Video games are supposedly a relaxing pastime but damn if they aren’t sometimes stressful, too. Some of the best games ever made can also be some of the most remorseless, jamming the player into a corner before beating them into submission.
Luckily, there are games that offer a respite from this sort of abuse. Some offer you have a cozy haven in between slaughterfests to recoup and gear up for the next adventure, and others give you have a little slice of home within the game world to call your own and customize to your heart’s content. Some games even succeed at doing both.
Freud calls this concept heimliche, a term often used in literature to describe happy, non-threatening feelings and settings.
In my long and probably excessive experience of playing video games, certain ones stick out to me for being the most heimliche, giving me a cozy little bit of warmness to combat the scourges of the harsh, cruel world. Here are some of the most memorable…
Vercetti Estate – Grand Theft Auto: Vice City
Since the third iteration, the Grand Theft Auto series has done a great job of giving players a safehouse to take a breather from the madness of its crime-infested cities. While GTA5 has upped the ante with five and even ten car garages, Vice City hit the sweet spot for me by offering not just a reasonable amount of vehicle storage around the city, but also plenty of unique pickups for each house on the map.
The Vercetti Estate took the cake out of all of these by offering a place to pick up hidden package weapon rewards, including it being the only spot where the Sea Sparrow buoyed helicopter with twin miniguns spawned after 50 hidden packages were found.
An “Infernus” aka a slightly-rounded Lamborghini Diablo always spawned out front no matter how many times it was blown up, and the “two car” garage could hold up to four vehicles thanks to a handy glitch.
Returning to the Vercetti Estate usually meant restocking on health and ammo, taking one of your primo vehicles out for a spin, or possibly just killing hordes of your personal gang members because they committed the grave sin of standing around in an all-too-tempting circle.
Save Point – Final Fantasy IV (FFII SNES)
This list could easily contain any RPG, seeing as journeying into the field can usually mean getting your ass handed to you and having to reload another save. FFIV sticks out to me particularly because unlike most RPGs I played, the dungeons had tough random battles, labyrinthine structures, and the game demanded no small amount of level grinding.
On top of that, using the tent item at one of these spots meant your characters actually pitching a tent graphic and bunking down for the night. If that doesn’t warm your heart, then my friend you are made of stone.
A typical dungeon sesh for me in FFIV meant venturing out into the deadly hallways until I was a breath away from dying only to use a tent, recharge, and go at it all over again.
Kakariko Village – The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past
Unlike every other game on this list, Kakariko Village isn’t exclusively “yours.” In fact, Link (or POOPTITS or whatever you happened to call him) doesn’t even have a home there; his home is a one-room shack occupying an awkwardly-central location on the light world map.
However, while your home offers zero amenities past the first screen, Kakariko Village is a spot that you must return to time and time again. Many important quest items are discovered here, as are a handful of important NPCs.
What’s more, except for a hilarious event where a villager sees you and runs for their life, Kakariko is one of the few spots where enemies don’t spawn naturally. Link has time to chill, soak in his surroundings, and maybe catch a few leads as to his next quest location.
Also the music. Just listen to that music!
Breezehome – The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
Like GTA, Skyrim offers many humbles to call your abode. The first one most players encounter, though, is Breezehome since unlocking it only requires completing an early main quest and five-thousand big boys worth of septims.
Breezehome, for most playthroughs, is the first spot players have a chance to unload all of the ridiculous quantities of gear they’re most likely toting around at this point. Having a location for storage can be one of the most – if not the most – vital requirements when playing a Bethesda game. Every dungeon and town has oodles of goodies sitting upon shelves like fat little plums just waiting to be plucked.
Hoard-prone players quickly reach their carrying threshold and begin waddling around like some morbidly-obese tourist wiping his brow at Disney World. Without drawers, sacks, and chests to organize your goodies, a game like Skyrim or Fallout 3 becomes a micromanaging nightmare.
Besides a junk repository, Breezehome also stands out as being extremely snug and intimate. Before buying decorations, the place looks like a dingy, two-storey warehouse with nothing but cobwebs and a few barrels.
A couple thousand septims worth of upgrades later and entering Breezehome means being greeted by a roaring fire, tasteful accoutrements, and a steward shrieking “HONOR TO YOU, THANE!” every time you pass by. The lull of all those amenities can make a Dragonborn forget what they were even running around for in the first place.
The Farm – Harvest Moon 64
You can call your farm whatever eight-letter word you desire, but the bottom line is that it is where you are going to be putting the most work into. In the days before running a video game farm meant clicking, waiting, and pestering your Facebook friends, Harvest Moon offered a unique simulation experience that was many paces lower than the average video game.
When you begin the game, you are tasked with reviving the dilapidated family farm. This burden means first clearing out the god-forsaken weed and rock ridden field and then planting a small plot of vegetables. Players also have the option of picking up wild produce to sell and interacting with the locals of Flower Bud Village – especially those in the romance-able department – but the majority of game activity focuses on maintaining the farm.
Soon, players feel as if they have a personal investment in the property’s well-being, and getting distracted long enough to forget the daily chores typically triggers a severe bout of face-palming. From the very beginning, players are taught that the prosperity of the farm is their personal responsibility and rite-of-passage.
After a long time playing, you begin to feel as if the world you have cultivated carries a ludicrous amount of significance, and dancing with your favorite marriageable NPC can feel as rewarding as having a shit-ton of tomatoes and corn to sell in one sitting.
Once your father returns home to pass judgment on what you’ve accomplished during the two years he was gone, you’ll have put enough blood, sweat, tears, and other forms of bodily waste into the place that you’ll wonder why your IRL yard stays such a damn wreck.
Your House – Minecraft
Crap all over Minecraft all you want, but there’s a reason for its appeal.
Seriously, go take a big dump on it.
You done? Now play it. You’re hooked aren’t you?
One of the biggest reasons people get sucked into playing Minecraft is that every single cubic foot of the game is customizable. People can get creative and construct a scale-recreation of Westeros or maybe just a single, shimmering diamond phallus glistening in the sunlight, but the real experience lies in playing survival mode, especially on hardcore.
Once nightfall settles in during survival mode, beasties start gang raping you out of nowhere, and more likely than not your ass is grass. After chalking the first death up to a learning experience, most players dig a hole or make a rectangular shack to wait out the night. Pretty soon, you’ll need to expand to accommodate crafting areas and storage for all the Skyrim-level hoards of crap you’ve accumulated.
From there, it can get a bit obsessive. I started to apply modern architectural touches to give my homes a massive, ski-lodge appearance along with fake furniture no one would ever use that was cobbled together from other random materials. Soon, I was working on my roof well into the in-game and real-life night trying to lay that last row of shingle before a spider jumped on my head and knocked me to my doom.
More so than any other game on this list, Minecraft means getting neurotically meticulous about your living situation in a way that is only significant to the player. Adding to this effect, every time it hits darkness your ass better be inside your house or behind a fortified, well-lit series of walls and moats otherwise you’ll become crispy Creeper leftovers.
The combination of “evil inhospitable outside” and “safe like a mother’s womb inside” triggers a reaction in the player’s brain that they must domesticate and light up every corner of their game world to be safe. Also, pillars, arches, and pitched roofs are extremely important for some reason.
This list was assembled from personal fond memories, but I haven’t played every game and don’t remember some that I have.
So please share with me the most heimliche game locations that make you feel warm and fuzzy inside – the type of game that if you had access to while trapped in the well of a violent transvestite murderer’s basement, you’d still feel at ease while playing. Discuss!
Jarrod Lipshy is a UGA graduate and freelance content writer. He collects old video games and can sometimes get a bit too attached.