There is a trend in video games that is gaining popularity: cozy games.
Take all the stereotypes about “mainstream” video games and overturn them, and that’s the heart of comfortable gaming. You can find compilations of cute, relaxing, or intriguing games filled with aesthetic and romantic elements on Instagram, YouTube, and TikTok. Not all comfortable games are created equal, but they do share some essential characteristics.
Most comfortable games are relatively non-violent. Some may include basic combat elements, but there’s no guts, gore, or major guns. That’s why comfy games are among my all-time favorites. Although they may have some action, they are not your traditional shooters. I’ve always been pretty bad at shooting games: my aiming and reaction times are both abysmal, and I have absolutely no desire to practice and improve.
The story is the key to a comfortable game. Most are comforting or have a lesson they are trying to convey. Some focus on life’s toughest challenges, such as mental health issues, loss, death, and grief. Others are cutesy and downright adorable, with likable characters you immediately want to get to know. Social elements are also prevalent in friendly games. Chat with neighbors, go talk to the wise man of the nearby town, collect secrets and stories.
With the struggles of the pandemic, I have increasingly sought comfort in all my free time: comforting meals like soups and other favorite foods, soothing beverages like tea, captivating books that take me away reality and enjoyable games that give me hope and provide an attractive distraction.
So in this column I will talk about some of my favorite cozy games; no Fortnite, Minecraft, Halo or anything else here (although, of course, there’s nothing wrong with those). Mainstream titles and smaller offerings from independent development studios are fair game on a variety of platforms.
Grab your fluffy blanket and socks. Light a candle. Dim the lights. Prepare a hot drink in an adorable mug. We’re going to get comfortable.
We start with my first game in 2022 – Chicory: A Colorful Tale.
The title does a lot of work describing this game. As the protagonist, you walk around, chat with Picnic locals (everything from locations to characters has a name based on food and meals), collect clothes, and color in a world that is mysteriously and suddenly devoid of all hue. This is what begins your adventure – understanding why the color suddenly disappeared.
You navigate the world using a magic brush, which lets you fill in missing colors. Puzzles abound, and players will use their palette to solve them and navigate sparse areas, making them once again lush and bright.
Along the way, you’ll learn about yourself, your style for decorating cities, their people, and their homes. The game also encourages introspection with its honest and open dialogue. Several moments resulted in audible reactions, such as a chuckle or an “aww.”
This game was developed by a small team of just five people, and it’s obvious that the story has a lot of heart. You can feel the care each has taken to make this a unique and engaging experience.
Collectibles like clothing and new brush tools are tucked away in corners, usually just out of reach, requiring further exploration to access. It was really exciting to find some adorable sunglasses, so players with a runner-up streak will appreciate all the bits and bobs scattered across the map. There’s also a lot of literal trash scattered around treated as some sort of in-game currency, and lost children lurking in the trees. It’s never been fully explained why there are so many missing children…maybe someone should look into that?
Although I found most of the puzzles relatively simple, some took several tries to master. The challenge was welcome but not overwhelming. A few of the mechanics needed to solve the puzzles felt clunky. One particular plant meant to throw you across the map when jumping on it never quite behaved the way I expected, despite a lot of practice. The boss fights, if you can really call them that, felt challenging enough, although their difficulty can be reduced to near zero if you want to focus more on the story and less on the gameplay.
All in all, it’s a quick and adorable game, perfect for adding some color to a gray and dreary weekend stuck indoors. I spent around 20 hours in total on the game, but a significant part of that was just doodling all over the place. I can’t stress enough the fun of finding a new part of the world and making your mark there.
I would happily recommend it to anyone who likes to doodle or draw, but you don’t have to be artistic to enjoy this game. are elsewhere. It’s also great for people who like to chat with non-playable characters in games. There are a lot of people, spread all over the world, with interesting views and points of view. I got really excited when I bumped into someone new because then I would get a chance to get a fresh perspective and usually a chuckle.
There are also heavy moments. The story tackles darker subject matter and takes it seriously while providing levity where needed. Themes of inadequacy, artistic integrity, institutional power, sexuality, and a weak sense of self all recur. Nonetheless, it’s a bright, thriving, ever-expanding world that I was eager to explore.
Chickory: A Colorful Tale is available on Windows, Mac, PS4 and 5, and Nintendo Switch. I played on the Switch, which was good because I had the controller and the touchscreen at my disposal for doodling.
Do you have any suggestions for a comfortable game that I should check out? Questions or comments about video games? Email me at [email protected] I would love to hear from you.