Here are the cozy games from Wholesome Direct that you can play right now

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Break out your blankets and settle in, everyone. It’s time for the cozy games.

The latest Wholesome Direct showcase offers an hour-long celebration of innovation and coziness in indie development, featuring more than 30 meditative, calming and absolutely adorable experiences. Some of the titles are brand new, some are getting updates, many of them have demos, and others simply deserve time in the spotlight. One thing they all have in common is an inherent ability to warm your heart.

The entire Wholesome Direct 2024 showcase is worth watching. It’s packed with brilliant indie gems and brand-new trailers, and many of the featured titles already have demos available to download. Here, we’ve collected four games that came out today as surprise drops tied to the showcase: Kamaeru: A Frog Refuge, POOOOL, The Palace on the Hill and Tracks of Thought. I spent some time playing the first three games on this list and each one is lovely in its own way; I’ve left my thoughts with the game descriptions below.

Watch, read about and then play a bunch of cozy, wholesome games — that’s not a bad way to spend a Saturday. Or a summer.

Kamaeru: A Frog Refuge

This one’s for the players who can’t get enough of games like Neko Atsume and Usagi Shima, or for folks who just really love adorable amphibians. Kamaeru: A Frog Refuge is a farming sim about building and maintaining a protected space in the wetlands where wild frogs can thrive, and it gets much deeper than simply buying new poufs for the animals to sleep on. In Kamaeru, players have to dig out the wetlands, harvest ingredients to make jam and other treats for selling at the market, monitor their environmental impact, and purchase items to create an inviting space for all of their frog friends. Players are able to take photos of the frogs, feed them, name them and even breed them, mixing their colorways in a tic-tac-toe Punnett square.

Kamaeru is a relaxed, methodical and surprisingly deep experience that happens to be filled with cute and colorful frogs. It’s much more than a passive animal-observation game, and it takes a fair amount of grinding — but like, in a really cozy, froggy way — for the on-screen rewards to start rolling in. After about an hour of play, I feel like I’ve only scratched the surface of this game. 

Kamaeru is available now on Steam, itchi.io and Nintendo Switch, and it’s verified on Steam Deck. It’s developed by Humble Reeds and published by Armor Games Studios.

POOOOL

Count ’em, that’s four Os. POOOOL is a sweet and simple game with infinite replayability, much like the stick-and-ball sport that inspired it. In POOOOL, players fling bouncy balls of various sizes around a contained rectangle, one at a time, in an attempt to make spheres of the same color touch. When two matching balls collide, they instantly combine into a bigger ball, which can then be combined with another of the same size, and so on. It’s kind of like Threes! but with colorful balls instead of numbers. Eventually, the globes reach their limit and they disappear with a pop, leaving plenty of room for new balls to spawn. The round ends and the score is tallied when there’s no more room for the spheres to be flung.

POOOOL is a lovely little physics simulator with a friendly art style and soothing, repeatable mechanics. This is a game that rewards strategy, but it’s also incredibly forgiving of mindless clicking and dragging, and both play styles result in a satisfyingly bouncy experience. Put it in your pile of games to play while killing time or pretending to get work done, and you’ll get plenty of use out of it. POOOOL comes from developer Noah King and publisher digimoss, and it’s available right now on Steam.

The Palace on the Hill

This is a special one. The Palace on the Hill is a thoughtful and robust slice-of-life game set in a fictional town in rural India in the 1990s, starring a young man who’s helping his family earn money over the summer. Players plant, tend to and sell their crops, they work shifts at the local tea shop, and they pick up odd jobs in town, getting to know the residents along the way. The young man is an aspiring artist, and he finds inspiration for new paintings around the village, sharing stories about the area’s past in beautiful watercolor vignettes. There’s a rich history here and plenty of things to do in each moment.

The Palace on the Hill is a sweet surprise of an adventure game, riveting, methodical and illuminating. The rural town where it takes place feels alive and its boundaries expand delicately as the game progresses. Each NPC has a distinct personality and a unique relationship with the protagonist, and their world quickly feels familiar, even as it remains filled with secrets. I heartily recommend this game.

The Palace on the Hill is available today on Steam, Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, iOS and Android, and it’s verified on Steam Deck. It comes from indie studio Niku Games.

Tracks of Thought

Tracks of Thought is a game about chatting, managing cards and solving mysteries, and it all takes place on a long-haul locomotive heading to an unknown destination. After passing through a strange tunnel, every passenger on the train forgets where they’re going, and it’s up to the protagonist, an amiable purple ladybug, to figure out what’s going on. The ladybug’s personality is shaped by the player’s interactions with other passengers, and conversations play out as card battles where the goal is to resolve conflict and help everyone get on the same page.

Tracks of Thought has a cartoony art style and a cast of cool, bug-like characters, and it seems to offer a clever blend of conversation and card battles. With today’s showing, this game has been featured in a total of four Wholesome Directs (yes, that’s nearly all of them), so it’s especially great to see it out now on Steam and the Epic Games Store. Tracks of Thought comes from developer Tidbits Play and publisher Freedom Games.

Catch up on all of the news from Summer Game Fest 2024 right here!

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/here-are-the-cozy-games-from-wholesome-direct-that-you-can-play-right-now-170042994.html?src=rss