The power fantasy that comes inherent to playing video games takes many forms. Handling weapons or tools with skill and confidence is undeniably pleasurable. But there’s also a cottage industry of games where slowly overcoming incompetence is the point. Firepunchd Games‘ Tentacular is one such title. Players control a kaiju-sized tentacle monster, tasked with helping a small island town’s residents with various projects. Fun, funny, and full of heart, Tentacular is a PSVR2 launch title that should not be missed.
A fantastic launch title for the PlayStation 5’s VR venture, Kayak VR: Mirage showcases the strengths of Sony’s hardware and the potential of virtual tourism.
There is a delicate balance to strike in a roguelike game. The genre, featuring titles as diverse as the 2020 breakout hit Hades, the perfectly fine-tuned The Binding of Isaac, and lo-fi early access epic Caves of Qud, has plenty of appeal. Lone Ruin, from developer Cuddle Monster Games and Grapple Dog publisher Super Rare Originals, sets itself apart from its contemporaries with an inimitable sense of style. The neon-soaked environments and pulsing techno soundtrack are tremendous highlights of Lone Ruin, and even if the limited biomes and scant worldbuilding may ultimately leave players wanting more, the crunchy combat, included survival mode, and leaderboard score chasing are plenty satisfying.
Every home, no matter how tidy, has that one drawer that ends up being a catch-all space for batteries, paper clips, pens, and the like. Garages always have a corner with a few half-empty paint cans, and kitchen cupboards inevitably have a stack of cracked bowls that should probably be thrown away. A Little to the Left is an indie puzzle game that celebrates little messes like these, and the tidying-up that (sometimes) accompanies them. While its puzzles can occasionally seem opaque, A Little to the Left‘s charming art style and multiple solution options help it to stand out.
The nature of Ragnarök is what sets it apart not only from its first few titles but from the 2018 version as well. God of War Ragnarök is perhaps the purest sequel ever produced in recent times, a stunning refinement of everything that made God of War memorable. The form may feel familiar, but Ragnarök‘s self-assured storytelling and breathtaking worldbuilding combined with its pitch-perfect gameplay make for an essential PlayStation exclusive.
One of the most satisfying reveals during a recent Nintendo Direct was confirmation that Nintendo remembered one of their more innovative franchises, Pikmin, still exists. But as excited as Shigeru Miyamoto was to discuss the prospects of Pikmin Bloom, Pikmin 4 was certainly the more substantial announcement. However, with a vague 2023 release date, fans of the miniature multicolor plant people will have to find something else with which to occupy their time. Tinykin, the recent release from the ex-Ubisoft developers of Splashteam, shares some of Pikmin’s DNA while offering enough new and different mechanics to emerge as its own game. For players who love being a tiny little guy who bosses other, tinier little guys around, Tinykin will scratch a very specific itch.
Immortality is many things: a superb character drama, a compelling mystery, and a deconstruction of the relationship between films and their audience. It is a scathing critique of the film industry; it is a biting social commentary. It is terrifying, it is bleakly funny, it is delightfully ambiguous. A leap forward for interactive fiction, Immortality is as playful with form as it is function. Simply put: Immortality is a must-play game.
In any good roguelike RPG, from Hades to Dead Cells to The Binding of Isaac, death is rarely the end. Often, it is an opportunity: to re-outfit a character or revisit a build, or to take a breather, consult a codex, and plot the next run. In Cult of the Lamb, the latest from megawatt publisher Devolver Digital, players do all the things associated with the genre- with the added twist that the power of death is always lurking, not as a threat but as a tool. Cult of the Lamb tries to straddle the line between relaxing life sim and harrowing roguelike, and while it may stretch itself thin trying to serve both masters, it’s largely successful.
Foxes are one of nature’s most incredible creatures. Playful like dogs, sleek and curious like cats, they exist as the woodland critter most likely to lift your spirits at any given moment. They tend to show up in video games frequently, often as playable characters, like in Spirit of the North. But in Endling – Extinction is Forever, the player must do their best to ensure the survival of an entire fox family. This may sound like a quaint and low-key experience, but it is, in fact, incredibly stressful and leads to some harrowing and intense moments. Beautifully animated and designed, Endling is a thought-provoking and powerful fable on the importance of preservation and environmental protection.
Ever since Stray was formally unveiled via a teaser trailer at PlayStation’s June 2020 Future of Gaming event, it became one of the most anticipated games of this generation. The appeal is easy to understand: who doesn’t want to control an adorable kitty as they explore a mysterious city? But Stray is more than just “the platforming game with the backpack cat”; it also features one of the most well-realized cyberpunk worlds of the last few years. Stunning art direction and immaculate vibes make Stray a journey worth savoring.
While The Quarry may not feel as novel as Until Dawn, it is the ideal example of an expertly-polished follow-up. Smartly cast and drop-dead gorgeous, The Quarry sets a new standard of interactive narrative.
Impatient fans can make do with Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising, a prequel game set in the same universe as Hundred Heroes that is meant to kick off this new franchise. While not exactly the next great innovation in action RPGs, Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising is a serviceable offering.
In Behind the Frame: The Finest Scenery, from Taiwanese developer Silver Lining Studio and publisher Akupara Games, players can see the world through the eyes of a painter. Though this game is brief, it is beautiful, a touching look at how a certain type of person views the world.
Silt, the first game from UK developer Spiral Circus, taps into shadowy surrealism to present an art piece that is eerily beautiful. It has its flaws as an entry into the indie pantheon of 2D arthouse puzzle games, but its aesthetic direction balances out the uneven mechanics. If players can manage the occasionally frustrating controls and somewhat repetitive puzzle design, they will find delight in the morbidity and an interesting mystery to invest in.
A rich narrative adventure with light role-playing elements, Citizen Sleeper has some of the most evocative, well-written dialogue of any sci-fi setting in recent memory. Its world feels tangible, full of ideas and concepts that are easy to grasp but have deep and complicated implications.
13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim, a Vanillaware title from 2020, is the ideal Switch port. Everything that makes this game great is enhanced by the Switch’s unique form factor. What was once a niche PlayStation exclusive becomes an essential experience for owners of Nintendo’s hybrid.
Moody and introspective, Promordia is another perfect addition to the Nintendo Switch’s ever-expanding library of point-and-click adventure games. While it falls prey to many of the traps of its genre, those who persevere will find gorgeous art, great writing and voice acting, and a surprisingly deep story.
Ghostwire: Tokyo also offers a surprisingly robust education in traditional Japanese folklore and horror. As an open-world experience, the game is not without its flaws. But for the curious who are fortunate enough to own a PlayStation 5 (or decently specced-out PC), Ghostwire‘s unique storytelling and setting raise it to instant cult classic status.
While slow to start, once Triangle Strategy sinks its hooks into the player, it is nearly impossible to put down.
About as subtle as a mace to the face, Infernax is for players who like their games fiendishly difficult, bloody as hell, and endlessly rewarding.