TIME apps

The Best iPhone Games You Should Play This Week

King of Thieves, Radical and Run Bird Run are our favorite iPhone games of the week

Had enough Candy Crush and looking for some fun new games to play on your iPhone? Here are five favorites TIME rounded up this week.

  • Run Bird Run

    Run Bird Run
    Run Bird Run Run Bird Run

    While Angry Birds may dominate the absurd bird-based genre, games like Crossy Road and Run Bird Run are starting to steal the spotlight. Players control a square bird by tapping their screen left or right in order to avoid falling boxes. It’s simple, almost mindless, and yet lots of fun to play. Unlock different levels, characters, maps, and a variety of comical cube-shaped creatures to keep the game interesting.

    Run Bird Run is free in the App Store

  • King of Thieves

    King of Thieves
    King of Thieves

    One of the few non-puzzle, non-shooter player-vs.-player games available for iOS. Play as a tiny cubed thief trying to steal gold from others while remaining undetected. The more you steal, the more money you have to buy disguises to better rob your friends.

    King of Thieves is free in the App Store

     

  • Radical

    Radical
    Radical

    Radical combines old-school concepts of barebones design and simple obstacle avoidance. Guide a small triangle through a series of openings without hitting the side of the wall. See if you can swipe your triangle from one side of the screen to the other in order to avoid crashing. It’s a simple arcade-style game that can keep you busy for long stretches of time.

    Radical is available free in the App Store

  • Cava Racing

    Cava Racing
    Cava Racing

    Cava Racing is a well-designed racing title that has the feel of an arcade game, with the desolate look and coloring of a Mad Max movie. Players rotate their phones in order to steer ships around corners that can spell doom for your vehicle. Use boosters to try and crush the best times for each race. The gameplay is incredibly fast and high-quality.

    Cava Racing is $1.99 in the App Store

  • Darklings Season 2

    Darklings
    Darklings

    A sequel to a well-received first attempt, Darklings Season 2 takes players through a surreal universe to fight enemies and conquer maps. Players use special powers to battle enemy darklings, who have stolen the stars from the world. It’s a remarkably detailed and well-animated game worthy of the first.

    Darklings Season 2 is free in the App Store

TIME Apple

Apple Just Made This Huge Change to the App Store

Apple Productivity Apps
Sean Gallup—Getty Images A shopper tries out the new Apple iPhone 6 at the Apple Store on the first day of sales of the new phone on Sept. 19, 2014 in Berlin, Germany.

It will change the way you preview apps

Apparently the App Store isn’t open carry.

Apple is making some developers of violent video games censor screenshots of their titles for the App Store, Pocket Gamer reports. Several iPhone game developers told Pocket Gamer they had to blur or remove images of guns before Apple would approve their apps to go online.

Here’s what the result looks like for developer Warchest Limited’s Tempo:

screen520x924

Apple has long had a written policy of keeping violent images out of the App Store so it can maintain its 4+ age rating. However, the company hasn’t always enforced that rule as strictly as it appears to be doing now. It’s unclear why Apple is now suddenly asking developers to adhere to its guidelines.

TIME Video Games

5 Things to Know About Evolve’s Humans vs. Monsters Multiplayer Mayhem

The 4v1 online game drops Tuesday for PS4, Xbox and PC

I’m lukewarm toward competitive online-predominant shooters, but Evolve‘s quick pitch sounds interesting enough: four players with unique abilities dash through smallish levels and cooperatively square off against a giant Lord of the Rings-like troll-creature–a monster who’s vastly more agile and powerful, who evolves into an even deadlier thingamajig over time, and who can tap one very nasty bag of tricks.

The highbrow word to describe that is “asymmetric,” meaning lopsided, though here it’s still a carefully balanced kind of lopsided. That makes it different from conventional equal-sides shooters, though not new to gaming outright: the Splinter Cell games pioneered asymmetric multiplayer, and Fable Legends (due later this year) is doing more or less the same thing, only in a fantasy setting, pitting four heroes against a villain Dungeon Keeper-style.

Evolve‘s novelty grab, then, is the idea that both the players (dubbed Hunters) and the monster can evolve over the course of events, keeping a match’s tactics in flux.

I’m still working out how I feel about Evolve, which arrives for PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One Tuesday from developer Turtle Rock Studios. But here’s my initial take in five parts:

Playing as the monster feels a little shambolic…

Hey Godzilla, swat some flies! Playing as a hulking giant of a monster, hunting tiny and far more agile human opponents, is like trying to wallop birds with a wrecking ball. That’s as intended, but it takes some getting used to.

You can clamber up anything and quickly leap chasms, even sneaking about and lunging at prey, and you can get a little speedier if you choose certain power-ups at evolution points. But you’re not some spike-spined, gargantuan rendition of an Assassin’s Creed hero. You’re a tank–the tank of all tanks, in fact, and commensurately sluggish.

…but your ability picks let you build the perfect beast

The monster levels up quickly, and forces tough ability-related choices each time. There’s also no room for lallygagging, because you’re vulnerable during transitions. Evolution is therefore as much a locational and subterfuge strategy as a points distribution one.

Do you want the ability to charge an enemy (or, crucially, flee from one) while taking out anything in your path? Lob boulders at significant distance? Leap from high points to smash down on foes? Set the world (and your enemies) ablaze with billowing bursts of fire?

The basics feel a little…basic

You need to feed to evolve, which is a story way of shoehorning in the monster’s evolution mini-game. But the missions tend to play the same: the monster attempts to avoid the hunters while scarfing fauna and leveling up, then either tries to butcher its pursuers, or destroy/defend key objects. Vice versa for the players.

Variations on that theme include levels with destroyable monster eggs (the monster has to defend these for so many minutes), and others staffed with fleeing colonists (the monster has to kill–and the hunters save–a certain number to win). You get 16 levels at launch to stage in, and you can tweak settings like wildlife population, damage output and round length, or add in variables like a monster-spotting patrol ship, teleport gates or secondary monsters (monster minions!).

But we’ve seen a gazillion objective-related riffs in these kinds of games, and none of Evolve‘s leap out, or seem to at this point anyway. In the end, the only novel idea here may be the monster-vs-humans dynamic. Will it be enough to keep players chipping away at Evolve a month from now? A year?

Solo mode is just a multiplayer wrinkle…

Evolve‘s listed in various places as supporting single player. That’s really a misnomer. Is there even a story? I may have missed it, not that I’m sure I need one either way.

Think of Evolve‘s solo claim as part of a multiplayer hub, one where you’re given the option to select and tweak levels populated by bots (that is, computer-puppeted opponents). In that sense, it’s no different from any other online shooter with configurable levels and practice dummies. You can queue up five levels in a “dynamic” campaign, but it’s just a series of chained maps with carryover variables (boasts about hundreds of thousands of cross-relational effects in this mode are the usual mathematical hyperbole).

Don’t expect much from the monster A.I. (or the A.I. hunters), but if you just want to get a feel for each match type’s framework and pacing as well as scout the levels, soloing’s as helpful here as in any other multiplayer game’s practice rooms.

…and yet Evolve may turn out to be the multiplayer game for soloists

The monster hunters come in four flavors: Assault, Medic, Support and Trapper, the first three functioning essentially as you’d expect. The Trapper’s the most innovative of the bunch, able to spring vast Epcot-like containment half-spheres that prevent the monster from simply running away when it’s doing poorly, or needs to feed in private to evolve. The hunter personas come in 12 flavors, each with unique weapons and abilities (I’ve only fooled with a handful so far).

I prefer playing as the monster (or monsters–you can unlock more as you go) because it’s so immediately gratifying. Taking down each monster as part of the hunter team has its moments, but feels like any other lengthy battle of attrition. Laying out an irritating four-player squad of human do-gooders as the monster is endlessly cathartic, though–especially if you, like me, have little patience for the tactical particulars of team coordination.

In that sense Evolve brings two multiplayer mindsets together: the well-coordinating team player type, versus the lone wolf with a penchant for leaping first and looking later.

TIME Video Games

Netflix Reportedly Developing Live-Action Legend of Zelda Series

This June 3, 2009 photo shows a visitor playing "The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks" video game on the Nintendo DS during the Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles.
Danny Moloshok—Reuters This June 3, 2009 photo shows a visitor playing "The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks" video game on the Nintendo DS during the Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles.

An animated 'The Legend of Zelda' series did air for 13 episodes in 1989

Netflix is already bringing comic book stories to its streaming service, but the company may also be looking to introduce video game tales to its subscribers as well.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Netflix is in the early stages of development on a live-action series based on Nintendo’s long-running franchise, The Legend of Zelda. WSJ cites a source familiar with the project, stating that Netflix is currently looking for writers for the show, and that the project is being compared to Game of Thrones.

A representative for Netflix declined to comment on the report.

The original The Legend of Zelda debuted in Japan in 1986, and has become one of Nintendo’s most commercially and critically revered franchises. Nintendo is currently developing a Zelda game for its current home console, Wii U, while a remake of the Nintendo 64 title, The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask, will release this month for the Nintendo 3DS.

Nintendo likes to keep its own franchises squarely within the control of Nintendo, so this report comes as somewhat—OK, total—surprise. The last big live-action attempt made outside of Nintendo with one of the game company’s properties was the 1993 Super Mario Bros. film, which lives on in infamy as a bizarre and disappointing adaptation. Nintendo has shown reticence to turn its properties into films or TV shows since. An animated The Legend of Zelda series did air for 13 episodes in 1989, however—if anyone has said “Excuse me, princess,” to you, that show is the source.

The Zelda game series also has a unique setup for its story, as almost every game tells the story of a new character, often named Link, saving a new princess Zelda. Nintendo only recently released a timeline that put the stories in a chronological order, but each game’s story still often acts independent of the others. Presumably the series would tell the story of a young boy in a green tunic venturing out to save a princess, but Netflix would have dozens of art styles and variations of setting and story to choose from when creating their specific adaptation.

If it’s true, the series would be a huge step forward for Nintendo’s franchises crossing over into other mediums. There’s the issue that Link never really speaks in the games to overcome, but other than that, Zelda is perhaps the most accessible and easiest mainstay Nintendo franchise to adapt into a film or TV show, especially with the increase in fantasy-style shows like Game of Thrones and Outlander.

And if the rumored project never sees the light of day? Well, then Nintendo fans will still have to wait for whatever the Wii U version of Zelda offers.

Representatives for Nintendo did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

This article originally appeared on EW.com.

TIME Video Games

Katy Perry Is About to Get Her Own Mobile Game Like Kim Kardashian

Katy Perry at the Pepsi Super Bowl XLIV Halftime Show Press Conference in Phoenix on January 29, 2015
Mike Lawrie—Getty Images Katy Perry at the Pepsi Super Bowl XLIX Halftime Show Press Conference in Phoenix on Jan. 29, 2015

It'll be free to play for everyone with an iOS or Android device

This week, Katy Perry signed an exclusive, five-year partnership to create a free mobile game with Glu Mobile Inc, the mobile developers that created Kim Kardashian: Hollywood. The game will launch on iOS and Android platforms at the end of the year.

Details remain murky about the game’s content, but Glu says it will “introduce players to a digital playground of global success and talent,” according to a press release. With Perry selling over ten million albums and attracting over 60 million followers on Twitter, the 30-year-old’s game is already expected to be a hit like Kardashian’s.

“Katy is arguably the most recognized musician in America following her Super Bowl XLIX Halftime performance this past Sunday,” said Glu CEO Niccolo de Masi. “She is a cultural icon and we expect to translate key elements of her success into an innovative, highly entertaining mobile experience.”

Perry’s Super Bowl XLIX Halftime Show performance was broadcast to over 118 million people, drawing the highest number of viewers in the event’s history.

TIME Video Games

Over 45 Million Copies of Grand Theft Auto V Have Been Shipped

Grand Theft Auto V
Mario Tama—Getty Images A display copy of Grand Theft Auto V sits on a shelf at the 8 Bit & Up video games shop in New York City on Sept. 18, 2013.

10 million copies sold in the last two-and-a-half months

Grand Theft Auto V is on its way up the video game charts.

The Rockstar game has shipped over 45 million copies since its release in September 2013, with 10 million of those sold in the last two-and-a-half months following the game’s PlayStation 4 and Xbox One release, Engadget reported Tuesday.

It’s a massive sales figure, but not quite up to Grand Theft Auto V‘s sales following its initial release on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 — over 11 million units were sold within 24 hours, with Rockstar raking in over $1 billion in three days.

[Engadget]

TIME Video Games

Is It Really Time to Abandon Sony’s PlayStation Network?

Sony, Microsoft Sony's PlayStation 4 (upper-left) and Microsoft's Xbox One (lower-right).

Is Sony's PlayStation Network as terrible as some seem to think?

It’s tempting to view online services as perennial. You probably paid money for the privilege of using them, whatever the fine print you didn’t read actually says about availability, and you expect the vast province of interlinked devices we call the Internet to operate with the continuity of running water or electricity (never mind the number of power outages I’ve endured living in southeast Michigan).

When things go south, you get mad, the friends you wanted to play with are nonplussed, grumpy cat gets even grumpier–who isn’t fuming?

Thus when something like Sony’s PlayStation Network goes kaplooey, as it did at some point on Sunday, is it any surprise we’re seeing angry, hyperbolic, message-board-like news headlines? Writers jotting off zingers like “Why trust Sony ever again?”

Why indeed. But before we aim our collective invective at Sony or its online gaming peers, it’s helpful to review the pathology. Have Sony’s PSN outages crossed the Rubicon? Is it really time to cancel your online subscription? Maybe take your business across the aisle?

When people think of the PlayStation Network as unreliable, they’re really thinking about April 2011, a monumental mess wherein PSN collapsed and stayed down for nearly a month (followed by further hacks of other Sony services and embarrassing data leaks). Hackers attempted to snatch sensitive personal data, succeeding in pilfering vast troves of essentially innocuous names and addresses. The outage length–a record 23 days–was because Sony had to rethink its entire online security apparatus.

In late August 2014, the PlayStation Network as well as Sony Online Entertainment were briefly disrupted by a denial of service attack (the group responsible reportedly tweeted a bomb threat at SOE President John Smedley as he was flying to San Diego–the plane was consequently diverted to Phoenix). Microsoft’s Xbox Live was also disrupted during this period.

In early December 2014, Sony’s PlayStation Network as well as Sony Online Entertainment were once again briefly disrupted by a denial of service attack. Microsoft’s Xbox Live was also disrupted during this period.

In late December 2014, Sony’s PlayStation Network was unavailable for several days (including Christmas), apparently the victim of a malicious traffic-related disruption. Microsoft’s Xbox Live was similarly impacted.

In early February 2015, Sony’s PlayStation Network was briefly disrupted by another denial of service attack. (Microsoft’s Xbox Live went down briefly in late January–it’s still not clear why.)

Setting aside planned maintenance outages, Sony’s PlayStation Network has thus been unavailable as a result of nefarious activity less than a dozen times. Furthermore, Microsoft’s Xbox Live, while spared the colossal (and importantly, lingering) public shaming Sony endured back in 2011, has been down nearly as often. Both companies have attempted, in various ways, to compensate users for these outages.

Cognitive distortion can make molehills into mountains. The question, given the volatility of a global network susceptible to sudden malicious traffic missiles, is whether companies like Sony and Microsoft are over-promising availability, or whether consumers–obliged, in my view, to see more shrewdly through corporate hyperbole–need to take a dimmer view of what the Internet in 2015 can deliver. Denial of service attacks in 2015 remain a problem to which no company or service is immune.

I’m not apologizing for incompetence (where indeed incompetence can be proven), I’m just suggesting we’ve been sold a bill of goods about online dependability (in our minds, anyway–the fine print says otherwise) that can’t live entirely up to its claims. Not in 2015, anyway.

Is 98 or 99% availability the end of the world? I’m not so sure, though I’d definitely like to see companies like Sony and Microsoft level with us rolling forward, perhaps implementing an if-this-then-that remuneration clause, e.g. this much outage time equals that much compensatory service. At least you’d know the parameters going in.

TIME Video Games

Video Games Were Never a ‘Boys Club,’ and Never Will Be

Anita Sarkeesian
Alex Lazara—AP Anita Sarkeesian is seen with vintage video game machines in Minneapolis, Minn in 2013.

Lauren Janik is a lifelong gamer and a history student at Northwestern University.

A young female gamer on why sexism isn't keeping her away from video games and why activist Anita Sarkeesian is so important to her generation

When I was six years old, my mother caved to the hype and consented to buy her children a PlayStation. But she didn’t buy that console for some boy in the house, she bought it for three little girls, and nobody loved it more than me.

My parents regretted the purchase almost immediately; they couldn’t pry the controller out of my hands. My leisure hours were dedicated to ensuring that my sisters would never be able to beat me in a Crash Bandicoot Team Racing tournament for as long as we lived. My most devoted ‘Player 2’ multiplayer partner was my twin sister, so I never saw gaming as a community where girls didn’t belong. As I got older, I consumed all the games I could with fervor.

By late middle school, I began to notice stereotypes. I saw that female characters were shallow, empty, in constant danger. They were decorative, not active. I didn’t identify with them. I could only see myself in the heroes, who were—almost without exception—men. I tried not to let this bother me. Most of my friends were boys who shared my interests. If I brought up the gender disparities in games with them I was immediately shut down, so I only ever talked about it with my sister. Regardless of my occasional discomfort with the material and my ambivalent friend group, I kept playing because video games were still my life.

Sometime while I was busy playing Resident Evil or Final Fantasy VIII, video games developed a public reputation as ‘boys only.’ I would object, and be met with dismissals like, “Well you don’t have to play them.” When Xbox and PlayStation created their online networks, I didn’t feel compelled to join. I already had a teammate in my twin, and the online community felt unnecessary. Besides, it was common knowledge that the easy and anonymous way to communicate in those forums can foster some pretty nasty harassment against gamers perceived to be female. Video games are my favorite thing in the world; why would I want to color that enjoyment with the kind of negativity I was practically guaranteed to find there?

In the middle of this tension, Anita Sarkeesian introduced a Kickstarter campaign for her Youtube series, Tropes vs. Women in Video Games, that points out the harmful patterns of stereotyping, sexualizing and dehumanizing female characters in the medium. When Sarkeesian began posting videos for her series, it was like coming home to a community I’d never known existed. I knew plenty of women played video games, obviously—we’re everywhere. I didn’t know so many shared both my love and my frustration with video game culture. Sarkeesian’s project proved I wasn’t alone in the occasionally paradoxical state of gaming-while-girl.

Even before she’d released a single video, Sarkeesian’s Kickstarter pitch made her famous for all of the wrong reasons. Some select, noisy members of the gaming community decided they would rather torment her into silence than spend ten seconds listening to what she had to say. The torrential harassment she withstood from the anonymous masses was a baffling slap in the face to me. I, who was excited about the upcoming series, had never felt so unwelcome in a world that I’d lived in and loved forever. If a targeted, vigorous and frankly nauseating hate campaign was what awaited female gamers who weren’t completely silent about their discomfort, what did that mean for my future with my beloved consoles?

It’s only recently that we’ve learned the worst of what she’s endured. Last week she published her entire Twitter feed, from the week of Jan. 20 through 26, and it documents the incredible endurance of the three year campaign of hate aimed her way. As a fellow female gamer, my first reaction to all the despicable things said to Sarkeesian has been anger and disgust; my second has been to scratch my head, perplexed. Many of her detractors claim to be opposed to a feminist intrusion upon the sacred, unassailable bastion of masculinity that is video games. But until they circled the wagons, I never considered video games to be ‘no girls allowed.’

Sarkeesian’s videos exposed all the biases that made me privately cringe, but her measured analysis also exudes the same appreciation of a long and happy history with video games that I enjoyed. Why not try to improve upon a medium we already love? I’d sunk as much money and time into my PlayStation and Xbox as anyone else. Her series is a resource calling out injustices that make female gamers feel excluded from something that’s shaped our lives.

And as Sarkeesian says as a disclaimer to every video, “it’s both possible, and even necessary, to simultaneously enjoy media while also being critical of its more problematic or pernicious aspects.”

Sarkeesian’s detractors believe she’s messing where she doesn’t belong. They think that women shouldn’t try and impose their presence and will over video games. It’s these objections themselves that really baffle me, more than their venomous delivery. Women are not intruding upon the video gaming world. We’ve been here all along. I’ve played video games for more than 16 years. Does that make me a feminist insurgent? No. It makes me a millennial. The attackers on Twitter are fighting for ownership of a world that has never really belonged exclusively to anyone. Just ask all the men who will never beat me at Crash Team Racing.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Video Games

These Are the 50 Most Anticipated Video Games of 2015

Check out the biggest games coming to PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Wii U and 3DS this year

These are the biggest games for PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Wii U and the Nintendo 3DS due this year. Highlights include Bloodborne, The Legend of Zelda, Halo 5: Guardians and Batman: Arkham Knight.

  • Evolve

    Whoever put this Evolve trailer together did their best to make developer Turtle Rock Studios’ fire-breathing extraterrestrial monster frightening. It’s not (after you’ve seen you’re umpteenth Balrog-like, you’ve seen them all). But here’s what is: 4 vs. 1 cooperative play, meaning four players, each with unique abilities, who square off with a fifth player manipulating the deadly monster–a monster capable of “evolving” and becoming even more nightmarishly strong.

    PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Windows

    February 10

  • The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D

    Another New Nintendo 3DS launch title, Majora’s Mask 3D follows in Ocarina of Time 3D‘s footsteps: an enhanced remake of one of–if not the–best Zelda games in the series’ history. If Ocarina of Time was design legend Shigeru Miyamoto splicing cutesy storytelling with groundbreaking three-dimensional gameplay, Majora’s Mask is director Eiji Aonuma and Yoshiaki Koizumi’s edgier followup, pitting players against a leering, runaway celestial object and time itself.

    3DS

    February 13

  • Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate

    One of the first games to highlight the New Nintendo 3DS’s view-swivelable C-Stick, Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate kicks Capcom’s popular creature-stalking sim into vertical mode, allowing you to leap from ledges, climb walls and even grab-attack the new topographically-mindful monsters.

    3DS

    February 13

  • Kirby and the Rainbow Curse

    The latest Kirby platformer rolls Nintendo’s cutesy pink blob into a tiny ball, then sends him wheeling through colorful levels, guided by rainbow-like lines players draw on the Wii U GamePad’s touchscreen. Nintendo says the game will feature amiibo support for Kirby, as well as series regulars Meta Knight and King Dedede.

    Wii U

    February 20

  • The Order: 1886

    Imagine The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen by way of T.H. White’s The Once and Future King, staged in Victorian London, with dollops of Lovecraftian horror. Wrap all of that around a third-person shooter that’s like a gothic Gears of War, and the only question’s whether the gunplay–criticized as ho-hum in hands-on demos–can live up to the visually ambitious set design.

    PlayStation 4

    February 20

  • Screamride

    Screamride is how you take a boring-sounding (albeit popular) older franchise (Roller Coaster Tycoon) and transmogrify it into a madcap, stomach-upending, gravity-bending, structure-exploding jamboree. Want to cobble together jet-propelled rail rides so G-force intensive they eject shrieking riders mid-loop? Lob wrecking balls at towering structures that collapse in gloriously intricate detail on horrified passerby? This is the American Society for Testing and Materials’ worst nightmare.

    Xbox One

    March 3

  • Code Name: S.T.E.A.M.

    It’s a new turn-based strategy game from studio Intelligent Systems (Fire Emblem, Advance Wars, Paper Mario), and that’s enough to make this list, but Code Name: S.T.E.A.M. adds a steampunk setting, third-person gunnery and a use-or-hedge resource system to heighten its novelty.

    3DS

    March 13

  • Final Fantasy Type-0 HD

    Didn’t buy a PlayStation Portable? Or you did, but didn’t play this action roleplaying battle mashup when it first hit in 2011? Here’s your chance, then, to play a high-definition remaster of what many consider one of the best Final Fantasy games yet published by Square Enix.

    PlayStation 4, Xbox One

    March 17

  • Mario Party 10

    The first Mario Party game for Wii U (and tenth in the main series) adds two new modes: Bowser Party and amiibo Party. In Bowser Party, four players can square off with a fifth (Bowser), attempting to reach the end of a game board without being caught, while in amiibo Party, up to four players compete on game boards specially tailored for each figurine.

    Wii U

    March 20

  • Bloodborne

    Revered Demon’s Souls and Dark Souls developer From Software’s latest vamp on the existential abattoir maintains the concept’s combat-focused, risk-reward core, but refines how you do battle, lending you more agile combatants and Victorian-styled weapons capable of transformations that let you vary melee tactics to counter a broader range of combat scenarios.

    PlayStation 4

    March 24

  • Pillars of Eternity

    The first of the mega-successful crowdfunded video games financing-wise, Pillars of Eternity promises to indulge fans of games like Baldur’s Gate and Icewind Dale, an old-school fantasy world-building exercise flush with isometric 2D visuals, real-time tactical gameplay (with pausing) and some of the genre’s most famous names–Tim Cain, Chris Avellone and Josh Sawyer, to name just a few–at the design helm.

    Windows, OS X, Linux

    March 26

  • Mortal Kombat X

    Mortal Kombat X looks like a modest gameplay overhaul of developer NetherRealm Studios’ 2011 series reboot draped in next-gen visual finery, but it sports a few notable changes: you can now vamp on environmental variables to reshuffle your battle tactics, and characters have different move profiles that significantly alter how they fight.

    PlayStation 3/4, Xbox 360/One, Windows

    April 14

  • Mighty No. 9

    A Mega Man reboot by another name, Mighty No. 9 takes that classic 2D platforming game’s ideas–a robotic protagonist, clever weaponry and crazy end-level boss battles–and adds unique transformational abilities gathered from defeated enemies.

    PlayStation 3/4/Vita, Xbox 360/One, Wii U, 3DS, Windows, OS X, Linux

    April 2015

  • Xenoblade Chronicles

    One of the smartest roleplaying games in the genre’s history comes to the New Nintendo 3DS (and only to the New 3DS–it’ll be the first that taps the new handheld’s souped up processor). This is your chance to play what by all accounts looks to be the definitive version.

    New Nintendo 3DS

    April 2015

  • The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

    Two words: open world. That’s what sets roleplaying epic The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt apart from its celebrated predecessors: Polish developer CD Projekt Red turned heads when it described the game as roughly a full fifth larger, geographically speaking, than Bethesda’s vast Skyrim.

    PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Windows

    May 19

  • Splatoon

    Splatoon was one of the best things I played at E3 2014, both a whimsical sendup of carnage-laced competitive shooters and a clever rethink of the genre’s tropes. Imagine a 4 vs. 4 action game that lets you spray ink all over the screen like You Can’t Do That on Television‘s slime pumped through Super Soakers. The basic idea’s simple enough: whoever’s team covers the most square footage with their color of ink wins.

    Wii U

    May 2015

  • Batman: Arkham Knight

    The eponymous villain in developer Rocksteady’s third (and perhaps final) engagement of DC’s Batman mythos should hopefully breathe a little life into a series long overshadowed by the Joker. The biggest change, aside from the grander city and shift to newer platforms, is the inclusion of the Batmobile, like a grimmer versions of Ratchet & Clank, in which you shift between Batman and his ride to solve puzzles or augment battle tactics.

    PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Windows

    June 2

  • Adr1ft

    Everyone’s comparing 505 Games’ Adr1ft to Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity, because both involve someone in orbit floating through the wreckage of who-knows-what. Best case scenario? We’ll get to play a video game that one-ups Cuaron’s Gravity (which needlessly mangled basic scientific principles) by making rigorous physics per the hostile extremes of orbital space the game’s unremitting antagonist.

    PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Windows

    TBD 2015

  • Below

    The characters and creatures in Capybara Games’ Below seem awfully tiny, but assuming you can zoom in (so you won’t go blind playing this thing), exploring a new, highly dangerous, permanent death-threatening game world designed by the studio responsible for Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP is more than enough to draw my attention.

    Xbox One

    TBD 2015

  • Cuphead

    And now, something totally different: a platforming game–emphasis on run-and-gun with elaborate boss battles–that looks like an early 20th century cartoon. Cuphead sports hand-drawn visuals, mono-mastered (original) swing tunes and a protagonist with a candy cane drinking straw stuck in his porcelain brainpan. Who knows how it’ll play, but I could watch for hours.

    Xbox One

    TBD 2015

  • Deep Down

    Jump to the 4:25 mark in the video above to see developer Capcom Online Games’ original tease for Deep Down back in 2013, an extraordinary-looking dungeon crawler (even then) with optional multiplayer elements. It’s had to endure a barrage of presumptive comparisons to Dark Souls, but there are worse things, right?

    PlayStation 4

    TBD 2015

  • Disgaea 5: Alliance of Vengeance

    Grander than any Disgaea game to date, developer Nippon Ichi Software’s recalibrated tactical roleplaying adventure will reportedly feature bigger battles (up to 100 characters on screen at once, courtesy the PS4) and new combat wrinkles, including team-up maneuvers.

    PlayStation 4

    TBD 2015

  • Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture

    End of world stories are as cliched as Adam and Eve potboilers (we’re nothing if not species-obsessed with alpha/omega narratives). But this one’s by Dear Esther creator The Chinese Room (they’re actually located in Brighton, U.K.), and so worthy of notice–an existential “adventure” examining the lives of six people living in the English village of Shropshire as the apocalypse unfolds.

    PlayStation 4

    TBD 2015

  • Fable Legends

    Like Turtle Rock Studios’ asymmetric shooter Evolve, Fable Legends is a 4 (heroes) vs. 1 (villain) cooperative roleplaying game that borrows lightly from Bullfrog’s Dungeon Keeper. Up to four players tackle quests orchestrated by a villain (also optionally a player), including the battles, in which the villain can deploy creatures against the heroes in realtime.

    Xbox One

    TBD 2015

  • Fire Emblem

    The newest Fire Emblem game by the team behind Fire Emblem: Awakening (the most celebrated in the turn-based strategy Fire Emblem series) promises to marry global movement and local battle maps, while making your narrative choices more impactful.

    3DS

    TBD 2015

  • Halo 5: Guardians

    While the 2013 E3 trailer for “Halo on Xbox One” was about cinematically teasing Halo 5: Guardians, 2014’s “your journey begins” was all about the forwards-looking-backwards Master Chief Collection. Having remastered the series, Microsoft and developer 343 Industries will take the next inexorable step in Halo’s second trilogy, though experienced through the eyes of a new protagonist, Spartan Locke, searching for the missing-in-action Master Chief.

    Xbox One

    TBD 2015

  • Hyper Light Drifter

    What if hack-and-slash Diablo looked like an 8-bit console game and felt like playing a Studio Ghibli movie? Hyper Light Drifter sounds and looks just weird enough to maybe (just maybe) pull off that nostalgia-mashup trifecta.

    PlayStation 4/Vita, Xbox One, Wii U, Ouya, Windows, OS X, Linux

    TBD 2015

  • Inside

    Developer Playdead’s Limbo was a lovely little chiaroscuro-friendly puzzle game that sort of collapsed the second you went probing for deeper import. Their followup, Inside, looks to be a far more elaborate vamp on the dystopian platforming trope, at times appearing to take cues from Delphine Software’s groundbreaking Out of This World.

    Xbox One

    TBD 2015

  • The Legend of Zelda

    Tantamount to last year’s Wii U-saving Mario Kart 8, The Legend of Zelda is Nintendo’s most elevated of games, expectation-wise, this year. Teased at E3 last year and again in December, the first console-based Zelda game since 2011’s Skyward Sword for Wii looks to be Nintendo’s take on the open world genre, dropping you into a vast fantasy world while at the same time subverting many of the series’ tropes.

    Wii U

    TBD 2015

  • Let It Die

    Thought it metamorphosed from one game (Lily Bergamo) to another at E3 last year, developer Grasshopper Manufacture’s original hack-and-slash, extreme action, online-focused premise appears intact. The difference appears to lie in the way death works, prompting dispatched players to trade roles as they transition between sessions, and culling non-player characters from players’ deceased avatars.

    PlayStation 4

    TBD 2015

  • Mario Maker

    Want to build your own side-scrolling Super Mario Bros. levels? Skin those levels to look like different Mario games, from the NES’s glory 8-bit days to the Wii U’s slick, high definition New Super Mario Bros. U? Do all that from the comfort and convenience of the Wii U GamePad? Share your levels with others online?

    Wii U

    TBD 2015

  • Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain

    The exploitable A.I. in Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes pretty much broke the prequel/demo for me. Stealth-gaming entree Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain promises to deliver smarter enemies and a game world “200 times” that of Ground Zeroes…with a commensurate helping of director Hideo Kojima’s maddeningly (if often ingeniously) esoteric storytelling.

     

    PlayStation 3/4, Xbox 360/One, Windows

    TBD 2015

  • No Man’s Sky

    In your imagination, open universe ambler No Man’s Sky really is as infinite as developer Hello Games keeps boasting, giving you an endless, procedurally generated cosmos to plumb (and enough to do that you’ll never tire of doing it). In reality, no one has the faintest idea whether all the game’s random-seeded vastness is going to be beautifully significant, or astronomically shallow. Fingers triple-crossed, then.

    PlayStation 4

    TBD 2015

  • Ori and the Blind Forest

    Moon Studios’ otherworldly platforming adventure has so far trafficked exclusively on its sublime Miyazakian look, but if the sidewise leaping, clambering and puzzling live up to the set design, this could easily be one of 2015’s finest.

    Xbox One

    TBD 2015

  • Persona 5

    Developer Atlus’ fifth “high school shindig plus dungeon reconnoitering” roleplayer has enormous shoes to fill, after Persona 4 made just about everyone’s “best roleplaying game in forever” list. All we know about Persona 5 is that–weirdly but also intriguingly–director Katsura Hashino’s been pitching the game as an interactive self-help experience.

    PlayStation 4

    TBD 2015

  • Quantum Break

    Quantum Break is studio Remedy Entertainment’s next big thing after bringing us Max Payne and Alan Wake: a third-person adventure about three characters who gain the ability to manipulate time in various ways, say examining the future to better inform present choices, or freezing temporal activity entirely.

    Xbox One

    TBD 2015

  • Ratchet & Clank

    Alas, Sony has released neither a trailer nor screens of its upcoming Ratchet & Clank reboot (until then, you’ll have to settle for the film trailer above, first shown at E3 last year). What do we know about the game? That it’s essentially a remake of the original, released back in 2002 for the PlayStation 2, updated to take advantage of the PS4’s oomph and coincide with the film’s arrival sometime later this year.

    PlayStation 4

    TBD 2015

  • Rise of the Tomb Raider

    Studio Crystal Dynamics’ followup to 2013’s Tomb Raider is technically a timed exclusive (meaning it’ll eventually land on PC and PS4), but that may be all Microsoft needs to move systems in 2015 given the plaudits accorded the reboot.

    Xbox One

    TBD 2015

  • Shroud of the Avatar: Forsaken Virtues

    The latest Ultima by another name, Shroud of the Avatar: Forsaken Virtues is Richard Garriott’s return to epic computer roleplaying, a crowdfunded (and developed), episodic (five total), Ultima Online-like, optionally offline (with a solo story mode) fantasy reapplication of Garriott’s respected design principles.

    Windows, OS X, Linux

    TBD 2015

  • Space Engineers

    The glib-sounding pitch for Space Engineers seems to be “Minecraft in space.” That’s not my takeaway from the trailer (or the formal description, which sounds much narrower than Minecraft‘s freeform LEGO riffing, focused as it is on the “engineering, construction, and maintenance of structures in space.”) But I’ll grant this: it does look considerably nicer than Mojang’s opus.

    Xbox One

    TBD 2015

  • StarCraft II: Legacy of the Void

    Blizzard’s third and final Starcraft II real-time strategy installment, Legacy of the Void adds the alien Protoss to the mix (following humans and Zerg) as well as the latest multiplayer/eSports bells and whistles. Look for the public beta to launch sometime this year.

    Windows, OS X

    TBD 2015

  • Star Fox

    Nintendo hasn’t released videos or stills of its upcoming Star Fox game for Wii U–the brief above is of various putatively related mini-games–but I was one of a few allowed to go hands-on with an experimental version at E3 last summer. Still a spaceship-based shooter, the demo had me use the GamePad’s motion sensors to aim my Arwing’s weapons, simultaneously controlling the craft by thumbing the joysticks to accelerate or turn and pull off signature moves like barrel rolls, loops and the tactically essential Immelman turn. And the Arwing could still morph into a land tank, rocketing down to the surface of a planet, then rattling around the battlefield and laying waste to the landscape.

    Wii U

    TBD 2015

  • That Dragon, Cancer

    Unless you’ve had a child diagnosed with a terminal illness and lived through years of that process playing out, it’s impossible to grasp the magnitude of heartbreak involved, but the parents of just such a child are designing a game about their experience, as both a testament to their son’s life, and a way to help us understand.

    Ouya, Windows

    TBD 2015

  • Tom Clancy’s The Division

    Another epic angle on Ubisoft’s recent obsession with open-world games, The Division imagines a The Stand-like disease upending civilization, and a group of U.S. sleeper agents–trained to respond to just such a breakdown–emerging to do battle (in third-person) against the forces responsible for the virus’s deployment.

    PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Windows

    TBD 2015

  • Torment: Tides of Numenera

    Torment: Tides of Numenera takes its name from roleplaying touchstone Planescape: Torment, bringing a fantasy world designed by Dungeons & Dragons heavyweight Monte Cook to life wrapped in an isometric engine, tabletop-like rules and a trippy, existentially complex story set in a distant, earthbound, science-fantasy future.

    Windows, OS X, Linux

    TBD 2015

  • Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End

    Since Uncharted series mainstay Amy Hennig abruptly left developer Naughty Dog last year, I’ve been worried about Nate and Sully’s fourth tour of duty. The game looks as terrific as you’d expect it to in preliminary gameplay videos, so the question’s whether the series’ conventions–another “lost treasure” adventure, clambering over elaborate scenery (mostly on autopilot in the prior games) and relentlessly gunning down hordes of foes–haven’t overstayed their welcome.

    PlayStation 4

    TBD 2015

  • Volume

    Robin Hood meets Metal Gear Solid meets Andy Serkis, who in fact plays one of the characters (Gisborne) in developer Mike Bithell’s anticipated followup to Thomas Was Alone.

    PlayStation 4/Vita, Windows, OS X

    TBD 2015

  • The Witness

    In development for years, creator Jonathan Blow’s followup to Braid looks like a straightforward puzzle game–a maze-like island divided into subsections that players explore, where each puzzle doubles as a teaching tool for later puzzles–that apparently conceals anything but straightforward things.

    PlayStation 4, Windows, iOS

    TBD 2015

  • Xenoblade Chronicles X

    There’s no more anticipated game than Xenoblade Chronicles X in 2015’s lineup, across every platform, for me. It may lack Halo 5 or Uncharted 4‘s star power and broader genre appeal, but I’d nonchalantly throw those games under a bus to play this one. (That is, assuming developer Monolith’s crafted something as vast, dynamic and compulsive as Xenoblade Chronicles–we’ll see.)

    Wii U

    TBD 2015

  • Yoshi’s Woolly World

    As yarn to Kirby, so wool to Yoshi: Yoshi’s Woolly World takes that notion–inflecting conventional platforming ideas with knitting materials–and wraps it around Nintendo’s iconic dinosaur. More than a visual re-skinning of the Yoshi’s Island series, Yoshi’s Woolly World imbues Yoshi with filament-manipulating abilities, including an entourage of colorific, puzzle-solving yarn balls.

    Wii U

    TBD 2015

TIME Video Games

This Is the Most Exciting Star Wars Development Yet

You can now fly X-Wings and the Millennium Falcon

Arcades aren’t quite dead yet, at least according to Disney and Bandai Namco. The two companies have launched an immersive new Star Wars arcade game called Star Wars: Battle Pod that lets players pilot iconic vehicles like the Millennium Falcon, an X-Wing, and Darth Vader’s TIE Advanced. The massive, 1200-pound cabinet features a 18-degree curved screen, as well as a chair that rumbles on impact and air blasts to mimic flight. The game recounts specific, iconic scenes like the Battle of Hoth (yes, you can fly a Snowspeeder) and the destruction of the Death Star II. Check out the video above for some behind-the-scenes footage of the development of the game.

Star Wars: Battle Pod launched in U.S. arcades this January and will arrive in other countries later in the year. Those who can’t manage to find one of these beauties out in the wild will have to be content playing the still-excellent Rogue Squadron for Nintendo 64.

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