The lights are on
Some great games arrived in our consoles and PCs in 2012. But if you’ve already enjoyed and fully explored your favorite recent game, where do you turn next to find something similar? We’ve concocted a list of some of last year’s favorites, and tied each to a similar game that might scratch the same itch.
Read through the bolded comments below, and find the ones that match up with your tastes. We’ll point you towards a lesser known or older game that might strike your fancy.
I loved the turn-based strategy of XCOM: Enemy Unknown, and I want more battles like that to play on my console.
You want Valkyria Chronicles. This awesome PS3 exclusive from 2008 may have a different visual aesthetic than XCOM, but you’ll enjoy the tense, turn-based, strategic battles that unfold over the course of the story. Just like in XCOM, between battles you’ll spend time upgrading your soldiers and weaponry, and recruiting new troops into your team. Unique classes like snipers and scouts each bring their own strengths into a battle, and choosing the right team for each battle is the key to victory. The anime-inspired visuals and storytelling are a change of pace from XCOM, but most players warm to the rich cast of characters as they confront the challenges of living through war and hardship.
I can’t get enough of the choice-driven gameplay of Dishonored, which lets me tackle unique challenges and concoct my own solution.
If you’ve missed out on 2011’s Deus Ex: Human Revolution, that game should be your first stop. The near-future game is highly choice-driven, letting you go in with guns blazing or sneak through using stealth and hacking without ever drawing a gun. Like Dishonored, Human Revolution focuses on a flawed protagonist who has been scarred by an attack on those he cares about, and the subsequent story slowly unfolds a mystery about the people who are responsible. Also like Dishonored, the latest Deus Ex game encourages players to build their abilities over time by acquiring upgrades that change your options in the field.
How sweet is the big first-person open world experience in Far Cry 3? I want more options that wed shooting with exploration.
May we introduce you to S.T.A.L.K.E.R.? This 2007 PC game embraces the open-world exploration that makes Far Cry 3 so much fun, but the setting is decidedly different. Instead of an island paradise filled with pirates and mercenaries, S.T.A.L.K.E.R. places you in an alternate history wasteland left behind after a second Chernobyl disaster. Even so, the mostly linear narrative and wide open exploration are maintained in both games. S.T.A.L.K.E.R. also puts a big focus on weaponry and improving your abilities by wearing artifacts that do things like reduce damage from gunfire. For players looking to replicate the immersive shooter-meets-exploration vibe that made Far Cry 3 so fun, S.T.A.L.K.E.R. is a lesser-known but excellent option.
I never realized how awesome large-team cooperative shooting could be until I really got into Borderlands 2 with my friends.
It’s well known, but we’re always surprised how many people have missed out on Valve’s Left 4 Dead games, explaining that they’re “just another zombie game.” Sure, there are scary undead monsters all over the place, but the real reason to play Left 4 Dead (and its sequel) is the intense cooperative shooting action. Like Borderlands 2, players really need to work together in each battle to succeed, working to hold down different entrances to a defensible location, and reviving each other when the inevitable deaths occur. If the true cooperation experience is what made Borderlands 2 fun for you, go track down a few copies of Left 4 Dead with your buddies, and dive in.
I hadn’t played racing games for a few years, but I was blown away by the freedom and pick-up races I found in Need For Speed: Most Wanted.
While it’s a different racing series name, the most recent Need For Speed entry owes a huge debt to developer Criterion’s previous work creating Burnout Paradise. Though Burnout Paradise doesn’t have the same focus on escaping from the cops, most other elements of gameplay are shared. You’ll wander a big open city, acquire new cars at regular intervals, chase down rival vehicles, and learn hidden routes. If you liked the fast pace and variety of Most Wanted, Burnout Paradise won’t let you down.
I had no idea a game could have such unusual and intriguing puzzles until I played Fez. It really blew me away.
Experienced players will see this coming from a mile away, but if you’re newer to gaming, and you loved Fez, then you have to go play Braid. Like Fez, Braid will challenge you to think in new ways about your character and how he interacts with the world. Moreover, just like Fez, Braid aims to say something profound about the nature of the human experience, and has an ending that will force you to rethink everything you’ve played so far.
The cartoon visuals, RPG upgrades, fantasy storytelling, and tight action of Dust: An Elysian Tale can’t be beat. Or can it?
I don’t know about beating it, but Dust: An Elysian Tale owes a lot of its inspiration to the games of Vanillaware. In particular, fans of Dust should check out Odin Sphere. Available both on PS2 and as a download on PSN, this challenging and visually breathtaking action/RPG will keep you busy for hours. The 2D playfield and hand drawn animation style are shared in both games, and both provide you with main characters that enact awesome, screen clearing attacks against a range of charging foes.
My favorite features in Assassin’s Creed III are the platforming and traversal sequences, as I leap and clamber along buildings, cliffs, and fences.
Developer Ubisoft Montreal cut its teeth before Assassin’s Creed developing the excellent Prince of Persia series. If you love the platforming in Assassin’s Creed, but don’t mind something a little more linear, you owe it to yourself to check out the Prince. For a good one-off adventure, start with 2010’s Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands, which is a beautiful, largely stand-alone adventure that should give you a good taste for the larger series. Note that the 360, PS3, and Windows versions are completely different from the Wii version, but both are excellent games. If you end up liking Forgotten Sands, rewind further back in time and check out the Prince of Persia Sands of Time trilogy that began in 2003.
What were your favorite games from last year, and do you have any recommendations for other folks who also liked your favorites? Let us know in the comments below.
Email the author Matt Miller, or follow on Game Informer.