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19 Video Games to Play When You Need to Relax
Screenshot: Nintendo

19 Video Games to Play When You Need to Relax

Video games can be entertaining, but when you’re stressed out and antsy from practicing responsible social distancing, they aren’t always the most relaxing way to spend your time. Rushing through ultra-difficult platforming games and shooting your way across a chaotic online battlefield aren’t on any lists of stress relievers that I’ve read.

With that in mind, we’ve assembled a list of some of our favorite games to play when you’re trying to zone out and unwind. We focused on inexpensive games that are available on multiple platforms, so you don’t need to drop a bunch of money on new gaming hardware, and many of these titles should be approachable and fun to play even if you haven’t picked up a game in a while or don’t normally play video games at all.

If you miss going outside

Stardew Valley

Screenshot of Stardew Valley
Screenshot: ConcernedApe

Available on: PC, Mac, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch, iOS, Android, others

This is the Platonic ideal of a chill-out game. Stardew Valley is ostensibly a farming simulator, but it also has exploration, puzzle-solving, dating, fishing, cooking, and a healthy dose of the occult. It can be a little overwhelming at first, but its easy-to-learn-hard-to-master mechanics will suck you in without stressing you out too much. It helps that the game runs on practically anything with buttons and a screen (it even comes included with new Chromebook purchases right now).


Available on: PC, Mac, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch

Playing this first-person adventure game and walking simulator will almost remind you what it was like to leave the house. Explore the lush Shoshone National Forest as a solitary fire lookout who stumbles upon more mystery than he bargained for.

A Short Hike

Available on: PC, Mac

In this short, colorful game, you play as a bird that’s climbing a mountain. Enjoy the adorable character design and the autumnal color palette as you dig up treasure and chat with the locals.

Journey and Abzu

Screenshot from Abzu
Screenshot: 505 Games

Journey available on: PC, PlayStation 4, iOS
Abzu available on: PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch

These two games, developed by most of the same people, each feature silent protagonists navigating through visually arresting worlds (in Journey, a lonely desert; in Abzu, an ocean filled with life). Neither is very long or very deep, but both give you lots to look at and listen to. They’re the game equivalent of slowing down to take a few deep, measured breaths.

Mellow and enchanting

Tetris Effect

Screenshot from Tetris Effects
Screenshot: Enhance

Available on: PC, PlayStation 4

If you were to put all the versions of Tetris on an anxiety spectrum, the Nintendo Switch’s frantic and claustrophobic Tetris 99 would be all the way at one end, and Tetris Effect would be on the other. It’s still Tetris, just with stunning sound design and spacey visual effects. Turn off the lights, plug in your good headphones, and enjoy.

Monument Valley

Available on: iOS, Android
Sequel available on: iOS, Android

If an Escher painting were made into a game, Monument Valley (and its sequel) would be the result. Challenging but never impossible, this is a good choice if you just want to chip away at something a couple of puzzles at a time.


Screenshot from Eufloria
Screenshot: Omni Systems

Available on: PC, Mac, iOS

In Eufloria, you play as a cloud of insect-like creatures orbiting a planet. As your swarm of insects grows larger over time, you can begin to explore the map, finding and occupying other planets and taking them over from other insects. Just be sure not to leave your own planets totally undefended. Simple but atmospheric graphics, sound effects, and music seal the deal.

Something silly

Untitled Goose Game

Screenshot from Untitled Goose Game
Screenshot: House House

Available on: PC, Mac, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch

You are a goose, and you cause low-stakes trouble for everybody in your idyllic village. The game’s controls are sometimes clunky, but you’ll forget all about that the first time you startle someone with a well-timed honk.

Dream Daddy: A Dad Dating Simulator

Screenshot of Dream Daddy's character creation screen.
Screenshot: Game Grumps

Available on: PC, Mac, PlayStation 4, Switch, Android, iOS

Dream Daddy is a colorful dating sim where you play a new daddy who has just come to town with your loving but thoroughly teenaged daughter. Chat with the other daddies in town to make new friendships and romantic daddy-on-daddy relationships bloom.

Katamari Damacy Reroll

Screenshot from Katamari Damacy Reroll
Screenshot: Bandai Namco

Available on: PC, Switch

An enhanced remake of a 2004 PlayStation 2 game, Katamari Damacy Reroll tells the story of an intergalactic monarch tying one on and destroying all the stars in the sky. As his put-upon son, the tiny Prince of All Cosmos, it’s your job to roll up everything from thumbtacks to watermelons to dogs to airplanes into giant balls so that they can be tossed up into the night sky, re-illuminating it for whatever life is left on Earth. The controls can be clumsy. The soundtrack is not.

Donut County

Available on: PC, Mac, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch, iOS

The anti-Katamari. In Donut County you play a hole that grows larger as it sucks bigger and bigger objects and structures and living things into the abyss, where they all hang out together and reflect on their mistakes. It’s much funnier than it sounds, and it requires almost nothing by way of skill or puzzle-solving abilities.

Something challenging

Baba Is You

Screenshot from Baba Is You
Screenshot: Hempuli Oy

Available on: PC, Mac, Switch

More mind-twisting than your usual puzzle game, Baba Is You isn’t asking you just to solve puzzles, but also to figure out how to change the rules of the game so that solving puzzles is even possible. It will give your brain a lot to chew on.


Video: Matt Makes Games

Available on: PC, Mac, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch

Celeste almost didn’t make this list—it belongs to the difficult-puzzle-platformer genre that demands fast and precise input and will make you fail over and over again before you succeed. But the consequences of failure are low, since you respawn infinitely and instantly not far from where you died. A stellar soundtrack and a sweet story about the nature of depression and self-worth make it worth the effort.

Nintendo Switch–exclusive games

The Nintendo Switch has been a particularly popular self-isolation companion for Wirecutter staffers—and apparently everyone else, since finding the console in stock at its normal price right now is almost impossible. Here are a few relaxing Switch games you can’t get on any other platform.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons

Screenshot from the Animal Crossing: New Horizons
Screenshot: Nintendo

Animal Crossing: New Horizons plunks you down on a deserted island that you slowly build up over time by fishing, gardening, and catching bugs. Multiple players can have homes on each island, making it a fun (if not ideal) game to share with other family members.

Yoshi’s Crafted World

Yoshi’s Crafted World is a gentler and more forgiving twist on a typical Mario game with an adorable papercraft aesthetic and bright visuals that kids in particular will love.

Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker

This game gives you that bright, sunny Mario aesthetic without Mario’s jumping, or Mario himself. Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker is a gently paced puzzle game in which you navigate a vertically challenged Toad around a series of themed stages, collecting coins and diamonds and stars and the normal Mario stuff. There’s a two-player co-op mode, too.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Most Switch owners don’t need anyone to tell them to play a Zelda game. But Breath of the Wild combines the series’s signature dungeon crawling and combat with a huge world to explore and plenty of standalone puzzles to solve. It’s quieter and more contemplative than many Zelda games, and that earns it a spot on our list.

Snipperclips: Cut It Out, Together

Screenshot from the Snipperclips game.
Screenshot: Nintendo

In Snipperclips, one to four players can control pieces of paper that can cut each other into different shapes. You need to work together to figure out exactly what shapes you have to use to solve the game’s puzzles.

Golf Story

This is an off-kilter sports game that combines simplified video golf with RPG mechanics and an uncomplicated story. Golf Story is occasionally a little tough to figure out but humorous and low-key enough to be worth the effort.

An Apple Arcade subscription

In terms of value for the money, you can’t do much better than an Apple Arcade subscription, which is $5 a month after the initial 30-day trial runs out. For your money, you get unlimited access to a library of dozens of games for your iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, and Mac. Most people should be able to find a few things to like. Chill-out game highlights include What the Golf?, Grindstone, and Card of Darkness.

Further reading