Fast and furious? No, slow and soothing - the rise of 'cosy gaming'

Since the Covid-19 pandemic, players have been turning to more relaxing gaming experiences

Cosy gaming exploded with the popularity of Animal Crossing: New Horizons on the Nintendo Switch. Photo: Nintendo
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The end of summer is a time to look forward to everything autumn brings. From pumpkin-spiced lattes to decorating your house for Halloween, and everything in between.

A new phenomenon in gaming is also becoming part of the rituals of autumn, and its goal is simple: to get as comfortable as possible and enjoy a game that will serve only to soothe you. That means no adrenalin, no jump scares; just good old-fashioned, feel-good fun.

Cosy gaming has become one of the most favoured forms of unwinding, and with the popularity of games such as Animal Crossing and Stardew Valley, it has rapidly developed into a genre of its own.

What is it?

During the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, while people were staying indoors to stay safe from the virus, many turned to gaming to ease the experience of isolation.

Popular Nintendo game Animal Crossing: New Horizons was released at just the right moment, and those who played it regularly spoke of how soothing and relaxing it was.

The game’s goal is to clean up an island, plant crops and collect everything from cool clothes for your character to famous paintings for your very own museum.

Sprouting from that experience, gamers started focusing on a more relaxed time to play, and choosing to play games that are not be stressful and hair-raising, but calming.

Videos shared on the popular social media app TikTok eventually spawned a movement that used gaming as a form of self-care.

Cosy gaming does not just stop at the choice of game though, it is about enhancing your experience with the proper atmosphere. This can include anything from lighting your room differently to sitting somewhere comfortable surrounded by pillows and plush toys with a nice, scented candle lit near you.

Best cosy games

We’ve already mentioned Animal Crossing which has become the totem pole for the cosy gaming experience. The game still has a lot to offer for those experiencing it for the first time, but seasoned gamers have since found alternatives that have become favourites among cosy gamers.

Stardew Valley

First released in 2016, Stardew Valley has become a lot more popular in the past two years after gamers noticed its similarity to Animal Crossing, while also being different enough to offer an alternative experience.

The storytelling in the game is also diverse and eclectic, leading players into surreal conversations with side characters that can be very memorable.

The main objective is to cultivate a farm and raise a family. Your main character is given tasks involving growing crops to sell in the village.

The aesthetic of the game is its biggest draw, with whimsical music to set the mood.

Stardew Valley is playable on a numerous consoles including the Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4 and PC.

Fae Farm

Released only this month, Fae Farm has already become a hit with cosy gamers.

Initially the game looks like an Animal Crossing clone but upon further play, Fae Farm offers a more magical and mystical experience.

The usual tasks are here, and players will still need to farm their crops, but there is a lot more the world in Fae Farm has to offer.

Players are encouraged to explore the world and seek items that will aid them in crafting unique tools.

Fae Farm has scored very well among reviewers and is expected to become a staple in the cosy gaming genre.

The game is playable on the Nintendo Switch as well as on PC.

Becoming a cosy gamer

To find out more, I asked the person who introduced me to cosy gaming – my wife – what she thinks of the experience.

Here’s what she had to say: "I am someone who has enjoyed playing high-stakes action-adventure games my whole life and will probably never stop. But when Covid hit in early 2020, playing Animal Crossing: New Horizons provided me with a new kind of enjoyment.

"The slow pace, cute characters, calming music and meditative nature of daily tasks on the island were a much-needed distraction from the fast-changing world.

"Since then, cosy games became my go-to for decompressing after a long week, especially when you feel overwhelmed and need a mental break. Getting cosy with a cup of tea, a warm blanket and a low-stakes farming, mystery solving, or nature exploration game became part of my self-care routine to this day."

Updated: September 29, 2023, 6:02 PM