Now that April has come and gone and video game outlets have had a chance to review all of the notable releases, it’s time to take stock and see just how good the month’s games were. To do so, let’s take a look at the Metacritic numbers to get an idea of the average critical opinion.
April was a strange month in that many of its best games have already come out on other platforms and are just now breaking ground elsewhere. That might not be ideal for someone who plays everything right when it comes out, but chances are you haven’t played a lot of these games. And it’s always a good thing when a great game comes to a new audience on a new platform.
10. Affordable Space Adventures
Platform: Wii U
Metacritic Score: 81
This game didn’t make many waves when it came out, but it probably should have, as it’s quite good, and there’s not much else like it. It’s a side-scrolling sci-fi game for Wii U that puts you in a rickety old spaceship and has you maintain and adjust the ship’s systems, like thrust, stabilization, and weight as you navigate the environment. The result is a game that makes you feel like an actual pilot, responsible not only for the ship, but also your survival on a hostile planet.
Affordable Space Adventures is a game that can only work on the Wii U. Its two-screen experience is exactly what the system was designed for and the result is a unique breath of fresh air that might actually force people to hold that breath in certain situations. The multiplayer doesn’t pan out too well and there were some physics glitches, but this is a game that Wii U owners need to get their hands on.
9. Westerado: Double Barreled
Metacritic Score: 82
This pixel-art game transports players back to the Old West to get revenge on the outlaw who killed your family. It’s time for frontier justice as you travel the dusty landscape, looking for clues as to who’s responsible and pumping enemies full of bullets. There’s much more to this game than meets the eye, which makes it all the more enjoyable.
I walked into Westerado with zero expectations, and this compact take on The Legend of Zelda definitely won me over by the end. It’s not perfect by any means—gunfights are easy to cheese by quickly entering and leaving screens full of enemies, and the final battle only offers one poorly placed checkpoint—but the sheer amount of things to do definitely make up for Westerado’s shortcomings. And, with its short running time, Westerado doesn’t outstay its welcome, giving players an incentive to jump back in and explore avenues they didn’t in past playthroughs. Even if we PC gamers never get that craved-after port of Red Dead Redemption, Westerado’s double-barreled, open-world action makes for a fine substitution.
8. Mortal Kombat X
Platform: PS4, Xbox One, and PC
Metacritic Score: 84
The biggest release of April was the eighth best, but that’s no slight against this game of ultra-violent combat — er, kombat. It has a huge cast of characters, heavy-hitting fighting mechanics, and some of the grossest, goriest fatalities ever to grace the series. Is that really a major selling point? You betcha.
From The Escapist:
Mortal Kombat X offers the best story mode I’ve ever personally seen in a fighting game. Its cohesive plot and extended cinematics makes you feel much more like a participant in a film than a player on the couch. The fighting is frantic, fluid, and dynamic, with the glorious goriness of the X-Ray moves often turning the tides of battle.
7. Xenoblade Chronicles 3D
Platform: Nintendo 3DS
Metacritic Score: 85
The original U.S. version of Xenoblade Chronicles landed on the Wii in 2012. It was a fantastic open-world Japanese RPG that critics adored but many gamers missed, thanks to its limited GameStop-only release. It’s now available to a wider audience thanks to thisNintendo 3DS port. The only problem? You won’t be able to play it on a regular 3DS. Instead, you’ll need to buy the more powerful New Nintendo 3DS XL. That’s a bummer, but it might be a good excuse to upgrade your hardware.
Xenoblade Chronicles was well-loved in its first iteration, and it feels even more at home as a handheld title. Make no mistake — there’s very little to be gained in terms of new ideas. But game’s original strengths found in its battles and immense, gorgeous world make this a game worth revisiting — or picking up for the first time.
6. Crypt of the NecroDancer
Metacritic Score: 86
Roguelike games seem to be having a sizable renaissance right now in the indie space. Generally, roguelikes start you off with nothing and have you pick up equipment and abilities as you progress. The trick is that you lose everything when you die, so you always start from scratch. Crypt of the NecroDancer has that basic setup, but adds a music/rhythm element to the gameplay. You and the enemies move to the beat, so you have to get in the rhythm if you want to succeed.
From a distance, Crypt of the NecroDancer seems like a very mathematical game. The logic used to dispatch enemies should ideally play out like a neat algorithm, flawlessly executed once you know their patterns and how to manipulate them. That’s not how it works, of course, as the dungeons are complicated, chaotic things, and players are forced to move at the whim of the soundtrack’s tempo, with little room for error. Logic meets chaos. It’s a tension evident in many games, and it’s exemplified wonderfully here.
5. Broken Age: The Complete Adventure
Platform: PS4, PS Vita, PC, iOS, and Android
Metacritic Score: 86
Fifteen months is a long time to wait for the second half of a game. That’s the slog endured by customers of Broken Age, a point-and-click adventure from Double Fine Games that was successfully Kickstarted a couple of years ago.
The game follows the lives of two teenage protagonists whose worlds don’t seem to have anything to do with one another. Vella lives in a land where a giant beast terrorizes the villages unless they offer it a young maiden each year. The other half of the game centers on Shay, a lonely young man on a space ship. How the stories connect is only one of the mysteries at play here.
In its finished form, Broken Age is every bit the modern point-and-click classic its strong first act implied it would be. With an entertaining story and clever puzzles wrapped in a modern sensibility and impressive production values, Tim Schafer’s return to the genre that made him lives up to the high standard of his earlier work.
4. Dark Souls II: Scholar of the First Sin
Platform: PS4, Xbox One, PS3, Xbox 360, and PC
Metacritic Score: 87
Maybe you’ve already blazed through Bloodborne or just aren’t interested in its dreary Victorian setting. The good news is that its spiritual predecessor has been re-released on the latest consoles. As with most remastered editions, this Dark Souls II package contains all of the downloadable content that ever came out for the original game, along with upgraded graphics. But be warned: This game is full of hyper-challenging combat, with save points few and far between. Are you persistent enough to see this journey through to the end?
From Game Informer:
Scholar of the First Sin is best suited for two types of player: Complete Souls newcomers that insist on playing with the latest hardware, and returning warriors who soaked up every bit of new game-plus content loaded into the original. While I don’t think the encounters are quite up to the level of the original, it’s hard to argue with more of one of 2014’s best games.
Metacritic Score: 89
This game has been out for years on other platforms, but it’s just now reaching the PS4. In Bastion, you play as a kid who hacks and blasts his way through a monster-infested world. It’s an action role-playing game, so you can expect to do lots of weapon swapping and character customizing, all so you can dispatch more enemies more efficiently. With its killer soundtrack, gravelly voiced narrator, and vivid, colorful world, Bastion makes a great addition to any console’s digital store.
Bastion holds up remarkably well four years later, even as the acclaimed games of the latter day tend to lose their luster once the initial novelty wears off. At its best, this re-release proves that Bastion is worthy of its name. It’s a bastion of good game design and innovative narration, and I suspect that another four years from now, it will hold up just as well.
2. Shovel Knight
Platform: PS4, Xbox One, PS3, and PS Vita
Metacritic Score: 91
This retro-inspired action platformer is like a mash-up of the glory days of the NES. With obvious inspiration from games like Super Mario Bros. 3 and Duck Tales, Shovel Knight has you hack, slash, and shovel jump your way through a series of gorgeously pixelated levels, fighting innovative enemies and massive bosses along the way. But don’t mistake this game for a thoughtless rehash of the classic games of yore. It throws in a bunch of new ideas and gameplay mechanics (like checkpoints and a risk-reward system for collecting coins) to keep any modern gamer happy. While it’s been available on other platforms for a while now, Shovel Knight has just made its way to a new batch of systems.
From Hardcore Gamer:
It is at once a love letter to the classics that came before it and a gorgeously unique collection of clever ideas, all wonderfully packaged into an 8-bit style game that looks like it jumped straight out of the NES era.
1. Grand Theft Auto V
Metacritic Score: 97
Console owners have been painting the neighborhood red for 17 months now, with GTA V available on two generations of Xbox and PlayStation hardware. Finally, developer Rockstar has brought one of the best games in recent years to the PC, where it serves up simulated criminal activity to a whole new group of gamers. And since top-end PCs are powerhouse machines, the game will look better than ever — assuming you have a pricy rig.
The story, for those who haven’t played it yet, follows three criminals with very different backgrounds who come together to work on a number of big scores. The storytelling is cinematic and the action set pieces are some of the most memorable in the series’ history.
Now that GTA V is available on all the major current platforms (sorry, Wii U!) maybe Rockstar can get started on GTA VI.
Grand Theft Auto 5 is a masterpiece of a game, and the PC version is the best way to experience it. Its sprawling yet meticulously detailed map is the high bar to which all other open-world games aspire, and it’s incredibly dense with excellent content. With so much to do, explore, and play with, both in single-player and multiplayer, plus great creative tools, it’s truly amazing on multiple levels.