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Mental Health Week: Games and mobile apps to help you de-stress and re-focus

Alain Nguyen

Wed Oct 11 2017


Video games are a universal past-time. Whether it is a narrative-driven epic or an epic with no narrative, studies have suggested that engaging oneself in these interactive activities can have social, cognitive and therapeutic benefits.

Below are some games that may aid you in alleviating any stress and anxieties. Or if you want, just a place to relax. It is worth noting however that some games mentioned may not have been designed solely for mental health support, and are instead suggested as opinions of the writer.

Console and PC Games

Journey/Flower (PlayStation 3 and 4)

This series of games by American independent developer ‘thatgamecompany’ provides the player with a spatial and transcendental experience. Their games rarely contain dialogue or a narrative, but instead rely on dynamic settings, visual cues and an omniscient soundtrack.

In Flower, you play as the wind that blows flower petals through the game’s world. Each time you get closer to a flower, the game changes and the purpose for each is different.

Meanwhile, Journey, as the name implies is a game where you take the role of a red-robed traveller meandering to a mountain in the distance. The game has a unique feature where you can come across other real players but cannot communicate with them. You can communicate via the musical chimes in the game but that is all; you can choose to help the fellow traveller or be on your way. The music in this game is also another centrepiece, reflecting your decisions and ‘journey’ ahead.

Abzu (PC/PlayStation/Xbox)

Abzu, a game spearheaded by the art director of Journey, pits players in a vivid underwater setting where they are a diver traversing through ancient ruins and technology. The diver must try and figure what is harming the ocean life by traversing through its flora and fauna.  

The game is narrated through various cutscenes entirely in the ocean and stems from Sumerian mythology. Like Journey and Flower, Abzu’s depiction of the ocean can foster a sense of calmness and tranquillity as you explore it. There is a sense of something bigger at play here and you want to discover it.

Mini Metro (PC/OSX/Android/iOS)

Simple premise, difficult to master. Mini Metro is a minimalistic indie game game where you are tasked with creating an effective rapid transit system of a city using various nodes and lines that flow and connect together.

Whilst Mini Metro wasn’t created with therapeutic or calming benefits in mind, its a good exercise for the brain where you have to think swiftly and strategise on both a short-term and long-term level to ensure the operations of your fictional rapid transit system runs smoothly.

Audiosurf 2 (PC/OSX)

If you remember games like Dance Dance Revolution, Audiosurf 2 will be a treat for you! 

The game’s premise is simple: Put any song you like, whether it’s performed in English or not, and the game will transform the wavelengths and beats into a literal track that you must navigate with your ship.

There are many game modes but the classic mode requires you to collect coloured blocks in columns to maximise your points. It’s a game that doesn’t require much processing power nor high-levelled skill but it is definitely hard to master. 

Honourable Mentions

If the above suggestions aren’t to your tempo, try games like Koi, Viridi, Hyperlight Drifter and the good ol’ reliable Tetris instead! 

Mobile apps


The term ‘gamification’ refers to aspects of gaming or competition (such as point scoring and leaderboards, etc) used in real life applications. Habitica ‘gamifies’ your own habits and goals into a little game, where you can track progress of your goals and outcomes which can then be shared with others. As you play the game and ‘improve’ your habits, you can gain special prizes and achievements that can be customised on your character’s profile.


Peak is simply a brain training app with more than 40 games to keep your mind sharp. It’s an app that aims to help players improve their cognitive ability and reaction, tailoring different activities depending on what you need based on some initial activities. Great for those who want to give their mind a positive mental workout, the app is for most part free to download (there is a paid option to it als0).


Like Habitica, Superbetter is a gamified app that aims to help all individual increase their level of mental resilience. Players are given quests, powers and goals to further their development in the game. The game claims to have scientific evidence to suggest it assists in improving social cognition and emotional wellbeing.

Meld wishes to build a culture where mental health issues can be freely discussed and encourage all international students to seek assistance and advice, professional or personal, if they are experiencing difficulties that may be affecting their mental health. 

Students who are affected by mental health issues or those who know someone who is can seek help through hotlines such as Lifeline at 13 11 14, beyondblue at 1300 22 4636, and Headspace at 1800 650 980.

For LGBTQ individuals who have specific needs, contact QLife at 1800 184 527.

Students may also seek help from in-house university counsellors or helplines.