10 positive games to distract you from our impending doom

We all need cheering up every now and then, especially in 2016, as the world drifts closer to a complete catastrophe mostly of our own making. Games can offer that escape. We’ve selected ten games here that are guaranteed to cheer you up as we gradually sink into the abyss—many of them will make you laugh, while some just offer a pleasing escape from the bad timeline. 

Jazzpunk

Phil compared Jazzpunk to comedy films like Airplane and Naked Gun in his review, and that’s spot on. This is a game that fires jokes at you out of a minigun, a mix of good writing, slapstick and offbeat asides, where you’re permanently allowed to be part of the joke yourself. This surprisingly cinematic first-person interactive game is about 4 hours along, and there are a lot of locations and varied gags contained within that. Chances are, if you’ve been keeping an eye on Humble Bundle, you’ve ended up with Jazzpunk in your library at some point. One of the weirder treats to be found on Steam. If you don’t like one joke in Jazzpunk, it’s fine—there’ll be a load more along in just a few seconds.—Samuel Roberts

Link: Official site

South Park: The Stick of Truth

A really simple RPG, so simple that the Mario RPG-inspired turn-based combat essentially just functions as a vehicle for South Park’s typical mix of incisive humour and all-out childish nonsense. This is one of the best licensed games ever, with frequent laughs to be found just by exploring the town—Obsidian and Ubisoft managed to make the town feel like a coherent RPG overworld that’s just fun to poke around. It’s usually found in Steam sales for about £6/$8, which is absurdly good value for a fan service-rich game that offers a 20-hour hiatus from pondering the world’s impending catastrophes.—Samuel Roberts 

Link: Official site

Portal

It may not sound like the most relaxing time, to put your life in the hands of a rogue AI who sees human beings as odd squishy playthings. Laughter is good for the soul, however, and Portal is very funny. Even if you know all the lines it’s fun to crawl back into this maze of testing chambers and ace the puzzles, while enjoying the simple pleasure of placing portals and making reality bend in ways it shouldn’t. Even the sound of placing a portal is wonderful, making it into the PCG roundup of our favourite sound effects in PC gaming.—Tom Senior

Link: Steam 

Proteus 

Proteus is a sensory massage designed to immerse you in a soothing world of things that go ‘plink’, and sometimes ‘plonk’, depending on the whim of the game’s music generation system. You explore an island across four seasons, listening to the shifting emergent soundtrack and sinking into the vibe. There are some odd secrets to discover hidden among the forests and miniature mountains, but really this is a calm meditative experience, and very effective. Put aside a couple of hours for a soothing virtual hike.—Tom Senior 

Link: Official site

Grim Fandango

Relax, the worst has already happened. As salesman Manny Calavera, you’ve already died and made it to the afterlife, albeit minus some skin. You've lost all your skin, but otherwise purgatory is a pretty good place, and looks a lot like Art Deco New York with colourful Mexican Day of the Dead influences. Here everyone is snarky toward each other, but unlike the real world, 90% of everything everyone says is amusing. There’s a big orange demon called Glottis that you'll probably really want to hug—he drives cars and plays mean jazz piano. There’s a conspiracy, too, with bad guys to thwart and femme fatales to spar with. Fire could be raining down outside but in the safety of this classic Lucasarts adventure game all you have to do is don a white suit, run the roulette tables and assume the rictus grin of the recently deceased.—Tom Senior

Link: Official site

Botanicula

There is peril in the world of Botanicula, but it's the sort of peril that can be solved through rhythmic hijinks. A point 'n' click adventure from the creators of Machinarium, Botanicula is about music, nature and the joy of interaction. There's a bit where you go out onto a cliff face, and some little guy dangles down in front of you and sticks out his tongue. You can grab his tongue, and wiggle it about—changing the pitch of the noise he makes as you do. It makes me laugh every time. Also, there's the soundtrack. How can you feel bad when you're listening to this?—Phil Savage

Link: Official site

Psychonauts

Tim Schafer’s influence is already here, in the form of the marvellous Grim Fandango, but if you’d rather avoid gallows humour then the youthful exuberance of Psychonauts is there for you instead. It’s a platforming game with hub areas and lots of collectibles, but the abundance of imagination that’s gone into each level, and the vivid characters you meet, make Psychonauts special.—Tom Senior

Link: Official site

Grow Home

You’re a little robot who loves to climb in this adorable Ubisoft game about growing a colossal beanstalk to return home. The physics-driven climbing system sees your little guy swing frantically back and forth as he activates pods and guides new shoots to higher points in the stratosphere. From the music to the brightly coloured polygonal art style, Grow Home is completely charming.—Tom Senior

Link: Official site

Stardew Valley

Carve out a new life of idyllic rural bliss in this farming sim, featuring a host of cuddly locals and lots of relaxing tasks. Plant things, unplant things, rearrange your fields to make them more aesthetically pleasing, bond with the vagrant Linus, upgrade your house. Stardew Valley’s cheery, laid-back pace is a good antidote to the end-of-the-world blues.—Tom Senior

Link: Official site

Rayman: Legends

The screenshots do not do it justice. Rayman: Legends, and Origins before it, are an explosion of colour when seen in motion. Both are frivolous platformers with a great sense of pace and variety to recommend them. Enjoy a smile as Rayman dashes and swings his way through each game's kaleidoscopic realms and forget all about the apocalypse outside.—Tom Senior

Link: Official site