Did you miss the showcase today? I got you.
I play a lot of video games, but I don’t always tune in to the big game showcases. I have a hard time keeping track of when they are happening, and AAA games sometimes lack the whimsical flair that I crave.
There is one game showcase, however, that I won’t miss—Wholesome Direct. Wholesome Direct is run by Wholesome Games, a community who curates games that they consider “wholesome”, but not in a buttoned-up Christian family values sort of way. They select games that are cute, heartwarming, inspiring, compassionate, and sometimes revolutionary.
Ooblets, one of my favorite Indie games, has long been featured on Wholesome Direct, and in the past few years I have wishlisted, purchased, or played dozens of other games featured during the show.
Today, there was another Wholesome Direct and you can bet I watched the whole thing, grinning like a madwoman.
I can’t summarize every single game they featured here (there’s almost a hundred!) but I’ve selected a few (okay, I have selected many) that I’m most excited about. A curation of a curation, if you will.
1. Terra Nil
This game is laid out like a city builder, but instead of building a city, the goal is to rebuild the ecosystem. I really like the visuals in this one. There is a nice contrast between the “dead” land in need of revitalization and the green, lush, flowery land that has been tended. I expect it will feel really good to play, really satisfying to make those improvements. I like the style, I like the builder mechanics, and I like the message. We should all be a little more careful with how we treat this world.
This game must be early in its development because they just have a Twitter page so far, but it feels really polished. This game involves a tiny bear (who is a honey container), cooking in a normal-sized kitchen. It has really crisp graphics, and looks beautifully done in the trailer. It looks like a 3D platformer, though, which is not my usual cup of tea. I really like the look of this game, but I'll wait for more information on this game before I play it myself.
This is another game about protecting the world’s ecosystems, but this one takes a more hands-on approach. In this game you also play as a bear, physically removing harmful factories and protecting the forest. It takes a more “revolutionary” approach to being wholesome, by fighting for what is right. I’m not sure if this will be my style of gameplay either, but I’ll keep my eye on it. Bears were really popular in this Wholesome Direct!
This game is about delivering packages as a little witch flying around on a broomstick. The world looks huge from the trailer, and it is bright and colorful. I think the style looks nice. It is tagged on steam as “short”, so this one will probably be an afternoon of relaxing story progression and not much else, but that can be really nice.
5. Mail Time
Delivery mechanics are also really popular this year, and Mail Time is another mail-delivery adventure game. This one has platformer elements, quests and characters to talk to, and it looks very cozy. For some reason, the style reminds me of Harvest Moon: A Wonderful Life, a GameCube game that I played quite a bit of as a child.
6. Usagi Shima
This is an adorable bunny collecting game in the vein of Neko Atsume. In fact, at first glance I thought this was made by the same developer, but it is actually someone entirely new! After comparing the two, I can see the clear differences in style — Usagi Shima has a softer, hand-drawn look and the game itself looks like it has more variety in how you can interact with the game. I think this one will be too cute to pass up.
This game has been on my radar for a while because they have a very robust Instagram campaign that landed on my feed, and I liked the art style so much that I backed it on Kickstarter. I know some people are suspicious of Kickstarter games, but in my experience the creators want to finish the game as much as backers want them to. Any serious mishaps are a tragedy for everyone involved. Even so, all the games I’ve backed have met their publication goals: Universim, Armello, The Lighthouse at the Edge of the Universe, and Hotel Magnate.
PuffPals: Island Skies is still pretty early in development but they have a clearly defined style and a strong team. I’m excited to see how they progress in the next year.
This is a puzzle game with a deeply integrated story and a style that is hard to explain. It’s very illustrative, each level seems to have its own distinct theme that is wildly different from the other levels. It is centered around the concept of dealing with grief, and helping ghosts pass on and find peace. Really interesting concept and execution, I’ll definitely check this one out.
I’ve played Calico! I played it much earlier in its development and at the time I thought it was fun but needed a bit more time in the oven. It’s very cozy; the main character runs a cat cafe (though other animals are welcome, too), and does favors for other characters in town.
It has a nice, pastel-colored painterly style. It can be intense at times, but in general I liked the aesthetic and had fun exploring the area. What I really wanted from this game was more structure. I wanted a heavier focus on the cafe management, because I love a nice business sim. I know they’ve updated it significantly since I played, so I may check it out and see if it aligns with my play style a little better now.
It’s a great game if you want to tootle around in a colorful world and scope out cute animals that you can pet, pick up, and collect at your cafe.
It was hard to grasp what the gameplay mechanics were from the trailer but it looks like Fall of Porcupine is primarily a story game, which tells the story of balancing work and life, and the promotional materials mention that it also portrays an “unhealthy healthcare-system”, so I believe it also delves into social commentary about medical care.
I love that the main character is a pigeon, I have a soft spot in my heart for pigeons, and I think the art looks really nice.
Lovebirb is a dating sim for birbs. This one looks super whimsical and funny, and if you want to give it a try there is a link to a demo available on their Twitter bio. It seems silly on its surface, but I think the addition of rhythm into some of the mechanics and incorporating different bird behaviors is really clever. It looks nicely designed, and I can tell a lot of care went into making this game a cohesive and fun experience.
There is some truly out-of-the-box thinking going on with this game. In this game you place down objects that generate sounds, going through different levels to build up “parts” of a song. These parts end up going together to create a whole song. It is described as a “roguelite music builder” and I can honestly say I’ve never seen anything quite like this. I am excited to try this one out and see how it feels.
I love Ooblets. I’ve talked about Ooblets before. I have played dozens of hours of Ooblets and would recommend it to anyone who wants a nice, chill, farming and creature-collecting game. They are reaching their 1.0 release after 2 years in Early Access, and I am so excited.
The upcoming story from scenes in the trailer looks awesome: there are some cyberspace-looking dance battle scenes, some corporate bosses for us to oppose, and the music is baller.
Another delivery game! This one has puzzle mechanics, instead of being an adventure platformer. You have to draw out paths between the spawners and the monsters that need to be fed. This looks like a lot of fun, though I get the impression from the Steam page that it’s not a very long or varied game. I'll check it out!
Soulitaire is, apparently, a roguelike solitaire game with an integrated story where you use the cards to tell the future. I am so interested in this, I wishlisted immediately. I love all kinds of solitaire games, and while I’m not totally sold on the prophecy-based story mechanics, I am willing to give it a try and see how it feels in game, just so I can play some solitaire.
This game was in last year’s Wholesome Direct as well, and I love the style so much. It’s got this cute, tilt-shift look, almost like claymation. There’s also a drawing minigame where you can actually draw out the art that your character is selling and I feel like that will provide endless fun.
The story of being a “starving artist” struggling to make ends meet is also really compelling for me. I love games that have this concept of doing the work, struggling a bit, and earning something you can use to grow. It’s so often more rewarding and consistent in games than in the real world.
17. Freshly Frosted
I actually bought this game when I was released a few days ago, but haven’t played yet. It is a puzzle game focused around lining up conveyor belts and machines to make pastries.
There is another game, Big Pharma, that I have enjoyed with very similar gameplay. I think this one will be even better because of the cute donut aesthetic, which is much more enticing than the idea of mass-producing drugs for sale.
This is a “cottagecore life sim” where you play as a character that is restoring her grandmother’s cottage. There seems to be a lot of gameplay around foraging and plant identification, which is a new twist on games like this that I’m really into. There are also gardening and cooking mechanics, to really round it out as a cozy life sim.
This is a ranching sim with a focus on Gaucho culture. I am not personally familiar with Gaucho culture, so I think this game could be a nice way to learn a little bit and relax with my horse and dog best friends. This game gives off very relaxing vibes, like you have all the time in the world. Very peaceful vibes.
20. Potion Permit
This game ticks a lot of boxes for me. You have a little business-sim gameplay, working as a chemist, gathering ingredients and crafting potions to heal the people of the town of Moonbury. You get a dog companion in this game, too! The style is a higher-resolution pixel art than you usually see, which is great for me since I have a hard time “reading” low-res pixel art in games. This game looks delightful all-around and I’m definitely picking it up.
The trailer for this game was really vague. I wasn’t quite sure what it was about at first. Seeing the Steam page now, it’s a game about making tea and talking to cats. And making tea for the cats. This looks very sweet and the art is adorable. The tea-making also looks just detailed enough to be a game in itself. Very excited for this one.
22. Kitori Academy
I put this game on my wishlist last year, tentatively, because at the time it looked pretty unpolished. I’m thrilled to report that it looks much more complete this year. They’ve been working hard!
This is a life sim centered around being a student at a magical school. You get a ‘spirit companion’ which I believe is just an animal friend, like a familiar. Any game that lets you have a pet—I’m in. You’ve got me. I’m so pleased to see how far this game has come and I’m excited to give it a try when it’s released.
I’m not a big platformer, as I’ve mentioned several times throughout this article, but in this one you get to play as a tiny robot (it looks like a Roomba), that stacks blocks and slurps them back up again to solve puzzles. It looks really colorful and the art style is soft and playful, so I think I will give this one a try.
This is a story-focused adventure game where you play as a small mouse exploring a town and helping people. This is—wait for it—another 3D platformer. This might be our most saturated format for wholesome games in 2022.
But, again, I’m enticed. The premise seems cute. The mouse uses electricity to accomplish tasks and help people from behind the scenes. It really does seem wholesome, so it’s earned a place on my wishlist despite being another 3D platformer.
25. Kokopa’s Atlas
This game got me immediately with the art style. Heavy tilt shift is the number one way to my heart, and on top of that the world looks lush and bright and inviting. There’s also a garden that you can tend, which is pretty high on my list of lovable wholesome game features. I’m terrible at gardening in real life, but I love it in games.
I loved everything about this trailer: gardening, fishing, taking pictures of cute birds. This game has everything. I was heartbroken to find out that it is for VR only. I don’t have a VR headset, and they’re pretty far outside my budget right now, so I won’t have the chance to play this game. Just in case you do, I’ve included it here for you to check out, because it looks perfectly cozy.
27. Garden In!
Gardening is a staple among wholesome games, just like frogs and, as of this year, bears. I get it, though. There is a powerful, pure happiness I get from nurturing something so that it can grow.
Garden In! is a game about tending a garden with a more “sandbox” feel than the previously-mentioned gardening games. There’s no character in this one, no story, no nonsense. Just a garden that you can customize and take care of. I like that.
28. Petit Island
This game is nestled within a cozy story about helping your “grandpaw” (get it? Because you’re a cat?) remember his youth by taking photos from places he used to go adventuring.
As you may guess from the title, this game takes place on an island and there’s a cast of characters that you can get to know and interact with. I was surprised to learn more about the story, because the trailer made this game look like a typical exploring/gathering/fishing life sim game. Knowing more about the story, I’m interested in how this game will play out.
29. Moonstone Island
This game is another one with an alchemy theme, with the addition of creature taming. I love creature collectors, so this caught my eye. In addition to creature collecting, there are also RPG and deck-building features.
It feels a little bit all-over-the-place right now, but it’s not scheduled for release until 2023 at the earliest so it has plenty of time to refine its vision.
30. Super Mini Mart This is a laid-back store management game with a simple and colorful 3D art style. All the people in the game are blobby little friends who sort of wobble around.
Out of all the games on my list, this one pretty high up there. I love business sims, and this one has the added bonus of being super cute and relaxed in its gameplay. I expect I’ll spend a lot of time on this one when it’s released, probably doing something stupid like making a store that only sells butter and ice cream.
31. Ova Magica This game describes itself as “stardew valley meets Pokemon”, which I would argue isn’t exactly right. The main character looks almost identical to the character in Stardew’s original inspiration: Harvest Moon.
Either way, this game looks cute and combines a farming sim and a creature collector. The blob-creatures that you can raise remind me so much of the slimes in Slime Rancher, so that’s a bonus for me. This one was already on my wishlist; I’m just waiting for that 2023 planned release date.
32. Tiny Witch Here we have a game that feels almost like it was designed just for me. It’s a magical business sim where you work as a witch creating “minions” for your dungeon master customers. By all appearances, it looks like a nice time management game, and it’s supposed to come out this year! Hopefully I can dig into it soon and see how I like it.
33. The Courier The last game on my list is another mail-delivery sim! I told you they were popular this year. The Courier is a stylized 3D business sim with an adventure twist. There’s a story to be uncovered—they describe the island as ‘mysterious’ and these mysteries are solved as you deliver letters.
There are environmental puzzles and places to explore on your bicycle. And, there’s plenty of tilt-shift effect on the trailer to delight me.
These are the 33 games from Wholesome Direct that I was immediately drawn to and want to check out. This is only a third of the games that were showcased, so head on over to the Wholesome Games website to see the ones I didn’t cover.
If a game isn’t listed here—that doesn’t mean it’s a bad game! Some games I felt weren’t right for me because of my personal tastes. Some were very early in their development and did not have a lot for me to grab onto yet. Others, like Lemon Cake, I have already played (and enjoyed) and cut from the list just to keep it from getting too long.
All in all, Wholesome Direct is a great showcase full of lovely, cozy, uplifting games. Which ones are you most excited about? Let me know!