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Five Video Games That Make Me Smile

Shane's been gaming for over 30 years and loves a broad array of games in addition to being one-quarter of the Assorted Meeples gaming group

Slime Rancher

When doing a video on Retro NES games I once described Bubble Bobble as "Pure Delight" and it really is. Slime Rancher is a modern indie game (sequel coming soon) where you find yourself exploring a new planet, building up a dilapidated ranch where the livestock are all slimes.

Happy, smiling, bouncing slimes. When fed and cared for they give off gems called plorts that you then sell in the market for more upgrades.

On a distinctively alien planet, everything about this sci-fi setting is cute, relaxing, fun, and the slimes are strangely adorable. A friend watching me play this commented "Captivity has never looked so delightful."

It really is a game that is just pure joy and if I want to be in a better mood, 40 minutes of playing Slime Rancher does it for me every single time.

Even if you usually aren't into the life sim adventure genre, this is a game that, once it finds a way into your rotation, won't be going away.

What Makes Slime Rancher Special?

  • Maybe the most relaxing game ever made
  • Unbelievably cute design
  • This game is "feel good" in digital form
  • No set schedule - go and explore at your own pace

Slime Rancher Is Delightful

West of Loathing

I want to play an RPG. But it's full of really clever jokes. And stupid walking. And a sassy 4th-wall breaking narrator. And stick figures. With even more ridiculousness than before.

If that bizarre paragraph actually speaks to you then congratulations, you're a prime candidate for enjoying one of my favorite weird RPG video games out there: West of Loathing.

Punch out demon cows, watch a skeleton army do drills in the abandoned fort, choose your sidekick wisely, and pay for everything in meat. Because of course that's what you get from a game called West of Loathing.

This game was nominated for or won multiple awards including best indie game of the year, best comedy game, and best RPG.

Throw in the fact it's one heck of a western RPG and has hilarious jokes loaded throughout at a rate that would make the Golden Years of The Simpsons proud, and you have a game that delivers on all fronts.

It is a strange and special gem that several have tried, and failed, to copy, and there's a special magic to it that I just love.

What Makes West of Loathing Special?

  • Absolutely hilarious writing
  • Clever RPG mechanics and options
  • Tons of Easter eggs
  • Very unique art style

West of Loathing - Western Stick Figure RPG


Stardew Valley

There's just something really special about Stardew Valley. Inspired by the old school Harvest Moon games, SV has became synonymous with wholesome, enjoyable, addictive farm/life sim games.

Stardew Valley was the brainchild of Eric Barone who created the incredibly happy and amazing soundtrack, did all the art and programming, and creating a town that feels real and alive with its share of problems and scandals, but with a lot of good people as a whole looking to make you part of the community and do their best for the community.

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You can play your own game in whatever form that takes. Automate the watering of crops with sprinklers. Plant fruit trees in the greenhouse. Explore the mines, give a birthday gift to a villager, go explore the desert or even Ginger Island in the late game. Ignore all of it and forage for wild food before fishing off the dock for the day.

The choice is yours. 100 games can produce 100 very different looking farms, and this is a game with hundreds of hours of potential content that is inviting to revisit again and again.

Depending on the mood I'm in I'll jump into an existing farm, or if I want to re-live the joy of those early days of the game of crafting everything from scratch I'll just fire up a new one and get moving.

When you don't know what to play, fire up another farm file and get lost in Pelican Town for a few wonderful stress-releasing hours!

What Makes Stardew Valley Special?

  • The new standard for farm-sim/life games
  • No actual end so can keep building the same farm file indefinitely
  • Very satisfying gameplay
  • Really great story and many awesome characters
  • Worth hundreds of hours of entertainment

Starting Again in Stardew Valley

Now THAT is a great start to day one for Stardew Valley!

Now THAT is a great start to day one for Stardew Valley!


An indie game that has old school pixel art that will be especially appreciated by old school gamers, it's hard not to smile as you watch characters dance, smile, or hearts fly off of them just from a conversation with you.

Build your town, improve the homes of villagers, chat with everyone, and do what you want. Littlewood's mechanic makes this game super relaxing because time isn't a thing. The time in a day moves based on your energy.

When most of your energy is spent, it becomes night. When all of your energy is spent it's time to go to bed.

That means you never have to rush. You can visit every location in the game, talk to every NPC, and then decide on what chores you want to do, what actions you want to take, and then do them.

There is no timer because until you commit to an action, the energy bar doesn't move. This is a truly underrated mechanic and helps take an already wonderful sim-life game and makes it an even greater stress-busting, smile-inducing pleasure to play.

This is one of those special games that does great in its niche and also offers a greater experience than the sum of its parts.

What Makes Littlewood Special?

  • Great town building mechanics that includes ability to move and rearrange entire buildings
  • Cute pixel art gives it a distinct look
  • Best time/energy mechanic I've seen in any game
  • Interesting starting premise for video game
  • Relaxed game with recurring seasons

Great Littlewood Review

Animal Crossing: New Horizons

Simply put, some games are just designed to be relaxing and easy-going, creating an enjoyable gaming experience that is all about being happy. Animal Crossing is one of those games that isn't about mass production, heavy building up, or rushing past difficult obstacles for some hard to reach goal.

The relaxing experience of Animal Crossing is being surrounded by cute animals, in a relaxing island setting where you can invite friends, be surrounded by cute animal-people of your choice and enjoy the experience while making your own.

It's a relaxing game and while I'm not always in the mood for it - if I need some pure relaxation it's a great place to stop by to see what's going on.

Millions of others have this as one of their go-to games, showing that if it's your style then it can offer countless after work evenings of relaxing gaming.

What Makes Animal Crossing Special?

  • Moves in sequence with regular time and season changes
  • Can invite friends to your island
  • Very cute graphics
  • Designed to be a relaxing experience

Animal Crossing New Horizons Video Review

Video Game Resources You May Enjoy

  • Stardew Valley Wiki
    Stardew Valley Wiki really is the top resource that is used by Stardew Valley players.
  • Slime Rancher
    Slime Rancher is an incredible indie game that explores the life and tale of Beatrix LeBeau, a young rancher looking for change, adventure, and discovery out in the place known as the Far Far Range.
  • 11 Awesome Indie Games You Missed on Steam – Assorted Meeples
    I love supporting indie games and these 11 games are enjoyable, unique, one-of-a-kind experiences that you may have missed. Take a look and see what grabs your fancy for some extra gaming goodness!

© 2022 Shane Dayton

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