Video games can get our hearts racing or help us chill out, depending on what we play. From thrillers like The Last of Us Part 2 to whimsical life simulators like Animal Crossing: New Horizons, there's something out there for everyone. But if you're already feeling overwhelmed by the pressures of daily life, neither an action-packed adrenaline rush nor a game where you manage others seems to be the key to supreme relaxation. What's the solution here? Games about nothing.
If you truly want to drift off on a calm, fluffy cloud while you de-stress and decompress, perhaps it's time you sought out games that don't actually expect anything of you. Games where you're left to your own devices so you can simply be. Nothing's at stake – but there's plenty to explore, and that’s the fun of it all.
Of course, these games aren't necessarily about "nothing" – classic sitcom Seinfeld was purportedly about nothing as well, but we all know there were plenty of sticky situations Jerry, George, Elaine, and Kramer found themselves in. Games about nothing simply lack the driving forces behind most titles, such as an antagonist or a goal to work toward. There's no clear-cut aim, and you have all the freedom you want to enjoy the world as you see fit.
These titles can come in all genres, art styles, and console generation. They’re from triple-A developers and indie darlings. Ready to jump into this unique genre? See our picks for the best games about nothing below.
People will divulge just about anything to their barista or their bartender. The comforting Coffee Talk transports you to a coffee shop of the same name in a universe much like ours. As the sole barista, you serve dozens of customers each day, each with their own lives and schedules that you'll uncover more about as you play. The game brings fantasy races of all sorts together: elves, mermaids, orcs, and more, as they navigate the problems of their everyday lives. As you serve them delicious morning cup of Joe or late night drinks to wind down the evenings, you take in their various dreams, concerns, and aspirations all while warming their bodies and souls.
This gentle look at the lives of those around us has you mixing together delicious drinks, chatting it up with patrons, and learning more about the world and its people. All you have to do is make the drinks that customers order and let them unload on you. Laugh with them, cry with them, and learn to understand them as if their struggles were your own. Packed with real-world issues and challenges that feel oddly prescient in our society, Coffee Talk is a game that slows things down and lets you interface with others in ways that feel like everything's just right with the world – as long as the coffee and conversation is flowing.
Have you ever dreamt of creating your own sleepy little town? Maybe you have one in your head you envision when you lay back and relax, or you've considered what your own little perfect utopia might look like. Wonder no more, as Townscaper is another game about nothing that lets you "paint" a village of your very own with a few simple clicks. This self-described town-building toy lets you create massive multicolored skyscrapers, lighthouses, homes on the sea, and multilevel barns at the center of your little city. It's all done in the blink of an eye. Simply choose a color from your palette, then insert blocks on the grid. Townscaper uses a special algorithm to create houses, stairways, bridges, and even yards as you configure a cute little seaside town.
There's nothing complex that requires you to think too hard or stress out about where you place your blocks. It's a canvas in which you can create your own little rustic masterpieces, and a great way to whittle away the hours when you need a low-stress activity to engage in. There's no story, no goal, and no limit on what you can build within Townscaper, and that's why it's such an exciting prospect. Bring a quaint and cozy village to life in a matter of minutes while you watch your day-to-day concerns drift up into the air like the wisps of smoke coming from your city's chimneys.
Kind Words (lo fi chill beats to write to)
So many of us speak, but never end up listening. Kind Words (lo fi chill beats to write to) is an exercise in both sending out the titular kind words into the world and receiving them in turn. If you're worried or concerned about something, you can jump into this darling little game and anonymously write out what's bothering you in a short request for other players to write you a letter. These can range from pleas for advice, lonely people reaching out for comfort or encouragement, or even sympathy from strangers on the internet. As you sort through the prompts offered, you can write out your own thoughtful responses as you ruminate on the fact that you'll also receive one of your own if you put your desire out there in the open.
While you write letters and receive them, you can use special, fun stickers as decorations to make them stand out. You can place them on letters you send to others or send them as a response to those who have written to you in a bid to grow your own respective collection. You also get a special 3D toy that goes along with each sticker, which you can place in your room to further personalize it. There's nothing to strive for in Kind Words other than the personal satisfaction of knowing you offered your best, most comforting words to move someone else in need of encouragement. Lifting one another up is far more satisfying than an abstract goal.
This intricate simulator is referred to as more of an "interactive experience," where everything in the universe is actually a playable character. You can play as, well, Everything, as the title suggests. From the smallest animals to the massive expanse of the universe, you can embody various forms and try to understand what it's like to live life in another's shoes – even if that means becoming a planet or an elephant. You can transform yourself into a variety of forms in this procedural, AI-driven situation that explores the philosophy of being, as well as what it means to truly exist.
You can spend hours in this abstract, beautiful, and occasionally zany playground as existence slowly begins to open up to you, for better or for worse. It's a strange, yet intriguing experience where you can't "lose" or do the wrong thing. For the moment, whether you're figuring out what life would be like as an ant or a gorilla, all you have to do is exist, and that's the most freeing part of all.
True enough, Minecraft can have goals if you choose to set them. You can opt to travel to the Nether and find the "end" of the game, if that's how you want to play it. But the nature of Minecraft is such that it offers a massive, seemingly endless sandbox in which you can play and create to your heart's content. Whether you're interested in building a massive tower or you just want to see how far you can dig until you find diamonds, you make the world of Minecraft your own.
Turn off survival elements (or leave them on) and trek through the world to set out on your own personal journey. You can invite friends to spend time with you as well, but at no point do you ever have to succumb to artificial goals or demands that the game places on you. Sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride – and love all the "nothing" you can soak up.