Bridge the Social Distance by Visiting Animal Crossing's Islands and Other Video Game Worlds
In practicing social distancing, you’re putting the health and safety of others, especially folks who are elderly, immunosuppressed or immunocompromised, before your own desire to be social. While this practice helps mitigate the spread of coronavirus, flattens the curve and ensures that hospitals won’t become overwhelmed in the near future, being isolated from friends, family and your daily routine can take a toll on your mental health.
When the going gets rough, there’s nothing like getting lost in a video game. From relaxing life simulators to breathtaking action-adventure quests, these titles all present unique, immersive worlds that are worth the visit.
10. Tetris Effect
If you’re familiar with the original 1980s version of the tile-matching puzzle game, then you might be baffled as to how Tetris and its frenetic music fit in with the "relaxing" part of our list. Enter Tetris Effect, which takes its name from a real-world phenomenon wherein players’ brains are so riveted by the iconic "Tetrimino" blocks that they actually linger in players’ vision, thoughts and dreams.
9. Monument Valley
In this indie puzzle game, you lead Princess Ida through a series of mazes. Sounds straightforward, right? Think again. Those mazes are constructed from a series of optical illusions and seeming impossibilities, so it’s up to you to manipulate the world around the princess in order to conquer the mazes.
8. Animal Crossing: New Horizons
The long-awaited Nintendo Switch installment of the acclaimed Animal Crossing series is finally here — and it couldn’t have come at a more perfect time. As is the case with previous entries in the series, New Horizons is a nonlinear life simulation game that you play in real time. Translation: If you’re sheltering in place, you can get your everyday fix here.
7. Alto’s Adventure & Alto’s Odyssey
In an infinite-runner game, your goal is to dodge obstacles — which will otherwise instantly K.O. your character. Meanwhile, said character continuously moves through the level, leaving no time to pause. All those split-second decisions can end in frustration, especially for newcomers to the genre.
Abzû tells the story of a deep-sea diver who journeys through the ocean and, thanks to a magical spring, restores underwater life. The environments range from sea caverns and ancient ruins to coral gardens and sunlit swathes of open water. As you can see, every ounce of this cel-shaded world is gorgeous.
First-person adventure game Firewatch is part-relaxing and part-thrilling — a potentially perfect mix when you’re stuck inside. Taking place in 1989, the game centers on Henry, a man who takes a job as a fire lookout in Shoshone National Forest in the wake of his wife’s early onset dementia diagnosis.
4. Katamari Damacy
Back in 2004, Namco released Katamari Damacy — which translates to "clump of souls" — on the PlayStation 2. Since then, the third-person puzzle-action game has been rereleased on PS3 and on the Nintendo Switch. Bright, colorful and full-on weird in the best way, Katamari Damacy tells the story of a young prince who must rebuild the stars and moon after his father, the King of All Cosmos, destroys them in a drunken stupor.
3. Portal 2
Developed by Valve, the folks behind Half-Life and Team Fortress, puzzle-platformer Portal 2 is arguably their best title. The original Portal, which was just tossed into a compilation of games called The Orange Box, was a surprise runaway success, prompting Valve to create a standalone sequel.
In Journey, you control a robed figure who is traveling a vast desert, nearing a mountain that looms off in the distance. You can meet other players on your journey, but you cannot communicate with words — just a musical chime, which has the power to transform dull cloth into a shade of vibrant red. This mechanic also impacts the world around you and adds to the game’s progression.
1. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Hey, listen — The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild still places you firmly in the boots of a hero-in-training, but this game departs from the series’ long-running linear-style narrative and returns to the franchise’s open-world roots. Breath of the Wild encourages players to take their time and explore the breathtaking world around them. Better yet, experimentation is encouraged.