• Benjamin

5 Video Games That Help Me De-Stimulate

The games that currently help me step back from the world, and take a much needed breather.

Whoa, a top five video games list, I wonder what will be on this one?? All snark aside, I've honestly been anxiety spiraling lately. There's a whole lot happening right now, and a whole lot of people suffering. I've been feeling really down due to the sorry state of our mental health system here in Canada, and it all just gets overwhelming.


A lot of people have the ability to push these thoughts aside, without hyper-focusing on them until it affects your entire day. I, unfortunately, do not; whether it's because of my Anxiety Disorder, Bipolar, Autism, or just a beautiful combination of the three. That's why I like to sometimes escape into the world of games, because (if I don't have something to do) I can just boot one up, and suddenly everything else doesn't seem so overwhelming.


I literally used to be that kid who played his Gameboy anywhere he went, because it just helped push other stimuli out. Dealing with crowded areas? A loud restaurant? A long car ride? Able to be overcome with a simple little screen.


So, here's the list.



5. Pokemon Soul Silver (Nintendo DS)


Anyone who knows me, knows that I have played every main line Pokemon game since the original Pokemon Silver on the Gameboy Colour. Despite being a game targeted for younger audiences, there are so many nuances and mechanics that make the series an enjoyable one for all ages and skill levels.


Now out of any Pokemon game, why Soul Silver? Well there's a reason why most people deem it (and it's counterpart Heart Gold) as the greatest games in the series.

First of all, it's extremely nostalgic for me, being as my very first Pokemon game was the original Silver. That's not all though, ohhhhh no, Soul Silver ramps it up even more past the nostalgia factor.


The game is also home to plenty of new mechanics in the series, and not only boasted a retelling of the original story, but added way more content to the game. The team beautifully recreated the regions of Johto and Kanto for this game. That's right y'all, just like the originals you can play through TWO complete regions.


For me, Pokemon Soul Silver is the perfect game to either sit, relax and play through normally, or challenge myself with community made challenges.



4. Civilization VI (PC, MAC, Nintendo Switch, PS4, Xbox One)


The Civilization games have been around forever, and honestly, before this one I hadn't touched any other games in the series. I had always wanted to, but found the price to be daunting. Then I got it on sale for Switch. Which was good, but then all the DLC finally came out for that version (a great deal after their initial release) and were being sold at full price again for each individual DLC. (Rise and Fall, and Gathering Storm)


So I hear there's a steam sale going on, so lo and behold, I check it out and the full platinum edition (with all DLCs) was on for half the cost of my Switch version without. So I sell my switch version for cheap, and now I have the Platinum edition on PC.


The full version, with all the DLCs, is really what you want. I almost never say that, as I think many 'DLCs' are highway robbery, and extremely predatory for people with gambling addictions. (a story for another day)


The game allows you to choose from an assortment of famous figures throughout history and their nation. Not just euro-centric countries, or even just large nations, but also an assortment of long gone civilizations, and also indigenous representation as well. You start your 'Civ' as a small village, and through plotting land, choosing governments and policies, and your interactions with other 'Civs', you'll quickly grow into a bustling Civilization. In order to win, you either need to complete a Domination, Culture, Religious, Science, and a Score victory if the total amount of turns runs out.


The DLCs add different mechanics that also truly change the gameplay for the better. I used to just turn off the Science victory, as it was way too easy to rush towards that one. Now they've tweaked how the victories work (adding several steps to Science) and also added a sixth criteria, Diplomacy. You see, the three biggest things added in the DLC (besides new Civs) is a World Congress, a Governor system, and Natural Disasters/Climate Change.


All of these features put together really make you use your brain, and think each move through. When my brain is being stimulated in this way, the negative stimulation doesn't have much room to fester.

3. Hamtaro: Ham Ham Heartbreak (Gameboy Advance)


Look, this damn show is the sole reason why I love small mammals so much, and why I had so many hamsters when I was young! Admittedly, I remember very little of the show, except for some of its characters. That doesn't stop me from enjoying this game.


I literally used to play this game so much as a kid, and had so much fun with it. The whole point of the game is to learn different hamster language, and use it to help people create bonds.

Yeah, that's about it. Despite it's simplicity, this game provides me with lots of replay value, and I routinely return to it, rediscovering what I love so much about it. (Considering I have the memory of a goldfish)


It has a nice slow pace, and the aesthetics are adorable. I mean, who doesn't wanna watch hamsters running around little amusement parks, beach fronts, and haunted houses all built using items that would be considered small to us.


Basically, it's a great game to just snuggle up for an afternoon and play through when the going gets rough.



2. Hollow Knight (PC, Mac, WiiU, Nintendo Switch, PS4, Xbox One)


Not all de-stimulating games have to be slow paced and relaxing. Hollow Knight is a fantastic representation of this. Taking notes from the Dark Souls Series (It's the Dark Souls of MetroidVania's hahaha--) this game is friggin tough and I wouldn't have it any other way.


This game has a massive subterranean map to explore, as the game centers around sentient bugs. I absolutely love games that will make you work for the story and lore, not immediately presenting it to you in mandatory cutscenes.

It can be as deep, or as shallow as you want it to be. The map is broken into different sections, as you start out in a desolate crossroads town above ground, to the deeper depths beneath. Exploring long dead kingdoms, and hidden empires.


The controls are tight in this too, not a whole lot of unnecessary frustration. (not to say I don't get pissed off when I fall into a pit of spikes) However, for the most part, when you die, you know why you died. You can build a strategy and keep tackling the area. The same is to be said about the bosses, each of them will have set patterns that randomize. When you keep trying to beat a boss, you can see yourself improving, learning. This game will stimulate your brain in a more conscious way, helping to rid yourself of negative stimuli similarly to Civ 6.


If you're looking for gorgeous aesthetics, and a nice, hard, challenge; Hollow Knight is the way to go. (Plus all their DLC is free, so good on you Hollow Knight team)



1. Stardew Valley (PC, Mac, IOS, Android, WiiU, Nintendo Switch, PS4, Xbox One)


I think people kind of expected this one; that's not necessarily a bad thing. Stardew Valley is a fantastic example of building on nostalgia and legacy, and coming out the other side an even better product. The game has been out for a long while now, and is STILL getting free updates!!


Stardew Valley is a spiritual successor to the Harvest Moon series. (the good early ones, not the weird later ones)

The game plays amazing, and there's so many options to build your farm; you can really tell the studio put love into this one. You can simply focus on agriculture, or you can be a miner, or a fisherman, or you can raise livestock, or literally all of the above.


The game opts for a more pixel look, as apposed to a hyper-realism. This is a smart move, as they could focus more on gameplay, while still making it look beautiful. Each of the townsfolk near your farm have different personalities and schedules, and really bring the world to life. It creates fantastic replay value, and keeps my admittedly short attention span in focus.


This is a game you can just take at your own pace, day by day. It's hard to continue being overstimulated when Stardew Valley relaxes you so much.



Anyway, those are the games that are really helping me out right now with De-Stimulation. Though, to be fair, come March 20 I'm ditching all these games and getting the new Animal Crossing. Let's GOOOOO. (Have a fantastic day!)

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© Copyright 2020, Benjamin Imlau