Video games are often seen as a fun hobby. A way to socialize or be solitary(depending on your preference), or a way to live out a life that is very different from your own(I’m still waiting for Pokemon to be real). Although gaming sometimes gets a bad rep for ‘too much violence’ or ‘making children stupid’, there is no denying that some games are an excellent stress release and escapism from everyday life.
I reached out to my lovely followers on Instagram as well as some of my friends, and compiled a list of the most popular games they like to play when stressed out or feeling anxious. Some went the ‘I’m angry and want to blow everyone’s head off’ route, and some went the ‘I want a calm escapism’ route. I didn’t judge either way(honest). I expected this post to be games of calm, tranquil and Zen but realised that a stress free game can be absolutely any game you want. It depends on the individual. Even WEIRDER, some very stressful games can actually release stress by distracting your attention somewhere else. Who knew?
Have a look at the top ten that made the cut, and please add yours in the comments below!
10. The Elder Scrolls Series(PC/XBOX/PS3/PS4):
Action RPGs like the Elder Scrolls series are a popular choice for those who like to immerse themselves in atmosphere. The main ‘relax’ factor for Elder Scrolls is it’s vast soundtrack(which you can find in its entirety on YouTube) and beautiful open world surroundings. Another thing which makes RPGs a popular choice when relaxing is the lack of time limit. This and a non linear storyline mean you are mostly free to explore as and when you please. Just want to want to spend some undemanding quality time with your horse? Go ahead. Bet you can’t do that at home. And if you can I’m jealous.
9. Myst (PC):
The father of all first person adventure games finds itself on my list for those solitary types who like to be challenged. Although Myst has dated somewhat over the years and still continues to divide opinion, it is a fantastic option for those who like to explore and solve. You can hardly focus on your day to day problems when you are trying to work out how to access the GOD DAMN LIGHTHOUSE. This game also benefits from the fact you cannot die, and the story builds itself as you go along so you are always exploring in order to find out your purpose. If you like to lose yourself in puzzles, reading and logical thinking, this is the distraction for you.
8. Super Smash Bros series.(N64/GAMECUBE/WIIU/3DS)
Ever had one of those days where you just want to hit something? Well, before you get yourself arrested, pick up a beat ’em up for a less consequential outlet. Super Smash Bros is brilliant for its nostalgia as much for it’s game play. Once you have mastered the moves of your go to character(Ness for me), then you are good to go and,simply, SMASH. Online game play makes this game even more fulfilling, knowing your frustration is being vented on a real life person definitely has its perks. Just don’t forget who you are on the screen and think you are winning. Which I have done never.
7. Sonic The Hedgehog 2(Sega Megadrive)
Sonic might not feel like the most relaxing game to mention as he is mostly running around like a loony, but the game offers us older gamers a sense of comfort and nostalgia which we became accustomed to before bills, commutes and other responsibilities(shudder). The soundtrack and the beautiful, colourful level design are enough to make you forget your troubles. Team up with a player 2 as Tails and sit on the floor cross legged surrounded by Capri Suns and Space Raiders for that true childhood experience.
6. Pokémon series(GB/GBA/DS/3DS)
A world which made our lives look insanely boring, the world of Pokémon is a popular stress reliever for adults and children alike. The familiar tropes found in each game make for smooth game play, and the vast selection of Pokémon mean everyone has their favourite. If you don’t feel like battling, take part in a Pokémon competition, catch wild Pokémon or stock up on supplies. In the newer versions Pokémon Amie allows you to spend time stroking and feeding your team. I don’t think Mewtwo really appreciates it, but it’s nice all the same. Fans of the game can pick up any Pokémon, from any series, and know exactly what to do thanks to the familiar and winning formula used consistently throughout. This takes out the ‘what do I do next?’ element as you can pretty much glide through having played at least one.
5. GTA V(PC/XBOX/PS4)
GTA has absolutely everything. Single player? Multi Player? Online? Offline? Missions? Just chilling? All covered.
This game was a popular choice because of it’s sort-of-but-not-quite real life(unless you are a gang member). Just enough escapism, but not so much that you are a two headed monster or something. It allows you to live out as much of a bad-ass lifestyle as you want without the real life consequences. Another thing which made this game a hit is it’s endless possibilities and hours of game play – as a sandbox, there is nothing tying you to the main missions so you do exactly what you want. Just go on a killing spree and wreck your car if you want. Or hit up some hookers. Walk your dog. Whatever.
4. Candy Crush(Android/Apple)
The commuters dream. Portable and convenient. Easy and non-committal. There isn’t much to say about Candy Crush except it is a great way to pass the time. It is fantastic idea to have games on phones and tablets as their accessibility is their best asset. This was chosen because of those awkward moments standing on the tube, waiting for someone outside a restaurant or listening to a boring lecture(not that I’m recommending slacking off). With many copycat games and spin off’s of CC appearing all over, it is clear that mobile gaming is the way forward.
Fez takes influence from the familiar and builds upon it to create a unique gaming experience. Your protagonist Gomez works through puzzles in his atmospheric 2D/3D setting. The game has none of the nasty- no enemies, no time limit, no bosses and if you die, you quickly respawn. Without having to worry about these things, you are able to fully enjoy the progressively difficult puzzles, 8 bit pixelated art style and lull of the gentle music. So laid back I almost fell asleep. Almost.
2. Animal Crossing New Leaf(3DS)
Animal Crossing found its life in portable gaming. As soon as it appeared on the 3DS it became one of the most recognised and favourable games amongst both Nintendo fans and those otherwise inclined. The amazing thing about ACNL is in it’s simplicity. As the mayor of a town, you see to the day to day running of your town and it’s people. Sound stressful? It isn’t conferences and political embroilments. It is watering plants, digging up fossils and catching butterflies. The more you put into your town, the more that can happen. Its innocence, adorableness and humour make it one of the most relaxing occupations you can have.
1.Super Mario World(SNES)
All the things that calmed us a child – bright colours, 16 bit tunes, gold coins and a little Italian plumber. The Mario aesthetic is one that will be imitated until the end of time, but never beaten. Super Mario World finds itself at my countdowns number one because of it’s familiarity as well as its genius.
LOUISA’S CHOICE – Monkey Island Series
My personal choice didn’t make the cut, but as it’s my blog I can do what I want. I choose the Monkey Island series for a mixture of reasons. I played it when I was much younger, so it offers a comforting nostalgia. Besides that though, this game is funny. Like, REALLY funny. The puzzles are also very, very clever. The calamity that you find yourself in as Guybrush makes you not feel so bad, as he is the (very) unlikely hero. It is easy to get into, but not easy to pull yourself away from and will always be my go to choice. I know I can deal with anything with Guybrush Threepwood by my side.
I hope you enjoyed my countdown of your favourite stress relieving games. One thing we have learned is ANY game is a stress relieving game, so throw out that stress ball and get gaming!