Lake Stevens students indulge in simulation games to destress

These games could be the perfect way to refresh the brain after a stressful school day


Hunter O'Connor

Tranquil Gamer: Senior Brenda Call plays relaxing video games on her Nintendo Switch. She worked all day in distance learning and attended classes on google meet. “I’m really grateful that I am able to relax after a stressful day of school work,” Call said.

Let’s be honest, things didn’t magically get better when 2021 started as we’d hoped. However, hope is not lost for humanity. In our darkest, most boring moments, we’ll always have video games in our corner. I know that personally, I’ve been playing a bunch in the simulator genre. It’s nice having some homes away from literal homes. Here are some relaxing (and aesthetically pleasing) games to distract you from the real world, including some indies you may not have heard of.


Animal Crossing: New Horizons

First up, we have the most talked-about game of 2020-Animal Crossing: New Horizons. If you have a Nintendo Switch, this one is a must-have. In this latest addition to the Animal Crossing series, you go on a getaway to a deserted island, and it’s your job to make this barren land a popular tourist destination! There’s no end of possibilities, but for those who are fans of set objectives, there are a few ways you can challenge yourself. Players can seek to expand their house to the maximum amount, get all their favorite “villagers” to live on their island and pay off their debts to Tom Nook.
Sophomore Ava Atha uses one of this game’s special features to unwind.
“I love to collect insects and fish, to sell them and buy cool things for my house. I also like digging for fossils and setting them up in my house,” Atha said. “I enjoy decorating [the most] because of how many options I have. I could decorate my house however I like and can change it whenever I like… I find [it] relaxing because I can spend my time organizing and rearranging the rooms to really find what makes the room feel collective and pulled together.”
In the past year I’ve had this game, I’ve spent 200+ hours playing it. If you’re the type of person who seeks to get their money’s worth, I’d say the time spent on this one makes it worth it.



Another Switch software, Calico, is a game about magical girls running cat cafes. What more could you ask for? This game is very relaxing and super cute. I’ve played it for a good 10 hours, exploring all the different areas, completing side quests, finding all the various animals and of course completing the main story mode. Although this is one of my favorite games, I won’t lie to you guys-I’ve encountered a lot of bugs. However, all these various bugs have since been patched. This is one of the cheaper items on this list, so if you’re looking for something to entertain you for less money, this is a great choice.



I haven’t met anyone who’s never played this iconic classic, but maybe it’s time to rediscover it. If you haven’t played Minecraft for a couple of years, you may find that so much of it is different. Playing this game again is like you’re playing it for the first time. One of the best things about Minecraft is that you can play it on almost any device. Whether you’re a PS4 player, an Xbox fan, or even if you just play the occasional time-waster on your cell phone, Minecraft is always accessible. Plus, even if your friends don’t play on the same device as you, Minecraft is cross-platform, which means you can play together no matter where you are or what device you’re on.
Another great thing about this one is that there is an unlimited number of ways to play it. Do you like intense quest-based games? Try a speedrun, where you try to complete the main quest as fast as you can. Looking for a more laid-back playthrough? Maybe you can focus on building up a nice farm instead. Maybe you’re a more creative person-play in creative mode, where you can create whatever you’d like with unlimited resources.
“Minecraft is one of my go-to games to relax in, but it also encourages me to problem solve and adapt,” sophomore Branden Seboe said. “[When I play,] I have a lot of thoughts about how I could be playing better. Everything I build is meant to serve a purpose, specifically to gain an advantage. I’m constantly looking for new designs, some built by me, but oftentimes I can find a good one by doing a little research and then tweaking them to serve my needs. Of course, that mentality is strictly for multiplayer servers where every item could be an advantage [for] another person.”

Seboe added that Minecraft also serves as a special outlet for him.
“I turned to Minecraft redstone because I needed something my brain could tinker with. I often get bored with what I do, so playing games lets me break free of the box I often have to put my mind in. I think working with redstone and Minecraft in general helps with my spatial reasoning and creating and completing goals,” Seboe said.
This is truly a game that fits everyone’s needs, whether you’re a pro or you have no gaming experience. You can buy Minecraft for $20, and I don’t think I’ve played something that was more worth it. For such a cheap price, I’ve gotten so many hours of endless entertainment from it.


Stardew Valley

This is another popular title you may have heard of. In Stardew Valley, you inherit your grandfather’s old farm, with nothing to your name but a few hand-me-down tools and a pocketful of coins. It’s your goal to build up your farm to be the very best it can be. While you’re at it, why not uncover the magical secrets of Pelican Town, take down an evil corporation and find love along the way? It’s $15 on console and PC, and it’s free on mobile devices. Like Minecraft, the main play-through is open-ended, which means you can play it whichever way you want. Instead of focusing on farming, why not build your fortune based on mining, animal products, or foraging? It’s up to you. Currently, I’m working on turning my farm into the ultimate chicken paradise!


My Time at Portia

If a lot of these titles are starting to sound like the same-old rinse and repeat farming simulator plot to you, then I’ve come to save you with something new! My Time at Portia takes place after civilization has collapsed, and humans have since moved their lives underground. Once they emerge, it’s your job to become a great builder, rebuilding society and making the city of Portia the place to be! If you’re a fan of RPGs (role-playing games), then this could be a good pick for you, since it implements elements from this genre.

Reviewers have called this game “bright and full of charm” (Destructoid), and “a lovely place to spend time in” (RPGamer). You can play My Time at Portia on Microsoft Windows, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One. At the moment, it’s $30 on Steam. There’s also set to be a sequel- My Time at Sandrock- this March.


Story of Seasons

This game is a bit different from the others, as it has not come out in the United States yet. However, I can tell you that I’ll be purchasing it as soon as it does! You may know Story of Seasons better under its previous name, Harvest Moon. If you liked the rest of the items on this list, then you’ll definitely love Story of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town. There are plenty of design aspects, similar to Animal Crossing. There are plenty of animal care features, like in Calico. Just like Minecraft, there are updates with new content to explore regularly (particularly if you get the expansion pass). Similar to Stardew Valley, there are tons of different characters, each with their own personalities, as well as marriage candidates. A new feature coming with this latest installment is that you can marry characters of the same gender as you. Lastly, like My Time at Portia, the place you have to develop is mostly destroyed, giving you endless possibilities and a new adventure. This game has a little bit of everything.
Honestly, I wasn’t really interested in this one at first, but the more I researched it, the more excited I’ve become! I don’t think I’ve been so anxious for a game to release since Animal Crossing. When it releases on Mar. 23, it will be $50, which is actually pretty good for a popular series such as this one. Most new installments in popular franchises released by Nintendo have been $60-80.
These games may seem similar, but each one of them brings a unique and fun experience. We may be trapped inside right now, but there are infinite worlds to explore with so many different possibilities to pursue. Let your imagination run wild and have some adventures! There’s so much to do from the comfort of your own home. I hope that you find some joy in these titles, and allow yourself to relax in a fun, new, digital world.