The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
I’ve never thought of myself as the kind of person who likes puzzles. I actively despise jigsaw puzzles because they’re just too hard and I never end up finishing them. So when one of my friends took a look at my Nintendo Switch gallery and said, “So you really like puzzle games, huh?” I was taken aback. Looking at the games I’ve bought, played, and enjoyed, a lot of them are puzzle games, but they all seem to have something in common: their setting is fairly relaxing and they have an intriguing storyline. I know “relaxing” and “puzzle” don’t always go hand in hand for some people, but hear me out. The following games are some of my favourites that I’ve come across and that I have actively played more than once. They have compelling storylines that make them the first thing you think of when you fall asleep and when you wake up because you can’t wait to get back to it. And their graphics are just darn adorable.
The first puzzle game I ever bought, and that still holds the title of my favourite puzzle game, is A Short Hike. It’s an open world game with gorgeous graphics and colours, and the music really puts you in that desired state of relaxation. In this game, you play as Claire, a teenaged anthropomorphic blue bird who’s on a mission to get cell reception while staying at Hawk Peak Provincial Park with her Aunt May. The main goal of the game is to figure out a way to reach the top of Hawk Peak mountain to receive a phone call. Who is Claire expecting a phone call from? Play to find out!
You have the ability to fly/glide, swim, climb, and jog. While on your way up Hawk Peak, you have the opportunity to gather collectables (such as Golden Feathers and fish!) and complete little side quests with the other provincial park goers: compete in races, find the painting raccoon, play on the beach, and more!
Even though this is a pretty short game, it’s rewarding, and even when I’ve completed all there is to complete, I still love running around that island with Claire. And I gotta tell ya, reaching the top of Hawk Peak and gliding all the way down and around the island is the most peaceful thing I have ever experienced in a game – it’s definitely what has me returning to this game time and again.
Bonus trivia: This game was designed by Adam Robinson-Yu, a Canadian!
A Short Hike is currently available on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation4, Xbox One, Steam, Epic, itch.io, and Gog.
Carto is a close second favourite puzzle game. This is a side-scrolling game, and you follow Carto, a little girl who got separated from her grandmother, on her adventure through unfamiliar lands as she tries to reunite with her grandmother. It’s a bit more of a traditional puzzle game where you need to fit pieces together – except these puzzle pieces are Carto’s environment, and by changing their configuration on her map, you discover new paths and trails to get Carto to the next level and one step closer to finding her grandmother.
This game contains diverse environments, each with their own challenges and clues. There are forests, a desert, some icy arctic plains, and even a volcano! And in each new level, Carto comes across other people who help her on her journey. This is a game about human connection as much as it is about stretching your brain as you flip around map pieces. This game took me a bit longer than A Short Hike to complete because the later levels are quite difficult, and I’m not ashamed to admit that I resorted to the help of a walkthrough for some of them.
With light, soft graphics, a soothing soundtrack, and exciting characters from different cultures, Carto is a great game to equally challenge yourself and relax with at the end of a long day. And great news! It’s available on Steam, PlayStation4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, Epic, and Gog.
Okay, the storyline of The Last Campfire totally had me shedding some tears. This absolutely adorable little hooded soul named Ember becomes separated from the other souls and tries to get back to them. On Ember’s journey back, they come across forlorn souls – souls turned to stone because they have lost their sense of purpose – and Ember helps them find their purpose again (i.e., Ember helps them move on to the afterlife). Each new environment and goal to save a forlorn soul comes with a new puzzle to solve, and what I think is really fun about this game is that the tools Ember needs to complete the puzzle are items found around the environment – you just need to know where and when to use them! A lot of the puzzles are quite straightforward, but since I wasn’t looking for anything too challenging, this game was perfect; I could glide through levels and just enjoy the story.
The environments that become unlocked as Ember (and you!) progress are bright and dynamic. Just like with A Short Hike, this is a game that I return to solely for the beautiful and lively graphics. To unlock some of the puzzles, you need to interact with the inhabitants of the environment to get tools, and in doing so, you learn a bit of their story. The background on the characters Ember interacts with helps to flesh out the world of each environment.
At its core, this game is about hope and community, and knowing when to move on. The Last Campfire is available on Nintendo Switch, Xbox, PlayStation4, Apple Arcade, and Epic.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of this article series, where I’ll detail more of my favourite relaxing puzzle games for your consoles.