TIME technology

Here’s The Life Aquatic as a Classic Video Game

Complete with pixelated Bill Murray

Mission: Find the jaguar shark. Step one: Smoke grass. This is how Wes Anderson’s 2004 film The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou would begin if it were an 8-bit video game. David and Henry Dutton of Cinefix, a YouTube channel that bills itself “the ultimate destination for true movie buffs,” have rendered the movie as a Nintendo-esque short, complete with David Bowie soundtrack (only this time the songs are played on what sounds like a Casio keyboard rather than sung in Portuguese).

In their 8-Bit Cinema series, they’ve retold nearly 40 popular movies — from The Big Lebowski to Fight Club to Frozen — as 8-bit video games. The term 8-bit refers to the third generation in gaming, which began in 1983 with the release of what would come to be known as the Nintendo Entertainment System. For The Life Aquatic, the Duttons decided to use 16-bit to capture the film’s vivid colors and textures.

Video games today are so realistic that the Call of Duty Kevin Spacey is almost indiscernible from the real Kevin Spacey. But it’s always nice to take a trip back in time to our pixelated past.


The 5 Best 3DS Games Right Now

Have a look at our essential video game checklist for new 3DS owners

Nintendo’s 3DS currently prevails over the dedicated games handheld market, as have all Nintendo’s handheld since the original Game Boy in 1989. Smartphones may dominate mobile in general, but they lack a handheld’s deterministic nuance (read: buttons, triggers, and thumbsticks), to say nothing of the 3DS’s indispensable two-screen interface. And because the 3DS has done so well in its own right, it’s the mobile platform game developers gravitate to, culminating at this point in a library of compelling choices. Here’s a list of the ones we think are the best at the moment.

  • Fire Emblem Awakening

    The Fire Emblem games are as old as the Game Boy, though they didn’t appear on a Nintendo handheld (the Game Boy Advance) until 2002. They’re some of the best turn-based tactical roleplaying games you’ve probably never heard of, and Fire Emblem Awakening is the perfect opportunity to make their acquaintance. This above all others is the 3DS game to buy for depth and breadth, with customizable characters (who can marry, have children, then battle alongside their offspring), a skill-dependent multi-class system and an enthralling interwoven story.

    Buy this game if… You’re in the mood for a thoughtful, chess-like tactical battle simulator.

    Steer clear if… Poring over battlefields while finessing tactical minutia, one turn at a time, turns you off.

    What critics said: “This is a special game. The kind that makes you stop and think for a long time about whether it’s ever been done better” (Eurogamer); “Intelligent Systems has produced some fine games for Nintendo over the years; Awakening can proudly sit next to fellow strategy gem Advance Wars as the studio’s best work to date” (Telegraph); “… completely engaged me while I was playing it, whether I was connecting with its well-written characters or taxing my (limited) intellect as I tried to win a difficult battle while keeping everyone alive” (GamesBeat).

    ESRB Rating: Teen

  • The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds

    A direct sequel to Super Nintendo game The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, A Link Between Worlds hews close to Zelda traditions like roving around an enemy-thronged overworld between dips into dungeons or dalliances with mini-games and collection quests (here, one involving the return of child-like creatures to their mother). The gameplay twist this time involves being able to flatten against walls and move along 2D planes, picture-like, to solve spatial puzzles.

    Buy this game if… You loved A Link to the Past and you’d like to play its superior companion.

    Steer clear if… You didn’t care for A Link to the Past, or you’ve simply had enough of the Zelda franchise.

    What critics said: “A perfect handheld Zelda experience, offering the classic gameplay you cherish at a snappier pace” (Joystiq); “Not only does it feature some of the best dungeons and bosses in the series’ long history, but its stunning use of the system’s 3D effect should make anyone thinking about saving a few bucks by getting a Nintendo 2DS pause and reconsider” (GamesBeat); “…as amazing as A Link to the Past is, I can’t think of a single thing A Link Between Worlds doesn’t do better” (Game Informer).

    ESRB Rating: Everyone

  • Pokémon X & Y

    The 3DS’s first full-fledged Pokémon game (if we don’t count Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Gates to Infinity) recasts the series in full polygonal 3D, which may be the most remarkable thing about it, since the game mechanics sound mostly un-messed-with: You still play as a Pokémon novice, off to round up the little critters and challenge other Pokémon trainers in turn-based battles on your way to becoming a Pokémon Grand Master.

    Buy this game if… You’ve been waiting forever to play a 3D version of Pokémon.

    Steer clear if… You’re looking for an edgier roleplaying game or a dark fantasy world to save.

    What critics said: “…the various design tweaks and visual upgrades brings out the joy of this world to match that first time you caught a Pokemon or beat a gym leader” (Quarter to Three); “It’s a coming of age story, essentially, with the saccharine beginnings of a jolly jaunt giving way to harsher challenges along the way” (Telegraph); “For the young, the game is a soothing promise that, if you work hard, concentrate and look after others, victory and success will be yours. For the young at heart it’s a warm reminder of the childlike thrills of discovery, compilation and care” (Eurogamer).

    ESRB Rating: Everyone

  • Pushmo

    Pushmo is as it sounds: a puzzle game about pushing things, though it’s not the name of the protagonist. That would be Mallo, who happens to be a sumo wrestling cat (who knows why–just go with it). Your job is to move blocks around each “Pushmo” playground (the game has more than 250) to create steps that let you climb to rescue trapped children. It sounds simplistic, and in a way it is, but it’s also arguably the best puzzle game a Nintendo studio’s ever made.

    Buy this game if… You love deceptively simple block-based puzzles games.

    Steer clear if… Cutesy puzzlers aren’t your thing.

    What critics said: “Move over Minesweeper, ta ta Tetris, leave it out Lemmings – Pullblox is the new puzzling gaming god in town” (Pocket Gamer UK); “In many ways, Pullblox is Nintendo’s answer to Portal. Both are budget puzzlers released to little fanfare that exhibit the finest qualities of their respective developers” (Eurogamer); “Simple gameplay and a great level creator help make Pushmo a stellar puzzle game for your pocket” (GameSpot).

    ESRB Rating: Everyone

  • Shovel Knight

    The best NES game you never played sporting glorious high-definition pixel-block levels and incredible chiptunes and superlative platform-bounding gameplay? Shovel Knight is something like a crowdfunded miracle, the new archetype in gaming (or any other creative medium) for what letting developers who know exactly what they’re doing actually do it, unencumbered.

    Buy this game if… You miss the 8-bit NES aesthetic, you want to play the apotheosis of the best side-scrolling, platforming games popularized by Nintendo’s breakthrough 1980s system.

    Steer clear if… You never really went for the whole NES thing.

    What critics said: “Shovel Knight is, at the risk of repetition, brilliant, beautiful stuff” (Cubed3); “Dig out some eShop credits: you’re not going to want to miss ye olde Shovel Knight” (Pocket Gamer UK); “…a game that handles like a brick that handles like a Maserati” (Wired).

    ESRB Rating: Everyone

TIME Gaming

Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare Will Have a Zombie Mode

Saeed Khan—AFP/Getty Images A shopper poses with the newest instalment of the "Call of Duty" videogame at a midnight launch of per-ordered copies of the game in Sydney on Nov. 3, 2014.

But it isn't planned for launch

Until now, it was only a strong rumor that Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare would include the zombie-killing mode that’s become a popular sideshow in the series since first appearing in Call of Duty: World at War. However, Activision is now confirming a Zombie Mode is in the works for the new title, to be available at some later date as paid downloadable content.

Activision confirmed Advanced Warfare’s Zombie Mode after this email from GameStop was sent to people receiving updates on the game. However, the email was inaccurate in that Zombie Mode isn’t available for Monday’s Advanced Warfare launch and it won’t require players to get the $49.99 Season Pass to play Zombie Mode.

“This just in, Zombies are back as part of the Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare season pass! Stop by any GameStop to pick up one of the most anticipated games to launch this year, along with 4-multiplayer map packs, Atlas Gorge, and yes – ZOBMIES,” read GameStop’s email. “All this is available for purchase today GameStop as part of the Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare season pass for only $49.99.”

Previously leaked trailers for Advanced Warfare seemed to reveal the game’s zombies will be more 28 Days Later and less Dawn of the Dead in that they’re faster and they can jump, though little else is known at this point.

TIME Video Games

The 5 Best Wii U Games Right Now

Our essential video game checklist for new Wii U owners

So you just picked up Nintendo’s Wii U, and you’re wondering what to buy. That’s something we can say now—the “after you bought it” thing—because with the newer consoles, every game is available through the console’s e-tail store as a digital download. Or maybe you haven’t bought one yet, but you’re leaning in Nintendo’s general direction. Either way, we think these are hands-down the best games on the platform at the moment.

  • Bayonetta 2

    Bayonetta 2 belongs to a tradition of over-the-top, anime-inspired, mythology-suffused, beat-em-up extravaganzas in which heroes and infernal foes imbued with godlike abilities leap and pirouette with the grace of wuxia warriors, deploying carnage on an epic scale. This is the sequel to what some consider the finest hack-and-slash game ever made, and while nothing’s really changed here, you could argue nothing really had to.

    Buy this game if… You love expertly finessed battle controls, cathartic combos and elaborate tactical and environmental puzzles.

    Steer clear if… You’re not prepared to grapple with the conundrum of a female protagonist whose hyper-sexualized realization (by a female character designer) straddles the line between exploitive and worshipful.

    What critics said: “…some of the most solid fighting mechanics and phantasmagorically gonzo visuals in gaming to date” (Kill Screen); “The sheer polish applied to every part of Bayonetta 2 is something every major studio should aspire to” (Guardian); “… a masterclass in pure, unadulterated action-game design” (GameSpot).

    ESRB Rating: Mature

  • The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD

    The most visually interesting Zelda yet made, The Wind Waker HD also remains one of Nintendo’s most ambitious. The Wii U version remasters the GameCube original action-adventure about a green clad child-hero saving the world to ultra-crisp 1080p fidelity and modifies a few gameplay-slowing activities, allowing you to sail more quickly between locations, trawl for treasure faster and complete one of the game’s major quests with less busywork.

    Buy this game if… You want to experience the superior version of the best wrought Zelda game Nintendo’s yet made.

    Steer clear if… You played the GameCube original ad nauseam, or don’t like open-world adventures (like Assassin’s Creed IV) involving a ridiculous amount of sailing.

    What critics said: “…crisp and energetic, spirited and soulful, just a little bit wayward – and it hasn’t aged a day” (Eurogamer); “…takes note of the finger-wagging gripes unreasonably lobbed at the original and tweaks details to elevate an already fantastic journey to towering heights” (Slant); “…the definitive version of perhaps the most original Zelda adventure” (EGM).

    ESRB Rating: Everyone 10+

  • Mario Kart 8

    Imagine a carnival of race tropes, a grab bag of driver profiles, tactics and race types, a melange of little gameplay iterations and configuration tweaks and “Holy crap, I’m racing up and down that?” moments jammed into a single game. This is the best of all Nintendo’s Mario Karts to date: lavish, kaleidoscopic, gasp-inducing, ingenious, exotic, balletic and something you’ll be playing for a very long time.

    Buy this game if… You have even the slightest affection for racing games, especially competitive platform-leaping, sky-soaring, fruit-lobbing, kart-grooving ones.

    Steer clear if… You have problems with vertigo.

    What critics said: “…a reminder that when the company’s firing on all cylinders — even when it’s standing on its own shoulders, gameplay-wise — its creative output remains peerless” (TIME); “Mario Kart 8 embodies what Nintendo does so well. They take something that works well and they eventually make it smooth and great and absolutely irresistible” (Quarter to Three); “What Nintendo’s designers do with this new spatial freedom ranges from amazing to even more amazing” (Guardian).

    ESRB Rating: Everyone

  • Shovel Knight

    The best NES game you never played sporting glorious high-definition pixel-block levels and incredible chiptunes and superlative platform-bounding gameplay? Shovel Knight is something like a crowdfunded miracle, the new archetype in gaming (or any other creative medium) for what letting developers who know exactly what they’re doing actually do it, unencumbered.

    Buy this game if… You miss the 8-bit NES aesthetic, you want to play the apotheosis of the best side-scrolling, platforming games popularized by Nintendo’s breakthrough 1980s system.

    Steer clear if… You never really went for the whole NES thing.

    What critics said: “It deserves wholeheartedly to be on a list of nominees later this year. Play Shovel Knight. It is a damn delight” (Game Revolution); “Shovel Knight is one of the best platformers I’ve ever played, period” (Destructoid); “…a game that handles like a brick that handles like a Maserati” (Wired).

    ESRB Rating: Everyone

  • Super Mario 3D World

    Not quite the Super Mario 64 or Super Mario Galaxy followup Mario buffs keep clamoring for, Super Mario 3D World manages to be a rousing hybrid of 2D and 3D perspectives, expanding on the gameplay ideas established by Super Mario 3D Land for the 3DS. You get five playable characters (one unlockable, and each with complementary special abilities in a nod to Super Mario Bros. 2), four-player cooperative play and some of the most creative levels to yet grace a Nintendo Mario game.

    Buy this game if… You’re in the mood for the best of the new-gen Mario platform games.

    Steer clear if… You don’t like leaping between pedestals, battling nonsense enemies or grooving to bubbly, goofy game music.

    What critics said: “…full of virtuosity and richness that combines the tight mechanics of old school games with sophisticated formal experimentation, full of liberty, complexity and mastery that reminds us that art has no limits” (LevelUp); “To some, Super Mario may appear tired: a mascot whom Nintendo trots out every few years to sell another console with repackaged but fundamentally stale ideas. Super Mario 3D World is a fierce rebuttal to the accusation” (Guardian); “…a tightly-designed platformer, raucously fun in multiplayer, and a master’s class in level design” (Shacknews).

    ESRB Rating: Everyone

TIME Video Games

5 iPhone Games You Just Can’t Miss This Week

Had enough Temple Run? Try these instead

Sick of Temple Run and looking for something new to play on your iPhone? TIME rounded up some favorites from this week that are worth a download.


  • Woah Dave!

    Woah Dave Woah Dave

    Woah Dave! may be one of the finest iPhone games released in the recent months. It has at once an overtly retro feel and a decidedly modern sensibility. Players guide Dave Lonuts through a world on the brink of alien invasion, and launch eggs and bombs at aliens in order to stay alive and earn coins. Woah Dave! is as simple as it is charming, and reminds plays of an arcade era of simpler times.

    Woah Dave is available for $1.99 in the App Store.

  • Loopy Messenger

    Loopy Messenger Loopy Messenger

    Although Loopy Messenger isn’t a game, it’s the sort of app that can provide just as many hours of distraction. It’s Snapchat meets MS Paint—an app that allows users to send drawn messages between each other that disappear forever. In the style of the late lamented Facebook Graffiti app, Loopy allows you to see how your friend drew the image they sent you.

    Loopy Messenger is available free in the App Store.

  • Star Wars: Galactic Defense

    Star Wars: Galactic Defense Star Wars: Galactic Defense

    Galactic Defense is a fascinatingly interactive tower defense game in which players can choose between the light and dark sides of the force and engage in battle against invading enemy attack waves. Heroes from the films (including Obi-Wan and Yoda) can be summoned to lead your troops against enemy units as you defend and upgrade your tower defenses in countless battle scenarios, like Tatooine and Hoth. Players can also compete online against other users.

    Star Wars: Galactic Defense is available free in the App Store.

  • The Survivor: Rusty Fortress

    The Survivor: Rusty Fortress The Survivor: Rusty Fortress

    This game begins after the planet’s population has been wiped out by a virus. As one of the few remaining survivors, you need to fight off disease-ridden mobs. Just in time for Halloween, The Survivor is part Walking Dead, part Minecraft; players must build and upgrade their weapons, build increasingly bigger shelters as well as hunt for food. Days are for foraging and exploring, nights are when the masses attack.

    The Survivor: Rusty Fortress is available for $0.99 in the App Store.

  • Jet Run: City Defender

    Jet Run Jet Run

    Jet Run is what would have happened if Space Invaders had been released 35 years after it actually came out. Players zoom through city streets in a modern-looking game blasting retro 8-bit aliens, and upgrade their weapons as they collect coins and shoot down invaders. Jet Run probably plays a bit better on an iPad—the game is packed with intricate backdrops and moves very quickly. It’s also endearingly reminiscent of Futurama’s opening title sequence.

    Jet Run: City Defender is available free in the App Store.

TIME Video Games

The 5 Best PC Games Right Now

An essential video game checklist for new PC owners

Wading into the PC games scene if you’re a new PC gamer is like coming across one of those museum-sized history wall maps where every time period’s displayed at once. Because the PC’s been more or less a continuous platform, you have a daunting number of choices. This isn’t a “best PC games of all time” list, therefore, so much as a best ones at the moment.

  • Divinity: Original Sin

    Divinity: Original Sin‘s story about a mystery energy source and murder and you eventually getting really, really powerful is just the glaze on a nostalgic banquet of classic gaming bullet points: stat-riddled character forging, a massive multi-environmental fantasy world, open-ended storytelling, tactically intricate combat in rounds, a laundry list of spells and skills and enemies and loot, cooperative multiplayer and a do-it-yourself toolkit, all rolled into an old-school-meets-new-tech isometric roleplaying package.

    Buy this game if… You have positive history with isometric party-based roleplaying games, you loved the decades-ago Ultima games, or you’ve always wanted to see what an older-school isometric RPG might look like skinned with contemporary design ideas.

    Steer clear if… You’re no fan of roleplaying games, or anything with lots of fiddly stats and systems and arcane terminology.

    What critics said: “The most creative turn-based combat seen in an RPG, combined with a dash of humor, has resulted in a fine stew of gaming” (Quarter to Three); “A potent, frustrating, demanding, amusing, tedious, exhilarating world unto itself” (RPG Fan); “Complex yet approachable, nostalgic yet modern, cliché-ridden yet strange and singular in so many ways” (Polygon).

    ESRB Rating: Mature

  • Guild Wars 2

    Guild Wars 2 isn’t something that grabs you off the block, like, say, the series premiere of Breaking Bad. It takes awhile to get rolling. But once it does, it’s hands down the best online multiplayer romp on the planet, obsessed with keeping you entertained in a way that’s constantly diverting: have snowball fights, hunt for worm eggs in ice caverns, play a barrel-tossing game, gather scraps to build snowmen, protect towns from sweeping bear horde assaults and knock out enemy portals that spawn creatures like The Avengers‘ Chitauri. It’s simply the pinball machine of MMOs.

    Buy this game if… You’re up for trying an MMO, you want an MMO you can actually dip into and out of, you don’t want to pay a monthly fee but also want freemium content that’s basically invisible, or you love games that relentlessly upend and exceed your expectations.

    Steer clear if… Sprawling fantasy funhouses aren’t your thing.

    What critics said: “…one of those rare games that knocks your life off-kilter like a meteoroid banging into a satellite” (TIME); “…what happens when a group of talented, smart, dedicated, imaginative, bold, consumer-friendly creators get together and spend years solving problems and making something wonderful” (Quarter to Three); “…rewards skill and variety rather than mindless grinding” (Polygon).

    ESRB Rating: Teen

  • Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft

    Part of the allure of Blizzard rolling its bejeweled carriage through the hoof-tramped mud of a played-out genre (collectible card games) is the Blizzard name. But that names signifies scrupulous playtesting and elaborate design values, all of which converge here to make Hearthstone the quickest, slickest, goofiest, most lavish online CCG around.

    Buy this game if… You’ve always been curious about CCGs and want the fastest, friendliest introduction to the genre.

    Steer clear if… You’re not a competitive card gamer.

    What critics said: “…overflowing with character and imagination, feeds off and fuels a vibrant community of players” (Eurogamer); “It has, through painstaking effort, upgraded the card duel into a thoroughly modern form” (Edge); “…successfully pulled me into a genre that I didn’t care about in the least” (Polygon).

    ESRB Rating: Teen

  • Legend of Grimrock II

    Legend of Grimrock II harks back to PC gaming days when who cared that some crazy dude even more crazily turned an entire island into a flaming, monster-riddled, spike-suffused death trap–just go with it. This is a game about the game, not plot plausibility, though it tells a decent enough rip. It’s a grid-based dungeon crawler nonpareil, and just about the best one yet made.

    Buy this game if… You miss Wizardry, Dungeon Master and Eye of the Beholder, you want to play a modern exemplar of the whole “grid-based dungeon spelunking” thing.

    Steer clear if… Fixed first-person perspective freaks you out.

    What critics said: “…another glorious glimpse of the past, a window to a genre dead and buried and brought back to life with care and respect” (GameSpot); “…Almost Human may be looking to the past for inspiration, but it’s created one of the best pure role-playing games of the year” (Eurogamer); “…a puzzle box within which are a hundred more such boxes within which are yet more” (RPG Fan).

    ESRB Rating: Unrated

  • Shovel Knight

    The best NES game you never played sporting glorious high-definition pixel-block levels and incredible chiptunes and superlative platform-bounding gameplay? Shovel Knight is something like a crowdfunded miracle, the new archetype in gaming (or any other creative medium) for what letting developers who know exactly what they’re doing actually do it, unencumbered.

    Buy this game if… You miss the 8-bit NES aesthetic, you want to play the apotheosis of the best side-scrolling, platforming games popularized by Nintendo’s breakthrough 1980s system.

    Steer clear if… You don’t have (or care to own) a gamepad for your PC.

    What critics said: “The graphics, gameplay, and soundtrack are all pitch-perfect for an NES game… all you’re missing is the original cartridge” (USgamer); “…a game that is as bright, rich, and lovely as nostalgia would have us believe our favorite NES games always were” (Kill Screen); “…a game that handles like a brick that handles like a Maserati” (Wired).

    ESRB Rating: Everyone

TIME Television

Watch Anita Sarkeesian School Stephen Colbert on GamerGate

She even declares Colbert a feminist

The maker of a feminist video game who has faced vitriol from some members of the “GamerGate” online movement stopped by The Colbert Report on Wednesday and handily schooled the host’s fake gamer persona.

“I’m saving the princess, and I’m supposed to let the princess die? Is that what you want?” Colbert asks Anita Sarkeesian incredulously.

“Well maybe the princess shouldn’t be a damsel and she could save herself,” Sarkeesian replies, drawing cheers from women in the crowd. (“I didn’t know you brought a posse,” Colbert jokingly responds.)

The GamerGate movement, named after the Twitter hashtag that has fueled its growth, purports to challenge poor ethics in video-game journalism. But it has also unleashed a wave of sexist comments and threats against women in the overall gaming industry.

Sarkeesian, who has publicly criticized video-game culture for its portrayal of women, canceled a talk at Utah State University earlier this month after the school received an email threat of a shooting massacre. While the school considered it safe for the talk to continue, Sarkeesian decided to pull out of the event because the school was barred by state law from disallowing legal guns on campus during the event.

“They’re lashing out because we’re challenging the status quo of gaming as a male-dominated space,” Sarkeesian says. By the end of the interview, she even declares Colbert a feminist after he asks if he’s allowed — as a man — to be one.

See the full interview below:

TIME Video Games

Nintendo Just Turned Profitable and Wii U Sales Are Past 7 Million

Wii U sales more than doubled between April and September 2014, bolstered by sales of Mario Kart 8.

Surprise, Nintendo just made a pile of unexpected money: 14.3 billion yen in net income, or about $132 million, for the six month fiscal period that ended in September. For the same period last year, the company posted just 600 million yen in net income.

And in the last three months, July to September, the company’s had unexpected quarterly operating profits as well, reaching 9.3 billion yen, or about $86 million, reports Reuters, which adds that the weaker yen boosted overseas earnings. Analysts had predicted a significant loss for the quarter.

The unanticipated turnaround means Nintendo could see its first annual profit in four years. And the company’s sticking with its full-year prediction, made back in May, of 40 billion yen (versus a 46 billion yen loss last year).

Wii U sales look considerably better, too, with 1.1 million units sold between April and September — more than double the prior year’s sales. Software sales were 9.4 million units for the period, up from 6.3 million units the prior year, and Nintendo cites Mario Kart 8 and Hyrule Warriors as key drivers. The Wii U is now sitting at a relatively healthy 7.29 million units shipped worldwide, behind Sony’s more than 10 million PlayStation 4s sold (reported in August) and ahead of Microsoft’s 5 million Xbox Ones shipped (reported in April).

The only downer for Nintendo here is 3DS hardware sales, which dropped from 3.89 million units April-September 2013 to 2.09 million units for the same period this year. Nintendo says it sold about 23 million software units for the period, down from about 27 million units the prior year. (Note that Super Smash Bros. for the 3DS, the likely game-changer for 3DS hardware sales in 2014, only arrived a few weeks ago — late September in Japan, early October everywhere else.)

But the takeaway seems clear: Nintendo’s skating these systems from first-party release to first-party release, and seems to be making serious headway — so far, anyway. Long-term survival on that basis sounds improbable in theory, but then you look at the Mario Kart 8 phenomenon, and the breaking Super Smash Bros. for 3DS one, and all the glowing reviews for Bayonetta 2, then ahead to amiibo and Super Smash Bros. for Wii U, and — moving on to 2015 — a formidable-looking lineup that includes Splatoon, Mario Maker, Mario Party 10, Yoshi’s Wooly World, Xenoblade Chronicles X and the next Legend of Zelda.

TIME Video Games

This Is Why Nintendo Is Crushing It All of a Sudden

General Images Of Nintendo Ahead Of Earnings
Bloomberg via Getty Images A man walks in front of a Nintendo Co. logo outside the company's offices in Tokyo, Japan.

No one expected the game maker to turn a profit this quarter

Nintendo’s latest earnings report surprised everybody. On Oct. 28, the struggling Japanese games maker said its net profit was $224 million from July to September. Most analysts had expected the company to post earnings nearly four times less, according to the Wall Street Journal. The stunning earnings also helped the game maker recover from a nearly $75 million loss last year.

Here’s why Nintendo is beating everyone’s expectations:

Gamers worldwide still love Super Smash Bros.

Nintendo said Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS, which was released in Japan and began overseas shipping in Sept., has already logged 3.22 million units in sales globally.

Nintendo’s life simulator game has become a hit overseas.

Sales of Tomodachi Life, a life simulation game, marked 1.27 million units in worldwide sales this fiscal year. The popularity of the 3DS-only game, along with that of Super Smash Bros. for 3DS, also helped boost sales of the handheld console.

The Mario Kart franchise isn’t hitting the brakes.

Mario Kart 8, the latest racing game in the series supported by Wii U, has displayed steady sales even though it was released in May.

A spinoff of The Legend of Zelda is reigniting old flames.

Nintendo’s new video game Hyrule Warriors is gaining popularity with global audiences who are getting a second chance to play with legendary characters Zelda, Link and Lana from the Zelda series.

The Yen is depreciating, which is working in Nintendo’s favor.

Nintendo said it logged 15.5 billion yen ($143 million) in exchange gains due to the depreciation of the yen, which was greater in recent months than it was last year.

TIME Video Games

Judge Dismisses Manuel Noriega’s Call of Duty Lawsuit

(L) Panamanian strongman Manuel Antonio Noriega takes part in a news conference at the Atlapa center in Panama City on Oct. 11,1998.(R) The character Noriega claims was created in his likeness.
Alberto Lowe—Reuters; Activision/AP Panamanian strongman Manuel Antonio Noriega (left) sues Activision over a portrayal of him in Activision's Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 game (right)

The former dictator of Panama sought damages for a character based on him

A California judge Tuesday threw out a lawsuit filed by former dictator Manual Noriega against a video game he claimed depicted him in a bad light.

Manuel Noriega, who ruled Panama for most of the 1980s, sought charges in July against video game publisher Activision, for creating a character based on him without permission in Call of Duty: Black Ops II, Wall Street Journal reported. Noriega said the 2012 shooter game unlawfully depicted him “as a kidnapper, murderer and enemy of the state,” according to court documents.

Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge William H. Fahey tossed the lawsuit on grounds that Noriega’s likeness was sufficiently “transformative”–meaning that its use was adopted for the sake of commentary or expression. Fahey also argued that the video game did not benefit from Noriega’s inclusion, as the former soldier and convicted drug trafficker had argued.

“The Court concludes that the marketability and economic value of the challenged work in this case comes not from Noriega, but from the creativity, skill and reputation of defendants,” Fahey wrote in court documents.

The dismissal was supported by former NYC major and Activision co-counsel Rudy Giuliani, who called Noriega’s claims “audacious,” as it touches on the issue of the many other video games and works of art that draw from and freely interpret historical or political figures.

“This ruling is an important victory and we thank the court for protecting free speech,” said Rudy Giuliani. “This was an absurd lawsuit from the very beginning and we’re gratified that in the end, a notorious criminal didn’t win. This is not just a win for the makers of Call of Duty, but is a victory for works of art across the entertainment and publishing industries throughout the world.”

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