Most people who are avid gamers will probably admit that even if only partly, their love of video games is down to the escapism that they allow. It’s a scary world we live in, and sometimes, we just need to bury our faces in a screen and forget that responsibilities exist. And while I think all video games are fun, I think it’s fair to say that many of them can be pretty stressful, too. Looking at you, FromSoftware. So I always like to keep a fully stocked library of cozy and wholesome games that don’t take a lot of brain power and leave me feeling fuzzy and warm inside. Since I think a solid collection of cozy games is a must for any video game lover, let me kickstart your collection by sharing my top 5 favourite cozy games.
As the latest addition to my cozy game library, I’m still very much in the early days of sinking my teeth into Dorfromantik. Although, desperately wanting to add it to my list already is a true testament to just how wholesome and cozy I think this game is. Not only is it a relaxing environment-building strategy game, but it’s also got puzzle elements to it as well, just to add some extra challenge. Dorfromantik is currently available on Nintendo Switch and Steam; if you’re more of a tabletop gaming kind of person, it’s also available as a board game!
It couldn’t be simpler in terms of premise and gameplay. You use hexagonal tiles to build a landscape. The tiles include different biomes that will be randomly assigned along each edge of the hexagon. A tile can only be placed if corresponding edges have matching biomes. And that’s basically it. You start with one tile and have forty more that you need to place on the board. Additional conditions need to be met, which is where the puzzle elements of the game come in, but it couldn’t be more relaxing and easy to pick up.
Journey is one of those cozy games everyone knows, and it tends to pop up on everyone’s list of favourite wholesome games. Even 11 years after its release, I still tell the story of being paired with another player early on until I lost connection with them a fair bit later in the game. They don’t prepare you for the heartbreak you’ll feel over losing a player whose name you don’t know and who you can’t speak to. But regardless of Journey ripping out my heart and stamping on it, it’s a really gorgeous game.
The premise is simple. At the beginning of the game, you’ll see a mountain with a glowing peak in the distance. Your goal is to make it to that mountain. The game is minimal, with limited gameplay, but it just works. The art style is gorgeous, the soundtrack is truly beautiful, and when another player is brought into your game, everything about it is designed to tug on your heartstrings and cause you to form an attachment. Journey only takes a few hours to complete, but the experience of my first play-through is one that I’ve not been able to replicate since. It’s beautifully crafted, exceptionally cozy, and if you’re interested in playing it, it is currently available on Steam.
3. The Unfinished Swan
The Unfinished Swan is a game I don’t tend to see included on lists like this one, and I think that’s an absolute crime. As one of my all-time favourite cozy games, it felt only right to share this little gem with the world. Since its release, I’ve never played another game quite like it. I can’t deny the impact it had on me – it holds a special place in my heart. It’s available on older consoles if you’ve kept hold of those, but it is also available on Steam. If it sounds like your kind of game, I can’t recommend it enough.
In pursuit of a swan that has escaped your character’s favourite painting, you find yourself in a painted world. To find your way around what starts out as a pure white landscape, you’ll need to use paint to reveal the environment. Along the way, you’ll find collectables, listen to the story of a lonely king, and, eventually, learn more about your character, too. I won’t give too much away, but The Unfinished Swan is beautiful and soothing, and if you love of storytelling, this game will not disappoint.
2. Stardew Valley
If you keep up with the latest cozy games, you’ll know that farming simulators are in right now. And maybe it’s just the sheer amount that I have played Stardew Valley, but I see its influences in every farming game that follows it. Even if games like this aren’t your kind of thing, Stardew Valley’s amazing success really speaks for itself. With constant support since its release from the one man who designed and built the entire game, Stardew is such an impressive feat of creativity and talent.
After inheriting a house in Pelican Town from your grandfather, you move to picturesque Stardew Valley to start your new life. There, you can live the cozy life you’ve always dreamed of. The town is full of interesting people, and you can get to know them as much or as little as you like. Get to know someone well enough, and you can move them into your house, get married, and have kids of your own. You can farm, fish, mine, explore, and craft while contending with the seasons, and it’s all done to a gorgeous soundtrack within beautiful pixel art graphics. There’s much more to Stardew than meets the eye, but at its core it’s a wholesome and incredibly enjoyable little game. It’s available on all major platforms and is available on Xbox Game Pass.
Finally, we arrive at my all-time favourite cozy game and the game from this list that I’ve recommended the most: Witch Beam’s Unpacking. I’ve already written an article about my love for this game and its gorgeous environmental storytelling. That article will tell you everything you need to know about why this game deserves the number one spot on this list. So if you’re interested in learning more about it before you jump in, you can read it here.
The name Unpacking basically tells you most of what you need to know about this game. It’s all about unpacking boxes. It’s easy to learn, beautiful to look at, and heartwarming to watch unfold. Every new level and box teaches you about the character who owns the boxes, eventually revealing a story under the surface. It’s relaxing, wholesome, and only takes a few hours to complete. Unpacking is available on most major platforms and is currently available on Xbox Game Pass.
There is such a huge catalogue of cute games out there and I hope that, if you’re new to the genre, these will help to get you started. If you’re a veteran cozy gamer and have games you love that haven’t been included here, please share them in the comments below!