How I RANK what makes a game Cozy + My TOP Cozy Games!

Put the kettle on because we’ve got to talk about what makes a game cozy. I share my thoughts as a 30-something female gamer on what a cozy game is. Let’s dispel some arguments!

Put the kettle on because we’ve got to talk about what makes a game cozy. I share my thoughts as a 30-something female gamer on what a cozy game is. 
Tags: popular cozy games, trending cozy games, world of cozy games, cozy gaming community, favorite cozy games, cozy games ranked, farming sims, project horseshoe, Content Creators, cozy gamers, her cozy gaming, appeal of cozy gaming, gaming industry, comfort games, feelings of comfort, cozy vibes,

I’ve been playing video games for over 30 years now. I feel so old saying that! I still feel like that clueless 17-year-old girl who doesn’t know what she wants to be when she grows up.

Yet here I am at 39, still playing games – unashamedly might I add.

When I was younger I would sneak into my brothers’ rooms to play on their game consoles whenever they were out…. much to their annoyance. We owned a PC and I played The Sims a lot, but I really wanted to play games like GTA and Kingdom Hearts on PlayStation. Shooters aren’t generally my vibe but I just loved playing games with a controller, I didn’t really care whether they were violent or my type of games. 

cozy gamer, cozy gaming, cosy games, nintendo ds, gaming flatlay, gaming in the noughties, 2000's
My 2nd Nintendo DS – Game: Animal Crossing Wild World

The world of cozy games opened up to me after I bought my first pink Nintendo DS. I bought it specifically to play Animal Crossing Wild World when it was released in 2006. A game that I so desperately wish I could play for the first time again because it was that good.

Who would have thought a game about talking animal villagers, foraging, crafting, and decorating could be so comforting? I even preferred it over The Sims!

Perhaps it was the soothing background music between 1am and 12am or the thoughtful letters from Mom that kept me coming back for more. But it just felt cozy.

It was miles apart from shooting up enemies in Final Fantasy X-2. The first ever PlayStation game I bought for myself. I just felt relaxed, and happier. My villagers felt like family to me.

And I strongly believe that it’s that feeling of community that ultimately takes a game from being just another video game to a cozy game.

This post is going to be fairly long because I have a lot to say about this topic as you can already tell. So please use the drop-down table of contents to get around.

Put the kettle on because we’ve got to talk about what makes a game cozy. I share my thoughts as a 30-something female gamer on what a cozy game is. Tags: popular cozy games, trending cozy games, world of cozy games, cozy gaming community, favorite cozy games, cozy games ranked, farming sims, project horseshoe, Content Creators, cozy gamers, her cozy gaming, appeal of cozy gaming, gaming industry, comfort games, feelings of comfort, cozy vibes, Palia
Screengrab – Game: Palia

What are Cozy Games?

Are cozy games cute? Or are cozy games farming games? What about games for girls? Are they cozy games?

It’s easy to see why the debate over what constitutes a cozy game continues to be a hot topic for discussion among the cozy gaming community. There are so many genres of games that they fall under. Cozy gaming itself isn’t a genre. I tried typing in ‘cozy games’ on Twitch under categories and it didn’t exist. Same on Steam. If big gaming sites don’t acknowledge cozy games as a genre or category then what is cozy gaming?

To combat the lack of a category for my favorite cozy games I curated a Steam Page with my cozy game recommendations and I also follow other Steam Curators like Wholesome Games.

Heck, I made my own website about them, hello!

I used to say that cozy games are non-threatening with zero violence, but as I’ve experienced more and more indie games over the past few years I’ve come to find that any game can indeed have cozy elements. That does not make it an outright cozy game though, and that’s okay.

Some cozy games are complicated while others are simple and quick to master. There are grindy cozy games and non-grindy cozy games. Cozy games with soothing soundtracks and cozy games with fast-paced soundtracks. Some cozy games take thousands of hours to play through, while others take only two.

There really is no one style of gameplay that makes a game cozy.

Some cozy gamers like horror games because that makes them feel cozy. Other cozy gamers like farming sims and that’s their comfort game. Cozy games come down to individual preferences and how they make the player feel more than what the game is about.

I personally prefer some kind of customization and management system. But I hate fishing.

I’ll happily organize my inventory and decorate my home with crafted furniture for hours. But give me a rod and tell me I need to catch 50 fish to complete a task and I’ll do everything in my power to avoid it.

Fishing in any game annoys me. I find it decidedly uncozy. I have no patience for it, but yet it’s an element that seems to be favored by game developers.

After 30-odd years of playing video games, over 2 years of blogging specifically about cozy games, and many hours of research, I’ve concluded that, for me at least, cozy games have kindness and community at their core. 

Put the kettle on because we’ve got to talk about what makes a game cozy. I share my thoughts as a 30-something female gamer on what a cozy game is. Tags: popular cozy games, trending cozy games, world of cozy games, cozy gaming community, favorite cozy games, cozy games ranked, farming sims, project horseshoe, Content Creators, cozy gamers, her cozy gaming, appeal of cozy gaming, gaming industry, comfort games, feelings of comfort, cozy vibes, Palia
Screengrab – Game: Palia

Take, for example, Palia – described as a cozy community sim MMO.

When I began playing it on PC I stopped after a few sessions because there was no controller compatibility. But it was later ported to Switch and I couldn’t put it down!

It’s now my main game and I’ve been streaming it on Twitch and TikTok. It has all the same elements of many other games I’ve played – crafting, cooking, decorating, and an intriguing storyline, but what I love most about it is how kind and considerate the other players are. That makes my experience of the game much more pleasant and rewarding.

It’s free-to-play, but had it been paid I still would have bought it on Switch.

When the developers design thoughtful community-centered games like with Palia, the game becomes an instant cozy game in my opinion.

Does that mean only life-sims can be cozy? Absolutely not. Kindness and care can be built into any game. Take a look at how in this research project by project horseshoe.

Why are Cozy Games so Popular? 

Wholesome games have always been a family favorite, think any Mario game ever made for instance. They bring folks together.

But there’s something altogether quite special about cozy games.

Rather than everyone huddling around the TV for some laughs or chaos depending on your choice of game, cozy games offer comfort for solo gamers. 

What makes cozy games stand out is their knack for helping players to unwind and exhale. Like the first sip of tea on your work break after being hounded by customers all morning. They are a necessary addition to the games industry that have been severely overlooked for many years.

Mostly due to the belief that video games need to be fast-paced and difficult to be enjoyable. 

The cozy game trend

Cozy gaming has been around forever.

Stardew Valley creator Concerned Ape and Nintendo were pioneers in the laid-back life-sim genre. But when the whole world had to stay home between 2020 and 2021 suddenly folks found they had a lot of time on their hands.

Not surprisingly Switch sales skyrocketed, and many folks bought their very first game console solely to play Animal Crossing New Horizons which launched in March 2020, just as everyone shut their doors. This new game became a way for families and friends to play together without being in the same room.

But wait a second. ACNH wasn’t the first, or only, online game? So why was it so popular? 

Several factors jump out to me. Firstly, it’s an incredibly simple game. Even grandmas were huge fans of the game. Secondly, the Nintendo Switch is considerably cheaper than most other consoles on the market coming in at under $200 for the Lite version. I started with a Standard Switch but bought a Switch Lite because it was less weighty and easier for my wrists to hold for long periods. But thirdly, and probably the most important factor… the series already had a huge fan base, myself included. 

So when you combine isolation from loved ones with a nostalgic blast from the past you get a recipe for people to take to the internet to share their opinions.

Content Creators

New Horizons was the reason I decided to become a Twitch Streamer and YouTuber. I wanted to share my gameplay and love of my favorite villagers with the world.

I played well over a thousand hours and bought a second copy of the game just so I could create two separate islands (You are only allowed 1 island per game). Indulgent I know, and I most certainly wouldn’t have done that if it hadn’t been for how popular the game turned out to be. I just couldn’t get enough!

I wasn’t the only one.

Many people turned their passion for gaming into a small business in 2020 and the demand for cozier games heightened.

I posted a faceless TikTok video sharing a list of games I thought were cozy and it reached over 2 million views. 2 MILLION VIEWS! Let that sink in. For someone like myself, with a smaller following to go viral like that seems madness to me.

There’s no denying that cozy games are popular, the trend doesn’t seem to be slowing down.

Put the kettle on because we’ve got to talk about what makes a game cozy. I share my thoughts as a 30-something female gamer on what a cozy game is. Tags: popular cozy games, trending cozy games, world of cozy games, cozy gaming community, favorite cozy games, cozy games ranked, farming sims, project horseshoe, Content Creators, cozy gamers, her cozy gaming, appeal of cozy gaming, gaming industry, comfort games, feelings of comfort, cozy vibes, Palia, Twitch Streamer
Twitch Live Stream – Wendy (Her Cozy Gaming)

The HUGE problem with Cozy Games right now

Honestly, we’re just making it up as we go along. Coziness is subjective.

It would be impossible for a game developer to encompass every quality that each individual found comforting. It would drive a person mad because coziness is different for everyone. 

I particularly like thunderstorms and can fall sound asleep while they rage outside, but my poor darling fiance hates them and will toss and turn all night.

There have been many arguments on social media about creators reportedly lying to their viewers because their idea of a cozy game is different from other members of the cozy gaming community. But I think there’s beauty in us all experiencing games differently. 

Farming burnout

Everyone is talking about it. Cozy gamers are sick and tired of farming games. 

It seems like every other new game release is a farming sim and they all look the same, feel the same, and basically seem to rip off other games. Nothings different. Every game is trying to be the next Stardew and I’m personally bored of it. 

Don’t get me wrong I love some chill weeding and bringing in the cash from potato sales in Palia, but I don’t want the bulk of my gameplay to be just farming-related. If I see a game with farming or farm in the title I will run away screaming at this point. 

Overuse of the term ‘Cozy’ by Game Developers

Another problem with cozy games is the blanket use of the term ‘cozy’ to sell any game.

A developer reached out to me via email before Christmas to ask my opinion on whether or not I felt their new game was “cozy enough”. I gave my opinion and never heard from them again.

I feel like developers are slapping cozy in their titles or descriptions of their games simply to bait cozy gamers.

Game - Final Fantasy 7 Remake .. Tags: ff7, photo mode, cozy moments in video games, her cozy gaming
Screengrab from Photo Mode in FF7 Remake

It’s odd because all the games I’ve played up until recently never even described themselves as cozy, they just were… to me. I don’t want cozy games thrown in my face, I want to discover cozy moments within games that I never expected to feel like Photo Mode in Final Fantasy 7 Remake.

I want to be impacted by a topic I hadn’t considered like the complicated mother-daughter relationship in Hindsight. I want simple game mechanics and every game to have controller compatibility. These are the things I care about, not if a game is cozy enough to be called a cozy game.

Hindsight, indie games, classic games, adventure games, Nintendo console, Her Cozy Gaming, cozy games for millennials, millennial gamers, older gamers, gamers in their 30s, female gamers, middle aged gamers,
Game – Hindsight

How I RANK what makes a game ‘Cozy’… because we’re all different

Phew, that was a lot to write, but we’re here now. I couldn’t share how I rank what makes a game cozy without first answering a few common questions about the appeal of cozy gaming in the gaming industry now.

So when I’m playing a cozy game there are a few things I look for that can make or break the cozy vibe for me.

If you’ve ever wondered how I write my game reviews or what I’m looking for when I choose a new game to play this is it. My ‘Cozy Ranking System’:

side note

Everyone’s gaming experience is different. Please let this system help you to better understand how I rank and review cozy games on my blog and social channels. Don’t use it against other cozy gamers as a tool to explain what elements a cozy game should have.

Tutorial & Controls

As a content creator, I have to play a lot of games in a short amount of time. Sometimes if a tutorial is too long I won’t even make it to the gameplay. I’ve been known to quit games or never return to them because the tutorial gave me too much information to process and I got bored. I play mostly on consoles so using a controller is a given but when I move over to PC I find it incredibly jarring to use a mouse and keyboard to play a game. I’m instantly pulled out of the game as I try to navigate the controls and feel akin to a fawn learning how to walk. Some games are simple point and click. I can do that. But when jumping and running are needed I start to lose momentum and my attention wanes.

Questions I’m considering: Are new game mechanics introduced gradually? Think Zelda TOTK. How much reading do I need to do before I can play? Can I turn off in-game helpful hints? Is there controller compatibility?

Music & Soundscape

When I’m playing a game I want to have full control over sound levels.

Questions I’m considering: Are the action sounds separate from the music? Can I control the loudness? Can I turn off or on ambient sounds? I just can’t listen to the same single track looped for 2 hours… *cough* Unpacking.

Gameplay & Story

Each game I play is so wildly different from one another that when I consider the overall gameplay I’m generally looking for memorable characters and if there are any cute animals I can interact with. What will I be doing? Is there a lot of farming, crafting, or foraging? The story doesn’t need to be front of mind but there does need to be one for me to have a reason to complete the game.

Kindness & Care

The most important factor in any cozy game I play is kindness and care. This heightens in importance when I need to play with others either in couch co-op or online. I’m looking for how players need to interact with one another to complete tasks. Does it cause an argument or feel natural? Is the game rewarding good behavior or encouraging bad ones? Are there safe spaces to breathe? And if it’s a solo game I’m looking for themes that promote self-care and consideration for my time.

Meaning

Why am I playing it? Does the game give me some satisfaction and leave me feeling inspired, comforted, and/or challenged? Generally, I’m looking for different things depending on what genre of game I pick up but overall I want to get to the end of my gaming session (not necessarily the end of the game) having felt a sense of accomplishment. If I feel like I’ve just wasted an hour of my day the game becomes meaningless to me and I won’t pick it up again. I want a reason to recommend it to my friends and community.

Overall Star Ranking

Having considered all of these factors I award a half or whole star per observation.

For example, if I think the game has a solid tutorial but lacks controller compatibility or those controls don’t feel intuitive, I award half a star. If I adore the soundtrack but the game doesn’t allow me to adjust any setting for the soundscape – half a star. You get the picture. 

I originally had ‘Difficulty’ as an observation rather than the ‘Tutorial & Controls’ but everyone starts from a different level of experience. I didn’t feel like this observation helped me determine a game’s coziness ranking. Most cozy games are generally easy and light in-game mechanics. I think the tutorial and ease of controls carry a lot more weight within cozy games.

My 5 TOP Cozy Games Ranked

With this system in mind here are a few of my TOP Cozy Games ranked in order of coziness:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Watch the full video

Wendy
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