Today we take a peek at our favorite video games of the year. These are the games we’ve reviewed, played, loved, and sometimes hated. The games that spoke to us and pulled us in and kept us engaged for many hours. Most of these titles are suitable for all ages, but there are a couple that you may want to reserve for the older kids or parents.
The original Disney Magical World was one of the most surprising releases of 2014—not because it was yet another Disney-branded video game, mind you, but that it was actually really, really good! Blending the friendly neighborhood life sim style of Animal Crossing with the magic of Disney’s own beloved properties and a truly outstanding soundtrack, DMW was the kind of subtle charmer that couldn’t be easily improved upon… unless, of course, you added Frozen. Yes, in Disney Magical World 2 players can interact with over 100 Disney characters across 6 themed worlds (including Frozen); customize both your Mii and the very Kingdom of Castleton itself with tons of clothing, furniture, and accessories; fend off pesky ghosts and similar baddies; gather materials to craft new items; and unlock stickers to commemorate your achievements and continually unlock more fun content. And did I mention Frozen?! [Review materials provided by Nintendo of America.]
I love my PS4. What I don’t love is having to manually plug in my controllers to charge like some kind of damn Neanderthal! This is where Nyko comes in with its innovative Charge Block system. Simply plug the block into your console’s USB port (or into a convenient outlet using the AC adapter) and attach the included Micro USB charging dongle to your controller’s existing Micro USB slot. Then, in-between bouts of visceral martial combat and/or deep space shenanigans, you just drop your DualShock on the charger and it takes care of the rest. Best of all, Charge Blocks are modular, meaning you can connect up to 4 of them together, pulling from the same power source. (And you actually save some scratch if you buy the Charge Block Duo!) [Review materials provided by Nyko.]
Imaginators is the sixth Skylanders game in as many years, but you really don’t need to have played any of the previous installments to enjoy this one. Each game in the franchise has introduced a new element of innovation, and Imaginators is no exception. And its innovation is what sets this game above the rest. Players now have the ability to create their own playable characters with an impressive degree of detail. Design your Skylander’s unique powers, weapons, look, clothing, aura, and catchphrase (among so much else) and then use that character to play through the game. Gameplay itself is familiar to those who have played Skylanders before, but truly, the imagination involved in this installment is its genuine innovation…and makes Imaginators required gaming.
Over the last five years, Skyrim has continued to build an ever stronger fan base. The base game, with 374 quests, is included, along with the three expansions, Hearthfire, Dragonborn, and Dawnguard. With the Legendary Edition, players can find 3 new regions to explore, with unlimited levels and hundreds of new quests and thousands of hours of play. Available for PC, PS3, and XBOX, all under $20, Skyrim Legendary Edition is a super affordable gift for gamers of any skill level.
A scene from LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Image courtesy Warner Home Video.LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Suggested By: Rob Huddleston
Mfg: Warner Home Video
Purchase: LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens
The latest entry in the LEGO Star Wars line continues to impress. It has all of the fun humor of the other titles, while allowing you to relive all of the great movies from the film. It also includes a few cute Easter Eggs, including two playable characters from behind-the-scenes. If you have a fan of the LEGO video games on your gift list, you’ll definitely want to get them this one.
While a special retail version of the recently expanded Animal Crossing: New Leaf is scheduled to hit store shelves on December 2 as Animal Crossing: New Leaf – Welcome amiibo, this new update is actually free to all New Leaf owners. This means you can surprise the 3DS gamer on your gift list with a budget-priced edition of the original release, and she can pick up all that extra content and amiibo support with a simple eShop download. In addition to the title’s already expansive array of neighbors, tasks, clothing, and collectibles found in New Leaf, she can also experience the new RV campsite feature, expanded house customizations, and hours of additional amiibo-enabled fun! [Review materials provided by Nintendo of America.]
Beasts of Balance is a cross between a video game and a dexterity game. Stack animals and artifacts onto the plinth, and watch your world grow on the connected tablet. Combine beasts to create new ones, and use elements to add more energy so they don’t go extinct. And, of course, don’t let the stack topple over, or the world will be destroyed! For a more in-depth look, read my review of the Kickstarter campaign, which successfully funded earlier this year.
I’m awful at first person shooters. I can’t aim, my maneuvering is dodgy, and inevitably I’m just as likely to blow up my own guys than I am anything on the opposing side. Plus, it gets dull after a while. Every battlefield is monotone and turns into a cycle of “Who can find the best powerup first?” Overwatch turns all that on its head by offering varied gameplay, a rich and engaging world with environments you wish you had time to explore, and characters that are so interesting and fun to play that you won’t care that they still seem to be able to headshot you from halfway across the map (well you will…but it might hurt a bit less). Blizzard’s first foray into the FPS genre creates a world recovering from the ravages of a robot (sorry, omnic)/human war. With characters ranging from hyper-intelligent gorillas with jumpacks, to Eastern-European strongwomen with gravity guns, to a grandmother who snipes you with healing bullets, Overwatch does not hew to traditional FPS tropes. It oozes a style that’s unique to anything else in the genre. There’s plenty of strategy to be found in ranked play, but there’s also freeplay and arcade modes where you can pop in and blow off steam, switching from character to character. Pair all this with a story that keeps growing through comics and animated shorts, and it’s fair to say that we’ll be playing in the Overwatch universe for a long time. Now is the perfect time to dive in. The Origins edition of the game is almost 50% off for Black Friday. Get it now before the price pops back up after the holiday.
I grew up playing all of the Sierra adventure games–King’s Quest, Space Quest, Police Quest, Quest for Glory (formerly Hero Quest)–and really miss them. There hadn’t been anything that captured that same feel in years. Until the newest iteration of King’s Quest came out. The game was initially serialized but can now be picked up in the Complete Collection edition which includes all of the chapters. While this game is perfectly fine for new gamers with no previous knowledge of the series, long-time fans like myself will love this beautiful, fun endcap to the story of our familiar heroes.
I got a chance to play Batman: Arkham VR at SDCC 2016 this year (you can read more about it) and I absolutely loved it. This game perfectly captures getting to feel like you are Batman. Unfortunately, I don’t own a PS4 so I won’t be picking this game up for myself, but if you do own a PS4 and already have or plan to get the VR rig, picking up this game is a no brainer. It’s easily my favorite VR game I’ve ever tried out.
I’ve been playing Elder Scrolls Online off and on for about two years now and it continues to entertain me. The initial price is around $20 (or more if you want the special editions) and is free to play. There are a few DLC packages available for varying amounts, but if you wait for a special events you can often pick one up for under $10.