Looking to bring some joy into your life through video games? The best feel-good games offer some much-needed comfort during tough times. Whether it be because they give you a welcoming space to get lost in for a while, or help you take your mind off of your troubles with relaxing puzzles and activities, there are plenty of games out there to help you unwind. Whether you’re searching for some positivity or you’re after some cozy vibes, there’s sure to be something in our pick for you.
From games that offer a hopeful message to delightful, laidback gems that can help after a stressful day, there’s everything from the likes of Animal Crossing: New Horizons to Stardew Valley, and more. Read on as we take you through the best feel-good games for times when you need to get lost in something for a little while.
10. Peggle Deluxe
Yeah, that’s right, Peggle. In the final moments of any round of Peggle, whether you’ve cleared all the pegs or just the requisite number, the result is the same. The ball slows down on the approach to the final peg, as it hits, firework visuals burst from the screen and ‘Ode to Joy’ crescendos. It doesn’t matter how many times this happens; each one is accompanied by either a grin of achievement or an air punch. This is pure unadulterated ‘joy’ condensed into bright visuals and terrific sound design.
There’s very little skill needed in order to reach this moment and it barks loudly of Pavlov’s dog, but it cannot be helped, ‘Ode to Joy’ is a wonderfully catchy tune and the perfect end to a game. The bonus is that Peggle can be played on everything and by everyone. You can give it to kids or your grandad and each one will be filled with happiness for those few minutes until it happens all over again.
Developer: Popcap Games
When the credits finally roll on Minecraft, after beating the Ender Dragon, we’re treated to a poem of sorts. One which, upon first creation was meant to be “over the top” on sentiment. If you cut through all the cheese and whimsy, there are a few lines that actually carry some emotional weight. Granted, you have to complete the game after perhaps hundreds of hours to see this poem, but one line manages to sum up the entire experience of this sandbox adventure – “What did this player dream?”
Minecraft is much more than an adventure story full of monsters and survival. It’s an opportunity for play, to create anything your heart and mind can conceive. Perhaps the game itself doesn’t spell out this concept, but it gives players a place to feel at home, at peace, and create anything from outlandish castles for solo players to rattle around in, to sprawling villages made by a mum and her kids. It’s electronic LEGO, where imagination runs free and anyone can be what they want, with no boundaries or limits.
Developer: Mojang Studios
Platform(s): PC, Xbox One, PS4, Nintendo Switch
8. The Sims
It doesn’t matter which iteration you choose; The Sims can bring joy in so many ways. Whether you want to create and build an adorable family who will strive to chase their dreams, or maybe you enjoy messing with the tiny beings by stealing ladders, you’re free to do as you wish and orchestrate your own stories in this virtual dollhouse. And who can forget just cheating, gaining infinite money, and building the biggest, most lavish house you can imagine? The Sims is the perfect way to live a life you may not be able to achieve in the real world – be a rockstar, an astronaut or an artist. Whatever you choose, will bring huge amounts of endorphins.
Platform(s): PC, Xbox One, PS4
ICO tells a classic ‘boy meets girl’ story set in a vast and sumptuous world. With no dialogue, each movement conveys emotion and the trust in which Yorda places in the titular character of Ico is just lovely. As the player, it’s up to you to piece together the story of this outcast boy and the Queen’s daughter, whose life is in danger.
The world is gorgeous, the castle and its puzzles are equally sublime. But the joy mostly comes from these two delightful characters interacting, with Yorda showing Ico how to love and accept one another for who they are. This is a traditional fairy tale and one which will be remembered forever. As an older title, Ico was originally a PS3 game but can be played on PS4 via PS Now. If you can’t get a hold of it, we also recommend trying out the remaster of Shadow of the Colossus.
Developer: Team Ico
Platform(s): PS3, PS4 (via PS Now)
The Yakuza games, for all their gunfights and fisticuffs, constantly convey a line of positivity. In one moment we could be in the middle of a street fight, only to find ourselves sat in a bar in the next – a whiskey in one hand, cigarette in the other, talking to a film director about the work of another. Kiryu straightens his posture and delivers a piece of advice about staying true to a vision.
Having a positive impact in a world that is in desperate need of it is a constant theme in Yakuza games. Below the criminal underworld, our hero has seen the worst in humans, and he seemingly wants to do right by them and keep everyone focused on the beauty of life. Likewise, Ichiban Kasuga in Yakuza: Like A Dragon is a real ray of sunshine you just can’t help but root for. Any one of the Yakuza games, while often dealing with some darker themes at times, will no doubt make you smile time and again with its signature humor, with protagonists you really come to care for.
Developer: Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio
Platform(s): PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S
Flower offer is game in which you play as a petal drifting along the currents of a breeze. This is a game of utter beauty in color, music and movement that offers up a very relaxing experience you can get swept in. Flower, much like Journey, is a game where your own interpretation is a guide to what occurs on screen. For some, it’s a tale of loss saved by new life springing forth. For others, it’s about birth and the constant renewal of life. On the bare face of things, it’s just a beautiful game which causes wide smiles and fond memories of summer days. If you enjoy Flower and you’ve yet to try it out, we also recommend checking out Journey for it’s similarly soothing feel and unique take on encountering other players in the world.
Platform(s): PC, PS4, iOS
Developer: Media Molecule
Another place where imagination is the only thing holding back the player from creating, but this time the game comes with all the delightful visuals and companions you need. Dreams, for the most part, guides you through processes with kindly voices and bright sentiments of encouragement. Playing to create, you’re always told what a great job you’ve done or how impressive your creation is. Playing other people’s creations opens up whole worlds of possibilities.
You might find a game that recreates racing toy cars across the carpet of a grandparent’s living room, or maybe a tale of loss and discovery. Dreams gives players a whole world of other people’s imaginations to roam through and when you’re done, you can leave comments of encouragement or stickers which simply spell out ‘good job, well done.’ Who doesn’t like being rewarded with praise and stickers?
3. Stardew Valley
Platform(s): PC, PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, Android, iOS
If you’re looking for something cosy and rewarding to sink into, then look no further than Stardew Valley. After inheriting your grandfather’s farm in Pelican town, you work to build up a little life of your own. From planting crops to looking after cows and chickens, there’s so much to work towards, and the series of little tasks you can get stuck into offer up the perfect distraction after a busy day. The residents of the town give this farming sim its heart, and it’s a real delight to get to know them and even develop relationships with them if you want to. There’s so much to discover and do in Stardew Valley, and you can even kick back and play it with pals if you’re looking to unwind with friends.
2. Kind Words (lo fi chill beats to write to)
Kind Words seemed to appear on Steam out of nowhere. Perhaps, like the greatest superheroes, it only appeared when we truly needed it. The player is right away folded up inside the comfort of a small living space made from calming hues, a chill Lo-Fi playlist bumps along in the background. The desk facing the beauty of the outside world is bathed in natural light from the large window which opens for a deer to bring messages from real people around the globe. Some of these messages are simple notes saying hello; others are cries for help. With this article in mind, I opened up the game and found people understandably worried about COVID19.
Kind Words sets out to make the world a better place through communication and it does so by keeping the player in a safe space. There’s no griefing, no trolls, just positivity and people helping each other with sentiments of peace, words of encouragement, and tiny envelopes bursting with advice.
1. Animal Crossing: New Horizons
Platform(s): Nintendo Switch
What would this list be without Animal Crossing? Tom Nook’s getaway package offers up a wonderful little slice of paradise on an island that you can really make your own. Since it’s release, it’s been such a source of comfort for so many during hard times thanks to it’s delightful characters and laid-back feel. The adorable fuzzy neighboring villagers really do become real friends, and they’re always so happy to see you whenever you pop by. You can wander around your little islands, picking fruit, catching bugs, fishing, and knocking on your friend’s doors simply to spend time with them. Animal Crossing: New Horizons is the kind of game that makes something as simple delivering a package for a villager the most joyful thing in life. And if you love to kick back and get stuck into designing your home or island, you’ll no doubt find the Happy Home Paradise DLC rewarding.