From beginning to end, Shin Megami Tensei IV is a well-crafted game. It doesn't reinvent the franchise, but it streamlines it. Most of the big changes are interface improvements, mechanical adjustments, or the removal of cheap deaths and unfair encounters. The result is a game that's been polished to a sheen. If you're a fan of the franchise or a fan of JRPGs, you need to run out and buy SMT4.
Fire Emblem: Awakening is a must-have if you're even slightly into strategy-RPGs. The gameplay is simultaneous simple and deep, and it's a joy to play. Longtime fans who are worried about the alterations to the formula shouldn't be. Awakening is a rare example of a series that works. It throws out a lot of the traditional Fire Emblem ideas, but it's almost always for the better, and the end result is a game that's plain fun to play from start to finish, whether you're a newcomer or a hardened Thracia 776 veteran.
Animal Crossing: New Leaf is the definition of "more of the same," but that's not a bad thing. You're getting more of the same Animal Crossing, the familiar formula has been improved, and the new features add to the fun. If you've been away from town for a while, New Leaf is easily the best of the Animal Crossing games to date, so it's a great time to return. It's hard to argue with the results.
Pokemon X/Y doesn't necessarily represent a massive leap forward for the Pokemon franchise. There are new features, new moves, and new Pokemon, and they're all polished to a sheen. The annoyances are few, and the charm is plentiful. It doesn't matter if you're a young child playing Pokemon for the first time or a longer-timer who started with Pokemon Blue/Red. Pokemon X/Y has something for everyone and resolves many of the series' long-term issues. It's possibly the best Pokemon has ever been, and it's a must-have for any Pokemon fanatic. Perhaps most importantly, the transparent battle mechanics and general gameplay polish make it incredibly accessible for newcomers to the franchise.
The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds is one of the most fun Zelda titles on the market, and it's easily the best handheld Zelda game since Link's Awakening. It's well crafted, fun to play, charming and interesting, and it mixes up the Zelda formula in some exciting ways while maintaining a healthy dose of nostalgia. It isn't the longest game, but it's fun from beginning to end. The highest praise I can give A Link Between Worlds is that it's a worthy sequel to The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. Zelda fans should absolutely add this game to their libraries, and newcomers to the franchise should find it to be a fun and accessible title.
Rayman Legends is one of this year's hidden gems. Originally intended to be a Wii U exclusive, it was delayed and ported to every system under the sun. Like its predecessor, Rayman Legends is a multiplayer platformer heavily inspired by both the original Rayman games and the New Super Mario Bros. series. What makes Legends stand out is the sheer quality and effort put into its level design. It is full of creative, clever and fun levels. It doesn’t matter if you're battling a giant dragon or playing a half-platforming/half-rhythm level to a mariachi version of "Eye of the Tiger" — there's always something new and something enjoyable in Rayman's latest adventure. Legends also contains most of the levels from the original Rayman: Origins, making this some of the best value for your money.
Ys: Memories of Celceta is one of the best games on the Vita. It is frustratingly flawed in ways that would be easily fixed, but the strengths more than outweigh the weaknesses. A solid cast of likeable characters is backed up by one of the most intense and fast-paced combat systems you'll encounter in an RPG. It's easy enough for casual players to have fun with the title, but it also offers enough depth and complexity for die-hard RPG nuts.
Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time pays homage to the original game mechanics in lieu of simply starting over like many franchises have. While that might sound like the game is tired, it is anything but. The game remains fun despite the lack of advancement in the genre, and the team did such a good job at making it fit well in the Sly universe that players wouldn't mind if they officially took over the franchise. Thieves in Time is a good platforming game that's worthy of the franchise name and being in a platforming fan's library.
Dragon's Crown is one of the most impressive beat-'em-ups. While it's not a genre that typically lights up the sales chart these days, Dragon's Crown is going to do pretty well. There's a lot of fun packed into this game by Vanillaware, and it's the best we've seen from the developer since Odin Sphere.
Basically, if you own a Vita, you should own Tearaway. It's the best piece of software the handheld has seen to date, and it's the best Sony release since The Last of Us. It's a remarkably interesting, charming and emotional platformer from Media Molecule, and it shows that this studio is capable of more than just Little Big Planet. While this is certainly one of the busiest video game seasons in recent years, you should take a little time out of your next-gen schedule to experience a modern-day classic.
Downloadable: eShop/WiiWare/PSN/XBLA/PC Digital/DLC
There are no areas where How to Survive really stumbles, and there are plenty of areas where it shines. The combat flows well, though ranged seems to be a better idea than melee, and the enemy variety keeps things from becoming stale. This is also helped by other gameplay elements, such as the day/night cycle and the survival aspect. More importantly, the game is fun to play as you cobble together better gear to face down larger numbers and stranger varieties of enemies. It's as if no one told the development team that the title was only going to cost $15. How to Survive manages to outshine many full-priced games.
It's rare that you'll see a free-to-play game that has as much content and depth as Path of Exile, which was crafted by designers fueled by their passion for action RPGs like Diablo II. It's easy to see why fans have flocked to Path of Exile since its release. Solid combat, a fantastic skill system, lots of intriguing and unique loot, and a ridiculous level of customization await those willing to dive in. It's easy to invest 100+ hours in Path of Exile, and you'll still find yourself coming back for more.
Although it wasn't meant to be taken seriously, Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon is a surprisingly good game. While the abandonment of some of Far Cry 3's deeper mechanics will leave a hollow feeling for some players, the focus on old-school run-and-gun action and mechanics in a more modern setting make the game feel more focused. The humor consists of mostly hits, and the misses aren't so bad. The visuals work well in a quasi-retro sort of way. Even if the nostalgia of the '80s doesn't pique your interest, the satisfying action should, and that's more than enough of a reason to try Blood Dragon.
Guacamelee! is an impressive effort from Drinkbox Studios. It's a simple, solid and well-made Metroid clone in a time when Metroid clones are nonexistent. It may be a little short, but each moment is packed to the brim with things to do, and it doesn't overstay its welcome. Combine that with a charming art style, engaging combat, and a fun two-player mode, and you've got a recipe for success. It's an excellent game that anyone with a PS3 (or Vita, as the PS3 iteration comes with a free Vita copy) should play.
Resogun demonstrates that even in this age of sweeping story lines and cinematic spectacles, simple is still fun. The core formula places a very high emphasis on survival and getting high scores. While the enemy count is kept high to facilitate this, it isn't overwhelming and doesn't become a bullet-hell shooter. The multiple difficulty levels make the game accessible to all types, and the multiple ships make the experience somewhat different each time you play. Voxels make every explosion more beautiful than a fireworks show and make level-ending sequences beautiful and chaotic.
Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons is an experience that doesn't occur too often. It has a story that doles out a familiar tale but tells it in a way that feels more personal despite the lack of a familiar language. The puzzles are a tad too simple, and unless you're hunting for Achievements or Trophies, there's no motivation to replay the short tale. Look past the singular co-op, and you'll find an engaging title that also looks and sounds great. Brothers is certainly worth playing if you're tired of the same old, normal video games that are being offered nowadays.