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 with the head-pumping rhythm violence of Thumper or north of 100 attempts against a brutal Dark Souls boss. 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.
The calming games we look for in these moments shouldn’t be too taxing on your grey matter. Nor should they be too loud, action heavy, or reliant on the lightning-quick reactions you’ll need to succeed in competitive multiplayer games. An easy, melodic soundtrack should slowly draw you into a charming world that deserves to be savoured, not rushed through.
If you fancy a break from the popular battle royale games vying for your full attention then consider the calming games in this list. You’ll dive into the deep blue ocean of Abzu, tidy up messy abodes in House Flipper, and, er, roll everything up into a massive ball in Katamari Damacy REROLL. 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 are:
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.
Check prices at GOG
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.
More like this: Here are the best management games
When 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 RPG 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.
Check prices at GOG
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.
Check prices at GOG
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, it 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.
Check prices at GOG
flOw is an entrancing curio that originally released as a Flash game to accompany the master’s thesis of company co-founder, Jenova Chen. Chen’s research focuses on Dynamic Difficulty Adjustment – the concept of designing a game in such a way that players of different skill levels can customise their own experience and enjoy a game at their own pace. In other words, exactly what many players look for from a chill game session.
While that might sound complicated, the gameplay is anything but. As a diminutive plankton-like organism, you explore a mysterious biosphere in search of food. Consuming other life forms leads to your evolution and allows you to take on bigger threats. Then flOw can be played as a more intense survival experience, but casual players can just swim peacefully to their heart’s content. It might be best known as a PlayStation release, but you can download it for PC if you’re in the mood for some surreal minimalism.
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 and over the course of this 3-hour adventure you meet, greet, and play with over 100 different characters, ranging from an anthropomorphic nose to a telephone, and each offering their own tool for you to mess around with and create your own fun.
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.
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 social media 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.
When it comes to doomsday settings, rural Shropshire is not the place we’d expect to end up. Yet, Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture’s fictional setting is the pastoral post-apocalyptic home to one of the most relaxing games ever to tackle the end of the world. This nonlinear chill game invites you to explore away from the beaten track, but there’s no rush for you to unravel this engrossing mystery.
The Chinese Room’s meditative walking simulator traces the fate of several Yaughton denizens and their quotidian preoccupations as they face oblivion. Combining science fiction with the radio play, you follow six major characters in their posthumous form as blobs of golden light. As you approach each one you’ll see an ethereal flashback of the subject’s final moments, allowing you to piece together what happened.
As you investigate the countryside you’ll stumble on side narratives that can be as upsetting as they are heartwarming. However it’s the testing of your hypotheses as to the cause of everybody’s disappearance that’ll keep you hooked to the end.
Pretty much everyone has done something they regret while drunk, but Katamari Damacy REROLL’s King of All Cosmos takes the boozy cake. On an interstellar bender, your clumsy royal father shattered all the stars in the night sky. And you thought your unfortunate, alcohol-addled text messages were embarrassing.
As Prince of All Cosmos, you need to fix your father’s mess by replacing the sky’s constellations, which you do by rolling stuff up into a giant ball – because of course you do. From bowling pins and sweet wrappers to fish and boats, REROLL snowballs into one of the funniest and best PC games around, enhanced by its light-hearted, colourful aesthetic that looks even better in full HD.
Read more: Check out the best action-adventure games on PC
But it’s this, plus Katamari Damacy REROLL’s lack of a fail state, that makes it a great meditative game. There is a challenge for completionists to sink some additional hours into, but the stressed among us can ignore all that and just chuckle at the animations and physics of each item as it is crushed under your giant, star-restoring sphere.
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.
Fez is a puzzle title that takes inspiration from PC classics and combines that with original ideas to create an experience that makes you feel smart, without being too taxing. Here you play as the 2D Gomez, a little creature who discovers a pretty big deal: a whole new dimension.
Phil Fish’s platformer isn’t your typical side-scroller as you swivel the game’s world between four different perspectives to solve its puzzles. This allows for plenty of scope for easter eggs and hidden treasures if you’re willing to look for them, and the lavish detail this game boasts means you’ll likely want to. Some sequences might test your lateral thinking, but Fez proves that difficulty is just a matter of perspective.
…and breathe out. We hope our list of the most relaxing 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.