I wasn’t sure how to explain this in the title. Cozy, chill, intimate, peaceful, even lonely in a thought-provoking sort of way—this sort of feeling is something I’ve noticed about and something that really draws me to apocalypse and post-apocalyptic books, games, etc. But I feel like that’s sort of not what people associate with the genre?
So that’s what I wanted to talk about, plus give some recommendations for specific books and games with these vibes that I’ve enjoyed!
Not every apocalypse story is cozy—some are just action-packed and full of gore and death with nothing cozy about them—but I feel like every apocalypse story has the potential to be. I don’t necessarily mean the genre-modifier (e.g. cozy mystery) or overall vibes, though I have come across some like that, but also specific moments of coziness amidst all the horror.
Think about it. When there’s just a handful of people hiding out together, holing up in a single room together to stay safe from the zombies or the creatures or the other survivors, finding little comforts, getting to know each other… It feels intimate and cozy. It’s the ultimate forced proximity! Or maybe there’s a larger group living in a bunker, but they’re working together, forming a community, having little movie nights… That’s kinda nice. And have you ever been to a campfire or bonfire? Those can be lovely. Lots of opportunities for characters to bond!
But the flip side is that it can be lonely. Especially if there’s only one character, but even if there are more. And for me, that brings out a sort of thought-provoking sadness, but it can still be cozy, in a way, even if a character is alone, if they find a little pocket of comfort and good.
And if there are no zombies or creatures, apocalypse stories can be just as chill as an any other genre can be.
Obviously living through an apocalypse or in a post-apocalypse world would be terrible, but we’re talking about fiction, and this isn’t meant to be a downer post about all the awful things.
Anyway, I’m usually not super big on constant fight scenes and zombie killing, personally, but I love the intimate, cozy, and even lonely potential of apocalypse stories. I would love more stories that use and explore that potential.
Now for the recommendations!
All That’s Left in the World by Erik J. Brown
This is the most chill, lovely sort of (post) apocalypse book I’ve read so far. There was some danger from other survivors and wild animals, but there were no zombies or monsters (the apoc was caused by a sickness, and the remaining people were immune or believed to be), and there wasn’t an overwhelming amount of action or gore. It was mostly two boys traveling across the country together, having each others’ backs, growing close.
Kick at the Darkness by Keira Andrews
This little series (two books, potentially a third) does have zombies and violence and action (and a werewolf), but it’s still very character-focused with stolen moments while hiding out in rooms for the night and characters growing close as they get to know each other.
Untaken by J.E. Anckorn
This appears to be no longer available to purchase, but I’ll include it here anyway in case it ever is again. It’s been years since I read this one, so I don’t remember the details, but I do remember that, although initially there is action and danger to content with, the characters eventually find a home to settle in, start gardening, etc., and that part is nice. And apparently I’ve always felt this way about apoc books, even back in 2016, since in my review I said, “The book also had some adorable, touching moments, as post-apocalyptic books often do, once the characters started bonding.”
World Running Down by Al Hess
This one is a lot less apocalyptic than the others on this list. No monsters, mostly just some barren land with salt pirates and salvagers, and some nice cities still scattered about. Still, there was a bit of action, but it was overall chill and hopeful with some little stolen moments between characters, even when they were stuck in the wastelands or abandoned cities.
This is one of my absolute favorite games, and I truly didn’t expect it to be so emotional and thought-provoking for me, since it’s a strategy turn-based survival game that doesn’t even have true characters, just randomly generated people (and dogs) with two-sentence bios. But as I went on a journey with them, I came to care about them. And Imagining them on this journey across the country, sleeping in their car, sitting around a campfire talking (like in the little sorta cut scenes), working together to get gas and supplies and to get past road blocks and fight creatures, that feels intimate and like it would really bring people together. And especially when you stop at a rest stop or a landmark and there are no creatures, it’s just so chill and peaceful, but also sorta sad. Because sure, they’re safe, but the world is falling apart, and they only have each other. So, both lonely and cozy, this one.
I didn't know you could make the camera rotate like this, it happened when I pressed my keyboard shortcut to record my screen, and I just accidentally made the video so much better. Here's 1 min and 41 secs of pure vibes. pic.twitter.com/UuhyCklhiZ
— Kit (Metaphors and Moonlight) (@KitTheNameless) January 20, 2021
Ok so this one comes with some big caveats because, depending on how you play, this game might not be cozy at all. It’s far more tense and stressful than the one above, since you have to fight zombies in real time. But, if you can clear the zombies out of an area or find a little safe haven to hole up in, somehow it perfectly captures the vibe I’m talking about. Exploring the city with all its abandoned, empty houses and buildings, struggling to survive, trying to build a base and/or gather up supplies and furnishings and food. Definitely lonely in single player mode, since it’s just your little character against the zombies (for now), but maybe less so in multiplayer. And being able to find or build a home and settle down and cook hot meals and watch videos and lie in a comfy bed, I don’t know, that just feels sorta cozy. I’ve seen screenshots of people’s comfy little bedrooms and read stories about friends drinking hot chocolate together. And exploring can be quite chill, especially if you adjust the settings for there to be fewer or no zombies.
Aww there's a little hand warming animation when you have your character sit by a fire 🥺 pic.twitter.com/FtxavxInFz
— Kit (Metaphors and Moonlight) (@KitTheNameless) October 5, 2022