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March 11, 2020 9:02 AM   Subscribe

The Rise of Impossibly Cute and Wholesome Games [The Verge] “There has been a boom in popularity for titles like Frog Detective lately; these are often quirky, relaxing, comical, perhaps a tad absurd, and devastatingly adorable. Think of the whimsical adventures in Wattam, the charming bite-sized games by the Sokpop Collective, the relaxing hiking trips in A Short Hike, and the dreamy farm sim of Garden Story. These “uwu games” — personally coined after the emoticon, which denotes an overwhelming sense of joy from experiencing an overload of cuteness — are a stark contrast from traditional notions of video games, which are typically adrenaline-soaked action-fests or majestic, fantasy epics where peril lurks at every corner. Instead, uwu games are filled with anecdotes and happenings that are decidedly less consequential and earth-shattering, as they focus on the charm behind the mundane. When I asked these developers about their influences, it turned out many are largely inspired by what they see around them, and the goings-on in their daily life.”

• Wholesome Games is a Twitter account worth following in these dark times [PC Gamer][via Twitter @_wholesomegames]
“Social media is not a pleasant place to be most of the time, but a lot of us are addicted to it anyway. When I really started to feel like the politics, hot takes, and endless stream of horrible news on Twitter were melting my brain, I began to follow every account I stumbled across that posted cool art. I still get some of the depressing stuff, but it's interspersed by beautiful artwork now. That stuff makes me happy. So does Wholesome Games, a new account that is really all about what it says on the tin: "Brightening your day with cute, friendly, colorful and welcoming videogames." This is not a complicated idea. It's a feed of screenshots and animated gifs from a range of bright, bubbly, cheery games. The text that accompanies those images is equally positive, mixing recommendations with personal stories. The pureness and warmth of the enthusiasm here just makes me smile. I've learned about a few new games that I'm curious about. I mean, who wouldn't be curious about Catadel, a town builder with cats? There may be a glut of farming games these days, but wow does Summer in Mara look just beautiful and fun. And I really do need to play A Hat in Time one of these days.”
• Relaxing games: the best chill games on PC to help you unwind in 2020 [PCGamesN]
“What are the most relaxing games you should play to help you de-stress? Sometimes we don’t always want to end a long, busy day with the head-pumping rhythm violence of Thumper or north of 100 attempts against a brutal Dark Souls boss. Instead, there are times when all we want to do is nestle into our cosy gaming thrones with a cup of tea and a nice chill game to help us forget our stresses and strains. The calming games we look for in these moments shouldn’t be too taxing on your grey matter. Nor should they be too loud, action heavy, or reliant on the lightning-quick reactions you’ll need to succeed in competitive multiplayer games. An easy, melodic soundtrack should slowly draw you into a charming world that deserves to be savoured, not rushed through. If you fancy a break from the popular battle royale games vying for your full attention then consider the calming games in this list. You’ll dive into the deep blue ocean of Abzu, tidy up messy abodes in House Flipper, and, er, roll everything up into a massive ball in Katamari Damacy REROLL. Let’s just say, when it comes to the kind of relaxing games you should try, we’ve got all bases covered.”
Steam Games Tagged with "Wholesome Games"
Itch.io Games Tagged with "Wholesome"
10 Wholesome Video Games to Play With Your Mom
9 Wholesome, Stress-Free Video Games to Brighten Your Mood
Most Wholesome Multiplayer Games
posted by Fizz (48 comments total) 88 users marked this as a favorite
 
I'm not going to be upset with people coming in here and recommending a bunch of other cute, relaxing, wholesome type of video games to play.

Here are a few of my recommends:
• Stardew Valley
• Donut County
• Slime Rancher
• Abzu
• Monument Valley
posted by Fizz at 9:05 AM on March 11 [9 favorites]


let me tell you about a game about a goose

"A Short Hike" is such a wonderful little treat.
posted by egypturnash at 9:23 AM on March 11 [4 favorites]


I would love a game called "A Day At The Slopes" which was a ski game, but not focused on competing or anything, just a game where you got to the mountain, rode the lifts and chatted with strangers, skied some runs, maybe met friends for lunch, skied some more, then went back to the cabin and maybe played mini-games with your cabin mates.
posted by grumpybear69 at 9:34 AM on March 11 [5 favorites]


The entire site is Flash and pretty much inaccessible now, but I really miss Ferry Halim's sweet, charming Orisinal games. There's some background here.

Oh, and also Eyezmaze! (a bit weirder, but still cute)
posted by oulipian at 9:35 AM on March 11 [15 favorites]


I would love a game called "A Day At The Slopes" which was a ski game, but not focused on competing or anything, just a game where you got to the mountain, rode the lifts and chatted with strangers, skied some runs, maybe met friends for lunch, skied some more, then went back to the cabin and maybe played mini-games with your cabin mates.
If you search for the term "skiing" over at itch.io, you generate a lot of results and they all look pretty chill and relaxing.
posted by Fizz at 9:40 AM on March 11 [2 favorites]


Kind Words got a somewhat cynical response when it was posted here but it's an incredibly wholesome "game".
posted by simmering octagon at 9:52 AM on March 11 [1 favorite]


I <3 Hue is a wonderful little game where you take little coloured squares that are out of order and you put them in order and make them pretty.
posted by saturday_morning at 9:52 AM on March 11 [2 favorites]


does dragon quest builders 2 count? that game is literally the only thing i can play right now
posted by capnsue at 9:59 AM on March 11


capnsue, I'd say so, it's pretty low stakes. What combat there is, doesn't cause too much stress, its more like annoyance.
posted by Fizz at 10:00 AM on March 11


A while ago I got back into Dead Cells and it was making me miserable because I was not enjoying it at all and not getting anywhere. I would play for an hour and just end up cranky and exhausted.

Then I started playing Wandersong.

I can barely express the amount of joy I got from this game. From start to finish, it was hilarious and poignant; I constantly had a goofy simile on my face; the characters are memorable; the writing is superb.

It's not entirely a chillout game--there are bosses and whatnot--but it's forgiving and the majority of the game is exploring and dialog and light puzzles. And the main game mechanic is singing! Really great songs!
posted by ropeladder at 10:06 AM on March 11 [5 favorites]


This is why I'm waiting for the new Flight Simulator. I'm assuming it has easy mode? I don't want to learn about fuel weights and flaps I just want to soar.
posted by cape at 10:11 AM on March 11 [2 favorites]


Sign me up. I am a whole hearted convert to "wholesome" games (or if there's violence please make it cartoonish). I never want to have to strangle my way through another game ever again.
posted by Ashwagandha at 10:13 AM on March 11 [3 favorites]


I keep hoping the recent nostalgia for throwback games will reboot Infocom and provide us with some modern interactive fiction on the same level as Zork. I discovered reading, computers and D&D about the same time and Zork tied all these together in a way for which I'm still grateful.
posted by eisenkrote at 10:21 AM on March 11 [4 favorites]


This is why I'm waiting for the new Flight Simulator. I'm assuming it has easy mode? I don't want to learn about fuel weights and flaps I just want to soar.

Hmm, not sure about this. I always heard that Flight Simulator was focused on realism, it's what has kept me away from that game.
posted by Fizz at 10:45 AM on March 11


Chill games are my favorite games! I love seeing games that draw on tend & befriend vs fight or flight responses. It's also super interesting to me how these games draw on an entirely different set of influences and aesthetics than AAA titles.
posted by storytam at 10:45 AM on March 11 [1 favorite]


It's also super interesting to me how these games draw on an entirely different set of influences and aesthetics than AAA titles.

I wouldn't mind seeing it directly influence AAA games, it would bring in some really interesting gameplay styles. Like, I'd love for games to be more in the style of Splatoon. Taking a genre like FPS and injecting some wholesomeness to it, in Splatoon's case with literal paintball mechanics.

Or what about a battle royale game where you can only "attack" each other with pillows or a pure 'hide & seek' mode. Like, let's deconstruct these other genres into more silly and less aggressive ways.
posted by Fizz at 10:52 AM on March 11 [2 favorites]


A Short Hike is indeed very good and will be free on Epic soon.

I got it for free through Humble, but still ended up buying it later because it deserves to be purchased.
posted by ODiV at 10:56 AM on March 11 [1 favorite]


Journey is my personal favorite of these types of games. I love this trend.

Also... only nine days until a brand new Animal Crossing game enters the world!
posted by Roommate at 11:03 AM on March 11 [2 favorites]


I got A Short Hike in the Humble Trove and then bought two copies to give to my kids for Christmas. It is so delightful and surprising how much more there is to it than it initially appears. And the writing is good! And some of the best gliding/flying in any game ever.
posted by straight at 11:05 AM on March 11


Goose Game fans? Pst...there's a free 'dynamic theme' for the PS4 and it's really funny.
posted by sexyrobot at 11:10 AM on March 11


Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles is one of my favorite games like this.

It's all about running (and jumping and gliding) around a cute and very pretty and varied open world with lots of nice vertical design and no danger looking for secrets, figuring out how to get over there, planting trees, and hoovering up various resources, with a very small amount of Animal Crossing (fetching and trading w/NPCs and extremely rudimentary farming) mixed into your combat-free Breath of the Wild.
posted by straight at 11:19 AM on March 11 [2 favorites]


It's from a few years ago but Owlboy is also worth checking out.
posted by Fizz at 11:51 AM on March 11


I love it all; my only complaint is that so many of these are PC/mac only, platforms on which I have near-zero free gaming time. I'd buy A Short Hike and Garden Story in an instant if I could play on Switch or iOS.
posted by SaltySalticid at 11:52 AM on March 11 [2 favorites]


Ring Fit Adventure is pretty low-stakes. The big enemy isn't all that bad and it is tough to lose a battle because you can basically fully heal yourself by giving up an attack and if you don't want to do that you can consume healing smoothies (which are really easy to buy or make). And if you do happen to get knocked out there are smoothies that will revive you so you can continue the battle.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 11:54 AM on March 11 [1 favorite]


I love it all; my only complaint is that so many of these are PC/mac only, platforms on which I have near-zero free gaming time

Yeah, is there a list anywhere--or suggestions from y'all--of ones you can play on the iphone? I don't have a gaming device but I would love to be doing this on my phone on my (subway) commute ...

(I just downloaded I <3 Hue so I'll start my calm-down there)
posted by alleycat01 at 12:18 PM on March 11 [1 favorite]


Yeah, is there a list anywhere--or suggestions from y'all--of ones you can play on the iphone?

alleycat01, depending on how new your iPhone is, you should consider Apple Arcade, it's Apple's version of a gaming subscription that gives you access to a bunch of games, many of which fall into that wholesome category. Might be worth checking out.
posted by Fizz at 12:20 PM on March 11 [1 favorite]


I would love a game called "A Day At The Slopes" which was a ski game, but not focused on competing or anything, just a game where you got to the mountain, rode the lifts and chatted with strangers, skied some runs, maybe met friends for lunch, skied some more, then went back to the cabin and maybe played mini-games with your cabin mates.
Ohmystars I want this SO MUCH
posted by apparently at 12:26 PM on March 11 [1 favorite]


Thanks for the rec, Fizz!
posted by alleycat01 at 12:27 PM on March 11


rode the lifts and chatted with strangers

Can one of the chatty strangers please be the Abominable Snow Monster from SkiFree
posted by oulipian at 12:29 PM on March 11 [7 favorites]


Yeah, is there a list anywhere--or suggestions from y'all--of ones you can play on the iphone?


Check out "Sky" in the App store. From the creators of Journey I think.
posted by skinnydipp at 12:58 PM on March 11 [1 favorite]


Can one of the chatty strangers please be the Abominable Snow Monster from SkiFree

I like it!
posted by grumpybear69 at 12:59 PM on March 11 [1 favorite]


> Ring Fit Adventure

I've watched some LP vids and it's made me want a Switch and Ring Fit Adventure. Partly because I need every incentive I can to get in shape. And partly because the powerups are smoothies. Does it have energy bars too? Because it seems incomplete without energy bars.
posted by ardgedee at 1:04 PM on March 11


Sneaky Sasquatch on Apple Arcade hits my wholesome button.
posted by inflatablekiwi at 1:36 PM on March 11 [1 favorite]


Just last night I grabbed Stardew Valley on my PS4, having played it what feels like, I dunno, five, six years ago on the PC? It plays really nicely and I'm looking forward to just flaking out with it for an hour or so every evening. Loads of new content as well.
posted by turbid dahlia at 2:58 PM on March 11


I mentioned it up above but for anyone who wants to play a kind of Stardew Valley combined with No Man's Sky, Slime Rancher is going to be your jam.
posted by Fizz at 3:21 PM on March 11 [1 favorite]


Do I want to explode all the nice slimes though? Like I love the idea of Monster Hunter World apart from the fact that it's basically colonialism and ecocide.
posted by turbid dahlia at 3:25 PM on March 11


(I do have Slime Rancher on my wishlist though, just waiting for it to go down in price.)
posted by turbid dahlia at 3:25 PM on March 11 [1 favorite]


Journey is my personal favorite of these types of games

yea, I have played Journey so many times. Like, got the white robe on the ps3, and then did it all over again on the ps4. it's just so beautiful and relaxing
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 3:32 PM on March 11


Weirdly enough, one of the most wholesome games I've played recently is Yakuza 0. The main story is definitely NOT wholesome. But the sidequests, which can easily take the vast majority of game time if you do all of them, are almost entirely wholesome.

When your young beautiful gangster is not embroiled in gangster politics and tales of revenge, he spends his time wandering the streets of Tokyo and Osaka. Keeps running across people with their problems. Saving a woman from a cult. Reuniting broken families. Helping a girl stay single when her father wants her to get married. Recovering a little boy's video game when it gets stolen. Winning stuffed animals out of claw machines for a sad little girl. Helping a new dominatrix gain confidence in her work and confidence in herself. Helping a sad cop to believe in himself. Etc.

There's so, so many of them. Most of them follow a pattern of extensive dialogue. Do the helpful thing. Which somehow almost always involves a brief martial arts battle. And then the sappy music plays, everyone is happy, and Tokyo is a better place because you are there. These little stories are often corny, sometimes comical, and yet it made me feel so much better about the universe. Have no idea why this wandering yakuza with a heart of gold had such an effect on me.
posted by Teegeeack AV Club Secretary at 8:31 PM on March 11 [6 favorites]


Oh, this post is balm to my soul. Several months ago I transferred to a fantastic new department, have begun to own my new lead developer role, but it’s challenging and draining. I’m at the coal face, every day, all day long. Winter has announced it’s coming; the southerlies have begun. So in 24 hours, pizza in hand on a Friday night, I’ll dig into this post with joy.

Thank you Fizz and all the lovely posters.
posted by lemon_icing at 10:45 PM on March 11 [1 favorite]


This post led me to buy A Short Hike last night and I played it for a very relaxing few hours, so thanks for that.
posted by Bloxworth Snout at 4:13 AM on March 12 [1 favorite]


I need a mobile game that is as satifying as Stardew Valley, but isn't just the mobile version of Stardew Valley because I'm burnt out on Stardew Valley.
posted by Jacqueline at 5:39 AM on March 12


I'm a big fan of Nifflas' games, especially Within a Deep Forest and the Knytt series. His site is a bit messed up, but I believe you can still get some of the games. The worlds are pretty open and made for exploration, not a lot of enemies but still a fun challenge with purpose, and atmospheric music that inspires a sense of wonder at the world you're exploring.

They sort of remind me of the very old Alice in Wonderland game I played on an Apple IIgs as a kid.
posted by msbrauer at 5:55 AM on March 12


I thought “uwu” was some sort of Pewdiepie baby-talk nickname for Elon Musk.
posted by acb at 7:17 AM on March 12


This is why I'm waiting for the new Flight Simulator. I'm assuming it has easy mode? I don't want to learn about fuel weights and flaps I just want to soar.

I think you will be in luck. Previous Microsoft flight sims have had a realism slider that goes from Fun to SRSTIME, and on its easier settings you just punch the throttle forward to fly without any effort. Everyone is expecting the same to be true of the new sim.

Microsoft also tends to include different aircraft for different skill levels, from easy sightseeing aircraft to full-on airliners. For example, you'll hear people talk nostalgically about the "Trike", an aircraft so simple that it's almost a hang-glider with a motor, which was many people's first experience with flight sims given its extremely forgiving handling and the exhilarating views from its open cockpit. It's very simple to fly one and go see Paris or fly down the Grand Canyon.
posted by Eleven at 9:51 AM on March 12


Winning stuffed animals out of claw machines for a sad little girl.

I just did this one earlier today, and it was heartwarming as hell. Immediately afterward I helped an awkward nerd propose to his girlfriend by helping her solve the crossword puzzle he'd used to encode his proposal. A++++ would be a gangster with a heart of gold again.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 2:17 PM on March 12 [1 favorite]


Ooo, I submit my one and only Metafilter post, Animal Hot Springs! (in my head it will always be Animal Hot Tub, however).

Also, does Pokemon count? I started playing Fire Red on an emulator (probably not legally alas) and the Pokemon have cute names / skills.
posted by batter_my_heart at 11:14 PM on March 12 [1 favorite]


Also, does Pokemon count?

Yes and no. On a superficial level, yes, it's a cute game about becoming a master Pokemon trainer, but if you think about it a bit more, it's basically monster-dog-fighting, so depending on how you approach the game it's going to change how much it falls into that "wholesome" category.

On a tonal level, it does feel wholesome, you're in a chill space, wandering around in nature, you have your friend with you, you're changing your clothes when you're in the city, pleasant music is playing. It feels pretty wholesome to me.
posted by Fizz at 6:07 AM on March 13 [1 favorite]


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