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When it comes to maintaining mental health, it’s important to set aside some time to decompress. There are countless hobbies out there to help you get the maximum relaxation you desire, but for me and many others, video gaming is a hobby like few others. These video games are some of my favorites that help me relax and refocus during the week. 


A lot of people tend to think of Minecraft as a game for kids, but I tend to think of it as virtual Legos. Using blocks of materials found in your world, you can create nearly anything you can think of. For maximum relaxation, I recommend playing in either peaceful mode or creative mode where the stakes are low but the building possibilities are high.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons

Animal Crossing has been a beloved video game of mine since I first played Wild World, a predecessor to New Horizons. In New Horizons, you play as a custom character that lives on an island alongside animal villagers. There are fun nonplayable characters (NPCs) like Tom Nook, the mastermind of your island getaway. It sounds a bit like a fever dream now that I’m describing it, but the actual gameplay is so relaxing. There’s something about talking to my favorite frog villager after an hour or so of landscaping that just puts my mind at ease.

Stardew Valley

Stardew Valley is the cheapest title on this list, starting at just $5 on the app store. The game can be played on nearly every platform, which is a big plus. You play as a farmer who has just inherited their grandfather’s farm in the remote town of Pelican Town. There is mystery, unique townspeople and of course, farming. The game has so many fun features and the developers are still adding on to it. This is easily one of my favorite games.

The Sims 4

The Sims franchise was my first gaming love. I was OBSESSED with Sims 2 and 3 as a kid and eagerly awaited the release of Sims 4. This game is a classic and lets you do anything you want. When I want to relax, I like to build a cute little cottage or give my sims a lavish lifestyle. There are many expansion packs and add-ons that you can get to enhance your gameplay, or if you want to go the cheaper route, you can download custom content and mods for free (Beware: Do so at your own risk).

A Short Hike

This is the only title on the list that I haven’t played very much, but I have seen others play the full thing. In the game, you play as a Claire, a humanoid bird who is staying with her aunt at a park similar to a national park. Claire decides to climb to the highest peak of the mountain in an effort to gain cell reception, and along the way meets all sorts of people who send her on mini-quests and adventures. The gameplay is very relaxing and reminds me of old Gameboy games I would play as a kid. I can’t wait to play more.

Untitled Goose Game

During my freshman year, my RA recommended this game to me, and I LOVED it. In the game, you play as a mischievous goose who goes around messing with the townspeople and completing a seemingly random set of to-do list items. The music in the game is beautiful and coincides with your actions, making it very fun to listen to. During finals week my first semester, I played this game in between study sessions and it would help wash away the worries. I still love this game, and it seems like there is always more to explore with it.

Mental health is so important, and hobbies like video games are a great way to maintain that health. Truthfully, any video game can be relaxing so long as you remember to have fun with it. 

Sarah is a sophomore at Pitt majoring in English and political science with a minor in film. She is originally from Center Valley, Pennsylvania. In her free time, she enjoys playing with her pets, reading, and going hiking. Sarah is interested in pursuing a cottage core dream in the future.
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