GAMES Simulation, Logic, Puzzle, Exploration, Story Games to RELAX By

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Well-known member
Sep 30, 2020
Not long ago I posted this other thread:

asking for help getting a Steam gaming account working due to a problem with the captcha system. I eventually got that working and the thread drifted into giving recommendations for games. I decided to extract those and put them here in a thread of their own.

I have some specific goals in mind for my games. Primarily, I want something relatively gentle to RELAX by, not raise my blood pressure. As the title of this thread mentions, I'm mainly interested in Simulation, Logic, Puzzle, Exploration, and Story Games. Personally, I have a preference for space related games, but am not stuck on that. Nothing against other types of games and gamers but, I am specifically NOT interested in FPS, Shooters, War Games, Fighting Games, Mercenary Games, Violent Games, etc. I'm looking for the game equivalent of PG rating (whatever that is) without foul language, violence, blood, guts, or sex. I also have a slight preference for DRM free games on Humble Bundle and GOG. But, I'm certainly willing to think about Steam too.

I'm initially starting this thread with recommendations from the thread quoted above. Feel free to add more. Apologies if I failed to give credit to someone.

When you add titles, please put the name of the game, your GRC forum handle, and an optional description. You may wish to say if you've played the game. But, no major spoilers.

Fictitious Example: The Greatest Game Ever - rfrazier - The Greatest Game Ever is a fictitious maze puzzle game with endless variations. I have not played it, because it is fictitious.

Thanks to all who've contributed recommendations and who add to them here.




Kerbal Space Program - Phillip Porch

The Talos Principle - PHolder
The Talos Principle Demo - PHolder

Portal and Portal 2 - PHolder - which is a fair bit more FPS/"twitch"

Factorio: - bdoyle159 - This is my absolute favorite game. You can have complete control of difficulty including turning off enemies if you want to focus on building your factories. No time constraints

Portal: - bdoyle159 - First person puzzle game (vast majority of puzzles don't have a time constraint). There is a sequel, but it has a few more complicated mechanics.

Cities Skylines: - bdoyle159 - City building

Myst but not realMyst - bdoyle159

Quern Undying Thoughts: - bdoyle159 - similar to Myst

Crazy Machines series: - bdoyle159 - similar to The Incredible Machine

Human resource machine - bdoyle159 - PHolder - (related to programming)

7 billion humans - bdoyle159 - (related to programming)

Shenzhen I/O - bdoyle159 - (related to programming)

TIS-100 - bdoyle159 - (related to programming)

Machinarium - bdoyle159 - (related to programming)

Surviving Mars - rfrazier - (based on description - haven't played)

Star Drop - rfrazier - Story driven exploration game. You are a first person character exploring derelict space ships. Good graphics from my point of view as an off and on gamer with 10 year old gear. Story was interesting enough to get me through the game after 11.5 hr. Sometimes play is very slow and sometimes you don't know what to do. Check out discussions and tips on Steam. Look at the players guide before starting. Explore everything. You can also check out YouTube videos. Learn the controls before starting.
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I can also recommend Tabletop Simulator available via their page at or from Steam Games. Interesting as it is all sorts and varieties of tabletop games you can play single player or with friends. Like real tabletop games many do not have enforced rules so you could cheat (if that is how you play your board games) but I like not having to look more physically lost puzzle pieces, a lost chess set piece, etc. Can be as simple as solitaire cards or all the way up to Dungeon and Dragons. I did a short video overview of what the simulator offers at
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I see Mini Metro on the list. I loved this game, played many many hours, but I will warn you it is impossible to "win". (This is not a negative thing necessarily, just something to be aware of.) The onslaught of passengers only ever increases, it WILL overwhelm even the best designed network. I stopped playing when I realized I'd never play well enough to get on the scoreboard... there is a game quirk that lets you take advantage of the simulation, and I am unwilling to play the way it would demand. Still, it's a great little indie game, and I anxiously await the cars and roads version that is currently exclusive to Apple's game subscription, but is supposedly coming to Steam (and probably others) one day in the future.
I decided to go with Surviving Mars (simulator) for my next game since Humble Bundle had it on sale. I haven't played it yet but I've looked at some YouTube videos. From an engineering / programming perspective, this thing looks absolutely amazing. I don't know how they create something like this. Whether it will be relaxing or infuriating, I don't know. Looks like it could get really complicated. Gives you and idea of what (ANY) President of a country has to think about. Here are 5 video tutorials. I like to watch these at 2X speed. I really must try to do something useful on Earth this week.

Ron I have a game recommendation which fills all of your taste requirements in the OP, particularly a game to chill

No Man's Sky - On GOG
And at time of writing its cheap again.

It had a lot of bad press when it was released, indie company didn't quite fulfil the promises made .. but boy has it come along since.
Its now winning awards, most recently in the last month Best Ongoing Game of the year.

The most striking feature of this game is an unusual chilled feeling that you get from playing it. Its hard to explain why but many players experience the same being relaxed by playing it.

Within the first ten minutes of your first game you will die (purely from the possible harsh planet environment you are randomly spawned on). Second time round you will flounder a bit but might survive .. And after that its all plain sailing take it in your stride, and introduce your granny to it because she will probably enjoy it too.

I bought it when it was first released, and still play it now to chill out 3 years later.

It has multiplayer (if you want that), it can be launched from GOG Galaxy (if you want that), or you can play it completely offline by downloading the Offline Backup Installers without having to install GOG Galaxy (My preference). But I would let it go online at least once, when you have found the Quicksilver shop, to get the full list of items available - Particularly the Void Egg, which you can not get any other way. Why would you want such a thing .. Leave that for you to find out at your leisure should you wish to try this out.

Sean Murray @ Hellogames said he wanted people to feel like they have walked out of a Sci-Fi book cover after playing this game for a while - For me that book was Stranger in a Strange Land by R.A.Heinlein.

There have been many Sci-Fi nostalgic moments reminding me of when I was a kid, if you saw Forbidden Planet when it was first released in colour on TV, there will be moments in this game you will feel you have walked into quite a few updated scenes from that film.

Puzzles?, yeah, just figuring out how to do things is often a puzzle. Hellogames added various items to be researched and build to enhance any Base building, wires, logical switches and triggers, which one user on Reddit utilized to make a working Calculator in his game.
Personally I love the exploring aspect rather than being stuck in one system, so my Freighter is my home I can park my starships on and beam down various Exxocraft to a planets surface as needed.

If you do get it, check in periodically for updates .. Nearly four years later and Hellogames are showing no sign of stopping the updates. Its a bit of a passion for them, they fulfilled the original promises over a year ago now. Its also in a good state now, most bugs are fixed, we just get a few new ones when there is another content update which again get patched pretty quickly.

I don't know what your system specs are but the minimum spec given I think is a bit low if you wish to play this smoothly. I made a post full of tips on nexus here
.. But note that's with a laptop (ie mobile GPU which is less capable than a desktop with similar spec which would play the game better).

Edit : I mentioned the Void Egg, I would recommend not to make that an objective for a while, get about a years experience first, do the storylines you get led into which steadily introduce you to bits of useful kit you can make, find out about processing combinations of resources (the game has its own take on a periodic table of resources you can gather) .. And just enjoy it.
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@alt3rn1ty: Thanks! I just checked and No Man's Sky is available on the Microsoft Store and is free on XBox Game Pass for PC (which I subscribe to). My Surface Book 2 died last week and I'm trying not to download too much to my Surface Book 1. I will try it out when I get my Surface Bool 3 in a dew weeks.
:) NP. I haven't looked a Surface Book laptop specs for a while, but from what I have just seen of the range of specs for Surface Book 3 they are surprisingly good now, looks like it will be good for No Mans Sky, when you look at the settings in game just be careful of the Texture setting so you don't overheat the laptop, its a bit demanding on VRAM (more so than when the game was initially released and the specs were published for the game). Standard needs 2gb VRAM, Enhanced needs 4gb VRAM. So if you get the Surface Book 3 with an NVidia GTX 1650 you will be okay on Enhanced setting, but not higher. I have the same Graphics card on my new Dell G7, and from what I gather it does not have less pipelines than the Desktop equivalent, it just has to run at less megs to keep the confined space in a laptop heat down. NMS will allow you to choose higher settings and stuff the VRAM to the roof with textures, but its not recommended if you want a bit more longevity out of the machine, the graphics bottleneck will raise the heat badly and over time melt the solder contact grid on the chip. Been there :D.
Anyway I better stop babbling, in danger of veering off topic into a conversation about just one game :)
@alt3rn1ty Thanks for the tip. I looked at the link briefly and that sounds interesting. I've actually gravitated away from the Life On Mars simulator. It's a great and very sophisticated program, and it's amazing what they crammed in there. But, as the colony develops, it gets to being more and more work to maintain it and plan the logistics, almost like real work. Oxygenator is down. Need more raw materials to fix. Meteor struck the power line. That shuts down the factory. Wind turbine blades are deteriorating. Need a new shipment of parts from Earth. Etc. I made all that up, but you get the idea. So, once I get back to gaming, maybe I'll take a look at the one you mentioned.

My system specs are pretty good ... as of 10 years ago when I built the machine. Win 7. AMD Phenom II X6 hexacore CPU. AMD radeon 78?? video card with (probably) 2 GB of RAM. Since I'm not an uber active or wealthy gamer, I'll probably just have to work with what I have. Ron
@alt3rn1ty Thanks for the tip. I looked at the link briefly and that sounds interesting. I've actually gravitated away from the Life On Mars simulator. It's a great and very sophisticated program, and it's amazing what they crammed in there. But, as the colony develops, it gets to being more and more work to maintain it and plan the logistics, almost like real work. Oxygenator is down. Need more raw materials to fix. Meteor struck the power line. That shuts down the factory. Wind turbine blades are deteriorating. Need a new shipment of parts from Earth. Etc. I made all that up, but you get the idea. So, once I get back to gaming, maybe I'll take a look at the one you mentioned.

My system specs are pretty good ... as of 10 years ago when I built the machine. Win 7. AMD Phenom II X6 hexacore CPU. AMD radeon 78?? video card with (probably) 2 GB of RAM. Since I'm not an uber active or wealthy gamer, I'll probably just have to work with what I have. Ron

:) Yep I get what you mean, NMS does not need any micromanagement repairing things, although there is a little bit of repairing Frigates if they had troubles when you send them on missions, depends if you have some experienced combat frigates with the mission group, and the overall experience of the mission group versus the expected experience needed for the mission. But repairing them is just a case of having the right resources handy in your inventory. This comes much later in the game though.

Gathering lots of different types of resources is more of a thing with NMS, and building up more inventory slots for your Player / Starship / Freighter is the main priority to make things easier in the long run. When you get to the stage where you have a Freighter, you can then buy Frigates of various classes to go on missions, but really that's about as far as you get involved with Frigates, send them away on randomly generated missions and hopefully they come back happy with lots of cash / resources and enough of that should make more than enough profit to create the fuel they need for further missions.

The rest of the game is sight seeing, scanning flora / fauna, adding improvement upgrades to all your kit and stories leading you to some unusual choices to be made .. How far you want to go (I dont want to spoiler anything so stopping short of describing more of the game) could last you a lifetime, literally.

Some people get a bit bored with it after a while, though Hellogames have done a lot to improve and expand on the variation of planets and life forms (far more than when it was first released). For me I remember playing Elite on a Commodore 64 with 3D Vector line drawn stations and ships, chasing ships for ages which were just a pixel on the screen, and trying to achieve Elite status for about three years. There are more objectives for the completionist in NMS than you can shake a hairy stick at, and its fun not a chore :)

I think your Phenom compares well with the minimum spec Core I3, depends what model -

Your Radeon GPU may be a concern if its not Vulkan compatible, the game is no longer OpenGL and shifted to Vulkan API only (so needs more recent graphics drivers which include it) since April 2019
@alt3rn1ty That's some cool info. Didn't know about the Vulkan thing. I did a little googling and I think the card can support it but not sure. The game trailer also looks interesting so I might end up checking it out. thanks for the tips. Ron
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I bought the six Myst games I loved way back when from GOG since they all work on Windows 10 now. Now I've got to find the time to play them.
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I miss Crobots and Probots. Programming "Tank" games were a big part of my growing up and learning how to code.

Steam games - I don't think that these have been mentioned previously in this post (some may have been mentioned on Security Now). I haven't checked that they are still available in the Steam Store.

I've played them all - all are good, but more stars for highly recommended; no pressure or death unless noted ...
*** 12 Labours of Hercules series - resource gathering (time pressure; goal is 3 stars on every quest)
    Alice's Patchworks - jigsaw-type puzzles
    Auditorium - sound/music puzzles
    Backgammon Blitz - yep, backgammon
**  Braid - side-scroller allowing time reversal to solve puzzles
**  Bridge Constructor Portal - use engineering/physics skills to solve puzzles
*   Circuits - puzzles involving (simple) circuits
**  Cogs - puzzles involving cogs (nice graphics)
*   Crazy Machines 3 - mechanical puzzles solved by placing objects
*** Crosscells - logic puzzles
    Cypher - puzzle game about cryptography (and its history)
*** Delete - puzzle game with great mechanics
**  Divide By Sheep - maths/logic puzzle game (some sheep must be sacrificed :-( )
**  Glass Masquerade series - jigsaw puzzles made of stained glass (nice graphics)
*   Globesweeper - a novel take on the Minesweeper game (nice graphics)
    Grim Fandango Remastered - a novel adventure/puzzle game
*** Hexcells series - maths/puzzle game
    Hexologic - maths puzzles
    Hidden Folks - novel hidden object puzzles
*   Hook - logic puzzles
    The House of Da Vinci - logic/hidden ojects puzzles
**  Lines series - logic/topology (find paths to connect colored tiles in a grid)
**  Lost Artifacts series - Resource gathering (time pressure; similar to Hercules)
*** Osmos - join bubbles together; nice graphics and music; some pressure in harder puzzles
    Peggle series - I know, "kids game"; fun and *does* involve some skill to get top scores
    Q.U.B.E. Director's Cut - manipulate cubes in your environment to solve puzzles
*** The Room series - excellent environment puzzles and graphics
    Scalak - geometry? puzzles
*   Shisensho Solitaire - tile matching puzzles
**  Sinkr series - logic puzzles
*** SquareCells - logic puzzles
    Super Jigsaw Puzzles series - yep, jigsaws
**  [the Sequence] - logic puzzles
*** The Witness - wander this world solving its puzzles (excellent graphics and puzzles)
**  World of Goo - fun puzzles with blobs with different characteristics
**  Zen Bound 2 - topological puzzler
*   Zup! series - fun physics
What can I say ... I'm a collector, not a completionist.

If you have somebody to play with (local or remote), you could also try these (I play these with my adult children, and now my grandchildren). They are all puzzlers involving searching or solving ...
**  DYO
*** Death Squared
*** Degrees of Separation
**  ibb & obb
*** Portal 2: co-op
**  Tick Tock: A Tale For Two
*** We Were Here series
Cheers, Peter.
@peterhatoz Wow! I had no idea this thread would gain this kind of traction. That's lots of info to consider. I haven't been back to the gaming system since giving up on the Mars Simulator program as mentioned earlier in the thread. It was a great program but it became too much like work. I played Aion years ago, and it has a great visual environment to explore. But, in that case, the main character is a mercenary, and I got tired of having to go on missions killing things all the time. So, once I get back to it, I'm definitely going to have a bunch to think about with all these suggestions.Thanks for all that info.

May your bits be stable and your interfaces be fast. :cool: Ron
In case no one has mentioned it, here's an excellent puzzle-solving game with relaxing colors and audio:

LYNE (Available for Windows, Mac, and Linux on the Humble Store for $2.39 if you have a subscription, $2.99 without. You might be able to find it for less elsewhere on sale or in a bundle.)

It should be relatively inexpensive wherever you look. I have it both on Steam and on Android (via Humble Bundle), with DRM-free copies probably backed-up somewhere.

The Humble purchase listed platforms are DRM-free downloads for Windows, Mac, and Linux, Steam for those three, and Android.

It has a fixed set of levels in different difficulties and also generates daily (sets of) levels of random difficulty, if you ever run out of levels to play. (I only know of one person on Steam who actually did that—completed all the built-in levels. I don't know her personally.. just from Steam statistics)

@rfrazier If you're in the mood for something that you can finish in a few hours which is a lot of fun and teaches you the ropes (or buttons and how they work :D) as you go, check out PUSH, which I noticed is only 99¢ (regular price)!
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Thimbleweed Park is currently on sale on Steam. I assume there must be a some old timers here who enjoyed the Sierra and Lucas Arts adventure games in the 80s and 90s.