Video games excite us and fill us with joy as we conquer challenges, defeat evil overlords and discover new worlds. They may also evoke great fear and anxiety whilst we tremblingly anticipate the scares of nightmarish creatures, or cultivate our competitiveness in a quest to be the best player in the arena.
While video games are capable of delivering delightfully difficult challenges that increase stress levels, there are some that achieve quite the opposite. Whether it’s after a long day at work or an exhaustive day at school, gaming can help you recover from real-life anxieties as you immerse your mind in serene worlds of comforting images and calming soundscapes.
Here are five games to help alleviate anxiety and stress.
In Journey, an indie game developed by thatgamecompany, you enter a mysterious world clothed in red cloth, shimmering with shards of light, which allows you to take flight as you sail through the golden sand of a vast desert that stretches far away.
On your journey towards a great mountain crowned with a glowing peak, the ultimate destination of the game, you may discover fellow travellers to accompany you. Companionship is forged with the wordless communication of musical chimes, a song which wakes the century-still world of a long lost civilization to reveal hidden paths and forgotten history. Accompanied by music composed by Austin Wintory, the desert sands swell into a theme to represent the game’s emotional arc throughout the story.
A sense of smallness and wonder is felt in Journey as you form unforgettable connections in a truly moving and emotional experience felt in every step.
In Monument Valley, an indie puzzle game developed and published by Ustwo Games, you lead Princess Ida through atmospheric marvels of mind-bending mazes and otherworldly sceneries inspired by the work of M. C. Escher.
In this enthralling and contemplative tale without words, soothing soundscapes and imagery, reminiscent of Japanese prints and minimalist sculpture, guide you through a series of puzzles designed not to test your intellect, but rather to invite reflection in a magnificent achievement of meditative gameplay.
Presented in an isometric view, the puzzles of Monument Valley hold optical illusions and impossible objects known as sacred geometry. Each puzzle is solved by mastering its central mechanic, moving platforms and creating bridges as you explore and interact with the environment, twisting its architecture to reveal hidden paths and bringing Ida closer to her longed destination.
Relive childhood’s most magical moments as Tengami, an adventure-puzzle game developed by Nyamyam, restores the wonder of pop-up books. The breathtakingly beautiful illustrations that portray a captivating story, were in inspired by traditional Japanese paintings.
Tengami guides you through a serene journey of ancient fairy tales, brought to life through enchanting environments that depict the changing of the seasons as you save a great cherry tree from withering with every puzzle solved. Accompanying the pastel palettes of this papercraft world is a haunting score composed by David Wise, which resonates richly with every page as a new scene or viewpoint is revealed.
In Abzû, an adventure game developed by Giant Squid Studios, you explore the enchanting and ethereal beauty of emerald oceans in an underwater world brimming with plant and animal life, enabling you to uncover secrets sealed in submerged ruins and restore balance to the environment.
The story of Abzû is told wordlessly through serene gameplay as you follow the journey of a diver determined to restore life to the ocean. By venturing into the vast waters of Abzû you’ll interact with an interconnected environment of natural caverns to solve switch and item-based puzzles as you communicate with a myriad of marine life, using sonar chimes to summon even the greatest animals to guide you.
Exploring the enthralling expanses of the surrounding sea, you’ll discover ruins and murals depicting the fall of an ancient civilization which shared a symbiotic connection with the ocean. The setting and story, drawn from Sumerian mythology and cosmic ocean myth, represents the world or cosmos as enveloped by primordial waters.
In Abzû you’ll uncover the secrets of an ancient technology, which forcibly siphons the ocean’s life force, as well as the means of reversing it by reaching reviving wells that are bathed in light and igniting their life springs to restore the wonder of the underwater world.
Abzû is an unforgettable adventure from the creative team of Journey, including director Matt Nava and composer Austin Wintory. The ocean setting of Abzû was both a reaction to the desert landscapes of Journey and inspired by Nava’s love of scuba diving.
Boson X, developed and published by Ian MacLarty and Jon Kerney, presents a pure endless-running experience as you traverse time and space in an infinite odyssey to discover the Higgs boson particle.
In this “rotational runner,” Boson X sports six unique stages in which you build momentum and quantum jump from Planck to Planck, generating high-energy collisions to discover new particles. Precise timing and fast reflexes are key to navigating through this subatomic world without boundaries, with the slightest misstep resulting in annihilation as you face otherworldly obstacles.
Racing across cosmic constructs, the dimensional rush of Boson X transforms into a tranquil traversal as time and space unfold upon unlocking each new particle, creating a corridor of colour and light as you drift ever closer to the origin of the universe.
Braving the boundless world of Boson X you have the option to play as Erik, a male professor, or Niva, a female professor. Presented in a minimalist art style with subtle yet striking soundscapes, this infinite runner game leaves a remarkable impression.