The Best Phone Games, According To 14 People With Stressful Jobs

updated Sep 3, 2020
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When I get stressed out, I tend to do the thing that most experts suggest you don’t do—go on my phone. I’ll usually scroll through Reddit, mindlessly browse Instagram, or sometimes play Words With Friends. If I have more free time, sometimes I’ll play the digital version of Monopoly with my fiancé (nerdy, but there’s no better way to get out of your brain for a half an hour, I swear!).

Sure, blue light and social media aren’t technically good for stress, but for most people, for better or worse, phones are a lifeline. So why not try to use them for good when you can? 

For people with particularly stressful jobs, sometimes there’s nothing better than letting your mind turn off for a few minutes and instead playing a mindless game of Candy Crush on your phone. But Candy Crush (even though it’s great) isn’t the only stress-relieving gaming app out there.

I spoke to 14 people about what games help them keep their stress-relievers down, and their answers just mind inspire you to browse your app stores ASAP. 

Credit: Apple App Store

1. Sudoku 

Sasha, who works in advertising, says that playing Sudoku on her phone always de-stresses her. “It takes enough focus that it breaks me out of whatever job stress and I can only focus on the numbers,” she says. “Back when we were in the office, I used to sneak into the bathroom to play it after tough meetings.”

2. Bingo Party (and 2048)

“This feels super embarrassing to admit but… I play Bingo Party to relax and also 2048 (that one mostly when I’m feeling anxious from work). Both are focus games so they help my brain relax with something specific and purposeful (like dabbing bingo spots) that requires concentration,” Jennifer, a retail manager says. “It helps shut off lingering work thoughts. 2048 is mostly great when my brain is starting to spiral from anxiety because it’s all about combining the number spots into higher numbers so my brain can focus on that while I deep breath.”

As I mentioned earlier, Words With Friends is a classic stress-reliever (plus, it challenges your brain just a little bit). Emily, a product manager for an engineering company, agrees, saying that she plays it on breaks and if a Zoom call is buffering (relatable). “It’s so different from my actual job and I think that’s why I like it,” Emily shares.

Credit: Apple App Store

Samantha, who has worked in childcare for the last few years, says that the color grid puzzle game I Love Hue helps her calm down when feeling stressed. “It’s not loud or fast paced like some of the kids’ games that I have to be around and I think identifying color variations is a fun practice,” she says. 

You’ve probably seen this one in a targeted social media ad at some point and felt momentarily mesmerized. Turns out, it’s just as soothing as it seems. “I really really love this design app,” says Ashley, who works in digital marketing at an agency supporting COVID communications. “It allows us millennials who don’t have huge decor budgets to design different spaces with luxury items! It’s also designed to pull you in by releasing different rooms each day and helps get the creative juices flowing when you’re sick of everything in your own home.”

6. 1010

Meena, a doctor, said she loves playing 1010, a Tetris-like game. “I like that it’s done at my pace and that I can exert control over where the pieces go versus ton of stuff falling at a pace I can’t catch up with (too like real life),” Meena shares. 

Carl Bible is a nuclear engineer and loves the Smurfs’ Village app, according to his daughter Abby. “He finds it super relaxing because it’s so mindless to build a damn Smurf village and harvest their crops,” Abby shares. 

Credit: Apple App Store

Laura, who works in public accounting  shares that she loves Animal Crossing. “[It’s a ] no-stress game that is predictable while still being interesting,” Laura says. “I like that I can play it while watching Netflix or TV. I can look away from the game and not miss anything.”

If you’re looking for a truly classic, mindless game, there is Solitaire. Meg is a corporate lawyer and says Solitaire (as well as the New York Times Crossword puzzle, which other people mentioned, as well) keeps her “occupied” and that she finds them “incredibly soothing and satisfying.” “They totally pull me out of analytical work mode,” Meg shares.

Jessie, a child protection social worker, names a game called Wordscapes as her favorite way to de-stress. “It’s a word scramble game and it’s perfect for breaks because it requires attention and brain power so it gives me a break from thinking about work for a few minutes here and there!” Jessie says. “ It pulls me out of the stress and gives me something else to focus on, which is ultimately pretty grounding.”

Credit: Apple App Store

Cassie, a partnerships director, says that the NYT Crossword Puzzle is her way of unwinding. “[It] helps me unwind because you HAVE to think about the clues which forces me to not think about work,” Cassie shares. “Helps me feel like I’m doing something for myself in the form of challenging myself and learning new things and also helps me detach from work.”

Katie, a data scientist for a big retail org, says that COVID has made her job very stressful and that Settlers of Catan allows her to unwind. “I love Catan and playing on the app makes me better when I play with real people. There’s no micro transactions, there’s a defined end to a game (helps me stop playing, makes it less addictive), the strategy requires my whole brain, so I get immersed in Catan and can stop thinking about the other stressful stuff,” Katie says.

Kelcee, a public policy reporter D.C. says that the Stardew Valley app (a farming simulation game) has been a “major destresser” for her during 2020. “It’s so therapeutic to grow parsnips, pet my chickens, make cheese and generally live out my cottagecore fantasies in a charming, low-stakes digital world,” Kelcee says.

Vanessa, a freelance TV and video producer, says that dealing with tight deadlines, important clients, and constant last-minute changes has made her job stressful—but Spider Solitaire helps. “Whenever I get a phone call I almost immediately start playing Spider Solitaire on my phone. I’ve been playing for years so my brain doesn’t even have to think about it, which helps me focus on the phone conversation while keeping my hands busy,” Vanessa says. “I am a fairly fast paced person and can get impatient at times, so giving myself this time to slow down but also focus is my little secret. I will say I hate when the call is over because I have to go ‘back to work,’ but I survive.”