Life can be quite stressful. School, work, private life, all tend to deliver their own problems, and sometimes all one needs is to just… log off from life for an hour or three and immerse themselves on a virtual world to relax.
In this list, we celebrate calming games that allow you to do that. Many of them are really good at giving you the satisfaction of completing constructive or creative tasks. Others are great at making you focus, or are just fun, calming experiences. Either way, the games from the list below are likely to help you wind down after a heavy day.
Let’s get to it.
Games which will calm your nerves down
|Game||Release year||Genre||Developer||Check price below|
|Audiosurf and Audiosurf 2||2015||Puzzle, rhythm||Dylan Fitterer||Buy now!|
|Donut County||2018||Puzzle||Ben Esposito||Buy now!|
|Euro Truck Simulator 2||2012||Vehicle simulation||SCS Software||Buy now!|
|Everything||2017||Simulation||David OReilly||Buy now!|
|House Flipper||2018||Simulation||Empyrean||Buy now!|
|Lost Ember||2019||Adventure game||Mooneye Studios||Buy now!|
|Minecraft||2011||Sandbox, survival||Mojang||Buy now!|
|One Finger Death Punch 2||2019||Beat’em up||Silver Dollar Games||Buy now!|
|Stardew Valley||2011||Simulation, role-playing||ConcernedApe||Buy now!|
|Universe Sandbox 2||2017||Simulation||Giant Army||Buy now!|
Audiosurf and Audiosurf 2
The first Audiosurf was a pretty damn great rhythm game, giving you control of a vehicle which rode along a track generated from a song you fed to the game. Load an intense heavy rock song, you get a bumpy, fast ride. Load something chill, you have more time to enjoy the visualisations while collecting the blocks corresponding to the music beats.
Audiosurf 2 improved on the idea, with new visualisations, and a spiffy new wakeboard-like vehicle which allows the player to do some tricks on the tracks. It’s the kind of game that is as difficult as you want it to be, and the sense of flow it gives can be really soothing, as long as you pick the right music. Admittedly, its flashing lights and colours might be a problem for some players.
In Donut County you control a hole. The hole grows the more things fall into it, and it shrinks when it expels things from the underground it’s connected to. Your job, basically, it to make sure everything in the map falls into the hole. Usually there’s a puzzle you have to solve, using the hole physics and the interactions between various objects in the game world.
The game even has a story, but ultimately it’s about objects falling into a hole, and that’s where its strength lies. The idea is simple, the execution is charming, and while there’s a bit of a mean spirit beneath it all, the graphic style makes it so enjoyable. Figuring out a way to make an entire freaking barn fall into a hole is something no other game is ever going to offer you.
Euro Truck Simulator 2
As most fans of the series will tell you, there’s something incredibly relaxing about just getting behind the wheel of your truck and driving along Europeans roads. You have few worries, except making sure your cargo arrives intact at its destination. No biker gangs to fend off, no immediate danger, there’s just you, your truck, and the road. You can lose yourself in ETS2’s simple loop.
Of course, there can be more to the game, if you want. There’s still the more number-crunching side of things, for example. If you want to, you can eventually establish your own company, with your own fleet of trucks and drivers to help you make deliveries. Even without getting DLCs, you have 71 cities and twelve countries to ride across, a great way to spend a lot of time in a relaxing way.
Everything is a lot to take in. This is a game which allows you to become anything in its world, anything at all. If you become a beetle, you move more or less like a beetle. If you become a tree, you move as a wave of growing and wilting trees surging across the landscape. If you become a large quadruped animal, you might inexplicably move by tumbling forward.
You’re not bound to the Earth’s surface, either, you can move planets and interact on a galactic scale. It’s a deeply conceptual game, yes, but thanks to its lack of threatening conflicts, you can immerse yourself in exploration of the world and its bizarre mechanics. It’s really quite a unique experience, and thanks to procedural generation, you might always find new opportunities.
House flipping is the practice of buying neglected houses or apartments in poor condition, renovating them, and selling them at a profit. House Flipper is a game exactly about that. No quirky twist, no random robbers coming to invalidate your hard work. You get a house, you fix a house, you decorate a house, you sell a house. A simple, clear gameplay loop.
If you’re into (or suspect you might be) house renovation, check this game out. You’ll clean, rearrange the walls, bring in new furniture, and do a dozen other things necessary to turn a rundown ruin into the cosiest house in the neighbourhood. Clear goals and strong feedback make completing tasks feel rewarding, and the game is constructive, not destructive, which feels even better.
Lost Ember launched without much fanfare, which is a shame, because it’s a game that can only be described as lovely. Without getting into too much detail, you play as a person who reincarnated into a wolf, being barred for some reason from the true ascension of their tribe. Bummer, but the upside is that you can run around as a wolf…and a bunch of other animals big and small.
You can briefly possess a wombat to squeeze through narrow openings, or highjack a parrot to soar through the skies. Some animals you need to control will run from a big, black wolf, so you’ll have to find a way to approach them. Exploring the world rendered through stylised graphics is a joy, even if eventually you’ll need to go back to chasing the story.
What is there to say about Minecraft that hasn’t been said before? It’s arguably the most famous and influential game of the last decade. It’s a game which captured the imaginations and countless hours of free time of adults and children alike, despite, or maybe because of, its weird, voxel-based graphics. And it happens to be a great game to unwind after a long day.
Granted, it’s most likely to work best if you play solo, or with a few choice friends, but going into the creative mode and building something, big or small, gives a similar sense of progress and accomplishment that House Flipper, mentioned earlier, does. Seeing a fortress grow, or a recreation of a fantasy city expand thanks to your own work is no game does better than Minecraft.
One Finger Death Punch 2
|Developer||Silver Dollar Games|
One Finger Death Punch, both of them, really, are phenomenal games to launch for fifteen minutes when you’re on a break, complete a couple stages, unwind, and return to your business. Despite the title, you need just two fingers to watch your stick figure beat the hell out of hundreds of other stick figures. It’s absurdly simple, but works extremely well.
OFDP can get very fast, but adjusts its speed to your performance, which means that the better you are, the faster it goes, which on a good day can put you in a strong flow mindset, where nothing exists, just you and two lines of enemies. It’s great if you want to vent, great if you want to do something completely mechanical, and great if you are old enough to know Xiao-Xiao.
Stardew Valley is undoubtedly a labour of love, and it’s reflected in its polish and charm. Although clearly Harvest Moon-inspired, this lovely farm management sim stand on its own very well, staying among the top-rated Steam games. Unlike the real life, running this virtual farm is serene, relaxing, AND satisfying.
Also unlike on real farms, in Stardew Valley you can grab your gear and go dungeon crawling for rare resources. You can, and should, also visit the nearby town to sell your produce, get new seeds or tools, and, perhaps most importantly, meet the locals. The are many NPCs in town, and they are quite friendly, adding to the game’s welcoming nature.
Universe Sandbox 2
Sometimes you relax you just have to distance yourself from daily concerns. There might be no other game that gives you as much distance as this one. Universe Sandbox gives you control over planets, stars and galaxies. The title really doesn’t lie. If you want to, you can create a new star system, smash stars together, or bombard Earth with asteroids, if you fancy.
Universe Sandbox is also playable in VR, increasing your immersion immeasurably, and making you even more distanced for the duration. Even if you aren’t of astronomical bent, there is no conflicts in Universe Sandbox 2, and toying with celestial bodies of all scales is a soothing experience that also provides a chance to just vent like an angry god.
Relax, we’ve got your back
That concludes our list of relaxing games which can be of great help if all you need is just relax and forget your stresses for a few moments. Hopefully one, or more, of the options caught your interest and will help you wind down after a bothersome day.