Extraordinary displays of violence have been a mainstay in the video games industry for two decades now. This is proving hugely successful for games developers, and popular with players, but this form of violent escapism isn’t exactly classed as “relaxing”. Many of you out there might be after a more sedate experience, and the truth is that gaming can be a serene pastime.
The following selection of online games will help you find some inner peace; they will relax and calm, and promote stimulation for tired minds. They are all minor masterpieces of chilled-out enjoyment which can help calm you after a busy day, or hectic morning, by ridding you from the stress of modern life. It’s blissful escapism at its best, and it’s entirely free!
First up is the eerie, calming experience of Flow. Starting out as a tiny organism – basically a mouth and a torso – you have to swim around in blue gloop consuming other tiny organisms. At times you’ll find that eating something has changed your creature. Whether it’s a metamorphosis or accelerated evolution is irrelevant; after ten minutes your body will be longer, and you might have sprouted legs and other appendages and you’ll be chasing larger quarry. It’s not all forward motion; some of your soupmates will nibble bits off you too, but with some rudimentary diversionary tactics you can save your bacon. It’s lovely to play, and the music and simplistic design makes it an immediate and striking experience.
2. Home Sheep Home
This sweet little puzzler is found on the Shaun the Sheep website (for those not in the know, it’s an animated series created by Aardman Animations, the people behind Wallace and Gromit). The wonderful physics engine makes this game a dream to learn as everything feels very natural; you’re supplied with three fully controllable sheep of different sizes. You have to work out how to get Timmy (tiny), Shaun (medium size), and Shirley (heavily overwight) over to the barn on the right of the screen using the swings, see-saws, ramps, steps, switches, and other paraphernalia lying around. You’ll be hooked to Home Sheep Home in no time by the adorable characters and laid back style of play, but later levels also offer quite the challenge.
3. Flower Reaction
Fauna-based fun abounds in Flower Reaction, where each level begins with a number of little flowers floating around the screen, bouncing off the edges. Your cursor is another flower and when you click, it stops and blooms to about ten times its size for a few seconds. Any flowers that bump into it also do the same, and any flowers that touch them do the same. The aim is to time the first one so that you get the largest chain reaction, hence the name. Several specially-coloured flowers do tricks such as lingering longer or growing massively for a second. And that’s it.
You’re a giraffe – at least in Casanova – trotting eastwards as a procession of other giraffes trots westwards. Each one has a neck of a different length, and all you have to do is click and hold the mouse button to extend yours so your heads meet for a kiss! The whole point of the game is to land a smacker on the lips of the other giraffes, collecting floating bonuses along the way, whilst the 70s sitcom theme tune play jauntily in the background. It’s so adorably cute it should be illegal.
5. Little Wheel
Point and click games come in all varieties, but the particularly tricky and illogical ones would have no place in a relaxing game list. What makes Little Wheel stand out is the sheer beauty and atmosphere the game’s makers One Click Dog have created here. The graphics are striking enough to win awards, but the addition of a slinky jazz soundtrack sets the scene a 1920s Chicago, neo-noir theme. As for the objective, you have to work out how to get your robot across town to return power to the vicinity, although mentioning any more would spoil the experience.
6. Sleeping Tiger Jigsaw
Jigsaws are, of course, world famous for their addictive nature. Sleeping Tiger Jigsaw is no different. This game is pretty much what Charles Babbage had in mind when he invented the programmable computer – a way of doing jigsaws when you haven’t got a table. it’s likely you all know how to do jigsaws so there’s no need to explain what’s going on here, so if you have an hour to spare and like a challenge, mesmerise yourself with this jigsaw puzzle. The pieces snap together satisfyingly when you place them next to a rightful neighbour, wherever they are on the screen. Nothing new, just a well executed version of an age-old pastime; get yourself a tea and listen to your favourite music as you play.
7. Drifting Afternoon
Here’s another Ferry Halim classic: Drifting Afternoon. As with all this maestro’s work, it’s a joy to behold, looking more like a watercolour painting than a game. The action takes place on a palpably breezy day, and you have to aim with your mouse and jump your puppy (or it could be a kitten) from balloon to balloon as they drift by, before your time runs out. You get points for landing on balloons and bonus points for jumping over them, and every so often a special balloon tops up your time – if you can land on it. No guns, no violence, just a breezy experience.
Even though this timeless classic is over a decade old, Bejeweled gets a mention as there must still be people who haven’t played it. It’s key to success is its simplicity; all you have to do is swap the positions of pairs of jewels to make unbroken sequences of three, four or five identical jewels – they’ll disappear, spawning replacements as those above them drop into their spaces. Higher numbers get bigger bonuses and other surprises. It’s addictive stuff, and is fairly reminiscent of the legendary Tetris.
9. Fireboy and Watergirl
This puzzle game can be tricky, but it delivers on satisfaction when you do it right. The missions you face are fairly straight forward to grasp; guide Fireboy (who hates water) and Watergirl (who hates fire) around the onscreen challenges until you reach the conclusion. Expect lots of switch operating, box-pushing, see-saw running, and light-beam guiding, but also expect Fireboy and Watergirl to wow you with its laid back charms.
Put your headphones on and immerse yourself in the wonders of Echogenesis. The visuals come from nature; swamps, forests, coves, and the like, whilst the sounds are created by interacting with the various life forms come across. It’s an immersive experience, from the beautiful graphics to the luscious stereophonic orchestration. You can’t win or lose; you just experience and influence the worlds you see, making it a relaxing tale of exploration.