The holidays are upon us and it’s great, right? Snow. Seeing family. Exchanging gifts, if you’re into that sort of thing. However, there’s also a load of small-time stressors that appear during these jovial times, particularly for those of us doomed to sit in airports for long hours thanks to weather delays. Here are a handful of charming, low-key games you can play to calm the nerves.
A joyful sea exploration adventure from several people who worked on Journey, Abzû puts you in the flippers of a diver exploring a beautiful underwater world teeming with life. A beautiful and compact adventure, Abzû won us over, with reviewer Matthew Kato saying “Abzû is a game of mysteries and its world will move you to muse the
beauty of life and our place in it. It contains moments that transcend
the simple act of playing a video game by making a connection with the
beings around you – a profound experience.”
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PC
Check it out if: The sea is your thing. You love beautiful art.
American Truck Simulator
One of the many mundane simulator games on the market, ATS shines with its laid-back atmosphere, with you playing an ambitious trucker trying to create their own transportation company. If you’re into the fantasy of traveling down roads that cut through the wilderness while listening to that special playlist you’ve put together (but don’t want to drink the bucket loads of convenience store coffee that goes along with it), American Truck Simulator is a balm for the soul.
Check it out if: The open road calls to you.
A beautiful gem of a game that gives you the capability of hijack literally anything in the environment, from star systems to zebras to molecules and airplanes, Everything doesn’t have much going on in the way of action but it’s constantly got something exciting around every corner. As I said in my review, “Everything is a niche game, stubbornly and proudly so. It embraces exploration as its one and only supporting pillar, refusing to bring in any mechanics, like crafting or gunplay, to get in the way of that thematic focus. At the risk of alienating a larger audience, the systems strive to create an experience unlike any other I’ve played. Everything is not always firing on all cylinders, but conveys sheer wonder and ingenuity when it is.”
Platforms: PS4, PC
Check it out if: You want something a little strange and off-kilter or you’re just interested in exploring the cosmos for a bit.
Golf Story makes the most of its concept, encouraging you to become the best golfer you can be, with oodles of charm and memorable characters. A surprisingly lengthy experience, this surprise Switch gem is delightful from beginning to end, without being too taxing for those who don’t want a stark challenge. You can read Reiner’s review of the game here.
Check it out: If you’re a fan of story-driven experiences, solid comedy writing, golf.
An obvious pick, but it’s obvious for a reason. This is a towering ambitious work when it comes to laid-back video games, letting you build up your own farm, woo the locals, and occasionally enter a cave to fight monsters and earn resources. From its sprite-based aesthetic to its lovable cast of characters and charming soundtrack, Stardew Valley is a fantastic work and is likely to suck away hundreds of hours of your time if you give it a chance. Read our review here.
Platforms: PS4, Switch, PC
Check it out if: You like Harvest Moon, Persona, or want a game that lets you get away from it all.