Let's start with the obvious: The COVID-19 pandemic has been hard on all of us. With lockdown restrictions in place for nearly three years now, many of us have learned to find comfort in life's smallest pleasures. That's why we're not at all surprised that 2021 saw the rise of video games, particularly casual ones that are more relaxing than competitive. Calming background music, cottagecore aesthetics, and comforting gameplay—basically, worlds you can escape to when real life gets a little too complicated.
Sounds interesting? Here's a roundup of seven cozy, feel-good games to curl up with after a long day:
Animal Crossing: New Horizons
Unless you've been living under a rock, you've probably already heard of this Nintendo bestseller in the past year. This game allows you to build your own island getaway bit by bit, from terraforming your landscape to planting crops and flowers. Plus, you can count on the super cute animal villagers to support you as you work towards getting a five-star island.
AVAILABLE ON: Nintendo Switch, Nintendo Switch Lite
Another cult-favorite, this farming simulator will fulfill all your countryside dreams. That means you can plant crops, mine ores, raise animals, catch fish, and even fall in love! Although this game entails a lot of long-term planning, its no-pressure mechanics will encourage you to play at your own pace.
AVAILABLE ON: Microsoft Windows, macOS, Linux, PlayStation 4, XBox One, Nintendo Switch, Nintendo Switch Lite, iOS, Android
My Time at Portia
In this post-apocalyptic world, you're tasked with the mission of restoring a run-down family workshop by starting a farm and fulfilling commission requests. You can also go fishing, battle monsters in the dungeons, and attend numerous festivals with your friendly neighbors. Bonus: The graphics are absolutely beautiful!
AVAILABLE ON: Microsoft Windows, Nintendo Switch, Nintendo Switch Lite, PlayStation 4, XBox One, Android, iOS
Forager's tagline says it all: The idle game that you want to actively keep playing. Inspired by modern crafting games like Stardew Valley, this game is centered around gathering resources to prevent monotonous and repetitive gameplay. The unpredictable mechanics are challenging enough to keep you engaged, but also simple enough that you'll never feel overwhelmed.
AVAILABLE ON: Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, Nintendo Switch Lite, XBox One, Android, iOS
Unlike most exploration games, Littlewood's world of Solemn already hails your character as a hero from the very start. Now that you've defeated the Dark Wizard, you have to rebuild your town and befriend the townsfolk to uncover the memories you lost during the battle. This game gives you so much freedom in decorating your town, so you can build lots of fun structures like a Magical Library, a Fishing Hut, and a Lumber Mill.
AVAILABLE ON: Microsoft Windows, Linux, macOS, Nintendo Switch, Nintendo Switch Lite
Harvest Moon Story of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town
If you owned a PSP or a Nintendo DS ~back in the day~, you've probably tried one of the OG Harvest Moon games. Spoiler alert: The latest addition to their Story of Seasons series is just as good (or maybe even better!) as your old childhood favorites. In typical Harvest Moon fashion, this game introduces you to a vibrant world with acres of farmland and charming bachelors.
AVAILABLE ON: Microsoft Windows, Nintendo Switch, Nintendo Switch Lite
Not big on farming and foraging? We suggest trying out this indie word puzzle game about growing up and forming relationships. You'll be playing as Sarah, an introverted girl who interacts with her friends through letters and chat messages. Players can influence her decisions and control the storyline's direction by solving riddles and completing her sentences.
AVAILABLE ON: Microsoft Windows, macOS, Nintendo Switch, Nintendo Lite