5 Feel-Good Games to Help With the Winter Blues

Seasonal Affective Disorder – also known as S.A.D – affects about six percent of the population. As the days get shorter, reduced sunlight can mess with levels of serotonin – the neurotransmitter that the brain uses for mood regulation. This can lead to reduced energy, sleep troubles, feelings of anxiety or hopelessness, and other symptoms commonly associated with depression. Even if you’re not a sufferer, we all tend to get a bit more lethargic as the days get shorter. Most games are great for escapism, but some just provide a pure sense of joy that can’t be found anywhere else. Here’s a list of my current favorites for melting away the winter blues.

Bit.Trip Runner2

Two Words: Dancing. Pickles. The rhythm platformer Runner2 balances goofy, abstract design with hypnotic gameplay. It takes a while to get into the swing of things, but once mastered, it’s absolutely Zen-like. Just difficult enough to demand your full attention without being frustrating, Runner2 is perfect for a feel-good zone out.

Final Fantasy 7

If Runner2‘s character select screen makes me smile, I don’t even need to get past the opening screen in Final Fantasy VII to get engulfed in a wave of excited nostalgia. If you missed it the first time around, here’s what you need to know: This game has a cat that rides a bigger cat, a talking dog, ninjas, shotgun wielding vampires, giant yellow bird races, and objectively the best soundtrack in gaming. The story has some heavier moments, but it’s ultimately a gripping, well told tale of friendship against the odds. All the usual JRPG silliness just adds to the experience


Ok, so trying to beat the winter doldrums with the frozen wasteland of Skyrim may seem counter- intuitive at first. Quests vary from demonic possessions to werewolf cures to political upheaval, which are all pretty heavy subjects. But that’s only if you take it seriously! Everyone knows the real way to play Skyrim is to throw fruit at people while they drone on about ancient prophecies, set chickens on fire, and try to get Lydia killed as quickly as possible. Pure, uncut catharsis.

Bravely Default

When Final Fantasy series creator Hironobu Sakaguchi left the director’s seat after FFIX, the series lost some of its magic. As a long time fan, Bravely Default absolutely captured the enchanting whimsy of some of the best JRPG’s ever made. From the epic soundtrack to characters that perfectly play off against each other, the love and attention that went into crafting Bravely Default is clear. Perfect for a guaranteed case of the warm fuzzies.

Oddworld: Abe’s Exoddus

Rescuing your green buds is always great for a smile. Plus I just really like farting on people, ok?

If you know a gamer suffering from mental health related issues, you can find loads of great information over at TakeThis.Org’s page at Geek & Sundry. Please let us know your favourite feel-good games in the comments below!

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Nic Reuben

Nic Reuben likes to pause games every five minutes to ponder the thematic implications of explosive barrel placement. When he’s not having an existential crisis over CAPTCHA verifications that ask him to prove he’s not a robot, he’s reading sci-fi and fantasy short stories, watching cartoons, and mourning the writing standards in Game of Thrones.