Good PC games to relax with
May 7, 2016 11:07 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for a PC game I can relax while playing, with low level investment in terms of attention/focus.

I'm looking for a game that I can pick up and play for an hour or so while I relax and listen to music and/or podcasts. I'd like a sense of progression (RPG elements?) but not the attention required by the games I like the most, which are mainstream RPGs and FPS games with RPG elements like Deus Ex.

Local multiplayer is cool but not required. Epic violence not necessary. I haven't caught the Rogue-like/lite bug yet, although I've tried, probably because I am lazy and don't want to do the work. But try and convince me, I still want to find the rogue-like that changes my life. I really dislike MMOs because the movement and fighting seem disconnected to what I'm doing.

TL;DR: Good games to play without demanding 100% focus.
posted by kittensofthenight to Media & Arts (27 answers total) 47 users marked this as a favorite
Mini Metro is great!
posted by delight at 11:19 PM on May 7, 2016 [2 favorites]

Simcity? 2000 is my still my favourite. There are versions that run fine on modern OSs, and sequels. Or maybe something in the Anno series. There was one released in the past year or so, it was discussed over at mefightclub.

Invisibles Inc. was fun and challenging(!), but each playsession wasn't very long.

Roguelikes: yeah, if you're not into them, you're not into them. Saying that you're into roguelikes is fake hipsterism at its worst. 0.18 Crawl tournament is currently occurring, btw.
posted by porpoise at 11:47 PM on May 7, 2016 [1 favorite]

I actually kind of like games like Diablo 3 for this, on an easy-ish difficulty. Very linear, you can play just by button mashing and still watch tv or hold a conversation.
posted by snap, crackle and pop at 11:51 PM on May 7, 2016 [2 favorites]

I love jigsaw puzzles. I know that you can do them on a tablet and would be very surprised if there isn't a PC option.
posted by bearwife at 1:14 AM on May 8, 2016

If you're listening to music then something like Fallen London or even Kingdom of Loathing might work for you, although the free daily play allowance might not be enough for your purposes. I don't think they'd work for podcasts, in light of the text element, which I find too distracting from listening.
posted by howfar at 1:15 AM on May 8, 2016

Banished is the most zenlike, relaxing game I've come across.
posted by humboldt32 at 1:19 AM on May 8, 2016 [6 favorites]

The game I personally use for this purpose is Minecraft. I note that you want a sense of progression, and obviously progress in Minecraft is very self-defined, so maybe this wouldn't work for you (and it would be surprising if the most popular game in history hadn't occurred to you as an option...).
posted by howfar at 1:30 AM on May 8, 2016

Civilization V. The game progresses inexorably, absolutely no quick reactions or reflexes are required, you can play your own music, and the violence is at a distant remove. Not sure about local multiplayer, but I think so? Only problem is that it's so engaging, it will be hard to quit after an hour.
posted by ejs at 4:01 AM on May 8, 2016 [3 favorites]

Minecraft is great to play for zoning out, especially once you commit to some absurd project requiring 282473882 stacks of cobblestone or whatever.

I found The Witness to be soothing/irritating simultaneously, and there's no words to muck up paying attention to speech in a podcast (though there are tricksy puzzles that might absorb attention in a similar manner).

I'd also say something like Spelunky would also work, where you can just respawn over and over and give it another go. If you want action and are listening to hype music, maybe even something like Devil Daggers? (I have a feeling that game might actually show a spike in skill if you zone out from it a little bit.)

The current hotness was Stardew Valley, but I find the stress of trying to manage the farm in the most efficient way to be a significant distraction and not very relaxing. Similarly, I love Invisible Inc. to pieces, but it's really not a game you can play with half attention unless you like losing.

Honestly, my go-to things to do while I listen to podcasts or music are the dishes or the laundry. :-/ Seems like an intemperate suggestion in this context, however.
posted by Scattercat at 4:28 AM on May 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

I vote for Stardew Valley. You don't have to be a farmer - you can be a fisherman or a forager or a miner, and there's absolutely no in-game pressure to be efficient. The game has the most luxuriously slow-moving clock I've ever come across. On the evenings when I curl up on my bed, pop open a beer, and play Stardew Valley for an hour or so, I literally might be more relaxed than I've ever been in my life.
posted by pretentious illiterate at 5:31 AM on May 8, 2016 [5 favorites]

I still play Civilization II every couple weeks exactly for these purposes. Still challenging after more than a decade, even after I hacked it to play in German :-).
posted by Maarika at 6:26 AM on May 8, 2016 [2 favorites]

The Long Dark. It's still in development but the sandbox is playable and they just added two "challenges" a week or two ago. I'm not a gamer but since December have sunk about 70 hours (yikes) into it, wandering around beautiful Canadian wilderness, usually no more than an hour at a time. On the lowest difficulty level there isn't even any violence unless you choose to hunt.
posted by lharmon at 7:29 AM on May 8, 2016

Seconding Banished, especially with the Colonial Charter mod which adds extensive, gated production chains. There's tons of depth, multiple paths to reach a goal, and no way to win.

Someone mentioned Fallen London but you might want to check out Sunless Sea, an ocean adventuring story game set in the same world as Fallen London. It's a soft-roguelike in that it defaults to permadeath but you can pass-on some of your wealth and traits to an heir or can simply enable manual saving. Very little combat outside of zee-monsters and the occasional pirate.
posted by nathan_teske at 7:36 AM on May 8, 2016

What about Chime? They are making a new one - Chime Sharp is in early access on Steam.
posted by FireFountain at 8:42 AM on May 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

maybe anything by thatGAMEcompany

Journey, Flower, flOw and Cloud.

I liked flOw and really want to try Journey at some point
posted by Smibbo at 10:20 AM on May 8, 2016

Yes, Journey.
posted by tickingclock at 11:26 AM on May 8, 2016

This is exactly how I use Don't Starve - chilling out listening to music or podcasts but I can quit whenever if I get bored or have to move on to other things. (There is, additionally, the standalone multiplayer expansion - Don't Starve Together.)
posted by Merinda at 11:39 AM on May 8, 2016

Banished, definitely. Or Cities: Skylines--you can literally let it run overnight unattended without ruining your city. Neither have win conditions, although Banished has tornadoes and epidemics whereas Cities only has the odd house fire.
posted by crush-onastick at 11:56 AM on May 8, 2016

I used to do that with Race The Sun.
posted by lmfsilva at 12:06 PM on May 8, 2016

I love listening to podcasts while playing sandbox games! My favorites have already been mentioned, Stardew Valley and Minecraft.
posted by moons in june at 1:56 PM on May 8, 2016

Maybe some of the Tropico games?
Like sim city et al, but in a corrupt tropical island and missions tend to have a win condition, so it's nice to have something to work towards. But you can still stop and start wherever without any trouble.
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 2:18 AM on May 9, 2016

I would recommend The Talos Principle. It is incredibly well made puzzle game that can be extremely challenging but with no combat and no time limits. It also delves into philosophy which might be offputting to some, but I thought it made the story line unique.

It's actually on sale right now for $9.99 on Steam.
posted by Benway at 6:26 AM on May 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

The entire genre of "hidden object games" might work for you - google Big Fish Games, they have tons of them for about $7 each. While you're there, check out both Fairway Solitaire and Regency Solitaire (same developers, I think).
posted by jbickers at 6:35 AM on May 9, 2016

I think the key to a good half-brain game is it's either (a) short (b) turn-based or (c) easily paused.

(a) short

Chime (warning, sound-based)
Mini Metro (also easily paused)
Critter Crunch
Plants vs Zombies
Race the Sun
2048 (web-based game)

(b) turn-based

Civilization games
Arguably, games like Invisible Inc or XCOM: Enemy Unknown, although you may find them too intense

(c) easily paused (generally, the gameplay encourages pausing)

FTL: Faster than light (a roguelike; really encourages you to pause regularly because it is punishing otherwise)
Tropico and other city-builders
Stardew Valley
Don't Starve
Tower Defense games, like Plants vs Zombies (above), Defense Grid, or Kingdom Rush (now on PC)
posted by flibbertigibbet at 6:44 AM on May 9, 2016 [4 favorites]

I generally only get to play games which can be played on one screen whilst a tv show or something is on the other.
I can definitely vouch for FTL, I've played hundreds of hours of that.
Also Tower defence games like bloons TD as an other example.
Peggle is pretty great and very compelling.

I really hesitate to recommend this because it is at it's heart an incremental game and they are just like poison to me actually achieving anything ever, but if your dopamine receptors can resist then maybe try kittens game.

It's civilization, but text based, no hostile civilizations, kitten based and eternal.
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 7:32 AM on May 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

Seconding The Long Dark. Pretty, meditative atmosphere, and I like playing it on "easy" so wolves don't attack me. There is some progression in terms of gathering and crafting resources/clothing/etc., but most of it is exploration-based.
posted by craven_morhead at 11:09 AM on May 9, 2016

flibbertigibbet named most of the ones I was thinking of, but on the relaxing front there's a puzzle game called Zen Bound 2 where you wrap a wooden object with string. Also someone suggested Diablo, and in the same vein Torchlight 2 is a good Diablo-style RPG, but more cartoony. I often play this with half my attention if the wife wants to watch a netflix show I only kind of care about.
posted by DynamiteToast at 7:46 AM on May 10, 2016

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