The last few days have been really stressful, particularly for residents of the United States. Rather than doomscroll through Twitter for hours on end, it might be better to seek out a video game or two to play as a distraction.
We know it’s difficult to hold off on looking at news updates but trust us, taking an hour or two to do something else (like play a game) can be extremely beneficial for your mental wellbeing. Plus, video games you play for distraction purposes can help you in a number of situations, it doesn’t have to be related to current events.
It’s been a rough year across the board for everyone all over the world. With that in mind, the Prima team thought it’d be nice to put together a list of fun distraction games that you can play to help boost your mood a little bit. So, sit back, relax, and consider giving the following games a try!
Prima Staff Recommendations | Happy Little Distraction Games
Dragon Quest 1 (or 3)
The original Dragon Quest (or at least the remakes of it) is like eating a snack. There isn’t much to it, and you’ll need something different eventually, but it’s really nice in the moment. Dragon Quest is a genre framework game, the first of its kind and the least complicated. You’re one hero, fighting one monster at a time, basically traveling the world map in a loop. You can just relax, enjoy the music or put a podcast on, and get some stress-free grinding dopamine.
The third game is a good sub-in if I want a little more, but not too much more. I get a lot out of playing with the vocation system, even if it’s only slightly less rudimentary than the original Final Fantasy. Either way both of these games have totally great mobile (and Nintendo Switch!) ports, so you don’t have to go through any hoops or open up your wallet too much to play.
Diablo 3 (or Torchlight 2)
Sometimes it feels good to just run around and smash goblins for a few hours, making your numbers go up with only as much effort as you need. Diablo 3 is arguably the best version of this for this specific purpose, since it’s nice and streamlined, polished, and sports online play if you want that.
Torchlight is more traditional, therefore a bit more complex. But in all reality that doesn’t mean that much more brain power. You get to dig in more here and play with more options, so if the Hollywood spitshine on Diablo 3 turns you off, here’s your best alternative. Path of Exile is there too, but it has way too much going on for the whole mindless, relaxation thing.
Grab a game with “Warriors” in the title. Any of them, really. There’s a Zelda one, there’re a few Gundam ones, other anime, Fire Emblem, and of course a fat stack of the historical fiction series based on the Romance of the Three Kingdoms story out of China or the shameless propaganda-y epic samurai battles of Japan. Personally, I’m going to play One Piece: Pirate Warriors 4 the first chance I get. Doin' combos, makin' explosions, and capturing strongholds all day feels great.
Rock Band 4
Music has always been a constant source of joy in my life, like many others around me. SO naturally during stressful times, I tend to gravitate towards rhythm games. Luckily when quarantine started I picked up a Rockband 4 guitar and the game on sale. So you’ll probably find me over the next few days playing a lot more Rock Band 4, heck I’ll probably even purchase a bunch more DLC to keep my mind at ease and flex the retail therapy muscles in my lizard brain.
It’s great to just let the music wash over you and fade away into the void, even if only for a few short moments before the lights come up and the venue clears out.
Slay the Spire
I’m a huge fan of rouge-likes and Slay the Spire is my go-to. I’ve beaten the game so many times, but it’s a great quick, and simple way to turn off my brain for a few runs. I highly recommend it because it’s simple to learn but hard to master. Each run is widely different from the last, and learning what cards to add or remove from your deck along the way is a challenging but rewarding system.
It’s available on literally every platform so even if you just wanted to lay in your bed and play it on your phone you could! Curl up with a nice cup of tea or coffee and slay some spires.
A Short Hike
Few games are truly about nothing. There’s solace in nothingness, the void, the peace, and the quiet. A Short Hike doesn’t have levels, or quests, or anything of true meaning. It’s a game wholly about the journey rather than the destination. It’s a peaceful two-hour experience and one I find myself going back to it every few months.
Check it out, at the very least you’ll be able to turn your brain off for a bit and looks at some colorful environments and cute characters.
I may be biased as a Tetris fan, but I know I'm not alone in finding Tetris Effect to be relaxing. When I'm really struggling with my anxiety, the first game I turn to is Tetris. Any game of Tetris, really, but Tetris Effect is the best recommendation when it comes to improving your mental health.
The game's campaign expertly blends together a beautiful soundtrack with stunning backgrounds and regular Tetris gameplay with a few tricks thrown in. Many will note that Tetris Effect is best played in VR, and this is certainly true, but you don't have to play it in VR to enjoy it.
Tetris Effect is available on PlayStation 4 and PC via the Epic Games Store and will soon be available on Xbox with new multiplayer features added. Tetris Effect: Connected releases on November 10 for Xbox One, and Series X | S. It'll be available through Game Pass so if you're on the fence about buying it, you can give it a try through Game Pass to see why Tetris Effect is so highly rated and praised.
It's hard to point to one particular Pokemon game because everyone's personal preference is different. For me, I like to go back and replay my childhood favorite, Pokemon Silver. It's a lot like rewatching one of my favorite movies (The Mummy, definitely The Mummy) in that I know everything that's going to happen. It's predictable, but enjoyable.
It's also easy, you don't have to think about too much. If you want something new, there are newer games to look at as well. I wasn't as big on Pokemon Sword & Shield as everyone else, but I did really enjoy Pokemon: Let's Go, Pikachu and Eevee. Again, I think it's a nostalgia thing, but visually the game looks quite nice if you're hungry for something with pretty graphics.
In the future, I'd really love to see a new Pokemon game go in a similar direction as the indie title Temtem in making the game an MMO of sorts. I'm also curious to see how remakes of games like Pokemon Snap turn out.
Either way, Pokemon is a beloved franchise and it delivers heaping amounts of serotonin through nostalgia alone regardless of whether you're replaying an older game, or playing something new.
Simple, Repetitive Mobile Games
I decided to avoid mentioning one specific game here and will instead group all of the games I play on my phone together because they're essentially all the same. Word games, puzzles, games like Design Home where all you're doing is putting a room together with different pieces of furniture, etc.
Sometimes when you're out of the house and unable to access your console or PC you'll turn to your phone to help distract you. It's tempting to turn to things like social media, but sometimes social media can make things worse, not better.
What I personally like to do is put in my headphones, listen to something relaxing, and play a really simple, repetitive mobile game. I get that mobile games aren't really seen along the lines of "gaming" like other titles on this list, but for the purpose of calming yourself down for an hour, they're more than serviceable. Especially if your phone is the only form of distraction you have.
Regardless of what mobile device you're playing on there are thousands of games to choose from depending on what appeals to you. Many of these games are free, and many of these games can be downloaded in less than a minute. It's a win/win situation.