Games That Relax You When There Is No Earthly Reason For It

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hansberg

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#1  Edited By hansberg

There are games that I have often been able to rely upon to chill me out. Tetris is a big one for me. Simple mechanics, simple goal, only the briefest moments of tension that hardly matter in the long run. I feel good after playing Tetris. Especially Tetris Effect, of course, with the visuals and music setting my mind at ease. I could play Tetris and lose myself for hours.

Lonely Mountains: Downhill is similar in that regard. Quiet, natural ambience. Sure I may crash several dozen times before getting the route right, finding the shortcuts and what have you. Still, that game seems to have been made with relaxation in mind. The secret areas are even called Rest Areas and feature little more than your character sitting at a campfire, enjoying the environment. Another game that seems designed from the ground up to just let the player relax.

This isn't about those games, though. In fact, lately I've been playing Control. I've been playing Control for a few weeks. Still on my first playthrough. I'm fairly sure that I have blown past any estimate for which the game should have lasted. I may be nearing the end... I don't know. I tend to investigate every room, not necessarily in the pursuit of a side quest, not necessarily seeking combat, but just as an excuse to wander around The Oldest House. The same The Oldest House for which a terrible catastrophe is unfolding. People are getting possessed; angry, sometimes monstrous looking fellas are trying to kill poor Jesse; creepy people are acting creepily; and so on and so forth. The tone throughout is one of dread.

And yet...

Work has been incredibly stressful lately, and my go to relaxing game has been Control. Something about just hanging around that building, looking at the architecture, and the design, and the pseudo-70's/80s aesthetic of some areas. It soothes me, and my shoulders ache a little less, and my head stops throbbing. I usually need meditation for that. Some of that building even reminds me of times in my youth, hotels, museums, science centers, among other places. I look at some of the carpeting and think, 'yeah, that'd be nice in the basement. I wonder if I could tackle that next summer...?' Somehow, I've taken this tense, suspenseful title filled with mystery and death, and twisted it into a scenic exercise where I just take in the atmosphere of the building, sometimes reminisce, and sometimes plan my own home, and usually just breathe.

Are there any games that any of you are either currently playing or have played for which there is similarly no good reason why you should find it/them incredibly relaxing? Where you zone out, all of your worries melt away, even though the game is clearly designed to not do so to such an extent?

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deactivated-606548892b4d4

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Rimworld.

I kind of enter into a zen-like flow state when trying to prioritise medical treatment between colonists and animals whilst simultaneously scrambling enough healthy colonists to rebuild my defences because there's a second 50 person raid on it's way.

Fuck you, Randy Random!

Another example was when a Muffalo (a typically placid mammoth-like creature) goes from chilling and eating grass to manhunter and crushing not only my best hunter, but also the husband of one my colonists. When we finally get around to killing it and haul both bodies back to the freezer, the colonist's wife (Did I forget to mention is also my best melee colonist?) is so anguished and distraught after seeing her husband's body, that she enters into a rage state and pulverises the muffalo's corpse to the point it can't be used to make meals or jackets for an already starving and freezing colony.

Not a single colonist could calm her down and now everyone including the mysterious stranger that shows up to rescue fallen colonies has died from extreme malnutrition. I could have attempted to arrest her to preserve the survival of the colony, but because she had both brawler and tough traits my colony would have died by her hands either way.

This was a long time ago in my infancy as a rimworld player, but it's still one of my favourite and heart-breaking moments in gaming. I came out with the mindset that you gotta go with the flow and hope it all sorts itself out, because sometimes you can't min-max your way out of everything.

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Ben_H

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#3  Edited By Ben_H

StarCraft 2 multiplayer. I have played it on and off since 2010 and for the majority of it, it was a very stressful and sometimes frustrating experience. I'll be honest, for a long time I took it too seriously and it ruined the game for me. I quit it for a while but have started playing it with the explicit rule that I am not allowed to care about winning or losing and only should focus on having fun. It's become a weirdly zen game to play as a result despite it requiring 100% focus and being mechanically intensive. I put on some chill music and just focus on building my stuff and keeping my macro in check rather than getting wrapped up in worrying about losing. It allows me to take my mind off everything and focus my brain on something that fully uses my full attention. As a funny knock-on effect, I'm now playing the best I've ever played. It's one of those funny things where you stop caring and trying then suddenly you start to improve more.

I agree with Control. I had a similar experience playing it recently. I loved reading all the documents, watching all the little videos, and piecing together what happened both in the story and just in the whole bureau. Exploring the bureau in that game was a ton of fun. They did such a good job with all of the detail in the environments.

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Onemanarmyy

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#4  Edited By Onemanarmyy

I always enjoyed playing dota2 botmatches as a weirdly soothing experience. The rhythm of last hitting creeps, the enjoyment of acquiring more power every few minute and the adventure of testing the boundaries by walking away from big fights with <5% hp.

Recently i've been doing the same with Broodwar. It's pretty fun to get a crazy economy going and then try as hard as you can to keep your minerals and gas low at all times.

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Efesell

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Rhythm games, of the high speed anime nonsense variety.

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noboners

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Madden but only playing on offense. It's been my relaxer for about 15 years now.

Otherwise, some really tight controlling precision platformer like Super Meat Boy or Celeste. Something that allows me to just kinda zone in and nail a run.

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stantongrouse

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The Cook, Serve, Delicious series were all games that I found very Zen despite the manic nature of the orders piling up. Similarly me and my partner often use Overcooked as a tense but unexpectedly chill out time.

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BBAlpert

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Orcs Must Die 2 was my go-to decompression game for a long time. Nothing quite like building an intricate Wile E. Coyote style killbox and then sitting back to watch it make, in the words of Max the Warmage, orc salsa.

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Gundato

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I love the management sims/"plate spinning games" but those make sense.

For me, I would say my "weird" relaxation games are the STALKER series and Souls games. STALKER because, with the right mods (... and a lot of nostalgia) you are basically playing a solo BR or Tarkov because anything you find will need split second reaction times to not get killed. So it results in a lot of focusing on audio cues and balancing speed with awareness. Doubt those hold up

And Souls games which I suspect are really the same mindset as the plate spinners. Minimal to no penalties where I focus on thinking two or three moves ahead while reacting to whatever is happening in a given moment. Just always weird to find the Anor Londo equivalent of a given game to be incredibly relaxing even as I am frantically trying to find a bonfire while surviving the heavy hitters.

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hansberg

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@stantongrouse: Oh, yes, I hadn't thought of Cook, Serve Delicious. It's been a while since I played one, but that falls into this same category for me, too. Orders stacking up, stuff to keep an eye on, and I would just sit there, tapping on the keyboard, smile on my face, stress free.

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sparky_buzzsaw

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Designing paint jobs in Forza was surprisingly calming for me, even if I sucked at it.

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Efesell

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You know, I will also absolutely change my answer to Cook Serve Delicious as well.

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fraser

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Spelunky! When you die so often, everything is meaningless, so why get invested in anything.

Nothing more relaxing than that.

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ShaggE

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Nothing like an oldschool or oldschool inspired shooter to settle the nerves for me. Even high adrenaline ones like the recent DOOM games... as long as I turn the sound off and put a podcast or Youtube on, it's as chill as I could want. (I know this is all heresy, but rest assured that my first and second playthroughs were heavy on the loud chugga-chigga-wuggas and boomings)

Doing towers in MK11 is also relaxing under similar settings. On medium/hard AI, it puts up a fight while still being a punching bag (save for those matches where the game randomly hits the "fuck you" button and starts playing like MK3 AI), which feels just right for a low-impact session.

Funny how I gravitate to ultraviolent games to relax with, lol. I'd include Gorn in my list, but that game is a physical workout, which sorta disqualifies it. Hell of a stress reliever, though.

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MightyDuck

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Paperboy

One of my favorites of all time, hence the avatar pick.

Despite all the goofy stuff trying to stop you from delivering papers, the music is relaxing and it just reminds me of when I was a kid playing the game on my Genesis.

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Birtrum_Yonce

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Just cruising in GTA V is pretty therapeutic

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atomicfuzzbox

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@bbalpert I just did my first run through of all the levels in Orcs Must Die 2 and I 100% agree that building the perfect killbox is soothing. Especially with mods.

As to my own "relaxing" games, Total War: Warhammer II has been that game for many years now. Something about expanding the map and building up that gold income is a gratifying experience, even when I'm getting whupped by hard AI on a corner of the map where I can't get an army to defend.

Dark Souls 1 (and now Demon's Souls since I snagged my PS5) are also an escape when work is stressful (which, by the way, is about 99 percent of the time these days). I've played both of those games enough where I know what's coming, but the difficulty and pace of combat still keeps me engaged.

However, the granddaddy and true answer to this question is Age of Empires II. Not sure the relaxing quality of this game is exactly enigmatic, but I guess strategy games are inherently more complex. Either way, that has been my chill out game since like the 5th grade.