Typically, games are violent, right? Even the least violent games still involve some sort of ‘defeating your enemies and getting to the goal’ gameplay with a solid win state and lose state. But sometimes, when you’re under a lot of pressure, you want the fun of a game without the pressure of knowing you could fail. Sometimes you just want an experience to take the pressure off when you’re having a hard day.
So, I’ve gathered up a few games that really take the heat off of you and let you play just how you want to, without having to worry about stuffing it all up, without having to think about the stress of your day to day life, games that are excellent for your mental health and are a lot of fun, to boot!
This is an absolutely amazing Australian game I encountered by chance at PAX Aus one year. I was immediately captivated by it as someone who lives in rural Australia and is surrounded by bush, and, of course, wombats. That, and I just really, really love Australian games.
Paperbark tells the story of one very determined, hungry little wombat and their adventure through the Australian bush on a hot summer’s day. Forage for food, wiggle your way through and over fallen tree branches, find a cozy new home and encounter all kinds of absolutely gorgeous and detailed Australian flora and fauna along the way.
The game also tells its own little story, with a narrative popping up alongside certain events with a narrative that unfolds across each passing day. This is honestly one of the most beautiful looking games I’ve played, a lot of love and detail put into every aspect, but most importantly, it’s a super chill way to explore the bush.
Look at that lil’ fella go.
Viscera Cleanup Detail
Okay, so maybe you like a little bit of blood and gore in your relaxation time. But you don’t have to be the one causing it. For those that love blowing monsters/dudes/Nazi’s/whatever to small giblet pieces, have you considered: Cleaning up that darn mess you just made?
The vanilla experience puts players in the role of janitor on a big ol’ space station after having successfully pushed back an alien invasion. So, you know, your Duke Nukem/F.E.A.R/Prey/etc. kind of situation that usually winds up very messy. And, of course, someone now has to clean all that up.
Players are given a mop, a bucket, and told to go wipe the blood off the floors/walls/ceilings/everywhere, pick up all those gory little pieces, restock those first aid kits the hero has taken, incinerate debris and Various Bits, just make everything look really good. You can’t have company over after an incident like that. You gotta make it clean enough that you could bring your mother up there.
There’s also a bunch of DLC offering up all kinds of various cleaning scenarios, from a supervillain lair through to cleaning up the aftermath of 2013’s Shadow Warrior.
This is one ideal for folks who are after a little more of a social relaxation experience. Brought to you by the folks who made the Shelter series, Meadow bills itself as ‘a forum in games clothing’, which is great, because I tried to play Paws: A Shelter 2 Story once, became way too over-emotional and sad in the first 20 minutes, and never touched it again. Which is unfortunate because it’s otherwise a gorgeous game.
Players can choose an animal as well as skins for that animal to make it look unique, and then they can take to the wilderness, interact with other players through emotes and expressions. You can unlock more as you progress by exploring the world. It’s definitely targeted towards fans of the Shelter series, with more unlocks and bonuses coming from owning previous Shelter titles, but for other people who just want the simple joys of playing as an adorable baby badger or a cute little bunny? Absolutely perfect.
Not so much a game as it is a tool. Valve’s tool, the tool in which all those super good Team Fortress 2 short film things are made. And it’s out there for the public to use, for free! With an absolutely massive Steam Workshop community to boot, meaning you can get models and environments from just about any game. Not just characters, but right down to the most mundane of objects and settings.
There’s a few ways to tackle it. Whether you want to create your own virtual display case type deal, create a scene that you could use as a wallpaper or just your own ideal fake screenshot, it doesn’t have to be a complete film. All the tools are right there at your fingertips and super easy to use, from camera angles and lighting through to animations and sound.
It’s an amazingly fun little tool that takes a while to get the hang of, but there’s honestly something really cathartic about posing characters like they’re little action figures, and then taking that ideal image you can proudly show off as your new wallpaper.
The Stanley Parable
One of the most iconic ‘walking simulator’ narrative type games to exist, The Stanley Parable puts you in the shoes of a man named… Stanley. One day, Stanley gets up from his tiny office to discover that everyone has disappeared and also, there’s a strange English man narrating his every move. Stanley has no real opinions on this because Stanley is designed as a stand-in for the player and as a result doesn’t actually talk.
The narrator drives the story, but in the end, the choices are ultimately up to the player in terms of how they explore the game. Do you follow the narrator down to the letter? Do you deviate and stop to explore every nook and cranny (making the narrator increasingly irate)? There’s narration for almost every conceivable choice the player could possibly make, which makes replaying the game to discover all the endings and dialogue an absolute joy. Great for the player whose idea of unwinding is also having a bit of a laugh.
What’s more, the ‘Ultra Deluxe’ edition is coming soon, bringing the game to consoles as well as bringing a whole bunch more content with the script for the Ultra Deluxe edition reportedly being half as long as the original (which is a lot of content).