Games That Got Us Through 2020

For many, 2020 was a stressful year, to say the least. Here are some games that helped us cope through it.

By Achi Ikeda. Posted 02/11/2021 00:39 Comment on this     ShareThis

To say it simply, 2020 was a very crazy year. With that craziness came loneliness, anxiety, feelings of losing control, stress, and depression. Stay-at-home orders were, and still are, a dominant part of the lives of many. Luckily, though the pandemic had its impact on the gaming industry, playing video games remained largely unaffected. Gaming actually increased among Americans by 55 percent in 2020. I personally both played more titles and played for more hours in 2020 than any other year in my life. I used gaming to connect with friends, deal with anxiety, relax, escape reality, and gain a more positive outlook when times felt bleak. Here is a list of some games on Switch that did just that.

Animal Crossing New Horizons

Animal Crossing: New Horizons was one of the biggest games of 2020 and with good reason. Not only is the game a great new addition to the series, but it has also improved social elements, gives players more control than ever before, and is an overall wholesome experience.

I loved watching my friends arrive at the airport and we spent plenty of time fishing and swimming together over the summer when we couldn’t do so in person. It was also easy to stay in touch with friends by trading furniture and chatting “in-person” on each other’s islands using voice chat or the Nintendo Online app’s text feature.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons also gives players more customization control than ever before.

In previous games, it could be frustrating when a new villager moving in would pick the most inconvenient spot to plot their house on. Now, we could choose where houses could be placed, but also where we wanted rivers, higher elevation, waterfalls, and more. This new control reduced some surprises in the series, but it also reduced some of the anxieties.

Along with reducing anxiety, Animal Crossing is an overall stress-free experience. It can be frustrating when you can’t seem to catch that last fish of the season or miss a holiday but that’s about it. Animal Crossing’s relaxing gameplay has even put it at the center of anthropological and psychological studies. Many players have spoken out online about the mental health benefits they’ve felt from the game. Check out a more in-depth look into the psychology of, Animal Crossing from this blog or from Indiana University. Or if you are curious about video games and emotional health in general, check out this post by Psychology Today on how video games can boost emotional health and reduce loneliness.

Check out our review of the game, here.

A Short Hike

Similar to the sweet feelings found in Animal Crossing, A Short Hike takes you on a relaxing exploration of the park of Hawk Peak as you, eventually, make your way to the mountain peak. But only when you’re done discovering all that the park has to offer. I enjoyed the natural surroundings, talking with the charming and quirky characters, going fishing, rock climbing, and discovering all the other activities waiting for me in Hawk Peak. This game was a great way to destress and enjoy nature while we were, and still are, trapped inside our homes. Its low stress and low stakes was a great alternative to some of the faster-paced, action-packed games. I knew I had nothing to worry about while playing A Short Hike and that made it a great game to play to relax.

Check out our review of the game, here.

Pikmin 3 Deluxe

Speaking of nature, Pikmin 3 Deluxe is a wonderful, macro look at nature. I love macro photography, and for those who also enjoy appreciating nature on the smaller level need to try out Pikmin 3 Deluxe. While stay-at-home orders often meant we couldn’t be outside as much as we wanted to, appreciating nature in video games may still provide positive effects. Japan promotes shin-ryoku, or “forest bathing”, to improve mental health, and the relationship with nature and video games is even explored in the book Playing Nature: Ecology in Video Games, by Alenda Y. Chang.

Another perk to the game is the Pikmin. The Pikmin are also absolutely adorable. It can be a little stressful when you start to lose them to carnivorous enemies or the environment, but everything all turns out ok in the end. New Pikmin are easy to…grow? Produce? Anyway, you never need to worry too much about losing your precious Pikmin.

Check out our review of the game, here.

Stardew Valley

As of 2021, I have logged over 300 hours in Stardew Valley. A bit embarrassing, but I have definitely gotten my money’s worth. Stardew Valley is one of the best resource management games, let alone farming simulator. There is something satisfying about managing a farm. Whether it’s the joy of planning ahead, the continuous progress, the control, or the enjoyment of collecting the fruits of your labor, Stardew Valley has all this and more found in the pleasant Pelican Town. You can even start a farm with friends by playing online multiplayer. If you ever enjoyed the Harvest Moon games, or the newer Story of Seasons series, then you must try out Stardew Valley.


What do you do when the world is ending, but you aren’t the chosen hero? Sing! Well, that’s what you would do if you were a bard. Wandersong is a game that puts you in the rare scenario of knowing the world is going to end, yet not being the hero that can save it. (Feel like 2020 much?) But don’t let that bleak scenario scare you off, Wandersong is a whimsical, musical, emotional adventure that demonstrates how one bard’s determination and positivity can make a positive impact in a hopeless situation.

Wilmot’s Warehouse

Wilmot’s Warehouse is a little hidden gem that was great for my anxiety this past year. Are you someone who finds organizing relaxing and satisfying? Well if you’ve run out of things to organize, Wilmot’s Warehouse offers infinite possibilities to how you choose to organize your warehouse.

In Wilmot’s Warehouse, you play as Wilmot, a little white square tasked with keeping his warehouse organized. Everything you know about each object is limited to its icon. You are free to organize however you please and the satisfaction I got from organizing can only be compared to the contentment and gratification that comes with organizing your desk, bookshelf, clothing drawers, or gaming collection to perfection. The game is easy to pick up, play, and put down again that it was a great way to take breaks and relax.

I highly recommend Wilmot’s Warehouse to anyone who likes to organize things in their life.


Abzu is a beautiful adventure through various areas of the ocean and the experience is extremely relaxing with breathtaking waterscapes. Though the overall story is relatively short if you rush through, the occasionally meditative, and overall calming experience is meant to be swam through at your own pace. If you are a fan of That Game Company’s Journey, you will likely enjoy Abzu.

Check out our review, here.

Yoku’s Island Express

I absolutely love this game. This game brings me nothing but happiness so of course in 2020 I had to do another playthrough because Yoku’s Island Express is a delightful game. Luscious environments, pinball gameplay, a cute dung beetle protagonist, and a score that blends unique sounds and contrasting elements and perfectly suits the game’s fun, charming, adorable, and quirky atmosphere. If you’re interested in seeing how the genetic sequence for yeast ended up in the soundtrack, check out this interview with Jesse Harlin, the creator of the game’s score.

Check out our review, here.

What did you play in 2020? Which games help you relax and destress? Let us know in the comments below!

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Log In 0 points Log in or register to grow your Ninja Score while interacting with our site.
Nintendojo's RSS Feeds

All Updates Podcast
News Comments
Like and follow usFacebookTwitter Friend Code Exchange + Game with Us Join the Team!