Games that got us through tough times

Games for hard times
Image: Nintendo Life

As you may have seen on the internet, May is Mental Health Awareness Month. While much of the stigma surrounding the issue has receded, the issues and challenges remain in all sections of society. During this month there are efforts to promote support, understanding and knowledge around the topic.

There are different ways to improve and maintain mental health, from the basics like regular exercise and a healthy diet, to more complex treatments and support. Yet on a smaller scale, other joys can help us deal with some difficult times that life throws at us, be it a favorite book, movie, or of course, a game. Part of the reason we play games is the joy they bring by providing escapism, emotional connection, or just plain light-hearted and colorful fun.

In this article, some members of our team talk about the games that are old favourites, the kind of titles we turn to when we need a boost in tough times.

Image: Capcom

Gavin Lane, Editor

While various games have helped me get through tough times at one point or another, I’ll go with the double win of Okami on Wii and Fable 2 on 360.

It was the late 2000s and I was living alone in London and was feeling down for one reason or another (well, a specific reason that ties into a bunch of others, but I won’t bore you with the details – it is a story as old as time!) and I found I wanted to bring some color to a very gray time in my life.

Whether this pair of brilliant games really helped me or not, I’m not sure – real changes only came after I’d moved away and re-evaluated things over many years to get a proper perspective and really feel better – but I made my way through both games The quick succession felt like a chance to stop and catch my breath at the time. Each offered soft humor and impossibly beautiful worlds to slip into, and as I think back, my mind is filled with rich, warm memories from a time I have very few of.

Minecraft image
Image: Mojang/Microsoft

Kate Gray, Staff Writer

The year was 2020, etc etc etc. It was a tough time as the title suggests – even tougher due to a long distance relationship not being able to travel to see each other. So we decided to take our relationship to the obvious next step: Minecraft!

I tend to focus on games when going through a difficult period of mental health and seek comfort in the familiar. As a result, our Minecraft sessions were frequent and long. Pretty much every night we would both hop onto our shared server and either embark on long adventures to the bottom of the ocean or the nether or we would focus on building our little mountain home while having a discord call together.

Soon the house was no longer small – instead it was a sprawling farm full of animals that I had carefully guided home, and inside there was both a fish tank and an aquarium and a bee aquarium (at my insistence). But once we had all the modcons, we realized that we should start over, using all of our acquired knowledge to create something bigger, better, and better suited to our needs (like a gigantic save system).

This is our pet arctic fox Popcorn. He is tied up because he is desperate to escape
This is our pet arctic fox Popcorn. He is tied up because he is desperate to escape

A few hundred miles later we found a small nook between two mountains next to a tundra village that had a huge cave system underneath (unfortunately the village was later abandoned after we forgot to protect the villagers). We’ve built an underground palace complete with everything a human needs: a magic room, a subway, and a large tubular room with a fishpond window at the top.

It was really nice to forget the problems of the real world by immersing myself in the virtual world of Minecraft, and it’s a game I return to frequently to calm myself. It’s not a simple game, but it’s mechanically quite simple and repetitive in a way that’s quite reassuring. Also, it’s pretty easy to go several hours without realizing it, which has helped break the lockdown much faster. And now me and my partner live together! In real life!!! courting!!!!!!!

Whenever we want, we can visit this world we have created together and remember difficult times – and be grateful for the healing power of time. And Minecraft.

Xenoblade Chronicles
Image: Nintendo / MONOLITHSOFT

Alana Hughes, staff writer

Looking back, it’s odd to call this a “rough time” out of the many bouts of unrest I’ve had, but by the time I started college, I needed Xenoblade Chronicles. I have impostor syndrome and it was particularly bad at uni. I thought I wasn’t good enough to be there, to the point where I would struggle to talk to people and shut myself in. But the stunningly beautiful world of Xenoblade taught me otherwise.

Just the fact of going through each location, finding a new secret, defeating a unique monster, or sometimes something as small as helping a villager confess their love made me feel like I could actually accomplish something, and it helped me gain confidence and put myself out there a little bit more. I also have a soft spot for Shulk – a kid who can see into the future and ends up saving the world, among other things, but accepts his responsibilities and overcomes his fears and doubts with the help of his friends.

Xenoblade came to the rescue again in early summer 2021. Earlier that year I had lost my grandmother and the year before both of the family’s dogs and I fell into a pretty bad depression. One evening I booted up the Definitive Edition and just launched myself into the world. The Makna Forest and the Eryth Sea swallowed my worries and I felt weightless for just a few hours. I did this for a few nights and it helped me get through some sleepless, anxiety filled nights.

I’m quite a firm believer that video games can help you and teach you things about yourself. Celeste helped me understand my anxiety disorder and Florence helped me acknowledge that life is full of love and heartbreak. So I’m sure video games will continue to be a good force in my life and hopefully at some point I can be consistently kinder to myself.

Resident Evil 4
Image: Capcom

Ollie Reynolds, staff writer

It’s funny how we view certain media based on the context in which they were consumed. For example, I can’t imagine re-watching the 2000 comedy Bedazzled without getting sick. Why? Not because it’s goddamn it, but because I saw it in my little closet in 2004 when I found out my parents were separating.

Thinking back on that year, a lot of it feels fuzzy, and I’m pretty sure I’ve intentionally erased a lot of it from my memory in the years since. However, I do remember that there were two very specific mediums that I was drawn to. The first was Green Day’s american idiot Album: I listened to it constantly and learned almost every song from it on my cheap, cheap guitar.

The second was Resident Evil 4 (yes, it came out in 2005, but it’s close enough to count) which I just completed obsessed With. I beat the game multiple times within the first year of its release and flushed the additional mini-game “Mercenaries” – I couldn’t stop. I started speedrunning before I even realized that speedrunning was something people do; I just did it for pure love.

Needless to say, running around blasting the heads off infected ganados was cathartic for me at a time when I was feeling particularly hurt and angry. I was surrounded by family and friends who of course helped me along the way, but Resident Evil 4 was my sanctuary, my comfort blanket. A lot of people joke about how many times it’s been re-released over the years, but for me, the more the better. Resident Evil REmake is my favorite game of all time, but Resident Evil 4 comes in a close second, and for good reason.

sound 2
Image: SEGA

Thomas Whitehead, Associate Editor

In my case, I focus on today and times when I might be overtired (sometimes I’m a abominable sleeper) or depressed about something. Sometimes I have little micro periods where I’m down, a few days where absolutely everything is a big effort but the only choice is to keep going.

I often revert to shorter games that either give me a boost for favorite games or nostalgia. In recent years, a go-to place for Switch has been Sayonara Wild Hearts, a wonderful “pop album” experience; After completing the stages, you’ll unlock Album mode, which allows you to play through the stages without interruption. That’s really the intended path, and I like to put on headphones, sit in my favorite armchair, and just immerse myself in a playthrough. Not only is the music and graphics amazing, but the story is touching – it’s a memorable journey.

My other choice requires charging and booting up my 3DS – Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (I know it’s on Switch too, but the 3D version is awesome). This is more about nostalgia as it was my favorite game as a kid and it’s still in my top 5. Again, this is something I can play through in a couple of hours if I can find a quiet spot and headphones. It’s sublime Sonic, full of classic levels; If I ever want a more immediate option, I can launch Sonic Mania on Switch.

These are some games that we turn to when we need a lift, as you can see they vary in genre and style. Of course, that’s one of the great things about games – let us know in the comments which games you value the most during tough times. Games that got us through tough times

Fry Electronics Team

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