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Yes, Video Games Can Be Cozy

Yes, Video Games Can Be Cozy

Editor's Note: Some readers of Spectrum might wonder what cozy gaming has to do with some of the theological, philosophical, and ecclesiological issues we cover every day. Beyond relaxation, cozy games explore many of the underlying issues about what it means to be human, construct community, and reflect on the ways that our interior emotional experience connects us to a sense of meaning and goodness. If you have played these games or if you have thoughts about how gaming connects to spiritual life, please leave a comment or send us an email at

I was raised in a conservative Adventist home, so my exposure to video games was restricted. I first developed an interest in gaming when the COVID-19 lockdowns coincided with Nintendo's launch of Animal Crossing: New Horizons (ACNH) on March 20, 2020. Amid the chaos of the pandemic I found solace immersing myself in a game where I could fish, craft furniture, gather fruit, and beautify my island—hours of much-needed escapism.

I loved Animal Crossing so deeply and wanted to talk about it with others as much as possible. I stumbled upon a unique group of gamers on social media known as cozy gamers—people who play video games as a means of relaxation. Rather than focusing primarily on mastery or completing a game, their goal is to unwind. Typically, this involves selecting cozy gaming environments, playing casual-style games, and embracing a relaxation-focused gaming experience that prioritizes comfort, ambiance, and snacks.

Through cozy gaming I found community and discovered a sense of belonging. It connected me to a genre of games that I now deeply admire. If you're an adult who thinks cozy gaming just might be for you, here are five games worth exploring.

Stardew Valley (2016)

Like Animal Crossing: New HorizonsStardew Valley is an immersive role-playing game that offers players the opportunity to complete various open-ended tasks like farming, fishing, mining, and developing relationships with the charming townspeople. As the main character, you inherit a plot of farmland in Pelican Town from your grandfather. By befriending the many interesting locals of Pelican Town, you can uncover your individual backstory and learn more about your life. As the game progresses, you face decisions that shape the course of the game—for example, whether to restore the community center or lend your support to the Joja Mart corporation.  Choosing the Joja Mart route turns the community center into a warehouse, and going the community center route causes Joja Mart to go out of business.

Stardew Valley has an irresistible charm and wholesome quality that draws players in. The pixel art style adds to the game’s overarching idea of simplicity. While there isn't a strict timeline to accomplish a specific goal, Stardew Valley presents players with various objectives that offer focused guidance for each gameplay session, avoiding choice overload. With its user-friendly learning curve, this farming simulator is an excellent choice for newcomers to the genre and to cozy gaming alike.

 Available on PC / Mac / Linux, Xbox One, Playstation 4 and 5, Playstation VITA, Nintendo Switch, iOS and Android

A Little to the Left (2022)

A Little to the Left is for you if you find comfort in structureThis puzzle game provides various scenarios where something is not quite right—pencils need to be sorted in order of height, tools need to be placed on a peg board, cans must be stacked in their proper size and color. Organization is key, and the results are incredibly satisfying. 

A self-described cozy game, it keeps the commitment stakes low. Because there is no overlying plot, you can complete one puzzle, pause, and continue playing later, or choose to work your way through all 75 scenarios at once. The game provides beautiful artwork and original music that’s worth listening to even after completing the game.

Available on Nintendo Switch, PC, Mac, iOS, Android

Gris (2018)

Gris is a testament to the power of video games. In this adventure platformer game, you play as a young woman metaphorically working her way through grief. The game begins in a grayscale environment, but as the character progresses through various levels, shades of colors slowly start appearing, depicting her slow process of healing. 

In removing factors that would cause the character to die, the game adds even more emphasis on the journey of healing. With beautiful watercolor art alongside line drawings and an evocative soundtrackGris accomplishes so much without using words or even a drawn out plot. Numerous reviewers have praised the profound healing impact this game has had on their personal journeys of grieving. Games like Gris demonstrate the transformative potential of video games, proving that they can transcend entertainment or distraction.

Available on PC, PS4, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X ports

Melatonin (2022)

Much like A Little to the Left, Melatonin has a low-stakes style of gameplay, allowing the player to go through as many or as few levels as they choose. In this rhythm game, a boy falls asleep, “waking up” in a dream world. Each map in his dreams is a nod to his everyday experiences: using social media, going to the gym, and swiping through dating apps, for example. The game uses an array of purple and pink pastels in each level, nodding to his dreams. As you progress through the game, the dreams come together to tell a story of the main character’s life.

As a rhythm game, the music is lively and memorable. Each levels provide new challenges, but not so much that they are too difficult. The game provides different settings that make the playthrough easier including use of a metronome and visual prompts. Melatonin finds the perfect balance between providing levels of challenge, and whimsy.

Available on PC and Nintendo Switch

The First Tree (2017)

Unlike the aforementioned games, The First Tree focuses heavily on a storyline. In this third-person exploration game, players take on the role of a mother fox in search of her lost cubs, all while being immersed in the heartfelt narration of Joseph, who shares insights on the regrets he felt in the relationship with his father.

While the gameplay is very simple, it is the narrative that makes this game so powerful. The First Tree allows players to find themselves rooting for the fox's triumphs while simultaneously yearning to delve deeper into Joseph's story. The art style captivates players, compelling them to venture and explore the forest terrain, often tempting them to momentarily pause the mission at hand. Furthermore, the soundtrack serves as the perfect complement to the narrative and the art style, amplifying the mood of the story. Without giving spoilers, I can say this game is a real tear-jerker in the best of ways.

Available on Mac Os, Windows, Linux, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4 and 5, Xbox One, Android, and iOS


Raquel Mentor is an associate editor and social media manager for Spectrum. In her free time she is a content creator and gamer, sharing her experiences and adventures online.

Title image by Raquel Mentor

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