stardew valley

Stardew Valley Co-op is a Wonderful Excuse to Return to Pelican Town

Posted by | Feature, PC | No Comments

Ever since Stardew Valley captured our hearts two years ago, fans have been clamoring for one new feature above all others: multiplayer.

But the pixelated farming sim was never designed as a multiplayer game. It took a dedicated team from indie publisher Chucklefish over a year to build the networking code, but the results are stunning.

Currently multiplayer is only available on the PC version of Stardew Valley in a beta stage. Enabling the beta is incredibly simple thanks to Steam and GOG Galaxy’s built-in beta features. Publisher Chucklefish has outlined the specific steps for hosting and joining games.

Once the beta patch is applied, it’s a simple as one player hosting a co-op match and the others joining. You can continue your same games and build cabins for joining players, or simply start a a fresh farm with those cabins already built.

Joining a co-op game feels a bit like being a sidekick in another person’s story. The host player gets the house while joining players are regulated to smaller cabins away from the mailbox and roads (although the inside of the house and cabin are about the same).

Everyone gets their own starting tools, energy bar, and freedom to tackle whatever they wish. Having multiple farmers running around tackling different projects opens up a whole new world of speedy efficiency.

One player can explore deep into the mines, upgrading their pickaxe and returning with artifacts and ore. Another can make loads of money improving their fishing skills, while one person keeps track of crop rotation and watering needs.

Share the Wealth

Players still have to work together for one crucial reason: everyone shares the same chunk of money. If someone upgrades their pickaxe, you may not have enough cash to buy seeds at the start of the next month. One player may be gathering wood to buy a chicken coop, but another grabs 300 wood from the storage chest to repair the bridge at the beach.

Coordination between players becomes key. An unruly player could easily tank the entire farm, much the same way they can destroy your hard-earned work in Minecraft or Terraria. That being said, the community around Stardew Valley seems genuinely sweet and earnest.

If playing with friends and family and those who have a shared goal of success, Stardew Valley is absolutely magical. Sharing money becomes a wonderful exercise in mutual responsibility and future planning. Can we splurge on a new fishing pole right now? Do we have enough cash to get all our crops started next month? Are you going to spend all day fishing again? Yes, yes I am.

stardew valley

The shared money pool also acts as an interesting teaching tool for shared bank accounts with couples. Just as in real life, couples need to maintain an open, honest dialogue when it comes to spending and saving money. Making big purchases without consulting your co-op partners could result in hurt feelings, unfinished projects, and a disastrous experience.

Having multiplayer characters with a shared money pool also provides an interesting quirk to the game’s balance. Previously the game was balanced by having tons of stuff to do each day, but with a limited pool of time and energy. Time remains a factor but multiple players means multiple energy bars worth of tasks that can be accomplished per day. This seems like a huge advantage until you realize you also have that many more tools to upgrade in the early game.

Although still technically in beta, I’ve found multiplayer to be extremely stable, with only a few minor hiccups and stutters. The biggest issue is that one-time rewards, like the chests every five levels of the mines, are only given to the person who opens them. Already Chucklefish has responded, and they’re fixing it so everyone gets a chance at the unique loot.

When Stardew Valley first launched my spouse and I sunk dozens of hours into it. We played our own separate games but loved updating each other on how we were building our farms, and any neat little tips and tricks we found. It’s one of the few games she has logged more hours that I did, and I practically play games for a living.

The 1.3 multiplayer update has rekindled our mutual enjoyment of the charming indie game. I cannot thank the designers enough for pledging to add a highly requested yet significantly challenging feature, and following through so successfully.

Stardew Valley’s multiplayer is available via beta on PC. The 1.3 update is coming next to Switch, followed by PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.

stardew valley

Farm Together in Stardew Valley’s 1.3 Multiplayer Update on PC

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Today there shall be rejoicing! The highly anticipated multiplayer update for Stardew Valley is available now. There are a few caveats: it’s only available on PC (and even then, GOG users will have to wait a few more days) and it’s currently in Beta.

To opt into the open beta, right click on the game in your Steam library and select Properties. Go to the Betas tab and type in the password – jumpingjunimos – and click Check Code. That should open up the beta option from the drop down menu directly above it. Select that and your game should begin downloading the update from Steam.

The developers warn that as this is an unstable beta, everyone should back up their saved games before downloading the patch, and remove any mods that haven’t been updated to work with 1.3.

Save files are located in %APPDATA%\StardewValley\Saves on Windows, or ~/.config/StardewValley/Saves on Mac and Linux.

You can play multiplayer by starting a new game or even by using an existing save (though you should still back it up just in case). For an existing game you’ll need to get Robin to build some cabins for your friends, which opens the game up to allow for multiplayer. Alternatively you can start a new game with cabins pre-built by opening the co-op menu and selecting Host New Farm.

Players should be able to join their games through their Steam friends list, or by having the host invite them through Steam. An invite code may also be used so that GOG and Steam users can play together, though GOG users must be using the optional GOG Galaxy client.

Up to four total players can share a farm together. Players have their own inventories, skills, and NPC relationships but share money and obviously the farm space. You can even marry each other to able to live in the same house together.

The major 1.3 Update is also adding a bunch of new content outside of single player, such as hats on horses. A full detailed list of patch notes is still forthcoming.

Stardew Valley released in 2016 as the indie darling of the year, and was one of Pixelkin’s Games of the Year. It has been ported to PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch. The developer has previously stated that the Switch will receive the multiplayer update before the other consoles.

stardew valley

Stardew Valley Creator Teases Multiplayer Update “in About a Month”

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

Stardew Valley solo indie developer, Eric Barone, dropped a quick update via twitter on the highly anticipated multiplayer update. It looks like the free multiplayer patch should be arriving next month on PC.

The most recent news on Update 1.3 was posted back in mid February. Multiplayer has been in internal beta for most of this year. Barone has partnered with indie publisher Chucklefish to help add online multiplayer functionality to a game that was originally designed for single player.

It’s unclear whether the tweet references the previously mentioned beta or an official patch release.

Multiplayer will allow for up to four players to build a single farm together. One player will act as the primary host, who decides when to trigger events and when to sleep for the evening. Joining players can build cabins for themselves. Note that the game will no support local or split-screen multiplayer, though you will be able to connect via LAN, and online.

Chucklefish and Barone have previously announced that the multiplayer update will come first to PC, then to Switch, then finally to PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.

Stardew Valley was one of Pixelkin’s Games of the Year in 2016. Its charming, pixelated art hearkens back to classic gaming era of the 90s. Its low-res appearance belies an incredibly deep, lengthy experience with lots of intricate gameplay features, like real-word seasons, multiple NPCs to date, a full developed town, a huge amount of farming and livestock options, and a gigantic dungeon to explore.

Stardew Valley originally launched on PC in 2016 and became one of the best-selling titles on Steam. It arrived on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One later that same year. It released on Nintendo Switch last fall, along with the announcement that the Switch would be the first console to receive the multiplayer update.

Stardew Valley has been rated E for Everyone.

nintendo switch

Pixelkin 2017 Holiday Gift Guide: Nintendo Switch

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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

Pixelkin 2017 Holiday Gift Guide: PC

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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