10 of the most relaxing games on PC

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Relaxing games

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Real life is rubbish sometimes, and there’s nothing that video games can do about that. But I know that if I’ve had a particularly tough day at work, then sitting down at my PC and visiting a different world can often be exactly what I need to unwind.

There are two things I noticed when compiling this list of the 10 most relaxing games. One is that all of them have excellent mellow soundtracks, highlighting just how important audio is in deciding the tone of any game. The second is that the setting is almost always the star, not the plot or action.

In a lot of them, you don’t actually do much. Proteus, for example, is a glorified walk in the woods and Abzu is essentially a giant aquarium that you can swim around. But it works to their advantage. Without a clear direction, you’re free to explore, to sink into the world, and pay extra attention to the sights and sounds. It’s the perfect formula for forgetting your real-life struggles.

If you’ve got a particular game that helps you relax that didn’t make the list, then let me know in the comments.

68 Comments

  1. Culby says:

    Now, when you play Boyz II Men on Audiosurf, you do manage to make it to The End of the Road, yes?

    I’ll see myself out.

  2. beowolfschaefer says:

    I’d also add Eufloria, great little game for relaxing.

  3. Freud says:

    Sine Mora used to be my relax game. It’s a bullet hell game but a bit on the easy side.

    Other than that Nintendo games are perfect for relaxation (Super Mario Kart 8 and Super Mario 3D World) but those aren’t natively PC games I guess.

    • oyog says:

      I feel the same way about Scoregasm. It’s a shmup and it’s relatively easy but I very quickly find myself in that focused meditative calm.

    • Foosnark says:

      Weird… I never finished Sine Mora on the PS Vita and got frustrated because it was too hard in places :P

  4. Merry says:

    Samuel listen. I love you very much, but you’re supposed to put a break at 100 words or less and put a Read the rest of this entry » to draw me in. If you haven’t written 100 words then you’re not working hard enough.

    And isn’t 10 of the most relaxing games on PC Philippa’s job? I don’t mind really ‘cos I like you better (not really though).

  5. skeletortoise says:

    Osmos is in a league of its own for sheer relaxation. None of the games I’ve played from this list come close to touching it, and I don’t imagine the ones I’ve not played would fare much better.

    (I realize this reads like a condemnation of the list, but it’s really just a very very big recommendation for Osmos for those looking to relax. It’s also probably dirt cheap at this point.)

    • Kaitiaki says:

      I logged in to add Osmos. Glad it already got a mention, but it’s worth another. Being a tiny organism in a hostile world was never so chill.

    • baozi says:

      Oh, I haven’t played it in ages. Just re-installed it.

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      Solrax says:

      double-plus for Osmos!

      I’d like to add:

      Mini Metro,
      World of Goo,
      Grow Home

    • somnolentsurfer says:

      I gave up on Osmos at the point where it went from pleasantly relaxing to absolutely maddeningly infuriating.

    • Rainshine says:

      Ooooold Humble Bundle purchase. Headphones and a tablet. As long as it isn’t a black hole run. Stupid gravity.

  6. crazyd says:

    My most recent relaxation games are the wave mode in SUPERHOT and Night in the Woods. Both good for a cool down before bed. No stress, no panicking.

  7. Bobcat says:

    I find Hexcells intensely relaxing. Except for a few fiendishly hard levels.

    • zxc says:

      I hear ya. I love putting on some music or a podcast and just playing level after level of Hexcells Infinite (generated puzzles, having completed all the games). Sometimes I get stuck for five minutes and I don’t even care. The layout of the numbers starts to become one with what I’m listening to.

  8. Sicky337 says:

    Eurotruck Simulator 2 ( ETS2 ) can be as simple as grab a load and follow the map to the destination.
    But there are also tasks to complete and to add to the game play some very clever Modders have created a multiplayer MOD so you can play with your friends. Plenty of DLC ( download content ) map expansions addons for your truck new loads and coming summer 2017 are multiple trailers and specialist heavy loads with rear steering trailers.
    Drive your truck as it is or take a visit to the garage to make it your own. From paint jobs cab types engine size amount of axles, lights, air horns and many more little changes to make it your own. Some players in multi player have companies where they will join in convoys etc.
    A choice of trucks are available too.

    So it can be as relaxing as you want or as busy as you want.
    There are face book pages and forums where you can communicate with others whether if be for problems with the game, communicate with game modders, talk to the company your may wish to join or to see what new DLC is in the pipe line.
    Fell like a change then theres AMS American truck Simulator which is pretty much the same but american trucks and american maps.

  9. thomas16632 says:

    everybody gone to rapture. i don’t like this, this is a 100% _slow_ walking simulator with audiologs. And it’s not _that_ pretty. Even dull i would say.

    i would put Elite dangerous here, it’s like eurotruck for those who like the quiet of space instead !!

  10. Kefren says:

    I used to love Minecraft. Then they added a hunger mechanic I hated – seeing my health constantly drop was depressing. Then I’d die from a small fall. Yet if I turned off hunger, it also got rid of all the monsters that I liked to encounter sometimes. I never understood why they didn’t just make hunger a tick-box toggle. Then I’d still be playing the game.

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      Andy_Panthro says:

      That would be a great idea, having detailed custom difficulty settings where you could turn off specific monsters or hunger if those things are getting in the way.

    • Chaoslord AJ says:

      Just add a mod to remove hunger or wear an item from a mod to remove hunger (switch to creative) or stick to legacy versions in the launcher.

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    yhancik says:

    There was something very relaxing to Creatures – at least when they didn’t get super-sick or close to the Grendel.

    I found Eidolon pretty relaxing as well, except in some situations, again. But it still wasn’t as … efficient as Proteus (and its evil twin Purgateus – that has one of my favourite ambient soundtracks in gaming ever).

    There’s something I could say about Kentucky Route Zero, but I feel “relaxing” wouldn’t exactly pay it justice. There’s definitely something calming in its slowness, though.

    I used to play IL-2 Sturmovik’s in free flight mode (whatever it was called… campaign builder?). No enemies, just me, my plane, and trying to climb as high as I could, in conjunction with Selected Ambient Works vol. II. I think that definitely was my most relaxing (non-)gaming experience ever.

    • poliovaccine says:

      Man, *anything* combined with Selected Ambient Works Vol. II is the most relaxing anything ever. I just recently cured someone’s headache with that album!

      Btw, shout out to IL-2, that’s some old school gold fool.

  12. elevown says:

    I would add no mans sky to this list.

    I never followed the pre launch hype or vids and was kinda expecting it to be proteus in space – with a bit more to it – which is more or less what it is :)

    It’s still not a great game – but I think it is relaxing to explore all the beautiful worlds and space, with very little danger or urgency.

    • bl4ckrider says:

      I was thinking the same, although when I started it, I always thought about it in terms of going to work.

      If it had a little more diversity and gave you the promised choices, I’d really get back to it. I am craving for a Stardew Valley feel in Space.

    • drinniol says:

      Agreed – especially now with the farming, I built a base in a supremely pretty spot overlooking an ocean, and I just pooted about with the skimmer looking for rare stuff and raising moolah.

  13. Urthman says:

    A couple really good relaxing free indie games about flying/gliding/soaring:

    PaperPlane link to purringcheetah.com
    Fruits Of A Feather link to samuraipunk.itch.io

  14. kud13 says:

    I used to love Freelancer for this. Just get into a ship, and start flying somewhere, randomly. Stay out of space that’s populated by enemies, and you can literally fly for about an hour from one end of a system to the other while enjoying background vistas of nebulae and other pretty spacestuff

    Recently, though, it’s been Age of Empires 2 HD. I load it up, fire up a campaign or a custom scenario, set game speed to slow, and just mess around with the puzzle of “figure out how to set up defense, get resources ,advance, explore/clear out map”

    I play on Moderate difficulty, and I frequently tap “pause” to issue orders to individual units when I get into combat. I’m a definition of “casual” at the game, and yet I’ve put over 700 hours into the game since I bought it in December of 2015

  15. Person of Interest says:

    I’m not sure I’d call more than a few of these games relaxing. Even in Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture, I was always nervously expecting something bad to happen. A relaxing game, to me, is something without any time pressure, coordination demands, jump scares, or failure states. Adventure games, hidden object games, and untimed puzzle games are all likely to qualify. Or if the game isn’t one of those genres, but has soothing sounds and visuals, it may qualify.

  16. floogles says:

    thank you for the post and comments, always on the lookout for games like this.
    My favorites:
    Fez
    Hexcells
    Kairo
    Mirrormoon EP
    English country tune
    Edge
    X games

    • Jalan says:

      As much as I love Kairo, I have to question how truly relaxing it is when you consider just how much of a sinister, lonely underlying tone it has (part of the reason why I love it, actually).

    • and its man says:

      I was about to suggest Mirrormoon EP as well :)
      A few other ones :
      – Gathering Sky
      – Meadow
      – Universe Sandbox 2
      – Zenge
      – Daniel Linssen’s Planetarium. It’s usually a short experience, since it is “only” a planet generator, but I just keep coming back to it. And it has a great soundtrack by Dubmood. It’s available on itch.io.
      – Hail Everything, yea. But David O’Reilly’s zen tamagotchi Mountain should be mentioned too.
      – RymdResa, by Morgondag. Sometimes described as a “peaceful FTL”.
      – TIMEframe
      – despite it’s difficulty, I find Out There : Ω quite relaxing. There’s a great soundtrack here too, I always fall for spacey arpeggios.
      – Once you’ve understood the basics of sending an object (and lil’ green guys) into space, Kerbal Space Program is an enchantment.
      – Qora by Holden Boyles is a very friendly linear journey. (Great soundtrack, again.)

      • and its man says:

        Ow, I forgot Mu Cartographer, by Titouan Millet. It has a lot in common with Mirrormoon EP.

  17. Qibbish says:

    Kingdom New Lands should be on this list…

    But I get that not everything should or could make it.

  18. PsychoWedge says:

    I still think Anno 1404 (or Dawn of Discovery in USAland) is one of the best relaxation games ever. Also a great podcast/TV game. Start a huge, endless-mode map without AI and just try to build the biggest civilization you could possible squeeze onto all these islands.

    ETS2 is fucking great too, of course! xD

    Terraria is also very good, as are Cities in Motion 2 and Zoo Tycoon,

    • R. Totale says:

      Terraria would be a lot more relaxing without all the pirate and alien invasions.

  19. AlphaW0lph says:

    How strange this may sound but: Fallout New Vegas. Walking through the desert and occasionally killing a few ghouls or deathclaws makes me relax always. And indeed is the audio very important because it makes me even more relaxed when I listen to the Mohave Music Radio.

    • fish99 says:

      First time I’ve heard someone call Deathclaws relaxing! The king and queen Deathclaws in the quarry are terrifying.

      I know what you mean though, just traveling around the wastes with the radio on is very relaxing.

    • Paranoid says:

      I came here to post this too. I think the game is just so completely immersive for me that it’s a great way to actually forget shit and relax.

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      phuzz says:

      Travelling through the more remote and quiet bits of The Witcher 3 is the same for me. Say the very south of Velen, and sailing around on the sea in Skelidge. Just pretty scenery, and Roach’s occasional noises.
      For that matter, sailing around anywhere in Zelda: Windwaker is beautifully calming (if I’m allowed to pick a console game).

  20. Forceflow says:

    Add: Mini Metro. So relaxing.

  21. Amphetamine says:

    No Pixel Junk Eden on that list? For shame….

  22. Zeroebbasta says:

    I’d add Slime Rancher to the list. It oozes happiness.

    • Drib says:

      Slime Rancher was good fun.

      All the pink slimes with their :D faces and cat slimes with |3.

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    Andy_Panthro says:

    Wandering through Horizon: Zero Dawn and taking pictures (and watching robots) is quite relaxing. Of course if you get too close to the robo-dinosaurs then it’s less relaxing…

  24. skyturnedred says:

    My preferred method of relaxation is driving around in open world games such as Mafia. In Sleeping Dogs walking around is just as relaxing.

    • fish99 says:

      You can add GTA to the list. Leave the car behind and just go for a walk to take in the sights and sounds. Relaxing and immersive. Or take a drive round the island at night in GTAV, or the city in GTA4, preferably in an open-top car with some chill music playing.

  25. weemcast says:

    No Banished?

    Sorry, had to ;) I know these kinds of lists are always plagued with “No ‘x’?!” mentions, so I understand you can’t get them all, but I know many people with this game and we all tend to describe it as our game to relax to, etc.

    You also mentioned that in many of the games (listed) you don’t do much, so I suppose Banished may not fit in that sense. Anyway, interesting list – Banished would be in my personal top 10, and a quick page search seemed to indicate no one mentioned it yet so – there it is, as you asked ;)

    • oyog says:

      I’m glad you mentioned it. The comment above yours mentioning Select Ambient Works reminded me of just how much time I spent chilling out listening to RDJ’s ambient stuff and playing Banished.

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    DelrueOfDetroit says:

    Play this during any game to make it instantly more relaxing:

    link to youtu.be

  27. Sin Vega says:

    The original Settlers is still the best for this. I’ve literally watched the AI play just to relax more than once. All the little carriers and woodcutters and happy wee fishermen.

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      phuzz says:

      Ah yes, and Settlers 2 for similar reasons.

      • kud13 says:

        Settlers II had that “zoom-on video box” feature, just to make sure you can follow your favourite town around.

        I loved setting a video like that on scout, or the geologist, and just watch them wander.

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      yhancik says:

      I almost mentioned it, but yes! I think it was probably one of my first experiences of “relaxing gaming”.

  28. Expose Gaming1 says:

    Excellent compilation.

    For me, my most relaxing game was punch club. I know it’s weird since you have to actually manage your fighter, but for some reason, it put my mind at peace.

  29. poliovaccine says:

    My list (I actually have a special folder full of shortcuts called “Relaxing games”):

    Diaries of a Spaceport Janitor
    Morrowind
    RimWorld (on easy settings, obv)
    Shelter 2
    Subnautica
    Watch Dogs (may seem weird but I like just wandering around Chicago on foot or climbing high buildings, chills me out)
    Fallout New Vegas (for kinda the same reasons, plus the zen of inventory and safehouse management/tidying)

    • and its man says:

      I find it odd and funny that you’re mentioning Diaries Of A Spaceport Janitor. I really love this game. It’s possibly the cleverest thing I’ve played in the last year, but I wouldn’t call it relaxing. The overpopulated streets, its brilliant wobbly soundtrack and that eternal quest for unvaluable things always got me thinking the game is about “daily quests frenziness”. I’m always smiling when I play Diaries of A Spaceport Janitor, but it has more to do with a feeling of ridiculous euphoria.

  30. hobnob says:

    Oddly, though I loved Stardew Valley, I didn’t find it very relaxing. I was always trying to rack up the achievements and get the best possible endgame score – which I did and -aside from a little grindiness- I enjoyed. Relaxing, not so much.

    • TillEulenspiegel says:

      That’s the odd thing about Stardew Valley. The game doesn’t really demand that you accomplish specific goals quickly, but I think the short day timer winds up causing pressure to min/max every day.

      Maybe it makes sense to have a separate “casual” save where you don’t worry about that stuff.

  31. ansionnach says:

    Relaxing games? For some reason the ASCII game Elephant comes to mind. You move about, herding the elephants (@ signs, I think) into a pen. Once you did this, it played some satisfying PC speaker music. There was almost no challenge or point. I’ve also found Civ II to be relaxing on the easiest mode.

    The only games I’ve played on this list are Botanicula and Proteus. Didn’t find either relaxing – the former because it was often frustrating; the latter because I kept thinking I’d wasted my money.

  32. CartonofMilk says:

    i couldnt get into Euro truck simulator because i didn’t like the feel of the map. It’s plainly obvious that outside what’s within a km from the side of the road there’s not a full world map beyond snd so the immersion is ruined. And there’s not enough different roads to take either. I’d much rather play a game like the crew because in the crew you know and see that the map is whole (and you can even drive off the road). I know the crew is a racing game and as such hardly relaxing, but you dont have to race to your destination, you can just cruise. Which i have frequently done

  33. Rince says:

    I would add World’s Dawn.
    Like Stardew Valley is inspired by Harvest Moon. But while SV shines in the farm building/customization and activities to do, World’s Dawn shines in the Town itself and the people in it.
    Is probably the coziest game that I played. It has a feeling of relaxation and overall hapiness, but in a subdued, comfy way.
    Is pretty lovely.

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    75oharas says:

    I like Factorio as a chill game, i can potter about adding to my factory for a few hours listening to a podcast or music.

    Obviously there’s thought required but you can mostly take your time, (unless you set it to death world levels of biters)

  35. shagen454 says:

    My favorite relaxing game of all time is definitely Osmos.

    Other than that probably Bethesda games been playing Fallout 4 again and on it’s second playthrough I find it a lot more relaxing and have always found soloing the world content in WoW to be very relaxing as well due to how great the ambient sound & environmental effects are, so of course Minecraft as well.

  36. Thirdrail says:

    Everybody’s Gone to Rapture is easily the most disappointing thing I’ve played in the last ten years. The floating lights were such an trite, gamey way to approach such a rich, nuanced concept. What should have been The Leftovers: the Game turned out to be Dinkus McGee’s Masturbatory Storytelling Adventure. Blech.

    I’ve fallen asleep playing ETS2 many, many times. And it’s not hard to describe. You just have to start with, “This is a driving game that’s actually about the joy of driving, as opposed to the thrill of racing…”

  37. Gemberkoekje says:

    A very recent favorite of mine in this topic is Birthdays The Beginning. Made by the maker of Harvest Moon, it is, essentially, a modern Sim Earth. Great to waste time and get some dinosaurs.

  38. Jabberwock says:

    Melody’s Escape… With the right music it is trance-inducing.

  39. MacTheGeek says:

    My go-to relaxation game for years has been Everyday Genius: Squarelogic. I’m not sure why my brain finds math puzzles soothing, but there it is.