The 8 jolliest games I’ve played throughout my video game career

Gaming can evoke a wide range of emotions, from fear and stress to exhilaration and invigoration, but titles that instill a genuine sense of happiness are rarer than one might think. Typically, with all fun comes a darkness — and it’s difficult to find something that is bright through and through. Even then, some things that are meant to be joyous end up overbearing instead, more successfully producing a migraine instead of warming your heart.

There are plenty of experiences out there with a jolly exterior, but once you crack its shell, what lies underneath is anything but happy. Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch has a colorful aesthetic and adorable character designs, but its story is occupied by a darkness that revolves around trauma and overcoming grief. We’re not looking to highlight games like this today. The following are games that can make you happy without the baggage surrounding it, offering good vibes and joyous themes at the forefront. Every title on this list brought me happiness and still make me smile upon reflection.

Astro’s Playroom 

Astro’s Playroom is the epitome of lighthearted fun without a darker core. If you’re a fan of PlayStation and its extensive history, this game will make you smile. It features a ton of references to classic and modern Sony exclusives, along with a collectible area for every piece of hardware the company has ever put out. Each soundtrack is upbeat and bursting with fun mechanical sound effects, with one even accompanied by adorable robotic vocals singing “I’m Your GPU” in a song that is unreasonably catchy.

Astro's Playroom

(Image credit: Sony)

It’s especially amusing that each area is linked to some part of the PlayStation 5, taking players through areas like SSD Speedway and CPU Plaza. Considering the game is free and automatically comes installed on the PS5, it’s a fun way to break in Sony’s latest and greatest hardware. If you’re in the mood for something that has nothing more to say other than being a love letter to a beloved facet of gaming history, Astro’s Playroom is a solid pick.

Sky: Children of the Light 

Sky: Children of the Light is the only game in this list that betrays my initial promise of avoiding jolly-appearing games with a darker center. While it is a comfy foray into a soft, pastel world of joyous cooperation and peaceful vibes, the further the player dives into the game’s story and world, the more they’ll understand what really lies beneath.

Sky: Children of the Light

(Image credit: thatgamecompany)

Sky: Children of the Light is a game about the inevitability of death and the glory of rebirth, pushed along by the player’s run-ins with a mysterious entity enveloped by darkness. The final act of the game has the player running around a nightmarish hellscape littered with the corpses of fellow players who perished before them, and your only choice is to put every last bit of your energy into saving their souls with your light. There’s no way to survive this encounter; your death is inevitable. It’s grim and admittedly not the most jolly of endings, but every moment before this is the exact opposite.

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