Blue Monday has arrived and, no, it’s not some new post-Christmas Black Friday-alike designed to keep the retail sector ticking over through the lean winter months. It’s the day of the year when people are statistically most downbeat and gloomy according to scientists, or something. To be fair, it’s understandable; the holidays are over, the days are short and dark and the weather’s miserable for the most part (in the Northern Hemisphere, at least).
Fortunately, the above conditions are perfect for ensconcing yourself in front of the TV with a cup of something warm and a great video game. While the scope and function of interactive entertainment has grown far beyond mere escapism these days, games are still a brilliant way to jump into a totally different environment and get away from it all when things are looking grim.
So, below you’ll find a (non-exhaustive, obviously) list of some of the games we love to fire up when it’s cold outside and there’s no kind of atmosphere. Obviously, getting your friends over for some games and laughs is a great way to beat the blues, so you might want to start with our selections of the best couch co-op Switch games or best Switch party games if you’re not a solo gamer.
If you’re twiddling your thumbs on your own, though, let’s take a look at our picks – in no particular order – of the best feel-good games on Nintendo systems…
Yes, we just said that this list is in no particular order – and it isn’t – but we’ll start with the most colourful, the most charming, the most heart-warming game ever made. Banjo-Kazooie combines lovable characters and humour with brilliant animation and some of video gaming’s catchiest tunes (courtesy of Big Noise Maker Mr. Grant Kirkhope). This is the archetypal collectathon 3D platformer, the perfect size before they tipped over into overwrought and monotonous, and one of our go-to games whenever we need something warm and reassuring. Everything will be all right in the end.
You’ll need an N64 if you want to play it on a Nintendo platform – otherwise it can be found on Xbox 360 or Xbox One as part of Rare Replay. With Banjo now in Smash Bros. and relations between Nintendo and Microsoft appearing cosier than ever following the Switch ports of Cuphead, Ori And The Blind Forest and the Microsoft-published New Super Lucky’s Tale (incidentally, all excellent feel-good games), we’re ever hopeful that the original game and its Rareware stablemates will one day find their way home to a Nintendo platform.
Stuck inside dreaming of taking off on a world trip and escaping this dreary January? Mario’s latest full-fat 3D platformer takes you on a tour of the world that’s sure to lift your spirits. Whether you’re a people person who prefers the hustle and, indeed, bustle of New Donk City or prefer the quiet contemplation and isolation available on the surface of the moon, Super Mario Odyssey‘s got it all. It doesn’t get more upbeat than this. Or does it?
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Publisher: Nintendo / Developer: Nintendo SPD
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is like a warm, relaxing cup of something. We beat the main game long ago, but we still fire it up regularly simply to roam around Hyrule finding the odd Korok seed and letting the rolling hills and clean digital air calm our nerves. We find it great for stress relief (and we found sailing the Great Sea in The Wind Waker equally soothing), but Breath of the Wild’s engaging gameplay and general gorgeousness make it perfect for lifting your spirits and beating the blues in January, February or any other month of the year, too.
Another standby we dive into whenever we’re feeling down, a quick blast through Green Hill Zone can be rather restorative. Obviously the melodious mix of music, waterfalls and dancing flowers is likely to lighten your mood, but it’s more than that. It’s an odd and comforting thing to navigate through an old favourite on little more than muscle memory. We’d liken it to listening to a favourite song, or perhaps closer, playing your favourite song on a musical instrument; something about the mechanics of it soothes the soul. It’s available on virtually every console you own.
Publisher: Nintendo / Developer: Nintendo EAD
After abandoning our Wild World town when Animal Crossing: New Leaf arrived, we regret not saying goodbye properly to the residents of our town (Dibly, because ‘Crinkley Bottom’ was over the character limit), so what better time to bid adieu to our 3DS village than while we’re waiting for Animal Crossing: New Horizons to arrive? It’s time to nab those last few paintings, complete the furniture set we were working on and wrap up our affairs before moving to a remote island in the upcoming Switch entry of Nintendo’s most delightful of series.
Publisher: ConcernedApe / Developer: ConcernedApe
With more of a focus on farming than the previous entry, Stardew Valley is a country life sim that’s equally captivating if you’re looking to escape the January drudgery. After inheriting your farm there’s a lot of work to do but like any of the very best sims, soon all the elements click into place and joy of running a well-oiled machine takes over. With a very pleasant 16-bit style to the visuals, this is a wonderful way to get away from it all wherever you take your Switch.
The Rhythm Heaven games – any of them – provide colourful rhythm-based nonsense of the very highest calibre, and Rhythm Heaven Megamix collects most of the series’ best moments into one lovely package. Lizard stroking, choir conducting – you name it, Rhythm Heaven (or Rhythm Paradise in Europe) has you doing it, all in time to the beat. The WarioWare series offers an equally off-the-wall dose of surreal mini-(or micro-) games and either one of these series is worth diving into if you’re after marvellous madcap fun.
Publisher: SEGA / Developer: Amusement Vision
Monkeys in big balls rolling around colourful stages – what’s not to like? Another blue-sky entry from SEGA (to be honest, we could just as well have populated this entire list with M2’s SEGA Ages Switch line), Monkey Ball at its best is sublimely ridiculous fun, and although the latest entry on Switch – the reheated port of Wii’s Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz – isn’t up to the series’ best standards, when it’s done right Monkey Ball is one powerful shot of positivity.
Publisher: Nintendo / Developer: Good-Feel
One of the most adorable games ever made, Good-Feel’s first entry in its growing catalogue of material-based 2D platformers is still the best. Kirby’s Epic Yarn might be sub-HD but it still looks gorgeous and only the coldest hearts will fail to be warmed at the sight of the pink blobs’s threadbare transformations and patchwork worlds. It’s also available on 3DS, so you can get your daily dose of goodness on-the-go, too. Just imagine how lovely this would look on Nintendo’s current console…
Publisher: Bandai Namco / Developer: Bandai Namco
Katamari Damacy REROLL is like liquid anti-cynicism. While it’s also likely to induce some stress, the game’s delightfully quirky and unique personality will dose you up with charm enough to make you forget your tension and troubles. The Switch edition is arguably the best way to play short of digging out your PS2, and with a wonderful HD sheen the Prince of the Cosmos looks better than ever on Nintendo’s hybrid console. Lovely.
Arguably the ultimate puzzling mashup, there’s something for everyone and colour to spare in Puyo Puyo Tetris. Whether you’re into puyos or tetrominos, the game will tap into your nostalgia for either while also giving you a respect for the other. With plenty to enjoy for solo or multiple players, you really can’t go wrong firing this up on a cold winter’s eve.
Want to jump in a colourful car and burn rubber into the sunset? Horizon Chase Turbo harks back to an arcade time when all you needed for a good time was the top down, a sunset on the horizon and an attractive co-pilot with their hair blowing in the breeze. It’s more Top Gear on the SNES than Out Run, but it channels that blue sky feeling beautifully and makes for an exhilarating ride on Switch.
Publisher: Nintendo / Developer: Good-Feel
Yoshi’s Woolly World took the ball from Kirby and ran with it. While we still prefer Kirby’s game overall, Woolly World is a very fine lighthearted platformer which dials the cute factor up to 11 (the accompanying knitted amiibo certainly helped in that respect, too). Yoshi’s Crafted World on Switch offers similarly cute platforming and is definitely worth playing if the Wii U isn’t an option, although the novelty of these material worlds is starting to wear thin if you’ve played all of Good-Feel’s platformers.
Publisher: Nintendo / Developer: Retro Studios
Having recently topped our ranking of the best DK games of all time, it’s unsurprising that we love revisiting Retro’s most recent Donkey Kong Country game when we’re feeling down. Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze isn’t just a great platformer, it’s one of the great platformers and it will help thaw the iciest of moods. Looking and playing better than the series ever has, veteran DKC composer David Wise returned with this sequel, meaning that the music along is enough to reduce us to tears of happiness. Tropical Freeze is a total joy, and perfect company if you’re feeling glum – at any time of the year.
Of course, we’ve taken the happy-chappy rainbow-coloured route with this selection of feel-good games, but sometimes a chunky shotgun and an undead horde can be the best way to shake off the blues, so you might want to check out something like Resident Evil 4 or DOOM if you’re after a more adult experience.
What games do you like to play when you’re feeling less than 100%? Let us know with a comment below.