Games To Play For Better Mental Health Understanding
Mental health is important and the past few years have not made taking care of ourselves easy. For those looking for a journey to dive into for positive mental health through a more thorough understanding, here are just a few suggestions that I think could help/ Whether it is anxiety, depression, or anything else that can impede mental health, games are a solid way to help cope and they also can be an escape when needed. For this list, I just wanted to offer a variety of games to choose from that can tackle different areas of mental health in a meaningful and impactful way.
While not all of the picks are heavy, there are a few that dive into dark themes to truly explore areas usually considered “taboo” when discussing mental health. Feelings of loneliness, anxiety and other turbulent mental experiences are expressed through several of the below titles.
Florence | Loss
Florence is a beautiful story that centers around a character that feels stuck, a feeling most of us have related to at one time or another. Florence’s life changes when she meets a cello player named Krish as he helps her see the world through an entirely new lens, as well as how she sees herself.
This game is a perfect journey to begin no matter what, but it has especially helped me when I went through a major loss and life shift. Letting go, finding who you are, and embracing the random that is life; Florence is a gem that feels real and magical while remaining rooted to a reality that is a truth for so many. Things end, but things are always beginning, and this game is a great reminder of that.
Actual Sunlight | Depression
This is a game that has very guttural moments and because of that, can often be difficult to play. This is a story about love and depression and the narrative does little to shy away from either of those topics. For those struggling with depression, this is a relatable experience that can help find connection. That being said, I do want to warn you that it has an incredibly heartbreaking resolution and the themes presenting in Actual Sunlight are heavy and on the nose.
That Dragon, Cancer | Grieving
That Dragon, Cancer has won many awards and for good reason. Based on a true story of how one family struggled with cancer, resounding loss, and the stages of grief.
When this game came out, I lost someone very close to me. Playing through this helped me grieve, but it was no easy fix. That Dragon will not suddenly cure that feeling of loss, instead it allows the player to humbly and honestly deal with it. It will make you cry, it will make you process, and in the end? It will help.
Hidden Folks | Anxiety and Depression
Hidden Folks has a unique hand-drawn art style that is honestly very easy to get lost in. While not a narratively-focused game like some of the picks above, this is a good game to help decompress and hone down anxiety.
With Hidden Folks, you will interact with the in-game environment to uncover targets, each with unique interactions and results. This game helps focus the mind, hone in on one particular task, and helps give your mental health a chance to reset, even if just for a little bit.
While I’d argue that this is also good for depression as a side effect for what it does for anxiety, I’d say the primary reward from this particular journey is how it eases those anxious feelings and circling thoughts.
Night in the Woods | Variety
Night in the Woods doesn’t just target one aspect of mental health. It tackles psychological disorders like bipolar, it helps by soothing depression, and it helps players even learn new things about the current state they are in.
Less obvious than that of Actual Sunlight and That Dragon, Cancer, Night in the Woods’ magic lies in its subtly. The story is breathtakingly beautiful because of its honesty. Not every character is happy, not every character has all of the answers, but the shared experience found in living, in pain, and in learning is so raw that it will touch you in ways you might not expect.
There are characters you will relate to realistically, there are characters that will make you confront aspects about your current state of mind. Night in the Woods is a rare gem that is stunning in its message while keeping that messaging open to all. You will get what you need out of this game.
An Aspie Life | Autism
An Aspie Life hits home for me on a very personal level. While I don’t have autism, my husband does, and seeing the world through his eyes is beautiful, but seeing how some people few autism itself is heartbreaking.
Autism is a very wide spectrum, which can often make it hard to diagnose. With so many different ways it can impact a person’s perception of the world and how they interact with it, An Aspie Life does a wonderful job at humanizing against the negative stigma that autism has.
This story will toss you out into the world all of the sudden, all alone. Through the lens of someone with autism, this story will have you navigate the beauty and the not-so-comfy aspects of the world outside. “Just because you have it,” the game’s official description reads, “doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy life. Some things can be harder to do, but you can do some incredible things as well.”
This is a wonderful experimental adventure game that can be a very soothing and empowering experience for those with autism, while also being a phenomenal empathic experience for those that seek to learn more.
Gris | Loss and Depression
Gris is another award-winning title and one of those mind-blowing experiences that stays with you long after the end credits roll. In this story, you will become a hopeful young girl named Gris who is suddenly at a loss in her life following a traumatic experience.
As this tale progresses, you will see Gris grow continuously in a way that is stunning and heartbreaking at the same time. This is an emotional ride, but one that will leave you feeling purged, refreshed, and hopeful for what is next.
There are so many incredible games out there that can help ease pressures on mental health while also helping to learn how to navigate those imposed roadblocks. Other amazing adventures worth checking out include games like Celeste, Animal Crossing: New Horizons, Stardew Valley, Hollow Knight; just to name a few.
If you feel like everything is a little too much, please don’t hesitate to reach out for help. If things get particularly dark, there is always a resource available. To learn more about the tools to help you when you need them the most, visit here to learn more about how you can take care of your mental health needs and call on help in those darkest moments.
Please note that this article was originally posted at Game Informer when I was employed there. Please support the site by checking out the original article here.