Girl playing video games

Video games can be a way to de-stress and escape from everyday life. 

De-stressing and relaxing often involves an escape from reality. For some people, video games are the most immersive way to kick back and unwind. 

Relaxing video games have seen a rise in popularity on the video-sharing app TikTok. One creator, under the username, has over 140 thousand followers on the app from sharing videos of herself playing popular relaxing games such as Stardew Valley and Animal Crossing: New Horizons. The cozy gamer trend embraces video games as self-care.

Although the qualities that make a video game relaxing are dependent on the person, there are elements that are generally well-received by players when it comes to de-stressing. Hyerim Cho, an assistant professor at the MU College of Education and Human Development, says video games with a controlled or slower pace, soothing atmospheres and visuals and little pressure to complete tasks are viewed by many gamers as calming. 

No matter what you're looking for in a video game for relaxation, Vox has you covered with these recommendations from Columbia's video game experts. 

Puzzle games with soothing visuals


Kami 2 is an aesthetically pleasing mobile puzzle game in which the player has to fill the screen with one color of paper in as few moves as possible. The player can tap a certain section of the puzzle, and the paper will fold and change colors. Joseph Griffin, co-director of Adroit Studios Gaming Lab, says that while puzzle games might be stressful for some, they are soothing for him and can be for others as well. 

You can download Kami 2 for free on iOS.

Triple Town

Griffin also recommends Triple Town, a game in which the player merges different objects together to create a small city. The player starts out merging patches of grass to create bushes, merging bushes to create trees and eventually merging trees to create houses and other buildings. 

Griffin says puzzle games that involve combining objects together can be calming for players, especially since the game mechanics are so simple.

"The biggest thing I think of when I think of relaxation is not having to be intense with the button-pushing," Griffin says. "You can take your time, you can think about it, you can put it down if you want to."

The game is available for free on iOS, Android and Google Play and available for purchase on Steam. 

Wordless adventure with simple visuals and minimal conflict


Both Griffin and Cho recommend Journey as an abstract, indie adventure game. Set in a desert with a simple and minimalistic visual style, Journey has little-to-no conflict or tasks to complete for the gamer. Players walk toward a mountain in the distance and experience a wordless story through cutscenes and gameplay. You can meet other players along the way but can't interact with them. Players can only communicate through a musical chime, and unlike many other games, can only help each other . 

You can purchase Journey through the App Store, Steam and PlayStation. 

Puzzle game with a strong narrative element

Professor Layton series

Cho recommends the Professor Layton series for players who enjoy storytelling as well as solving puzzles. With anime and comic book-style visuals, this series will take you on adventures with Professor Layton and his assistant as they discover mysteries in their town and play puzzle games to solve them. She says the games are a good choice for players who still want to be intellectually stimulated while taking it easy with a comforting game.

The series is only available on Nintendo systems.

Adventure game with immersive storytelling

Life is Strange

Sam von Gillern, an assistant professor at the MU College of Education and Human Development, recommends the Life is Strange series for those who enjoy good storytelling to relax. Life is Strange is a series of graphic adventure games. The most recent installment, Life is Strange: True Colors, focuses on a character investigating the death of her brother by using her psychic powers. Von Gillern says experiencing a great story hands-on in a video game can be relaxing for players. 

"With video games, you're an active participant in those stories," von Gillern says. "There's this embodied sense of yourself as a character that you don't get in the same way with books or movies."

Life is Strange is available on many platforms for purchase including Steam, Xbox and PlayStation.

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