Chill out with these stress-busting games

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If you’re searching for a fun way to relax, this collection of stress-relieving games is just what you need. Games offer a perfect escape from the day’s worries, allowing you to unwind and immerse yourself in a world of entertainment and repose.

A woman with light-colored hair laughs while seated at a table with a glass of wine and stress relieving games in a dimly lit room.
Photo credit: Depositphotos.

In today’s fast-paced world, finding ways to unwind and relax is more important than ever. While some may turn to exercise or meditation, others find comfort in the world of games. Games offer a unique and enjoyable way to de-stress, whether it’s the pleasure of shuffling cards or the immersive experience of virtual farming. Let’s dive into some of the best games to help you chill out and take a much-needed break from the daily grind.

Board games

Board games have been a beloved part of family gatherings and date nights for years. They offer a tactile and social experience that’s engaging and soothing, making an excellent choice for unwinding after a long day.

Ticket to Ride is a prime example of a stress-busting board game. Its simple yet strategic gameplay involves collecting train cards to complete routes across a map. It offers a satisfying sense of accomplishment without the high stakes of more competitive games. The beautifully illustrated boards and gentle pace make it an excellent choice for winding down. There’s a particular joy in planning your routes and watching your trains connect cities across the map.

Carcassonne is another fantastic option. This tile-placement game allows you to create a medieval landscape, piece by piece. The act of drawing and placing tiles can be a truly calming experience. Watching the landscape grow and develop under your hands also brings a great sense of accomplishment. The strategic element of placing tiles to build cities, roads and farms adds just enough challenge to keep your mind engaged without causing stress.

For a truly serene experience, try Takenoko. In this game, you cultivate bamboo plots and tend to a panda in an emperor’s garden. The game’s beautiful components and gentle gameplay make it perfect for unwinding. You take turns performing actions like growing bamboo, irrigating plots and feeding the panda. The combination of strategy and the game’s tranquil theme creates a soothing gameplay experience.

A smiling man and woman sit on a couch, each holding video game controllers, fully immersed in playing stress-relieving games.
Photo credit: Depositphotos.
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Video games

Video games have come a long way, offering diverse experiences that cater to various tastes and preferences. Among these, cozy games have carved out a niche as perfect stress-busters.

Stardew Valley is a very beloved title in the cozy game genre. This farming simulation game lets you escape to a rural paradise where you can grow crops, raise animals and fish, and interact with a charming cast of characters. The game’s open-ended nature means there are no strict goals or time limits, allowing you to engage at your own pace and find your own rhythm. The pixel art style and soothing soundtrack further enhance its relaxing atmosphere. Harvesting crops, upgrading tools and building relationships in the game mirror real-life joys but without the pressures of deadlines or competition.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons is another standout in the cozy gaming world. In this game, you move to a deserted island and transform it into a bustling community. Activities like fishing, farming, bug catching and decorating your home and island provide lots of opportunities for creative expression and relaxation. Visiting other islands makes for a relaxing social experience as well.

Journey offers a serene and visually stunning gaming experience for those who prefer puzzle-solving. As you guide a robed figure through an endless desert landscape, they encounter other players’ avatars, adding a subtle social element to the game. The combination of breathtaking visuals, a hauntingly beautiful soundtrack and simple yet engaging gameplay creates a rather meditative experience. The journey through the game’s world provides a contemplative escape from reality.

“My favorite online stress-relieving game is Spelling Bee on the NYT website. I love trying to make words using the seven letters and get a thrill from making a panagram using all the letters. My favorite non-online game is Tenzi, a simple dice game that I play with my daughters sometimes during our daily homeschool break. Easy and fun!”

— Sarita Harbour, Thrive at Home
A person with long hair is holding a hand of playing cards close to their face, sitting on a couch. Another person's hand holding cards is visible in the foreground, enjoying stress relieving games together. A brick wall is in the background.
Photo credit: Depositphotos.

Card games

Card games are another excellent way to unwind. With their portability and simplicity, they offer a chance to focus and relax, whether played solo or with friends.

Solitaire is a classic card game that many turn to for a quick mental break. Its straightforward rules and the satisfaction of organizing cards can be incredibly soothing. The digital versions available on smartphones make it easily accessible for anyone needing a quick respite. Sorting cards and aiming to clear the layout provides a satisfying sense of order and achievement.

Exploding Kittens is a quirky, lighthearted card game perfect for de-stressing with friends. The game’s whimsical artwork and humorous cards create a fun atmosphere. The gameplay is simple, making it easy to pick up and play without too much mental strain. The game’s lighthearted nature and quick rounds make it ideal for casual gatherings.

For a more strategic option, Dominion offers a very engaging experience. As a deck-building game, you collect and utilize cards to build the most successful kingdom. The game’s variability and the numerous expansions ensure that every game is unique, providing a satisfying challenge. The sense of creating something from the ground up can be very fulfilling.

Final thoughts

Games, whether they involve cards, boards or screens, offer a delightful escape from the stresses of everyday life. They provide a way to engage the mind and unwind, often requiring enough focus to distract from worries without being overwhelming. From the simple joys of tile placement in Carcassonne to the serene farming in Stardew Valley, there is a stress-busting game for everyone.

Kristen Wood is a writer, photographer, avid cozy gamer and creator of The Cozy Gaming Nook, your source for everything cozy games. Her work has been featured in various online and print publications, including Elle, NBC, Chicago Sun-Times, Martha Stewart, Good Housekeeping, Well + Good, and more.

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