By now, I and countless others, know just how real Zoom fatigue is. Online schooling is quite draining on my mental health, so when I have free time, I find myself looking for something relaxing. Video games are one of my favorite pastimes. I’ve played them almost all my life. I’m not necessarily good, but they still entertain me.
After a stressful day working, I don’t always want to dive right into the fierce competition of popular first-person shooters or sports games, such as Call of Duty or NBA 2K. If I do that, I risk turning off my Xbox in a worse mood than when I turned it on. But video games can be so much more than just competition — they can be blissfully calming as well.
In my many hours spent with a headset on, I’ve collected five favorite console games I play to simply chill out. Maybe you’re growing tired of your current game rotation and looking to expand, or maybe you want to buy a console but don’t know what to play. Either way, there’s something on this list for everyone.
No Man’s Sky
If you’re looking for a fun science fiction title, No Man’s Sky won’t disappoint. It’s one of the prettiest games I’ve ever played. Essentially, you and your spaceship are sent out into a procedurally generated universe. You can be the first to discover plants, animals, planets and entire solar systems.
It can be overwhelming at first, but don’t let that scare you. Once you get the hang of it, you’ll find a uniquely rewarding and soothing experience. Building bases, doing missions and hanging out with friends online are all options, but I find myself the most relaxed when I’m exploring the unknown vibrant universe. The recent update allowing for animal companions is an added bonus.
It’s certainly not an obscure game, but I would be doing a disservice if I didn’t mention the classic sandbox game on this list. Building, surviving, mining, farming, collaborating with friends — there’s nothing you can’t do in this pixelated paradise. Play entirely at your own pace and difficulty, traversing and conquering the world of construction and resources.
Easy to learn, difficult to master, the game isn’t just for middle schoolers. In fact, the University of Maryland used to offer a class teaching students how to build an entire simple computer using the in-game redstone system. Whether you choose to play in a Creative world with no limits, or take the Survival path with risk and reward, there are ways to relax all around you.
Red Dead Redemption 2
You may not immediately associate cowboys with relaxation, but this award-winning action-adventure title gives players plenty of freedom to do as they please. Sure, you can rob a train or engage in a sharpshooting duel, but you can also hop on your horse and explore the rich wilderness of the Wild West.
Players can travel the detailed world over snowy mountains, lush grassy hills or dry plains. Wildlife will rush by you or entrance you from afar. Set up camp, and sleep under the stars. The soundtrack is mesmerizing, the perfect accompaniment to immerse you in the game. If nothing else, it’s truly a beautiful game.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons
I’m certainly not the first to appreciate this game’s adorable animation where you can create a small world to yourself. I don’t own a Nintendo Switch and I’ve only played this game a handful of times, but it made enough of an impression on me to include it here. Similar to Minecraft in many ways, the player is given a wealth of freedom to explore their own personal island and build a home out of the available materials and resources.
Interacting with your quick-talking animal friends on the island gives you some direction, but mostly the player is left to enjoy themselves. Spend some time fishing for exotic creatures, catching bugs and decorating your home. Playing this game feels like a vacation in itself.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
I don’t want to overhype this game, especially since it turns ten years old in November, which is ancient for a recurring title. But I have to say, there’s a strong argument for Skyrim as my favorite game of all time. Delve into the magical and lore-filled fantasy world of Tamriel, and explore the magnificent, Scandinavian-inspired province of Skyrim.
In this open world, role-playing game, the player really can become whoever they want to: a humble local woodchopper or the literal savior of the world. The detail is astounding, and in every crevice hides something of significance.
The remastered graphics present a delightful, colorful vision of a fantasy landscape, and traversing everywhere from the ancient lands near Windhelm to the wicked forests of Falkreath never gets old for me, no matter how many times I’ve played. A pleasant soundtrack and awe-inspiring locales mark this game as one made for sitting back and relaxing.