Five Relaxing Video Games On Nintendo Switch
Perhaps a customer yelled at you. Traffic was worse than your GPS predicted. You blanked out in the middle, beginning, and end of your test. That milk tea place you love to go to is closed on Monday and guess what today is? All of these are the makings of a bad, stressful day. What sounds best to you is a nice relaxing video game to play through and unwind with.
Now of course, it’s worth pointing out that this is merely an opinion piece on which 2018 games “overall” were relaxing to play to me. I honestly believe anyone can find joy in any game! Maybe last year you enjoyed the breathtaking views in God of War, or found solace in the peaceful fishing in Red Dead Redemption 2. It’s possible that more intense gameplay is what sent you to your zen state, whether that was labbing combos in Dragon Ball FighterZ or meticulously setting up the perfect “accidents” in Hitman 2.
Or you’re that one friend we all have that enjoyed testing the limits of friendship in Super Mario Party (this is generally frowned upon, but that’s okay we still love you!)
The gist is, this is a list of games that through gameplay, music, and/or visuals, provided a relaxing experience to me when I played them.
Three years ago, Unravel was released to critical acclaim. A simple puzzle platformer that starred Yarny, an adorable little creature made of, you guessed it, yarn, wandering around in various environments. The visuals, use of yarn for puzzles, and minimal bittersweet story about family and loss all rolled together into a memorable charming game.
In EA’s 2018 E3 press conference, Unravel 2 was both announced and released. Although the gameplay follows a quicker pace than the first, the still-beautiful visuals and thought-provoking puzzles continue to make for a relaxing playthrough. The story and themes are also more positive this time around. While the first game starts off nice and cute, it does have some dips into a darker theme as evident by the story and change in environments, before wrapping up on a positive note. The sequel on the other hand begins with a Yarny in trouble, only to find help when he stumbles upon a friend. From then on, it’s an uplifting story that focuses on the power of friendship and love. The best part of the sequel is that the addition of another Yarny allows for co-op play! It’s thankfully implemented well enough that allows for the game and its story to be experienced by players of all ages and skill levels.
Whether you plan on playing by yourself or with another, Unravel 2 is a peaceful platformer with cute characters and a positive story. A perfect game to unwind and play after a long day.
Pokémon Let’s Go Pikachu/Eevee
The first main series Pokémon entry on the Nintendo Switch shook things up with a different approach. Acting as remakes of Pokémon Red and Blue (and taking major influence from Pokémon Yellow), the Let’s Go series takes players back to the fan favorite Kanto region. The original 151 are back along with their Alolan and Mega-evolved forms that were added in later installments.
While the original RPG’s focused a lot on grinding, strategy outside of battles with HM puzzles, and luck with random encounters, the remakes have more of a casual focus. The battle system against other trainers acts the same as other main series Pokémon games, but battling and catching wild pokemon takes a note from Pokémon Go, foregoing battles and requiring you to instead throw pokeballs in a simple minigame. Winning battles and catching wild pokemon gives your entire party experience, quickly leveling them up. The intensity associated with random encounters is gone since wild pokemon can be seen in the grass this time around! It is insanely satisfying to avoid Pidgeys and go straight for a Squirtle! The game looks and sounds great too with its updated visuals and soundtrack (the Lavander Town theme still sounds creepy though). It’s easy to lay back and let the nostalgia of the Kanto region take over. And now the experience can be shared since a second player can even join in and help you battle or increase your chances of catching wild pokemon!
The Let’s Go games are a relaxed, streamlined presentation of what we expect from a Pokémon game, but manages to keep its charm and identity in the process. It’s easy enough for newcomers while satisfying enough for old fans like me who just want a casual fun experience this time around!
Sometimes nothing feels better than listening to a song and tapping your foot to the rhythm. While there are plenty of rhythm games that can go for the intense route (Beat Saber and Thumper come to mind), there are also those that provide you with a more easy-going rhythm to play to. Last year saw the release of Runner 3, the eighth entry in the Bit.Trip series of rhythm games.
The gameplay is simple; the player character continuously runs across the screen collecting items while jumping, kicking, and sliding. Every item the player collects emits a chime that goes along with the background music. A few boombox items within each level amplify and add more layers to the increasingly catchy BGM. Notable additions in comparison to the previous Runner games include vehicle sections and Gem paths, which act as different and typically more difficult paths within the levels.
There are certainly some challenges in the game meant for more hardcore players, and although I’ll admit this is likely the toughest game overall in the list, I do feel the meat of the game can be experienced in a relaxed environment. The humorous writing is very well done and multiplied by both the narration skills of Charles Martinet (a.k.a. the voice of Mario) and the bizarre worlds the game puts you in (the very first level in Foodland has you jumping over rivers of milk and watching as giant screaming fish jump out from the background to the foreground). If you’re like me and enjoy puns, bizarre humor, and want a game you can both relax and laugh to, this is it.
Katamari Damacy Reroll
Alright so technically Katamari Damacy released back in 2004, nearly 15 years ago. But in December of 2018 we saw the release of Katamari Damacy Reroll, an HD remaster. That’s good enough in my book to be in included in the list.
Now if you’ve played a Katamari game in the past 15 years there’s no need for me to explain why this game deserves a spot on this list. If you have been so unlucky as to never experience the simple gameplay of rolling a sticky ball around to make it bigger and therefore make it possible to roll up bigger things and so on, well, let’s just say it’s certainly unique and amazingly addictive. Combined with the whacky premise for the story and the undeniably catchy award-winning music, it’s not hard to see why the original is such a cult classic! This isn’t just a game you play and relax to, this is a game you play and just can’t help but smile the whole time you’re doing it. I remember playing this game before I was even in middle school, and now playing the HD remaster 15 years later and it still invokes the same feeling of joy! If there was any game that was meant to keep you in a constant state of enjoyment, it’s Katamari Damacy.
That’s the best short impression I can give for this game.
Forgive me if I repeatedly gush about how incredible this game looks. It’s hard not to.
The list couldn’t be made without including Gris. Released in December of 2018, the game has nonetheless managed to make it to plenty of gamers’ and journalism sites’ “Best Of” lists for the year. There really isn’t anything like it. On paper it is a simple and short platformer. At first glance it is a beautiful game with a unique story to tell about it. In motion it is an experience absolutely like no other. This is the kind of game where you’re constantly left breathless because of how amazing it all looks. This is the first time where practically every segment in a game has left me thinking “wow, I would love to have an art print of this”. Every aspect: from the beautiful watercolor art style, to the music, to the animations, and yes even the general layout and design of the world itself, it’s all crafted with love and care.
Although the music is calming, I don’t think Gris was made with “relaxing” in mind. Instead I think that as a byproduct of how amazing a job the game does at pulling you into its world. Gris is a game where you become so enthralled that your troubles and stress melt away while playing it, even while experiencing and perhaps relating to the troubles of the protagonist. As short as it is, I can’t guarantee you’ll find a lot of replay value after beating it. Some might be willing to play it again just for the eye-candy alone, and for some it might be a one-and-done. What I can guarantee is that you won’t regret playing it. I believe the story is up to interpretation on what it exactly means, and for some it might relate in different ways. Without spoiling, to me it feels like a story of someone overcoming a powerful hardship. And we all need to experience stories like that now and then to remind ourselves that we’re not alone in our hardships. And we’re all capable of overcoming them.