Inspired by games from the 2016 Self-Care Jam (which Kotaku mined for favourites), MetaFilter users recently named their favourite calming video games. Some will be familiar, but others are deep cuts by independent developers. Most aren't for winning or losing, just exploring, interacting and existing. None of them force you to battle other players in a tense show-down. Try these out if you're too stressed out for Overwatch or Plague Inc.
Screenshot from ISLANDS: Non-Places
Take care of pets and plants, or just exist, without the stress of a dying Tamagotchi or depressed family of Sims.
- Viridi (Android/iOS): Take care of a potted succulent.
- Neko Atsume (Android/iOS): Collect cartoon cats like Pokemon that never have to fight.
- ISLANDS: Non-Places (PC/Mac/iOS): Play with 10 small, abstracted scenes full of vending machines and palm trees.
- Mountain (PC/Linux/Mac/Android/iOS): Be a mountain, which is just as non-action-packed as it sounds.
Solve untimed puzzles in beautiful environments.
- Monument Valley (Android/iOS/Windows Phone): Twist and explore geometric, castle-like architecture as a princess and, in volume 2, her mother.
- The Witness (PC/Mac/iOS/PS4/Xbox): Tease out the logic of schematics on a Myst-like island.
Some of these games give you a goal, some tell a story, some just give you a space to explore.
- Abzû (PC/PS4/Xbox): Swim with fish through a pastel oceanscape.
- Fugl (PC/Mac): Fly around a pixellated world as a pixellated bird.
- Firewatch (PC/Linux/Mac/PS4/Xbox): After you win this game as a Wyoming fire lookout, wander around the lush forest.
- Proteus (PC/Mac): Walk around a deserted island for three days and trigger a mystical experience in this single-serving walking simulator.
- No Man's Sky (PC/PS4): Fly around a massive procedurally-generated galaxy of planets.
- Everything (PC/Linux/Mac/PS4): Shrink and grow as various animals in a procedurally generated world with a Powers of Ten-style scale.
I have two personal recommendations:
- Samorost (Browser/PC/Mac/Linux/Android/iOS): A point-and-click adventure. As a speechless gnome, you'll save a sleepy fantasy world full of magic mushrooms and Miyazaki-like creatures. This three-game series, with earthy art and a whimsical soundtrack, brings back memories of 1996's The Neverhood.
- Osmos (PC/Mac/Linux/Android/iOS): This single-player spiritual predecessor to the multiplayer casual game Agar.io is far less aggressive. You still have to consume everything smaller and avoid everything bigger, but once you get good, piloting your one-celled organism around the screen feels calming.