing is its gameplay loop. You’re constantly pushing further and further downwards, gathering gems and new equipment, and watching your health bar. If you get overconfident and push too far, however, you might lose most of the material you just gathered and be sent back to the top. Don’t worry too much though, there are teleporters littered all over the underground expanse, as well as plenty of new and unique items that make you feel more and more empowered in true Super Metroid fashion. It’s one of the best indie games of last year, and completely relaxing as well.
Sometimes, you don’t even want to be bothered with turning on your console or PC when your phone is right in your pocket. For moments like those, we recommend Icebreaker, a classic iOS and Android puzzler similar to Cut the Rope. In Icebreaker, your job is to free adorable, round, hair-covered Vikings from peril and return them to their captain’s boat. You do this by cutting ice blocks and ropes in physics-based puzzles that challenge your spatial awareness. Plus, it has some really catchy music and a quaint, pixelated art-style. In a market like the App store that’s filled with loads of shovelware, micro-transactions and ads, it’s a relief whenever a quality game like Icebreaker comes along and delights us. Definitely give Icebreaker a shot, even if you’re not into mobile games.
Continuing the mobile game roll, Hearthstone is a stylish card-game made by Blizzard, the developers of World of Warcraft and Overwatch. The joy of Hearthstone is that it strikes the perfect balance between chance and skill. You will never know what your next card is going to be, even though you get to choose your deck at the start of every match. But once the cards are in your hand, there’s a deep layer of strategy for the taking. Each match progresses in both scale and complexity over time, bringing an RPG-level progression that takes place in the span of ten minutes. Plus, the game is every bit as good on mobile as it is on PC, if not better. There’s an element of physicality every time you drag your card out of your deck and onto the table, that’s emphasized especially well by the fantastic audio and visual design. Hearthstone is easily Blizzard’s most laidback game, and it’s a fantastic card-game to play after a long day.
Well, we hope that we’ve shown you that not all video games have to be ultra-hard, gritty, or rage-inducing – some of them are perfect for reclining in a sofa and vegging out. If you give the games we’ve highlighted a shot sometime after you’ve gotten home from work – or whenever you’re in the mood for relaxing – we’re sure that you’ll be calm and laid-back in no time at all.
Our recommendation is Stardew Valley, which you can get below. And don’t forget: if you have another game you like to relax to after a long day, let us know on social media!