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The best cozy games – Pocket Tactics Awards 2023

From Spirittea to Stardew, our top picks for the best cozy games of the year are here to help you unwind when the world gets a bit too much.

Cozy games: Hello Kitty pasted on some art from a different cozy game

Cozy games are growing increasingly more popular by the year, with huge titles like Stardew Valley and Animal Crossing reaching dizzying heights, and new games bringing in fresh ideas all the time. So, whether you’re looking for an escape from reality, or simply want to chill out on a lazy weekend, our picks for the best cozy games of the year are here to help you unwind.

If you want to see more amazing games from the past year, check out our Pocket Tactics Awards lists for our Switch games of the year and our mobile games of the year. Or, if it’s the chill vibes you’re looking for, head over to our list of the most relaxing games.

Now, without further ado, let’s take a look at our top picks for the best cozy games in 2023.

Cozy games: A screenshot from Spirittea with the PT awards banner over the top


Spirittea is a charming, rural RPG that seamlessly blends elements of life sim and business sim, perfectly emulating a mixture of Stardew Valley and Studio Ghibli vibes. It’s a truly heartwarming and magical game that sees you take the role of a fantasy author who moves to an old house in a remote, rural town in hopes of getting some inspiration for your next book.

However, you certainly get more than you bargained for when you take your first sip of spirittea and discover you can now see spirits. Teaming up with a wonderfully sassy ghost cat called Wonyan, you must help your new neighbors (both living and otherworldly) by solving their issues and restoring the old bath house for spirits to its former glory.

The gameplay loop manages to feel both familiar and fresh at the same time, revolving around a pretty laid-back world full of little puzzles and problems to solve, items to forage and buy, and a bathhouse to run. It’s absolutely charming, and the amount of work solo dev The Cheese Master Games is putting into bug fixes and future content is admirable. I can’t wait to see what new features are coming in 2024. In the meantime, be sure to check out our Spirittea review to find out more about this little gem.

Cozy games: The two Coffee Talk cover art characters pasted on a blurred social image with the PT awards banner over the top

Coffee Talk Episode 2

Following the success of the first game back in 2020, Coffee Talk Episode 2: Hibiscus and Butterfly offers a refill of all our favorite cafe’s characters and heartfelt stories. It invites you to once again take the role of a barista in a quaint little coffee shop, completing drink-making minigames and engaging in deep conversations for hours on end.

Despite being set in Seattle in 2023, Coffee Talk Episode 2 takes place in an alternate reality where mythical beings mingle in society, each of which has its own unique outlook on life and issues to overcome. And, as a barista, it’s not only your job to serve up delicious beverages – it’s also up to you to build your friendships with them, hear them out, and help them solve their problems.

This cozy, visual novel-flavored talking sim is a truly lovely little package, sure to warm your heart just as much as your favorite hot drink. So, if you fancy a brew, be sure to head on over to our Coffee Talk Episode 2 review and take a sip, or go and grab the Coffee Talk double-pack on Switch

Cozy games: A screenshot from ISAT showing the group taking a photo in a magic mirror with the PT awards banner over the top

In Stars and Time

In Stars and Time is a monochrome lo-fi RPG about time loops, friendship, and family. You play as Siffrin, a rogueish traveler on a quest to stop an evil king from freezing the entire world in time. After initially meeting a grizzly end, you find that you’re stuck in a time loop, repeating the same day over and over again.

However, as much as this may sound like a bit of a nightmare, it actually gives you the chance to learn more and more about Siffrin’s diverse crew of charismatic companions, the world around you, and the mental toll that repeating these tragic events over and over can have on the mind.

In terms of coziness, this one’s a little different from our other choices on the list, but its wholesome vibes, adorable art, and brilliant approach towards LGBTQ+ representation certainly earns it a place on this list in our eyes. To find out more about this indie classic in the making, check out our In Stars and Time Switch review and our In Stars and Time interview.

Cozy games: Art from Song of Nunu with the PT awards banner over the top

Song of Nunu: A League of Legends Story

Considering the toxic reputation tied to the community, League of Legends is the last series you’d imagine a cozy game to come from, and yet here we are. But, unlike its highly competitive MOBA sibling, Song of Nunu truly does offer cozy vibes in droves. 

It follows the story of a ten-year-old boy called Nunu and his best friend Willump (the last of the yeti), as they embark on a journey to find Nunu’s long-lost mother. It’s a truly beautiful story of the power of friendship and how it can help you overcome just about any perils that life throws at you, all set in a stunning, snowy tundra.

Song of Nunu combines multiple gameplay elements including puzzles, platforming, exploration, and more. But, overall, it’s a highly narrative-driven adventure that’s sure to give you that warm, fuzzy feeling. In fact, it even gave my PT pal Kayleigh her very own ‘Grinch moment’. Read her Song of Nunu review to find out more, or check out her festive feature on how Song of Nunu opened her heart to wholesome games.

Cozy games: A screenshot from Mineko's Night Market with the PT awards banner over the top

Mineko’s Night Market

Mineko’s Night Market is a cozy game that I was looking forward to for a very long time. In fact, I recall first hearing about it before I was even in this industry. Needless to say, I was extremely excited when I finally got my paws on it in 2023. 

Describing itself as a narrative-driven, social simulation adventure that celebrates Japanese culture, the game follows the story of a young girl called Mineko, who moves to a small island with her dad. The island was once populated by many cats, as well as the Sun Cat, Nikko. However, with Nikko seemingly gone, the island has become a shell of its former self. Befriending the local kids, Mineko sets out on a quest to find out what happened to Nikko and bring the cats back to the island.

Both the gameplay and artstyle are simple but effective, and make for a great cozy game to play when you need to unwind. Whether you’re foraging for materials, crafting items to sell at the titular night market, sneaking around and freeing cats from cages, or simply petting those kitties in a breezy field, it’s a very chill experience with purr-fect vibes. If you can’t resist those toebeans, check out our full Mineko’s Night Market review.

Cozy games: Key art from Fae Farm featuring a fairy wearing purple, overlayed with the PT awards banner

Fae Farm

Fae Farm is a magical farm game that definitely captures that iconic ‘cozy games’ essence. As you can probably guess from the name, you play as a fae who has recently taken over a farm, and it’s up to you to ensure all the critters and crops prosper. 

But it’s not all green-thumbed goodness, as the intriguing story woven throughout the game takes you to different areas of the island where plenty of other quests and exciting elements of gameplay await. Whether you’re helping villagers, foraging for fruits, fishing on the docks, or looking for treasures in the mines, there’s always something to do.

Fae Farm does have a simple combat system, but don’t worry – there are plenty of spells, potions, and equipment to keep you safe and sound. It also supports multiplayer, allowing you to gather a bunch of other fae friends and enjoy the cozy vibes together. Still not sure whether the fae life is for you? Then head over to our Fae Farm review to see if we can convince you.

Cozy games: Art from the Hello Kitty Island Adventure New Year's update overlayed with the PT awards banner

Hello Kitty Island Adventure

Hello, Hello Kitty, hello dear friend, your smile is pretty like a flower that’s in bloom. Now, it’s time to sing a happy tune, as we head off on a Hello Kitty Island Adventure. Even if you aren’t a Sanrio fan (come on, everyone’s a Sanrio fan, right?), you can’t deny that this adorable, cozy gem looks like a perfect slice of paradise – and you really don’t need any prior knowledge of Sanrio in order to get stuck in.

Hello Kitty Island Adventure is an Apple Arcade game where you can design your own Sanrio-esque mascot. After the cake-baking machine on your flight malfunctions, everyone aboard jumps to safety, and you find yourself washed up on a tropical island.

The game has everything you’d expect from a life sim, including crafting, fishing, cooking, resource gathering, bug catching, and more. But the main mechanic revolves around you building friendships with all the other cuties on the island. There’s a lot to do, but no pressure to complete it in one go, which makes it the perfect chill, cozy adventure. If you want to know more, grab your bow and head on over to our Hello Kitty Island Adventure review

A Little to the Left + Cupboards and Drawers DLC

A Little to the Left is an extremely satisfying little puzzle game all about tidying. While the base game itself came out in November 2022, this year saw it expand further with the brilliant Cupboards and Drawers DLC, and we absolutely love it.

With its beautiful art, muted color palettes, simple gameplay loop, lack of time restraints or scoring systems, and the cathartic sense of accomplishment it instills in you whenever you manage to get everything lined up just right. Plus, there’s even a cute cat you can pet – and we all love cats here at PT.

Whether you’ve played the base game and want (ooh aah) a little bit more, or you’re new to the whole thing but are looking for something very cozy and strangely therapeutic, then we highly recommend this adorable and relaxing little puzzler. Or, if you’re still wondering what all the fuss is about, you check out our A Little to the Left: Cupboard and Drawers DLC review

Paleo Pines

Paleo Pines is absolutely adorable, and its vibes are impeccably cozy, even with its initial flaws on release. While it’s definitely a farming game, it offers a great new twist on the sub-genre in the best way possible – by adding dinosaurs.

This 3D life and farming sim puts you in the cartoony shoes of a dino-ranching homesteader. Accompanied by your best dino pal Lucky the Parasaurolophus, you move into a run-down ranch in Veridian Valley. Your main aim is to study and befriend a wide range of dinosaur species, grow your own crops, and figure out the larger mysteries of the world – including finding out where all the other Parasaurs are.

With its utterly adorable aesthetics, a diverse cast of quirky characters, the laid-back gameplay loop, and, of course, all those delightful dinos, it’s a truly charming little experience. And if that doesn’t convince you to check out this dino-mite game, I dino what to tell ya – aside from pointing you in the direction of our Paleo Pines review, that is! 

Stardew Valley

There’s no way we could make a list of the best cozy games without including the OG itself, Stardew Valley. Now, I know this game certainly didn’t come out in 2023 (in fact, it came out way back in 2016!), but with all of the amazing free content updates that ConcernedApe keeps giving us, there’s always something fresh to discover. And, with the Stardew Valley 1.6 update on the horizon, it looks like 2024 will be yet another year of glorious content.

For anyone who’s been living under a magical rock for the past few years, Stardew Valley is a combination of farming sim, life sim, and RPG, with plenty of other elements to keep you engaged. You play the role of a character who inherits their deceased grandfather’s farm, moving out into the countryside to escape from the hustle and bustle of city life.

There, you build up your very own slice of rural heaven – growing crops, raising animals, making friends (and even building romances, if that’s your thing), adventuring through mines filled with creepy crawlies and other critters, and more. It’s a modern cult classic that stands out as one of the most loved games in recent history. For more info, check out our Stardew Valley review

So, what are cozy games?

Cozy games are pretty hard to define, considering it’s entirely dependent on vibes and what each person feels when playing the game. For example, many people find Signal Simulator and Voices from the Void cozy, whereas Vinsauce’s Joel certainly disagrees. Similarly, I find Far Cry 5, the Resident Evil games, and The Witcher games cozy despite all the action (and in some cases, horror), because they’re familiar, and I associate them with positive memories.

Generally, though, when people refer to ‘cozy’ or ‘hygge’ games, they’re talking about a specific breed. Farming games, puzzle games, building games, some adventure games, and general life sims all pop up in this category, usually accompanied by soft color palettes, relaxing music, and a lack of pressure or threat. Time limits and combat do make appearances, but are rarely the main focus. Instead, a cozy game is mostly defined by its fun, relaxing vibes and easy-to-pick-up gameplay.

In this Twitter thread from The Cheese Master Games, they state “I hope that playing Spirittea brings a feeling of comfort to whatever life you lead. Of course I hope you all find the game fun, but my other goal was to make it feel like a little place you can escape to when you need a break from a busy day, month, or year.” Similarly, in our Wylde Flowers interview from 2022, concept artist Iona Vorster states that “creating a relaxing and welcoming, friendly world was one of [the Studio Dryrock team’s] key goals”, as they “wanted a place for players to feel safe.”  

To me, these two quotes are the perfect explanation of what a cozy game is. It’s escapism in the form of a welcoming and friendly world that invites you to take a break from things when life gets a bit too overwhelming. And that’s what makes them so special and accessible for such a wide range of audiences – because we all need a little time to unwind now and then.

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Why are cozy games getting so popular now?

It’s undeniable that cozy games have seen a massive rise in popularity over recent years, with new titles dropping almost every week, and entire communities building themselves around wholesome and cozy games online. So, why now? Of course, there are plenty of contributing features, with the internet allowing more indie developers to try their hand at making the games they want to see, titles like Stardew Valley taking the world by storm, social media allowing amplification of games outside of the mainstream, and more. However, I feel the biggest reason for the rise in popularity of cozy games is that aforementioned escapism.

Escapism has always been a core reason for people immersing themselves in gaming. With its reliance on visual, auditory, and physical stimulation, gaming is more involved than watching the TV, listening to music, or reading a book, as it unites all of these things into one. The higher level of engagement puts you directly in the middle of the experience, requiring more focus and taking your mind off the real world completely, while other mediums can have their immersion broken through fiddling with your phone, chatting, or staring at the wall for ten minutes as you delve into a pit of existential despair (or at least, in my experience).

And, with the last few years seeing increased stress levels due to the pandemic, the cost of living crisis, political conflicts, and more, there’s been far more of a demand for escapism beyond the usual gamer niche. Now, it’s not just us nerds grinding away on our favorite MMO or the best RPGs. It’s people completely new to gaming picking up the controller, downloading an app on their phone, or tapping away on their keyboard as they carve out a reprise from the hectic world and the stresses of their everyday lives. 

As such, titles with simple gameplay loops, relaxing atmospheres, appealing color palettes, attractive aesthetics, and room for self-expression have become a mainstay in the gaming world. And, with a correlating rise in indie games and platforms for new creative teams to try their hand at spreading the magic, there are more options to explore than ever before.

And that’s everything for the best cozy games Pocket Tactics Awards 2023. For even more chill places to escape to, check out our list of the best games like Stardew Valley, or have a browse through our list of the best indie games.