by Dan Ketchum
New frontiers in accessibility and the expansion of indie spaces have made gaming more diverse, welcoming and all-around more interesting than it has ever been before. Like a good album or a heady film, pairing just the right multiplayer game or pass-the-controller experience with your favorite strain makes for an excellent night in with friends, an interactive inhibition loosener and conversational centerpiece all in one — and don’t forget the more meditative, solo experiences, either.
1. Sayonara Wild Hearts (Switch, PS4, Xbox One, Steam, Apple Arcade)
All of the best albums are better high, so it only makes sense that a game the creators describe as a “pop album video game” is, too. From Annapurna Interactive — the gaming division of the studio that brought us “Her,” “Booksmart,” and “Fleabag” — and the developers at Simogo, Sayonara Wild Hearts is a soaring, album-length pop-art journey without a single rough edge. A breezy length and accessible difficulty make this a heartbreaking and heart-making audiovisual journey with absolutely resplendent music.
2. Forza Horizon 4 (Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, PC)
Included as part of Microsoft’s Game Pass service across all current Xbox consoles and Windows platforms, Forza Horizon 4 isn’t just a great deal, it’s the quintessential zone-out game, balancing arcade and realistic racing styles with super customizable accessibility options. No matter where you play Forza, the insane lineup of cars on offer is just a cornucopia of wish fulfillment while the hyper-realistic visuals, dynamic weather effects and lush, high-contrast landscapes are the definition of eye candy.
3. Sky (Switch, Android, iOS)
The creators of widely acclaimed indie, Journey, follow up their breakout hit with Sky, a painfully gorgeous and eminently peaceful game about soaring through the clouds and spreading light. Sky’s breathtaking vistas, butter-smooth flight controls and focus on creating friendly bonds with other online players make it one of the most perfect indica-smoking games out there. Plus, it’s free to play, so what’ve you got to lose?
4. Stardew Valley (Switch, PS4, Xbox One, iOS, Android, PC, Mac, Linux)
Solo developer ConcernedApe’s Stardew Valley perfects the farming sim genre and then some, layering crafting, dating, combat, looting and surprisingly touching narrative elements on top of an incredibly solid, supremely addicting crop-management foundation. Throw in charming pixel art visuals, uber-chill chiptunes and a recently added local multiplayer mode, and digital farm life has never been so good.
5. A Short Hike (Switch, Steam, itch.io, Epic Games Store, GOG)
For better or worse, you can’t go on a real hike every day. On those days, A Short Hike is the next best thing. A solo virtual camping experience you can get through in just a few meditative hours, Adam Robinson-Yu’s indie puts you in the shoes of a tiny bird who’s just trying to get to the top of a mountain for some phone reception. Along the way you explore, glide and meet wonderfully written fellow campers to the soothing acoustic tunes of Mark Sparling. This one’s basically a little dopamine factory.
6. The Jackbox Party Pack 7 (Switch, PS4, Xbox One, iOS, Android, Amazon Fire TV, PC, Mac, Linux)
From its debut in 2014, the Jackbox Party Pack has been the trivia video game for gamers, non-gamers, your mom, your friends, your co-workers and your dogs. In its seventh iteration, up to eight players can compete in front of an audience of thousands – using their choice of controllers, phones or tablets – to smack their brains together in conventional trivia categories as well as the drawing game Champ’d Up, the speech-based Talking Points or the chaotic guessing game, Blather Round. Some games are party games; Jackbox is the party.
7. Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime (Switch, PS4, Xbox One, Steam)
Absolute banger of a title aside, Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime leverages one of the most underrated features of a good smoking game: cooperation. Pair it with an uplifting high to experience nothing but good vibes as you and up to three friends use communication and teamwork to triumph over the forces of Anti-Love and rescue space-bunnies in a hyper-saturated neon universe that’s randomly generated, making each session a new experience.
8. Chicory (PS4, PS5, Steam)
In the realm of smoking games, it’s only natural that visually hyperactive, aurally wild games often take center stage, as they take advantage of how different your senses may feel when you’re high. Chicory is absolutely a weed game, but it takes a different tact. Set to brain-soothing music by Celeste composer Lena Raine, Chicory tasks you with shaping the world as you see fit as a dog wielding a magic paintbrush. Restore color to a black-and-white world, fill your space with art, and learn a thing or two about yourself solo or in co-op mode.
Dan Ketchum is an LA-based freelance lifestyle, fashion, food and pop culture writer with more than a decade of experience. In the gaming space, he’s been fortunate enough to collaborate and publish with companies such as Gamer’s Outreach, Take Two Interactive, inXile Entertainment, Pearl Abyss, Rockstar Games and others.
Simogo – Sayonara Wild Hearts
Berzerk Studio – Just Shapes & Beats
thatgamecompany – Sky
Floor Kids – Home
A Short Hike – Home
Lumines Remastered – Home
Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime – Home
Chicory: A Colorful Tale – Home