Why These Soothing Games Are Better Than a Spa Day
Video games have become an increasingly vital form of entertainment over the past year. Their immersive qualities make them more engaging than TV or books, tapping into the part of our brains that tends to mindlessly scroll social media instead of truly relaxing. With everyone stuck at home looking for diversion, video games have filled a real need.
And it's not just hardcore gamers logging 10-hour Halo sessions. Casual gaming is also on the rise, as people turn to games to blow off steam rather than building their identity around gaming. According to a recent Nielsen report, more than half of US residents played video games in 2020, driving industry revenues to almost $140 billion—a $20 billion increase over 2019.
While research into gaming's effects on kids is common, studies of adult gamers have been scarce until recently. A 2019 NIH study found video games may reduce depressive symptoms but spike adrenaline levels during violent games (though those normalize quickly after playing). More recently, a Royal Society Open Science study showed a small boost in emotional well-being for Animal Crossing and Plants vs. Zombies players.
As gaming goes mainstream, we're likely to see more research on the mental health links. The journal Games for Health focuses on such topics, with a recent paper aggregating studies on casual games like Plants vs. Zombies and Bejeweled 2. Of 13 studies reviewed, 12 showed positive outcomes for players' stress, anxiety, and mental health. "All studies that examined mood and stress noted significant improvements compared to passive breaks, web surfing, or relaxation," the paper concludes.
"There are many benefits for adults playing games," says psychologist Megan Connell. "They can relax, engage with stories, connect with others, or just have fun."
Our 15 Favorite Stress-Reducing Games
To tap into the stress-relieving potential of gaming, check out these engrossing yet low-key game recommendations:
This farming simulation RPG is the perfect antidote to a stressful day. The charming retro graphics, tranquil music, and low-pressure gameplay make it easy to unwind for hours at a time. Build your farm, befriend villagers, mine for treasure, and live the simple life.
Escape to your own private island paradise full of adorable animal neighbors in this social simulation game. Decorate your home, catch bugs and fish, dig for fossils, or just take in the soothing natural scenery. With no timers or penalties, you can play at your own relaxing pace.
Guide a growing tree through minimalist environments in this poetic puzzle game. With no text or dialogue, it evokes a sense of calm focus. The simple yet strategic challenges provide a mini escape perfect for de-stressing.
Take an awe-inspiring sand boarding journey across mesmerizing desert landscapes in this atmospheric endless runner. The soothing visuals and dynamic lighting effects enthrall your senses, while the easy one-touch controls make it a calming joy to play.
Unwind by tackling origami-inspired puzzles in this charmingly crafted game. Fold and unfold geometric shapes to uncover solutions. The relaxing music and gently challenging puzzles induce a zen-like state great for blowing off steam.
Embark on a reflective trek through lost civilizations and sprawling deserts in this serene masterpiece. With no text, dialogue, or characters, it lets you immerse in quiet contemplation, set to an emotional orchestral score. The grace and artistry provide a meditative gaming experience like no other.
Live life on a haunted island camping ground in this wholesome adventure game that unfolds in real-time. Decorate your campsite, befriend ghost bears and do quests at your own pace across the seasons. The cozy charm fosters a relaxing sense of discovery and community.
Few games capture a sense of peaceful zen like this ambient adventure. You play as the wind, blowing flower petals through lush landscapes. The motion controls, minimalist visuals, and blissful soundtrack make playing feel like floating through a soothing dream. Perfect for calming nerves and melting stress away.
Immerse yourself in the tranquility of the ocean depths as a deep sea diver in this atmospheric underwater odyssey. Swim through glistening reefs and ruins accompanied by schools of fish and a sublime piano score. It's an awe-inspiring escape perfect for releasing stress.
Strategically stack an assortment of oddly-shaped packages as they move along a conveyor belt trying to avoid toppling your tower. With its playful visuals, upbeat soundtrack, and progressively challenging levels, this quirky physics-based stacking game provides lighthearted, engaging fun perfect for a quick stress-reducing gaming break.
Overcome tragedy through elegant platforming in this poignant and surreal indie. Its hand-drawn visuals and evocative musical score create a hypnotic tone of melancholy and hope. Minimal challenge lets you fully engage with its emotional resonant narrative at your own pace.
Be anything in this philosophical adventure that lets you explore a boundless universe as every object imaginable. As the calming narration ponders existence and consciousness, lose yourself floating through star clusters, fields, and cities stress-free.
Got stress to burn? This wonderfully weird game lets you chuck possessions into a crackling fireplace and watch them burn. There’s little more to it than that, but there’s a strange satisfaction to the bonfire gameplay that many find calming.
Monument Valley is a surreal, meditative puzzle game set in a beautiful world of impossible Escher-esque architecture and illusory geometries. The immersive interactions with the stunning environments and minimalist, nonverbal storytelling create a deeply calming and aesthetically pleasing experience.
You’ll love this soothing puzzle game where you slide colored squares into gradient spectrums, creating Zen-like experiences out of satisfying color gradients. With minimalist visuals and easy yet engaging gameplay, it provides hypnotic, low-pressure puzzles perfect for destressing.
Lasting Relief: How to Find Your Zen Long Term
While games can provide acute stress relief in the moment, addressing ongoing, everyday stress requires a broader strategy. Practices like meditation and yoga are good long-term solutions, but one of the easiest, clinically-backed ways to find daily calm is taking a psychobiotic.
Psychobiotics are probiotics clinically shown to impact brain function and mental health. The most researched is B. longum 1714™, a beneficial gut bacteria that reduces cortisol levels and stress symptoms. It influences the gut-brain axis, helping maintain our body's stress response systems.
That’s why, when it came time to develop our flagship stress and mood support product – Just Calm – we formulated with 3x the clinically effective dose of B. longum 1714™ (more than any other retail mood support supplement in the industry). This daily supplement makes it simple to get your fill of stress-busting good bacteria. Users report lasting improvements in mood, stress levels, sleep, memory and focus.
For occasional gaming breaks to decompress after a rough day, turn to Animal Crossing or Stardew Valley. But for ongoing stress relief, consider adding a daily psychobiotic like Just Calm to your routine. With proven ingredients and convenient delivery, it's an easy way to support both your gut health and mental calm.
By the way…
While we promise Just Calm will help you meet our modern, stressful world head on, if you don’t absolutely love how you feel…
You’re completely covered with the Just Thrive Bottom of the Bottle, 100% money back guarantee.
So you can give Just Calm a test drive… And if you’re not completely over the moon, you can ask for a full product refund at any time. Even if it’s 3 months or 3 years later. Even if the bottle is empty!
- Pine R, Fleming T, McCallum S, Sutcliffe K. The Effects of Casual Videogames on Anxiety, Depression, Stress, and Low Mood: A Systematic Review. Games for Health Journal. 2020;9(4):255-264.
- Wang H, Braun C, Murphy EF, Enck P. Bifidobacterium longum 1714™ Strain Modulates Brain Activity of Healthy Volunteers During Social Stress. Am J Gastroenterol. 2019;114(7):1152-1162. doi:10.14309/ajg.0000000000000203