Wholesome Games
Image: Nintendo Life

Update: We've updated this list and given it a spring clean. Along with that, we've also added two newer releases to the pack: Botany Manor and Snufkin: Melody of Moominvalley. Enjoy!

What exactly makes a game cozy? Is it the player's state of mind while playing? Is it an adherence to specific aesthetics or messages? Is it the inclusion of birds? Well, you might be forgiven for thinking it's the last one, because at least ten of the games on this list are about birds specifically, but the idea of a "cozy" game is a bit more nebulous than that.

It's more of a feeling, really: a game that you can relax to, that can be challenging but never punishing, with elements of friendship, community, and kindness. But not always — some "cozy" games (like a certain game about a bad goose) are more about letting the player go a little bit wild, but always in a way that's gentler and less severe than chopping people's heads off in a Dark Souls or a Witcher game.

Without further ado, here we are: the bestest coziest games on the Nintendo Switch.

Unpacking (Switch eShop)

The multi-award-winning Unpacking sounds simple: take stuff out of boxes, put it in the house you just moved into. However, the interactions with the items you own and the rooms you're unpacking into are surprisingly — forgive the pun — moving. It's a charming little experience that's perfect for winding down after a long day.

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A Short Hike (Switch eShop)

A Short Hike has a lot of the hallmarks of a great cozy indie game: talking animals, a message about stopping to smell the roses, and the kind of soundtrack that you want to listen to in the bath. It's just downright lovely.

For a game that's nominally about a "short hike" up a mountain (to get reception on your phone), A Short Hike becomes about a lot more quite quickly, whether that's finding secrets, helping people out, or just exploring the world on your way up (and down, and back up again).

There's plenty of joyful, wonderful moments to be discovered in A Short Hike, but the best one of all is when you realise that the journey is sometimes more important than the destination.

Untitled Goose Game (Switch eShop)

What do you think of when we say the word "cozy"? Is it a little family of pigs, wearing knitted jumpers? Perhaps it's an anthropomorphic fox drinking tea? Well, you're all wrong. The most cozy thing is a horrible goose terrorising a village with a chaotic accompanying classical piano soundtrack.

You already know Untitled Goose Game, most likely, since it went very viral when it came out, but in case you haven't already played it, it's all about a naughty goose who loves stealing things and honking loudly. It's daft, silly fun, with a lot of wonderful moments that emerge out of the goose's antics, like making a man fall down by stealing his chair, or trapping a child in a phone box.

Honestly, Untitled Goose Game's humour is what sets it apart: it's the kind of game that's all about gentle pranks and being very, very annoying, but no one really gets hurt or becomes the real butt of the joke.

Yoku's Island Express (Switch eShop)

Bugs in pinball might sound more like a job for the vacuum cleaner than a video game, but hear us out: Yoku's Island Express is one of the most hidden-est gems on the Nintendo Switch. You're a lil beetle, and you need to deliver post; what better way to do it than to fling yourself around the map in a pinball-puzzle-platformer game?

Along the way, you'll learn about the inhabitants of the island, their various secrets, and best of all, you'll find that size is no limit when you're heart's big enough for the task.

No bugs were harmed in the making of this game.

A Little To The Left (Switch eShop)

Similar to Unpacking, but with its own twist, A Little To The Left is all about rearranging objects in your house just so. This means stacking papers in size order, books in height order, and lining up game cartridges perfectly. It's satisfying to make things look nice and organised, and ALTTL nails that feeling.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons (Switch)

At a very specifically not-cozy time in our lives — the beginning of a global pandemic — Animal Crossing: New Horizons came out, and soothed a lot of our worries away with its candy-coloured, animal-befriending holiday island.

Sure, you can play ACNH in a number of different ways, a lot of which are stressful — like trying to collect all the pieces of furniture, terraforming your village, or visiting deserted island after deserted island to try and find Marshal because you NEED him on your island... but at the end of the day, it's a game all about relaxation, making friends, decorating houses, and placing flowers in a cute little garden that you designed.

With the co-op features, it gets even cozier, as you can welcome people to your island in order to trade, show off your designs, or just hang out in the lovely Museum. If only life were this simple.

Alba: A Wildlife Adventure (Switch eShop)

From the makers of Monument Valley comes Alba: A Wildlife Adventure, a charming little bird-watching, animal-identifying, squirrel-washing game that's all about saving the wildlife in a cute little pastel town.

The titular Alba is partaking in an "island cleanup initiative", which involves rescuing critters, picking up trash, and literally cleaning up puddles of toxic goop. There are plenty of townspeople to talk to as well, including your grandparents, who you'll be staying with. Alba can also take photos of the animals she sees, so just like real life, your phone will be stuffed with pics of tiny, round birbs.

Developer UsTwo Games call Alba a "chillectathon", and that's what you can expect: despite its rather ominous environmental message, it's a very calm and relaxing game.

Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker (Switch)

We're not trying to sound smug or anything, but we liked Toads way before it was cool. Years of being teased for picking the lil mushroom guy in Mario Kart 64, and we never stopped believing. Now that the best Toad of all — Captain Toad — has his own game, we feel vindicated.

Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker is a neat little puzzle game that's just unnecessarily pretty, with 3D vignettes that you can rotate around to find secrets and solutions. On the Nintendo Switch, there are even more puzzles to muddle your way through, plus multiplayer Toad mayhem, if you fancy it.

What with Toads being significantly smaller and very much rounder than our usual Mario-shaped hero, everything in Treasure Tracker is at least 200% cuter. What's not to love?

Stardew Valley (Switch eShop)

Who among us hasn't dreamed of sacking it all in and going to work on a farm? Think about it: instead of emails, you get fresh strawberries. Instead of deadlines, it's all about crop rotation. And instead of having to go on some terrible dating app, you just give someone an egg every day until they love you.

Stardew Valley is all about taking life slow, but don't let that fool you into thinking it's easy — there's plenty of depth to be found, including the literal depth of the mines, which are stuffed with hazards, traps, monsters, and TREASURE.

Also, you can get really into making your farm as efficient as possible... or you can just turn it into a pig paradise, if you want. It's up to you!

Littlewood (Switch eShop)

We imagine that actual farmers would probably dispute their livelihood being constantly touted as "cozy", given how much poo, death, and screaming is involved, but Littlewood is yet another game that makes farming look very appealing. It's not just farming in this one, though — it's your standard combo of farm-fight-friendship.

What sets Littlewood apart is its story. Rather than being a dead guy's granddaughter in a cosy little town in the middle of nowhere, you are the hero who saved the world, but you don't remember any of it. Neither does the villain, in fact — but you'll have to revitalise the ruins of your last battle together. What a lovely way to start a tale!

Spiritfarer (Switch eShop)

How fitting, to finish off this list with a game about death. But wait! It's not about the horrifying reality of mortality — Spiritfarer is all about finding peace and comfort before going off to eternal rest.

As the person who ferries spirits to their final destination, you'll also have to let them live on your barge until they're ready to pass on — and that means helping them fulfil their unfinished business. We're talking "I want to tell this person what I really think about them," not "I want to get revenge on the person who murdered me", by the way.

All of the spirits are represented by animals, from snakes to hedgehogs, and best of all, you can hug them. With a gorgeously-animated look, and the ability to upgrade your barge however you please, Spiritfarer is definitely worth a play... if you can handle the weepy parts.