Comfort Games

Everyone knows about comfort foods; the foods you love for the nostalgia or convenience, for their just downright comforting nature. While there are definitely cultural indicators about exactly what food an individual considers comfort food; what your mother (or whoever did the cooking in you childhood home) cooked most often or best is likely to be one of them. My mom makes some great chili, but that is beside the point of this post. My thoughts are about comfort games.

I have found that, like food, there are games that have certain emotional effects. It is not all nostalgia, but that is a certainly a major influence. This is the case for the NES Mega Man games and River City Ransom. However, there are quite a few games that I never played as a child that I would call a comfort game. Games like Harvest Moon or the Dragon Quest series.

Comfort games don’t necessarily overlap with ones favorite games, at least not entirely. Liking the game is definitely essential. I do like all the games I’ve previously mentioned, but they are not necessarily my favorites. But I find comfort games to be relaxing, or … comforting, and that is not necessarily true for some of my favorite games. I love the Persona games and Etrian Odyssey, but I don’t consider them comfort games. They are too challenging, too hostile. They are actively trying to defeat the player, while most of the games I put in this entirely-made-up-by-me-just-now category tend to fall more in the sandbox style, giving the player a world to explore but letting them choose their own pace.

The games that I most often use as comfort games are Mega Man 2 and 3. While they definitely fall into the category of challenging, though I would say not quite hostile, I have played them so many times at this point that I know the games back to front. The stage choosing options always give the option for some kind of challenge, but these are games that I know. This is definitely a nostalgia pick, Mega Man was my childhood. When I think of how a 2D action game should play, I think of Mega Man. No game quite makes me feel at home like Mega Man 3.

One that I did not play until later that fits is Harvest Moon. Specifically Harvest Moon 64, which I played long after I had a Gamecube. It is a nostalgic throwback to a way of life I have never known, but the rote completion of daily tasks I find to be perfectly relaxing. Harvest Moon gets away with subverting something nearly every other game does. Most games let you do something you couldn’t in real life, like fight aliens or play professional football, but that given the option you most likely would. Harvest Moon has player do task that they would most likely balk at in real life. Harvest Moon is just perfectly “homey.”

Last but not least is Mr. Driller. Though it plays like an old-school arcade game, Mr. Driller is not actually that old. But I find it to be very relaxing. There is a certain element of repetition in comfort games. They don’t require perfect concentration, just a vague, relaxed awareness. If I was expecting to get high scores in Mr. Driller I would need to focus, but just playing the game is good enough. I can zone out and just relax.

Those are 3 (okay, really 4) games that I would call comfort games. Does anyone else have any? Any games that are purely relaxing or remind you of home? Has anyone else thought about this in a more considered or articulate fashion? Tell me what games are comfort games for you.

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