The best cozy games to play right now

The best cozy games to play right now

“Cozy games” are a huge phenomenon right now, because at the end of the day, who doesn’t like being cozy? While some games focus on visceral combat or thrilling narratives, cozy games often focus on creating a comfortable or fulfilling place for players to hang out. Instead of swinging a sword or slaying foes, players can focus on creating the perfect flower bed, or befriending the kind golem next door.

Coziness is still a subjective experience, and the finer differences in a game can make or break immersion. Some people love to fish, whereas I find it to be one of the most stressful things a game can include. We’ve rounded up a list of the coziest games around beyond Stardew Valley and Animal Crossing: New Horizons (we figured you’ve played those, if you’re here), so you can pick your particular flavor of comfort. If you’re looking to relax, unwinding with any of these games is a fine choice.

A Little to the Left

An organizational tray with batteries scattered around it in A Little to the Left. Image: Max Inferno/Secret Mode via Polygon

Where to play: Mac, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Windows PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X

A Little to the Left is a puzzle game about organizing household items. It’s inherently satisfying while also being low-stakes, making it a perfect game to play when you’re looking for something cozy. The puzzles are stuff like organizing tools, removing labels from fruits, and stacking books — all while keeping an eye on a mischievous cat doing cat things. —Nicole Carpenter

A Short Hike

a humanoid bird stands in front of a pixel campfire in A Short Hike Image: Adam Robinson-Yu

Where to play: Mac, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Windows PC, Xbox One

Despite its name being an accurate description of its offering — it clocks in at just a few hours before the credits roll — A Short Hike stands as tall as the mountain you’re summiting in the pantheon of cozy gaming classics. This 2017 charmer from developer Adam Robinson-Yu helped ignite the cozy game craze and, for me at least, really “peaked” (haha) my interest in shorter games as a format. You play as a young bird on summer vacation on an island, tasked with reaching the summit to take an important phone call. Over the course of your short hike, you’ll meet friends, take on quests, and generally just hang out. Rendered in big chunky pixels and viewed from an isometric camera, A Short Hike leaves a dreamlike impression of long summer days, childhood anxieties, and the thrill of autonomy. My only criticism is that, like all core memories, I can’t go back and experience it anew. —Chris Grant

Coral Island

Happy residents celebrate a wedding in Coral Island Image: Stairway Games/Humble Games

Where to play: PlayStation 5, Windows PC, Xbox Series X

Cozy gaming always includes farming sims, and there are very many out there (most chasing the glory that is Stardew Valley). Coral Island doesn’t seek to reinvent the formula, but expands it. The basic gameplay mechanics are familiar: you farm, you fish, you mine. But you also explore an underwater kingdom full of merfolk and the town events all have a Southeast Asian flair to them, like mooncakes at the Harvest Festival. Also, there are so many gorgeous, datable characters. —Petrana Radulovic


An aerial view of Dorfromantik’s ever expanding world Image: Toukana Interactive

Where to play: Nintendo Switch, Windows PC

“Dorfromantik” is a German word, expressing a kind of aching nostalgia for the countryside, and Toukana Interactive’s game is like a peaced-out Catan — a game about placing hexagonal tiles with no goal other than to make pretty maps of forests, winding rivers, jolly towns, and patchwork fields. There’s no economy or tech tree to worry about, no population making demands of you; it’s just you, searching for harmony in the growing landscape. But as aimlessly cozy as that sounds, and as tasteful as the pastel shades of its seasonal changes are, Dorfromantik is an exquisite, hard-edged design that blends the best of strategy and puzzle gaming, and finds a perfect balance between mental challenge and mindfulness. —Oli Welsh


A small fishing boat pulled up on an island in Dredge. Image: Black Salt Games/Team17

Where to play: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Windows PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X

If you like your coziness with a little bit of horror, Dredge is for you. The fishing mechanic is a bit of a rhythm game, and generally satisfying when you reel up the fish you want. You play as a fisherman exploring a mysterious cluster of islands. It seems pretty straightforward during the day, but when night falls, creepier and creepier things begin to happen. There are sea monsters, a strange occultist, and corrupted fish. Each area of the map offers different challenges, like navigating windy mangroves and speeding your boat away from vicious creatures, and while each is super beautiful, there’s also an eerie undertone to it all… But fishing is so relaxing! I understand why grandpas love it so much. —PR

Lil Gator Game

The eponymous Gator in Lil Gator Game speaks to a gazelle near a campfire Image: MegaWobble/Playtonic Games

Where to play: Mac, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Windows PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X

I suppose you could describe Lil Gator Game as Baby’s First Zelda, except I’m the baby and I’ve (exhaustively) played every Zelda game since 1986. But Lil Gator Game hits different, unencumbered by the very complexity that makes a Zelda game so satisfying. In its place is a pared down, speedrun version: a concentrated, potent play cocktail that finds you, the titular little gator, in the woods with friends trying to drum up some adventure… if only to relive your memories of playing with your big sister, home from school and too busy to play. This framing — of nostalgia and play — is a perfect mirror for the emotions you’re likely to run through as you explore the island, smash cardboard “enemies,” and take on quests for your friends. Very few games have captured this feeling of play for me, which makes Lil Gator Game an easy recommendation, and a game I return to more often than you’d think. —CG


Einar, the fishing golem in Kilima Valley, happily fishes with a player character at the bright and cheerful Fisherman’s Lagoon. Image: Singularity 6

Where to play: Free to play on Nintendo Switch, Windows PC

Palia is a game in which humanity has re-emerged into a mysterious and magical world. Each player is given their own homestead near Kilima Valley, a bustling village full of friendly elves and odd golems. As the player settles into their new home, they pick up a variety of skills: bug catching, hunting, gardening, furniture building, cooking, and foraging. It’s easy to fall into a comfortable rhythm with Palia: exploring the world by day and building up the homestead by night.

One of Palia’s biggest strengths is developer Singularity 6’s regular update schedule. Since launch, the developer has added a new villager, a regular festival, elemental temples, flowers, and more. It feels like the world is evolving in response to all the humans showing up. While I enjoy the game for its cozy vibes, I also get the sense that Singularity 6 is building up to something bigger, and it’s very cool to see these new changes. —Cass Marshall

Sea of Thieves on Safer Seas mode

A Captain rams an enemy ship in Sea of Thieves, showing a cinematic battle between the two vessels on the high seas. Image: Ubisoft Singapore/Ubisoft

Where to play: PlayStation 5, Windows PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X

Sea of Thieves is a pirate sandbox defined by the possibility of chaos. Not only do players have to worry about skeletons and sea creatures, but other pirate ships mark a significant threat. The new Safer Seas mode finally offers a much less stressful Sea of Thieves experience. Safer Seas disables PvP, allowing the player to explore at their own pace. While some regions are inherently dangerous, others are perfectly serene.

I have rarely felt more relaxed than when I set out on a sloop, listening to the sounds of the ocean. Sea of Thieves has some of the best sound design I’ve ever heard, and it’s soothing to listen to the waves and the creaking of the ship. You can also play the hurdy gurdy with your pals, go fishing, and explore a bunch of gorgeous environments. If you’ve ever been turned off on Sea of Thieves due to the betrayal and battles on the high seas, the Safer Seas update should be right up your alley. —CM


animated characters on a boat look at the sun setting in the distance in Spiritfarer Image: Thunder Lotus Games

Where to play: Android, iOS, Mac, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One

You might have heard of Spiritfarer before, the game that’s self-described as “a cozy management game about dying.” You might be wondering, How could a game about death be cozy? Spiritfarer takes the topic head-on and confronts fear and the unknown as a way to comfort friends whose time it is to move on. You do this by taking care of them, building up a boat in ways that make everyone comfortable. These acts of labor and kindness are so touching; while it may be emotional, it’s still got a lot of warm feelings. —NC

Strange Horticulture

A note on the table in Strange Horticulture, outlining another potential clue Image: Bad Viking/Iceberg Interactive

Where to play: Android, iOS, Mac, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Windows PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X

Like Dredge, Strange Horticulture offers a spooky edge to the cozy gaming experience. It’s less of an adrenaline rush, though, and instead the sinister feeling slowly builds up as you uncover more and more. You play as the owner of a plant shop, and identify plants in your care, which are often medicinal in property. Customers come to you for help, and you must figure out which plant they need. It all takes place within your shop, with outside excursions detailed in text. It’s a cozy organizing game that escalates gradually into something more macabre. —PR


A calming image of a pixelated restaurant in front of a mountain, with a lake in front, in Summerhouse Image: Friedemann/Future Friends Games

Where to play: Mac, Windows PC

Summerhouse has no rules. You simply build, using a bunch of pre-made, pixelated pieces created by developer Friedemann. You can build big houses or little houses, ones in the country or cityside. Every so often, when placing a door or window or roof, you’ll unlock a character — maybe a dog hanging out by a stoop, or a grandma sitting out front of a café. What makes Summerhouse truly charming is that everything is designed to look lived-in, real; these are no McMansions or prefabricated houses. Summerhouse’s sounds are delightful, too. The satisfying snap of clicking a window into place is made all the sweeter with birdsong in the background. —NC


unpacking a child’s bedroom with a bunk bed in Unpacking Image: Witch Beam/Humble Games

Where to play: Android, iOS, Mac, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Windows PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X

Unpacking follows one young woman’s life through all the places she lives and the objects she owns. You unpack various boxes containing all her items and place them around her living spaces, from her childhood bedroom to her first apartment after college. It’s methodical to fit all these objects in places, and also offers a little bit of freedom and creativity in how you place them (for instance, I always always put her stuffed animals on the bed). The brilliance of Unpacking is how it tells a story without any dialogue or seen characters, and only through these objects and where you’re able to place them. —PR


The family of Venba sits around a dinner table, having just cooked a meal from the mother’s childhood Image: Visai Games

Where to play: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 5, Windows PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X

Is there anything more cozy than walking into a kitchen where something fragrant is cooking? Venba is a narrative cooking game that takes the nostalgia for food and uses it to tell a story about a family that immigrated from India to Canada in the 1980s. It’s a moving story about family and food that uses cooking mechanics to explore love and loss. —NC