Wow. It’s hard to even figure out where to begin. This August was one of the busiest game months all year, and very few of the games that made the biggest impact had previously been on my radar. After Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons made its splash, the month just kept going from there with an incredible, consistent quality. The Minerva’s Den guys had their game come out, we got a new Pikmin, a two button fighting game dove into the crowd, an amazing game about border patrol finally had its full release, and there were new Saint’s Row and Splinter Cell games. If they all hadn’t turned out as well as they did, I’d be asking everyone to slow down a bit, but I’ll take all the amazing games I can get my hands on. Since everything was just so good this month, I still can’t pick favorites. I know I’ll have to soon when it comes down to Game of the Year picks, but for now I’m taking the easy way out. After the Summer games drought, I was ready for this.
Brothers is an incredible ride while it lasts. The first 45 minutes is a slow build into what is one of the best adventures of the year, an once it hits it doesn’t give you a chance to stop. I played through the entirety of the game in a single 3 hour sitting, and all I waned to do when it was over was play more of it.
Here’s the perfect game for any group of friends to pick up and play. It takes two button presses to control, and you’re good to go. It’s just as fun to watch as it is to play, with every hit dealing a finishing blow and entire matches speeding through to the end within a couple minutes. It’s a tough game to put down, and an easy game to sell to anyone who’s seen it. Divekick is a revolution for fighting games, it’s accessible, deep, silly, and just about anyone will be able to find something in it to enjoy.
1. Gone Home
This is a short piece of fiction that goes beyond what we expect video games to accomplish. It tells a story, and it does it quite well, without ever stopping you from progressing it. There isn’t any combat, no enemies to take down to find the next piece of the puzzle. Just an incredibly rich world full of small pieces that reveal a family’s story. Gone Home gives you a mystery to solve, and through the act of discovering what’s laid out for you, by reading through manuscripts and checking out Super Nintendo cartridges, you’ll find there’s a world of innovation to be seen in video games, and this is a brand new way to experience them.
As a border patrol agent, you have more power at your fingertips than you might expect. You have the power to drastically change lives with the drop of a stamp. In Papers, Please, the realization of a process we take for granted is one that’s not easy to behold. When moral choices can affect the lives of not only you, but your family, the shades of grey become harder to tell apart. Do you force a wife to separate from her husband in order to feed your family for another night? Or do you allow them to pass, and hope your son doesn’t die from his current illness until you can scrape by the next day with a little more money? The situations quickly escalate past that as well, and the grimness of the world in Papers, Please is evident everywhere you look. A few lighter moments serve as a wonderful tension breaker, that could have been considered throwaway in a less oppressive atmosphere. But after you’re invading the privacy of yet another traveler by forcing them into a full body scan, any moment’s reprieve is a life saver. The act of spreading papers onto a table and sorting through them as quickly as possible makes for a fascinating gameplay experiment that resembled L.A. Noire in a few ways, and it’s wonderful every time something this special is released.
Pikmin 3 – The third game in one of Nintendo’s weirdest franchises holds up very well today, and it’s just a really beautiful thing to see in action. The variety in enemies and environments makes this a sweet relief for Wii U owners clinging to hope that their system was a smart investment.
Saint’s Row IV – Just as much dumb fun as before, the fourth in this series takes things to their limits. Worlds are destroyed, game systems become radically different, and there’s enough goofy fun to make sure your time isn’t going to waste.