Naiad is a dreamlike adventure that will calm your anxiety

As a gentle water spirit, you can save ducklings and gather butterflies together with a song.


Sometimes you just need a break from intense, high-octane games and from the general stress of life. And Naiad already looks like the perfect game to do just that. Featured during a Nintendo Indies event at GDC 2023, Naiad is an uncomplicated, relaxing experience with gorgeous, painterly visuals that has you swim through a river as a mermaid-like water spirit. If you enjoy peaceful, meditative games like Journey, Flower, and A Short Hike, this will easily fit into your catalog.

Just around the riverbend

Spawning at the source of a bright, meandering river, you are greeted by a cloud that provides a short tutorial on your movement and explains that you were created to protect the stream. In other games, that might mean fighting off evil spirits or bad humans, but here your job is to spread kindness and joy. There’s no pressure to be nice if you don’t want to, but it’s hard not to guide lost ducklings back to their mother.

In the first few chapters I played, which had poetic titles like “the essence that was born when the rain kissed the rock,” I had the option of completing relatively simple puzzles. Right in the opening level, I paddled over to a few butterflies and sang a song to bring them together. I then escorted them over to some blossoming flowers so that they could eat some nectar. That unlocked an essence called petrichor, which means the pleasant smell that accompanies the first rain.

Beyond that, I guided a few frogs together by swimming in spurts (like a frog), formed a school of fish just for kicks, and healed some plants that had been harmed by pollution by singing them back to life. Bringing the ducks back together became a bit more challenging in later sections, forcing me to push away some floating sticks to make a path. There were also a few pools of sunlight that I could bathe in that extended the hair of the water spirit, working similar to the scarf in Journey.

Chill and relax

Naiad Preview GDC 2023
Human traffic and litter will likely be a problem for the water spirit in later chapters.

Source: HiWarp

In later chapters, there may be more pollution that you’ll need to take care of, as suggested by a screenshot that shows the river passing under a highway. But the only human interaction I had in the demo was bringing a flute to a boy who lost it in the river. This led him to play a charming tune that I appreciated for a minute or two.

And really, the point of Naiad isn’t about completing goals and ticking off a list of objectives. There’s nothing wrong with stopping in place, allowing the water spirit to meditate, while you listen to the sprinkling water and the soothing music. Just float about and let your cares drift away for a spell. Take a moment for yourself and breathe.

Developer HiWarp is shooting for a three-hour runtime for Naiad, with the full release having five or more chapters. It is scheduled to release on PC, Mac, Nintendo Switch, and other unannounced consoles in 2023.

This preview is based on a short demo of the game on Nintendo Switch.

Contributing Editor

Once upon a time, Nick's parents confiscated his Super Nintendo because he was "playing it too much." He has secretly sworn revenge ever since. Nick is now a freelance writer for various video game sites. Powered by iced green tea, he typically plays RPGs of all kinds like Shin Megami Tensei, Elder Scrolls, and Fallout. In his spare time, he follows the latest season of Critical Role.

From The Chatty
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    March 23, 2023 9:00 AM

    Nick Tan posted a new article, Naiad is a dreamlike adventure that will calm your anxiety

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      July 10, 2023 1:32 PM

      I absolutely agree with you! Naiad sounds like the perfect game to unwind and escape from the stresses of life. The serene, painterly visuals and the peaceful gameplay mechanics seem designed to provide a relaxing experience. Sometimes, we all need a break from intense, high-octane games, and Naiad seems to offer just that.

      Your description of the game's objectives, such as spreading kindness, guiding lost ducklings, and healing plants, creates a sense of tranquility and purpose. It's refreshing to hear that the focus is not solely on completing goals and objectives, but rather on taking a moment to breathe, meditate, and let your cares drift away.

      The idea of spending time in Naiad, listening to the soothing music and the sound of sprinkling water, sounds incredibly calming. It's amazing how certain games can have such a positive impact on our mood and help alleviate anxiety. As you mentioned, playing Naiad could be a wonderful way to find respite and temporarily escape the pressures of everyday life.

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts on Naiad i will be providing a link to an essay on anxiety which helped me a lot to battle my anxiety and overcome a lot of fears!It has a lot of essays of all types and topics. It's always important to explore different perspectives and resources to better understand and address anxiety-related issues. Combining the relaxation of playing Naiad with studying and reading about anxiety can provide a holistic approach to self-care and personal growth.

      I'm looking forward to the release of Naiad on PC, Mac, Nintendo Switch, and other platforms. It seems like it will be a fantastic addition to any gamer's collection, especially for those seeking a peaceful and soothing experience.

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