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.

 

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playstation 4 hack

Pixelkin 2017 Holiday Gift Guide: PlayStation 4

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

Star Wars Battlefront II Backlash Forces Hero Cost Reduction

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Electronic Arts found themselves in the crosshairs again with the imminent release of Star Wars Battlefront 2. Reviewers and players with access to the trial period (through EA Access) have discovered that the highly anticipated multiplayer shooter had a major problem with unlockable content. After a big controversy, EA has made the change to reduce hero costs by a whopping 75%.

It was calculated and confirmed that heroes like Darth Vader would take approximately 40 hours of dedicated play time to earn through in-game credits. That didn’t exactly sit well with fans, who took to the internet and social media to voice their displeasure. Some of it was constructive criticism (good) while others systematically harassed Battlefront’s game developers (bad).

An official EA reddit account defended the high cost of unlockables, which resulted in the most downvoted reddit post in history (currently sitting at -665k votes).

“The intent is to provide players with a sense of pride and accomplishment for unlocking different heroes,” states EACommunityTeam. “Among other things, we’re looking at average per-player credit earn rates on a daily basis, and we’ll be making constant adjustments to ensure that players have challenges that are compelling, rewarding, and of course attainable via gameplay.”

Adjustments have been made, and they’re nothing short of astonishing. In a blog post by DICE executive producer John Wasilczyk, he revealed that they reduced the cost of unlocking the top heroes, Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader by 75%, from 60,000 credits to 15,000 credits. Other heroes like Leia and Chewbaca have also been reduced.

“Today we’re making a substantial change based on what we’ve seen during the Play First trial,” writes Wasilczyk. “There’s been a lot of discussion around the amount of in-game credits (and time) it takes to unlock some of our heroes, especially Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader. Unlocking a hero is a great accomplishment in the game, something we want players to have fun earning. We used data from the beta to help set those levels, but it’s clear that more changes were needed. Based on what we’ve seen in the trial, this amount will make earning these heroes an achievement, but one that will be accessible for all players.”

The update has gone live today, causing many early reviews to be taken down and re-evaluated based on this newly tuned progression system.

Obviously the high cost of unlocking heroes was an incentive for people to pay real money to speed up the process. Considering Star Wars Battlefront 2 is a full $60 game, this feels especially scummy. As the industry hurdles towards the concept of AAA Games-as-a-Service and random loot boxes you can purchase with real money, hopefully publishers can strike a more appropriate balance. As always the best criticism you can give is voting with your wallet.

Star Wars Battlefront 2 releases on November 17 for PC, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4.

call of duty: wwii

Call of Duty: WWII Makes $500 Million in First Three Days

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Activision has announced that Call of Duty: WWII, which launched last Friday, has made more than $500 million in sell-through units worldwide over the first three days of its release. That’s more than the opening weekends for big Hollywood film releases Wonder Woman and Thor: Ragnarok combined, in case you were still wondering if video games were a big deal.

“We challenged our players to get their squads back together and they answered the call with the highest number of players we’ve ever seen on current gen consoles and PC,” said Eric Hirshberg, CEO of Activision. “Call of Duty: WWII returns the franchise to its roots and the results are incredible, selling twice as many units in its opening weekend as last year and setting the day one record for full-game downloads on PlayStation 4. And we’re committed to supporting the community with continuous improvements and new content.”

Call of Duty is one of the biggest, if not the biggest annual releases of the year. Call of Duty: WWII returns the series back to its original setting of World War 2, featuring both online multiplayer and a single-player campaign. The popular cooperative zombies mode also returns with a new campaign. Call of Duty: WWII has been getting mostly favorable reviews and is currently sitting at an 80% aggregate score on Metacritic.

Activision obtained the sales figures from both retail and digital sell-through (meaning actual units sold, not just those put on the shelves) and compared them to reported movie sales.

Call of Duty: WWII is available now for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. A Digital Deluxe Edition is available, and includes the Season Pass for future DLC. It’s rated M for Mature.