holiday guide

Pixelkin 2017 Holiday Gift Guide for Gaming Families

Posted by | Feature, PC, PlayStation 4, Switch, Xbox One | No Comments

This was one of the best years for family and kid-friendly gaming, thanks in large part to Nintendo. The Nintendo Switch, which released in March, has been a huge success this year. We’ve seen big titles like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey cement Nintendo as the premiere resource for family-friendly gaming.

The Super Nintendo Classic Edition also makes a great holiday gift for families nostalgic for early 90s gaming.

We’ve gathered all the best and biggest games of the year for each console, organized by younger kids (under 10), older kids (10-16), and mature teens & parents (17+). Like the ESRB ratings, these age brackets are loose recommendations at best. Ultimately you’ll know the most appropriate games for your kids. Go to ESRB.org and search for the interested game to obtain more specific ratings and descriptions.

 

playstation4-logo xbox-one-logo

 

pc-logo 3ds-logo
nintendo switch

Pixelkin 2017 Holiday Gift Guide: Nintendo Switch

Posted by | Feature, Switch | No Comments

Make no mistake: the Nintendo Switch is the hottest video game product you can purchase this holiday season. The unique hybrid system offers both traditional home console use as well as complete handheld portability.

After a generally disappointing showing in the Wii U, Nintendo has roared back this year with huge titles like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Super Mario Odyssey, and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. Most impressively they’ve expanded their third-party support with lots of welcome indie titles like Stardew Valley and Shovel Knight. There’s also some more mature offerings courtesy of Bethesda with Doom, Wolfenstein, and Skyrim. Simply put, Nintendo has had one of the best console launch years in history, and it should only get better from here.

Younger Kids

Snipperclips – Cut it Out, Together

Nintendo Switch

A launch title for the Nintendo Switch, Snipperclips provides a unique puzzle design for two players. You play as both the paper and the scissors, cutting each other to form shapes in order to solve a series of puzzles. It’s simple yet brilliant game design that you can play solo with both controllers, but really shines cooperatively.

Also available on: N/A

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe

mario kart 8

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is just 2014’s Mario Kart 8 on the Wii U plus all the DLC tracks and drivers and enhanced HD graphics. Mario Kart 8 happens to also be one of the best in the long-running series, featuring the refined controls, a huge assortment of drivers, vehicles, and tracks, and seamlessly integrated online multiplayer.

Also available on: N/A

Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap

Wonder Boy: The Dragon's Trap

Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap is a remake of a 1989 platformer on the Sega Master System. The remake offers new hand-drawn graphics, a female playable character, and the ability to switch between old and new audio and visual settings. It’s a solid side-scrolling platformer with classic design and modern features.

Also available on: Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC

Arms

arms

A motion-controlled fighting game sounds horrendous but Nintendo may have stumbled upon something special. Multiple fighters and arms-styles can be configured to best suit your playstyle as you square off from a near-first-person view to swing your comically large but effective limbs.

Also available on: N/A

Splatoon 2

 

The first Splatoon was one of the few bright spots on the Wii U, and this Switch sequel provides more of the same great online multiplayer action. Transforming a third person arena shooter into a paintball match is a great way to make it family-friendly. Splatoon goes a step further by offering an intriguingly goofy world of squid vendors and a head-bobbing soundtrack.

Also available on: N/A

Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle

mario + rabbids

“It’s like XCOM but with Mario” is not a sentence I expected to see in 2017. Yet Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle presents a fantastic tactical strategy game when Ubisoft’s Rabbids drop into the Mushroom Kingdom unannounced.

Also available on: N/A

LEGO Worlds

lego worlds

LEGO + Minecraft is an easy sell, but LEGO Worlds ended up being less than the sum of its parts. Still, LEGO gameplay is always kid-friendly and intuitive, and offers split-screen and online multiplayer. LEGO Worlds lets you earn gold bricks through quests and exploration as well as build your world brick-by-brick.

Also available on: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC

Super Mario Odyssey

super mario odyssey

The moment we’ve all been waiting for: a new single player 3D Mario game. Super Mario Odyssey does not disappoint, with a wide array of beautiful worlds to explore, secrets to discover, puzzles to solve, and collectibles to collect. Super Mario Odyssey retains what makes Mario the king of gaming and also adds fun new elements, like turning Mario’s trademark cap into a sentient creature who can possess others, adding an entirely new dynamic to every encounter.

Also available on: N/A

Stardew Valley: Collector’s Edition

stardew valley

Charming, pixelated farming sim Stardew Valley was my personal Game of the Year last year. The Collector’s Edition, which released this year, is mostly an excuse to buy a physical version, which includes a pull-out map, digital soundtrack, and a guide book. Cooperative multiplayer is slated to arrive sometime next year.

Also available on: Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC

LEGO Marvel Super Heroes 2

lego

The LEGO games have consistently remained one of the best go-to family-friendly series over the last decade. If you’ve played any of them, you’ve played them all. Marvel’s tone and characters mesh particularly well with LEGO’s silly storytelling and style. LEGO Marvel Super Heroes 2 tells a tale of time-travel, meshing together multiple realms from the modern MCU, including Asgard, Sakaar, and Wakanda.

Also available on: Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC

Older Kids

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Breath of the Wild was one of the most anticipated games of 2017. As a launch title for the Nintendo Switch it became an instant system seller, providing an enormous, detailed open world that let you tackle it however you wanted – including waltzing right up to the final area after the opening. It’s a hallmark of interlocking game designs that put as much freedom as possible in the hands of the player.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild will go down as one of the all-time best games, Zelda or otherwise, and should absolutely be your first purchase on the Nintendo Switch.

Also available on: Wii U

Xenoblade Chronicles 2

One of the few games on this mega-list that’s not actually released quite yet, Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is another big RPG coming to Switch, after the Wii’s Xenoblade Chronicles and Wii U’s Xenoblade Chronicles X. These games mostly stand on their own but feature giant open worlds and real-time combat, not unlike an MMO.

Also available on: N/A

Mature Teens & Parents

Doom

Doom

The hyper-violent first-person shooter wouldn’t seem like a good fit for a Nintendo system, but sometimes you just need to rip and tear your way through some demons. This Switch port of one of last year’s most satisfying remakes is mostly intact – minus the Snapmap editor, and you’ll need to download the multiplayer separately.

Also available on: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC

 

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

skyrim

It’s usually not exciting to see a 2011 game ported into a different console, but Skyrim is anything but usual. Being able to play one of the best RPGs of the modern era on the go certainly has its perks.

Also available on: PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PC

new nintendo 3ds XL

Pixelkin 2017 Holiday Gift Guide: Nintendo 3DS

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Everyone’s talking about the Nintendo Switch. But Nintendo hasn’t exactly forgotten its premiere handheld device, the Nintendo 3DS.  This year saw new a Pokémon, Fire Emblem, and even a new Metroid release. Nintendo launched a New Nintendo 2DS XL earlier this year, providing all the functionality but without the almost always ancillary 3D feature, providing the perfect starter set for kids.

Oh, and all the games below are good for all ages, though RPGs like Pokémon require strong reading skills.

Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King

The Dragon Quest series is renowned for its classic, cartoony art style and traditional JRPG mechanics – many of which we owe to this venerable series. Dragon Quest 8 is considered one of the best, if not the best, of the series, originally launching on PlayStation 2. The open world design isn’t as amazing these days but the story-telling and gameplay are still rock-solid, and remain some of the best in any RPG.

Poochy & Yoshi’s Woolly World

Poochy & Yoshi's Woolly World

Not very many people actually owned a Wii U, so I’ll forgive you if you missed out on 2015’s Yoshi’s Woolly World. But rectify that this year with this 3DS version. Poochy & Yoshi’s Woolly World lacks the cooperative multiplayer but retains the whimsical art style and puzzle-filled level designs.

Story of Seasons: Trio of Towns

As it says in the title, the next installment to Story of Seasons features three different towns to visit, socialize, and barter in while growing your own farm. Story of Seasons is by the makers of the beloved Harvest Moon series, which largely inspired last year’s big indie hit, Stardew Valley.

Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia

Fire Emblem

The once niche strategy-RPG Fire Emblem series has surged in popularity on the Nintendo 3DS thanks to 2013’s Awakening and 2016’s Fates. This year we actually got a remake of the second ever Fire Emblem game, 1991’s Fire Emblem Gaiden. It featured the same great chess-like combat while also adding unique 3D dungeon crawls.

Ever Oasis

ever oasis

With several Zelda 3DS titles under their belt, developers Grezzo branched out with their own original game this year. Ever Oasis combines Zelda-like exploration and dungeon crawling with cultivating your own little town of shops and products. The two halves are well-integrated, as attracting and pleasing customers results in a bigger roster of potential party members to aid you in your quest to bring life to the desert.

Monster Hunter Stories

3ds

The Monster Hunter series is known for being hardcore, challenging, demanding, and nearly inscrutable to newcomers. But this spin-off is nothing like that, instead utilizing a Pokémon formula in letting you tame the beasts to fight with you. The large 3D zones often bring the 3DS to its knees, but Monster Hunter Stories offers a content-rich adventure that expertly combines the best parts of both franchises.

Metroid: Samus Returns

3ds

Metroid fans have been clamoring for a new 2D Metroid for well over a decade. For now we’ll settle with this remake of 1991’s Metroid 2. The old black and white Game Boy title has been completely rebuilt to take advantage of the 3DS’ hardware and controls, while still retaining the classic 2D gameplay.

Minecraft: New Nintendo 3DS Edition

It’s Minecraft. If you have kids and you own (or will own) a 3DS, there’s a good chance they’re asking for it. Minecraft was previously available on every gaming device on the planet, with Nintendo 3DS as the last holdout. Note that it does require either the New Nintendo 3DS or New Nintendo 2DS.

Layton’s Mystery Journey

Layton's Mystery Journey

It’s been awhile since the last Professor Layton game. Turns out the poor Professor has been kidnapped, and it’s up to his equally adept daughter Katrielle to solve a series of puzzles and quests to find him in her own adventure.

 

Pokémon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon

Nintendo 3DS

Pokémon X and Y never did get the formerly common third edition, which served to enhance and remix that generation of Pokémon. We’re returning to form with Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon, offering lots of new content and a good excuse to return to Alola for Pokémon fans. You won’t find any new Pokémon, but old ones will make new appearances, not to mention the ability to catch every single Legendary Pokémon.

 

Pixelkin 2017 Holiday Gift Guide: PC

Posted by | Feature, PC | No Comments

The PC ranges from the best gaming destination to the worst, depending on your computer and your needs. It’s not the most family-friendly gaming device out of the box, but you can nab games far cheaper than anywhere else thanks to the abundance of constant sales with places like Steam and GOG. With just a little DIY know-how you can rig your PC into a family room device, complete with controllers and streaming.

Younger Kids

LEGO Worlds

lego worlds

LEGO + Minecraft is an easy sell, but LEGO Worlds ended up being less than the sum of its parts. Still, LEGO gameplay is always kid-friendly and intuitive, and offers split-screen and online multiplayer. LEGO Worlds lets you earn gold bricks through quests and exploration as well as build your world brick-by-brick.

Also available on: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch

Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap

Wonder Boy: The Dragon's Trap

Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap is a remake of a 1989 platformer on the Sega Master System. The remake offers new hand-drawn graphics, a female playable character, and the ability to switch between old and new audio and visual settings. It’s a solid side-scrolling platformer with classic design and modern features.

Also available on: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch

Cosmic Star Heroine

cosmic star heroine

Indie developer Zeboyd Games specializes in retro-style RPGs, and Cosmic Star Heroine sets its lofty goals at emulating the golden era of 16-bit JRPGs, like Chrono Trigger. It mostly succeeds thanks to a great cast of characters, solid battle system, and killer soundtrack. If you like your RPGs pixelated, don’t sleep on Cosmic Star Heroine.

Also available on: PlayStation 4, PS Vita

Stardew Valley: Collector’s Edition

stardew valley

Charming, pixelated farming sim Stardew Valley was my personal Game of the Year last year. The Collector’s Edition, which released this year, is mostly an excuse to buy a physical version, which includes a pull-out map, digital soundtrack, and a guide book. Cooperative multiplayer is slated to arrive sometime next year.

Also available on: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch,

LEGO Marvel Super Heroes 2

lego

The LEGO games have consistently remained one of the best go-to family-friendly series over the last decade. If you’ve played any of them, you’ve played them all. Marvel’s tone and characters mesh particularly well with LEGO’s silly storytelling and style. LEGO Marvel Super Heroes 2 tells a tale of time-travel, meshing together multiple realms from the modern MCU, including Asgard, Sakaar, and Wakanda.

Also available on: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch

Older Kids & Teens

Halo Wars 2

halo wars 2

Traditional real-time strategy games are incredibly rare these days as the genre shifts into MOBAs, making the Halo Wars sequel a nice treat for both fans of the long-running sci-fi series and RTS gameplay. Controlling an RTS with a controller is never easy but Halo Wars 2 manages it with ease by focusing on smaller, intense skirmishes. The new card-based Blitz mode cleverly adds strategic deckbuilding and an enjoyable progression system into multiplayer matches.

Also available on: Xbox One

Thimbleweed Park

Veteran adventure game developer Ron Gilbert took to Kickstarter to create this most excellent retro adventure game that infuses all the best elements of a classic 90s LucasArts adventure set within an intriguing Twin Peaks-style mystery. With intricate and clever puzzle designs and a compelling story all the way to the end, Thimbleweed Park has reignited my old adventure gaming passion.

Also available on: Xbox One

What Remains of Edith Finch

I played this atmospheric indie title earlier this year at PAX South and knew it would be one of this year’s critical hits. It’s a narrative-rich first-person adventure with elements of mystery, horror, and discovery as you play a young woman returning to the creepy, yet fascinating house where all her relatives died.

Also available on: PlayStation 4, Xbox One

Injustice 2

Another fantastic fighting game by the Mortal Kombat developers, Injustice 2 spreads its grasp over even more DC characters, including Swamp Thing and Gorilla Grodd. The fun single player campaign continues the excellent What-If setting of Superman turning bad guy. If you’re tired of being disappointed in the DC films, take a look at Injustice 2 to get your fix.

Also available on: PlayStation 4, Xbox One

Fortnite (Early Access)

Fortnite is an online cooperative action game that combines third person combat and exploration with crafting weapons and building towers. There’s a lot of content but much of it is driven by a laborious progression system and loot boxes – it’s slated to become Free to Play next year.

One major treat, however, is the Battle Royale mode, which directly apes the hugely popular last-man-standing shooter PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds. Fortnite could be a great alternative to provide a more cartoony, family-friendly version of that popular multiplayer mode.

Also available on: PlayStation 4, Xbox One

Pyre

Pyre

Supergiant Games is one of the best indie developers of our time, and well known for crafting richly story-driven games with beautiful soundtracks. Pyre continues the trend, using a unique sports-like combat system set within a purgatory-like world, as your band of survivors compete in a series of games to earn their freedom.

Also available on: PlayStation 4

XCOM 2: War of the Chosen

xcom 2

War of the Chosen is such a big expansion to last year’s stellar tactical squad sequel XCOM 2 it could almost be considered XCOM 2.5. New hero classes are balanced by a new menace: the Chosen, three boss-like enemies who appear throughout your campaign to harass you, as if liberating the planet wasn’t hard enough already.

Also available on: PlayStation 4, Xbox One

Ark: Survival Evolved

ark: survival evolved

Ark has been in Early Access so long (2015) it’s weird to see it officially launch. The dinosaur-survival game has waned in popularity but remains an incredibly ambitious, time-sucking create-your-own-adventure world, as you start with nothing but your underwear on an island filled with resources – and dinosaurs! Play by yourself or join a server and band together to create entire villages and wage war. Everything’s better with dinosaurs.

Also available on: PlayStation 4, Xbox One

Destiny 2

destiny 2

Halo developer Bungie’s foray into a loot-based cooperative shooter was divisive when it launched in 2014. It was bolstered over the years by well-received DLC and expansions. Now with Destiny 2 Bungie has comfortably hit its stride, creating a more compelling story and world and while retaining the action-focused gameplay that makes the game a popular destination for online co-op.

Also available on: PlayStation 4, Xbox One

Cuphead

indie

The long-awaited Cuphead finally released this year, giving players a unique platforming experience set within the very stylized, jaunty world of 1930s animation. It looks gorgeous but it’s brutally difficult, which is why we’re putting it under the Older Kids category.

Also available on: Xbox One

Battle Chasers: Nightwar

battle chasers: nightwar

One of the bigger indie Kickstarter games of the year, Battle Chasers: Nightwar is based on an old late 90s comic series that you probably never heard of. The eye-catching art style and characters will draw you in, but you’ll stay for the meaty JRPG and challenging turn-based combat.

Also available on: PlayStation 4, Xbox One

Star Wars Battlefront II

Star Wars Battlefront 2 has been in the mainstream news for all the wrong reasons, as publisher EA has seemingly hamstrung their own game with a poor progression and loot box economy. If you can forgive that, the multiplayer 40-person battle grounds are still rock-solid, featuring the most jaw-dropping Star Wars action we’ve ever seen outside of the movies themselves.

Also available on: PlayStation 4, Xbox One

Mature Teens & Parents

Prey

 

Any fans of the BioShock and Dishonored games need to play Prey, which is not to be confused with 2006 game of the same name. This Prey is developed by the Dishonored devs, and features the classic Space Station Gone Wrong. Protagonist Morgan (whom can be male or female) must battle an alien species that can hide in plain sight. It’s dripping in atmospheric tension and important choices that change the outcome of the ending.

Also available on: PlayStation 4, Xbox One

The Elder Scrolls Online: Morrowind

It’s tough be an MMO without ‘Warcraft’ in your title, but the Elder Scrolls soldiers on thanks to its own rich fantasy-verse based on the best-selling single-player games. Morrowind represents The Elder Scrolls Online’s first major stand-alone expansion pack, based on The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind. It richly recreates that beloved alien world of dark elves and giant mushrooms while adding lots of welcome content to one of the best MMOs on the market.

Also available on: PlayStation 4, Xbox One

Life is Strange: Before the Storm

life is strange

Before the Storm is a mini-prequel to 2015’s breakout episodic adventure series Life is Strange. The prequel stars teen Chloe Price before discovering her time-travel powers, as she begins to develop a relationship with classmate Rachel. Two episodes have been released so far; the third should arrive within the next month or two.

Also available on: PlayStation 4, Xbox One

Divinity: Original Sin II

Few tactical RPGs have become as beloved as 2014’s Divinity: Original Sin. Larian Studios went back to the Kickstarter well to produce this sequel, which is every bit an improvement, combining four player online multiplayer with a lengthy 50+ hour adventure within the rich world of Rivellon. It’s the closest you’ll get to playing Dungeons & Dragons in a modern video game.

Also available on: N/A

Dishonored: Death of the Outsider

Last year’s Dishonored 2 was a fantastic sequel that gave us more awesome Batman-like stealth gameplay with BioShock’s level design and story-telling. Death of the Outsider is a stand-alone expansion (similar to Uncharted: The Lost Legacy) that ties up one loose thread from the sequel: the enigmatic, brutal assassin known as Billie Lurk. You don’t necessarily have to play Dishonored 2 to understand the story, but I heartily recommend the entire series.

Also available on: PlayStation 4, Xbox One

Assassin’s Creed: Origins

assassin's creed origins

Ubisoft took an extra year to develop the tenth Assassin’s Creed game, and the extra time definitely helped. Origins is one of the best Assassin’s Creed games of all time, with an intriguing Ancient Egypt setting, new combat mechanics, and fun loot system while retaining the rich attention to historical detail and open world design that makes the series so compelling.

Also available on: PlayStation 4, Xbox One

Wolfenstein: The New Colossus

It’s depressing that a game about killing Nazis would suddenly spark controversy in 2017, despite that being Wolfenstein’s whole deal since the 80s. The New Colossus is a direct sequel to 2014’s Wolfenstein reboot, this time taking place in an alternate United States, now occupied by the winning Nazi forces. The first-person shooter remains exhilarating but the real treat are the all-too human character moments with your plucky resistance group.

Also available on: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch

Call of Duty: WWII

call of duty: wwii

Death, taxes, and Call of Duty. Every year adds another notch to the giant first-person shooter franchise. Call of Duty: WWII takes the series back to where it began: World War 2. The single-player campaign is by-the-books but the multiplayer is solid as always. The popular cooperative Zombies mode returns better than ever, proving that the only thing more fun to kill than a Nazi is a zombified Nazi.

Also available on: PlayStation 4, Xbox One

PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (Early Access)

PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds

PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds exploded onto Steam earlier this year with millions of players vying to be the last one standing in a 100-person Battle Royale. Everyone drops onto a third-world island and fends for themselves, scavenging weapons, items, and vehicles in what has quickly become one of the most enjoyable games to spectate live through Twitch and YouTube.

Also available on: Xbox One

xbox one

Pixelkin 2017 Holiday Gift Guide: Xbox One

Posted by | Feature, Xbox One | No Comments

While the Xbox One has somewhat lacked in big exclusive games this year, it did receive a notable hardware release in the Xbox One X, which is marketed as the most powerful console ever built. Most of the big games are (or will be) enhanced with free updates, adding 4k support for the Xbox One X. If you don’t want to spend it all on raw power, the Xbox One S still features all the great games below, many of which feature cross-platform purchase with the Windows 10 PC version.

Younger Kids

LEGO Worlds

lego worlds

LEGO + Minecraft is an easy sell, but LEGO Worlds ended up being less than the sum of its parts. Still, LEGO gameplay is always kid-friendly and intuitive, and offers split-screen and online multiplayer. LEGO Worlds lets you earn gold bricks through quests and exploration as well as build your world brick-by-brick.

Also available on: PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, PC

Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap

Wonder Boy: The Dragon's Trap

Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap is a remake of a 1989 platformer on the Sega Master System. The remake offers new hand-drawn graphics, a female playable character, and the ability to switch between old and new audio and visual settings. It’s a solid side-scrolling platformer with classic design and modern features.

Also available on: PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, PC

Stardew Valley: Collector’s Edition

stardew valley

Charming, pixelated farming sim Stardew Valley was my personal Game of the Year last year. The Collector’s Edition, which released this year, is mostly an excuse to buy a physical version, which includes a pull-out map, digital soundtrack, and a guide book. Cooperative multiplayer is slated to arrive sometime next year.

Also available on: PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, PC

LEGO Marvel Super Heroes 2

lego

The LEGO games have consistently remained one of the best go-to family-friendly series over the last decade. If you’ve played any of them, you’ve played them all. Marvel’s tone and characters mesh particularly well with LEGO’s silly storytelling and style. LEGO Marvel Super Heroes 2 tells a tale of time-travel, meshing together multiple realms from the modern MCU, including Asgard, Sakaar, and Wakanda.

Also available on: PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, PC

Older Kids & Teens

 

Halo Wars 2

halo wars 2

Traditional real-time strategy games are incredibly rare these days as the genre shifts into MOBAs, making the Halo Wars sequel a nice treat for both fans of the long-running sci-fi series and RTS gameplay. Controlling an RTS with a controller is never easy but Halo Wars 2 manages it with ease by focusing on smaller, intense skirmishes. The new card-based Blitz mode cleverly adds strategic deckbuilding and an enjoyable progression system into multiplayer matches.

Also available on: PC

Thimbleweed Park

Veteran adventure game developer Ron Gilbert took to Kickstarter to create this most excellent retro adventure game that infuses all the best elements of a classic 90s LucasArts adventure set within an intriguing Twin Peaks-style mystery. With intricate and clever puzzle designs and a compelling story all the way to the end, Thimbleweed Park has reignited my old adventure gaming passion.

Also available on: PC

What Remains of Edith Finch

I played this atmospheric indie title earlier this year at PAX South and knew it would be one of this year’s critical hits. It’s a narrative-rich first-person adventure with elements of mystery, horror, and discovery as you play a young woman returning to the creepy, yet fascinating house where all her relatives died.

Also available on: PlayStation 4, PC

Injustice 2

Another fantastic fighting game by the Mortal Kombat developers, Injustice 2 spreads its grasp over even more DC characters, including Swamp Thing and Gorilla Grodd. The fun single player campaign continues the excellent What-If setting of Superman turning bad guy. If you’re tired of being disappointed in the DC films, take a look at Injustice 2 to get your fix.

Also available on: PlayStation 4, PC

Fortnite (Early Access)

Fortnite is an online cooperative action game that combines third person combat and exploration with crafting weapons and building towers. There’s a lot of content but much of it is driven by a laborious progression system and loot boxes – it’s slated to become Free to Play next year.

One major treat, however, is the Battle Royale mode, which directly apes the hugely popular last-man-standing shooter PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds. Fortnite could be a great alternative to provide a more cartoony, family-friendly version of that popular multiplayer mode.

Also available on: PlayStation 4, PC

XCOM 2: War of the Chosen

xcom 2

War of the Chosen is such a big expansion to last year’s stellar tactical squad sequel XCOM 2 it could almost be considered XCOM 2.5. New hero classes are balanced by a new menace: the Chosen, three boss-like enemies who appear throughout your campaign to harass you, as if liberating the planet wasn’t hard enough already.

Also available on: PlayStation 4, PC

Ark: Survival Evolved

ark: survival evolved

Ark has been in Early Access so long (2015) it’s weird to see it officially launch. The dinosaur-survival game has waned in popularity but remains an incredibly ambitious, time-sucking create-your-own-adventure world, as you start with nothing but your underwear on an island filled with resources – and dinosaurs! Play by yourself or join a server and band together to create entire villages and wage war. Everything’s better with dinosaurs.

Also available on: PlayStation 4, PC

Destiny 2

destiny 2

Halo developer Bungie’s foray into a loot-based cooperative shooter was divisive when it launched in 2014. It was bolstered over the years by well-received DLC and expansions. Now with Destiny 2 Bungie has comfortably hit its stride, creating a more compelling story and world and while retaining the action-focused gameplay that makes the game a popular destination for online co-op.

Also available on: PlayStation 4, PC

Cuphead

indie

The long-awaited Cuphead finally released this year, giving players a unique platforming experience set within the very stylized, jaunty world of 1930s animation. It looks gorgeous but it’s brutally difficult, which is why we’re putting it under the Older Kids category.

Also available on: PC

Battle Chasers: Nightwar

battle chasers: nightwar

One of the bigger indie Kickstarter games of the year, Battle Chasers: Nightwar is based on an old late 90s comic series that you probably never heard of. The eye-catching art style and characters will draw you in, but you’ll stay for the meaty JRPG and challenging turn-based combat.

Also available on: PlayStation 4, PC

Star Wars Battlefront II

Star Wars Battlefront 2 has been in the mainstream news for all the wrong reasons, as publisher EA has seemingly hamstrung their own game with a poor progression and loot box economy. If you can forgive that, the multiplayer 40-person battle grounds are still rock-solid, featuring the most jaw-dropping Star Wars action we’ve ever seen outside of the movies themselves.

Also available on: PlayStation 4, PC

Mature Teens & Parents

Prey

 

Any fans of the BioShock and Dishonored games need to play Prey, which is not to be confused with 2006 game of the same name. This Prey is developed by the Dishonored devs, and features the classic Space Station Gone Wrong. Protagonist Morgan (whom can be male or female) must battle an alien species that can hide in plain sight. It’s dripping in atmospheric tension and important choices that change the outcome of the ending.

Also available on: PlayStation 4, PC

The Elder Scrolls Online: Morrowind

It’s tough be an MMO without ‘Warcraft’ in your title, but the Elder Scrolls soldiers on thanks to its own rich fantasy-verse based on the best-selling single-player games. Morrowind represents The Elder Scrolls Online’s first major stand-alone expansion pack, based on The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind. It richly recreates that beloved alien world of dark elves and giant mushrooms while adding lots of welcome content to one of the best MMOs on the market.

Also available on: PlayStation 4, PC

Life is Strange: Before the Storm

life is strange

Before the Storm is a mini-prequel to 2015’s breakout episodic adventure series Life is Strange. The prequel stars teen Chloe Price before discovering her time-travel powers, as she begins to develop a relationship with classmate Rachel. Two episodes have been released so far; the third should arrive within the next month or two.

Also available on: PlayStation 4, PC

Dishonored: Death of the Outsider

Last year’s Dishonored 2 was a fantastic sequel that gave us more awesome Batman-like stealth gameplay with BioShock’s level design and story-telling. Death of the Outsider is a stand-alone expansion (similar to Uncharted: The Lost Legacy) that ties up one loose thread from the sequel: the enigmatic, brutal assassin known as Billie Lurk. You don’t necessarily have to play Dishonored 2 to understand the story, but I heartily recommend the entire series.

Also available on: PlayStation 4, PC

Assassin’s Creed: Origins

assassin's creed origins

Ubisoft took an extra year to develop the tenth Assassin’s Creed game, and the extra time definitely helped. Origins is one of the best Assassin’s Creed games of all time, with an intriguing Ancient Egypt setting, new combat mechanics, and fun loot system while retaining the rich attention to historical detail and open world design that makes the series so compelling.

Also available on: PlayStation 4, PC

Wolfenstein: The New Colossus

It’s depressing that a game about killing Nazis would suddenly spark controversy in 2017, despite that being Wolfenstein’s whole deal since the 80s. The New Colossus is a direct sequel to 2014’s Wolfenstein reboot, this time taking place in an alternate United States, now occupied by the winning Nazi forces. The first-person shooter remains exhilarating but the real treat are the all-too human character moments with your plucky resistance group.

Also available on: PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, PC

Call of Duty: WWII

call of duty: wwii

Death, taxes, and Call of Duty. Every year adds another notch to the giant first-person shooter franchise. Call of Duty: WWII takes the series back to where it began: World War 2. The single-player campaign is by-the-books but the multiplayer is solid as always. The popular cooperative Zombies mode returns better than ever, proving that the only thing more fun to kill than a Nazi is a zombified Nazi.

Also available on: PlayStation 4, PC

PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (Early Access)

PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds

The biggest game Xbox has going for it this year is an Early Access title: PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (arriving on Xbox Game Preview in December). PUBG exploded onto Steam earlier this year with millions of players vying to be the last one standing in a 100-person Battle Royale. Everyone drops onto a third-world island and fends for themselves, scavenging weapons, items, and vehicles in what has quickly become one of the most enjoyable games to spectate live through Twitch and YouTube.

Also available on: PC

playstation 4 hack

Pixelkin 2017 Holiday Gift Guide: PlayStation 4

Posted by | Feature, PlayStation 4 | No Comments

The PlayStation 4 has had a solid year in 2017, with several stellar exclusive titles like Horizon Zero Dawn and Persona 5. The PlayStation 4 is starting to get on years, with the half-step PlayStation 4 Pro released last fall which added 4K support. The good news is you can nab a regular PS4 for relatively cheap this holiday season, and there’s a nice mix of games for kids and teens.

Younger Kids

LEGO Worlds

lego worlds

LEGO + Minecraft is an easy sell, but LEGO Worlds ended up being less than the sum of its parts. Still, LEGO gameplay is always kid-friendly and intuitive, and offers split-screen and online multiplayer. LEGO Worlds lets you earn gold bricks through quests and exploration as well as build your world brick-by-brick.

Also available on: Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC

Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 + 2.5 ReMIX

The unique mashup of Japanese RPG and Disney properties is well known for having bizarre titles. This giant compilation includes every Kingdom Hearts game you could ever went: Kingdom Hearts 1 and 2 and the myriad of mobile and handheld spin-offs. Fans are still desperately waiting for Kingdom Hearts III and this could be a great excuse to jump back in.

Also Available On: N/A

Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap

Wonder Boy: The Dragon's Trap

Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap is a remake of a 1989 platformer on the Sega Master System. The remake offers new hand-drawn graphics, a female playable character, and the ability to switch between old and new audio and visual settings. It’s a solid side-scrolling platformer with classic design and modern features.

Also available on: Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC

Cosmic Star Heroine

cosmic star heroine

Indie developer Zeboyd Games specializes in retro-style RPGs, and Cosmic Star Heroine sets its lofty goals at emulating the golden era of 16-bit JRPGs, like Chrono Trigger. It mostly succeeds thanks to a great cast of characters, solid battle system, and killer soundtrack. If you like your RPGs pixelated, don’t sleep on Cosmic Star Heroine.

Also available on: PC, PS Vita

Stardew Valley: Collector’s Edition

stardew valley

Charming, pixelated farming sim Stardew Valley was my personal Game of the Year last year. The Collector’s Edition, which released this year, is mostly an excuse to buy a physical version, which includes a pull-out map, digital soundtrack, and a guide book. Cooperative multiplayer is slated to arrive sometime next year.

Also available on: Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC

LEGO Marvel Super Heroes 2

lego

The LEGO games have consistently remained one of the best go-to family-friendly series over the last decade. If you’ve played any of them, you’ve played them all. Marvel’s tone and characters mesh particularly well with LEGO’s silly storytelling and style. LEGO Marvel Super Heroes 2 tells a tale of time-travel, meshing together multiple realms from the modern MCU, including Asgard, Sakaar, and Wakanda.

Also available on: Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC

Older Kids & Teens

Horizon Zero Dawn

Horizon Zero Dawn

One of the biggest, best-reviewed games of the year stars young woman Aloy in a unique future world of tribal humans and prowling robotic animals. The open world of Horizon Zero Dawn is breathtakingly gorgeous, and the kind you can spend dozens of hours getting lost in. Horizon Zero Dawn is one of the best games of the year and should not be missed by PS4 owners.

Also available on: N/A

What Remains of Edith Finch

I played this atmospheric indie title earlier this year at PAX South and knew it would be one of this year’s critical hits. It’s a narrative-rich first-person adventure with elements of mystery, horror, and discovery as you play a young woman returning to the creepy, yet fascinating house where all her relatives died.

Also available on: Xbox One, PC

Injustice 2

Another fantastic fighting game by the Mortal Kombat developers, Injustice 2 spreads its grasp over even more DC characters, including Swamp Thing and Gorilla Grodd. The fun single player campaign continues the excellent What-If setting of Superman turning bad guy. If you’re tired of being disappointed in the DC films, take a look at Injustice 2 to get your fix.

Also available on: Xbox One, PC

Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age

final fantasy xii

Final Fantasy XII may be the most forgotten Final Fantasy game, arriving towards the end of the very long PlayStation 2’s life cycle. A year later Japan received an updated version with tons of improvements, but the rest of us would have to wait a decade before receiving this HD remaster. It’s very likely that even big JRPG fans may have missed FF12 the first time around, making this excellent HD version a no-brainer.

Also Available on: N/A

Fortnite (Early Access)

Fortnite is an online cooperative action game that combines third person combat and exploration with crafting weapons and building towers. There’s a lot of content but much of it is driven by a laborious progression system and loot boxes – it’s slated to become Free to Play next year.

One major treat, however, is the Battle Royale mode, which directly apes the hugely popular last-man-standing shooter PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds. Fortnite could be a great alternative to provide a more cartoony, family-friendly version of that popular multiplayer mode.

Also available on: Xbox One, PC

Pyre

Pyre

Supergiant Games is one of the best indie developers of our time, and well known for crafting richly story-driven games with beautiful soundtracks. Pyre continues the trend, using a unique sports-like combat system set within a purgatory-like world, as your band of survivors compete in a series of games to earn their freedom.

Also available on: PC

XCOM 2: War of the Chosen

xcom 2

War of the Chosen is such a big expansion to last year’s stellar tactical squad sequel XCOM 2 it could almost be considered XCOM 2.5. New hero classes are balanced by a new menace: the Chosen, three boss-like enemies who appear throughout your campaign to harass you, as if liberating the planet wasn’t hard enough already.

Also available on: Xbox One, PC

Ark: Survival Evolved

ark: survival evolved

Ark has been in Early Access so long (2015) it’s weird to see it officially launch. The dinosaur-survival game has waned in popularity but remains an incredibly ambitious, time-sucking create-your-own-adventure world, as you start with nothing but your underwear on an island filled with resources – and dinosaurs! Play by yourself or join a server and band together to create entire villages and wage war. Everything’s better with dinosaurs.

Also available on: Xbox One, PC

Uncharted: The Lost Legacy

The Lost Legacy began life has a DLC expansion to last year’s Uncharted 4, but ended up big enough in scope and breadth to warrant a full release. It takes place after Uncharted 4, but this time focusing on previously supporting character Chloe Frazer who teams up with mercenary Nadine in a very Uncharted-like plot and action. Awesome to see a big AAA spin-off headlined by women.

Also available on: N/A

Destiny 2

destiny 2

Halo developer Bungie’s foray into a loot-based cooperative shooter was divisive when it launched in 2014. It was bolstered over the years by well-received DLC and expansions. Now with Destiny 2 Bungie has comfortably hit its stride, creating a more compelling story and world and while retaining the action-focused gameplay that makes the game a popular destination for online co-op.

Also available on: Xbox One, PC

Battle Chasers: Nightwar

battle chasers: nightwar

One of the bigger indie Kickstarter games of the year, Battle Chasers: Nightwar is based on an old late 90s comic series that you probably never heard of. The eye-catching art style and characters will draw you in, but you’ll stay for the meaty JRPG and challenging turn-based combat.

Also available on: Xbox One, PC

Star Wars Battlefront II

Star Wars Battlefront 2 has been in the mainstream news for all the wrong reasons, as publisher EA has seemingly hamstrung their own game with a poor progression and loot box economy. If you can forgive that, the multiplayer 40-person battle grounds are still rock-solid, featuring the most jaw-dropping Star Wars action we’ve ever seen outside of the movies themselves.

Also available on: Xbox One, PC

 

Mature Teens & Parents

Night in the Woods

night in the woods

This indie adventure game defies standard genre gameplay, focusing instead on a narrative-rich story and heavy themes like depression as you explore your hometown of Possum Springs and interact with the anthropomorphic residents. An excellent, introspective mystery.

Also available on: PC

Nier: Automata

NieR: Automata

The sequel to 2010’s Nier may be one of the biggest surprises of the year. The third person action-RPG is set within a far-flung future in which mankind has retreated to the moon, sending androids to battle the machines that now rule the Earth. The combat is great, as expected from the Bayonetta developers, but the multiple-endings story and complex characters really sets it apart.

Also available on: PC

Persona 5

It doesn’t get much more Japanese-RPG than the Persona series. The stylistic series combines a high-school age social sim with RPG-like combat, as students battle using their personas. By building relationships in the real world you can gain bonuses when exploring the dungeons of the Metaverse. Persona 5 is widely considered not only the best in the series, but one of the best modern RPGs, period.

Also available on: N/A

Prey

 

Any fans of the BioShock and Dishonored games need to play Prey, which is not to be confused with 2006 game of the same name. This Prey is developed by the Dishonored devs, and features the classic Space Station Gone Wrong. Protagonist Morgan (whom can be male or female) must battle an alien species that can hide in plain sight. It’s dripping in atmospheric tension and important choices that change the outcome of the ending.

Also available on: Xbox One, PC

The Elder Scrolls Online: Morrowind

It’s tough be an MMO without ‘Warcraft’ in your title, but the Elder Scrolls soldiers on thanks to its own rich fantasy-verse based on the best-selling single-player games. Morrowind represents The Elder Scrolls Online’s first major stand-alone expansion pack, based on The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind. It richly recreates that beloved alien world of dark elves and giant mushrooms while adding lots of welcome content to one of the best MMOs on the market.

Also available on: Xbox One, PC

Life is Strange: Before the Storm

life is strange

Before the Storm is a mini-prequel to 2015’s breakout episodic adventure series Life is Strange. The prequel stars teen Chloe Price before discovering her time-travel powers, as she begins to develop a relationship with classmate Rachel. Two episodes have been released so far; the third should arrive within the next month or two.

Also available on: Xbox One, PC

 

Dishonored: Death of the Outsider

Last year’s Dishonored 2 was a fantastic sequel that gave us more awesome Batman-like stealth gameplay with BioShock’s level design and story-telling. Death of the Outsider is a stand-alone expansion (similar to Uncharted: The Lost Legacy) that ties up one loose thread from the sequel: the enigmatic, brutal assassin known as Billie Lurk. You don’t necessarily have to play Dishonored 2 to understand the story, but I heartily recommend the entire series.

Also available on: Xbox One, PC

Assassin’s Creed: Origins

assassin's creed origins

Ubisoft took an extra year to develop the tenth Assassin’s Creed game, and the extra time definitely helped. Origins is one of the best Assassin’s Creed games of all time, with an intriguing Ancient Egypt setting, new combat mechanics, and fun loot system while retaining the rich attention to historical detail and open world design that makes the series so compelling.

Also available on: Xbox One, PC

Wolfenstein: The New Colossus

It’s depressing that a game about killing Nazis would suddenly spark controversy in 2017, despite that being Wolfenstein’s whole deal since the 80s. The New Colossus is a direct sequel to 2014’s Wolfenstein reboot, this time taking place in an alternate United States, now occupied by the winning Nazi forces. The first-person shooter remains exhilarating but the real treat are the all-too human character moments with your plucky resistance group.

Also available on: Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC

Call of Duty: WWII

call of duty: wwii

Death, taxes, and Call of Duty. Every year adds another notch to the giant first-person shooter franchise. Call of Duty: WWII takes the series back to where it began: World War 2. The single-player campaign is by-the-books but the multiplayer is solid as always. The popular cooperative Zombies mode returns better than ever, proving that the only thing more fun to kill than a Nazi is a zombified Nazi.

Also available on: Xbox One, PC