What does one do after a breakup? You lean on friends and family of course, but then, inevitably, you find yourself alone and home and in need of distraction. The last generation had ice cream and Nora Ephron movies (still works!) but today probably the most poignant, cathartic, and feel-good experience is found in a great game. Whether for a few adrenalized hours mindlessly slaying demon, an otherworldly universe to explore for days, or settling in to relive somebody else’s centuries-old tragedy, these are experiences that take you out of — and help you cope with — your own pain. Whichever way you are feeling, Inverse has a recommendation.
Cathartic Games To Play After a Breakup
Few things are more satisfying than revving up a chainsaw and smashing some skulls after getting some personal bad tidings. The experience of blazing from platform to platform, razing your enemies, is only accentuated by a suspense-filled soundtrack that wouldn’t be out of place at an electronic concert or a workout playlist. If you’re in a kicking ass and taking names kind of mood, DOOM beckons. - Shannon Liao
League of Legends
In a similar vein, League of Legends has so many modes that you can tap into when real life is being a downer. You can get very angry in a ranked game, shouting at your useless teammates as they flail over your champion’s lifeless body, or roll down midlane aimlessly with your squad. There’s also Teamfight Tactics, an autochess game mode that’s decidedly more mellow. Your units fight their own small battles while you concern yourself with the overall strategy, managing resources, countering other players’ popular builds, and waddling around cutely as a penguin avatar or some other cuddly creature. Riot is heading into League’s 15-year anniversary this year and there’s a reason this game has been around for so long; it’s really hard to put down and can follow up on any life event. I have, on different occasions, played League to grieve, to celebrate, or to distract. The feeling of crushing a bunch of champions who made a few silly mistakes just carries the day. - Shannon Liao
Emotionally Poignant Games To Play After a Breakup
This adventure role-playing game from Obsidian takes you to the 16th-century German state of Bavaria and explores the lives of many families across multiple decades. It really gives a strong sense of perspective on life, and makes things such as break-ups feel like a natural order of events that reassuringly don’t mean you’ll be forever alone. When I reviewed this game for The Washington Post, I was also going through a break-up, and I found Pentiment came at the perfect time. The murder mystery is well-crafted and holds up on a second playthrough, and the real heart lays with Pentiment’s cast of characters, whose actions reverberate over the century. From a zoomed out, bird’s eye view of history, coupled with a unique hand-drawn style and plenty of Gothic fonts, Pentiment is a treasure trove of human emotion and mythology that still resonates with me, years after it launched on Xbox. - Shannon Liao
Sayonara Wild Hearts
Sayonara Wild Hearts manages the difficult task of being explicitly about a breakup without being an absolute bummer. In fact, thanks to its fast-paced gameplay and incredible synthpop soundtrack it’s an instant mood-lifter (I can say this with confidence because I’m listening to the soundtrack right now). In Sayonara Wild Hearts, you play as a woman going on a journey of healing after a breakup. The goal of the game is to collect hearts while riding your motorcycle through surreal environments, and occasionally pausing to have a sword fight. But along the way, its heroine grieves her broken heart and comes out with a renewed sense of self-worth that will absolutely have you crying happy tears at the end. Not bad for a game you can finish in under an hour. - Robin Bea
Beautiful Games For When You Need a Distraction
Catherine is a game entirely about relationships, and the nature of commitment and infidelity. Of course, that last point may make you want to stay away depending on the nature of your break-up, but Catherine can be cathartic otherwise. You play as a layabout bachelor named Vincent, forced to choose between three different partners all while making your way through a nightmare dreamscape at night.
Catherine has a superb sense style and some uproariously fun puzzle gameplay, but the real star is the moral questions the game makes you answer, asking the player’s opinions on a wide array of relationship topics like monogamy, what you consider cheating, and much more. Playing through Vincent’s relationship troubles is great drama, but can also be an illuminating experience that causes introspection on your own relationships. It’s the embodiment of the idea of “facing your problems head-on.” - Hayes Madsen
Persona 4 Golden
Persona 4 Golden is a world easy to get lost in, wiling away the hours in the sleepy town of Inaba as you make friends, go to school, work jobs, and take on a paranormal string of murders. Persona 4 is an entrancing experience that’s just as much about enjoying your character’s teenage years as it is about fighting the paranormal, and the game’s unique social simulation systems make it feel like you’re living another life. It’s the kind of game that has you constantly saying “just one more day.”
Perhaps more important, though, are the game’s themes of forgiving meaningful bonds and accepting yourself. Persona 4 is a reminder of the all the worthwhile relationships we can make in life, and how to overcome being your own worst enemy. Of course, if you want a game with a little romance you can find that here too. - Hayes Madsen
Gris is hands-down one of the prettiest games I’ve ever played. Its gorgeous watercolor world may be enough to cheer you up on its own, and its wordless story will certainly do the trick if not. Gris’ narrative is intentionally vague, following a woman who’s experienced an unnamed tragedy and is slowly putting herself back together. That makes it easy to see your own troubles in her journey, whether you’re suffering from a broken heart or something else. Its platforming gameplay is simple, but it’s enough to keep your mind focused on something other than spending another Valentine’s Day alone. - Robin Bea
Yuki’s Palpitating, Passionate, Phenomenal, and quite frankly Proficient quest for a (hot) girlfriend!!!
Abbreviated to Yuki’s 4P if you don’t have all day, this visual novel is the perfect heartbreak cure if what you need is wish fulfillment. Yuki is on a quest to find a (hot) girlfriend at her new high school, when on the very first day, three of her classmates profess their undying love for her. Rather than fighting it out for her heart, the three lovestruck girls hold a contest to decide who gets to be Yuki’s girlfriend by crafting the perfect first date. Yuki’s 4P is a colorful, light-hearted romp that will make you fall in love with all four of its characters in under an hour as Yuki decides which one wins her heart — or if there’s another, altogether cuter way out of this dilemma. - Robin Bea
Coziest Games to Snuggle Up After a Breakup
Unpacking is the story of a woman’s life, told through the experience of unpacking boxes after a move. From her childhood bedroom to a home for her own kids, you’ll unpack room after room over the course of the game, learning details of her life entirely from what she brings with her. Relationships are just part of that story, but the overall theme of how much life can change from one stage to another is definitely therapeutic when your heart is aching. Plus, the slow action of arranging a room — and eventually a whole house — is a great, chill way to take your mind off other things. - Robin Bea
Sometimes, the best game to play when you’re having a bad time is one that will push your skills to the limit. It’s hard to focus on what’s getting you down when you’re climbing a mountain, making Celeste an excellent choice. As its tough platforming occupies every bit of your brain, it also tells a story of overcoming self-doubt — perfect for giving yourself a boost of confidence. If mountain climber Madeline can do it, so can you. Plus, once you’ve mastered the game’s steep difficulty curve, zipping around its levels looking for secrets is exuberantly fun. Who needs a girlfriend when you can air-dash anyway? - Robin Bea
Animal Crossing: New Horizons
Cozy life sims are a great genre if you need some comfort food, and Animal Crossing is easily one of the best. Decorating your house, designing clothes, and even reshaping your island are all great creative outlets, perfect for taking your mind off what’s troubling you. Plus, Animal Crossing’s focus on making friends with your neighbors makes it a relentlessly positive experience that can remind you of the joy of community while you’re searching for your own. And unlike many similar games, there’s no dating mini-game, so you won’t be jump-scared by thoughts about your ex when you’re just trying to collect bugs. - Robin Bea