Some of us relax by turning to games which require intense focus, such as Doom Eternal, but for the purposes of this list, we've picked out the chillest PC games in our libraries. These are the games we turn to when life gets too intense and we just want to slam our heads into the sand to ignore it for a bit—without any added frustrations.
2023 games: Upcoming releases
Best PC games: All-time favorites
Free PC games: Freebie fest
Best FPSes: Finest gunplay
Best MMOs: Massive worlds
Best RPGs: Grand adventures
Set down the shock cannons and laser rifles. Take a breather from dragonslaying. There are more games than we could count for getting the adrenaline pumping—you don't need our help there. Here, we're hankering for hikes, subnautical scenery, and the unparalleled serenity of long-haul truckin'.
But even though all these games are chill, they're very different. Whether you want to live another life in 1980s Japan, slam galaxies together, or solve a gentle mystery, these are, for our money, the most relaxing games you can currently play on PC.
A Short Hike
Release date: 2019 | Developer: adamgryu | Steam (opens in new tab)
In most games, falling off the side of a mountain means death, or at the least a ton of lost progress. In A Short Hike, gliding from near the top of Hawk Peak down to the little outcroppings in the cliff face, or all the way back to the beach, is perfectly serene. There's no pressure to rush up the mountain, even if the summit is the ultimate goal of your hike. Wander around, help other park visitors, collect coins, and take your mind off of your phone.
Read more: A Short Hike is a relaxing game about enjoying a wee trek (opens in new tab)
Release date: 2020 | Developer: Blackbird Interactive | Steam (opens in new tab)
Yeah, this is a videogame about preventing spaceships from exploding while paying down crushing personal debt. But it's surprisingly calming! Promise. You float in zero-g with your metal-cutting tools in hand, thrusting gently along a still hull to dissect an empty freighter, cracking its bones open like a dead whale. Alongside blue-collar sims like Euro Truck Simulator 2, Hardspace is a game about labor, and about grappling with a delicate, three-dimensional puzzle, often from the inside-out. The jangly cowboy soundtrack slows the whole thing down nicely.
Read more: Hardspace: Shipbreaker is relaxing until an explosion propels a hunk of nanocarbon into your face
Assassin's Creed Discovery Tours
Release date: 2018/2019 | Developer: Ubisoft Montreal | Steam: Assassin's Creed Origins (opens in new tab), Assassin's Creed Odyssey (opens in new tab)
The problem with the stunningly beautiful and richly detailed worlds of Assassin's Creed is, well, you have to stab a lot of people in them. Those people want to stab you too, as it turns out. But there's a way to explore those breathtaking open worlds without combat or stress, and you can learn quite a bit while you're at it. Both games have a Discovery Tour mode, letting you travel through ancient Egypt and Greece as a student of history. Visiting cities and landmarks will trigger educational audio lessons and short vignettes, and there's plenty of extra reading if you want to learn more. You can travel on foot, by horseback, on boats, or by simply teleporting to the locations you want to visit and learn about. And there's zero stabbing involved.
Read more: Feel what it was like to live in Ancient Greece in Assassin's Creed Odyssey's new mode (opens in new tab)
Release date: 2019 | Developer Funomena | Steam (opens in new tab)
Wattam, from the creator of Katamari Damacy, is a game about friendship and poo. Lots of different colored poo, holding hands with one another (and with a toilet) while singing and dancing in a circle. If you want to get technical, it's kind of a physics sandbox, where you control a range of characters and objects with silly and sensible interactions. Most of the joy is in those pairings: letting a mouth with legs eat a strawberry and turn it into poo, or finding salmon eggs to please a forlorn piece of sushi. It's the kind of game you just play around with and chuckle at every so often. Ahh, contentment.
Read more: Wattam review (opens in new tab)
Firewatch(opens in new tab)
Release date: 2016 | Developer Campo Santo | Steam (opens in new tab)
There are some stressful, scary, and occasionally sad moments in Firewatch, but there are also hours of peaceful rambling to enjoy in its gorgeously stylised Wyoming wilderness. Exploring the woods as Henry, using your map and compass to navigate, chatting with Delilah, is so relaxing that I wish there was more of it in the game. For the most authentic, challenging hiking experience, disable the marker that shows you where you are on the map.
Read more: Firewatch review (opens in new tab)
Shenmue(opens in new tab)
Release date: 2018 | Developer: D3T | Steam (opens in new tab)
Despite being a martial arts revenge epic, the original Shenmue is deeply chill. It's the quiet moments where it shines: exploring 1980s Japan as teenager Ryo Hazuki, going to work, feeding a kitten, collecting capsule toys. The sleepy suburbs of Yokosuka make for an evocative setting and it's one of the nicest places on PC to just exist in—especially when winter comes and the snow begins to fall. If I could live in any game setting, it'd be here.
Read more: The secret lives of Shenmue's NPCs (opens in new tab)
Flower(opens in new tab)
Release date: 2019 | Developer Thatgamecompany | Steam (opens in new tab)
Delightfully weird petal-'em-up Flower, which started life as a PlayStation 3 exclusive, is finally available on PC. In it you control the wind, blowing petals around and creating gorgeous swirling shapes that restore nature and colour back to a dead world as you go. Watching those grand, sweeping landscapes spring back to life as you blow across them is immensely satisfying, as is the sound of the breeze blowing through the swaying grass.
Read more Chillout games are having a moment (opens in new tab)
Euro Truck Simulator 2(opens in new tab)
Release date: 2012 | Developer: SCS Software | Steam (opens in new tab)
Hauling heavy cargo around grey, rain-soaked European motorways might not sound that relaxing, but it is. Honestly. The swish of the wipers going back and forth, and the mundane scenery gently rolling by, is hypnotic to the point where hours can suddenly disappear. And if you really want to escape into the, er, fantasy, stream a radio station from whichever country you happen to be in. When I play Euro Truck Sim 2, I can feel my stress melting away.
Read more: How ETS2 became an unlikely cult hit on PC (opens in new tab)
Abzû(opens in new tab)
Release date: 2016 | Developer: Giant Squid Studios | Steam (opens in new tab)
In the dreamlike Abzû you swim gracefully through a series of colourful, psychedelic underwater worlds accompanied by an achingly beautiful score composed by Austin Wintory. The fluid, intuitive swimming controls, soaring music, and gentle pace make it a great game for zoning out. There's even a dedicated meditation mode which lets you sit back and soak in the watery world around you, including a huge variety of exotic sea life.
Read more: Abzû review (opens in new tab)
The Hunter: Call of the Wild(opens in new tab)
Release date: 2017 | Developer: Expansive Worlds | Steam (opens in new tab)
The Hunter is a game where you spend long periods of time slowly stalking animals through the wilderness, so it's a good thing its natural environments are so beautiful. The forests in particular are actually stunning, with dense foliage, natural lighting, and ambient sound design that really makes you feel like you're in the great outdoors. The hunting is fun, with a deep scoring system, but I often find myself ignoring it to just enjoy a peaceful walk in the woods.
Read more The Hunter: Call of the Wild review (opens in new tab)
Sherlock Holmes: Crimes & Punishments(opens in new tab)
Release date: 2014 | Developer: Frogwares | Steam (opens in new tab)
Despite revolving around a series of gruesome murders, this Sherlock Holmes adventure is a surprisingly chill way to spend a lazy Sunday afternoon. The pace is nicely sedate, the puzzles aren't too taxing, and it has the ambience of a cosy British crime drama. It also helps that it's one of the best detective games on PC, with actual dead ends and red herrings, and the possibility that the person you've sent to jail might not actually be guilty of the crime.
Read more: Sherlock Holmes: Crimes & Punishments review (opens in new tab)
Release date: 2016 | Developer Carl Burton | Steam (opens in new tab)
This interactive art installation stretches the concept of a game, but it's an incredible, atmospheric experience all the same. Mundane objects and settings appear before you in the form of minimalist, stylish dioramas, but slowly mutate into surreal, unpredictable dreamscapes. The artist behind Islands is Carl Burton, whose work outside of games includes the gorgeous animated vignettes he created for the second season of the Serial podcast.
Read more The dreamy interactive art of Islands: Non-Places (opens in new tab)
Take On Mars(opens in new tab)
Release date: 2017 | Developer: Bohemia Interactive | Steam (opens in new tab)
This sedate, science-based simulator sees you exploring the surface of the Red Planet with a variety of realistic rovers and landers, and the the feeling of being alone on a distant planet is palpable. The quiet howl of the wind as you trundle through the dust creates an evocative atmosphere, and the steady pace of the rovers makes for a weirdly hypnotic game. The manned survival missions, inspired by The Martian, aren't quite as chill, however.
Read more: Building a new home on the Red Planet in Take On Mars (opens in new tab)
Grow Home(opens in new tab)
Release date: 2015 | Developer Ubisoft Reflections| Steam (opens in new tab)
This colourful 3D platformer started life as an experiment in procedural animation, but eventually became a game in its own right. It’s quietly one of the best platformers on PC, with a brilliantly tactile climbing system and a world that reaches dizzying heights. Navigating robotic hero BUD around this blocky, stylised world is oddly relaxing, especially when you get the ability to glide and float around. The sequel, Grow Up, is worth a look too.
Read more: Grow Home review (opens in new tab)
No Man's Sky(opens in new tab)
Release date: 2016 | Developer: Hello Games | Steam (opens in new tab)
Play in Creative mode, which removes the need for harvesting materials and crafting fuel, and No Man’s Sky suddenly becomes an incredibly chill game. You can take your ship and lazily hop between systems, checking out random planets as you go, and it's a great way to experience just how many different landscapes and life-forms the game is capable of generating. Honestly, life's too short to spend hours stuck on a shitty toxic planet with no fuel.
Read more: The coolest things I've seen in No Man's Sky Next so far (opens in new tab)
Proteus(opens in new tab)
Release date: 2013 | Developer: Ed Key, David Kanaga | Steam (opens in new tab)
This surrealist exploration game marries sound and visuals in a really captivating, imaginative way. As you wander around a procedurally-generated island, constructed from simple, abstract shapes, the dreamy music reacts to your actions. Then the seasons begin to change, dramatically transforming the landscape around you, and you feel your worries slip away. It only takes an hour to finish, but the layout of the world is different every time.
Read more Proteus review (opens in new tab)
Universe Sandbox 2(opens in new tab)
Release date: 2015 | Developer: Giant Army | Steam (opens in new tab)
Universe Sandbox is an enjoyable and completely physics-driven simulation of the universe. You can view realistic models of solar systems, distant galaxies, and planetary orbits. Or you can turn into an evil deity and start causing mayhem among the stars, smashing galaxies together and hurling the Earth into the Sun. It’s a great toy, and the ambient music and cosmic scenery are quite soothing, even when you're making a giant mess.
Read more: Universe Sandbox review (opens in new tab)