So you’re feeling down. You could really do with a relaxing game, but your funds are low and there isn’t a Steam sale in sight. There are many games out there that don’t cost a thing. The only problem is that sometimes you just are not in the mood to go looking for them.
Luckily, this list compiles 12 stunning free relaxing games so you don’t have to go hunting.
1. The Endless Forest
Developer: Tale of Tales
Tale of Tales is known for its Little Red Riding Hood simulator, The Path. In Endless Forest, the player explores a lovely looping forest in the role of a deer. It is a multiplayer game, though communication is limited to what a real deer can do. Players can also bestow markings on each other. The main goal is simply to frolic! Endless Forest partly inspired artist Jessica Sanders to create her paintings.
2. Green Thumb
Developer: Playful Minds
What do you mean, “1997 was 20 years ago and not just a couple”? This card game is ancient but still lovely, and the developers have graciously ported it to flash so it can be enjoyed by a new generation of players. It is reminiscent of Plants VS. Zombies, in which the player uses gardening-themed ability cards to win the game. Instead of repelling zombies, the goal of Green Thumb is to accumulate as many matching types of flower as possible. It’s a laid-back game with gentle visuals and violence-free mechanics.
3. Dear Esther
Developer: The Chinese Room
The stand-alone Dear Esther remake is breathtaking but not free. However, the original mod is still available for download. It might not have the visuals of the 2012 version, but its soul is still there. Dear Esther is a meditative journey through a deserted British island. It is somber but uplifting; deals with themes of death but is never morbid. To play, it’s necessary to own a source engine game such as Half-Life 2.
4. Nature Treks: Healing with Color
Developer: Greener Games
This game gets an undeserved bad reputation from Youtube performers. It is an easy target for mock playthroughs because the game’s goal is the purely the relaxation of the player. It was designed for easy exploration, which is of misinterpreted as a lack of design. This is untrue, as the project fits its purpose. It is a gentle visual experience which might be particularly enjoyed by those who live in urban areas or who run hectic lifestyles.
Known for Flower and Journey, Thatgamecompany started out with the development of flash game flOw. A Playstation remake has since been released, but the original free flash game is still available. In flOw, the player controls a swimming microorganism. The goal is to swim through deeper and deeper water, eating some creatures and evading others. It can become challenging but its graceful charm provides a quick hit of relaxation.
Developer: Ferry Halim
Orisinal is a collection of flash games developed by artist Ferry Halim. Often imitated but never duplicated, these games show unparalleled skill and love. Expect innovative mechanics, gentle colors, and lots of beauty.
7. Sail Voyage
Developer: Maxim Blogov
This flash game is so obscure that it doesn’t have a source website. Instead, it can be found mirrored accross flash game archives. Admittedly, it doesn’t seem to be finished either. Sail Voyage still makes the list due to its visuals and clever use of early flash techniques to give the illusion of swaying motions. The goal of the game is to maneuver a sailboat through pairs of buoys. Seagulls go about their business and dolphins jump out of the water every now and then. For a quick postcard distraction that does not take much of the player’s time or mental resources, this game is ideal.
I find it interesting that the developer of this humble little game, Maxim Blogov, is now CEO of the popular guild hosting service Enjin.
Developer: Danny Adler
Not so much a game as it is a music toy, Coactive lets the user remix SGX’s Coactive track. The different samples show different animation effects and colours, making for a delightful sensory experience. It could be counted as a game as the goal is to make pleasant-sounding combinations.
Developer: Silverstring Media
Glitchhikers is a surreal philosophical experience. It is a kind of late-night cruising simulator. The player picks up increasingly weirder hikers and has conversations with them about life and the universe. It plays like a Telltale game but without the fear of looming consequences.
Developer: Ice Water Games
I already wrote about Viridi in more detail in this article. Viridi is a plant growing simulator, and I say that as un-derogatorily as possible. The player plants succulent seedlings and nurtures them until they grow to maturity and bloom. It’s a gentle, loving game that exercises patience and love. It’s not without challenge, however, as it’s possible to kill the plants.
11. The Plan
Developer: Krillbite Studio
The Plan looks like it’s lifted straight out of the intro credits of Bambi. Instead of cute deer, the player controls a fly. Exploration of the forest world is limited, and the only real direction is up, but during its ascent the fly interacts with environment in various ways. The ending can be a little bit sad if you’re a fly lover, but otherwise it’s a lovely experience about the ephemerality of life.
12. Among Ripples
Developer: Eat Create Sleep
Among ripples is an experimental ecosystem simulator. The player looks after a lake-aquarium. The implicit goal is to adjust the many possible variables in order to create a thriving, self-sustainable environment, but there isn’t a right or wrong answer regarding what that environment looks like. The game can run in the background to be checked every now and then, maybe during work breaks, to see how the fishes are doing. The game is relaxing because it does not punish the player for failure. It’s possible to spawn endless fish and experiment with different combinations of species.
12. Robot Unicorn Attack
Developer: Spiritonin Media Games
Although Robot Unicorn is grotesquely famous, it makes the list because sometimes people forget it exists even when they most need it. It’s OK, we all do it. It would be enough already if it were just for its uplifting music (Erasure – Always) and magical visuals. The gameplay is fluid and though challenging, becomes almost medidative once the mechanics are well-learned. Robot Unicorn is a perfect relaxation game.
What do you think? Is this list missing a game you know of? Leave your feedback in the comments and your suggestion will be included in a future list.