Plenty of my friends, family, and colleagues will agree that 2019 was a pretty rough year. Whether in politics, relationships, economy, or otherwise, I don’t know anyone that could claim they breezed through the year with ease.
So when people asked me later this year what my best games of the year were, I couldn’t give an honest answer. Getting through a new game without falling off the train in 2019 — then catching up with The Discourse, because that’s sort of part of my job — was honestly plain old exhausting. And don’t get me wrong, I adored so many games this year. My mental health was just not in a state to really engage. Or so I thought.
Then I realized that, yes —I had been playing games the entire year. Some were just for the latter half, others I’d been playing for years. And I didn’t really realize it because they’d become winding-down habits, or commute habits. Maybe not so frequent as checking Twitter, but enough that I associated them with a better state of mind. And I don’t think it’s wrong to downplay the role these games had in getting through the year.
So here are the games I kept coming back to over and over, whether at home or on the subway, that let me have a bit of peace of mind this year.
The goal of the free-to-playViridi is simple: raise succulents and succulent-adjacent plants. It’s exactly as peaceful as it sounds. There’s gentle xylophone-like music in the background as you admire, water, and even sing to your plants. And better yet, if you’re not an advanced (or even basic) plant parent, the plants will survive even through your worst droughts. They need a little more care.
This is all especially good because… um, confession: All my real-life plants die. I’m really bad at that. Sorry, Po.
But while not every real-life goal is redeemable, it’s good to know that there are some things I can always return to work on. It’s a little mantra that I’ve recounted every time I round back to Viridi after too long. They’re still kind of alive, in a sense, and I can always water them back to life.
The best part is, Viridi hands you a new plant every week from its “greenhouse.” You can buy whichever ones you want, or you can leave it to fate. I’ve opted for the latter. Over a year later, I have essentially a garden in my pot. And if I keep the habit of revisiting my pot every other day or so, I’ll come back every time to little happy green plants. (And a snail!) Life goes on, and it’s nice to have a gentle center to return to.
Cookie Clicker (Android)
I remember the original days of Cookie Clicker — at the time, one of my original daily stressors. Back then, it was a cute little interval game with more focus on text and a small, crummy (literally) cookie. Now, it’s blown up to be one of the most widely-known interval games of all time. So, it was inevitable that people would want it on the go.
Again, interval games are usually riddled with stress. Make sure you save, make sure you have the right combination of purchasable items, make sure you check in so you can buy items and unlock more. I had a feeling, though, that porting the Cookie Clicker experience onto a mobile platform would change things.
Indeed, the September Android port of Cookie Clicker, with several new features on the mobile platform, made me less inclined to check it as regularly. In fact, it became a zen part of my commute routine to my real-life job. Possibly the most important upgrade is how the Android version also allows you to tab out and keep collecting. Plus, there’s more regular auto-save in the game.
The combination of auto-save, the “true idler” gameplay, and the fact that I can’t have too many windows open at once makes the experience far less harmfully addicting than it once was. And these new features of Cookie Clicker make for a fantastic, well-baked, touch-and-go (literally) experience that I keep poking back into.
Professor Layton & The Curious Village (Mobile HD Remaster)
Eventually, I hit the temporary upper limit of Cookie Clicker, as the late-game Ascension feature hadn’t been added yet. So I scoured the Google Play store for games that I could easily jump in and out of, off the grid.
The result of my search? Professor Layton & The Curious Village, the classic puzzler. For those who didn’t pick up the handheld classic, it’s about a puzzle-loving professor and his child assistant who are sent to a village to find an inheritance treasure. And like the title says, the adventure is extremely curious.
More notably, the game features relatively-short brain-teaser puzzles of a wide variety. From wordplay to mathematics and visual tricks, there’s something for basically everyone. And while you shouldn’t use them on every puzzle, the game hands out hints and mobile-exclusive “puzzle-solving charms” like free candy if you’re keen (or clicky) enough to find them. It’s an all-ages brain exercise with its own charm told through its story.
For me,The Curious Village has been a great way to keep my brain in shape on my subway commutes. With cute characters, a simple but engaging plot, and short but perplexing puzzles, I’ve fallen in love with the Professor Layton world. It’s not high-stakes enough for me to want to hover over it every second, but it’s drawn me in enough to keep me coming back.
Victoria’s 2019 Fanbyte Highlights, Because Shameless Promotion Is Self-Care:
- Every Goddamn Government Hearing Reminds Me Why We All Just Play Video Games
- Does It Matter That A Woman Won The Hearthstone BlizzCon Tournament?
- Americans Paid $228 Million For Activision Blizzard’s Tax Credits In 2018
Well, it’s a game, right?
Years back, my mother and I somehow got into mobile editions of sudoku. We’ve never been a pair for memorizing strategies, but we intuitively tried to work our way through the puzzles through processes of elimination.
Fast forward to today, and much like Cookie Clicker and The Curious Village, it’s become a simple way for me to put my brain to work on the go. Over time, I’ve begun to recognize patterns (but not too many), and I’ve gotten my hardest-tier puzzle times down below 14 minutes easily. I’ll mess up pretty often, usually right as my subway pulls into its final destination, but what matters is that I keep trying.
The experience of simple puzzles like sudoku’s become pretty underrated, especially as developers hunt for new spins on classic puzzles. But honestly? Don’t underestimate what focusing on classic tasks like this can do for your mind.
Fanbyte’s Top Games Of 2019:
- Fanbyte’s Game of the Year 2019 Awards
- merritt’s Top 10 Games of the Year – 2019 Edition
- Kenneth’s Top Five Games of 2019 and Other Nonsense
- Steven’s Top 10 Games of the Year – 2019 Edition
Jordo’s UNAUTHORIZED 2019 Game of the Year MEGAPOST
Final Fantasy 14
After finding some semblance of job security, I quickly subscribed to Final Fantasy 14 and started working my way through. I’d done some MMOs like The Secret World, but the only one I’d consider myself having “paid to subscribe to” was Toontown Online for a year in, like, 5th grade. So when I declared I was picking FF14 up, I was forewarned by my friends and colleagues that it was going to take quite a while to get through. It sounded intimidating!
Surprisingly, its length has become my point of appeal so far. FF14 has become a game that I return to over and over when I’m looking to just ground myself. It’s almost like kicking back reading a book with a fantastic plot.
For one, I have a simple (but really bad) Black Mage spell rotation, so battling has become a gentle, mindless activity. Meanwhile, plot points come lightly, then all at once, explained in an easy manner. With FF14 being such a massive game with expansive lore, the game pays mind to let everything soak in slowly. The result is an approachable experience for someone, surprisingly, with anxiety about getting through games. It feels low-stakes, not hectic, and easy to jump back into.
The only truly stressful issue is, I’ve had queues pop for dungeons right when I’m in the middle of other stuff. Basically, after waiting 20 minutes for a party, who knows where I’ll actually be? Last night, for instance, a mission-tied boss battle popped right when pasta water started boiling. As a result, my roommate put pasta in boiling water, except he cut the linguine in half because he didn’t think it’d fit in the bowl. It’s a forgivable mistake, but point is, I can be an entirely different human on the other end of that queue.
Overall, though, FF14 has been a surprising way for me to take it easy. And that’s a surprise given what my Warrior of Light — and I — has pushed through so far.