ozy games are not a new phenomenon, but their rise in popularity during the 2020s is often considered one. This video game subgenre stems from the life simulation games so many grew up loving, such as The Sims, Story of Seasons, or Animal Crossing. Each of these franchises is still going strong, and subsequent games inspired by these titles are gaining traction in their own right. Take Stardew Valley, for example. What began as a programming exercise for creator Eric Barone became one of the best-selling video games ever.

This guide aims to help new and experienced gamers alike navigate this delightful genre in a market where copycats and oversaturation can run rampant.

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Defining Cozy Games

Countless folks have tried their hand at defining this variable genre, but the idea of coziness is subjective. While one person may be looking to build and customize an island, like in Animal Crossing: New Horizons, another may be looking for a satisfying puzzle game that they can complete in a few hours, such as Unpacking.

Despite this subjectivity, " cozy " games tend to share common themes. Cozy games tend to emphasize player expression and relaxation. They also often feature some sort of nurturing component: for oneself, one's player characters, or the game world.  Crafting and customization, to some extent, often come into play where the point is to feel relaxed in these tasks rather than feel the need to grind for materials.

Additionally, cozy games strive to be welcoming and accessible to all players, from the most hardened MMO players to folks just picking up a controller (or mobile device) for the first time. Generally, these games feature simple controls, low difficulty, and an easy (or nonexistent) learning curve.

Finally, while a hack-and-slash game with complex mechanics and daunting stakes may sound like fun for some, “relaxing” may not be the first word that comes to mind. However, when a cozy game includes combat, it is generally low-stakes, such as losing hearts and respawning right away or returning to a checkpoint that isn’t too far behind.

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Cozy Game Aesthetics

Video games as a medium are an amalgamation of the arts — visual, musical, and performing arts all play a role in most video games. Aesthetics are just as important as mechanics, and especially in cozy games, this can make or break player immersion. One way to identify the cozy aesthetic is simply by looking at a game.

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Theme and Tone

Cozy narratives are usually wholesome, with character relationships and backstories featured prominently. The gameplay is also slower-paced, with simple or repetitive mechanics used to accomplish tasks. Common themes include small towns, detaching from the busy modern world, constructing something from nothing — the list goes on. As stated, plenty of these games are tonally tranquil. However, for those who feel coziest with rain pattering outside the window, there are plenty of cozy games with darker, spookier tones, such as the supernatural adventure game Oxenfree or the Lovecraftian fishing game Dredge.

Art Direction 

For people less familiar with the language of video games, one solid way to pick out cozy titles is their visual style. Keep an eye out for softer illustrations or a hand-drawn appearance. Low-poly (or low-polygon) models, where things look less realistic and have more of a chunky look, are common. Pixel art is also wildly popular in the genre.


Much like lo-fi beats for studying, a game’s soundtrack can make or break player immersion. Where action games utilize an intense repertoire of instruments and stinging beats to accompany the action, cozy game soundtracks have a tranquilizing effect. The range of instruments used is smaller to mimic that small-town feeling, and when done well, the soundscape will set players into a calm frame of mind.


Keeping with the idea of being low-stress, the mechanics of a cozy game tend to lean on the simpler side. Quick-time events with rapid button pressing or strict parrying rules in combat aren’t really a concern. Ideally, the most stressful thing players come across in terms of cozy gameplay is when a piece of furniture won’t rotate the way players want or your cow doesn’t produce the highest quality milk.

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Just as a diverse range of games fall under the cozy banner, there are different kinds of gamers. Whatever sort of player you are, please know that your gaming interests and talents are valid. “Casual gamers” can be looked down upon in some hardcore gaming circles; cozy games are not the place for that. This is not a competitive environment — unless you’re into self-imposed challenges. Even the combat, which has its place in the genre, is minimal. It utilizes a single button press to perform actions like swinging a sword or chopping an ax, with no finesse required. These games are for people who want to pick up a controller, play, and have a satisfying experience.

Given the popularity of coziness, it’s prudent to point out that non-cozy games can and have implemented cozy elements. Consider Pyloon’s Saloon in Star Wars Jedi: Survivor — a soulsborne-like game with unforgiving combat and fast-paced acrobatic puzzles. Though the game is intentionally challenging, players can return to the planet Koboh at any time, take care of their little rooftop garden, check in on the aquarium, and learn more about the saloon’s regulars as player character Cal Kestis continues to meet new citizens throughout the galaxy. For intense games, moments of reprieve, such as a gardening mini-game, are great opportunities for players to take a break, learn more about the world, and prepare for the next challenge.

Getting Started with Cozy Games

So we’ve got a handle on what cozy games are, but how do we actually start building our own collection?

Consider your definition of cozy 

As I said, defining a cozy game can be difficult, so it’s up to players to figure out what feels low-stakes for them while playing, which is easier said than done if you're getting into it for the first time. If you’re unable to define it through gameplay right now, consider when you feel your calmest in the real world.

For example, I enjoy visiting local coffee shops on rainy days, and some of my favorite games feature heavy dialogue. Therefore, when I saw the demo for Coffee Talk, a deep, talk simulator in which you play as a barista, I jumped at it.

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Seek out aesthetics that catch your eye

The look of a game is integral to its experience because, ideally, you’ll be spending hours immersed in this world. It’s much easier to look at something appealing than otherwise. Look to your other favorite media or art for visual comparisons to find what appeals to you.

Maybe you love those retro posters for the National Park Service. The first-person mystery Firewatch often feels like a three-dimensional approach to those posters. If the bright colors and busy animations of the hit roguelite Cult of the Lamb are too chaotic, try looking for more subdued, muted palettes like those of the grungy yet charming  RPG Eastward.

What mechanics work for you

Unfortunately, it’s hard to determine how the mechanics of a game feel without giving it a test run. Still, if you’re familiar with gaming, it’s possible to pinpoint what does and doesn’t work for you as you play. Controlling The Sims on PC feels significantly different than playing on a console.

For example, visual novels like NeoCab generally use a few buttons to choose dialogue or move on to the next scene, so it’s easy to jump in without relearning an entire button sequence. If you live for customization, farming simulators often have delightful options for characters and the environment. However, if the idea of taking your time to water an entire garden one plant at a time wears you out, try looking elsewhere to get a customization fix that doesn’t have to do with garden grids.

Gateway games 

Finally, if you are an experienced gamer looking to expand your repertoire, poke around the community for what I call “gateway games.” I mentioned the roguelite Cult of the Lamb above. It has social mechanics that appeal to cozy gamers and difficulty settings that let players decide how treacherous the dungeon levels are. If you’re a fan of intentionally difficult games that require a certain level of patience and dexterity, learning how to enjoy cozy moments is a significant shift. There are even multiplayer cozy games for those who love chatting with real people, such as the free-to-play life simulation adventure Palia. Gateway titles like this feature exciting, potentially daunting gameplay alongside moments of respite.

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Flipping Expectations

Too much of a good thing can become a bad thing. With the popularity of cozy games at an all-time high, so too are the copycats that offer nothing new to the genre. Hopefully, this guide has made sense of the cozy gaming market and how to find a game that suits your interests. If you’re looking for a game that triggers a sense of nostalgia, but your Gamecube was water-damaged because you didn’t store it properly — not that I would know anything about that — poke around Lil Gator Game and enjoy a simple game the way you did as a kid. If economics and puzzles are your jam, but you really love dungeon crawlers, Moonlighter or the Graveyard Keeper Stranger Sins DLC may just become your next favorite thing. Hopefully, you come away from this article with new tools and language to choose your next game.

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Once you find the games that speak to you, finding others who enjoy the same things never hurts.  The cozy game side of TikTok is a wealth of knowledge, as are Discord, Twitch, and YouTube for that community feeling. If you’re just looking to explore what the genre has to offer, there’s no shortage of reviews, articles, or listicles on game journalism websites such as GamesRadar+, IGN, or Polygon, to name a few. All of them have social media accounts for quick updates on the go. Cozy gaming is open to all, and the community reflects that same sentiment.

And, of course, you can always find all kinds of gamers in Youtini’s Discord, including plenty of us who appreciate the chance to unwind with a cozy game!

Sam is a librarian by day and writer by night. Though he can no longer recite the original trilogy verbatim, Star Wars has remained a steadfast companion in his life and loves sharing his exploration of the Extended Universe with others. When Sam is procrastinating non-Youtini projects, he enjoys reading, playing video games, and spending time with his pug, Eleven.