Keep Calm and Stay In: Xbox Game Pass games to chill out with

By Heidi Nicholas,
What with COVID and everything else going on in the world, things are likely to remain tense and overwhelming in the coming weeks and months. While you're staying safe physically, it's important to take care of yourself mentally too – so here's some games we'd recommend for chilling out, socialising with your household or friends you are separated from, and engaging in some achievement hunting thanks to our community's guides and walkthroughs.

The best games to chill out with on Xbox Game Pass

Townscaper

Townscaper easy achievements

Townscaper is a newer addition to Xbox Game Pass than some of the other entries in this list, but the game well deserves its place on here. Townscaper describes itself as a cross between a toy and a game, and developer Oskar Stålberg says that there’s “no real gameplay” as such — it’s more of a calming experience as you build whatever you fancy. The shape of your growing town changes depending on where you place each block, with decorations springing up as you take away one piece or add another. You're in charge of the building, but it's still a surprise what you end up with, and what with the muted colours and sound effects, it's easy to invest more time in it than you thought at first — the achievements are suitably generous, too, and the whole thing ties up into a lovely, laid-back experience that'll have you happily townscaping for hours.

Overcooked! 2

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It might seem strange to bring a game notorious for causing arguments to the table, but this local co-op cooking game can also bring the family together in laughter – and reveal who is really the person to listen to in a crisis. This is the game I personally turn to when I want to bond with my loved ones. Plus, it's a safe space to have a massive argument with one of those loved ones without any significant consequences or lasting damage. That overworld music is pretty damned calming too, provided the players aren't fighting for control of the van. If you run out of levels in the base game, there's a bunch of innovative DLC content bringing in new tools and new perils.

Take advantage of having folks in the house with little else to do, to get some of those co-op and multiplayer achievements out of the way. Sure, you can grab that It's a Cookoff achievement just by connecting a second controller, but why not take the chance to have an actual cook-off with your loved ones – without having to waste food in the process!

The Viva Pinata series via Rare Replay

Viva Piñata

Viva Piñata and its sequel, Viva Piñata: Trouble in Paradise, are the nearest things to Pokémon in the Xbox first-party catalogue, for starters, though the whole papery menagerie in these Rare gardening games is so much cuter than most of the 900 creatures in Game Freak's stable. The music by Grant Kirkhope is absolutely beautiful — even if you're not playing the game, I'd recommend putting it on if you're looking for an oasis of calm. The gameplay is simple enough to enjoy with your family or friends even if they are unfamiliar with a controller. Ultimately, tending an increasingly complex wild garden to the point where more and more interesting paper animals will come and visit is just an exercise in mindful progression. These are games I will always return to if I'm feeling down.

In terms of achievements, there are a couple of tricky spots if you're interested in a full completion. The Viva Piñata Achievements list is totally achievable with a bit of patience and through checking out ManicMetalhead's Viva Piñata walkthrough. However the Trouble in Paradise achievement list has a viral achievement for either obtaining a famous Piñata from the developers – now impossible – or unboxing one from a player that already has one. Sadly there are few active players still around in the community. Make sure to check out the rest of Rare Replay if you want to earn some significant high TA achievements – check out the Rare Replay walkthrough by Elyoh and Ackter for the best routes through it. The Replay collection goes back far enough, you might even be able to get a parent reminiscing about the good old days of gaming.

Outer Wilds

Screens

If you're not a fan of trying to pilot a spaceship in first person around some wildly flipping gravitational situations, you're not going to be a fan of this game. But if you can get to grips with the spaceship controls, Outer Wilds is a beautiful experience and tells a heartfelt story with a surprisingly emotional and epic conclusion. It's a story that couldn't be told in any other medium, thanks to a unique mechanic that kicks in after 20 minutes that I don't even want to spoil. Gameplay wise, you are essentially piecing together clues as to the nature of the odd solar system the player finds themselves in, solving geographical and gravitational puzzles and unravelling the mysterious disappearance of an ancient spacefaring species.

If you want to while away the time solving mind-bending puzzles and piecing together a mystery, Outer Wilds is one of the best modern examples, recalling the likes of Myst. It also has a beautiful soundtrack and a tender message about what we're made of and where we're going. Plus, honestly, there is nothing more thrilling or cathartic than the game's final push, when you realise what you have to do, how to do it and the risk you have to take in order to get there. In terms of achievements, there's a mix of lore discovery, feats of skill and a couple of Easter eggs to keep you busy. It's not too tough, and the Outer Wilds Achievements list is stuffed with guides to help you out.

Minecraft

Minecraft

Minecraft is never going to be for absolutely everyone, but there's a reason why this relatively old game remains among the most popular to play and to watch people play on live streams. It's the world's best virtual Lego set, and you can make it what you want it to be. There's a loose narrative and progression to follow for those who have a mind to get through all of the achievements, tasking players with feats of cave delving and crafting to reach the hell-like Nether, the End and beyond. For the creatives, there's an infinite possibility in creating art, architecture, machinery and even rudimentary games. For those just looking to relax and socialise there's a chunky, accessible randomly generated world to explore however you want with whatever end goal you choose. It's a great way to stay in contact with folks who you can't see physically, for your young ones to hang out with their friends safely online and for newcomers to the world of video games to get to grips with it in a fun environment. And boy, if you're an achievement hunter, here's a chance to earn and stack achievements like crazy. If you're really interested in earning the entire Minecraft Achievements as quickly as possible, potentially across multiple devices, you should look no further than the astounding work of the achievement hunting community gathered in Noodles Jr and Itzz Sh0wt1m3's Minecraft walkthrough.

Honourable mentions

Digging further into the Xbox Game Pass games list brings up plenty of great experiences to relax with while you're stuck at home.

  • Of all the first-person shooters out there, Halo: The Master Chief Collection remains one of the most light-hearted and consistently entertaining to play with friends.
  • Xbox Game Pass is full of great narrative experiences right now: The Walking Dead and What Remains of Edith Finch are excellent if you are OK with some heavier themes.
  • If you or your friends are into deck-building card games, you might want to check out Slay the Spire. It's single player, but it may well scratch the card-game itch; it's largely considered to be among the best of its kind.
  • If you love a bit of relaxing, fantastical exploration, then you should definitely check out Omno — a gorgeous game where exploration is key.
  • If it's farming and life sims you're after, you could start up the iconic Stardew Valley or My Time At Portia instead!
  • If you prefer to get stuck into an RPG, you can keep it on the light and goofy side with the likes of Fable 2.
This is just a small sample of the games in Xbox Game Pass that will, hopefully, help us all find some relaxation and fun in the coming months. Please let us know what you'll be getting stuck into in the comments, share your recommendations in Xbox Game Pass and elsewhere. Consider your fellow games who might be stuck without contact – our Gaming Sessions aren't just there to help us boost achievements, but also to connect to each other. Above all, look after yourselves.

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Heidi Nicholas
Written by Heidi Nicholas
Heidi graduated with an MA in English Literature, and now enjoys writing news, reviews, and features across TrueAchievements and TrueTrophies. When she’s not writing, Heidi is usually either looking for her next RPG, or trying to convince the rest of the team to hear about yet another delightfully wholesome game she has found.