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The best non-violent video games to play when you just want to chill

For those times when you don’t feel like saving the universe or mowing down hordes of zombies, here are 14 chilled-out titles that allow you to view amazing vistas, build stuff or check out abandoned houses and space stations

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 26 September, 2017, 1:30pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 26 September, 2017, 1:30pm

Too often it seems like all video games are about gunning down Nazi zombies or assassinating Medicis. Sometimes, you don’t want the fate of the universe, or all of humanity, or whatever, resting on your shoulders.

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Sometimes, you just want to chill. And these are the best non-violent games to play when you’re feeling this way.

Gone Home

Originally released in 2013, Gone Home is a first-person video game about exploration. At least, that’s Gone Home on paper – in reality, it’s a genre-defying experience unlike anything else in video games.

You play as Kaitlin, a young woman recently returned home from a trip to Europe.

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You’re the only one home, and as you wander the house’s various rooms, you’ll find diary entries and see photographs that give you increasingly clear ideas about this family and their secrets.

Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, Mac, and Linux

Desert Golfing

If you really, really want to play a game that’s as stripped down as they come, check out Desert Golfing. It’s literally infinite golf. You flick your finger across the screen, sending a teeny white golf ball across a randomly generated stage.

There’s no losing. There are no scary trolls. Just some peaceful physics-based puzzles to take your mind off the cruel realities of life.

Platforms: iOS and Android

Flower

Flower isn’t a traditional video game in any sense of the word. You press buttons and move around a little joystick, but it’s more of a meditative experience than anything else – an interactive poem, maybe. Rather than playing as a person or a creature, you’re playing as the wind.

Flower is one of those games that’s hard to describe, but incredible to experience first hand. And it goes without saying of course that it’s amazing to look at. It’s also a beautiful way to spend a Sunday morning.

Platforms: PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita

Minecraft

Minecraft is the virtual equivalent of having some nice, quiet playtime with a pile of Lego.

Aside from its basic survival mechanics, there’s no way to really “lose” in Minecraft. You can die, sure, but it’s not really that big a deal. The goal is just to play, to build, to experiment and to try something new. Players have created some amazing things so far, including Frank Lloyd Wright’s iconic “Fallingwater” house and King’s Landing from Game of Thrones.

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We’re not saying you’ll be the next Minecraft mastermind, but there’s always a chance.

Platforms: Xbox 360 and One; PlayStation 3, 4, and Vita; Nintendo 3DS, Wii U, and Switch; iOS and Android; PC and Mac.

Fez

Fez, the independently-developed platformer, is the perfect game when you just need to chill out.

That’s because Fez is much more about the act of exploring, finding secrets, and taking in the scenery within its massive world than it is about killing or racking up combos.

Its lovingly crafted levels, combined with its retro aesthetic and stellar soundtrack, make Fez an absolute delight to play. If a game can be described as “charming,” that would apply here.

Platforms: PlayStation 3, 4, and Vita; Xbox 360; PC, Mac, and Linux.

Journey

Superlatives and hyperbole get thrown around a lot, but Journey is one of the most beautiful games ever made. You play an entirely silent protagonist, exploring a vast desert, and interacting with the various creatures and structures you come across.

Since the magic of Journey lies in experiencing it first hand, describing how the game unfolds will do a disservice to the experience of playing it for yourself. But there’s no doubt that it is one of the best PlayStation games you can get your hands on. It’s also blessedly short, enabling you to enjoy the entire game in a few hours.

Platforms: PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3

Hohokum

Hohokum is a whimsical and visually inventive side-scrolling puzzle game. What it lacks in realism, it more than makes up for in innovation and sheer artistic brilliance. You play as a thin, flying, snake creature, exploring the world’s many hidden secrets, and interacting with its goofy inhabitants.

Platforms: PlayStation 3, 4, and Vita

Animal Crossing: New Leaf

In Animal Crossing, you play as the mayor of a quaint little town populated by anthropomorphic dogs, raccoons, anteaters, and all sorts of other cute little critters.

Don’t think of Animal Crossing like a video game in the traditional sense of the term. Instead, think of it more as a nice place to visit when you need a break from the real world.

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This isn’t to say that Animal Crossing is boring. On the contrary, its quirky sense of humour and charming art style are weirdly captivating.

Platform: Nintendo 3DS

Stardew Valley

Don’t you miss the old days when you could plant your own corn, milk your own cows, and just live off the land? No? Well, Stardew Valley will make you nostalgic for the good old days, even if you’ve never stepped foot on a farm in your life.

You can do basically whatever you want in this unexpectedly popular farming role-playing game. You can chop down some trees, explore a cave, make maple syrup, cook a meal, go on a date with another farmer, and pet a cat. Sounds weird? Maybe. But people love its relaxing charm.

Platform: Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, Mac, PC, and Linux

The Witness

The Witness is probably the most controversial choice on this list, only because it will utterly consume some people’s lives while it will send an equal amount of people running in the opposite direction.

Essentially, it’s an open-world puzzle game where you’re the sole inhabitant of an otherwise abandoned island, exploring its eerily quiet buildings and beautiful landscapes. Every puzzle in the game is a sort of line-based maze puzzle, but the way The Witness slowly introduces new rules for these puzzles over the course of the game makes it feel like you’re learning a whole new language.

If that in any way sounds like your jam, The Witness will captivate you for weeks.

Platforms: Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC, Mac, and iOS

Lara Croft GO

Mobile games often get a bad rap for being obnoxious, and for good reason: all too often, they’re packed with intrusive ads and overly-persistent Facebook integrations.

One mobile game stands out from the pack as something truly marvellous: Lara Croft GO, the challenging yet unusually relaxing puzzle game based on the Tomb Raider series.

Think of Lara Croft GO like a turn-based board game. As you move Lara across the game’s tiled stages, your enemies will move, too. The beautiful art style and addictive gameplay make Lara Croft GO the perfect choice for when you need to play something a bit more cerebral.

Platforms: iOS and Android, PC, PlayStation 4 and Vita

Firewatch

Firewatch was one of the best games of 2016, partly because its art direction is breathtaking, but mostly because it tells an incredibly moving story in just a few short hours.

You play a man named Henry working in the Shoshone National Forest as a forest fire lookout. You’ll explore the wilderness, unravel mysteries about the area, and grow closer to Delilah, a colleague who you interact with exclusively via walkie-talkie.

The Hitchcock-style mystery at its heart will tinge that beauty with a healthy dose of paranoia, but the act of exploring this gorgeous rendition of the wilderness is completely transfixing.

Platforms: Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC and Mac

Tacoma

Tacoma is the story of six crew members of a space station (named Tacoma), set in 2088. You’re a forensic investigator, essentially, but in space, digging through notes and audio logs and other detritus of people’s lives.

Rather than focusing on game mechanics, Tacoma focuses on storytelling and setting. You can take the story at your own pace, and dig in as much (or as little) as you want. Beyond just a focus on storytelling, Tacoma tells a genuinely interesting story full of surprisingly fleshed out characters. It’s relaxing, no doubt, but it’s also a triumph of interactive narrative.

Platforms: Xbox One, PC and Mac

Monument Valley

Monument ” and its delightful sequel are excellent puzzle games that engage players intellectually and visually. The game’s worlds are reminiscent of Dutch graphic artist M.C. Escher, requiring a careful eye and a dash of creativity to complete.

There’s a reason you see Frank Underwood on House of Cards playing Monument Valley – the man lives a high-intensity lifestyle, and he needs to unwind. And you probably do too – in that case, Monument Valley (and Monument Valley 2) is probably right up your alley.

Platforms: iOS and Android