The Rise of “Cozy Games”

I have never considered myself much of a “gamer”, but in hindsight I have been an avid player of videogames since I was a young child. I got my first Nintendo DS at 8 years old, I played on the Wii throughout all of middle school and even into high school, and I was able to save up and get my own Switch in 2019. Video games have been a salient part of my life for a really long time, so why have I never considered myself a true gamer?

In retrospect, it’s because I never played what I saw as “real games” – competitive and typically combative games like Call of Duty or Overwatch. I have always played less competitive games like Nintendogs, Cooking Mama, and Animal Crossing, which gave me the lesser title of “casual gamer”. My younger self, along with most of the gaming community, traditionally viewed these games as less serious than more combative ones, therefore my experience with videogames felt insignificant in comparison. But over the past few years, these games that I have always loved have seriously risen in popularity and even gained a more complementary genre title – Cozy Games.

Cozy Games don’t require a lot of mental energy or competition to succeed, and in fact are typically designed to be relaxing. These games face a lot of scrutiny from the larger gaming community because players typically can’t “win” these games. But it’s impossible to ignore the misogyny wrapped up in the perception of cozy games, as these games are typically more popular with women and feminine people. Videogames have historically been a male-dominated hobby, which is why more aggressive games have the reputation of being better than more casual ones. To be clear, I have no problem with competitive/combative videogames, in fact I play a few myself, but where I take issue is the rhetoric in the gaming community that reduces cozy games to a lower value than violent games because they are viewed as more feminine.

My main point is that people who prefer cozy games belong in the gaming community just as much as more competitive players. Cozy games are for everyone, and I believe their rise in popularity can be attributed to the collective need for a peaceful escape from the world we’re all living in. Staying tapped in to current events can be exhausting and distressing, so playing a game with violence or high-stress scenarios is not nearly as cathartic as designing a cute little island or exploring beautiful landscapes and solving puzzles. Watching the rise of cozy games as a valid gaming genre has allowed me to connect more deeply with the gaming community, and isn’t connection what we all need most right now?

Okay, now that I’ve stepped off my soapbox, here’s my list of top cozy games for the Nintendo Switch (all of these except for Animal Crossing are also available on PC):

  1. Animal Crossing: New Horizons (above left) – develop an island town with cute animal neighbors!
  2. Stardew Valley (above right) – manage a farm, connect with townspeople, and discover magical secrets!
  3. Spiritfarer (below left) – Build your boat and set sail to to help spirits cross to “the other side”!
  4. AER: Memories of Old (below right) – transform into a bird and fly around a floating kingdom to solve ancient puzzles!
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