Rolling up a j and playing Into the Breach with all the deft skill of a toddler always helps me relax.
Excuse me, are you referring to the malignant REEFER?!
I’m calling the police!
Spelunky is my answer as well. It’s easy to pick up and put down. The tone of the game means I rarely get too mad at dying (usually I just laugh at myself or the game). Plus, like you mention, it’s great with a podcast in the back. Also listened to a lot of albums while playing Spelunky.
I picked up Jurassic Park: Evolution for a few weeks when I really needed something somewhat mindless and stress relieving. And it really did the trick - it’s a pretty slow-going park builder/management sim, and it definitely doesn’t have the depth that a lot of other games in the genre do - but it’s fun to build my own little disaster-waiting-to-happen park, and the dinosaurs look fantastic. It also just scratches that ‘make the numbers go up’ itch that can be therapeutic.
I don’t know that I have one right now (splatoon only adds to my stress oops), but damn if running my Nuclear Throne daily every day for two years wasn’t immensely comforting
Planet Coaster is my Sunday game, though I picked up Planet Zoo in the steam sale and it’s probably more chilled out. Just working to make all your animals happy by ensuring their habitat is to their needs.
Recently this was Hardspace: Shipbreakers for me. Between Prey, Outer Wilds and X4 that flight model has become second nature so there was practically no barrier of entry.
A friend and I jump in and play some Red Dead Online every night to unwind. Game’s supremely chill and the dailies they introduced give you something to strive for.
I’ve beaten Abzu 2 or 3 times now and still haven’t found another game that I connect with in the same way. Most of the time I don’t even play through a level, I just pop into one of the game’s prettiest environments and let it wash over me for a little while. There’s also an explicit “meditation” mode in the game that allows you to just take in what all the fish in the level are doing without needing any inputs from you. Really calms me.
That bit with the whales is one of those gaming experiences that’s just permanently burned into my brain.
For me it’s either Elite: Dangerous or No Man’s Sky. Both scratch a similar itch, but provide different sorts of relief.
Elite is for when I want to be more contemplative and inward seeking. When flying through space in this game there really isn’t much besides you and the blackness just outside. Last time I played I spent around 12 hours just traveling wherever I felt like going. Scanning and collecting information further outside the bubble than I’ve ever been. Millions of miles away from any other human.
I was going through some stuff and needed the space to figure things out for myself. In the end it helped me figure out a way forward that I could at least be satisfied with.
My ship is still floating out there. Somewhere. I’ll get back to it eventually. When I need it.
No Man’s Sky when I wanna smoke weed and escape to an absurd space adventure where I can name a strange furry creature Frombid Doudou, from the planet Neo Couve found in the star system WOOPWOOPWOOP. It’s for when the source of my stress isn’t anything I can do something about and it’s better left just pushed aside and forgotten about instead of being lost in it.
Cruising around in Forza Horizon 4 is helping me stay grounded right now. Theres something really relaxing (and aspirational, tbh. Im likely never going to be able to actually drive any of my favourite cars that are in the game) about hopping into a 1974 Corolla or a 1999 Civic and just driving around the countryside.
Related: the Rivals mode in Forza Horizon/Motorsport is also super relaxing. It’s just a time trial mode where you race against other player’s ghosts around circuits and try to beat their lap times, and it will download new ghosts dynamically if you manage to do it. I’ve always really enjoyed time trials because of the repetition and memorization involved with shaving precious milliseconds off a time. Just really calms me down and I’ve found that I need that in this specific moment.
Slay the Spire. Calm repeatable game where I know the layout know the pieces on the board and can take risks and slight deviations in routine in peace. Unlike a lot of other things in my life right now.
No Mans Sky for me, never seen such a peaceful game.
it’s the most relaxing game in my steam library out of about 200 games, but NMS to chill
Either a really hard game like a from soft one, so I can transfer stress onto it and overcome a challange, or something like journey (I’ved played it a couple times a year since it released and it still gets me) for some good ol’ fashioned mood management and chill vibes.
Hidden Folks is currently my go to calming game right now. Its pretty cute and gives me nostalgia for the I Spy books from my childhood.
RuneScape! (the modern one not the old one). Modern RuneScape has really embraced the parts of it that would now be considered an idle, but also has intensive stuff like good ole quests, and boss fighting. There’s a ton of low intensity skilling you can do in that game, that I love to do when I’m stressed, and can’t handle much.
I just started Okami.
Shuttle is my favourite game and also stress relief game. I like it very much when i feel sad i just go to my garden and play shuttle with my father.
For me it has been XCOM 2 if only because while playing it I can only focus on how to get my squad out of a mission alive.