The world has been a dark, tough place for many people lately. Myself included; I know I’ve been having a tough time. I’ve been turning to my favorite books and video games, but even some of those have dark themes that haven’t exactly been uplifting. Enter Wholesome Games. It’s a community that started when Matthew Taylor, an indie developer began collecting games “according to their feelings of comfort, compassion, and coziness.” Now more than half a million people are part of the community. Saturday was third Wholesome Direct, an hour-long showcase featuring nearly 100 independent games. I chose to feature five you should especially have on your radar, but I do encourage you to watch the full presentation on YouTube. 1) Paper Animal RPG Developer: Cuddling Raccoons Studio Publisher: Top Hat Studios, Inc. As someone who loves the Paper Mario series, this was an immediate add to my Steam wishlist. (As were the other games I’m featuring as well). It’s a roguelike game with a procedurally generated map. From Paper Animal RPG on Steam: “Paper Animal RPG is a cute roguelike game where you can explore a colorful world, fight scary enemies and relax with your friends at the campfire! The game is inspired by and tries to pay homage to the Paper Mario, Mario & Luigi as well as the Pokémon Mystery Dungeon series.” The game is headed to Android, iOS, Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, and Xbox in 2023, but there will also be a Kickstarter sometime this summer. 2) Fall of Porcupine Developer: BUNTSPECHT.GAMES The art style is what immediately endeared me to this little adventure. It made me think a little of Oxenfree and a little of A Night in the Woods with a “health care” twist. Developer BUNTSPECHT.GAMES describes the game as “the collision of work and daily life – an exciting reflection of an unhealthy healthcare system.” You’re not just playing the game in a hospital, however. You can go explore the small town you’re in, interact with people in the town, and there’s even a forest you can explore, where “mysterious castle ruins are hidden.” You can wishlist the game on Steam right now, but there’s no release date or window as of now. 3) Pixelshire Developer: Kappa Bits Publisher: Merge Games At first, Pixelshire looked like a cozier version of Stardew Valley, but after diving into the Steam page for the game, calling it that is a disservice. Yes, you can build a farm, grow crops, and raise animals, but in Pixelshire, you also manage your own shop, instead of just putting items in a box to be sold at the end of the night. You also have a whole continent at your disposal to explore, and procedurally generated islands with “magical mist,” and biomes like mountain jungles and enchanted forests to explore. You’ll also be able to build relationships with the community and even bring them along on different adventures. Releasing next year, it’ll be on Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5 and Xbox consoles. 4) Bilkins’ Folly Developer: Webbysoft Publisher: Armor Games Studios What is more wholesome than a story of a boy and his dog? You play as Percival “Percy” Bilkins, a treasure hunter on a quest to find his mother and grandfather, who vanished. After a shipwreck and with his dog Drayton by his side, he must find a way to get back on his mission. From the games Steam page: “Bilkins’ Folly is a narrative adventure game about a boy and his dog. Team up with your canine best friend to uncover every nook and cranny of this region. With the help of Percy’s expert cartography skills, you can customize your map to help you solve puzzles and unlock other secrets. But be warned: some puzzles in this world are harder than others, and you might need to return to them later in your journey.” Bilkins’ Folly is set to release on PC, and possibly other platforms, in the future. 5) Tiny Witch Developer: Creative Hand Publisher: Creative Hand This was another where the art style immediately drew me in – and the subject! It’s a game with a witch, and you’re doing spells and such. You’re also running a magic wizard store, and you have to accomplish things before your unruly wizard customers decide to attack you. (As someone who spent a decade in retail, I know those feels.) You can wishlist the game on Steam now, and it looks to release in 2022. What are some Wholesome Games you Enjoy? As I said at the beginning, this year’s Wholesome Direct featured nearly 100 titles, all with different qualities making them “wholesome.” What are some calm, cozy games that you enjoy playing? If you’re having a hard time out there, Guardians Mental Health has a great page of resources.