With Thanksgiving having passed and ungodly amounts of mashed potatoes and stuffing consumed, we would be remiss not to take pause and reflect on all there is to be grateful for over the past year and beyond. In 2023 alone we’ve seen some fantastic games step into the scene and provide us with endless hours of entertainment, happiness, and of course, coziness. For all the games we’ve been blessed with this year, November especially seems like a great time to give thanks for the coziest of cozy games at our disposal as the weather grows cold and the leaves continue to fall. So settle in, grab your cocoa, and pull up your fuzziest blankets as we dive into some of the best games that have dropped over the last couple of months to help keep you glued to the couch for the foreseeable future.
The Lord of the Rings: Return to Moria
Despite some more unfortunate releases over the past year in relation to J.R.R. Tolkien’s fantasy epic, Free Range Games’ Return to Moria has been able to step in and stem the bleeding. At the dawn of Middle Earth’s Fourth Age, everyone’s favorite battle hardened and grumpy dwarf Gimli has called upon his people to join him in reclaiming the long lost and decrepit mines of Moria. As one of these dwarves who answer the call, you set forth with a freshly crafted axe to brave the dangers lurking in the dark and re-establish yourself in the ancient home of your ancestors.
Though not unique in its survivalist mechanics, the mere idea of taking on a role as a dwarf of Middle-Earth and paving your way to greatness in the beloved universe is more than enough reason to pick this one up. It is especially more fun with friends; you can link up with up to 8 people and explore the mines together, establishing outposts, mining for materials, and fending off fiendish orcs along the way. And I’d be remiss not to mention how wholesome and wonderful it is that Free Range was able to recruit John Rhys-Davis to reprise his role as Gimli. Hearing that voice again was enough to make my eyes fill with tears and fill me up with nostalgia from my childhood. If you like resource management and survival games, and of course if you have ever been a fan of Lord of the Rings in any capacity, this one is definitely worth checking out.
It’s been a few years since Bethesda blessed us all with a new RPG to get lost in, and even longer since we got a brand new IP from them. Starfield scratches that open world itch while also tossing players into a massive galaxy that is ripe for the picking, and boy oh boy is there a lot to be picked.
As with most Bethesda titles, you create a character from scratch and find yourself the newest recruit of Constellation, a group of explorers committed to traversing space and expanding humanity’s place among the stars. Your journey for knowledge and exploration will pit you against a number of different factions, from organized crime syndicates to lawless space pirates, to corrupt businessmen and genetically cloned prisoners of war.
Of course, you’re free to home in on the main story missions and burn through those (which I strongly recommend you do), but you can also just hop in your trusty ship and venture off to distant planets and start building settlements. While it’s no sci-fi Sims, it is satisfying to build and expand, and the itch to keep exploring and see what other wonders await you in the seemingly endless cosmos is one of the most satisfying experiences I’ve had in a game in quite some time.
Assassin’s Creed: Mirage
I’m going to be honest, I had no intentions of picking this one up so quickly after launch. I’ve always been a fan of this franchise, but in recent years it’s felt like the Assassin games had lost their way; to be sure, games like Origins, Odyssey, and Valhalla were a blast to play, but they weren’t really about the Assassin Order, and the objective of sneaky, strategic assassinations felt like it had taken a back seat in terms of gameplay.
Mirage is a true return to form for the franchise. Players take on the role of Basim, an Assassin we met as a supporting character in the previous installment, Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla. Mirage is Basim’s origin story, his early days as a thief on the streets of late 9th century Baghdad, to his initiation as a member of the Hidden Ones (the early name of the Assassin Order), to his ultimate place as a Master Assassin.
Sure, games about murder and mayhem aren’t exactly the definition of “cozy,” but hear me out; Mirage shines in how it forces the player to be strategic about their objective. Gone are the days when you can just charge into a fortified base and chop your enemies in two with a battle axe (as fun as that was). In fact, trying to do anything of the sort is a pretty sure fire way to get yourself killed. You are armed with a sword for close quarters engagement, but any combat scenarios with more than one opponent quickly become overwhelming. But honestly, charting your plan and quietly sneaking around fortified prisons or massive palaces is a lot of fun, and a great way to kick back while keeping your brain sharp. I’ve really enjoyed the variety of missions and that there is no “one size fits all” to infiltration. So if you need something cozy with a dash of brain games, definitely give this one a go.
The Talos Principle 2
Puzzles and soothing ambient music are the surface level cozy joys that make up Croteam’s sequel to their acclaimed 2014 title The Talos Principle. Sometimes more of the same isn’t always the best thing for a franchise, but the sequel manages to strike the perfect balance of revitalized gameplay and new experiences to keep players intrigued.
I don’t want to spoil much since the story of The Talos Principle is so compelling, but players take on the role of a human looking android that must solve a series of puzzles that steadily increase in difficulty, a way of increasing the knowledge of these AI as they go out into the world. The puzzles are interesting and engaging in the same way they were in the first game, and additional story context and lore is shared in unique ways that help build attachment and continued interest.
Though the actual philosophical concepts that make up the game’s foundation are anything but cozy, it’s another compelling puzzle and series of concepts that provide hours of stimulation without any extreme sensory overload. Perfect for a rainy day on the couch.
To be honest, I didn’t think there was any possible way that Insomniac could possibly make Spider-Man 2 more fun and exciting than with the first installment or Miles Morales. I am thrilled to share how wrong I was on that.
Spider-Man 2 is a shared experience with the player controlling both Peter Parker and Miles Morales at different points in the story (though you can switch between them whenever you want if you’re just cruising around Manhattan). It’s a beautiful coming of age story for Miles and a testament to the growth and evolution of Peter, and this blend of two superheroes at vastly different phases of their lives is a perfect contradiction.
And of course, soaring over that Manhattan skyline is just as fun, if not more so than the first time around. The addition of the gliding mechanic makes an already fun web slinging experience feel even more seamless and natural. And for me, sometimes just soaring over Manhattan and roughing up a few bad guys is exactly what I need after a long day.
Is there another recent release made for curling up on the couch and getting lost in? Let us know in the comments!