What are the most relaxing games you should play to help you de-stress? Sometimes we don’t always want to end a long, busy day being taken out by sweaty teenagers in Warzone 2 or being scared silly by the jump scare horrors of Callisto Protocol. Instead, there are times when all we want to do is nestle into our cosy gaming thrones with a cup of tea and a nice chill game to help us forget our stresses and strains.
If you fancy a break from the more anxiety-inducing games in your library and on our list of the best PC games right now, then melt into one of the calming games on this list. With our selection of puzzle games, adventure games, and more, you’ll dive into the deep blue ocean of Abzu, experience the therapeutic satisfaction of really cleaning something in Powerwash Simulator, or even relax with friends in Tetris Effect. Let’s just say, when it comes to the kind of relaxing games you should try, we’ve got all bases covered.
The most relaxing games on PC in 2023 are:
The stunning Journey is a critically-acclaimed and multiple award-winning adventure through an epic and immersive desert setting. While Journey isn’t open–world and you’re constantly guided towards your destination, it doesn’t feel that way as you’re always surrounded by endless waves of sand.
If music helps you unwind as well, then Journey offers a Grammy-nominated soundtrack that perfectly captures the atmosphere of the world around you. And while being stranded in a desert might not sound like the best way to unwind, we promise the artistic graphics, ability to glide through the air, and the mystical sights and creatures you’ll discover make this a blissful must-play.
Too often when we plunge underwater in games we’re on a strict timer. Whether we’re hunting for food and drink in survival games like Subnautica, or running out of oxygen in countless others, we’re always in a rush for some precious air.
Not so in Abzu: this is a relaxing game from some of the creators behind Journey that encourages you to take a moment and drink it all in. Figuratively, that is. Here, you have the time to explore at your own pace, allowing you to properly get to know the ocean.
Mimicking the environmental storytelling of Journey, Abzu’s mesmeric waters are teeming with cryptic ruins itching to share their wordless stories. Light puzzling punctuates each new environment of calming bliss, but this is a watery world you will want to explore every inch of before progressing.
When you’re done sitting on the seabed in contemplative silence, much of your time in Abzu will be spent marvelling at the subterranean fauna that are more than happy to show you around. As you clamber onto the back of a fish the name of their species pops up, teaching you a little about your new mode of transport as you join their playful leaps above the water’s twinkling surface. We said in our Abzu PC review that, while it takes a minimalistic gameplay approach, developer Giant Squid’s intoxicating ocean is anything but shallow.
While many look to chill games for a mental escape, Stardew Valley begins with a literal one. Playing as a burned-out city worker, the existence of your grandfather’s farm plot in the rural southern coast of Stardew Valley is your ticket away from the big smoke. But, even though you’ve wriggled free of your grey, identikit cubicle, you’ve still got plenty of work to do.
As you arrive amid the rolling hills of your new home, you’ll find that your grandfather’s old agricultural haunt has seen better days. With wood strewn everywhere and weeds obstinately anchored to the ground, it’s a spot that Stardew Valley’s estate agents would politely call “up and coming”. From there, whether you want to romance all of the valley’s denizens, take up fishing, or become a ruthless jam mogul, what you do with your new life is up to you.
Whether Stardew Valley is realistic or not, this is one of the best management games for green-fingered souls who want to luxuriate in the fantasy of binning the urban rat race. That’s why, at the end of a trying day, Stardew Valley is one of the best relaxing games to while away evenings and weekends revelling in its 16-bit beauty – and as it’s one of the best laptop games, you can play it anywhere.
Have you ever watched How Clean is Your House or Grand Designs and thought you could do it better? House Flipper is essentially a mix of the two as it gives you the chance to turn a cockroach-ridden dive into a chic sanctuary and sell it on for a tidy profit. But, before that, you’ve got to get your hands dirty.
As a budding entrepreneur you’ll start with a rundown shed as your base of operations and a laptop with which to secure business. You’ll have to be satisfied with menial work-for-hire contracts such as cleaning up after gross tenants or repainting garishly ill-judged hues at the beginning. But, if you save up, you can buy your own properties. They’ll still be excrement-smeared dumps, but this time you can make some decent money when the necessary renovations are complete.
Like many simulation games, House Flipper can feel like work. Your idea of a relaxing game might not stretch to busting some elbow grease on floor stains and fitting radiators, but there are those that will enjoy the therapeutic qualities of cleaning. Equally, you can smash walls up with a sledgehammer, which is the preferred method of de-stressing here at PCGamesN.
Sometimes life can get so stressful that you just want the ground to open up and swallow you. If Donut County proves anything it’s that this isn’t entirely practical when it comes to a settlement’s infrastructure. More importantly, however, it’s a lot of fun.
Ben Esposito’s eccentric indie game sees you piloting a hole in the ground. Then, with each brightly-coloured object that falls into the abyss, the hole gets larger. You’ll start with objects as small as bricks and little critters, but you’ll soon be cackling as your all-consuming maw gobbles up entire tower blocks.
As with many other relaxing games on this list, Donut County doesn’t take itself especially seriously. Nonsensical descriptions of items you’ve swallowed drip with surrealist whimsy in the Trashopedia. You’ll start at level nine and finish at ten for no discernible reason. This, plus the simple puzzling that forms the game’s core, makes this irreverent title the ideal title to play after a garbage day.
Leave it to Katamari Damacy creator Keita Takahashi to create a game about making friends with, er, everything. In Wattam, you play as a lonely mayor cast adrift after an unknown disaster, embarking on a colorful, open-world adventure in this sandbox game.
Over the course of this three-hour adventure you meet, greet, and play with over 100 different characters, ranging from an anthropomorphic nose to a telephone, and even a toilet, each offering their own tool for you to mess around with and create your own fun. Experience each of the four seasons with your news friends, and even play in co-op mode – so your real-life friends can meet your new virtual ones.
Any frame of your four hours with Gris would look at home in an art gallery. Nomada Studios’ ravishing visual design makes this soothing game feel like a sojourn through animated watercolour. Splashes of wispy cloud melt away into endless skies. Intricate mazes can be found within daintily-drawn ruins that dominate this sumptuous canvas.
You play as the eponymous protagonist as she brings an explosion of eye-catching colour to her monochrome world, but this is a place that eschews words to tell its poignant story of grief and loss through music, colour, and motion. Like Matt Makes Games’ Celeste, Gris uses platforming as a metaphor: we learn our limits by jumping, and falling.
In a similar vein to House Flipper, Teardown also sees you knocking down walls, but on a far bigger scale. If your idea of relaxation is screaming into a pillow rather than meditating, then the kamikaze gameplay of Teardown is your virtual and pain-free way of letting your energy out on some well-earned destruction. Drive trucks into buildings, plant explosives, and even set dinosaurs loose on the world in one of Teardown’s featured mods.
Ostensibly, the premise of David O’Reilly’s sandbox game is quite the opposite of a relaxing game. It’s a game that asks us “what if you could have control of all the things, all at once?”. It then takes that whimsical concept and runs, flies, and rolls with it. From 3,000 playable characters you can be a daisy or blade of grass one minute, and fly through an urban landscape as a flock of birds or controlling planets the next. This is Everything, and not in the irritating, youth slang sense.
While having autonomy over every last thing in the world should feel overwhelming, it’s actually liberating. With no real goal besides having fun as you mess around in your own universe-sized playground, you can do as you please. In this way, Everything is a calming game where your only limit is your divine imagination.
If you’re a commuter tormented by late, uncomfortable, or even absent transport then a management game about designing a metro system may not be your idea of a relaxing game, but trust us on this. With Mini Metro, Dinosaur Polo Club have somehow managed to instil complex mechanics within a clean aesthetic, while also ensuring that you can actually enjoy designing subways.
As the director of a growing metropolis, you start by managing three stations and designing the links that connect them. More stations will appear, but different shapes indicate their popularity with passengers. When your lines get busier your time with Mini Metro won’t be without some stress, but the clean, easy-to-understand interface along with the game’s soothing tones helps to keep this to a minimum.
Much of life’s stresses stem from the never-ending list of mundane daily tasks we must complete. That often means the last thing we want to do in our leisure time is even more busywork, with quest logs saturated with fetching random items and satisfying progress bars. Proteus is the antidote to such experiences, offering you the freedom to merely exist in its pixelated world without having to tick off any tasks.
No quests or puzzles will detain you as you saunter across Ed Key and David Kanaga’s peculiar island of rolling hills and deep blue oceans; you’re largely a passive observer as you attempt to decipher the island’s secrets. The retro, synthesised sound effects contribute to Proteus’ tranquil atmosphere and signal changing seasons. If you’re feeling fully refreshed by this calming game and want something a little creepier, however, you can make it darker with the Purgateus mod.
Unpacking had a huge year in 2022, following its release in late 2021 – and for good reason. This self-professed “zen” game requires little to no brain power as you seek to leave behind a troublesome day by putting things in their place.
Like a few games on this list, you might find the task at hand somewhat stressful in real life, but put it in a cute, simple, pastel-colored video game, and suddenly there’s nothing you’d rather do than unpack boxes in a new home. This is helped by the fact that you didn’t pack these boxes in the first place, so the wonders of what’s inside adds a level of mystery and excitement you can’t get from unpacking your own clothes and kitchenware.
You might not immediately associate Tetris with relaxation – especially when you get closer to the end, the blocks are falling faster, the music intensifies… If that fills you with dread and panic, then Tetris Effect, surprisingly, might be right up your street. The antithesis of classic Tetris, placing blocks and filling lines in Tetris Effect will fill your Zone meter. Once this is full, Zone mode freezes time, letting you move and fix misplaced blocks and plan your future moves.
Add stunning visuals, a soothing soundtrack, and even multiplayer, and Tetris Effect provides hours of solo or co-op block-dropping fun that is actually relaxing.
And finally, a satisfying simulation game that will easily help you wind down after a long day of hard work – with more hard work. OK, we realise that’s been a running theme with a few of these entries, but even when you don’t have the energy to clean and tidy the real space around you, there can still be some therapeutic relief in arming yourself with a jet wash and spraying colourful vehicles, playgrounds, and even subway stations until they’re sparkling.
Just as you might if you were powerwashing your own backyard, put some headphones on and while away the hours peacefully washing away the literal and metaphorical dirt, as PowerWash Simulator has been purposefully chosen to help you unwind.
…and breathe out. We hope our list of the best relaxing PC games has been a welcome salve to the noise and bluster you might typically find elsewhere in gaming. If you’re someone who likes to unwind by exerting your creative juices you should continue your digital detox with the best building games on PC. Now, if you’ll excuse us, we’re going to go back to working out a way of reconciling our love of caffeine with our ceaseless compulsion to lazy afternoon naps.