The world is a dark place. And as much as we love our violent first-person shooters and blood-pumping video horror games, sometimes it’s just a bit too much. When things seem bleak, we’ve had a rough day, or we just need to get out of a funk, we want to have a wholesome, uplifting experience while still enjoying our favorite pastime. To help you get through a rainy day, controller in hand, here’s a list of some of our favorite pixelated pick-me-ups.
A spiritual successor to Harvest Moon, Stardew Valley is an endlessly lovable farm and community simulator. Grow crops, raise animals, mine, fish, explore, romance, and more, all while enjoying the soothing music and an adorable 32-bit art style. With no win state, the game can go on for as long as you want, which for me will be a very, very long time.
Keeping with the theme, Animal Crossing is Nintendo’s famous community simulator. Although similar to Stardew in format, Animal Crossing offers a different but equally mellow vibe. Friendships and the town are at the forefront of the game’s focus, and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve fallen asleep, DS in hand, catching bugs and listening to that relaxing soundtrack. Good times.
Overcooked is a wild, fast-paced cooking simulator that you can play with friends. With all kinds of obstacles and crazy game modes, you’ll soon find yourself dissolving into laughter as hilarious kitchen shenanigans ensue.
Known for its fluid movement, gorgeous visuals, and beautiful use of anonymous multiplayer, Journey is one of the best indie games to come out in recent years. It’s only about two hours long, so if you need a short burst of self-contained quasi-narrative that will leave you wonderstruck, this game is a must-play.
Flower was made by the same studio as Journey, so it maintains the smooth movement and stunning visuals, albeit with a very different aesthetic. You play as flower petals riding on the wind, which is much more magical in practice than it sounds.
Taking a turn for the ridiculous, Goat Simulator is a game where you—wait for it—play as a goat. Sounds simple, but the game is also full of crazy physics, explosions, and even a ritual that can turn you into a demon goat. It’s a hilarious, crazy, and never fails to make us laugh.
Proteus is a great option if you want to just zone out for a while. The only real goal of the game is to explore the mysterious, procedurally generated environment. The graphics are simple and the music is minimal, but it’s a cool, atmospheric experience that’s a great way to wind down.
There’s something really cathartic about just rolling everything around you up into a giant ball, and that’s exactly what this game gives us. Add in the campy characters and upbeat music, and it’s hard not to walk away from this game with a smile on your face.
It seems like everyone forgot Octodad shortly after came out, which is such a bummer. You play as an octopus who is also a dad (go figure), and the whole goal is to make sure no one finds out that you’re actually a cephalopod. It’s as wonderfully absurd as it sounds, and actually has a surprising amount of heart.
Images: Chucklefish, Nintendo, Thatgamecompany, Curve Digital, Namco, Young Horses