The 16 Most Exciting Indie Games from PAX South 2020

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PAX South is often the first major gaming convention of the year, awkwardly injected right after the busy holiday season. This year was even more awkward, with the much bigger PAX East 2020 pushed up into late February, resulting in many bigger publishers skipping Texas in favor of Boston.

PAX South is known for a high ratio of indie and tabletop games. Between PAX Rising (tiny indie companies), PAX Together (highlighting LGBTQ creators), and the new Latinx Lounge (highlighting Latinx creators and panels), we checked out many excellent indie games to look for in 2020.

 

Dungeon Defenders: Awakened

Developer: Chromatic Games
Platforms: PC (Steam), PlayStation 4, Switch, Xbox One
Release: Q1 2020

I was a big fan of co-op tower defense action-RPG Dungeon Defenders a decade ago. I’m pleased to report that Dungeon Defenders: Awakened is a satisfying modern sequel. Waves of enemies march down lanes toward my crystal core while I build and repair towers, and defend with weapons and abilities. New changes include freely swapping between the four heroes to access their wide variety of towers, traps, and auras, as well as finding multiple types of weapons for each character.  Four player co-op multiplayer also returns, including local, online, and up to four player splitscreen.

Everspace 2

Developer: Rockfish Games
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Release: 2021 (Early Access September 2020)

Everspace 2 is a hyperspeed leap forward for the space sim series, replacing the roguelike structure of the first game with a bigger open-world (open-universe?) RPG. Rockfish Games knows how to make a spaceship sim look and play great. Within seconds of starting the PAX demo I was swinging around asteroids, pew pewing my lasers, and dog-fighting with marauders. After a successful Kickstarter campaign last year, Rockfish is settling in for a lengthy but transparent development cycle, with Early Access hitting later this Fall.

Foregone

Developer: Big Blue Bubble
Platforms: “PC and Consoles”
Release: Early Access Feb. 27 (Epic Games Store)

Foregone’s delicious combination of metroidvania with action-RPG made it one of my personal favorite games of PAX South 2020. The 2D combat was fast and fluid as I instantly switched between melee and ranged attacks. Enemies explode into health globes and energy I can use to fuel multiple abilities, like shields and slide-attacks. Foregone sets itself apart from many similar-looking games in the 2D action genre by adding Diablo-style randomized loot. In my brief PAX demo I found rare bows and swords that gave multiple stat bonuses. The demo ended right after teasing a big boss fight. I desperately need to play more of this game.

From Rust

Developer: Razbury Games
Platforms: PC (Steam)
Release: TBA

Digital card games are all the rage, but From Rust is trying to do something different. It’s a cooperative dungeon-crawling card game with a punky Mad Max-like theme. There’s a lot of depth under the deck, including crafting, leveling, boss battles, party management, and a full campaign story with fun comic characters. From Rust is currently in limited Alpha Testing, and you can hop onto the Razbury Games Discord server to request a Steam key.

Garden Story

Developer: Picogram
Platforms: PC, Mac
Release: Spring 2020

A mixture of Stardew Valley’s wholesome farm town with Zelda-like dungeon-delving is a recipe for indie success. Garden Story stars Concord, an adorable plum with the will to help their community of Autumn Town. The art, music, and dialogue gave me all the warm feelings from Stardew Valley. My demo only scratched the surface of this lovely throwback to 16-bit RPGs, and I could definitely see myself falling in love with Garden Story later this year.

Ghost Runner

Developer: One More Level
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Release: 2020

Ghost Runner is a cyberpunk first-person slasher. Taking place entirely within a futuristic mega-tower, I play as a cybernetically enhanced ghost runner, running, swinging, and slashing my way through the dystopian tower. The ghost runner is fast but very mortal; a single shot from a guard ends my life. Thankfully the game includes generous checkpoints and instant reloading, making each combat situation a hyper fast-paced puzzle of enjoyable trial and error as I slide, dodge, wall-run, and slow time to swiftly dispatch my enemies.

Greak: Memories of Azur

Developer: Navegante
Platforms: TBA
Release: Early 2020

Tucked away in the PAX South Latinx Lounge was a gorgeous 2D action-platformer starring three siblings who are trying to escape their homeland after an invasion. In the demo for Greak: Memories of Azur, the smallest brother, Greak, a nimble swordfighter, finds his spell-slinging sister Adara. I could seamlessly swap between both siblings to step on pressure plates, activate levers, and use their different skills to defeat enemies. I’ve longed for a modern spiritual sequel to The Lost Vikings series, and Greak looks ready to deliver.

Iron Danger

Developer: Action Squad Studios
Platforms: PC, Mac, Linux
Release: 2020

There’s no shame in quick-saving before a major combat encounter in an RPG (okay, maybe a little shame). In Iron Danger there’s no need. Early on the main character acquires a time-traveling device, allowing her and a partner to travel several crucial seconds back in time. Time-travel manifests in-game as video editing that I can quickly scrub through, watching the action play out – and reverse, in slow-motion. By playing with time I can dodge attacks, set up traps, and bait enemies. It’s an intriguing mechanic on top of a cool fantasy world of spells and mechs, built from Finnish folklore.

Konsui Fighter

Developer: Circean Studios
Platforms: Mobile (Android, iOS)
Release: 2020 (Early Access  currently available on Android)

A fighting game on your phone? My skepticism was quickly replaced by admiration when I got my hands on Konsui Fighter. “Konsui” translates to coma, and the mind of Professor Tsuburaya has become a battlefield between different aspects of his personality, including sorrow, rage, and pleasure. Controls are easily handled with on-screen buttons and finger-swipes, keeping each character’s move-list simple but robust. The hand-drawn artwork, beautiful animations, and original soundtrack create an impressive game in a tiny package. Konsui Fighter is currently available in Early Access on Android, and launching later this year on iOS.

Kunai

Developer: Turtleblaze
Platforms: PC (Steam), Switch
Release: Early 2020

A kunai is a diamond-shaped throwing knife often found in RPGs. Kunai is also a 2D metroidvania starring a cloak-wearing robot with a tablet for a face. Early in Tabby’s adventures in the robot-controlled wasteland, I acquire a pair of kunai attached to ropes. By using the left and right bumpers I can fire the kunai at smart-targeted angles to my left and right. I had a blast grappling onto walls and swinging from ceilings to slash at enemies, all to the delightful facial animations of Tabby. With tight controls and a retro aesthetic, Kunai could prove to be this year’s Shovel Knight.

Kung Fu Kickball

Developer: WhaleFood Games
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4, Switch, Xbox One
Release: Early 2020

Kung Fu Kickball looks like an old-school fighting game or beat ’em up, with one very important distinction: it’s a sporting match! One on one or 2v2 teams face off on a large 2D battlefield with a ball in the middle. I only need three buttons for victory: jump, punch, and dash. The action is immediately frantic and hilarious as players are encouraged to knock each other around while trying to slam the ball into their opponents’ bell. Different stages change up the action by putting up walls, ramps, platforms, and environmental hazards like a sandstorm, and players can choose between three different classes.

The Last Friend

Developer: Stonebot Games
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4, Switch, Xbox One
Release: 2020

Let’s set aside the fact that The Last Friend is an excellent mashup of side-scrolling tower defense and beat ’em up and focus on what really matters: the doggos. In the post-apocalyptic wastes, one man sets out with his beloved chihuahua to rescue dogs in their RV. That’s a great premise for a TV show, but for now we’ll settle for a charming tower defense game. Place turrets and walls between the rampaging enemies and your van of good bois. But even the best-placed defenses won’t get it done alone, and I need to run down the lanes to take tackle molotov-throwing marauders myself. You already had me with rescuing and defending dogs, but it helps that The Last Friend is a great game, too.

Neko Ghost, Jump!

Developer: Burgos Games
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Release: TBA

Rotating between 2D and 3D platforming levels isn’t an entirely new concept; older games like Super Paper Mario used it to great effect. Yet it’s rare enough to still feel novel and interesting, as with Neko Ghost, Jump. Even the earliest level designs in my demo required constant flipping between both views to access new blocks and passages. To defeat enemies, the titular cat summons its ghost form, which is armed with a sword. However, Neko still leaves behind a body that must be protected, creating a challenging and puzzle-y landscape to work through.

Partisans 1941

Developer: Alter Games
Platforms: PC
Release: TBA

Daedalic Entertainment is publishing this fine-looking stealth-tactics game from Moscow-based developer Alter Games. It tells a fictionalized story based on the historical events of the Soviets versus the Nazis in World War 2. Partisans 1941 isn’t a shooter but a tactics game, where stealth, patience, awareness, and synergy between your squad will ensure survival. In the demo I crept up to a Nazi encampment with my trio of soldiers, carefully putting two of them in cover while a third quietly knifed a guard and dragged the body into a basement. When a thrown knife didn’t quite make the kill on my next target, I ran back to my comrades, who opened up in a hail of gunfire. Partisans definitely hits all the right notes for a satisfying tactical experience.

Streets of Rage 4

Developer: Lizardcube, Guard Crush Games
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4, Switch, Xbox One
Release: 2020

Streets of Rage is often considered one of the best classic co-op beat ’em ups from the early 90s, and certainly one of my childhood favorites. I didn’t expect much from Streets of Rage 4 but within seconds of playing, I was thrown right back into the past in all the right ways. Axel, Blaze, and Adam return (along with new character Cherry) to the cartoony mean streets to dispense violent justice with flaming punches, guitar slams, and a variety of weapon power-ups. With a killer soundtrack, beautiful animations, and immediately satisfying gameplay, Streets of Rage 4 is the perfect example of a long-awaited sequel done right.

Wildermyth

Developer: Worldwalker Games
Platforms: PC
Release: 2020 (Available now via Steam Early Access)

Of all the games on this list, Wildermyth may be the hardest to define, and I mean that as a compliment. A randomly generated group of heroes rises up to defend their fantasy world, with grid-based, XCOM-like tactical combat and a striking papercraft art style. Story-beats play out in comic panels, where players make choices that affect their heroes’ stats, abilities, and loot. My ranger was drawn into an ominous flame, where I chose to let him be absorbed. Instead of perishing, he gained a special new fiery attack. Wildermyth is designed to be multi-generational, managing my squad through hero deaths and retirements as I build my legacy – or call on them in future playthroughs. All of these systems working together made Wildermyth one of the more intriguing indie games at the expo hall.

The Ten Best Family Games of 2019

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It’s the calm before the storm as we head into 2020, with with a pair of next-gen consoles looming on the horizon from Sony and Microsoft. This year was more than an afterthought for games, however, and Nintendo continues to release smash hits for the Switch.

Gaming families had plenty of excellent choices this year, though you’ll definitely want to own a Switch if you don’t already have one – nearly half the games on our list are exclusive to Nintendo’s excellent handheld hybrid. Here is the (alphabetical) list of our favorite family games of 2019.

Doraemon: Story of Seasons

You may not have heard of classic 1970s anime and manga series Doraemon, but chances are the words Harvest Moon or Stardew Valley will excite you. Doraemon: Story of Seasons infuses the enjoyable farming gameplay of Harvest Moon (now called Story of Seasons) with the youthful characters of Doraemon, including the titular time-traveling cat and his helpful gadgets.

Platforms: PC (Steam), Switch

Dragon Quest Builders 2

Dragon Quest Builders mashed up two great tastes that taste great together – the colorful enemies of venerable RPG series Dragon Quest, with the building, crafting, and blocky world of Minecraft. The result was an instant hit. Dragon Quest Builders 2 adds online (and local network) co-op multiplayer, and is available on Nintendo Switch.

Platforms: PC (Steam), PlayStation 4, Switch

Kingdom Hearts 3

Kingdom Hearts fans had to wait an eternity for the return of Sora, Donald, and Goofy with this beloved mash-up series of Disney and Final Fantasy. While the gameplay in Kingdom Hearts 3 is still firmly rooted in its original early 2000s PS2 era, there’s an undeniable joy playing within the Disney and Pixar worlds like Frozen, Toy Story, and Pirates of the Caribbean.

Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One

Luigi’s Mansion 3

Nintendo knocked it out of the park with this excellent follow-up to the Luigi’s Mansion series, turning the haunted mansion into an entire ghost-filled hotel. Luigi is armed with more ghost-busting abilities, such as cloning himself as Gooigi, which can also serve as a family-friendly local co-op mode. On top of a fun campaign, up to eight players can play competitively or cooperatively in various multiplayer modes.

Platforms: Switch

Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order

It’s been ten years since we last enjoyed a Marvel Ultimate Alliance co-op brawler, and The Black Order more than satisfies our need to punch, blast, fry, and zap henchmen and villains. We love mixing and matching our team of different Marvel heroes from a roster of over 30, including Avengers, X-Men, and Guardians of the Galaxy.

Platforms: Switch

Planet Zoo

As a full park sim Planet Zoo is geared more toward teens and adults, but thanks to the excellent animal AI, robust creation tools, and focus on animal conservation, it makes an excellent game for families to work together to learn about animals and their complex habitat needs. A lengthy campaign help introduces the park tools and management systems while offering a wonderful variety of biomes and locations, then you can try your hand at building your own zoo from the ground up in sandbox or franchise modes.

Platforms: PC (Steam)

Pokémon Sword and Shield

There’s little doubt that a Pokémon game will grace our list of best family games. Even with the somewhat mixed results of Pokémon Sword and Shield, there’s no denying that it provides hours and hours of catching hundreds of Pokémon and battling through the UK-inspired Galar region. The free-roaming Wild Area alone is worth the price of admission for Pokémon’s eighth generation.

Platforms: Switch

Super Mario Maker 2

Super Mario Maker was a phenomenal game when it released on Wii U in 2015, finally giving us the power to create our own 2D Mario levels. The Switch sequel is basically more of the same, plus tons of new features like new enemies, components, day/night and biome themes, and  the Super Mario 3D World tileset. All that along with a much improved single-player campaign and online and local multiplayer makes Super Mario Maker 2 a must-have for Mario fans.

Platforms: Switch

Untitled Goose Game

The official tagline nails this quirky indie game’s description: It’s a lovely morning in the village, and you are a horrible goose. Play as a goose in Untitled Goose Game with a checklist of hilariously mischievous tasks such as stealing from a store, knocking over vases, hiding in boxes, and causing light-hearted mayhem for these poor townsfolk.

Platforms: PC (Epic Games Store), PlayStation 4, Switch, Xbox One

Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair

Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair is a much improved spin-off of the 3D platformer series that combines 3D overworld travel with 2.5D level designs, starring the chameleon Yooka and his bat companion Laylee. The result is a satisfying spiritual successor to classic 2D platformers like Donkey Kong Country.

Platforms: PC (Steam), PlayStation 4, Switch, Xbox One

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7 Things We Love (And 6 Things We Hate) About Pokémon Sword and Shield

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Pokémon Sword and Shield represent the first new main series Pokémon games on a home console, and the results are mixed.

Instead of playing it safe, the series boldly introduces many new mechanics and features, such as the free roaming Wild Area, co-op Raid Battles, and Dynamax. But these new features come with some annoying growing pains. We’ve listed below everything we love – and hate, about Pokémon Sword and Shield.

LOVE The Wild Area

The wild area is the single biggest defining feature of Pokémon Sword and Shield. This area is like a mini-MMO as we’re free to wander around and get into battles with stronger Pokémon. Each area within has its own weather and native Pokémon, making it worthwhile to check back in, not to mention hunting for items and finding Max Raid Battles.

HATE Everywhere Else

As cool as the Wild Area is, it makes the other routes feel archaic in comparison. Snapping back to a fixed camera and linear paths is how Pokémon always plays, which now feels like a step backwards. We’d love future Pokémon games to fully embrace the more open-ended Wild Area regions going forward.

LOVE New Pokémon

Every generation adds new Pokémon, and Gen 8 has some of the best designs we’ve seen in awhile, like the punk-rock Electric/Poison Toxtricity, the Rock/Fire mine cart pokémon Carkol, and the epic mustachioed Fire/Bug Centiskorch.

HATE Missing Pokémon

The big controversy leading up to Gen 8’s release was the lack of a National Dex, meaning we would not be able to, you know, Catch ‘Em All. While 400 Pokémon in Pokémon Sword and Shield are plenty to enjoy the game, it’s a major bummer that another 400+ were left on the cutting room floor. Hopefully they’ll be added in future Switch releases.

LOVE Swapping Pokémon

One of the best new quality of life improvements from last year’s Pokémon: Let’s Go, Pikachu/Eevee was the ability to quickly swap Pokémon between our active party and our storage boxes anywhere in the field. It’s a much-needed feature, and we’re motivated to use many more Pokémon than ever before.

HATE Very Easy Difficulty

Pokémon games are still designed for kids and rarely present a challenge to anyone who has experience playing them. But the games have been getting steadily easier over the years. We were annoyed to see the party-wide EXP Share (added in Gen 6) built into Gen 8, and no longer an option we could turn off. That combined with getting XP when catching pokémon make it almost impossible to not become over-leveled for the majority of the campaign, where we continue to battle trainers with only one or two pokémon, and easily exploitable single-type gyms.

LOVE Max Raid Battles

A neat concept from Pokémon GO were raid battles, co-op events where multiple trainers came together to defeat super-powerful pokémon. In Gen 8, that means extra large dynamax (or unique Gigantamax) pokémon. Finding dens with limited time raid battles give a fun excuse to travel around The Wild Area, and they remain enjoyable through harrowing post-game fights. Thankfully you can play them offline as well, though NPC allies often leave a lot to be desired (Magikarp – seriously?).

HATE Online Multiplayer

The online multiplayer integration is an excellent example of a good idea that’s poorly executed. We love the idea of being able to seamlessly log on and seeing other trainers around us in the world. But the framerate suffers, trainers teleport around, and joining raid battles or trade requests is a convoluted nightmare. We’d love to see more online multiplayer features in future Pokémon games but it needs serious work.

LOVE Seeing Pokémon in the World

One of our favorite features from Pokémon: Let’s Go, Eevee/Pikachu was seeing Pokémon wandering around in the grass. It brings the games to life like nothing before, and we’re thrilled to see that becoming the new normal with Gen 8. Sword and Shield actually use both methods to hide rarer pokémon behind exclamation points, giving us a good reason to root around in the grass while avoiding (or seeking) wandering pokémon.

HATE Gigantamax

Gigantamax is another good idea that’s horribly executed. Certain pokémon can transform into more powerful unique forms when dynamaxing, called Gigantamax. But the horrible catch (pun intended) is that you have to find these specific pokémon from Max Raid Battles. That awesome Centiskorch that’s been with you since Route 3? Kick her to the curb if you want to get a special Gigantamax version. The best solution would have been to make it a rare item, like the Z-Max, or have it ingrained in all versions of that pokémon, like Mega Evolutions.

LOVE Sports Theme

The Galar Region is based on the United Kingdom,home to big FIFA sports fans, which translates nicely to the world of Pokémon. Instead of tiny buildings where trainers battle gym leaders in a back room, Galar Gym battles are a major sporting event, with gigantic stadiums and various mini-games leading up to a final showdown, with cheering crowds and epic dynamaxing pokémon.

HATE Team Yell

We get it – the sports theme means the antagonistic group in Sword and Shield are a bunch of soccer hooligans. Upset sports fans are a far cry from organized crime syndicates who want to control the world through severe climate change, or an underground resistance who want to free pokémon from their trainers, as in previous Pokémon games.

LOVE Poké Jobs

Thanks to the new Poké Jobs system, all those pokémon languishing in our storage boxes can be put to good to use. By visiting any Pokémon Center, we can see a list of jobs that require certain types of pokémon. Sending pokémon off for hours or even a full day lets them earn a significant amount of experience and generate items and money, while we enjoy catching more pokémon to feed our burgeoning business empire. Whatcha need done? I gotta pokémon for that.

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Pixelkin 2019 Holiday Gift Guide for Gaming Families

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With new consoles looming on the horizon, 2019 could’ve been a quieter year in gaming.

Thankfully it was anything but quiet, with hugely anticipated sequels like Kingdom Hearts 3, The Division 2, and Borderlands 3, excellent newcomers like The Outer Worlds and Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, and delightful indies such as Wargroove and Untitled Goose Game.

If you’re thinking of getting a new console this holiday season, we would wholly recommend the Nintendo Switch, or the Switch Lite. While PlayStation and Xbox consoles have never been cheaper, entirely new consoles are launching next year from both companies.

The Switch, however, is enjoying another banner year in 2019, seeing several big entries in beloved series such as Super Mario Maker and Pokémon, as well as a robust library of indie games and cross-platform titles. And the handheld-only Switch Lite, which launched earlier this year, may prove to be the most kid-friendly console of all time.

Below you’ll find links to our 2019 gaming gift recommendations, including tabletop games, organized by Younger Kids (under 10), Kids and Teens (10-16), and Mature Teens (17+). Note that many kid-friendly games, such as Super Mario Maker 2 and Pokémon Sword and Shield, are beloved by kids, teens, and adults alike.

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oathbreaker

Pixelkin 2019 Holiday Gift Guide: Board Games

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Despite (or perhaps because of) video gaming’s incredible popularity, board and card games continue to ride a golden wave of success. Like their digital counterparts, tabletop games come in all shapes, sizes, genres, and age groups.

Below you’ll find our list of some of the hottest new games of 2019 divided by Kids (~8-13) and Teens (14+). Note that “Kids” doesn’t mean Teens and Adults won’t love them too!

Kids

Invasion of the Cow Snatchers

invasion of the cow snatchers

Invasion of the Cow Snatchers is more a series of puzzles than a board game. Fences and disc-cows are assembled in a small grid, and players must carefully navigate their magnetic UFO to pick up cows and avoid getting stuck behind fences. The box includes 60 puzzles divided into five difficulty levels, making it a brain-teasing winner for kids and adults.

The Mind

The Mind is a simple card game with a hilariously devious premise. Players need to play their randomly dealt number cards (1-100) to the center of the table, in ascending order. Play the wrong card, and you lose a precious life. The catch is that no one can talk to each other, forcing lots of furtive looks and telling grunts. The Mind features 12 levels of increasing difficulty, as each player must calculate a larger hand size.

Funkoverse Strategy Games

Fans of the bobblehead-like Funko pop figures can throw down the gauntlet in this new series of tactical Funkoverse Strategy Games. At launch you can find DC, Harry Potter, and Rick and Morty packs in 2-character and 4-character sets, and each come with exclusive Funkopop figures.

Wayfinders

In Wayfinders, players place their workers on hangars to gain resources, then use them to move their plan among a randomly generated set of islands, building airstrips and gaining victory points. It’s an easy-to-teach gateway game to the wonderful worker placement genre.

 

Teens

The Blockbuster Party Game

The Blockbuster Party Game is the ultimate movie trivia game, featuring multiple party game trivia modes, including head-to-head categories, quotes, and even silently acting out movie scenes, and it’s all wrapped up in a nostalgic VHS tape package.

Clank Legacy: Acquisitions Incorporated

We love the Clank games for combing dungeon crawling with deck building. Clank Legacy combines two more of our favorites: the overarching campaign RPG structure of a legacy game, and the hilariously fun machinations of the Penny Arcade D&D group, Acq Inq!

Disney Villainous: Wicked to the Core and Evil Comes Prepared 

If you followed our advice and got the excellent asymmetrical game Disney Villainous last year, you’re more than due to check out the two new expansions, each adding three new villains that feature their own unique and thematically appropriate paths to victory.

Game of Thrones: Oathbreaker

oathbreaker

Game of Thrones finally ended earlier this year, but you and your friends can carry on the backstabbing and subterfuge with Oathbreaker, which takes the hidden role system of many a party game and divides players into two teams of loyalists and conspirators, and a paranoid king who must determine which is which.

Jaws Board Game

Who would’ve guessed a board game based on the seminal 1975 film would be so darn good? The Jaws Board Game is two games in one, with the first act featuring the human players scrambling to find the shark before it eats too many swimmers. The second act takes place entirely on the boat, as the shark destroys it (and the humans) while the humans try to guess where it will surface and attack. For a game where one player plays a man-eating shark on a team of their own, it’s surprisingly well-balanced and wonderfully tense.

Wingspan

One of the best reviewed board games of the year is about bird-watching, and collecting birds for your personal wildlife preserve. Wingspan features over 150 bird species, gorgeous artwork, colorful egg tokens, large player mats, and an awesome bird-feeder dice tower.

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Pixelkin 2019 Holiday Gift Guide: Nintendo Switch

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For family-friendly gaming it doesn’t get any better than the Nintendo Switch.

Nintendo’s unique home-handheld hybrid found continued success in 2019, bolstered by excellent exclusive titles like Super Mario Maker 2, Fire Emblem: Three Houses, and Pokémon Sword and Shield.

Indie games once again found a welcome home on the Switch, with some indies choosing to launch exclusively on Nintendo’s console and skipping the others entirely.

This year also saw the release of the Nintendo Switch Lite, a cheaper, slightly smaller, handheld-only version. The Switch Lite would make the perfect gift for a kid or teen who prefer mobile gaming.

See below for all our Switch game recommendations from 2019.

 

Younger Kids

Disney Classic Games: Aladdin and The Lion King

Two classic platformers from the 90s, Aladdin and The Lion King, have been updated and packaged together as Disney Classic Games. As these games predate many of the modern conveniences we’ve enjoyed in the years and decades since their launch, players can now enjoy a rewind feature and easily activated cheat codes, which should come in handy for the notoriously difficult The Lion King.

Also available on: PC (Steam), PlayStation 4, Xbox One

Disney Tsum Tsum Festival

Fans of multiplayer Mario Party-like mini-games will delight at the neon-drenched, music-blaring arcade games of Disney Tsum Tsum Festival, starring everyone’s favorite chubby little toys.

Also available on: N/A

Doraemon: Story of Seasons

Story of Seasons, which used to be called Harvest Moon, is the original farming-RPG series that inspired the likes of Stardew Valley. Doraemon: Story of Seasons combines the beloved farming gameplay with the classic Japanese anime series Doraemon, featuring all the primary characters, including the titular time-traveling cat and his gadgets.

Also available on: PC (Steam)

Dragon Quest Builders 2

Dragon Quest Builders 2 continues the brilliant mashup of the colorful, kid-friendly Dragon Quest RPG series with Minecraft-like building and crafting. The sequel features a new retro fast travel system, the ability to fly and swim to reach new areas, and online cooperative multiplayer.

Also available on: PlayStation 4, PC (Steam – Dec. 10)

Luigi’s Mansion 3

Who ya gonna call when your friends and family run afoul of ghosts in a haunted hotel? Luigi grabs his trusty Poltergust vacuum, including a new feature to create a slimy copy called Gooigi. Luigi’s Mansion 3 also features cooperative and competitive multiplayer.

Also available on: N/A

Pokémon Sword and Shield

The Pokémon series needs no introduction, but Sword and Shield are particularly noteworthy for ushering in a new era of the main series breaking free of its handheld-only bonds. Sword and Shield take place in the UK-inspired Galar Region, and include many fun new features from last year’s Pokémon Let’s Go remakes.

Also available on: N/A

Super Mario Maker 2

The Super Mario Maker series features all the enemies, blocks, and tools to build your own 2D Mario levels, resulting in an astonishing amount of creativity and replayabilty. The Switch sequel adds even more tools and themes, a full campaign mode, and co-op and competitive multiplayer.

Also available on: N/A

Team Sonic Racing

Mario and friends aren’t the only ones who like to settle their differences on the race track. Team Sonic Racing features 15 racers spread over three distinct classes, and 21 different tracks, including favorites from previous Sonic racing games. Up to four players can race together locally, or up to 12 players online.

Also available on: PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One

Untitled Goose Game

The goose is loose in Untitled Goose Game, where you play as a real jerk of a goose. It’s a light-hearted puzzle-adventure where you steal shoes, hide in boxes, scare children, and generally be a hilarious nuisance.

Also available on: PC (Epic Games Store)

Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair

The first Yooka-Laylee was crafted as a spiritual successor to the wave of 3D platformers of the late 90s/early 2000s, but was met with mixed results. The sequel, Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair,  takes a far different approach, utilizing successful 2D level designs. It’s both a solid throwback to classic game design, and a refreshing modern update.

Also available on: PC (Steam), PlayStation 4, Xbox One

 

Older Kids & Teens

Astral Chain

After stumbling with the Star Fox on the Wii U, PlatinumGames has begun churning out frenetic action hits with 2017’s Nier: Automata and now Astral Chain, where futuristic cops use mystical chains to summon powerful creatures called Legion to repel an alien invasion.

Also available on: N/A

Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes of an Elusive Age – Definitive Edition

If you were patient enough to hold off on getting one of the best RPGs of last year, you’ll be rewarded with an even better version of Dragon Quest 11 on the Nintendo Switch. Dragon Quest 11 S includes an optional 16-bit graphic mode and original Japanese voice acting, as well as expanded story elements.

Also available on: PlayStation 4, PC (Steam)

Fire Emblem: Three Houses

After a long stint on handhelds the Fire Emblem series returns to the home console with Three Houses. The tactical strategy series features three distinct paths as you choose your house and train your students for the wars to come.

Also available on: N/A

Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order

The Marvel Ultimate Alliance series pits everyone’s favorite Marvel heroes in top-down beat-em-up, co-operative battles. Build a team of four from over 35 heroes and combine their abilities to unleash powerful synergy attacks. Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 supports both local and online cooperative multiplayer.

Also available on: N/A

Slay the Spire

What Slay the Spire lacks in graphics and animation it makes up for in depth of gameplay. The roguelike card game is well-balanced and tactically demanding as you ascend through dungeon rooms and challenges, playing cards, making choices, and building your deck. Three distinct classes offer multiple playstyles and a huge list of cards to find and unlock.

Also available on: PC (Steam), PlayStation 4

SteamWorld Quest: Hand of Gilgamech

Indie studio Image & Form Games have been making colorful, well-written SteamWorld games for years, in several different genres. SteamWorld Quest is a tactical turn-based card game set within a fun fantasy world. The heroes are earnest and funny, and the meaty combat demands careful deck management and smart card timing.

Also available on: N/A

Wargroove

Wargroove asks one simple question: Do you like Advance Wars? The beloved handheld tactical strategy series has been given an excellent spiritual successor, transforming the pseudo-modern Advance Wars into a fantasy series with a lengthy story campaign as well as skirmish, puzzle, and map editing modes.

Also available on: PC (Steam), PlayStation 4, Xbox One

 

Mature Teens

Divinity: Original Sin 2 – Definitive Edition

Divinity: Original Sin 2 is one of the best tactical RPGs ever made, and now you can play it on the Switch. Join forces with cannibal elves, pirate dwarves, and royal lizards, or make your own heroes (and anti-heroes) across a humongous campaign that supports up to four player co-op.

Also available on: PC (Steam), PlayStation 4, Xbox One

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt Complete Edition

Developers are bending over backwards to get their games on the fast-selling Switch, even gigantic RPGs like 2015’s The Witcher 3. The Switch version necessitates a downgrade in graphics, but being able to continue your adventures with Geralt on the go might give you a chance of actually completing this massive RPG.

Also available on: PC (Steam), PlayStation 4, Xbox One