When most people think of games, they think of action and adventure. Of frantically hopping through Mario levels or lighting up opponents in an FPS. What they often don’t think of is calmly sitting down, throwing on a podcast or some background music, and relaxing. In a day and age when high stakes multiplayer games are more popular than ever, and each new trailer is littered with more explosions and jump cuts than a Michael Bay film, I think it’s important to remember that games can be a way to wind down. Not only that, but they can still be fun while doing so.
Mini Metro has become a much-beloved pastime for me thanks to its clean, minimalistic visuals and simple gameplay. It’s a clever little puzzler in which you have to construct and modify a metro system to operate efficiently under increasingly stressful loads. While that sounds like it could rapidly become nerve-wracking, the difficulty increases at such a smooth pace that you never really find yourself worrying all that much about it. Plus, there are three difficulty settings to choose from, including an endless mode in case you don’t want to have to worry about death. Even after hours of play, I’ve found myself more than willing to load it up while watching a video or listening to a podcast; it’s a great way to feel like you’re doing something productive instead of just sitting and staring at a screen.
Another great example is games in which you’re doing level or exploration grinding. From personal experience, Pokémon games have been perfect for this sort of thing. The turn-based battles mean that you don’t have to devote a ton of attention to them and can easily go on autopilot if you want to focus on your other activities a bit more. However, I’ve heard of many other examples of this sort of thing. Exploring the world for side objectives in Assassin’s Creed is a great opportunity to throw something on in the background and zone out, especially given how monotonous some of the collectibles can be to find.
There are also entire games which are well-suited to relaxing. While games like Journey can be fantastic zen-like experiences, I’d like to focus more on games that let you do something else while playing them; Journey really isn’t the same without its soundtrack. However, a perfect example of a game that allows you to shift your auditory focus is Euro Truck Simulator and its sequel. As the title suggests, you’re literally driving a big semi-truck around, making deliveries between various points on a sprawling map. If you’re the kind of person who easily gets road rage, it may not be a great at alleviating your stress, but for everyone else, it’s ideal for throwing on when you’ve got some other stuff to pay attention to. Be it a recorded lecture or a new album, driving down European highways is a great way to give yourself something to do instead of twiddling your thumbs.
I think it’s common for games that don’t require laser precision and razor-sharp focus to be labeled as “casual” or “boring”. However, while they may not offer the same level of challenge as their more advanced counterparts, it’s important to remember that they still have a place in your library. Maybe you’ve just lost your fifth League of Legends game in a row and want to bang your head against the wall. Perhaps you’re playing through a Halo game on Legendary and wondering how in the hell that Jackal could snipe you. Maybe, like me, you just have something lengthy to listen to and want to do something else in the meantime. Whatever the case, I can guarantee that there’s a game out there that’ll suit your needs. We all need to wind down occasionally, and games can be a perfect way to do that.
What are some games that you like to play to calm down and/or relax? Sound off in the comments below!