I a day and age where everyone is posting their latest games or fun times on social media on Twitch, it’s hard to forget why we play games in the first place – for fun and as comfort games.
Sometimes it truly is #itsoktojust play. I know for myself I can find times when my anxiety is at a high and I just need to go to a comfortable place or a happy memory in the gaming landscape to centre myself. Whether it be a bad day at work or the affirmation mental health issues take over, gaming can be a safe place to rid of those worries away.
Certain games resonate with us and can truly take us back to our happy places. Today I wanted to list a few of those comfort games as well as asked the team at GOA what games are their comfort games that can turn a bad day into a good day.
Below are two games in particular that really help me:
The Shenmue series has been around since 2000, earlier in Japan and is one of those games that transports me back to a more simple time. While there are tasks to accomplish and a story to unravel, for me, it takes me back to a simple time when all we needed to do was walk around the town of Yokosuka and in two, Hong Kong and just really live within that world.
There are no time limits or gauges telling you ‘You must hurry!’ All you need to do is take your time, head to the local arcade and play some older Sega games. Just really embrace the quiet town and talk to its people. I can never recall once in the many playthroughs the story ever being the same. I’m still to this day finding new paths and branches in the story that doesn’t require any need to rush through it. I can truly just ‘BE’ in this world without a care.
This one might sound like an odd game to relax or escape to, but it’s not so much the combat in this game, its the platforming. Getting that perfect run of an area that I have done (it feels like) hundreds of times can really just calm my worries as I’m in control and can really give me a sense of accomplishment.
The puzzles, to me, are never too stressful as I’ve been there before and the memories of the great times I’ve had playing this series over the years is all I need to lift me up from a bad day.
Here are some of the comfort games the rest of the team at GOA’s enjoy:
Pete – Goragoa
I found Goragoa at a time in my life when there is so much noise around me. Three kids under six, the stress of running a business, starting a new venture, and my day job being an ‘always on’ kind of thing. My life is so much chaos.
Goragoa is a very simple point and click with a gorgeous aesthetic and incredibly mindful soundtrack. When I play it I find myself immersed but relaxed. It’s a very simple puzzler that paces steadily and allows you to move forward on your own terms. I’ve often found myself just sitting and taking in everything that’s happening inside those four windows, and I can’t count the number of times I’ve been actively surprised at what I might find when I peer deeper into one of them.
Doomie – Forza Horizon 5
As I begin my 30’s, the stresses of both career and family flood my life, and I find myself craving more stability and control than ever before. My game of choice to relax into after a long day is Forza. The pressure of the outside world melts away as I feel the rush of driving fast cars, the thrills of each turn and stunt attempt, my adrenaline rises and falls and I feel accomplished each time I win a race or meet a milestone.
The physics of the game enthrall me, editing the tunes of the cars and creating new experiences each time I push that right trigger. I am truly able to tune out this crazy world – blasting music in the background and taking a cruise, no expectations or schedules, just me and the road.
Rephl3x – BeamNG
I personally have chosen BeamNG as my go to game for the following reason.
I’m a thinker, I’m constantly in my own head wondering how I can make things better or change something for the best, Games like BeamNG allow you to think outside the realm of possibility when it comes to building cars, What may seem out of the ordinary when you start is actually a possibility like putting a 458 Cubic Inch V8 in a 180SX and sending it down the quarter mile 8 seconds at a time.
How can you go faster? What suspension changes can you make to alter the traction characteristics? What levels of torque are we playing with, are we twisting the frame and causing it to be off shape when the front wheels get the weight back on them again… All different things you have to consider when playing this game and when feeling overwhelmed or stressed is a way to escape into a world where your problems aren’t real and your “virtual” problems are easily fixed.
Arlentric – Bastion
My comfort game would be Bastion – primarily due to the fact that it’s a nostalgic throwback to a time when everything in life was a lot simpler, and it also symbolically introduced me to my love and passion for indie games. Only chews about about 3-4 hours of my time, and it’s just nice to boot and play through when I’m feeling stressed or a bit lost in my day-to-day. It just really puts my mind at ease
Grumpy – The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth
Despite being a roguelike, which I feel is the last genre most would say is comfortable, a game that I’ve been constantly revisiting for years on end is The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth.
The overwhelming amount of content contained within the base game and its various expansions has seen me lovingly put hundreds of hours of time into it, and whenever I have a spare half hour or just need to play something to assist in turning down my hyperactive brain, I needn’t look further than this indie gem.
Natty – Islanders
Islanders is a minimalist strategy city building game. You begin the game, with a limited inventory, and place city and industry buildings on a small Island. Placing buildings earns you points, which unlocks more buildings. With enough points, you can choose to progress to the next island and to begin with a new landscape.
The strategy of the game is to place buildings near island features and/or existing buildings to earn bonuses and avoid point penalties. For example, placing a lumberjack near trees will earn you bonus points. If you use all the buildings in your inventory and have not earned enough points to progress to the next island, the game is over. With no clock to race, you can take as much time as you need to be thoughtful and considerate.
While I focus on optimising my island the worries from the day fade into the background. Islanders is enough of a challenge to be engaging without creating any additional stress. It’s the perfect game for me to unwind with.
I had difficulty coming up with a comfort game when asked initially. A lot of the games I have played that mean a lot to me are games that I can only play irregularly. I take them all in at once, and they leave a big emotional impact every time.
But when I thought about it harder, I realised that there was one game that really hit the spot: Street Fighter III: Third Strike. Third Strike might at first seem like a strange pick for a comfort game – it’s a fighting game, after all. Head to head may seem like a strange place to get comfortable. But when I’ve got the controller in my hand, playing Ryu in Third Strike?
It’s like coming back home. The inputs never change and the gameplay is always familiar. The calm music in the back of each stage matched with the beautiful scenery and the art of a good head to head fight are relaxing, and reminds me why I fell in love with games in the first place. Sometimes, I’ll even listen to the soundtrack to calm down after a rough day. Third Strike just has that kind of special place in my heart.
So there you have it, please make sure to add to the GOA post over on Twitter and let us know what your #itsoktojustplay comfort games are.