As exciting, visually stimulating, and engaging as modern games can be, it can often feel like the developers and publishers have us figured out. They know how to make us go for just one more round, to try that bit harder to win, to buy one more loot crate to see if it gives us what we need to play better next time. It's fun, but it can be a little stressful too.
High stakes multiplayer games can make losing feel terrible and the intensity of modern games can be bewildering or hard to keep up with, especially if you're tired. But not every game is like that. In fact there are plenty of games out there that are designed specifically to slow down the pace of life and relax you instead.
These are some of our favorite games to relax too when we're tired of being shot at by teenagers and micro-managing vast empires.
Kingdom: Two Crowns
Kingdom: Two Crowns is a gorgeous pixel management game that distils control of your domain down to just three controls: left, right, and down. The former two control which direction you move and the latter places down coins. Where you place those coins determines what action you're taking, with tens of potential options providing a host of management and combat opportunities. You don't fight yourself though. The Greed in the game give you just enough of a challenge to keep the game moving, but the beautiful visuals and soundtrack really lul you into a sense of relaxation that make the Kingdom series one of our favorites.
Two Crowns even features COOP play both online and offline, so you can play with a friend to relax together.
Few games are as good to look at as Abzu. It's an enemy-free explorative underwater game with a beautiful cell-shaded art style. You'll travel through alien seas to see what structures, creatures, and landscapes you can discover beneath the waves. It reminds us of Endless Ocean, but it doesn't have terrible Wii-era graphics, which helps make the game much more relaxing.
If you suffer from thallasaphobia, there are some moments of drop offs over the edge of sub-surface cliffs, but if you like the idea of swimming with orcas, sharks, and all manner of other fish and underwater mammals, Abzu offers just about the best experiences there are in gaming.
If you like to bury yourself in busy work, Stardew Valley will give you that in droves. Manage your farm, grow crops, raise animals, build structures, and improve the economy of your family farm. You won't be alone though, as there are plenty of characters to interact with in Stardew Valley, giving you relationships to cultivate, a marriage to work on, and even children to have if you want to explore that part of the game.
If not, though, just relax with the bright and colorful graphics, the enchanting soundtrack, and the calm monotony of farm life.
One of the pioneers of the silent game type, whereby there is no dialogue, obvious story, or real interactioin with anyone at all, Journey has you travelling through an expansive desert landscape alone, or with a stranger if you fancy it. You'll have to complete puzzles on occasion, but the purpose of Journey is to enjoy the experience, and we've done so everytime we've picked this one up.
The focus on ambience never ceases to calm us down after a long, stressful day of gaming.
Transport Tycoon (OTTD)
Transport Tycoon is a game you may have enjoyed way back in the early '90s if you were gaming back then. Today it's still playable and can be found as abandonware if you look hard enough. Your best bet for this transport network building game, though, is to use Open Transport Tycoon Deluxe, or OTTD. The open source mod has its own take on the classic visuals of the game, its own music, with new AI and all of the classic gameplay from the original.
You'll build rail networks, set up signals, construct roadways and plane paths, all in the name of glorious profit. The classic pixel artwork is endearing, and you can really challenge your efficiencies without the stress of constant action. It's been a favorite of ours for decades now and it's one we come back to at least once a year to get away from the rest of our favorite games.