Fall is among the busiest seasons for the best new video game releases. With the holiday shopping months just around the corner, game publishers frequently do their very best products on shelves just before the winter fervor begins, which leads to a torrent of releases spread out from September and October to Thanksgiving and beyond. But with so many top new games demanding attention, what are some of the better bets? Here are some which often lend their appeal to an older audience.
FIFA 14 – The world’s most popular sport is back for another round. New licensing agreements mean that even more soccer teams from around the world are available this year, and the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 versions will feature added realism in the way the players look, move, and act. Those who opt for the Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3 versions now will find that some retailers are willing to offer full-value trades to those who want to upgrade to the next generation versions upon their November release.
Grand Theft Auto V – Rockstar Games returns to the city of Los Santos for the ultimate heist with triple the trouble. Players take control of three different characters over the course of this crime spree adventure, each with their own special talents for causing chaos and their own unique roles in the story. An online multiplayer mode adds to the mayhem, allowing up to 16 players to collude and conspire in anything from bank robberies to street racing to just seeing who can be the last man standing in a good old-fashioned death match.
Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn – Final Fantasy XIV is an online version of the hit role-playing game which was released in 2010, and fell completely flat. Rather than just give up on it and its users, developer Square Enix instead opted to drop a meteor on the world while tucking its players away somewhere they’d be protected until “it’s safe to come out again.” That brings us to the remade, rebuilt, and re-envisioned A Realm Reborn, which sees players interact with each other online as they set about to forge a new future from the ruins of the old world.
Call of Duty: Ghosts – The latest in Activision’s smash-hit military shooter series places players in a near future in which the United States has lost its status as a global superpower. Taking on the role of a U.S. Special Forces operative in a unit known as “Ghost,” your goal is to help protect the country from the invading threats forming to the south of the nation’s borders. And as always, the game’s ever-popular online multiplayer will return with new features, including character customization.
Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Blacklist – Sam Fisher is back in the series’ sixth installment, and this time he’s out to thwart the scheme of a terrorist group who plan to continue initiating a series of escalating attacks against on United States assets unless the government gives in to their demands of recalling all American troops deployed abroad. Multiplayer features both competitive and cooperative options, and the Wii U and Xbox 360 versions each provide unique ways to interact with the game through their respective GamePad and Kinect controllers.
Watch_Dogs – In a future where Chicago is controlled by a massive supercomputer mainframe, players take on the role of Aiden Pierce, a hacker who can use his fists as well as his wits to achieve his goals. Hack into everything from bank accounts to traffic signals while sneaking through the shadows and parkour jumping from building to building to reach your objective. Watch_Dogs also contains the sneakiest online multiplayer mode ever devised, wherein a second player joins the first’s single-player game without their knowing to try to siphon off information without being caught.
Saints Row IV – This is a game where the lunatics run the asylum. The Boss of a gang known as the 3rd Street Saints manages to disarm a nuclear missile in midair before it reaches Washington, earning the adulation of the American public. Five years later, the Boss has been elected President of the United States and has made the Saints cabinet members… just before the aliens invade and capture them all. This is open-world mayhem in the style of Grand Theft Auto, but with a much zanier and more humorous tone than its contemporary.
Batman: Arkham Origins – Set five years before the hit Batman: Arkham Asylum, Origins takes us into the second year of the Dark Knight’s legendary career. At this point, Batman has made his mark and now has a price on his head, leading to a group of assassins hunting him as he chases down criminals who are readily taking advantage of the situation. This installment also introduces a new multiplayer mode which pits members of Bane’s gang against members of the Joker’s, all while the third faction of Batman and Robin are out to take out both.
Madden NFL 25 – This year marks a quarter-century of EA Sports’ National Football League-branded title which celebrates and is endorsed by the legendary player, coach, and commentator himself, John Madden. Better graphics, physics, and more accompany new gameplay features, such as the ability to move teams to new cities, including international markets or revive historic teams, including those in the ill-fated NFL Europe. Those who purchase the Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3 versions will also find that some retailers will allow them to trade the games towards the more advanced Xbox One and PlayStation 4 versions as they become available in November.
Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag – From the Third Crusades to Renaissance Italy to Colonial America, the Assassin’s Creed series has spanned the pages of history. Its next stop: Setting sail on the high seas as a pirate, players will venture across the Caribbean during the Golden Age of Piracy. For those familiar with the series, this chapter seeks to return to the more open-world feel of the original game, with over 50 locations to explore across the land and sea and encounters with real historical individuals such as Blackbeard.
A smarter way to play: Video games industry analysis, reviews & insight.
It’s never too early to peer ahead and get revved up over what the games industry has planned for us in the coming year. However, 2013 stands to be an odd time: While Nintendo’s Wii U will surely begin to hit its stride, we still have no idea what Microsoft and Sony have planned for their next-generation systems. And what about the robust tablet and smartphone market? How will cheap, downloadable games affect sales of triple-A retail fare?
The coming year looks a little uncertain, but there are still tons of games to get excited about. Here are ten of the hottest new games for 2013.
BioShock Infinite (Windows, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3) – This spring, first-person shooter fans will have the opportunity to dive back into the top-notch storytelling that defines the BioShock games. BioShock Infinite plays much like its predecessors, but the game doesn’t take place in the undersea city of Rapture. Instead, players explore a floating city called Columbia.
Rayman Legends (Wii U) – Set to hit the Wii U in February, Rayman Legends is a magnificently-animated platforming game with a great sense of humor. Up to four people can play the game at once, and one additional player can assist the others via the Wii U game pad.
Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch (PlayStation 3) – If you’re a fan of RPGs and you own a PlayStation 3, you won’t want to miss Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch this winter. This whimsical game is a co-production between the talented developers at Level-5 and Studio Ghibli, the animators behind Hayao Miyazaki’s epic anime works.
Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time (PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita) – Sly the raccoon is back this February in another adventure game full of sneaking, hiding, and thieving. You’ll also be able to utilize new powers and accessories.
StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm (Windows, OSX) –StarCraft is synonymous with real-time strategy games, so anticipation for the March release of StarCraft II is practically boiling over. Players can expect at least 20 new missions, as well as a storyline that continues the struggle against the malicious Zerg.
God of War: Ascension (PlayStation 3) – God of War can always be counted on for solid third-person action, and God of War: Ascension, coming in March, appears to have more hacking, slashing, thumping, and maiming than ever before. Expect tons of new weapons, minigames, and puzzles. Also, expect Kratos to be in a bad mood.
Fire Emblem: Awakening (Nintendo 3DS) – Fans of turn-based strategy games will be happy to know that Nintendo’s celebrated Fire Emblem series is making its return in February. The game boasts new options like team-up attacks, and will introduce downloadable content over time.
Last of Us (PlayStation 3) – Fans of post-apocalyptic scenarios should instantly fall in love with Last of Us when it hits shelves in May. This third-person survival adventure game narrates the struggles of two people as they try and stay alive in a world populated by disease-infected humans and wary survivors.
Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon (Nintendo 3DS) – Maaario! Luigi makes a return to ghost busting this spring with a follow-up to the GameCube’s cult hit. This time, there’s more than one haunted mansion to stumble through, and every single one is stuffed to the brim with ghosts, monsters, and spooks. Good thing Luigi has his vacuum cleaner.
Crysis 3 (Windows, Xbox 360, PlayStation) – Crytek’s next entry in this famous first-person shooter series takes place in an alternate New York City that’s been choked by trees, vines, and foliage. The main character, Prophet, needs to untangle the complicated reasons behind the transformation.
With 2012 over and 2013 now dawning, we can say this much: The year provided us with some excellent toys and video games. The growing video game market produced some real winners, especially for folks looking for family-friendly titles, and the hottest toys are encouraging kids to build, dream, and fiddle with smaller versions of the electronics that are quickly becoming an inseparable part of their daily lives.
Need a refresher of what’s worth checking out? Here are ten of 2012’s best toys and video games – the good news being that many more (i.e. the LeapsterGS, Imaginext’s line of playsets, a variety of MegaBloks kits, etc.) are available in droves.
Wii U – Nintendo’s latest contribution to the video game console race is tons of fun for game players of all ages and skill levels. The system is considerably more powerful than its predecessor, the Wii, but its most notable feature is its tablet-style controller that lets you enjoy games while the family TV is wrapped up for other purposes.
Skylanders Giants (Nintendo 3DS, Wii, Wii U, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360) – When you can’t choose between toys or video games, grab a compromise. Skylanders: Giants is an adventure game that’s packed with plastic figurines. Said figurines come to life when they’re scanned into the game via an included “portal” accessory.
Rayman Jungle Run (iPhone, iPad) – Rayman Jungle Run is a well-build and easy-to-play endless running game for iOS. At 99 cents, it’s also very affordable!
Pokemon Black Version 2/White Version 2 (Nintendo DS) – These direct follow-ups to Pokemon Black/White for the Nintendo DS bring offer tons more content for Pokemon enthusiasts, including more Pokemon than ever to catch, and hours and hours of exploration and content.
Minecraft (PC) – This independent world-building game is a colossal hit, and for good reason. Players literally carve out their own world from a huge canvas, and several pioneers can play in the sandbox at once via the game’s multiplayer options.
Hot Wheels RC Terrain Twister – RC vehicles are a lot of fun, at least until the vehicle goes offroad and slows to a crawl. The Hot Wheels RC Terrain Twister is meant to take on all surfaces, including road, grass, dirt, and snow.
Tabeo – Toys R Us’s exclusive 7-inch tablet is engineered specifically for kids. With the help of a Wi-Fi connection, youngsters can play fun and educational games, and there’s even an HDMI output allows the tablet’s content to be broadcast on bigger screens.
SuperStructs – This series of pegs and round blocks lets kids snap together all kinds of fun creations. There are different model kits to choose from, but each one is extremely versatile and encourages kids to add their own flourish.
Lego – Legos remain an extremely popular gift choice, and for good reason. Building block towers never gets old no matter what age you are, and playsets like the DC Universe help keep things fresh.
Glow Crazy Doodle Dome – The Glow Crazy Doodle Dome gives kids their own hideout, which they can subsequently make their own by doodling on the walls with a lightwand (included). It’s fun, it’s affordable, and best of all, it’s mess-free.