Every gamer looks forward to the end of the year and the onslaught of new releases hitting shelves. It seems like most publishers schedule their best releases for the holiday season, which is actually kind of a dick move if you think about it. That’s a lot of money! And where are we supposed to find time to play all this? The holidays are busy as hell.
Regardless, there’s probably some spoiled bum in your life who could do well with one or all of these games. Encourage their lazy habits with this list, and check out some of our favorite games from this winter.
Final Fantasy XV
The latest iteration of the long-running role-playing game (RPG) series takes a decidedly unique approach in that it includes all five members of the Backstreet Boys on a road trip as they embark on a journey to write the perfect “girl, I miss you, but have too much dignity to take you back” song.
What was originally supposed to be a Final Fantasy XIII (Versus) entry is now its own full-fledged member of the sprawling, nonsensical RPG series. This time taking a decidedly more action-adventure route similar to Kingdom Hearts, FF XV marks the series debut on the current cycle of consoles.
With Square Enix golden boy Tetsuya Nomura leading the development team, not to mention spending valuable time away from making Kingdom Hearts 3, the fighting mechanics were ramped up to be similar to his other series. It’s a marked shift from the turn-based, Active Time Battle (ATB) system, or even MMO-like Hot Keys used in past iterations. Plus there's a wider embrace of the open-world-with-dungeons design, which hasn’t been seen in the series since FF XII’s release over a decade ago (no, the stupid Pulse section in Thirteen didn’t count).
PS4, XB1, PC
The first game in the series was a surprising but welcome hit in the waning era of Xbox 360 and PS3, a period dominated by sequels. Arkane Studios had just a few obscure titles to their credit — suffering cancelled projects with Valve and EA, contributing work to titles like BioShock 2 — before given the chance with the original stealth-assassination game. Now the IP returns with a sequel of its own that lives up to the original.
Play as star of the original game, Corvo, or his daughter, the Empress, both of whom suffer the disgraceful act of being, ahem, dishonored. A revenge tale leaving players the freedom to murder-or-knockout their own way through sprawling maps, Dishonored 2 upholds the standard of the first game and expounds on systems that once faltered. Combat is more fluid and intuitive, while stealth is not the cakewalk it was.
Like the Hitman series, Dishonored 2’s greatest strength is its assassination-based gameplay. The levels provide one main objective: eliminate your target. But where the Hitman series is basically a full-fledged (and very fun) murder-sim, Dishonored 2 is a crafted experience akin to BioShock or Half-Life. Your mileage may vary, but we definitely recommend (but be aware of some performance issues on PC).
There are a few required buzzwords we have to state in the first paragraph whenever talking about this game: “retro platformer,” “10-year development cycle,” and “Metroidvania.”
If those words mean anything to you, you more than likely already know about this game. If you have never heard of it, know that Owlboy is a sprawling platforming adventure in which you play as the titular character, exploring a vast open world with classic 2D-gaming mechanics.
Fly around and use your momentum to throw objects at enemies, navigate intense platforming sections, and meet a slew of characters who will join your party and aid you on an adventure to save your village.
Pokemon Sun and Moon
$39.99 each or $79.99 for both
On second thought, no one really likes these games, so you should probably just steer clear.
NES Classic Edition
$59.99, if you can actually find it.
Nostalgia sells, and Nintendo tends to figure out new ways to print money from time to time. Their newest success is the massively under-manufactured “mini-Nintendo,” an emulator packing in 30 classic games from the console that started it all. The system includes a tiny-ass controller cord, forcing you to sit as close to a TV as you would have in the '80s.
It includes wonderfully dated games that will probably piss you off for their unapologetic difficulties, and titles such as Excitebike, Double Dragon II, Kid Icarus, and Zelda 2: The Adventure of Link.
Awesomenauts/Guacamelee/Thomas Was Alone/many more
Finally GameStop is giving indie fans a reason to go inside their stores. Teaming with IndieBox, GameStop is releasing steel book-encased retail packages of some amazing indie games for PC at very affordable prices.
The initiative includes Metroidvania rogue-like Rogue Legacy, the frenetic bullet-hell shooter Nuclear Throne, the heart-tugging platforming puzzler Thomas Was Alone, and many more. Each title is just $20, and considering you probably already had the chance to get all of these titles for a buck in a bundle sale, consider this a tip to the devs for their awesome work.
The Last Guardian
Do yourself a favor and go play Shadow of the Colossus. If you haven’t played it, you’re welcome. If you’ve already played it, well it’s probably been a while, so go play it again, and you’re welcome, too. Now, you’ll have a slight taste of the refined gameplay and immersive storytelling that’s sure to be a part of Sony’s latest exclusive.
Team ICO’s third game spent a majority of the Playstation 3’s lifecycle in development. It’s even been delayed on the PS4 a few times. And the team’s lead designer, Fumito Ueda, was even rumored to have abandoned the project after leaving employment under Sony. But even with months and years without an update, we are finally able to play the Last Guardian. It’s here, it stars a cute furry dragon-cat, and it will probably make you cry. So go play the Never Ending Story video game tie-in that you always knew you deserved.
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