This year, quarantine has encouraged us to not only play more games, but to start new gaming habits. Of course, Animal Crossing was the first big trend. But, as we’re entering another period of intense quarantine, what games offer an outlet aside from the obvious answers like Animal Crossing and Minecraft?
Your game of choice from the Warriors series
Available On: PS4/5, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, Microsoft Windows (varies by specific game)
While we’re focusing largely on alternative ways to relieve stress on this list, we have to acknowledge that the classic way to let off steam in gaming is through kicking some ass. But why limit yourself to the Tekkens or even the Smash Bros. where you can beat up two or three fighters when you can kick the ass of thousands?
That’s precisely what the musou genre – aka Koei Tecmo’s various Warriors games – excels at. The sole purpose of a musou game is to beat up hordes of bad guys with badass, ridiculous moves. The game will do you the favor of counting up when you’ve beaten 100… 1000… 2000 enemies. It feels awesome.
Better yet, Koei Tecmo has released Warriors games for a ton of IPs. Sure, there’s the mainstay series, Dynasty Warriors (the latest release of which is… divisive) and Samurai Warriors. But there are also versions of the game that embody The Legend of Zelda, One Piece, and Fire Emblem. And there’s the new Persona 5 Strikers.
So whether you want to be Monkey D. Luffy, Zelda, or some random samurai, pick a game and let your hack-and-slash-athon begin.
Katamari Damacy REROLL
Available On: PS4, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, Microsoft Windows
Katamari Damacy REROLL is a remaster of a PS2 game that remains as essential and delightful now as it was in 2004. The premise is spectacularly bizarre: the King of All Cosmos (whose voice is a record scratch, because why not) has destroyed all the stars, and you, the Prince, must roll up various items on the planet to create new ones.
Here’s where the cathartic bit comes in. The tiny Prince might start off rolling up such innocuous faire as erasers and bits of chalk, but as your Katamari grows, so does the size and scope of what you can roll up. Eventually, you’ll be able to roll up people. In the last level, you can roll up entire skyscrapers and tankers.
In summation, Katamari Damacy REROLL is a wonderful, wacky game where the entire planet Earth is merely your fodder for re-beautifying the night sky. Oh, and the game’s soundtrack is second to absolutely none.
Untitled Goose Game
Available On: PS4/5, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, Microsoft Windows, macOS
Last year, a game that started as a joke was released for real and quickly became an meme-worthy sensation. If Untitled Goose Game felt cathartic in 2019… boy, does embodying a trickster goose sure feel good in 2020.
The premise of Untitled Goose Game is brilliantly simple: you are a goose, and you mess with the unassuming citizens of a quaint town. The game gives you a checklist of mischief, such as stealing a boy’s glasses and then making off with his toy airplane to a shopkeeper. But it also gives you free license to create chaos whoever you see fit.
Who knew that honking and chasing children was such an effective way to relieve stress?
A Short Hike
Available On: Nintendo Switch, Microsoft Windows, macOS, Linux
If you love the warm, cozy vibe of Animal Crossing but wish it had the explorative nature of Breath of the Wild, this one’s for you. A Short Hike allows you to embody an adorable bird and leisurely make your way through the sights of Hawk Peak Provincial Park. You can choose any path (or lack thereof) you’d like, and your methods of travel vary from walking to gliding to climbing to hopping on a boat. You can bond with other hikers over volleyball or fishing – and not even have to worry if they’re wearing a mask.
All in all, this game is exactly as the title suggests – “short but sweet” is the unanimous consensus on this indie gem. It’s a game you can sink into and just feel nice, for a change. Plus, it’s $8.
If you’re into this vibe of “calming, explorative games,” ABZU (underwater!) and AER: Memories of Old (search for ancient ruins on sky islands by transforming into a bird!) are also highly recommended.
Available On: Nintendo Switch, Microsoft Windows, macOS
Hades is the runaway indie hit of 2020, and there are many, many good reasons for that. There’s something about a cyclical journey to escape Hell that just kinda resonates, you know?
The cyclical nature of Hades is actually what makes this game a win-win for those who want the tactile stress release of a hack-and-slash without the usual constant frustration and stress. Hades removes the taboo of “dying as failure” – instead, dying is how you progress through the game. You go on run after run, having new conversations, gaining new weapons and skills, slowly making progress. It’s as brilliant as it is addictive – and the depth of the characters will keep you immersed, too.
Quarantine’s rough, and we’ve all felt the immense pressure of a national pandemic in our own ways. But video games are there to relieve some of that tension. These have been the top 5 cathartic games to pump your quarantine stress into – hope you’ve enjoyed.