Sometimes, you can get to a point of mental overwhelm where tackling your problems head-on isn’t going to fix anything; when you’ve already pushed past your limits. When you’re so anxious or burnt out that you feel like you’re drowning. Once you’ve reached that place, the most valuable thing you can do is rest and reset.
Taking a break to do something you enjoy, something that brings you peace, is one option. It’s not about running away from your problems. It’s about allowing yourself to take a break when you need it. You’ll be much more capable of handling whatever life is throwing at you once you do.
If you play video games, turning to your console or PC is an obvious choice. But maybe the decision fatigue has hit ,and you simply don’t know what to play. This is a list of games carefully chosen for you.
These games are calming, colourful and full of positivity. They don’t take high levels of mental effort. They don’t require a huge time commitment. And as a bonus – acknowledging that finances are one of many things that could be causing overwhelm – they are all on the affordable side, costing AUD $20 or less each. While that isn’t a huge sum to pay for a game, it surely means a lot to the small development teams who make them.
5 gentle, cozy game recommendations
Platforms: iOS and Android (Early Access)
Playtime: 2 minutes per day
Kinder World is a free mobile game from Melbourne-based studio Lumi Interactive, designed to help you improve your mental health in just a few minutes per day. You can collect and take care of houseplants, meet friendly animals and decorate your own cozy home in this game, all with plenty of support from your companion, Sammy the Samoyed.
Read: Lumi Interactive is working to create a Kinder World
Watering your plants twice daily encourages you to take a quick break from everyday life to focus on quieting your mind. To enrich the water – and receive a better reward – you can complete a quick self-care activity, such as daily gratitude, a breathing exercise or emotional naming. Even taking thirty seconds to breathe slowly in time with the on-screen prompts can help to calm your nervous system and reduce stress.
The bone-shaped biscuits you receive from regularly caring for your plants can be saved up to pay Sammy for home upgrades, so returning daily is important – but don’t worry, your plants won’t die if you forget to water them. It is indeed a kinder world. The promise of unlocking new decorations and spaces in your home, as well as new friends to chat with, makes it worth playing in the long term.
Price: AU $14.50
Platforms: PC, PlayStation, Xbox,
Playtime: 1-3 hours
Teacup is a shy little frog. She doesn’t talk much, and she tends to look uncomfortable when she’s in crowded spaces, but her sweet little smile and the pep in her step are infectious. I dare you not to feel a spark of joy as she walks through the forest, her dress and beret bobbing along as she goes.
Teacup’s story follows her adventures one day, as she realises she has run out of tea in her tiny home in the forest. It’s the worst possible timing, as she has a tea party planned with friends tomorrow, so she heads out to explore Little Pond to replenish her supplies.
Along the way you meet a whole host of forest inhabitants, all unique and adorable in their own way. Their dialogue is engaging, often comical. They get you to participate in a variety of puzzles and mini-games; help them with a problem, and in return, they give you all the tea varieties you can dream of.
Teacup doesn’t ask much of you, but there’s so much comfort to be found in its vibrant world. It feels like diving into one of your favourite childhood cartoons – a definite safe space. Yet it isn’t childish; the writing is clearly intended for adults.
There are references made to Teacup’s anxiety, but her friends meet it with encouraging words rather than criticism. If you’re playing because you’re feeling anxious, it feels like these little friends are encouraging you, too.
Platforms: PC, Xbox and
Playtime: 1-2 hours
Paradise Marsh is a quirky narrative-adventure game by solo developer Etienne Trudeau. At the start of the game, with no preamble, you are dropped into a vast wetland environment, bug-catching net in hand. It quickly becomes evident that you need to catch lots of bugs and frogs for … some mysterious purpose.
Figuring out how they relate to the stars that are missing from the night sky requires some investigative work. The narrative is rather cryptic, so it’s really up to your interpretation. But even if you don’t manage to make sense of it, the dialogue is delightful – hilarious and confusing in equal measure.
To guide you, you have a field journal that can be filled by catching several of each critter to complete their pages, collecting messages (poems) in a bottle found floating in the marsh and engaging in conversation with birds and stars. These collectables are scattered throughout the marsh, and there’s no map to reference, so there’s freedom to complete tasks in any order.
Watching beautiful sunrises and sunsets as the days cycle by. Discovering the different locations and times of day that critters appear. Immersing yourself in the motions of walking, jumping and swinging your net – sometimes violently. It’s a blissfully simple existence.
Assemble with Care
Platforms: PC and
Play time: 1-2 hours
Assemble With Care is a blend of interactive storybook and puzzle game. It comes from UsTwo Games, who you may recognise as the developers of the Monument Valley games. You flip through a brightly coloured book, following the story of Maria, an antique restorer who – as part of her year-long trip away from home – has just arrived in the sunny town of Bellariva. After putting up a few flyers to advertise her trade, she is hired to repair a variety of objects, and is subsequently swept into the lives of the townspeople through their stories.
The world captured in the game’s story pages comes alive through a calming soundtrack overlaid with vivid voice acting and sound design. This carries your imagination far beyond the blocks of text and hand-drawn artworks on-screen. The overall narrative explores themes of reconciliation, offering an optimistic outlook on difficult situations. It’s an excellent combination of factors for when you’re struggling, and the real world just feels like too much.
Each chapter is punctuated by an item repair puzzle. They’re easily digestible, allowing you to apply real-world logic and usually only taking a few minutes to complete. There’s nothing too intimidating here; it’s just enough to keep your mind busy. The segmented nature of the game means it can easily be played in short bursts or all at once, depending on how much of a distraction you’re looking for.
Behind the Frame
Price: AU $18.95
Platforms: PC, PlayStation,
Playtime: 1 hour
Behind the Frame is a game likely to remind you of Studio Ghibli films, beloved for their cozy escapism. The story centres on a painter working hard to complete the final artwork in her portfolio for a gallery submission. With a combination of point-and-click narrative and escape room-style puzzles, you are taken on an emotional journey – all with beautifully animated cutscenes, of course.
Each in-game day sees you performing homely tasks like making eggs on toast for breakfast, popping a cassette in the tape player, making coffee, and working on your resume and paintings. It becomes a comfortable pattern.
This sequence is interspersed with cutscenes that reveal that not everything is as it seems: there’s a mystery hidden within the paintings. You find yourself completing puzzles and hunting for hidden items to discover what’s really happening behind each frame. It’s a bittersweet story, so if you’re in the mood to sit with your emotions a little, this is the game to choose.
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