Life is hard. You know this, I know this. Of course, life likes to send not-so-friendly reminders of this every chance it gets. Right now, I’m juggling my regular job (which starts at 4am), school (finals next week), and writing for the site. Add this to the always-present stress of paying bills and being a Cubs fan, and suddenly I’m pretty irritable.
“So what”, you ask? For starters, it’s fun to bitch. Second, the above things drive me to my favorite form of stress relief – video games. Not any game necessarily; playing an online shooter like Battlefield: Bad Company 2 is as likely to piss me off even further as it is to blow off steam because of how competitive it can be. What I have in mind are games that aren’t necessarily competitive while playable in short spurts, because as much fun as it is to forget, those responsibilities are still there when you turn the game off.
All that said, here are some games I enjoy playing when I feel myself reaching that boiling point inside all of us.
GTA IV: Episodes from Liberty City
Honestly, you could insert whichever destructive sandbox game you enjoy the most (like the excellent Just Cause 2), but my favorite is still GTA IV. While the game is two years old now, and this DLC is one year old, it’s brand-spanking-new as far as PS3 players are concerned. Offering about 20 hours worth of missions for just $40, this is a steal for fans of the game looking for a reason to dive back in.
While The Lost & the Damned is all well and good, the story is a bit of a downer, so it’s a good thing that The Ballad of Gay Tony is right there to steal the show. While still not quite reaching San Andreas levels of nuttiness, it definitely takes care of a lot of complaints saying that GTA IV was too serious for its own good. With awesome additions like an attack helicopter that actually shoots rockets, a shotgun that shoots explosive rounds, and, of course, a parachute for BASE jumping, the online multiplayer got a much-needed shot in the arm. Even if you don’t want to shell out $40 for both episodes, TBoGT is definitely worth a $20 download from PSN.
Is there a better game to play after I spend eight hours driving for my (real-life) courier job? I think not.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you heard that Roger Ebert wrote about how games can never be art. Plenty of other, better writers have already with how Ebert is wrong, wrong, wrong, but you can make the argument that no game this generation is a better example than the simple yet stunningly beautiful PSN download Flower.
While other games can help you unwind, none that I can think of are as soothing as Flower is. Doing nothing more than tilting your controller, you take control of the wind to make each of the game’s environments flourish with life. Paired with stunning 1080p graphics and a beautiful soundtrack to match, the game moves even the most jaded of gamers over the course of a few short but powerful hours.
Of course, not everyone is looking for an artsy-fartsy experience, which makes the next entry an easy choice for this list.
Like so many before me, I had initially dismissed this gem after looking at screenshots for it. “Unicorns? Rainbows?! I think you have me confused for my baby niece, so no thanks,” I said. “Get his joyful, colorful crap outta of the way o’ muh Killzones!”
Then, like those that actually gave it a chance, I fell in love with it after roughly five minutes. The goofy characters and their respective power-ups, the way the sound of hitting pegs escalated with each consecutive strike, and how “Ode to Joy” makes you feel like the best damn gamer to ever grasp a controller just for clearing a stage – it all simply clicked. Quite frankly, this game might be TOO much fun, as I’ve poured too much time into it on my PC, PS3, and iPhone.
One thing’s for sure: I will never, ever doubt the good name of PopCap games again, and neither should anyone else who hard-headedly refuses to play this game.
Alas, I have to return to those stupid responsibilities mentioned earlier. Try as I might, human biology still won’t learn itself. Why not share some of the games that help maintain your sanity in the comments below? Think of it as group therapy.