I have depression and generalized anxiety. And I’m pretty lucky to have the support system/coping mechanisms that make everyday life possible. But some days — especially in these dark times — my brain feels as if it’s spiraling inward toward a caramel center of self-loathing that will probably lead to the wrong amount of sleep every night and not showering.
On these days, these are the games I reach for to cheer my soul and get my ass in the bath.
- Stardew Valley
This game. This f*cking game. Is so good.
I grew up playing the original Harvest Moon for the Super Nintendo. Not on an actual SNES, mind you. My parents wouldn’t allow consoles in the house. But computers? Those games make you smart. Or I guess that was my parents’ logic. And they didn’t know about emulators. So I was going to like this game if for no other reason than nostalgia. But Concerned Ape did more than take a childhood classic and re-imagine it. He made it better. Just hearing the music makes me happy. It’s like a deep tissue massage for your eardrums.
Stardew Valley runs on two core concepts: basic human kindness, and f*cking up capitalism.
2. King’s Quest (The Odd Gentlemen)
Another sequel to one of my cherished childhood favorites, King’s Quest is part of the resurgence in popularity of the classic point and click adventure game. It’s a standalone game that requires no knowledge of the previous titles. However, I don’t think you’ll get nearly as much out of it if you aren’t a Roberta Williams fan.
If you are, get the tissues ready, because this game will break your heart and reforge it.
3. Dragon Age: Origins
The first Dragon Age game is kind of a lemon. It had a long production period, and came out a little half-baked. The game looks much older than it is. It glitches like crazy. The combat system’s kind of wack, with many classes being less than useless. And there are some things that are just bizarre. If you play as a female dwarf, why are your arms crazy long compared to the males in proportion to their bodies? Why does everyone in Ferelden wear chokers (fun fact: it’s because their heads don’t actually connect to their bodies)?
Ultimately, DA:O is often frustrating to play (see The Circle Tower), has confusing battle mechanics and an even more confusing title, and is one of the best games for the PS3/Xbox 360.
Part of it is the exquisite writing. Part of it is the charming characters. And part of it is all the janky things that make DA:O such a controller-breaking experience. It all adds up to a really fun time that leaves me satisfied.
4. The Longest Journey
Yes, it’s another adventure game, and probably one you’re less familiar with than King’s Quest. The Longest Journey came kind of late to the Point And Click party, being released in 1999. It didn’t really catch on, and I’ll tell you right now: parts of it definitely didn’t age well.
However, it has released two sequels in recent years and has a cult following. And there’s a reason for that. When I play TLJ, it feels like I get to play a Madeleine L’Engle visual novel. It blends high fantasy and science fiction, and it’s got a lot of heart. If you haven’t heard of it, or have been eyeing either of its sequels (Dreamfall: The Longest Journey and Dreamfall Chapters) on Steam, the original is 100% worth playing.