As you probably know, life isn’t all butterflies and gumdrops. Sometimes bad things happen, and you just have to get through them. Some people’s inclination during stressful times is to turn to harmful behaviors. While that’s understandable in some cases, it’s never the best way to go about your life. It’s always better to do something that won’t hurt your body or mind — something like playing video games.
Like books and movies, games can make us feel an array of emotions. They can be cathartic and make us feel better, even when the bad things in life are pressing down on us. Here are some of the best games to help you feel better, no matter what bad things life throws at you.
1. Kirby: Planet Robobot
Sometimes you need a potent dose of charm to ward off the negative vibes. No game character packs a higher concentration of charm into its elastic pink body than Kirby. In addition to having a title that’s fun to say aloud, Kirby: Planet Robobot is also a delightful game from start to finish.
You play as the pink fluff ball in the standard side-scrolling levels you’d expect if you’ve played a Kirby game over the past few decades. This time around, in addition to inhaling enemies to gain their special abilities, you can enter mech suits that let you punch and blast your way through levels. The game isn’t very challenging, but if you’re feeling down in the dumps, you’re probably not looking for a grinding slog anyway. If you have a Nintendo 3DS, this game is a safe bet in hard times.
Games don’t get more life-affirming than Journey. For many who play it, the game can be something of an emotional or even religious experience. You play as a cloaked figure walking toward a high, shimmering mountain in the distance. As you make your way there, you encounter cryptic monuments, strange structures, and flowing pathways. You also find a scarf that lets you glide through the air, making it easier to explore the beautiful landscape.
While there’s more of a “game” here than the developer’s other titles like Flower and Flow, the point is the journey, not the destination (although that’s pretty intriguing, too). There are few other creatures in the game world, and no combat to worry about. Keep an eye out for companions who may join you at any time. Journey offers a beautiful, artistic experience that can help you focus on the good things in life.
3. Forza Horizon 3
If you have even an inkling of an interest in racing games, Forza Horizon 3 will put a big smile on your face, no matter how down in the dumps you’re feeling. That’s because it’s the best entry in what’s probably the most enjoyable racing series around. The game takes place in an enormous stretch of land in Australia that’s filled with highways, dunes, forests, caves, vineyards, and beaches for you to speed through.
You can explore that terrain using all manner of vehicles, from Porches to ATVs. And if you get lonely driving solo, you can play with up to three friends in co-op racing. Really, there’s no way to play this game and not have a great time.
4. Dragon Quest Builders
When life seems hopeless, it’s often comforting to play games that remind you of childhood. If you’re one of the many people whose first role-playing games were from the Dragon Warrior series on NES (called Dragon Quest in Japan), you’ll find plenty of nostalgia in this town-building spinoff.
Dragon Quest Builders takes the distinctively cute look and feel of the core series and combines it with a Minecraft-like building simulator. The result is a surprisingly cohesive game that emphasizes the best of both worlds — you get the mission-based structure of an RPG combined with the creative leeway of block-based crafting and construction games. If you’re looking for a cheery good time, this game has you covered.
5. Rayman Legends
Cartoonish fun is what Rayman Legends is all about. Like the best Pixar movies, this run-and-jump side-scroller is packed with personality. From the hand-painted backdrops to the lovingly exaggerated animations, Rayman and his pals are here to maximize the joy in your life.
Each level has you make your way from point A to point B, but what you’ll find in between is always bizarre and charming — whether it’s a tickle monster, a giant luchador, or the song “Eye of the Tiger” being played on a kazoo. Better yet, four players can romp through the game world at the same time.
6. Pokémon GO
Sometimes the best thing you can do to enhance your mood is get some exercise. Pokémon GO is a game that makes sure you get off the couch and explore the world outside. That’s because the game world is the real world, and the only way to move your character is to move yourself.
As you explore your actual surroundings, you’ll find digital creatures you can try to catch, provided you have enough Pokéballs. So whether you want to expand the number of creatures in your Pokédex by biking around your town or going for a walk, Pokémon GO can prod you to get exercise, which will also cheer you up.
7. Super Mario 3D World
Nintendo has always been synonymous with creative, joy-inducing games. And when it comes to unbridled fun and clever gameplay, Super Mario 3D World has it all. Set in the brightly-colored Mushroom Kingdom, this game has you navigate three-dimensional levels while hopping on enemies, leaping over pits, collecting coins, and grabbing all manner of crazy power-ups. Best of all, up to four players can work together to complete the levels, which makes it a perfect choice for anyone who’s feeling lonely and sad. Just invite some friends over, bust out the Wii remotes, and have a good time.