TIME Video Games

The Absolute Best Games for Your New Computer, Console or Mobile Device

Experience: HALO by Xbox 360
Getty Image—2012 Getty Images Master Chief stands guard at the Liechtenstein border during the HALO 4 launch by Xbox 360 on October 29, 2012 in Balzers, Liechtenstein.

No matter what kind of system you got (for yourself or otherwise), here's what to check out first

This is a big weekend for video games, perhaps the biggest of the year, as devices of all kinds come out of their shrink wrap begging to be put to the test. Even with the outages plaguing online services run by Microsoft and Sony respectively, there’s a lot of fun to be had. Maybe you got some software with your new hardware. Maybe you’re thinking about getting more. If that’s the case, here are some good places to start:

If you got a Playstation 4…

Start with The Last of Us Remastered. Why?

You appreciate finely crafted storytelling, you love tenterhooks survival horror games with light stealth elements and a dash of third-person shooting, or you just want to experience one of the finest explorations of the way a relationship can work in an interactive game.

For the rest of the PS4 list, click here.

If you got an Xbox One…

Check out Sunset Overdrive, developer Insomniac’s first try at an open world game, tapping the same screwball vein as its Ratchet & Clank series, only with a grownup twist. Imagine a punk-informed quasi-parkour game by way of a zany skateboarding simulation by way of a metropolis-sized circus playground that knowingly winks at you as it periodically deconstructs itself. For more Xbox One titles, click here.

If you got a PC (or Mac with Bootcamp)…

It’ll really depend on what kind of system you bought, whether it’s a graphical powerhouse, a laptop, et cetera. Whatever the case, you can’t go wrong with Blizzard’s Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft, which will run on a wide range of hardware. As the developer’s 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. For a longer list of great PC games, click here.

If you got a Wii U…

First, you probably haven’t experienced the outages Xbox and Playstation owners may have. Congrats! Begin with a remastered classic, The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD. Here’s what critics said about it: “…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). For more, click here.

If you got a 3DS…

Pick up Shovel Knight, which is also available on a wide variety of other platforms. This title will scratch the itch if you miss the 8-bit NES aesthetic or you want to play the apotheosis of the best side-scrolling, platforming games popularized by Nintendo’s breakthrough 1980s system. For more 3DS games, click here.

And if you got an ‘i’-anything…

Start with TIME’s best game of 2014, 80 Days, of which reviewer Matt Peckham wrote:

80 Days is less about gameplay subversion than stylish, thoughtful immersion, employing a beloved genre–interactive fiction–to set you loose in a reimagined, politically contemplative rendering of Jules Verne’s novel Around the World in 80 Days. Here be mechanical golems, underseas trains and steam-powered creatures as you traverse a game world (designed by a British-Indian woman) that doubles as trenchant commentary on the nature of colonialism.

For a full list of the year’s best games, click here.

TIME Video Games

Xbox Recovers From Christmas Hack, PlayStation Still Down Down

Microsoft’s Xbox Live was “up and running” on Friday while Sony Corp’s PlayStation remained offline for a second day after a hacker group claimed responsibility for attacking the two Internet gaming services.

Thousands of people on Christmas Day reported problems with both gaming systems, and Microsoft and Sony said they were scrambling to fix the problem. “Some users were unable to sign in to Xbox Live. Our teams worked to resolve the issue,” Microsoft told CNBC on Friday.

The networks, which allow users of the popular consoles to play the video games with a wider online community, first crashed on Wednesday evening and the problems persisted into Friday morning…

Read the rest of the story from our partners at NBC News

TIME Video Games

These Are the Best Christmas Video Game Deals

Titanfall
Respawn Entertainment Titanfall

Titanfall can be had for only $10

This story was originally published at the Daily Dot.

You can shop for a gamer on Christmas without feeling like a last-minute procrastinator because you totally meant to wait until Dec. 25 for the good sales, right?

Here’s a roundup of all the best games, at the best prices, that you can buy today for the gamer(s) in your life — or yourself! Just get them a gift card for the appropriate online service and say “This is meant for you to buy [name of game].”

Origin

Electronic Arts’s digital distribution platform, Origin, is offering Dragon Age: Inquisition for $40. At about 200 hours’ worth of gaming, Inquisition is worth every penny of the original $60 asking price. Paying $40 instead for Inquisition is a really good deal.

Titanfall is $10 on Origin. This is the best shooter running on any platform, bar none, defined by innovative gameplay mechanics like mechs that really feel like extensions of their pilots, some of the smoothest parkour running that any shooter has pulled off, and an evacuation mechanic in which the losers run for a dropship pickup and grasp a taste of victory from the jaws of defeat.

Titanfall is amazing. So is a $10 asking price. You can also get the Deluxe Edition, which includes four map packs with map designs that are incredibly balanced and fun, for $24, which is also a great price…

Read the rest of the story at the Daily Dot.

TIME Video Games

4 Video Games That Could Be Olympic Sports

Running, swimming...Super Smash Bros.?

Over the years, the Olympics have chosen to include some pretty odd sports: Tandem bicycle sprints, pistol dueling and live pigeon shooting have all at one time or another been official Olympic sports.

But Olympic video gaming?

That’s not as crazy as it sounds, says Rob Pardo, formerly lead designer on games like Blizzard’s World of Warcraft and Starcraft: Brood War. Pardo told the BBC Wednesday “there’s a very good argument for e-sports being in the Olympics,” citing the rising popularity of video games as a spectator sport.

“I think the way that you look at e-sports is that it’s a very competitive skillset and you look at these professional gamers and the reflexes are lightning quick and their having to make very quick decisions on the fly,” Pardo said.

But which video games are worthy of Olympic competition? Here are four titles the International Olympic Committee might want to consider:

1. Call of Duty

The Call of Duty series has worldwide appeal, meaning no particular country would have a crazy advantage right off the bat (we’re lookin’ at you, U.S. Men’s Basketball Team). It’s also a game that, believe it or not, is pretty fun to watch other people play — especially when they’re really good.

Oh, and professional and semi-pro Call of Duty: Ghost players have already racked up nearly $1.5 million in competitive prize money, according to esportsearnings.com.

2. Dota 2

Dota 2 is the closest the Olympics might ever get to an actual Thunderdome — many teams enter, only one team leaves. It’s a multiplayer slice-and-dice battle arena game that can see 800,000 people playing worldwide at the same time during peak times.

There’s more strategy involved in Dota 2 than you might think at first, so once you understand what’s going on, it’s pretty entertaining to watch — kinda like curling. Competitive Dota 2 players have made a whopping $24.5 million in prize money, topping esportsearnings.com’s list.

3. League of Legends

Like Dota 2, League of Legends is an online multiplayer battle game, with nearly 27 million players logging on each day. In every new match, each player starts off fairly weak, then levels up to gain strength before taking on opposing players. It’s among the best choices for an Olympic sport because there’s already a massive competitive scene for it — professional League of Legends leagues have popped up in North America, Europe and across Asia, where the game’s particularly popular.

League of Legends players have made $18.7 million in prize money, says esportsearnings.com.

4. Super Smash Bros. Melee

The Super Smash Bros. games are among the only titles where it’s almost more fun to watch people play than actually play yourself. A perennial Nintendo classic, players choose from favorite characters like Mario, Peach, Pikachu and Kirby to do button-mashing battle with their rivals.

While Smash doesn’t have quite the competitive scene these other games do, it would be tremendously fun to watch people smashing Wii U buttons in a quest for Olympic gold.

TIME Video Games

The 15 Best Video Games of 2014

From old school platformers to the very best mobile titles, these are the best video games of 2015, and perfect for last-minute holiday shopping

  • 15. Far Cry 4

    Ubisoft

    Surviving Ubisoft’s superlative Far Cry 4 (reviewed here) often feels abrupt, slightly mad and sequentially unhinged. It’s you in a jam band, an improvisatory celebration of net-less oneupmanship (versus your own best performances) as you vector from mission to mission. It’s like playing pinball, lured off course by too-cool-to-ignore distractions, bounding into bedlam with the fleet-footedness of a huntsman by way of an exuberant toddler.

  • 14. Velocity 2X

    Velocity 2X
    FuturLab

    A shoot-em-up meets a platforming game meets a stopwatch with a stick, Velocity 2X thrills and punishes and ultimately delights. Want to zip a spaceship through vertical obstacle-riddled levels that require precision execution of unique button sequences? Fold those split-second demands into a sidescrolling maze of daises, chutes and teleportation portals? Alternate between both in levels that unfurl like nested lines of code, shifting from one to the other like a crazy interstellar duathlon? Then play Velocity 2X.

  • 13. Sunset Overdrive

    Microsoft

    Sunset Overdrive (reviewed here) taps the same screwball vein as developer Insomniac’s Ratchet & Clank series, only with a grownup twist. Imagine a punk quasi-parkour game by way of a zany skateboarding simulation by way of a metropolis-sized circus playground that wants you to know it knows it’s a nerd-power fantasy. Think Tony Hawk meets Sam Raimi crossed with Sid Vicious multiplied by pinball.

  • 12. Never Alone

    Upper One Games

    In Upper One Games’ haunting, folkloric puzzle-platformer Never Alone, you alternate between Nuna, a resourceful Inupiat girl, and an ethereal arctic fox, exploring a blizzard-assailed landscape unpacked through multigenerational Alaskan myths. The gameplay–classic leaping, climbing and superb partner-related puzzling framed by gorgeous otherworldly scenery–dovetails with the game’s indelible story, enhanced by video vignettes (narrated by tribal members) that presage and illuminate each task.

  • 11. Valiant Hearts: The Great War

    Ubisoft

    At once whimsical and horrifying, Ubisoft’s Valiant Hearts: The Great War–a contemplative sidescrolling adventure–explores gradually interlinked story threads laid across the brutal sweep of the world’s first imperialist implosion. And it does so by way of superbly crafted hodgepodge, allowing you to, among other things: sneak across moonlit barbed-wired battlefields, square off with German bomber planes, delve beneath cratered battlefields in search of the lost, amputate limbs in makeshift hospitals and race through explosive Parisian boulevards brilliantly synchronized to Brahms’ Hungarian Dance No. 5.

  • 10. Shovel Knight

    Shovel Knight
    Yacht Club Games

    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.

  • 9. Monument Valley

    Monument Valley
    Ustwo

    Making the impossible possible, Monument Valley celebrates non-Euclidean geometry, beautifully bizarre architecture and the art of silent storytelling. Combine royalty with optical trickery, trajectory-fiddling with bonsai pruning, aesthetic contemplation with tactile interaction and you wind up with something like designer ustwo’s delightful, enigmatic puzzler.

  • 8. Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor

    Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor
    Interactive Entertainment/Warner Bros

    In Shadow of Mordor, developer Monolith fashions a Middle-earth playground that finally works. You play as Talion, an undead Gondorian ranger merged with a wraith-like entity and endowed with supernatural abilities. The game’s unusually clever and hierarchically organized enemy orcs as well as Batman Arkham series-inspired combat dovetail brilliantly, producing something that shines with or without the Tolkien license.

  • 7. Mario Kart 8

    Mario Kart 8
    Nintendo

    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 (reviewed here) 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.

  • 6. Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft

    Blizzard

    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.

  • 5. Dark Souls II

    Dark Souls II
    From Software

    A game that celebrates the notion of death as strategic outlook, Dark Souls II is less an improvement on its predecessors than a superlative alternate take. It rejiggers its rules in ways that echo through its combat subsystems, revitalizing the approaches you can take as you hew to its otherwise familiar approach-study-fight-die-repeat formula.

  • 4. Dragon Age: Inquisition

    Bioware / EA

    Dragon Age: Inquisition (reviewed here) is Bioware finally world-building with the mythic sweep of a Peter Jackson or Todd Howard, cultivating a sleek, reimagined, wildly blown up rendition of writer David Gaider’s fantasy preserve that feels at once grander and more holistic, a world whose craftsmanship you can admire and at points obsess over and occasionally even gawp at. If Dragon Age II was a weird, turtling retreat to button-mashy, bam-pow brawls in a village-sized city patched together from generic, recycled components, Dragon Age: Inquisition feels like the yang to its yin. On an epic scale.

  • 3. This War of Mine

    11 Bit Studios

    How do you craft a game that conveys the insanity of war as well as the plight of wartime survivors dislocated by the chaos, all while keeping the gameplay connected to the narrative and the allegory unforced? This War of Mine manages both with unflinching elegance and a grimly poetic pulse. It drops you into harrowing survival scenarios that keep you clicking to assuage your survivors’ physiological and mental needs, but at the expense of no-win moral choices that illuminate the demoralizing, identity-scrubbing plight of civilians trapped in conflict zones.

  • 2. Alien: Isolation

    Alien: Isolation
    The Creative Assembly

    You, a derelict space station, platoons of deranged androids and one relentless, homicidal, agile, terrifyingly perceptive xenomorph. Creative Assembly’s hulking orbital haunted house may be the most frightening game of hide-and-seek ever made. It’s also a stunning homage to Alien film artists H.R. Giger and Ron Cobb’s conceptual work, a chance to inhabit and scrutinize the world they and director Ridley Scott created in 1979 as if it in fact existed.

  • 1. 80 Days

    inkle 80 Days

    80 Days is less about gameplay subversion than stylish, thoughtful immersion, employing a beloved genre–interactive fiction–to set you loose in a reimagined, politically contemplative rendering of Jules Verne’s novel Around the World in 80 Days. Here be mechanical golems, underseas trains and steam-powered creatures as you traverse a game world (designed by a British-Indian woman) that doubles as trenchant commentary on the nature of colonialism.

TIME Video Games

The Best iPhone Games You Should Play This Week

Apple iPhone 6
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 in Germany on September 19, 2014 in Berlin, Germany.

Manipulate the fabric of time with TimeCube

Had enough Candy Crush and looking for something new to play on your iPhone? We rounded up some favorites worth a download this week. Have fun!

Looney Tunes Dash!

For those who loved Space Jam in the 90s, or who grew up watching the original Looney Tunes, or even for children whose parents seem oddly attached to cartoon animals, Looney Tunes Dash! is a brilliant way to relive the very best parts of childhood.

The goal of Dash is to run through levels playing as your favorite characters, completing missions, and unlocking even more of your favorite cartoon memories. It’s a charming and well-designed game that works on levels beyond simple nostalgia.

Looney Tunes Dash! is free in the App Store.

Poo Flingers

With all the charm of something called Poo Flingers, you wouldn’t expect a game that’s so much fun to play. Train an army of poo-flinging monkeys and attack enemy fleets with feces. Hit your foes with poo to knock them off pegs in the jungle to defeat them. Choose from a variety of weapons and powerups in order to strengthen your monkeys.

Think Plants vs. Zombies but with monkeys in trees and, well, poo.

Poo Flingers is $1.99 in the App Store.

Squares

A lot like the much-loved game Simon, Squares is based on players’ ability to react and detect which square is different on a screen of nearly-identical squares. The goal is simple: tap the different square. However, the display can be customized with different colors as the challenge of hitting the right square increases. This heavily addicting game can be played more or less on an infinite loop.

Squares is free in the App Store.

Brothers in Arms 3: Sons of War

For those who still miss the original Call of Duty and the old Medal of Honor series, Brothers in Arms 3 is a fine fill-in. A WW2 shooter in which players cycle between an arsenal of classic weapons as you shoot at Nazis and duck for cover, Brothers in Arms lets you take your platoon into enemy territory and call in airstrikes or mortar fire so you can complete your mission.

Brothers in Arms 3: Sons of War is free in the App Store.

TimeCube

Perhaps one day we will be able to slip through a wormhole, but until then we can sit on the subway and play TimeCube on our iPhones. You don’t control your character, but you control the time around it. Learning how to manipulate gameplay time will allow you to navigate obstacles and opponents. Gamplay is not complex, but the idea is entertaining enough on its own to keep you playing.

TimeCube is free in the App Store.

READ NEXT These 4 Must-Get iPhone Apps Are On Sale Right Now

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TIME Video Games

Minecraft Is Getting a Story Mode

Minecraft
Miles Willis—2014 Getty Images Young racegoers play in a Minecraft tournament during Ascot Dubai Duty Free Shergar Cup and Concert at Ascot Racecourse on August 9, 2014 in Ascot, England.

It's a big change for a normally open-ended game

This article was originally published on the Daily Dot.

The developer of Minecraft has partnered with another high-profile company on a major expansion to the popular online game.

Telltale Games on Thursday announced the development of Minecraft: Story Mode. Minecraft developer Mojang presented the news through a mini-game called Info Quest II.

Telltale is tapping into a game that is already rich in non-traditional narrative. Minecraft is about making your own stories—as in literally constructing them from the raw materials given to you by a world seed. The slew of popular Minecraft “Let’s Play” videos are all player-created stories; “Let’s Play” live-streams construct the story right before the viewer’s eyes.

Read the rest of the story from our partners at the Daily Dot

Read next: The Xbox One Just Beat the PlayStation 4 for the First Time in Months

TIME Nintendo

Duck Hunt Will Land On Nintendo’s Wii U on Christmas Day

Duck Hunt
Nintendo Duck Hunt

No plastic gun this time

Nintendo has a retro Christmas gift in store for people who own its Wii U console.

Duck Hunt, the legendary fowl-hunting, gun-slinging game originally released for the Nintendo Entertainment System in 1985, is coming to Nintendo’s newest console on Dec. 25. The game will be downloadable on the Wii U’s virtual console, which brings classic Nintendo titles to the system.

The Wii U version of Duck Hunt replaces Nintendo’s classic light gun accessory with the Wii Remote, which players use to shoot birds or clay pigeons bouncing around their screen.

“Test your sharp-shooting skills as your targets take flight in this legendary NES classic,” reads Nintendo’s press release. “Be quick to knock them out of the skies, or your canine companion won’t hesitate to make you the laughing stock of hunters.”

TIME Video Games

Sony and Microsoft’s Newest Battlefield: China

Xbox One PlayStation 4
Robyn Beck—AFP/Getty Images Attendees walk between signs for Sony PlayStation and Microsoft XBox on the first day of the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) in Los Angeles, California, June 11, 2013.

A new front has opened in the console wars

The Chinese video game market is in for a major shake-up. Two of Sony’s mega-popular consoles, PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita, will be sold in China starting next month, the company announced Thursday. Sony’s move comes three months after Microsoft debuted its Xbox One in China.

Why did it take so long for Chinese gamers to get the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One? For 14 years, China banned video game consoles over fears violent games would lead to moral decay. That ban was just lifted in January, opening the door for Sony and Microsoft.

China’s ban didn’t totally eliminate consoles there — a grey market of smuggled and home-grown consoles has long existed there. But analysts say the rule caused China’s gaming market to be dominated by PC and mobile games. That means Sony and Microsoft now have to convince Chinese gamers they should buy a console, too.

Sony and Microsoft could be in for a windfall if they can turn China’s gamers into console jockeys. Lewis Ward, research director of gaming at IDC, said his firm found that China’s current console penetration rate is in the “single digits.” But given China’s 1.3 billion-person population, that low rate actually translates into millions of potential customers already — and that’s before the companies’ marketing machines kick into action.

“In PC [gaming], you have Internet games like Starcraft, Warcraft and Defense of the Ancients. So how [do Sony and Microsoft] win back those groups?” said Roger Sheng, a Shanghai-based consumer electronics research director at Gartner.

The answer lies not in hardware, but in software. Game selection will be biggest reason a Chinese gamer decides to buy a PlayStation 4 (RMB2,899, or $468), an Xbox One (RMB3,699, or $598) or any other game console, analysts said. But while China is letting foreign consoles through the front door, whether or not they can bring along Call of Duty or Titanfall is another question. Each game sold in the country has to win the hard-to-earn approval of China’s Ministry of Culture, which prohibits everything from blood to touchy political topics.

“[Xbox One’s and PlayStation 4’s] prices are similar enough — both of them are expensive for a typical consumer in China,” said Lisa Hanson, managing partner at Niko Partners, an Asian games research firm. “The tricky regulatory landscape is always the biggest barrier to success for foreign companies in China.”

The key for Sony and Microsoft, analysts say, is for them to build partnerships with Chinese game makers, who enjoy pre-existing relationships with regulators and whose games have already passed the lengthy approval process. For now, Sony and Microsoft can entice Chinese developers to port their pre-approved games to the Xbox and PlayStation. If consoles take off with Chinese gamers, local developers are likely to start making dedicated games for them.

When it comes to building relationships and selling games in China, Sony has a leg up on Microsoft: As a Japanese company, it’s geographically and culturally closer to China than its American rival Microsoft. That means many Chinese gamers are already more familiar with Sony’s titles, a big advantage for the company. Sony hasn’t said which PlayStation games it’s bringing to China, but Microsoft is so far only selling 10 — a sign it might be having trouble connecting to the Chinese audience. Sony is also leading in terms of developer partners, with 26 to Microsoft’s 13.

Ultimately, the small size of Microsoft’s current catalog combined with the Xbox’s higher price may give Sony the edge in the Chinese console wars, analysts said.

“[Xbox’s catalog size] is bordering on negligence — I assume Sony is going to have a significantly larger catalog than that,” Ward said. “Make no mistake, people buy consoles because of the games.”

TIME Video Games

The Xbox One Just Beat the PlayStation 4 for the First Time in Months

Xbox One
Johannes Eisele—AFP/Getty Images A control of a Microsoft's Xbox One game console is pictured in a shop in Shanghai on September 29, 2014.

A strong lineup and holiday deals helped seal Xbox One's record month

Xbox One consoles sold at a record-breaking pace in November, Microsoft claimed Thursday, citing data from research firm NPD. The Xbox One also unseated the reigning champ of the console market — Sony’s Playstation 4 — for the first time in nearly a year.

Sales of Microsoft’s latest console were buoyed by a strong lineup of new gaming titles and aggressive Black Friday discounts. Microsoft lopped $50 off of the Xbox One’s retail price and bundled free games into package deals.

“We are amazed by the excitement Xbox fans have shown to start off this holiday,” said Mike Nichols, vice president of Xbox marketing, in a statement. “November set a new record for sales of Xbox One, and Xbox One was the best-selling console in the U.S. and U.K.”

Nonetheless, Gamespot reports that sales across the entire console market declined year over year, also citing NPD. An analyst for the group noted that sales slackened not only for the previous generation of consoles, as expected, but also for the newest generation, which accounted for 38% of the overall decline.

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