Video Game Palate Cleanser
Image: Nintendo Life

You wait all that time for hotly-anticipated titles like Tears of the Kingdom to drop onto the console of choosing, only to see it land in a year as stuffed with top-notch gaming releases as 2023 that you are forced to play it while juggling 30 other "must-plays" at the same time.

Gosh, we game fans sure do have it tough, don't we?

We're exaggerating, obviously. The fact of the matter is, we don't have to juggle at all. 2023 has been one of those years that many will look back on for a while and say: "Do you remember 2023? Wow, that was a stuffed one, right?" But bouncing between Hyrule, Faerûn and a Galaxy Far, Far Away can take its toll, and it has become more important now than ever to work out how to take a break.

Not a break from games, of course (how absurd!), but rather a break from big games — a palate cleanser between the mammoth titles of the year, something to gently remove the lingering taste of your previous game and leave you feeling minty-fresh for the next one. These palate cleansers can take on a variety of forms: puzzle games, visual novels, replays, etc. But many of us have a preference, nonetheless.

Here at Nintendo Life, we have decided to run through a few of ours before the likes of Super Mario Bros. Wonder, Sonic Superstars, and Marvel's Spider-Man 2 (yes it's PS5, but come on) release in October. Have a read through some of the titles that we use to get out of the post-completion blues and then take to the comments to share some remedies of your own.

Jim Norman, Staff Writer

Pocket Card Jockey
Image: Game Freak

My palate cleansers can be broken into the following food groups: fatty puzzles, healthy roguelikes and a small slice of sweet, mind-numbing farm sims. The ones that I come back to time and again after finishing a full three-course, 40+ hour game are Picross and Pocket Card Jockey. It’s the perfect combination of keeping me entertained in the moment while offering the reassurance that I will be able to put it down for six months without any worry of losing where I am.

Despite the fact that it’s a wholly different flavour, the likes of Stardew Valley and Animal Crossing: New Horizons occupy the same spot in my gaming diet. I put the hours in when I first downloaded each, but now they lie in wait for the odd revisit between beefier courses. I plant new crops, clear the cockroaches, maybe work on a new feature or two and then put it down, safe in the knowledge that I will have to do the whole thing all over again when the need for comfort strikes next.

Ollie Reynolds, Staff Writer

Resident Evil 4
Image: Capcom

Generally speaking, if I ever find myself between major releases, I’ll always gravitate towards old favourites; games that I know back to front and can blast through in just a couple of short hours. So we’re talking Resident Evil, Metal Gear Solid, Halo… Stuff like that.

There’s something quite comforting in starting a game and knowing exactly what it’s going to entail and how long it will take to complete. Starting anything brand new these days - particularly lengthy RPGs or visual novels - is an exceptionally demanding use of my limited time, so it’s nice to just settle down with something familiar every now and then.

If I were to pick one game, then of course it’s going to be Resident Evil 4. Even with the remake proving its worth, I still enjoy just breaking out the original and blowing the heads off those pesky Ganados. Whether I've just finished a cosy platformer or a gritty RPG, Resident Evil 4 is always there as the perfect palate cleanser.

Gavin Lane, Editor

Banjo Kazooie
Image: Nintendo

Beyond blasting through an evergreen favourite, I find myself searching out bite-sized aperitifs between the big releases almost all the time — and it's so easy on Switch thanks to all the short games. In fact, my backlog is filled with amuse-bouches I could blitz through if I put my mind to it. Trombone Champ and the Star Trek: TNG table in Pinball FX have been recent side quests I've dipped into between Sea of Stars and TOTK sessions.

The danger I typically face is when my supposed palate cleanser becomes the main meal. Grabbing some comfort food on Mumbo's Mountain frequently turns into a full Banjo-Kazooie playthrough, and 'a quick bite' with F-Zero 99 or Vampire Survivors can easily become a multi-course banquet. Nomnomnom.

Alana Hagues, Deputy Editor

Let's Build a Zoo
Image: No More Robots

You can probably break up my palette cleansers into two separate groups — something short and sweet, or something that I can just jump back into whenever I want. something that I know I'll keep coming back to — Let's Build A Zoo never leaves my front page, and Theatrhythm Final Bar Line is perfect for dipping in and out of. I also use the time between big RPG releases to knock out a platformer or something from my backlog, or sometimes just dive into NSO to play some Tetris or Super Mario World.

These gaps are also the perfect time for me to squeeze in short narrative titles where gameplay isn't really the focus. There are so many bite-sized indie titles that you can beat in under 10 hours that they make perfect fodder between the big-name releases. This year alone I've squeezed in Venba, A Space for the Unbound, The Cosmic Wheel Sisterhood, and Paranormasight. Let's ignore how much time I've put into Vampire Survivors, for the sake of this...

So, what do you make of our picks? Do any of them align with yours or will you perhaps be trying any of them out in the future? Fill out the following poll to let us know which type of game you use to unwind and then take to the comments to share any other ideas.

Do you have a video game palate cleanser?