I really don’t like college-centric websites. For some reason college-aged people seem to always be the dumbest when it comes to advertising, and they never seem to realize that when a site is like “Hey, here’s a list of some of the baddest-ass movies of the year! It’s targeted to males in your age demographic, 18-24! Additionally, here is more information from our sponsors, Maxim and Budweiser! We’re sure you will find them relevant and have a positive reaction to them, then consume the products advertised!” I don’t like to play into that, and honestly, I don’t find those kinds of sites interesting. I’ve always liked stuff that is, I guess, a “demographic” ahead of mine. When I was a little kid I tended to like stuff targeted to high schoolers, liked college-age stuff in middle school, so on and so forth. If the world targeted ads specifically to me I’d be seeing ads for Werther’s Originals and NCIS by now.
That said, I am actually in college. And right now, I’m entering the last week of school before finals. I know a lot of my readers are too, and they’re probably as stressed as I am. Actually, they’re probably more stressed than I am, because the classes I’m taking this semester are actually exceedingly easy. Still, there are a couple of worries on my mind, and with my busy schedule (I.E. school, work, and Lost), it’s kind of hard to chill out sometimes. That’s why I maintain internal lists of the best ways I’ve found to relax. And, like so many other things in my life, most of those things are video games. So, for my fellow college-aged gamers, check out this list of the best ways to chill out, max, and relax all cool. And, while you’re doing so, enjoy the crisp, refreshing taste of a cold Bud Light Golden Wheat, new from Budweiser.
#5 – Harvest Moon Series (SNES and pretty much every system since)
The Harvest Moon series, in addition to being one of the most underhandedly addictive game series ever made, is also incredibly relaxing. It’s possibly the only game for which being repetitive is a positive attitude. Later games did a lot to curb the repetitive nature of the game, but truth be told, I still prefer the first three games in the series. They kept it simple, nothing but planting crops, feeding chickens, picking mushrooms, and trying to park it in your girl’s nappy dug out. Harvest Moon is also one of the few game for which a challenge that prevents you from accomplishing anything makes you chill out even more: when it rains, there’s really not anything you can do on the farm other than feed your animals. If you try to do too much outside, you’ll get sick. So you can just say hi to your woman, drop some seed for your animals, and go to sleep. Not only is it nice to have a break in which you don’t have to do anything, but the music stops and is replaced with digitized rain. As weird as it is, there is nothing I love more than 16-bit rain sound, maybe not even the sound of real rain. Something about the sturdy rhythm and constant volume. Or maybe I’m just a nerd who prefers his nostalgic fantasy world to reality.
Anyway, even though they’re incredibly repetitive, Harvest Moon games have a ludicrous amount of depth. There’s simply nothing more reassuring than knowing that, even after you finish all the day’s work, you’re going to wake up and have plenty to do the next day. Plus, in some of the games, there’s not even a real end. You can just keep playing forever, literally until it is not possible to have more money. Plus, your dog or cat is adorable. And adorable animals are key to relaxing.
#4 – Simcity (Plenty of platforms, but particularly the one for the SNES)
Simcity was the defining casual game of the 90s. Before Bejeweled, Wii Sports, and the Sims, all of your non-gamer relatives played Simcity. It’s easy to see why; it’s extremely accessible, intuitive, and, perhaps most importantly, has a goal that is somehow both clear and vaguely defined. Obviously, you’re supposed to build a city and manage it as well as possible, but how you do it – and your definition of well-managed – are completely up to you. You want to be at the beck-and-call of your people? Fine, try to keep up with their increasingly ridiculous requests. Big fan of pollution? Build 50 coal power plants and watch everyone slowly die of blacklung. Want to watch 200,000 people die at your hand? Use your godlike control over the weather to destroy your entire town. It really doesn’t matter what you do; whatever it is, it’s never the least bit stressful. The SNES version, which I don’t see how anyone could think is anything less than the best version (by far), is even more relaxing. Something about the music and slightly-bland graphics make it the perfect exercise in casual gaming.
Also, the SNES version had Dr. Wright, so fuck every other version.
#3 – Mario Paint (SNES)
I can’t believe there hasn’t been anything like Mario Paint, before or since. Mario Paint is the epic story of an Italian plumber with a magic paintbrush, a paintbrush capable of destroying great empires with a single stroke. He uses this paintbrush to enslave the world and destroy anyone who stands in his path.
Seriously, though, Mario Paint is fun as shit. I’ve always felt like it deserved a sequel. I mean, it got one, but it was only released in Japan, and only for the 64DD, the unreleased (in America) disk drive for the N64. And I guess Warioware DIY is kinda like it. But I digress.
There isn’t a whole lot I can really say about it, because it’s just drawing, coloring, writing music (50 Cent said he got his start making songs in Mario Paint!), and swatting flies. So, here’s a series of pictures I made in Mario Paint.
(Sigh. I swear I’ll draw you guys some stuff as soon as I can figure out how to get my fucking SNES emulator for the Mac to accept that, when I tell it to use the mouse, I actually mean to use the mouse, not to just disable the controller. Check back soon; I swear it’ll be hilarious.)
#2 – Wave Race 64 (…)
Wave Race 64 is absolutely gorgeous. Even now, when most games of its era are seen as blocky and hideously oversaturated, it’s still very satisfying to look at. It’s not really technically impressive, I suppose, it’s just that the color schemes that were chosen are so pretty and fun to look at that it literally calms you down. Something about the look of the game just forms a visual opiate. Another big part of the chill factor is the music. Imagine every lame infomercial, every stupid radio ad, every call center hold time you’ve ever experienced. Think of the music from all of those things, then think of what they would sound like if they were good. That is Wave Race 64′s soundtrack. It’s just lo-fi enough to make the lame easy-listening qualities of this kind of music null, and just well-synthesized enough to be relaxing. I really can’t say enough about how much I love this soundtrack. So, as a substitute for my semi-witty commentary, I’m going to OFFER IT FOR DOWNLOAD, in MP3 format. TECHNOLOGY!
In addition to all of this, the game is extremely fun, with a lot of depth. Not only that, but no matter how hard it gets, it is never frustrating. I think that’s a big part of being relaxing; it can’t just be completely non-challenging, but it can’t make you mad either. Games like Super Ghouls n’ Ghosts or Burnout, yeah, those are supposed to piss you off. That’s how they get you to keep coming back: infuriating you to the point of trying to literally kill the game. But if you want to relax, something can’t keep pissing you off. That’s why the only people who play games on Xbox Live to relax are state-certified lunatics.
#1 – Pilotwings 64 (Tiger Game.Com)
Pilotwings 64 is the absolute pinnacle of relaxation. No piece of media, anywhere, ever, has been as relaxing as this game. I can literally sit and play this game and lose, repeatedly, and still completely feel awesome. The original Pilotwings for the SNES was great, and pretty relaxing in its own right, but it doesn’t even come close to this game. Pilotwings 64 has a perfect blend of great music, great gameplay, and great graphics that have the same effect as getting a massage in a sauna while eating your favorite homemade stress remedy (I.E. Prozac pie).
What made Pilotwings so much more relaxing than every other game on this list is that, as far as I can tell, it was actually made to be relaxing. It is, in effect, a sightseeing game, but to keep from having the screensaver-esque qualities that “sightseeing game” usually entails, there are actually several specific goals that keep the game fun.
Actually, Pilotwings 64 is so relaxing, that I think it’s made this article less funny. Ordinarily I try to wedge jokes in sideways where ever they’ll fit, but before writing this I played the game, and before I knew it, I had spent a whole hour on it, and when I was finished, I didn’t feel any pressure to make jokes. If you wanna laugh at stuff, that’s cool, it’s your call man. I’m just gonna chill out over here. So, I guess if the game has one flaw, it’s that it makes you less funny. Kind of like watching a Police Academy movie.
I could go on and on about how soothing this game is, but nothing can sum it up like a video. Make sure to turn your sound on for full effect.
Feeling better now? You should be.