What exactly makes a game cozy? Is it the player’s state of mind while playing? Is it an adherence to specific aesthetics or messages? Is it the inclusion of birds? Well, you might be forgiven for thinking it’s the last one, because at least ten of the games on this list are about birds specifically, but the idea of a “cozy” game is a bit more nebulous than that.
It’s more of a feeling, really: a game that you can relax to, that can be challenging but never punishing, with elements of friendship, community, and kindness. But not always — some “cozy” games (like a certain game about a bad goose) are more about letting the player go a little bit wild, but always in a way that’s gentler and less severe than chopping people’s heads off in a Dark Souls or a Witcher game.
Without further ado, here we are: the bestest coziest games on the Nintendo Switch.
Publisher: Humble Games / Developer: Witch Beam
The multi-award-winning Unpacking sounds simple: take stuff out of boxes, put it in the house you just moved into. However, the interactions with the items you own and the rooms you’re unpacking into are surprisingly — forgive the pun — moving. It’s a charming little experience that’s perfect for winding down after a long day.
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Publisher: Whippoorwill / Developer: Adam Robinson-Yu
A Short Hike has a lot of the hallmarks of a great cozy indie game: talking animals, a message about stopping to smell the roses, and the kind of soundtrack that you want to listen to in the bath. It’s just downright lovely.
For a game that’s nominally about a “short hike” up a mountain (to get reception on your phone), A Short Hike becomes about a lot more quite quickly, whether that’s finding secrets, helping people out, or just exploring the world on your way up (and down, and back up again).
There’s plenty of joyful, wonderful moments to be discovered in A Short Hike, but the best one of all is when you realise that the journey is sometimes more important than the destination.
Publisher: Panic / Developer: House House
What do you think of when we say the word “cozy”? Is it a little family of pigs, wearing knitted jumpers? Perhaps it’s an anthropomorphic fox drinking tea? Well, you’re all wrong. The most cozy thing is a horrible goose terrorising a village with a chaotic accompanying classical piano soundtrack.
You already know Untitled Goose Game, most likely, since it went very viral when it came out, but in case you haven’t already played it, it’s all about a naughty goose who loves stealing things and honking loudly. It’s daft, silly fun, with a lot of wonderful moments that emerge out of the goose’s antics, like making a man fall down by stealing his chair, or trapping a child in a phone box.
Honestly, Untitled Goose Game’s humour is what sets it apart: it’s the kind of game that’s all about gentle pranks and being very, very annoying, but no one really gets hurt or becomes the real butt of the joke.
Publisher: Team 17 / Developer: Villa Gorilla
Bugs in pinball might sound more like a job for the vacuum cleaner than a video game, but hear us out: Yoku’s Island Express is one of the most hidden-est gems on the Nintendo Switch. You’re a lil beetle, and you need to deliver post; what better way to do it than to fling yourself around the map in a pinball-puzzle-platformer game?
Along the way, you’ll learn about the inhabitants of the island, their various secrets, and best of all, you’ll find that size is no limit when you’re heart’s big enough for the task.
No bugs were harmed in the making of this game.
Publisher: Secret Mode / Developer: Max Inferno
Similar to Unpacking, but with its own twist, A Little To The Left is all about rearranging objects in your house just so. This means stacking papers in size order, books in height order, and lining up game cartridges perfectly. It’s satisfying to make things look nice and organised, and ALTTL nails that feeling.
Publisher: Nintendo / Developer: Nintendo
At a very specifically not-cozy time in our lives — the beginning of a global pandemic — Animal Crossing: New Horizons came out, and soothed a lot of our worries away with its candy-coloured, animal-befriending holiday island.
Sure, you can play ACNH in a number of different ways, a lot of which are stressful — like trying to collect all the pieces of furniture, terraforming your village, or visiting deserted island after deserted island to try and find Marshal because you NEED him on your island… but at the end of the day, it’s a game all about relaxation, making friends, decorating houses, and placing flowers in a cute little garden that you designed.
With the co-op features, it gets even cozier, as you can welcome people to your island in order to trade, show off your designs, or just hang out in the lovely Museum. If only life were this simple.
Publisher: PiD / Developer: Ustwo Games
From the makers of Monument Valley comes Alba: A Wildlife Adventure, a charming little bird-watching, animal-identifying, squirrel-washing game that’s all about saving the wildlife in a cute little pastel town.
The titular Alba is partaking in an “island cleanup initiative”, which involves rescuing critters, picking up trash, and literally cleaning up puddles of toxic goop. There are plenty of townspeople to talk to as well, including your grandparents, who you’ll be staying with. Alba can also take photos of the animals she sees, so just like real life, your phone will be stuffed with pics of tiny, round birbs.
Developer UsTwo Games call Alba a “chillectathon”, and that’s what you can expect: despite its rather ominous environmental message, it’s a very calm and relaxing game.
Publisher: Nintendo / Developer: Nintendo
We’re not trying to sound smug or anything, but we liked Toads way before it was cool. Years of being teased for picking the lil mushroom guy in Mario Kart 64, and we never stopped believing. Now that the best Toad of all — Captain Toad — has his own game, we feel vindicated.
Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker is a neat little puzzle game that’s just unnecessarily pretty, with 3D vignettes that you can rotate around to find secrets and solutions. On the Nintendo Switch, there are even more puzzles to muddle your way through, plus multiplayer Toad mayhem, if you fancy it.
What with Toads being significantly smaller and very much rounder than our usual Mario-shaped hero, everything in Treasure Tracker is at least 200% cuter. What’s not to love?
Publisher: ConcernedApe / Developer: ConcernedApe
Who among us hasn’t dreamed of sacking it all in and going to work on a farm? Think about it: instead of emails, you get fresh strawberries. Instead of deadlines, it’s all about crop rotation. And instead of having to go on some terrible dating app, you just give someone an egg every day until they love you.
Stardew Valley is all about taking life slow, but don’t let that fool you into thinking it’s easy — there’s plenty of depth to be found, including the literal depth of the mines, which are stuffed with hazards, traps, monsters, and TREASURE.
Also, you can get really into making your farm as efficient as possible… or you can just turn it into a pig paradise, if you want. It’s up to you!
Publisher: Skybound Games / Developer: Manavoid Entertainment
Rainbow Billy: The Curse of the Leviathan may have a terrifying title, but the game shines a light on the universally relatable questions of identity, self-discovery, mental wellbeing and accepting ourselves for who we are. Rainbow Billy stars an “everyday hero,” Billy — who’s just a regular kid looking to have a positive impact by bringing joy and colour back to the world and helping friends find the courage to be their true selves.
The game hopes to inspire players that we can all be everyday heroes and that positive changes begins with us being able to positively impact and influence the world around us. Games like Animal Crossing are rooted in a wholesome vibe, but Rainbow Billy’s values of empathy, compassion, inclusivity and friendship are in every part of the game, from the story and visuals, all the way down to the mechanics.
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