Playing video games is a great way to relax, take a break, engage your mind, and enjoy a little bit of escapism. My gaming console of choice is the Nintendo Switch. This post features my top 10 most relaxing Nintendo Switch games for Mindfulness.
I love that the Nintendo Switch offers several different ways to play. You can play it handheld, a great portable option, or you can ‘dock it’ and play connected to a screen. I bought my Nintendo Switch several years ago with some money I’d received for my birthday. I’ve always been a ‘Nintendo gal’, since the first Gameboy I played as a child. Sometimes I bring out my old DS to play Nintendogs for a bit of nostalgia.
Misconceptions about Gaming
A misconception about gaming is that it’s ‘for boys’. Spoiler alert: men, women, boys and girls all enjoy video games!
Another misconception is that video games can’t be peaceful or mindful. The huge hype surrounding slow-paced Animal Crossing New Horizons completely proved that wrong.
There are so many relaxing games available. They help me take a break from overthinking and worry, which is so important for mental health. Especially during 2020, games like Animal Crossing have provided much-needed moments of joy.
How is Gaming Good For Mindfulness?
Gaming is better for your brain than watching television. Why? It’s active and engaging, not passive.
Playing a video game is a great way to relax and can be very creative. It allows you to take a break from reality, then return feeling refreshed and able to tackle problems. So many people forget how to have fun when they grow up! We need to play and get creative, it’s in our human nature.
The ‘Flow State’
Gaming is also a great way to get yourself into the ‘flow state’. The flow state is a very immersive feeling. Nothing else matters, time disappears, and you feel deep enjoyment and contentment.
I achieve the flow state most often when I’m writing, drawing, playing my guitar, and… enjoying video games. It’s been widely discussed by psychologists. If you’ve not heard of ‘flow state’ before, check out the book Flow: The Psychology of Happiness.
Keep reading to find out which games I recommend for a bit of creative self-care and mindfulness. If you love Animal Crossing New Horizons, you’re likely to enjoy these too!
10 Most Relaxing Nintendo Switch Games For Mindfulness
In no particular order…
1. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
The very first game I got was The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. With the Nintendo Switch bundle I bought, I could choose from a selection of Switch games to get started.
I’d heard that Zelda Breath of the Wild was a beautiful game, and that it took a long time to complete. The man helping me in store said he loved it, and recommended it over any other available Switch game at the time.
So I delved into Zelda. It’s a stunning game. I am yet to complete it, which is great, because I love games that take a lot of time.
I am not a pro at understanding video game graphics and technical things, but it really is beautiful. Sometimes I play Zelda Breath of the Wild simply to run around and explore!
2. Old Man’s Journey
I stumbled across Old Man’s Journey on the Nintendo E-Shop recently. I watched the trailer video, and decided it would be a great story to play through during lockdown.
I’ve been playing a chapter every now and again, particularly when I’m feeling sad or anxious.
It’s a simple game: you click and drag elements on screen to help the old man move through obstacles. The design is lovely, and you learn about the characters’ backstory through flashbacks.
Old Man’s Journey is all about “life’s precious moments, broken dreams, and changed plans.”
3. Animal Crossing New Horizons
Of course I had to feature Animal Crossing for those of you who haven’t played it yet.
I first played Animal Crossing Wild World on the Nintendo DS as a child. As a teen, I played Animal Crossing New Leaf on Nintendo 3DS, and that takes us up to now.
It’s very nostalgic to me. I love that each game retains many of the same characters, purpose, and design. Yet they’re also quite different!
One of the best things about New Horizons is that Nintendo have released several updates. Since its release in March, many new items, characters, and abilities are now available!
This is definitely the ultimate Nintendo Switch game for mindfulness. It’s a slow game (unless you time travel), with each day offering something new.
The game runs in real time, meaning you can enjoy the changing seasons alongside real life.
I find it so fun to decorate my house and island. It’s a great escape from reality, which is something I’ve definitely needed in 2020.
I love collecting, in real life and in video games. Animal Crossing New Horizons is pretty much the ultimate game for collecting! There are so many fossils, fish, bugs, artworks, flowers, clothes, and items to collect.
4. Stardew Valley
In some ways, Stardew Valley is like Animal Crossing, but it’s also very different. It’s a cute life simulation game, focused on farming and building relationships with characters.
If you have ever played or heard of Harvest Moon, it’s comparable, with a pixel style design. As well as farming, you can go mining, fishing and fight forest spirits.
Both Stardew Valley and Animal Crossing can be played multiplayer too!
This game is art.
It’s simple, involving puzzles, and learning skills. Your character is a girl who lost her voice, navigating a range of landscapes. You can’t die in this game, you just have to trust the process and find your way.
GRIS is immersive and uses sound and music creatively. The developer recommends playing while wearing headphones for the full experience.
Abzu is quite a short game, but it’s beautiful and mindful. It’s set in an underwater world: you explore the deep sea, finding ancient ruins and creatures.
“The experience draws inspiration from the deep innate narrative that we all carry within our subconscious”
Rime is another adventure puzzle game like GRIS. This one follows a boy exploring a mysterious island. He also has a fox spirit guide! You’ll solve puzzles across the five large levels, guiding him through the environment.
I’d recommend GRIS over Rime for Nintendo Switch if you’ve not played either of them. GRIS has more to offer visually, but that’s not to say Rime isn’t enjoyable!
8. The Gardens Between
The Gardens Between takes place in a “dreamlike realm where time flows in every direction”. Your main characters are two best friends, and you can move time forwards and backwards. You’ll travel through islands of memories, solving puzzles, and changing the environment.
Rather than moving the characters themselves, you control the world around them. It provides a soothing environment, perfect for mindful gaming!
9. LUNA The Shadow Dust
LUNA The Shadow Dust is a point-and-click puzzle adventure. The storytelling is wordless, and the 2d visual design is very nostalgic to me. You’ll play as two companions, Üri and Layh, help retrieve Üri’s memories and reveal dark secrets.
This game was released on October 22nd 2020. I am yet to play it, but it’s top of my wishlist right now.
“Behind the veil of reality, lies an enchanted world. When the world lost its balance, it fell upon a boy to take on an unexpected journey. Until the moon rises again, the order of the world will not be restored. One cannot go back in time to correct his mistake. Whatever happened is irreversible…or is it?”
10. Ori and the Blind Forest
I have only played the demo version of Ori and the Blind Forest, but I really enjoyed it. Ori and the Blind Forest is all about a young orphan destined for heroics, it’s a story of love, sacrifice and hope.
It’s visually beautiful, and the storytelling is emotional. Even playing the demo nearly made me cry!
I’ll definitely purchase the full version. I love that the Nintendo E-Shop features so many demo games, so you can get a feel for them before buying.
Do you have a Nintendo Switch? If so, tell me your favourite games in the comments below. I love finding new relaxing Nintendo Switch games for mindfulness!
All the best,
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