End of the Year 2021: Comfort Games

It was a tough year. Difficult circumstances, whether political, environmental, or medical, were a constant. But games have the ability to offer a respite from this. It can be easy to just sink into a game and kick back. Maybe it was a game you’ve always loved, or a game you’d just discovered. Whatever it was, it helped you escape into its world.

Whether it was an old favorite or a new gem, this thread is dedicated to the games that let you feel at home this year. What games helped you get through 2021?

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Gravity Rush 2 is the most comfort food of comfort food games for me and this year was no difference. It’s one of those games that’s just relaxing and fun to float around in, even if you’re not doing anything, and it has such a beautiful world that is just great to be in.

This year I spent a bunch of time taking photos using its photo mode, which is pretty unique in that it takes Polaroid-esque photos rather than regular screenshots. When you can’t travel as much, being able to float around and take photos in a gorgeous sky city is a godsend.



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I have a weird aversion to the notion of comfort media but I will also replay all of the Gears of War games every year if I’m going through a stressful period of work. I did that again twice this year.

Remember when you could finish games? Those were the days. I sometimes wonder my “comfort games” are comforting only in that they are games that weren’t engineered to maximise engagement, and therefore spending. The notion of a vast, incomprehensibly large game like an AC Odyssey or an FF14 fills me with a cosmic dread.

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When I bought my PS5 I only transferred one save file and game over. And that was Celeste. I made sure it was the first thing I played on that brand new shiny console.

I do Chapter 7 twice a year usually. It’s still a masterpiece. Gotta reach the top of the mountain and overcome all the weight holding me down.

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So, last year, my response to this topic was Shenzhen IO (mostly for Shenzhen Solitaire) and Noita, and that’s also been pretty true for much of this year.

I tend to find that, otherwise, flow* games tend to be my respite, although the actual flow game changes. For some of early 2021, Polybius was definitely hitting all those buttons, and it’s really mostly only that it’s poorly balanced for non-VR players that dropped it off. (Jeff Minter designed it to be “relaxing”… but the lack of depth-perception without VR adds a bit more judgement to things and makes it a little less so.) For some of late 2021, Sayonara Wild Hearts was doing that same flow thing.
(It doesn’t hurt that both games have amazing, if very different, soundtracks.)

*in a way, Shenzhen Solitaire is also a flow game, just a more cerebral one.

Also, from a “nostalgic comfort” sense, I guess one of the reasons I’ve been spending a bunch of time playing community Quake maps is out of nostalgia for the game [although, many of the community’s maps are now doing interesting things, pushing the boundaries of the original 1996 game in lots of ways].

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I mean, was there any comfier game this year than Unpacking? :wink:

I’ve also realized something. Or at the very least become able to put into words something I’ve been feeling for a while: The Forza Horizon games are a form of meditation for me. I can jump in, put on a podcast and let my muscle memory take over, and not so much turn my brain off as much as enter into a semi-conscious state. Between the beautiful locales, the constant rewards, the general positive but otherwise undemanding atmosphere, and my decent proficiency at the game, I can just feel rather than actively think about what I’m doing, and there’s enormous comfort in that.

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If we’re talking 2021, it’s got to be Unpacking - a game I’m really glad didn’t do the all-too-common indie tragedy thing!

Looking further back, the Yakuza games have always been a comfort for me. I think I’ve mentioned this in the ‘What Are You Playing’ thread but I used to live in Tokyo and the way the Yakuza games are made, i.e. set at the time of their release and striving for a level of verisimilitude, always make them feel like snapshots from Japan. This is especially true for Yakuza 2 through 5, which were all set and released more-or-less when I was living there so feel very nostalgic to me. I think that’s why I initially bounced off Yakuza 6 - it was released a few years after I moved back to the UK and reflects changes to the city that only served to remind me that I wasn’t there any more.

I used to go over and visit friends or just vacation there semi-regularly, but it’s been a while since I could afford that, and now Japan’s pandemic-related immigration restrictions have closed the country off to tourists (not to mention international students and researchers, but that’s a whole other conversation). So, this year, it’s been a comfort to dip back into the series. I’ll probably wrap up Kiwami 2 over the next few days.

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The first game I went back to when I finished with work for the year was Project Wingman. Its such an amazing effort from a small team, also says something that I went for Wingman instead of Ace Combat 7. AC7 too often has missions with some kind of gameplay twist and all I wanted to do was fly around, dogfight and blow stuff up.

It might seem weird that a air combat game is comforting to me, but I find games to be the most relaxing when they are just challenging enough to keep me fully engaged without being frustrating. Having to keep a plane in the air, dodge missiles while also lining up shots and avoiding the ground is like the perfect level of keeping my brain busy.

Its similar to why my GOTY is Walkabout Mini Golf VR mini golf is very relaxing and keeps me from doom scrolling on my phone during slow parts of games

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Final Fantasy XIV. In 2020 I played the story through, and that was an excellent escape. In 2021 I played it much more as MMO comfort, so leveling different classes, doing raid series that I’d skipped, dipping into gathering jobs, all that sort of thing. I learned to both tank and heal, which was satisfying, and I do like them numbers going, although the game is more effective when it rewards you with well written story chunks.

I don’t play a lot of PC games. Certainly not enough for me to get into modding.

I think I knew that the last Skyrim revision for consoles had included some modding support, but I had no idea it was that easy. I did the gaming equivalent of opening the refrigerator full of food (in this case, Game Pass titles), decrying the lack of food in the house, and ordering pizza (in this case, spending $20 on the Anniversary Edition upgrade).

Pizza is still delicious.

And modding on consoles is easy. Falling off a log easy. It does turn off Achievements/Trophies, but I had already gotten everything out of Skyrim I was going to get for those anyway. All you do is open the “mods” menu (or Creation Club menu - the “mods” are free, the “Creation Club” stuff costs money because that was some kind of Bethesda partnership thing but is basically all included in the Anniversary Edition upgrade), pick out the mods you want, and download.

As it turns out, there are a lot of creative, talented people out there who were able to use the Creation Engine to great effect. I am now the proud owner of about a half-dozen new houses, seemingly all inspired by the themed houses from Oblivion’s library of DLC. I helped liberate the subcontinent of Wyrmstooth from a dragon. I briefly returned to the plane of Oblivion. And I think I have a whole other subcontinent in the mods I downloaded. I’m not sure what sort of magic BGS weaved when they put Skyrim together, but the fact that it still holds up 10 years later is just astonishing. It’s good to be home.

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Fossil Corner was my game I played just to chill, one of those games that doesn’t heat my laptop up too much, easy to play while listening to other things, engaging but not gonna stress me out. One of those games I could just slip into for when I needed something comfortable.

Also, a terrible mobile game of Fantasy Life released a few weeks ago, and it is so lazy that it just recycles environments and music from the 3DS game. Which just made me want to play the 3DS game, which is always a delight. There’s a certain sort of RPG that has the right mix of challenge and simplicity that I find aimlessly grinding in enjoyable, and Fantasy Life has always been my perfect example of that.

Bravely Default II I will give a shoutout as a game that I could sort of grind at absentmindedly while listening to podcasts and such.

I also replayed Ocarina of Time for the first time in a while since it was out on the Switch N64 Virtual console, and had a lot of fun reminiscing there.