A Short Hike

Sometimes you need a moment of respite after conquering a Soulslike — or any highly challenging game, really. These experiences are brutal and push you to your limits, but there’s an immense sense of satisfaction after you survive a really tough game. I recently played Eldest Souls, and that game jump-started my desire to play more of the challenging games in my library. But I needed a breather first — Haven Park was that breather.

That game let me explore fun hiking trails, set up campgrounds for visitors, and interact with NPCs. It was a cool, relaxed experience. Beyond just being fun, though, Haven Park gave me that moment of respite I needed after surviving the intense challenge of Eldest Souls.

So with that, here are five chill games you should play if you’re looking for something to sit back and relax with after getting through the anguish of beating a brutal Soulslike.

A Short Hike

A Short Hike Gameplay

One of the bigger inspirations for the aforementioned Haven Park is A Short Hike. The game stars Claire, who makes it a goal to climb the highest point of Hawk Peak Provincial Park. It’s a personal goal that she needs to accomplish — both to test herself and to work out some mental health issues she’s dealing with.

A Short Hike mixes adventure, walking sim (or wing-flapping sim), and life sim gameplay elements. You’ll travel through various terrain — from grassy paths to rivers to snowy peaks — as you make your way to the top. Along the way you’ll encounter a lot of NPCs, most of which are colorful, interesting characters with some worthwhile things to say. The game’s Animal Crossing (another great chill game) influence is apparent when you see the quirky visual style of the talking animals that populate Hawk Peak.

The climbing in A Short Hike is enriched by the characters you meet along the way. These NPCs will give you objectives to fulfill, which usually lead to a multi-jump upgrade or other gameplay improvement. Beyond that, though, the characters you come across are pretty memorable and make the game a lot of fun — in addition, a lot of them are relatable, and they’re all just working through some stuff or dealing with their own challenges.

True to its name, A Short Hike isn’t a lengthy affair. At around two hours, it’s a meditative experience that’s perfect for winding down immediately after beating a Soulslike — or perhaps to get some clarity before you start another ultra-hard game like Demon’s Souls or Nioh.

Garden Story

Garden Story Fishing Gameplay

Though Garden Story is more semi-chill than full-on relaxing, it’s still a pretty laid-back action-adventure game. It follows a lot of similar beats to the top-down Legend of Zelda games, giving you an overworld to explore, NPCs to help, and dungeons to visit.

Interestingly, the combat is like a simplified combination between the Zelda and Dark Souls series. It’s basic hack-and-slash fare with a stamina meter forcing you to play a little carefully. The action is never really difficult at all, but if you don’t keep an eye on your stamina, you could end up meeting an unnecessary end.

The very light Soulslike/Zelda influence coupled with relaxing exploration and task-based world-building make Garden Story a good choice if you need to unwind after finishing a challenging game but don’t want a completely easygoing experience.


Hoa Game

The Ghibli-esque Hoa is a 2D puzzle-platformer, but it’s not too challenging, which makes it a great title to vibe with. The puzzles are mostly designed to let you see more of the game’s world, which features a beautiful hand-drawn art style. The music is also really enjoyable, with piano themes coming along with you for this serene ride.

Hoa was my go-to right after I finished Blue Fire recently, which isn’t the hardest game ever but still poses a fairly formidable challenge. And because that game features a lot of platforming, moving on to a breezier platformer just made sense, mechanically speaking.

At under three hours, it’s not super demanding of your time, but it’ll give you that brief inner piece you might need after living to tell the tale about how you got through the horrorpunk world of Morbid: The Seven Acolytes.

Button City

Button City Sage

Franchises like Dark Souls are notorious for having purposefully vague plots and minimalist storytelling. If perhaps you need to take a quick breather in between Soulslikes, Button City is a giant thematic shift that favors narrative. Not only will you get a fairly calm gameplay experience — you’ll also get a story-rich game with some awesome characters and great writing.

In Button City, you play as Fennel, who’s just moved to a new town and makes some new friends at the local arcade. The game follows Fennel and company as they try to save the arcade from closing down. There are a lot of emotional beats here, and despite being pretty quirky and a little funny at times, the story knows when to get serious and tugs at your heartstrings.

If you need a quick break from the high level of challenge, bleak mood, and narrative ambiguity that’s pretty commonplace in Soulslikes, give Button City a look.

Sludge Life

Sludge Life

Sludge Life is a different type of laidback than we’re probably used to. For starters, the game is a first-person platformer with an emphasis on dropping graffiti tags all over a corporate docks setting. The platforming gameplay itself is functional and entertaining, though it is a little rough in spots. That said, the game has a really chill tone to it.

You’ll listen to rad themes from Doseone as you scale towers and buildings and bomb those suckers with your mark. The game has a late ‘90s/early 2000s hip hop vibe to it that makes it easy to just unwind with.

So if you’ve just gotten to the end of an Ashen or Mortal Shell playthrough and don’t want to sacrifice gameplay in favor of simplicity, maybe Sludge Life is more your style. It’s not entirely without difficulty, so you’ll get a little bit of challenge to bring you down from that Soulslike high much more gradually than some of the other picks on this list.

Sometimes You Need a Little Room to Breathe

It’s normal to want to chase that adrenaline when you’ve just wrapped up a Soulslike. Sometimes, though, you need to come down just a tad from all of that catharsis. Playing any of the chill games listed here will let you regain the composure necessary to take on your next challenge. And if we’re being honest, they’re definitely games to keep in mind a day or two before Elden Ring launches. Because lets face it: We’re going to need to go into that one with as much mental ease as possible!

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