6 calming games to play if you’re stressed

Feeling a bit overwhelmed? Here are 6 great games to play if you're stressed.
melatonin - games to play if you're stressed

It’s safe to say we’re not starved for stressful content these days. In moments we’ve reached our inevitable intake peak, and respite becomes a pressing need, sometimes the best thing we can do is tune out and plug in with an old, reliable comfort game.  

Gaming will continue to be a fantastic outlet for stress and rage relief, and has been proven to provide real psychological and cognitive benefits when combined with informed practices like art therapy. So, here are seven games to play if you’re stressed.

If this list doesn’t resonate with your preferred play-style, don’t stress. You can also check out our list of games to play when you’re feeling overwhelmed for some alternative suggestions, or games to help curb your doomscrolling habit if it’s a healthy distraction you seek.

Flower screenshot - games to play if you're stressed
Image: thatgamecompany


Flower is a meditative title that I would highly recommend for times when existing becomes exhausting. Its immersive, true-to-nature sound effects create a gorgeous atmosphere as you use your environment to guide petals through the wind, sparking plant life around you to bloom with colour. 

It’s a game that feels incredibly relaxing to play, and leaves you with a positive aftertaste in its short and sweet two hour runtime, as you work to bring life to a previously gloomy field. Developer thatgamecompany are absolute pros at delivering abstract experiences that touch on wider themes, creating successful titles like Journey and Flow which hinge on similar calming gameplay. 

Nature has no rhyme or rhythm. In stressful times, be a petal in the wind. 

unpacking game igea australian games development survey games to play if you're stressed
Image: Unpacking / Witch Beam


Unpacking is a wholesome zen puzzle game about uncovering a life through sentimental household items.  I will never forget the audible gasps heard throughout the PAX AUS 2019 Indie Showcase when it was revealed you could indeed flip the toilet roll both ways.

This early gameplay reveal was such a testament to what fans of the cosy genre appreciated about the game as a whole – a celebration of small moments shown through uniquely human game design. 

Its narrative is communicated through changes to your surroundings as you unpack boxes across eight important house moves. This kind of gentle, environmental storytelling invites you to take your time, unpack slowly, while solving block-fitting puzzles – sitting comfortably with the deeper takeaways from the game.

Read: Video games are the new art therapy

zelda breath of the wild switch 2
Image: Nintendo

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild 

As far as newer Zelda instalments go, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild has managed to stay on my gaming rotation well beyond its initial release.  

While the higher stakes of the main story loom over Breath of the Wilds’ vast open world, it is so easy to get lost in the smaller moments this game has to offer. Whether you want to spend time experimenting with recipes, tackling smaller side quests, collecting Korok seeds, or simply taking in the scenery whilst dormantly paragliding, there is such a genuine sense of discovery that bleeds through this title. 

Breath of the Wild also feels slightly more achievable to work through in comparison to the scale of its sequel The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom. Every region uncovered feels so full of life, and accompanied with the titles’ calming orchestral score, stunning anime inspired graphics and reactive weather physics, it’s the perfect alternative to actually leaving the house on days we need to succumb to our hermit tendencies. 

Tetris Effect Connected
Image: Enhance Inc.

Tetris Effect: Connected

Tetris Effect emits the same type of zen, flow-state gameplay you’d find in mobile titles like Bejeweled, Candy Crush and Plants vs Zombies. Whilst the intensity does crank up as you progress, Zone Mode allows you to catch a breath and momentarily pause incoming bricks, giving you more time to stack till your heart’s content. 

Its engaging visuals and psytrance-esc music combine to create a therapeutic at home rave experience, and its focused, quick-paced gameplay encourages you to trust your instincts. I personally would place Tetris Effect into the category of ADHD brain de-stress titles next to WarioWare and Pokemon Puzzle League. Whilst it may not make complete sense to use both of those descriptors in the same breath, thinking is the destroyer of peace, so just like don’t do that and become one with the mesmerising world of Tetris

Image: Half Asleep


Melatonin is a dreamy rhythm game developed by Vancouver-based indie studio Half Asleep games. We included the title in our 2022 Wholesome Direct lineup of favourites for its vibrant pastel colour palette, minimalist art style and catchy upbeat soundtrack, which all create a cosy space to escape into when you need a decent distraction.  

Each musical prompt is timed to the beat of its accompanying animation sequence, and following along feels super accessible even if you’re not overly musically inclined. The songs are also real earworms and the overall experience is memorable and gratifying when paired with these mini music video moments.

A Little to the Left game
Image: Max Inferno

A Little to the Left 

A Little to the Left is a game about pattern recognition. If, like me, you find tranquillity in menial tasks like colour coordination, wardrobe categorisation, and have every book on your shelf arranged by size, you’re probably some degree of neurodiverse as well and will find a safe space in this title. 

This game is hugely effective in its simplicity, and encourages you to think laterally with the puzzles it presents to you. Hints are also always on hand if you get stuck, as some solutions aren’t as readily obvious as others, but rarely feel completely out of reach to complete.    

It’s a game I can live vicariously through when my friends don’t let me voluntarily clean their rooms (despite how many times I will continue to offer), and is a delightful treat for the tidy inclined.

Emily Shiel is a freelance writer based in Melbourne, Australia who is passionate about all things accessibility, mental health and the indie games scene. You can find her on Twitter at @emi_shiel