Here we are, in the thick of summer. And… we're bored. Let's be honest, this is the time of year when not too many games come out. Oh, sure, we're getting a remastered The Last of Us at the end of the month, and things will pick up in just a matter of weeks with the holiday rush, starting with Destiny. But for now, some folks may be thinking, "so now what?"
Take heart. There are plenty of games to get you through the next couple of months, all of them providing the kind of fun that will make hours whiz by with ease. Check out our recommendations for each general console below.
Soccer: still a kick-ass sport on Xbox One
HIGH REPLAY VALUE: Yes, the Xbox One has some great games. And the first one leading out of the gate is none other than Titanfall. Respawn Entertainment's glorious multiplayer shooter remains a huge draw nearly three months after its release, between the basic maps that were provided with the original game, and new ones recently added via DLC. The gameplay continues to be quite addictive, whether you're hoofing it or blasting away at enemies from the convenience of your well-armored Titan. This one's well worth returning to.
Since we're still in the midst of the World Cup (despite) the United States losing yesterday), FIFA 14 is another easy recommendation. Coupling a terrific visual engine with the kind of gameplay we've come to expect from EA Sports' savvy soccer team, it's still the most fun you can have kicking balls into goals. Throw in Ultimate Team features and ideal online play, and you have a game that'll keep you busy until the next chapter arrives this September. GOAL!
HIDDEN GEM: Need a game that isn't so securely on the radar? Be sure to check out Super T.I.M.E. Force. Capybara's crazy side-scrolling shooter neatly employs time travel elements, so that you'll reuse allies even though they bit the dust. Plus, it has a pleasurable retro look and sound to it, something that could've easily been overlooked in the face of the games above.
HIGH REPLAY VALUE: Despite all the "new" games coming to Xbox One, the Xbox 360 still has several great games to choose from. The first one is Grand Theft Auto V, which still has the kind of replay value that most developers can only dream about. In this massive action/adventure, you'll execute all sorts of dangerous criminal activities while building up your cash flow, buying your ideal car and living life one bullet at a time. The online portion continues to be heavily addictive as well, so make sure you log in and stir up trouble.
Ultra Street Fighter 4 won't make its retail debut until early August, but right now, you can download the update and add it on to Super Street Fighter IV with very little trouble. It's easily the best update for the series yet, with more characters, insane balancing that makes the game feel just right, and the ability to upload to YouTube, turning yourself into a fighting superstar (or a dunce) overnight. The upgrade is only $15, and you can buy Super for around $20 or so. Not a bad investment at all.
HIDDEN GEM: With DrinkBox's Guacamelee: Super Turbo Championship Edition arriving this week, it's easy to overlook the company's previously unveiled Tales From Space: Mutant Blobs Attack. However, if you like a good platformer with a 50's sci-fi kitsch to it, this is the game for you.
A life of crime still great after all these months
HIGH REPLAY VALUE: For PlayStation 3, we have a classy pick that's actually low on class. But it's South Park, so you'll have fun anyway. In Ubisoft's excellent RPG The Stick of Truth, you'll guide the "new kid" through a foray of trouble, all in an effort to find the fabled Stick that can control the universe. Well, maybe. Featuring a plethora of who's who from the TV show, slick writing, hilarious battles (how about them farts?!) and loads of gameplay options, this one commands you to respect its authoritah. And you should.
Baseball fans will certainly want to step up to the plate with MLB 14: The Show. Easily one of the better entries in the popular series, MLB 14 comes with all the features you've fallen for, including Road To the Show and Online Franchise, as well as a polished presentation and gameplay tweaks that contort to the way you play. Sure, it's also on PlayStation 4, but not everyone has the new hardware yet, and this is a good way to get by over the next few months until you eventually pick it up. Play ball!
HIDDEN GEM: Ratchet and Clank have certainly found their groove over the last few years, and no game signifies that better than the 2013 release Into the Nexus. This game returns to the 3D action we've come to expect from the series, along with some nifty new platforming ideas and, as per usual, crazy weaponry. Good fun.
Not just another night around the campfire
If you're in an old-school state of mind, and prefer a game that challenges your best twitch skills, look no further than 1001 Spikes. Necalis' platforming adventure is nothing short of sheer frustration, but in a good way. You'll need to memorize your way through a series of stages, avoiding spikes, spikes, and more spikes (along with enemies and projectiles, natch) as you struggle to get to the next stage. If you can beat this, pat yourself on the back several times. You've earned it.
HIGH REPLAY VALUE: Sucker Punch's amazing Infamous: Second Son didn't let us down upon release, offering Paragon choices for both good and evil, but this time surrounding a new character, who can use fiery ash to his advantage for teleportation, devastating attacks and more. Exploring the city of Seattle is quite a trip, as is bringing down enemy forces and killer bosses that have no problem trying to ruin your day. This one's worth going back to, especially if you didn't find all of the secrets. And, c'mon, you probably didn't. Plus, it wouldn't hurt to prepare for the first stand-alone DLC for the game, which is dropping next month.
HIDDEN GEM: While a side-scrolling platformer may not sound "next-gen" enough to you, DrinkBox's Guacamelee: Super Turbo Championship Edition comes highly recommended. It features all the fun and excitement of the original game, along with new levels, enemies, and sweet Luchador outfits to unlock. Ole!
Visit Seattle, destroy everything
HIGH REPLAY VALUE: Although it may not be as perfect as its console brethren, the PS Vita port of Borderlands 2 is still something quite special. The game features most of the content of the original release, along with a couple of downloadable chapters that'll keep you busy well into the summer. For good measure, you'll still be able to take advantage of its "bazilliondier" guns, all while hauling the game around wherever you go. Who says you can't serve up intergalactic justice while sitting in a dentist's office? Definitely check this one out.
Those of you looking to get some platforming fun on the go this summer should look no further than The Sly Collection. Originally released for PlayStation 3, this compilation, featuring the slick thief's first three adventures from the PS2 era, has been faithfully ported over to the PS Vita. Sure, there are some quirks here and there (like how you use the back touch-screen to activate certain items), but it looks great and plays even better. This one will steal your heart in no time.
HIDDEN GEM: Are you a fan of classic retro shooters? No, we don't mean like Doom, but instead games such as Missile Command or Tempest. If so, Jeff Minter's diabolically awesome TXK is just your speed. This game plays out just like Tempest, but with a weird, groovy style of its own. Think Tempest 2000 hopped up on adrenaline, and with...goat references? Ah, well, have fun with it.
Oh, yeah, TXK is a trippy ride you shouldn't miss
REPLAY VALUE: Golf may not sound like the most feasible sport to game players out there (I mean, you hit a ball, move on, and hit the ball again), but if any company can capture the essence of what makes it so addictive, it's Nintendo. For years, its Mario Golf line-up has been impressive, and the 3DS edition, World Tour, could be the best yet. With vast multiplayer options, fun gameplay styles that are perfect for rookies and veterans alike, and excellent course design, this is one game that you'll definitely be on par with.
If adventure is your thing (and really, we don't have any clue why it shouldn't be), then The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds should fulfill your needs with ease. This splendid adventure hunkers back to the classic nature of A Link To the Past, but throws in some new gameplay wrinkles, such as being able to transform into a wall painting to reach new areas. With a wondrous art style and memorable soundtrack, this is one of the best presentations you'll find on the 3DS. It's fun to play, too.
HIDDEN GEM: For this category, we recommend not one, but several Sega classics that have been given the 3D treatment. Sonic the Hedgehog has never looked better, with fantastic backdrops and the same "blast processing"-supported speed from the original game; the original Streets of Rage is still entertaining, especially if you bring a friend for co-op; and Shinobi III: Return of the Ninja Master is a challenging platformer that evokes the best of your ninja skills. However, make sure you don't overlook Galaxy Force II. As short as it may be, it's certainly worth the ride. Now, if we could just get After Burner...
Despite appearances, the new Legend of Zelda is hardly paper thin
HIGH REPLAY VALUE: Finally, on the Wii U front (and yes, there are games that are worth playing for it, naysayers), there are two great recommendations. The first, obviously, is Mario Kart 8. This game is easily one of the best in the series, with local and online multiplayer, various control options, a neat new anti-gravity element to the track design, and speedy 60 frames per second visuals that, years ago, could only be dreamed of. Oh, and you can upload races to your friends via YouTube as well, and present just what kind of a show-off you really are. We can't get enough of that.
If you prefer something a little more retro-flavored, Yacht Club Games' Shovel Knight is a superb pick. For $14.99, you'll have a terrific platformer reminding you of the good ol' days of Mega Man and DuckTales, with a well-balanced challenge to boot. The gameplay is fun too, whether you're bouncing off the heads of renegade knights or digging up treasure that you can spend in the nearby village. And how about that awesome soundtrack by Jake "Virt" Kaufman? It's worth the purchase in itself. (Also available for 3DS.)
HIDDEN GEM: Some of the staff feel that the NES Remix games should be considered Hidden Gems, but one game that didn't get as much love as it deserved on the platform was Capcom's DuckTales Remastered. This wonderful recreation of the NES classic, handled by WayForward, is still a great platformer, capturing every bit of essence that the original game had, and adding its own unforgettable Disney style to it. Plus, being able to play it on the GamePad or your TV adds a certain comfort that doesn't come from other versions. Oh, and Kaufman nails it once again with an ideal 8-bit soundtrack. How's he do that?! (Also avaialble for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.)
Nothing beats a road trip