Hey, I’m gonna maybe do something a little unconventional and start this article off on a personal note. I’m going through a lot right now, and it’s really tough. I’ve recently been diagnosed with severe anxiety and depression and placed on some heavy anti-depressants and I’m constantly scared that it’s not something that’s gonna get better. This is heavy stuff, I know, so I apologise if maybe that’s something you don’t want to hear about but I believe in talking about these things openly.
So in the midst of all this woe and strife, I’ve recently been turned off by some of my usual video games. Dark Souls is just so depressing, Apex Legends is frustratingly insulting at times and I’m kind of in a space where I just want comfort food, but for games. Video games have always been a huge part of life and they’ve got me through some bad moments and right now, I need them more than ever.
Games that are bright and happy and optimistic, that aren’t all about death and consequences and just remind you that, hey, there is good out there in the world. So I’ve compiled a list of games that I’ve been delving into to raise my spirits and, maybe if you’re struggling too, they can lift yours too.
For all the crap that Kingdom Hearts gets
It also helps that you get to run around some of the most beloved Disney characters of al time, each with their own vignettes to explore and the soundtrack is just bubbling over with upbeat and vibey music themed around each Disney world. Shout out to the 100-Acre Wood and Pooh Bear for always putting a smile on my face.
It’s farming. That’s kind of it. Your grandpa leaves you a farm and you manage and run it and grow vegetables to the tunes of some wonderful original soundtracks. But then you start to explore the nearby settlement and meet the characters of Pelican Town. You start to befriend them, get to know their likes and dislikes, their routines. You participate in big life moments with them and even small intimate moments all while watching the town grow and expand.
You start out as a city-slicker without a clue in the world and eventually you become accepted by this small,
Everything is connected. That’s kind of the hook of this game, building on the core of what made the original Tetris so good. And I mean that’s what this game is: Tetris. It’s as satisfying as ever, but that’s not why you play this. The visual language of this game, the sequences of sheer beauty and effects dancing across the screen are mesmerising, drawing you in until you’re not even aware you’re playing Tetris anymore.
It’s hypnotic and transformative, taking you out of your own space and placing you in the game’s, making you aware of this greater world around which sounds paradoxical, but it’s true. It’s a game to lose yourself in and forget about all the bad things currently swirling around your head as the game reminds you of one key thing: Everything is connected, and everything works out in the end.
Look, I’ve said some deep and meaningful stuff about the other games on this list so far, but Splatoon is different. I don’t think it has something philosophically deep embedded in its core, I think it’s a game about fun, and that’s all it’s trying to be.
It’s bright and colourful with characters that are so charming to play as. It does something special in competitive multiplayer games by removing any sense of competition. Sure, there’re winners and loser and you’re competing against each other, but that’s not the point. The point is to just spray paint, dude.
Get that gunk on everyone. On the ground, on walls. Hell, go for a swim in it! It’s joyous and lovely and a fun competitive game that never feels like it’s asking too much of you other than enjoyment.
All the Mario Games
I’ll admit, I initially struggled with this one. I wanted to try and narrow it down to one specifically optimistic Mario game, but they all offer something so different yet so filled with wonder. Some of the best and most upbeat music in the history of video games, colours that just scream “good day” and characters that you’ve all fallen in love with by now.
It’s simple, it’s fun and each entry has something new and different. Whether you want to fly around in a catsuit or stomp around on adorably sized planets, Mario games are spilling over with the good stuff that makes your belly warm. They’re the equivalent to a perfectly dunked rusk on a cold morning or the pitter-patter of your pets running across the house to come find you for cuddles.
This might be slightly controversial, but I adore the LEGO games. It’s the formula, the reliability. You know what every game is gonna be like, the same collect-a-thon populated by different levels and characters. And yet I find them so relaxing. When my anxiety is beating me over the head and driving me to obsession, I often put on a LEGO game, usually Marvel or DC ones, and just spend hours just running around, hearing the satisfying clicking of little studs sliding into your virtual wallet.
There’s a simplicity to it, a sense of comfort coming from knowing what I’m getting into. It helps that every game is filled with humorous little re-interpretations of well-known movie scenes dropped straight into a LEGO world. They’re consistent, cathartic and a great way to turn off and calm the senses.
Little Big Planet
This game came out 11 years ago and that still warps my mind. And yet it hasn’t aged a bit. Cute little sack characters running around beautifully hand-crafted worlds just for the sake of an adventure. Also, Stephen Fry narrates it and that kind of makes it an automatic inclusion in my feel-good games list.
Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age
Just a good ol’ fashioned ragtag group of friends and strangers going on an adventure to save the world, and that world just looks welcoming. Staring at the stunning monster and world design just feels like a hug as you slowly become drawn into the narrative that wraps around you like a blanket knitted by your favourite grandparent.
It’s funny, light-hearted and a love letter to optimism and looking for hope through people in the darkest of times. It takes me back to a nostalgic age when I was first learning about video games and rekindles a sense of nostalgic joy (I know I’ve said joy a lot, it was inevitable in an article like this) that sometimes is what you need to pull yourself out of a pit.
These are just some of my examples that I wanted to put out there. I’m sure there are plenty of other happy, optimistic games I’m missing out on and if you have any that have helped you in a dark time, please let me know. This feature was meant a means for people to come together and talk about games as a coping mechanism and I’d love to hear what some of your recommendations are.
Take care of yourselves out there. It always gets better.
Last Updated: March 20, 2019