Spring isn’t the busiest time of year for game releases, and what’s true for spring is even truer for the summer months. Unlike its movie releases, summer is widely known for its general lack of new game releases. Yes, this year we’re getting blockbuster games like “Watch Dogs” and “Mario Kart 8” at the end of May, as well as the promise of the 3DS version of the new “Super Smash Bros.” sometime down the line. But even so, there won’t be much on the menu at least until the beginning of June when the annual Electronic Entertainment Expo roles around.
While spring did not have as wide a variety of games as last year when Nintendo decided it was going to release a must-buy 3DS game each month, there were certainly quite a few worth sinking your teeth into. And so, as the semester winds to a close, let’s look at the top 10 games released this semester worth exploring during the summer lull.
Honorable Mentions: “Octodad: Dadliest Catch” (PC, Mac, Linux, PS3); “DanganRonpa: Trigger Happy Havoc” (PSV); “Strider” (PC, PS3, PS4, 360, XBO); “Luftrausers” (PC, Mac, Linux, PS3, PSV); “Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes” (PS3, PS4, 360, XBO); “Kirby Triple Deluxe” (3DS); “Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII” (PS3, 360).
10. “Mario Golf: World Tour” (3DS)
For the most part, “Mario” sports games are either average or great. “Mario Gold” doesn’t have as good a reputation as “Mario Tennis,” “Super Mario Strikers” or, of course, “Mario Kart.” But “Mario Golf: World Tour” brings together the normally differentiated mechanics of the console and handheld series installments to create an enjoyable game that you can play in large chunks or short bursts — a perfect way to enjoy yourself if you have time to kill.
9. “Infamous: Second Son” (PS4)
“Infamous: Second Son” turns into a time-sink simply by being an open-world game with things to do all across the recreated city of Seattle. It’s flawlessly presented, with some of the best graphics on any system. The different abilities and powers you can pick up throughout the game can make each second you spend adventuring the sprawling world enjoyable.
8. “Child of Light” (PC, PS3, PS4, Wii U, 360, XBO)
One of several different RPGs on this list, “Child of Light,” as I mentioned in my recent article on the best cross-platform games to look into, is, put simply, a love letter to Japanese RPGs. The beautiful Ubiart Framework offers a unique look that the developers say is an attempt to emulate the legendary Studio Ghibli, and the quick turn-based gameplay isn’t too bad either. It’s one of the shorter JRPG-styled games, so don’t expect it to be too much of a time-sink. If you like classic RPGs and great art direction, “Child of Light” does it well.
7. “Bravely Default” (3DS)
Until “Bravely Default,” Square Enix had been on the bad side of the RPG community. Even after decades of being the dominant RPG developer in the industry, a few too many “Final Fantasy XIII” screw-ups and an MMO so bad they had to kill it and re-release it (“FFXIV”) tarnished its reputation. “Bravely Default” single-handedly brought hope back to Square Enix, helping them to realize that people do, in fact, want to play an old-school JRPG that reminds gamers of the original “Final Fantasy” games.
6. “South Park: The Stick of Truth” (PC, PS3, 360)
The only way to know if you should play “South Park: The Stick of Truth” is asking yourself if you like “South Park” in the first place. The game mixes in the types of jokes you can find in the show and includes many references you may not recognize unless you’ve seen a specific episode. The RPG gameplay underneath is actually surprisingly good, considering this is a licensed game, and the laughs — if you’re the kind of person who likes the crass humor of “South Park”— are well worth the 10-or-so hours it takes to beat the game.
5. “Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze” (Wii U)
The “Donkey Kong Country” has always been known for being challenging. While the difficulty has always been its calling card, it has also managed to make every mistake and every death feel like your fault, not the fault of the game. This is hard to do, and “Tropical Freeze” does it just as well, if not better, than any of the previous installments. Nintendo’s signature presentation and rounded-out gameplay make it one of the best 2-D platformers you can get.
4. “Titanfall” (360, XBO)
Chances are if you have an Xbox One, you have “Titanfall.” You may even have it on 360 or PC. Respawn Entertainment — a studio formed by former Infinity Ward employees who worked on the blockbuster game “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2” —has come out with a game that truly puts a new spin on an FPS genre that was growing severely stagnant over the years. The parkour running and giant mech suits make this a game you can continuously play all summer without getting bored.
3. “Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft” (PC, Mac, iOS, Android)
Blizzard Entertainment, creators of “World of Warcraft,” have figured out the secret of free-to-play gaming, and the result is a surprisingly engrossing, entertaining online card game that you don’t necessarily need to spend money on to play or build a good deck around. It’s free to play, so definitely check it out if you have an iPad or any other platform it’s available on.
2. “Towerfall: Ascension” (PC, PS4)
The local multiplayer game that was quite possibly the only game worth playing on the OUYA is “Towerfall: Ascension.” If you have a PS4, you need to get four controllers together to play this game. There isn’t a better multiplayer game on the next-gen market. Comparable to “Smash Bros.” in its excitement and fun as well as general in its 2-D setup, “Towerfall’s” twitch-reflex action and one-hit kill arrows will let you and your friends enjoy hours upon hours of local multiplayer goodness.
1. “Dark Souls 2” (PC, PS3, 360)
How do you follow up a masterpiece? It’s a question few developers are allowed to ask. Even fewer find a real answer. From Software managed to not only satisfy fans of the first game by keeping the insane difficulty of the previous entries, but it also managed to lower the bar of entry for new players by making the beginning of the game a bit more welcoming. Doing either would have been easy. Doing both, when one choice seems to conflict with the other, is incredible. If you never played “Dark Souls,” you’re about to get a whole lot of free time to do so.
There are some other games to keep an eye out for in the coming months. If you have a Wii U, don’t miss out on “Mario Kart 8” (May 30), and for those with other systems, Ubisoft’s “Watch Dogs” (May 27). “Transistor” also releases in May, while June brings with it “Murdered: Soul Suspect” and “Sniper Elite 3.” And don’t forget to look in on all the big gaming announcements at E3, taking place in Los Angeles. It starts off with Microsoft, Sony, Ubisoft, EA and Nintendo’s big announcements on June 8 and 9 and all the cool games from the show floor through June 12.
So what will you be playing this summer?