The 10 Chillest, Least Stabby Video Games of 2019

Something weird happened to me this year: I stopped wanting to murder things in video games. I’ve never been into super violent games and I’ve never liked games with guns (not even really GoldenEye for N64) — but I’ve always enjoyed a good dagger-stabbing or arrow to the knee, as long as persistent gore is turned off, and as long as the deaths are guys or creatures who were trying to kill me first. This year, though, things were so hard and dark in the real world that they weighed even heavier than usual on my tender heart and I wanted to play games that were light and ridiculous and that didn’t require me to gouge anyone with my sword. And so I made a list for you because maybe that’s the kind of year you’ve had too!


Lonely Mountains: Downhill

Without getting TOO real, I recently found out I have a spinal condition that might mean I won’t be able to ride my bike anymore, which is a grief I can’t put into words yet — but here’s a video game that lets me ride a bike! By myself! Down a hill! That’s it, that’s the game. You start at the top of a mountain or hill or incline and then you just have to make it to the bottom. It’s really cathartic, probably even if you don’t ride a bike in real life.


A Short Hike

Like Lonely Mountains: Downhill, the title really says it all: the whole point of this game is to go on a short hike to find phone service — but once you set out, an entire world opens up to you, full of beautiful places and lovely characters. There’s no right or wrong way to play. There’s no real repercussions for doing or not doing anything. You don’t even die if you fall off the edge of the world!


Islanders

It’s a civilization builder in which no one in your civilization can die! (Take that, Frostfall!) Islanders is simply a minimalist strategy game full of bright colors and chill music. It actually gave me ASMR every time I played it.


What the Golf

If you like puns and physics and absurdity, you should play What the Golf. It will make you laugh, I promise.


Pokémon Sword / Pokémon Shield

I honestly thought, at this point, Pokémon couldn’t do anything to surprise me! Well, I was wrong! Sword and Shield is all nostalgia, come to life in a brand new way. And it was the best thing going on Twitter this year, besides maybe Baby Yoda.


Sky: Children of the Light

You could actually forget you’re playing this game on your phone (which is the only place you can play it for now), is how good it is. It’s thatgamecompany’s follow-up to Journey, and it’s kind of the same thing. Sky: Children of the Light  is an adventure full of healing quests. There’s a multiplayer component, but you can only be nice. And dang, that’s a relief.


Kind Words

I’m not generally into multiplayers, but in this dear and gentle game, you write kind letters to other people and they write kind letters back to you, while you listen to “lo-fi chill beats.” You have to be weirdly vulnerable to play this game, and so do the people playing with you. It’s very moving.


Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening

and

New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe

After playing Link’s Awakening and New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe, I can honestly say I’d happily pay $60 a pop for Nintendo to remake all of my favorite GameBoy games from my youth. So much of it was so familiar! But also it felt brand new! And after the zillion hours I logged on Breath of the Wild, the simplicity was welcome.


Untitled Goose Game

The best video game of the year, hands down. HONK!


What were your favorite feel-good games of 2019?

Heather Hogan is an Autostraddle senior writer who lives in New York City with her partner, Stacy, and their cackle of rescued pets. She's a member of the Television Critics Association, the Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and a Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer critic. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Heather has written 942 articles for us.

8 Comments

  1. I loved Untitled Goose Game. The game I played the most this year was Beat Saber, though. Now that the Oculus Quest exists and is affordable and standalone, VR’s starting to get more popular, and there’s nothing like using lightsabers to slash colored blocks to a beat. Not only is it fun as hell, but playing it burns about as many calories as singles tennis!

  2. I just started playing Islanders and it’s great because it combines my two favourite types of game (building games and puzzle games)! This is not a 2019 game, but I have to put a pitch in here for The Witness for anyone who likes wandering around in pretty spaces solving puzzles.

    I never would have paid attention to a game with “Golf” in the title, but you sold me on puns, physics and absurdity. Will have to check that one out.

    So very sorry to hear about your condition. :(

  3. I love Pokemon Sword/Shield! I haven’t been able to play handhelds for a few years because of carpal tunnel, but the Switch on my TV is fine. I’ve missed Pokemon so much and I am so happy to play again. Not 2019 games, but I’m replaying Phoenix Wright, Stardew Valley, and Dragon Age Inquisition and really enjoying myself.

  4. Untitled Goose Game is a menace! It will teach our children Bad Morals! It will probably lead to the downfall of civilization!

    … but hearing my husband and my eight-year-old let loose identical cackles when they finally managed to make Goose dump a bucket on someone’s head or make the gardener buy his trowel back makes me think it’s all worth it.

    Also, honking into an empty bottle, a harmonica and a water pipe? Must be done. HONK!

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