Gaming can be a relaxing hobby that you can turn to when you’re beginning to feel the stresses of life and responsibilities. While most people play games to be entertained, games are also great for anxiety relief.
While this list won’t contain games designed to relieve anxiety, we still think these are the best games to play to find some anxiety relief. They don’t use anxiety relief as a marketing gimmick. Instead, they’re genuinely relaxing and enjoyable games that you can play when you’re experiencing an intense bout of anxiety or need a small break from the stresses of real life.
What Makes a Game Help With Anxiety Relief?
What makes a relaxing game? Relaxing games that help with stress relief, mental health, and reduce anxiety generally have many common themes, game design elements, and are sometimes specifically designed to reduce stress. Here are some characteristics and gameplay features you should look for when trying to find your personal zen in a relaxing game.
1. Slow paced or turn-based
Games that are generally slower in pace or even turn-based are better and lowering your heart rate and bringing some inner peace. They’re great games to play as a relaxing activity before bed or just to as something not too intense to play.
2. Bright colors
Games with a vibrant and colorful palette are generally better and relaxing you than a dark, dreary, game. While there’s certainly nothing wrong with a darker game, if you’re looking for some anxiety relief games, seek the ones that are brighter and more colorful.
3. No clear goal or open-ended games
Objectives and goals keep a game interesting, keep us engaged, and keep us fulfilled when there’s progression. However, open-ended games, that give the player more control and allow them to play the game in any way they want, are generally more relaxing.
4. Easy difficulty games or low learning curve
A game like Dark Souls probably won’t help anxiety sufferers. A difficult challenge is great when we’re seeking some stimulation, but difficult games require more energy, focus, and attention, which isn’t very relaxing.
11 Anxiety Relief Games To Help You Unwind
Stardew Valley is my favorite and most enjoyable game on this list. The game has charm, depth, and a uniqueness to it that makes it a memorable experience.
The game sets you in a town called Stardew Valley, where after quitting your soul-sucking corporate job, you inherit your late grandfather’s farm. From there, the choice is yours. How you run, grow, and arrange your farm is entirely up to you. You choose the crops you want to grow, the animals you wish to keep, and the type of products you want to create. The village is also teaming with interactable characters that keep the game interesting, give you things to do, and even people to marry if you wish.
The relaxing part of the game becomes the routine. You wake up, check the weather, water the crops, maybe plant some more, chop some wood, head into town to buy supplies, before heading home to go to bed before starting the routine again.
The game goes at your pace. There’s no pressure to build the farm up to this massive empire, which allows you to take your time with the game and truly immerse yourself in the experience of living off the land. This is why it’s still my favorite game to get rid of anxiety.
Bejeweled is a classic puzzle game that’s been around for a long time. You can play it on your phone, computer, and even on most consoles. The game is simple, rotate a cluster of jewels to match colors and score as many combos and points before the time runs out.
It’s a simple game that’s oddly relaxing. There isn’t much to it, but it’s almost cathartic watching those jewels explode, and columns drop as you move and match jewels around.
It also has a low learning curve making it easy to get into and even easier to play, allowing you to kick back and destress. It’s an unintimidating game that’s great for all ages when you’re looking for something that will bring a little anxiety relief.
Puzzle games are a reliable genre to explore if you’re looking for productive anxiety relief games. Games such as Sudoku and crossword puzzles are ways to stimulate yourself, while also relaxing.
Euro Truck Simulator
Who would have thought truck driving could be so relaxing? Fire up your most chill playlist on Spotify, or turn on a comedy podcast, and take to the freeways around Europe as you make deliveries in your 18-wheeler from point A to point B.
I couldn’t have believed it myself until I finally tried Euro Truck Simulator to see what all the fuss was about. It’s a truly relaxing and calming experience that doesn’t require any fancy steering wheel peripheral to enjoy. Euro Truck Simulator is a low pressure game that has a gentle, low learning curve, and can be played with half your attention. It’s a way to zone out and unwind from the day. It’s not an intense game by any means, and you can take it as seriously (or as trivially) as you want.
There’s something relaxing about cruising down the highway. It’s almost like a meditation for relaxation.
If you’re looking for a game that can be played while you listen to music or a podcast, or even watch a video in the background, try Euro Truck Simulator, or even American Truck Simulator if you’re looking to drive around some American cities.
There are many other simulator games that we could list here that are just as relaxing. Farming Simulator and Goat Simulator are other relaxing anxiety relief games worth checking out if you’re into the simulator genre of games.
Minecraft is the single best-selling video game of all time and for a good reason. It’s simple, addictive, relaxing, and an excellent outlet for creativity. The game mixes survival game elements with sandbox game elements to create a game where you build, craft, fight and compete with other players.
The game has different game modes depending on the mood you’re in. For times when you’re looking for some anxiety relief, the creative mode is the way to go. It gives you access to all resources in the game (so you don’t have to worry about finding them) and allows you to freely move around the world at will to enable you to create buildings and projects without interference.
You can also choose to play online with friends or as a relaxing way to meet new people.
Abzu is a video game for consoles and PC that’s closer to art than game. It’s a beautiful and immersive experience that puts you in the shoes (or flippers) of a diver exploring the ocean and restoring life.
The open-world game allows you to explore the beauty and sights of the ocean, caves, and ruins. You also encounter ocean life and work to solve puzzles underwater.
While the exploration and sights are relaxing, the art style and music also help set the tone and style of the game. You’ll find yourself becoming lost and immersed in this world, giving you an outlet and way to worry less.
The game is also simple and easy to play, making it an easy game to hop into when you’re just trying to find some relief of your anxiety.
Flower is one of those games that when it was first released, wasn’t really understood. It isn’t really a game, it’s more like an experience. The intention, according to its creator, is designed to inspire positive emotions. It’s perfect when you’re deciding how to relax.
The gameplay is simple: you control the wind that blows a single flower petal through the sky. There’s no lose screen, or any real progress to be made. It’s just a calming and unique experience to enjoy while it lasts.
If you’re going through a severe bout of anxiety, a game like Flower is just the experience you might need.
Flow Free is one of those mobile games that feels good to play. Something is satisfying about this puzzle game as you’re connecting matching colors with a pipe to create a flow.
The game gets slightly more challenging as you progress through the puzzles, and while it can get challenging in the later puzzles, it’s still a genuinely relaxing and rewarding little experience on your phone.
What I like about mobile games like Flow Free is that I can access it at any time. When I’m starting to feel anxious or I’m figuring out how to stop a panic attack, a relaxing mobile game can help.
Everyone needs an escape from their real-life every now and then. The Sims is a classic game franchise that not only allows you to escape real life into virtual life as an anxiety relief game, but it will enable you to play house and craft an ideal world in your own image. Choose the cast of characters in your world, the homes they live in, the jobs they have, and even their personalities. The anxiety relief is found in playing out your ideal life.
This addictive life simulator is relaxing because it’s a game that relies a lot on routine and moving at your own pace. At any time, you can pause the game and move objects around or interact with the world. There’s also no real objective in the game, leaving it open-ended and up to your imagination. The Sims is what you want to get out of it. Maybe you just like building and furnishing homes. Or perhaps you really enjoy creating characters like those in your life and interacting with them. The Sims is a fun sandbox to create your own happy place.
Would you believe me if I told you crashing sports cars into each other is anxiety relief? You might think racing games are intense and not an ideal way to unwind, but Burnout: Paradise is one of those games that when you get into it, it has this comfortable and easy-going feel that makes it an incredibly relaxing racing game.
Yes, crashing your car around the city on purpose is oddly satisfying and cathartic. Still, even the pace of the game and racing missions makes it a game that you can relax to while listening to some music or even watching television in the background.
Animal Crossing is a franchise that has remained true to its spirit for many years: you live in a village collecting items, planting crops, and interacting with villagers.
The game is open-ended without any real objective. It’s an anxiety relief game that allows you to play it your way and focus on what you find more interested in doing in the village.
You collect items, trade them in for Bells, and use the Bells to purchase tools, items, and objects for your home. It’s an easy-going game that doesn’t ask much from you besides playing it the way you want.
Hearthstone is arguably the most popular online collectible card game that pits you up against AI or a human opponent online, and you each play cards each turn that have their own attacks and spells until one player is defeated.
Even if you’ve never played a card game like Magic: The Gathering or Hearthstone, Hearthstone is an easy to learn card game that can be quite relaxing depending on how seriously you take it. It’s a slower-paced game that doesn’t require lightning-quick reflexes since the game is turn-based. This also means it’s available on most devices, including iPhones and Androids.
I should mention that the game can be quite addictive, and in some cases, could cause a bit of stress if you take it too seriously or start becoming competitive. At its best, it’s an enjoyable game that you can kick back and play when you need something a little slower paced.
Start finding anxiety relief with gaming
If there’s not a game on this list you enjoy, try finding slower-paced games that are relaxed on objectives, and that have a small learning curve.
Are there anxiety relief games that you enjoy that we missed? Let us know in the comments below.