The Wholesome Games Direct presentation just wrapped, and after about an hour of trailers, the livestream underscored one thing for me: There sure are a lotta farming sims out in the wild. Hey, I don’t mind the abundance of these games. Farming in games can be a cozy escape, but it was strange seeing so many trying to bite the successful formula of games like Animal Crossing and Stardew Valley. That said, the broadcast did feature a number of compelling indies, from turn-based rhythm games to visual novels, some of which are coming sooner than you might expect.
In case you don’t know, the Wholesome Direct, now in its second year, is a livestream dedicated to comfy-cozy indie games usually developed by marginalized creators. So what you’re getting are experiences that venture off the beaten path, stories about subject matter often pushed aside in “AAA” development. As such, these games tend to get overshadowed by the glitz and glamor (and huge marketing campaigns) of big-budget games. That’s where the Wholesome Direct comes in: To shine a light on the developers pushing the medium to often unexplored territory. It’s awesome stuff!
Anyway, of the nearly 100 wholesome games shown during today’s broadcast, here are eight that you should totally keep an eye on:
A Frog’s Tale
A joint collaboration between indie studios Norman Company and Mythcarver Games, A Frog’s Tale is a charming turn-based action-RPG where you battle to the rhythm of thumping ‘80s synth beats not unlike Crypt of the NecroDancer. I love the pixel art aesthetic and the adorable characters. It gives me very Final Fantasy meets rhythm gameplay energy, and that slaps.
Coffee Talk Episode 2: Hibiscus & Butterfly
This was so cool to see! The original Coffee Talk was an endearing visual novel whose creator,Mohammad Fahmi, tragically passed away this year. So, I’m stoked that the spirit of the first game seems to live on in this sequel from Toge Productions. Coffee Talk Episode 2: Hibiscus & Butterfly continues the story of the OG game, with new characters, extra features like temperature control, and even more drinks to serve to patrons.
Coffee Talk Episode 2: Hibiscus & Butterfly launches sometime in 2023 for Nintendo Switch, macOS and PC, PlayStation consoles, and Xbox systems.
Kaichu – The Kaiju Dating Sim
So, as I was taking notes with the Wholesome Direct livestream running on my second monitor, Squiddershins’ Kaichu popped up and all I could type was “WHAT?” A Kaiju dating simulator, Kaichu – The Kaiju Dating Sim puts you in the role of Gigachu, a big romantic looking for love. You go on dates with six other mega-monsters, doing things like destroying buildings while smooching in between the carnage. It’s sweet and funny, and I want it now.
Kaichu – The Kaiju Dating Sim is expected to hit PC this summer.
If the name doesn’t give its premise a way, the game’s description absolutely does. “Grab your axe and save the environment by chopping and recycling every man-made thing in your path.” Yeah, this is pretty much Smokey the Bear: The Game. In FinalBoss Games’ LumbearJack, you play as Jack, a bear who functions as the environment’s last savior. Armed with your trusty—and customizable–axe, you go around eradicating human creations through puzzle-solving in the hopes of ecological preservation for all. Hm, now that sounds like an important subject we should be talking more about.
LumbearJack is out now on Nintendo Switch and PC.
A rhythm platformer developed by Half Asleep, Melatonin is a collection of mini-games about piecing together various disparate dreams. Each chapter features a different kind of challenge, requiring you to shoot UFOs on beat, jump between platforms to the rhythm, and eat donuts on a chair in the sky. Yeah, it’s a weird one. But hey, weird is cool. And Melatonin is both of those.
Melatonin is coming to Nintendo Switch and PC on September 16.
Paper Animal RPG
Cuddling Raccoon Studios’ Paper Animal RPG clearly takes some inspiration from Nintendo’s Paper Mario franchise, while also being very much its own thing. A cute roguelike set in a colorful boardgame-sized world, you help a little chick named Peep and his friends find the king by strategically outplaying enemies, all while meeting adorable animals and leveling up by the campfire.
Paper Animal RPG doesn’t have a release date yet, but you can wishlist it on Steam. A Kickstarter campaign launches this summer, and if it gets funded, it’ll hit Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation consoles, and Xbox systems.
Olliefrog Toad Skater
No list of mine would be complete without a skateboarding game. Mr. Thee’s Olliefrog Toad Skater is a mix of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater and the “skateboating” game Wave Break in the best way possible. You play as a customizable frog in what’s being called a “faithful recreation of the gamefeel of late 90s and early 2000s skateboarding games.” So, in other words, gravity-defying Indy 900s. But as an amphibian. Yeah, that’s sick!
Olliefrog Toad Skater is “hopefully” coming late 2023, according to its Steam page. You can wishlist it on PC now and support its Kickstarter campaign. Oh, and there’s a demo for Olliefrog Toad Skater is available now on itch.io.
A relaxing story game about one of the most boring card games imaginable, Beardshaker Games’ Soulitaire plays more like a Tarot reading than a game of Solitaire. Using ambiguous soul cards, you interpret the meaning of the symbols on the cards to predict the futures of your customers and friends. It’s got some beautiful illustrative art full of rich colors, a chill reverb-heavy guitar soundtrack, and some hidden mystery that seems intriguing. I’m in.
Soulitaire doesn’t have a release date, but you can wishlist it on Steam now.
Phew. That was quite a bit. And again, those were just the eight most compelling games to me. There were so many more shown off during the Wholesome Direct livestream, so be sure to hit me in the comments with some of the comfy-cozy experiences that stood out to you. Oh, and be sure to hit up WholesomeGames.com to learn more about the above picks and so many more.