Blue Monday. No, not just a kick-ass New Order song, but the name coined by marketers for the third Monday in January — purportedly the ‘most depressing day of the year’. While the genesis and questionable ‘science’ behind this dreary moniker is smirk-worthy, looking after your mental health is something everyone should take seriously, especially after the emotional drubbing so many of us have taken recently.
For many people, digital worlds in video games have been a saving grace in recent months. If you’re feeling down and you’re after a little video gaming pick-me-up, we’ve got just the thing. While the scope and function of interactive entertainment has grown far beyond mere escapism these days, games are still a brilliant way to jump into a totally different environment and get away from it all when things are looking grim — and there is plenty of positivity to be found in the Switch games we’ve assembled to lift your spirits.
Below you’ll find a non-exhaustive list of just some of the games Team NL love to fire up when we’re in need of cheering up (and when the N64 isn’t hooked up for a blast of Banjo-Kazooie). Obviously, hanging out with friends is a great way to beat the blues, so you might want to start with our selections of the best couch co-op Switch games or best Switch party games if you’re not a solo gamer, or perhaps check out our selection of the best games to play if you can’t leave the house.
If you’re twiddling your thumbs on your own, though, let’s take a look at our picks — in no particular order — of the best feel-good games on Nintendo Switch.
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Publisher: Nintendo / Developer: Nintendo
Release Date: 27th Oct 2017 (USA) / 27th Oct 2017 (UK/EU)
Stuck inside dreaming of taking off on a world trip and escaping this dreariness? You could always go 2D with New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe, or Super Mario Maker 2, but Mario’s latest full-fat 3D platformer takes you on a tour of the world that’s sure to lift your spirits. Whether you’re a people person who prefers the hustle and, indeed, bustle of New Donk City or prefer the quiet contemplation and isolation available on the surface of the moon, Super Mario Odyssey’s got it all. It doesn’t get more upbeat than this.
Or does it?…
Publisher: SEGA / Developer: Sonic Team
Release Date: 25th Apr 2017 (USA) / 28th Apr 2017 (UK/EU)
Arguably the ultimate puzzling mashup, there’s something for everyone and colour to spare in Puyo Puyo Tetris. Whether you’re into puyos or tetrominos, the game will tap into your nostalgia for either while also giving you a respect for the other. With plenty to enjoy for solo or multiple players, you really can’t go wrong firing this up of an evening.
There’s also the sequel, too — you can’t go wrong with either.
Publisher: Nintendo / Developer: Nintendo SPD
Release Date: 3rd Mar 2017 (USA) / 3rd Mar 2017 (UK/EU)
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is like a warm, relaxing cup of something. We beat the main game long ago, but we still fire it up regularly simply to roam around Hyrule finding the odd Korok seed and letting the rolling hills and clean digital air calm our nerves. We find it great for stress relief (and we found sailing the Great Sea in The Wind Waker equally soothing), but Breath of the Wild’s engaging gameplay and general gorgeousness make it perfect for lifting your spirits and beating the blues in in any other month of the year, too.
Link’s Awakening is equally lovely if you’re after a more traditional Zelda adventure, too.
Publisher: SEGA / Developer: SEGA
Release Date: 20th Sep 2018 (USA) / 20th Sep 2018 (UK/EU)
Another standby we dive into whenever we’re feeling down, a quick blast through Green Hill Zone can be rather restorative. Obviously the melodious mix of music, waterfalls and dancing flowers is likely to lighten your mood, but it’s more than that. It’s an odd and comforting thing to navigate through an old favourite on little more than muscle memory. We’d liken it to listening to a favourite song, or perhaps closer, playing your favourite song on a musical instrument; something about the mechanics of it soothes the soul.
Sonic the Hedgehog is available on virtually every console you own, as is its even-better sequel, Sonic 2. You can’t go wrong with either.
Publisher: Nintendo / Developer: Nintendo
Release Date: 20th Mar 2020 (USA) / 20th Mar 2020 (UK/EU)
The arrival of Animal Crossing: New Horizons for Switch made us think back to how we abandoned our Wild World town when Animal Crossing: New Leaf arrived. We regret not saying goodbye properly to the residents of our town (Dibly, because ‘Crinkley Bottom’ was over the character limit) and, alas, we’ve done the same with Bell Air, our poor old New Leaf town. Still, we’re way too distracted catching fish and making custom designs to linger on the past and New Horizons is proving to be the perfect tonic to the trying times we’re living in. Whatever entry you have to hand, though, Animal Crossing is the most heart-warming and delightful of games.
Publisher: ConcernedApe / Developer: ConcernedApe
Release Date: 5th Oct 2017 (USA) / 5th Oct 2017 (UK/EU)
With more of a focus on farming than the previous entry, Stardew Valley is a country life sim that’s equally captivating if you’re looking to escape the January drudgery. After inheriting your farm there’s a lot of work to do but like any of the very best sims, soon all the elements click into place and the joy of running a well-oiled machine takes over. With a very pleasant 16-bit style to the visuals, this is a wonderful way to get away from it all wherever you take your Switch.
Publisher: Shin’en Multimedia / Developer: Shin’en Multimedia
Release Date: 21st Nov 2019 (USA) / 21st Nov 2019 (UK/EU)
A lovely little mixture of atmospheric puzzles, low-key exploration and minigame mayhem, The Touryst was one of 2019’s most entertaining gems which arguably got a little lost in the other big releases towards the end of the year. It’s bursting with joyous energy and surprises; the very definition of short and sweet. It’s a great time for tourysm.
Publisher: Berzerk Studio / Developer: Berzerk Studio
Release Date: 31st May 2018 (USA) / 21st Jun 2018 (UK/EU)
This one caught us by surprise, but Just Shapes & Beats is an utter delight. Don’t let the label ‘musical bullet hell’ put you off – this is an accessible and joyous chiptune romp with homages to gaming’s past and an infectious, positive spirit. It may well have passed you in the flood of releases hitting the Switch eShop – do yourself a favour and try out on of the best feel-good games on Switch.
Publisher: Playful Entertainment / Developer: Playful Entertainment
Release Date: 8th Nov 2019 (USA) / 8th Nov 2019 (UK/EU)
One of the surprise announcements last year alongside a couple of other previously Xbox-exclusive games that have since arrived on Switch, New Super Lucky’s Tale is a great port of an underrated platformer that features a greatly improved camera and channels the spirit of the golden age of 3D platformers. It’s a little on the short side and may not provide much of a challenge to more hardened gamers, but it’s got an uncanny ability to make us smile.