Have you ever had a day (or week, or more) where everything becomes tense and stressful? Something happens like your morning bus route changed and you didn’t get the memo, maybe you just remembered a big project due soon, or have a big personal event coming up? Something happens and before you know it, tiny things like shoelaces coming undone to dropping a paper in the hallway make you want to drop kick a puppy down a flight of stairs.
When I have these sort of days, (or weeks or more,) I have a few games I like to sink into to cheer myself up and escape from the real world. Games that calm me down and make me think, “Ok, yeah, I can still have fun.” Since I’ve had a week that falls into the mentioned category I thought I’d share with you my top five games for escaping stress.
5) Mother (Earthbound Zero)/Phantasy Star
The first entry on this list is a tie because in all honestly, the reason I chose both of them is pretty common among old RPGs: grinding. Sometimes when I’ve had a long, busy day doing a thousand things at once I just like to sit down and play a game where I just have to focus on one thing at a time for a little while. This is where grinding can be pleasant. You just run around and fight monsters to make your self stronger for the future. You don’t have to worry about twenty game mechanics at once, all you have to do is keep your eye on your HP and chose a strategy to bash the foe at hand. Admittedly in some games the world and enemies are just too generic and boring to give a damn, but Mother and Phantasy Star are unique, making it easier to grind harder longer.
What can I say about Tetris? Seriously. It’s pure, addicting, puzzle arcadey goodness. The charm not only lies in it’s simplicity, but in how quick and easy it is to start again as well as the lack of a major consequence. You can jump in and restart at any time and if you do lose, it’s no big deal. You can just try and outdo the high score again.
3) Parappa The Rapper
You gotta do what? You gotta believe! That’s right, Parappa The Rapper is a great feel-good, inspirational game. The world is colorful, the characters are charming, and the music is fun and catchy. In Parappa, you’re goal is to better yourself and eventually rap your way into the heart of your dream girl. This game makes things that would be a total bore in real life, like Drivers Ed and a part time job at the flea market uplifting and fun. If this game won’t put a smile on your face, I don’t know what will.
2) Space Channel 5 (& Space Channel 5 part 2)
I have to admit, this game is much more of an acquired taste, but if you can get into it, you’ll come to find it is one of the most cheerful and uplifting games out there. Space Channel 5 is silly and it knows it, and a lot of it’s charm comes from this. I mean seriously, the game is about aliens that are invading the galaxy and forcing people to dance. And why do they do this? To increase TV ratings for news reports. I’m not kidding. This may sound more dumb than Helen Keller but the game is filled with upbeat music, silly characters, and even weirder stories that you can’t help but laugh at the game, (and yourself for playing it) and cheer for the good guys. Both Space Channel 5 games get me feelin’ fine every time.
1)NiGHTS into Dreams
NiGHTS is one of those games where even when I am at my most frustrated at it, I’m never really angry. If anything, I’m more inspired to do better. The platforming in NiGHTS doesn’t revolve around mastering enemy patterns, power ups, or even staying alive really, it’s all about gong through a beautiful dream world, collecting a few things and racking up points. The pace is so fun, the controls are wonderfully fluid, the world is beautiful and all the music fits perfectly. It does a great job of sucking you in. If you play the game with a goal to break high scores and time records and feel accomplished after a crappy day, go for it. But if you just want to float around a dream and take in the world, you can do that too. NiGHTS is one of those rare games that fits many moods and leaves you feeling refreshed and fulfilled when you are done. For that reason, it is my number one game to relieve stress.