I have a confession: I’ve long brushed off free mobile games as a total waste of time. Don’t judge me! For one, I’m a type A Virgo who yields to the pressure of productivity all the time. But even some of the things I do purely for enjoyment, like watching TV or reading, have some larger motivating factor. Like, I want to catch up on that show everyone is talking about so I can weigh in or I want to be well-read. Compared to that, mobile games can feel like they have NO POINT. But for the past few months, I’ve been embracing the power of the mindless mobile game for an unexpected reason: anxiety relief.
Early in the pandemic, I gave a shoutout to these silly free mobile games and puzzles (like Candy Crush, 2048, and Yahtzee With Buddies) as unexpected anxiety coping mechanisms. There’s just something so soothing about zoning out to the pointless, repetitive therapy of tapping my phone screen when I’m stuck in an anxious loop—kind of like a slightly more engaging fidget cube. No stakes, no stories or plots to pay attention to, no brainpower needed. Now with the election fast approaching and my anxiety worsening by the day, I figured it was about time I shouted this tip from the rooftops.
You might have internalized the idea that distraction is bad and not a good way to deal with your emotions. But guess what? It is totally okay if you need to turn your brain off. As SELF previously reported, distraction—particularly amid these incredibly stressful times—can give you a much-needed mental reset when you’re feeling at the end of your rope. After all, we can’t be on all the time.
If you’re finding yourself in a place where you can’t engage with your anxious thoughts and can’t concentrate on your typical distractions, I humbly suggest playing mobile phone games as a grounding activity. I for one know I’m going to be tap, tap, tapping my way through Election Day and beyond. Because hey, at the very least, if I can’t get myself to put down my phone, I’d rather be playing Yahtzee that doomscrolling through Twitter.
Don’t know where to start? Here’s a list of some of my favorite free mobile games, as well as some other recommendations from the friendly people of Twitter, where I posed the question. Try some out and see what you like:
Candy Crush Saga (iOSandAndroid): The pretty infamous puzzle game probably needs no introduction at this point but…bright colors! Candy! Distraction!
2048 (iOSandAndroid): Yep, this slide-and-combine number game is still a thing.
Two Dots (iOSandAndroid): As simple as connecting the dots. But way more satisfying.
I Love Hue (iOSandAndroid): Enjoy soothing and gentle colors as you arrange tiles into perfectly ordered spectrums.
Yahtzee With Buddies (iOSandAndroid): The classic dice game you know and love.
Cooking Diary (iOSandAndroid): A restaurant simulation game might make you miss eating out but mostly it will help you waste a lot of time.
Solitaire (iOSandAndroid): Sometimes you want to keep it simple with a solo card game.
Disney Emoji Blitz (iOSandAndroid): This simple matching game is even more delightful thanks to the presence of beloved Disney characters.
1010! Color (iOSandAndroid): Match colors in order to clear the board. That’s all!
Pokémon Café Mix (iOSandAndroid): Love Pokémon and puzzles? Hello. This game is for you.
Homescapes (iOSandAndroid): Imagine if your own home was a series of mundane escape rooms.
Bejeweled Classic (iOSandAndroid): If you haven’t yet been sucked into this fast-paced gem-matching game, beware. It is the ultimate distraction.
Grindstone (iOS): If you love puzzles but have found yourself thinking, “Huh, I wish this was slightly more violent,” this battle puzzle is for you.
Covet Fashion (iOSandAndroid): Who doesn’t love playing dress up?
Ballz (iOSandAndroid): Swipe balls around to strategically bounce them into bricks and break them.
Diner Dash Adventures (iOSandAndroid): Another cooking and time-management restaurant game, if you’re so inclined.
Gardenscapes (iOSandAndroid): Experience the great outdoors with this puzzle game. Well, kind of.
Zentris (iOSandAndroid): It’s Tetris but soothing as hell.
Steppy Pants (iOSandAndroid): A “walking simulator” might not sound that interesting, but trust us.
Subway Surfers (iOSandAndroid): You’ve never experienced riding the subway like this.
Bubble Shooter (iOSandAndroid): Shoot bubbles to line up clusters of the same color to clean them out.
One More Brick (iOSandAndroid): Aaaand if you take Bubble Shooter and add bricks, this is what you get.
Slidey: Block Puzzle (iOSandAndroid): Slide blocks around to clear them away. Plus comes with a CAT VERSION.
Super Hexagon (iOS): So simple, yet so satisfying, thanks to the beautiful minimal design.
Bubble Witch 3 Saga (iOSandAndroid): Sensing a theme with the bubbles yet? Come embrace your inner witch.
Color Road! (iOSandAndroid): Just roll some balls and feel your anxiety melt away.
Redecor: Home Design Makeover (iOSandAndroid): For anyone who’s been nesting their way through the pandemic.
Numberzilla (iOSandAndroid): This puzzle is a bit of a brain-teaser, but once you get the hang of it, it’s a solid time-killer.
Infinity Loop: Hex (iOSandAndroid): I’m not convinced this beautiful loop-building game isn’t a sort of meditation.
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