Gamers can be difficult to buy for. With games being sold as downloads as often as discs, you can’t really search through their catalog to figure out what they do and don’t have already. Plus they’re proactive. Convincing them to hold off buying new releases until after Christmas can be downright impossible. We’ve featured a few of these games before, because if they made great ways to close out the summer, they’ll be great ways to bring in the new year. Also, feel free to use any of our past gaming posts as recommendations. We don’t have bad taste, especially when it comes to gifts.
If you’re able to get a gamer something they want, no matter if they’re booting up an Xbox, PS4, or PC, you won’t find many more people who would receive a gift so enthusiastically. Plenty of people fake excitement for the pants you bought them, but gamers don’t have to fake it. They really are that grateful.
We’re not declaring any kind of allegiance in the ongoing struggle between the Call of Duty and Battlefield series, but we will say DICE just about nailed it with this year’s Battlefield release. They took a fairly large gamble with their World War 1 setting, but that gamble turned into an increase in press attention rather than a player repellant.
What’s more is they treated the First World War with the respect it deserves, particularly in their single player mode. The campaign was a surprisingly emotionally impactful and we found ourselves wanting more time with the characters. That’s a huge step for a series that has, with the exception of Bad Company, found itself severely lacking in a solid single player experience.
As for the multiplayer, there’s no denying that there are still balancing issues to sort out (boost our LMGs, DICE, we’re sick of losing to pea shooters), the launch seemed smoother than the much maligned Battlefield 4. The only real adjustment was learning the handling of the new guns. After that, Battlefield 1 marks a return to the frantic gameplay of Bad Company 2, something the series desperately needed. All Platforms
The main problem with the first Dishonored game was it didn’t feel long enough. There were a ton of cool ideas and compelling characters, and the Victorian steampunk world of Dunwall was unique, we just didn’t get enough time to explore. Dishonored 2 seems to have sorted that out and is all the better for it.
This time around, we’re getting two protagonists. Corvo Attano returns from the first game, but the game also features a fully grown Emily Caldwin, who was previously the child Empress in the first game. Corvo’s been given a voice actor too, meaning we’re moving away from the literally faceless assassin and getting some characterization for him, something we’re not opposed to. The industry’s about full of faceless protagonists, so getting to know our protagonists better should enrich the experience, provided it’s done right.
Overall, we’re just excited to get back to chaining together supernatural abilities to enact political retribution. People should have learned the first time around that using Corvo and Emily as scapegoats doesn’t work. All Platforms
Bioshock: The Collection
Anyone even tangentially familiar with the past decade of gaming has heard of Bioshock. The first entry was the game that reignited the debate over whether video games should be considered art, as well as giving proponents a seriously persuasive argument in their favor. It proved long lasting in its influence, giving developers the confidence to experiment with their own styles and venture into settings and stories that most people would have considered too alien to be commercially viable.
The reason it makes this list is, there’s been a remaster. The series has been refreshed by 2K and its affiliates, updating the graphics and optimizing the games for modern consoles. It’s a great reminder of why we loved the game in the first place, since there are essentially no changes for any of the games beyond updating their looks. It’s still the same Rapture we were completely creeped out by years ago.
We should also say, if you’re planning on buying this as a gift, try to find out if the person you’re buying for plays on PC and already has the games. PC gamers were treated to free updates, so if they owned the games before The Collection’s release in September, they already own the remasters. All Platforms (but, again, check before you buy the PC version)
Rise of the Tomb Raider
For this list, we tried to keep the picks to games that were released after January 1st of this year, and, technically, we didn’t break that rule. The PC release of Rise of the Tomb Raider was February, 2016. Besides, we should all just be thankful that Tomb Raider is good again, because it wasn’t that long ago that including one of the series was a quick way to get yourself excommunicated from the gaming community.
Rise of the Tomb Raider is a direct sequel to 2013’s Tomb Raider, which itself was a great game too. The sequel proves the developer didn’t get lucky with the first one and we can probably expect more good stuff from the team, so long as they keep to the same guiding principles. They’ve done a lot to rework the almost cartoonish image people had for pre-reboot Lara Croft, a the balloon-chested, painful pandering to the grosser side of gaming.
Now, we have a compelling young female adventurer who’s consistently caught up in the more paranormal aspects of archaeology. Our only bit of criticism for the developers is, maybe make her adventures a little less destructive. It kind of defeats the purpose of making her an archaeologist. All Platforms
Far Cry: Primal
For all the negative press that’s hitting Ubisoft about their downgrades (the main reason we still haven’t bought The Division), we have to admit Far Cry hasn’t been too affected. They’re consistently good games, if occasionally buggy, and there have been graphical downgrades, but they’re not nearly as noticeable or substantial as other titles. We realize these aren’t great selling points, so we’ll try to convince you in the next paragraph.
Far Cry: Primal takes a lot of the criticism people have for the drab, indistinguishable settings of games and tries something that hasn’t really been done since Golden Axe. It turns you into a caveman who can commune with animals. Then you go to war with other tribes.
It’s basically all stone weapon warfare while you run around with a sabertooth tiger. If you’ve ever wanted to teach Neanderthals exactly who’s the dominant species, this should be your go to. All Platforms
Batman: The Telltale Series
Telltale consistently turns out good content, though it might be difficult to call them games. Their Game of Thrones, Walking Dead, and Wolf Among Us are all great, but they’re more like interactive comic books than traditional video games. No matter what you call them, they tell great stories that reflect player choices and that definitely don’t pander to players’ need to feel good. Often, the games put players in situations where there’s no way to feel good about what you’re doing. Just like real life.
Their foray into the Batman mythos is a unique one, since the Arkham series put a lot more emphasis on fighting and exploration than storytelling. Not to say that the four Arkham games (yes, four. Arkham Origins is nowhere near as bad as some people say) didn’t tell good stories, they just weren’t groundbreaking new Batman outings.
But Telltale’s definitely constructed a story that feels like one of theirs, putting a lot more emphasis on exploring Bruce Wayne and the effect the cowl can have on his own life and relationships. The comics have done this before, and the movies have attempted something like it, but this is the first time we get to make the choices we’ve always yelled at Batman to make. Turns out they’re not always as straightforward as we like to think. Console | PC
We hold largely negative feelings for the modern sidescroller. In a culture where Skyrim, Fallout, and Grand Theft Auto exist, why would you not put effort into making as three dimensional a world as possible? Plus the indie-sidescroller market’s so saturated that we can’t understand what people think there’s left to contribute. But then a game like Inside comes along and shuts us right the hell up.
It’s from the same company that made Limbo and both games are amazing, atmospheric sidescrollers better than most triple A game development efforts. The tell rich stories in dynamic, haunting atmospheres that other companies would kill to be able to capture. They’re a highwater mark in gaming, and if they keep working the same way, it doesn’t look like the tide’s going out anytime soon.
Inside took Limbo’s art style and refined it, pushing into the third dimension more than its predecessor. There’s a sense that the world’s a little more filled out, giving the game’s plot more weight and direction while increasing suspense. It’s a beautiful game that any respectable gamer would be more than appreciative to receive. PS4 | Xbox One | PC
The Uncharted series is the main reason we have such a grudge against console exclusivity, with The Last of Us coming in a close second. We absolutely hate the fact that so many people are denied access to games as good as Uncharted. It’s weird to us too, because we have a feeling that everyone would make a lot more money if there were no exclusives. People keep fighting about Apple and PC, and for most there’s no functional difference. But we’re getting off on a tangent here. The important thing is there’s a new Uncharted.
These are the games we wish people would have made when they tried to make Indiana Jones games, which they did and no, you’re not missing anything. This is the fourth installment in the series, a series that has been one of the most consistently good franchises gaming has seen. It’s also one of the rare instances of men following women, since this is basically Tomb Raider with a guy, and Tomb Raider came out back in 1998.
Uncharted 4 promises a much closer look into main character Nathan Drake, exploring his motivations and his limits. The story is much more personal this time around, which we’d never complain about. We’re always up for finding out more about one of our favorite video game characters. If you want the game but don’t have a PS4, don’t worry, there’s a great bundle available and it’s cheaper than we were expecting. PS4
Virtual reality still exists in this weird purgatory where we know that it’s a viable technology and everyone’s excited for it, but where it’s also prohibitively expensive and no one can cough up the cash to make it commercially successful. There are some early adopters out there, but their experiences haven’t been great because developers aren’t making titles for VR because available software isn’t convincing people to become early adopters. Until someone breaks that feedback loop, VR’s going to hover around not doing a whole lot. Hopefully, Adr1ft is one of the first things to start breaking that cycle.
It’s one of the first titles we’ve seen to take advantage of the potential of VR. The player is an astronaut struggling to survive after their space station has been destroyed. You move through the wreckage searching for supplies and equipment to get you back to Earth, as well as what might have caused the catastrophic failure that destroyed the the station.
You can play the game outside of VR and it’ll look beautiful, but we’re firmly in the headset camp on this one. It’s available for the HTC Vive, the Oculus Rift, and on the OSVR platform, so if you’re VR enabled, chances are, you can play this. PC
Ratchet and Clank
Rachet and Clank is one of those games for which we will be forever grateful. We spent a lot of time exploring the different planets, beating things to death with a wrench until money came out. They were great times and we look back fondly. But our neighbor’s dog chewed up our copy of the original, so while our PS2 is still chugging along, it’s hard to get a disc to spin when it’s been bitten into a pyramid.
Luckily, something good came out of that trainwreck of a movie, and a remaster/remake of the original game was released to accompany the movie. The success of the game and near complete failure of the movie should show everyone where Ratchet and Clank’s strengths lie. Don’t give us movies, give us more games, and make those games like the early entries in the series.
The best parts of the original games are in here, blended with the years of experience developer Insomniac has accrued since the first release. What you end up with is a fresh but familiar game that will more than satisfy anyone who remembers the glory days of the second Playstation. And that’s a lot of people. PS4
Depending on who you talk to, gaming has either made insane leaps in technological and entertainment value or it’s become a corporate cash grab that coddles and insults its audience while actively rejecting innovation. People don’t seem to have moderate opinions when it comes to gaming. However, people do seem to agree that the recent Doom sequel was unexpectedly excellent.
It took all the parts of the first Doom, and pretty much didn’t modernize them at all. Health pickups, no reloading, constant sprinting, and absolutely no concern for a practical number of guns all still capture the frantic, exaggerated violence of the early FPS. Where the game did modernize was in the gore and graphics. Improved hardware meant the developer could make beautifully rendered animations of the (purposefully) faceless, voiceless protagonist ripping demons in half, punching demons in half, and tearing demons hearts out before ripping them in half. You rip a lot of things in half.
The developer easily could have phoned it in on this installment, since that’s pretty much what people expect from reboots anyway, but they didn’t. Instead, they made Doom a shameless, challenging, stupidly fun revival of what made video games great in the first place. All Platforms