Cottagecore is an online term celebrating an idealised rural life. Although games are usually considered to be hard, harsh and technological, many of them play to this aesthetic that is sentimental about traditional skills and crafts such as foraging, baking, and pottery.
Games sometimes use these rural pursuits as play mechanics, like Stardew Valley, Potion Craft, Terraria and Fantasy Life. Others use cottagecore as a guide to how they look and feel, like Everybody's Gone to the Rapture, The Stillness of the Wind and Mutazione.
However it plays out in the game, cottagecore aims to satisfy a desire for aspirational nostalgia and an escape from stress or trauma. The New York Times described it as a reaction to hustle culture and the advent of personal branding. The Guardian called it a "visual and lifestyle movement designed to fetishize the wholesome purity of the outdoors."
These games emphasize simplicity and the slow pace of pastoral life as an escape from the modern world in favour of the bucolic. Unsurprisingly this has become more popular on social media during the COVID-19 pandemic. In some ways the resurgence of retro games could be seen in a similar light, although here the sentimental nostalgia is for virtual entertainment rather than rural lifestyle.
This list includes 18 games from the last 20 years, with 337 likes. They come from a range of different genres and play-styles and are all good games if you want to escape into cottagecore .