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popularity of ultra-violent games such as Call of Duty, Dead Space, and Mortal
Kombat, one might think that all video games are designed as adrenaline-fueled
roller coaster rides that aim for shock and awe. Not so. Plenty of games out
there are designed to relax the player, rather than provide intense thrills.
Below I’ve put together a list of qualities that make games relaxing, and will
explain how they apply to 7 games that have a mellow-out-the-player quality to
*Open-ended exploration: Relaxing games tend to be
open-world, rather than linear. Something about exploring a game world just
*Collectibles and incentives to explore: It isn’t
enough for a game just to have an open world. The player needs to have
an incentive to explore that world. Collectibles are often the solution.
*Relaxing music: Music- when done right- has the
power to sway a person’s emotions. Therefore, it has the power to soothe and
relax. Relaxing music can have a powerful effect when implemented into a game.
*Relatively easy gameplay: It’s hard to feel relaxed
if a game’s difficulty is stressing you out. A relaxing game’s gameplay is
usually fairly easy- easy, but fun.
*Rewards you the more you play: A lot of games with a
mellow-out effect just seem mundane to people who prefer something more
action-y. So why do people play these games? Because they reward the player,
that’s why. We want to expand our virtual house, or gain a new ability, or
level up our character. In-game rewards are what keep the player coming back to
I’ll start with what is arguably the most adorable game in
*Open-ended exploration: This is a 2D platformer, so
most of the game involves traveling from left to right. Sometimes you go up or
down, and sometimes there are hidden collectibles. Aside from that, I wouldn’t
say exploration is this game’s focus.
*Collectibles and incentives to explore: Like any
good platformer, Kirby’s Epic Yarn is chop full of collectibles. Like Animal
Crossing, you collect furniture, carpets, and wallpaper for your home.
*Relaxing music: The soundtrack is pitch-perfect in
this game. It always fits the mood of whatever is going on, which is pretty
easy because there are only two moods in this game: upbeat and peaceful.
*Relatively easy gameplay: 2D platformers have a
reputation for being brutally difficult, but Kirby has always been the
exception. While getting Gold Rank on every level provides a decent challenge,
the vast majority of the game is pretty forgiving.
*Rewards you the more you play: Whether you’re trying
to completely decorate your house or complete every level, Epic Yarn provides
plenty of reasons to keep playing.
Also play: LittleBigPlanet, A Boy and His Blob
*Open-ended exploration: Rather than give you
objectives to complete, Minecraft gives you the freedom to explore, build a
house, and collect resources- all at your own pace.
*Collectibles and incentives to explore: With all the
stuff you’re building, you’re constantly in need of more materials to go out
and collect. And the randomly generated world keeps exploration exciting.
*Relaxing music: The minimalist score fits the tone
of the game well, and never feels obtrusive.
*Relatively easy gameplay: To be honest, Minecraft
isn’t particularly relaxing on the harder difficulty settings. Those darn
Creepers have made my blood pressure spike more often than I care to admit. But
there’s always the option to play on Peaceful, in which there are no monsters
*Rewards you the more you play: Maybe your goal is to
build an impenetrable fortress, or maybe you just want to set yourself up with
armor and tools made of diamonds. Minecraft never runs out of ways to reward
Also play: Terraria
*Open-ended exploration: Most games in the series
give you a decent-sized town to walk around in. Getting to know the townsfolk
and deciding whom to befriend, trade with, and pursue a relationship with is
part of Harvest Moon’s appeal.
*Collectibles and incentives to explore: Some entries
in the series do this better than others. Most of the games have flowers to and
berries to pick, but some of them take this to the next level and include
Animal Crossing-style bug catching, fishing, and several random items to
collect in the countryside.
*Relaxing music: Harvest Moon has an unfortunate
tendency to only use 2 or 3 songs, but most of the time they’re appropriately
cheerful and/or relaxing.
*Relatively easy gameplay: This isn’t a game series
about thumb-skills so much as it is a game about consuming a lot of your time
and gradually seeing the fruits of your efforts. The gameplay is very
straightforward, and typically consists of walking up to things and pressing
the “A” button.
*Rewards you the more you play: Over the course of
the game, you raise a farm, make friends, get married, and start a family.
While the game suffers from repetition, it’s just incredibly satisfying to
build up a successful farm out of a little patch of land.
Also play: Animal Crossing, The Sims, MySims, Farmville
*Open-ended exploration: Assassin’s Creed is a game
with a lot of violence and dark storytelling, which makes it stand out among
the other games I’ve mentioned here. But if you want a tranquil gameplay
experience, just ignore the game’s story for a while and explore the city. The
world is wide open and gives you plenty of things to do just to pass the time.
*Collectibles and incentives to explore: Aside from
the original game, which had a bunch of pointless Templar flags scattered
around the world, the series does a great job with giving the player worthwhile
collectibles. AC II made a point of always providing an in-game reward for
finding all the feathers, glyphs, and codex pages in the world.
*Relaxing music: The Assassin’s Creed series has some
of the most soothing music I’ve ever heard. The tune that plays whenever you
synchronize a viewpoint still gives me chills.
*Relatively easy gameplay: The series has been
criticized for its easy combat, but it does a good job of making you feel
powerful. Assassin’s Creed is relaxing in a different way than the other games
on this list. When you’re PO’d after a lousy day at work, what better way to
blow of steam than stabbing a bunch of dudes in the face?
*Rewards you the more you play: Plenty of weapons to
buy, armor upgrades, and real estate to invest in. Refining your own
assassin-skills is also satisfying.
Also play: InFamous, Red Dead Redemption, Bully
*Open-ended exploration: One of the greatest things
about Skyrim is how much fun it is just to wander aimlessly in the wilderness.
*Collectibles and incentives to explore: Man, there
are a ton of berries and flowers to pick. The intuitive alchemy system is a
great way to make money, so you’ll be rewarded for your hunting/gathering.
*Relaxing music: I cannot praise the score enough.
It’s soothing, atmospheric, and makes it easy to get lost in the world.
*Relatively easy gameplay: Skyrim is full of hostile
creatures, some of which are very formidable. But like Minecraft, you can lower
the difficulty if things get frustrating.
*Rewards you the more you play: Skyrim’s phenomenal
leveling system plays a big part in making the game so darn addictive.
Also play: Fallout 3, The Legend of Zelda series
*Open-ended exploration: There is exploration
in this game… in a sense… You explore the concept of getting off the sofa and
moving around to play a video game. Some light exercise is a good way to
*Collectibles and incentives to explore: …yeah. I’ve
*Relaxing music: The game provides some simple but
pleasant tunes to accompany your virtual sports.
*Relatively easy gameplay: Elderly people find this
game easy to pick up and play, so I’m sure you’ll be able to figure it out.
*Rewards you the more you play: You can increase your
player level and unlock a golden bowling ball or something. But the real reward
of this game is the number of calories you’re burning. Whoo! Exercise!
Also play: Kinect Sports, Dance Central, actual sports
*Open-ended exploration: Most 3D platformers of this
generation are focused around precision rather than exploration, but De Blob 2
provides a nice sense of freedom. It also helps that the world you’re exploring
is full of color and personality.
*Collectibles and incentives to explore: De Blob 2 is
loaded with stuff to collect- but with the added bonus of being able to paint
the world around you. Transforming the dull, gray world into a colorful one is
*Relaxing music: Different music plays depending on
what color you are, with an added chorus that plays whenever you’re coloring
something. It’s all very charming.
*Relatively easy gameplay: De Blob 2 is light on
difficulty overall, although the later levels are a bit tricky.
*Rewards you the more you play: You collect light
bulbs that allow you to upgrade your health and paint capacity. New mechanics
are introduced throughout the game, which keep things from getting too
Also play: Banjo Kazooie, Katamari
What games do you play to mellow out? Can you think of any
qualities of relaxing games that I didn’t mention here? Comment Below!