End of Year 2020: Being Good and Good At It: 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 2020?

[Hub Thread]

Kingdom Hearts Melody of Memory has been major comfort food for me. Playing through all the music has been a very easy source of cozy nostalgia, without the level of effort or commitment that playing a regular Kingdom Hearts game would entail. This series is something that my sister and I had always bonded over, so the music is very evocative of good memories, during a year when I don’t get to see my family for the holidays.

Basically, it’s bite-sized comfort food, which is what I needed this year.

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Not a “get me through 2020” game since I only got it a couple of weeks ago but yo
Picross 3D Round 2
Was playing it when Patrick mentioned in a recent pod that they should make a new one for Switch. It’s comfy AF, like the save file is called a membership card because the framing is that you are chilling in a cafe solving puzzles while jams are playing.

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Murder By Numbers, because my comfort games are usually puzzle games and picross is a favourite of mine. Add in some nice characters and a bit of a cozy mystery meets Phoenix Wright story, and it was just altogether pleasant to play, hiding in bed with my Switch.

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As always, my comfort games tend to be low-flow games. I spent a lot of time the last month or two playing Shenzhen IO - but the “comfort” part of it was the Solitaire game (also separately available as Shenzhen Solitaire).
Probably the most consistent comfort game of this year, and last, has been Noita, though - the tempo of its gameplay [and the correctly roguelite level of variation and combination] fits the sweet spot in terms of both the “stress curve” - most of the time Noita is low stress, with peaks of intense stress - and also the “loss curve” - generally, restarting a run of Noita on death isn’t that disappointing [because you’ll discover new things next time]. (As a contrast, Spelunky 2 fails both of these metrics for me, which saddened me, as Spelunky Classic and HD both did.)

I didn’t dip into X-Com [the original - or, nowadays, lets be honest, the Open-source remake OpenXCom] since February, but it’s definitely always installed, as it’s been a comfort game ever since the original game on the Amiga back in 1994.

Pretty much the only flow game that’s still on my list is Super Hexagon - for me, actually achieving flow needs as few inputs as possible, and Super Hexagon has the bare minimum. [Plus, the almost hypnotic tunes by Chipzel really help induce that state.]

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This was the year that I really got into the Yakuza series and it was really nice to have as this constant thing of open world(ish) games where I can go and do substories or goof off in minigames or just run around the cities. Following Kiryu’s journey throughout all the games was a wonderful part of it as well, to the point that he’s probably one of the characters that I feel the strongest about for maybe any piece of media ever. Those games absolutely have their highs and lows but the highs are extremely high, so I came away absolutely loving them.

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One of the weird things about 2020 for me is I played many more games that were challenging to me. Like, for a solid 2 months or so was speed-running Hades, and it was the thing I looked forward to all day as I was working; or playing the ranked ladder on Magic Arena and trying to build decks to fight the meta; all the time trying to figure out what the fuck im doing in CKIII; and all the days I was excited to confront a tough area in Rain World or Below.

I haven’t really reflected on it, but maybe part of leaning into more challenging (for me) games is wanting to feel like I can overcome adversity or challenging circumstances? I definitely don’t feel that in my life outside of games. I know I’m not alone by any means in these feeling but all the ways I felt broken before the pandemic have just been amplified. I just want to feel capable of something, and games, I can play those, some of them pretty well even!

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The most obvious nomination this year is Animal Crossing New Horizons, it’s a game specifically designed to be comfortable escape. If definitely helped me through some very stressful months this year.
There was also Picross game based on the Overlord anime (which I haven’t seen but was still very good picross).
Getting lost in a resource sim was also a good de-stresser, Astroneer was good for that, though I struggled with the ps4 control scheme in the port I played.

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I’m going to save my long thoughts on Hades for the GOTY thread but I haven’t felt that level of “hanging out with my friends” vibes since the movie night scene in Mass Effect: Andromeda. And this year, of all years, that was a nice feeling.

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Crusader Kings III (and II for a while before it came out) are games that I can just disappear for 8 hours at a time into.

Sunk a lot of quiet time into Animal Crossing also, rearranging the island.

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I fell into a big Minecraft hole. Podcast on and just wander about in the day whilst digging at night.

I’ve been getting back into Animal Crossing now people are less onboard the daily Turnip train.

I’d also say Sea of Thieves has been a great social game for my friends and I to hang out. I find alot of comfort in those rolling waves and beautiful sunsets. So long as your not getting grieved of course.

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