Games that can help with your mental health [Part 2]

So I really entered a rabbit hole, and I performed a comprehensive search for games and apps for mental health, using this search string: (“video games” OR “serious games” OR “gamification” OR “app”) AND (“mental health” OR “depression” OR “anxiety” OR “empathy”) and publication date after 2015, in these databases: Scopus, PubMed, Medline and Embase, and it yielded quite a bit.

Actually, more apps, including commercial apps and mHealth (health care practices supported by mobile devices), than video games. Well, I’ve already done 2 lists for apps, by the way, here are links to the series:

So here are some more games that can help with your mental health: (Again, this is an ongoing series)

1. Moving Stories

Moving Stories was developed as a game-based school program to teach students about mental health literacy, teen mental health first aid in the hopes of reducing stigma.

It was developed in close collaboration with game designers and behavioral scientists.

  • Audience: Young People
  • Topics: Depression, Mental Health Literacy, Teen Mental Health First Aid, Reduce Stigma


  • Tuijnman, A., Kleinjan, M., Hoogendoorn, E., Granic, I., & Engels, R. C. M. E. R. C. M. E. (2019). A Game-based school program for mental health literacy and stigma regarding depression (moving stories): protocol for a randomized controlled trial. Journal of Medical Internet Research, 21(3).
  • Tuijnman, A., Kleinjan, M., Hoogendoorn, E., & Engels, R. C. M. E. (2018). Moving Stories: a study protocol on a game-based school program for depression literacy and stigma ( Preprint ). (April 2019).

2. Maya

Maya is an adventure game developed to aid the treatment of symptoms of depression.

Screenshot of a video game scene. Aria is a friend of Maya, who criticizes her intention of supporting the social movement to stop the destruction of the park. This scene presents two options to the player. The phrase on top reads: Aria is right, I always think dumb things, there is nothing that I can do to stop those constructions. The phrase in the bottom reads: Aria is very pessimistic. I think that I can help. If everyone would help maybe the park can be saved. The bar on the top presents the progress in the game and the score for the three areas that the game explores: behavioral activation and healthy living; recognition and modification of negative cognitive bias; promotion of interpersonal skills and interpersonal problem solving.  

Maya was co-developed with a focus group of adolescent girls.

  • Audience: Young People
  • Topics: Depression, CBD, Interpersonal Psychotherapy


  • Carrasco, Á. E., & Á.E., C. (2016). Acceptability of an adventure video game in the treatment of female adolescents with symptoms of depression. Research in Psychotherapy: Psychopathology, Process and Outcome, 19(1), 10–18.,
  • A., Kraemer, K. R., Won, C. R., Black, S., & Hasenbein, W. (2018). Developing digital intervention games for mental disorders: A review. Games for Health Journal, 7(4), 213–224.

3. Dojo

Dojo is a game that is controlled using biofeedback and it aims to teach players emotion management.

  • Audience: Young People
  • Topics: Anxiety, Externalizing Behavior Problems, Emotional Management, CBD


  • Schuurmans, A. A. T. T., Nijhof, K. S., Vermaes, I. P. R. R., Engels, R. C. M. E. R. C. M. E., & Granic, I. (2015). A Pilot Study Evaluating “dojo,” a Videogame Intervention for Youths with Externalizing and Anxiety Problems. Games for Health Journal, 4(5), 401–408.
  • Scholten, H., Malmberg, M., Lobel, A., Engels, R. C. M. E. R. C. M. E., & Granic, I. (2016). A randomized controlled trial to test the effectiveness of an immersive 3D video game for anxiety prevention among adolescents. PLoS ONE, 11(1), e0147763.

4. MindLight

MindLight “incorporates several evidence-based strategies including relaxation and mindfulness techniques, attention bias modification methods, and neurofeedback mechanics that together produce an immersive game world through which children learn to manage and overcome anxiety symptoms”.

The game uses biofeedback technology in the form of a neurofeedback headset (so again, I wasn’t able to try the game; also the game is not commercially available yet, but it has been proven in 4 randomized control trials to reduce children’s anxiety by half).

  • Audience: Children
  • Topic: Depression, Anxiety


  • Schoneveld, E. A., Malmberg, M., Lichtwarck-Aschoff, A., Verheijen, G. P., Engels, R. C. M. E. R. C. M. E., & Granic, I. (2016). A neurofeedback video game (MindLight) to prevent anxiety in children: A randomized controlled trial. Computers in Human Behavior, 63, 321–333.
  • Wijnhoven, L. A. M. W. L. A. M. W., Creemers, D. H. M., Engels, R. C. M. E. R. C. M. E., Granic, I., L.A.M.W., W., D.H.M., C., … I., G. (2015). The effect of the video game Mindlight on anxiety symptoms in children with an Autism Spectrum Disorder. BMC Psychiatry, 15(1), 138.
  • Schoneveld, E. A., Lichtwarck-Aschoff, A., & Granic, I. (2019). What keeps them motivated? Children’s views on an applied game for anxiety. Entertainment Computing, 29(December 2018), 69–74.
  • Schoneveld, E. A., Lichtwarck-Aschoff, A., & Granic, I. (2018). Preventing Childhood Anxiety Disorders: Is an Applied Game as Effective as a Cognitive Behavioral Therapy-Based Program? Prevention Science, 19(2), 220–232.
  • Barnes, S., & Prescott, J. (2018). Empirical Evidence for the Outcomes of Therapeutic Video Games for Adolescents With Anxiety Disorders: Systematic Review. JMIR Serious Games, 6(1), e3.

5. Sparx

Sparx is an online game that teaches concepts of CBD for young people suffering from depression and anxiety.

It is however only available in New Zealand. There are also variations of the game made for LGBT+ and indigenous Maori youths.

It was developed by University of Auckland and probably the most reference video game that helps with depression (based on my research so far, that’s why I left it for last, because the links list…).

  • Audience: Young People
  • Topic: Depression, Anxiety, CBD


  • Lucassen, M., Samra, R., Iacovides, I., Fleming, T., Shepherd, M., Stasiak, K., & Wallace, L. (2018). How LGBT+ Young People Use the Internet in Relation to Their Mental Health and Envisage the Use of e-Therapy: Exploratory Study. JMIR Serious Games, 6(4), e11249.
  • Shepherd, M., Fleming, T., Lucassen, M., Stasiak, K., Lambie, I., & Merry, S. N. (2015). The design and relevance of a computerized gamified depression therapy program for indigenous maori adolescents. JMIR Serious Games, 3(1), e1.
  • Shepherd, M., Merry, S., Lambie, I., & Thompson, A. (2018). Indigenous adolescents⇔ perception of an emental health program (SPARX): Exploratory qualitative assessment. Journal of Medical Internet Research, 20(7).
  • Poppelaars, M., Tak, Y. R., Lichtwarck-Aschoff, A., Engels, R. C. M. E., Lobel, A., Merry, S. N., Granic, I. (2016). A randomized controlled trial comparing two cognitive-behavioral programs for adolescent girls with subclinical depression: A school-based program (Op Volle Kracht) and a computerized program (SPARX). Behaviour Research and Therapy, 80, 33–42.

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