By Chloe Barrett
Ah, September. The busy, tumultuous, often difficult time of year as students settle into a fresh term of academic bliss. Oftentimes, it can be very stressful, and even talking about the pressure you are under can make a huge difference. Some turn to familiar hobbies to unwind and escape from the hectic nature of life, even if it is just for an hour. While there are other leisurely hobbies out there, gaming happens to be my speciality. Fighting games can be a great way to blow off steam, but I am here to recommend some lovely, relaxing ones.
First up is a cult classic: Animal Crossing. I am sure many have heard of this bestselling franchise, especially as its latest addition New Horizons took pandemic players by storm (when people were wishing for time off work to devote to this game, they did not mean over a year-long pandemic!). There are five Animal Crossing entries to the series, not counting the designer and board game versions, and they span on every major Nintendo console apart from the Wii U, which gives you plenty of variety. The focus on each game is similar, you are a human coexisting with animals in a town or island, and as you grow your friendships with them, you also develop your house and the surrounding areas. There is no pressure within the game, you simply take it at your own pace and do whatever you wish. From decorating to discovering new flower hybrids, this series has something for everyone within it. A multiplayer option also exists within most versions, so if you have the urge to visit your friend’s world for some chill time, or even a random player to trade items with, it is simple and fun to do.
Stardew Valley, designed by Eric Barone, is a farming simulator available on all consoles, pc and mobile. After inheriting your grandfather’s farm, your goal is to turn it into a farming wonderland, complete with crops and animals. You can live an entire life through it! Get married, perhaps have children, or prioritise your farm, you choose. If you want to be adventurous, take a detour to the nearby mine and fight some little pixel monsters, you have all the freedom. With twenty-eight days in each month, there is no pressure to be particularly active one day, you can devote days to just crop farming and tending to your livestock. There are also regular events you can participate in to meet the locals and hobbies to indulge in, such as fishing. It is a great, relaxing, cute pixel adventure. Plus, the soundtrack itself can relieve some stress and calm your mind, which is always a plus.
Indie-esque titles are often known for being aesthetic, reasonably priced hidden gems which can easily provide hours of entertainment. Usually available digitally on most major platforms, they are incredibly simple to download, pick up, and delve deep into. Donut County, developed by Ben Esposito, is a puzzle game where you are an expandable hole in the ground, intent on swallowing everything you can into your abyss. I will admit, it sounds strange, perhaps a bit off-putting by my description too. But, it is a fun and certainly unique game. The graphics are quite adorable and there are tons of wacky scenarios you can get yourself into. It is often on sale, and for the bargain price of a few euros, it is a worthy investment. After all, who doesn’t want to swallow towns whole in a relaxing, puzzling fashion?
The second indie title which I am recommending is brought to you by a Canadian studio called Thunder Lotus Games. It is none other than Spiritfarer. Now, an earnest warning, it can be a tearjerker. Playing as Stella, your job is to transport the spirits of the deceased into the afterlife. You build your boat, take care of kind spirits, and participate in lots of activities such as cooking, harvesting, fishing and more. Grief is a big feature in this game, particularly the aspect of letting go and saying goodbye once you grow to love and care for someone. Regardless, it is a truly gorgeous game, one that you will not forget anytime soon. If you’re in the mood for a possible cry, this is sure to trigger it, so bring tissues.
Want even more relaxing games? Check out the popular franchises of Minecraft, The Sims, Harvest Moon, or even some other indie titles, such as House Flipper, Alto’s Adventure, Kind Words, Coffee Talk, Planet Zoo, My Time At Portia, Calico and Hidden Folk. Countless amazing titles would appreciate your playtime while helping you chill out after these busy college days, so I do hope at least one of them helps you unwind.
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