PAX Prime 2013 has come and gone, but we're not quite done with the games we saw during the convention. The show was packed with some of the biggest games in development, from Battlefield 4 to Titanfall, though the obvious standouts were the indie games. We checked out dozens of different independent games, proving that the most shockingly original games are coming out of small studios with big ideas.
AAA developers are still doing an amazing job at presenting massive experiences (as you'll read soon), but, seriously, them indies, man. We've talked through all of the games we saw, and came up with a list of the 10 best games at PAX 2013.
10. Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime (PC, Mac)
They say love is all you need, but in Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime, laser guns, plasma cannons, and rotating shields come in pretty darn handy, too. Here, two players--a husband and wife team--must work together to pilot a spaceship and liberate planets from their evil alien occupants.
Your ship has multiple systems in place, ranging from guns to shields to the actual helm. There's just one problem: each player can only man one system at a time. You'll have to coordinate and effectively make use of each option if you hope to survive the grueling but enjoyable challenge at hand, as it's easy to get overwhelmed by alien enemies. Should you free a planet you'll regenerate some precious health; take too much damage, though, and the lovers will die a horrible space death. At least you can take solace knowing they'll go down together.
9. Peggle 2 (Xbox One)
Rewarding your senses with explosions of color and triumphant music, Peggle 2 promises to be a more addictive experience than its predecessor. The game is as simple as they come: shoot a ball and try and take out as many colored pegs as possible on its way to the bottom. Peggle 2 adds a new set of bonus objective to accomplish on every stage. Some try will help you increase your overall score while others, like trying to hit the least amount of pegs possible, makes you look at your old favorite game in a new way.
Peggle 2 also adds a new host of wacky and cartoony character to the already-adorable bunch. Each Peggle Master gives you a specific ability you can use during your turn. One of the new Masters is a young skeleton girl named Luna, who grants the ability to turn blue pegs into translucent ghosts, allowing you to reach the hard-to-reach orange pegs. Instead of a mere picture in the corner of your screen, Masters are now fully-animated characters that stand on the sidelines cheering you on or mocking your terrible shots. The spirit of the game is still very much alive, and with the additions made to Peggle 2, you can kiss your sweet free time goodbye.
8. Luftrausers (PC, Mac, PS3, Vita)
Don't worry about figuring out how to correctly pronounce Luftrausers' name--all that matters is that it's one of the most addictive games we played at PAX. The goal is simple: become the greatest fighter pilot of all time. You'll start this retro-looking shmup by choosing the parts of your plane, each with a different passive effect. Some let you dive into the sea without taking damage, while others let you ram into enemy fighter jets and battleships. Even the weaponry options are extensive, ranging from a solid laser beam to a machine gun and plenty of choices in between.
Part of what makes Luftrausers so enjoyable is the way your plane moves. Pushing up on a d-pad activates your thrusters, launching your jet in whichever direction you're facing. Let off the controls, though, and it'll lurch back toward the sea; here, spinning your jet in circles while hammering on the guns transforms you into a whirlwind of death. And the second you die, you'll be unable to resist starting right back up again.
7. Tiny Brains (PS3, PS4, Xbox 360)
Rarely do good things come from the experiments of a mad scientist, but Tiny Brains is a four-player co-op adventure that only a sadistic genius could devise. In it, you'll control one of four lab animals who've recently developed a unique power thanks to the brain-altering endeavors of their captor. There's the hamster who can summon blocks of ice, a bat that can push objects via telekinesis, a rabbit who can pull items with his mind, and a mouse with the ability to swap places with enemies and obstacles alike.
Only by combining the abilities of each will you be able to overcome cleverly designed physics-based puzzles and escape captivity. Even optional challenge modes, like one in which our team of four had to work together to move a ball along a rotating cylinder full of pitfalls, had us hooked. Tiny Brains is devilishly cute, immensely challenging, and is easily one of the upcoming games we're looking forward to the most.
6. Super T.I.M.E. Force (Xbox 360)
At one point in Super T.I.M.E. Force we battled what we thought was a giant monster made of poop. The poo-beast soaked a ton of damage, and we watched in horror as the timer ticked down and we slowly ran out of time (you've only a minute to beat each level). It was here that we had a revelation--we could rewind time, spawn a different character, and fight alongside our first character. And then we could do it again. And again. And again. Suddenly, the smelly monster went from a lengthy boss battle to an encounter we could quickly overcome before needing to slide down another poo-filled pipe to the end of the level.
The humor here is on-point and the controls are remarkably precise. Changing between characters was incredible seamless, and we couldn't believe how easy it was to play a Contra-style shooter with time manipulation that could have us controlling three characters at once.
5. The Wolf Among Us (PS3, Xbox 360, PC, Mac)
The Wolf Among Us is a game in which you play as Bigby Wolf (AKA, The Big Bad Wolf), living in New York City protecting a community of displaced fairy tale characters. Yeah, weird, right? Telltale's next game is based on the popular Fables series of comics (just like, you know, The Walking Dead was), and looks to continue the same story-driven adventure gameplay that won the studio oh so many Game of the Year awards last year.
Don't expect it to try to repeat its success beat for beat, though--Bigby is a far more physical character, and the gameplay adapts accordingly. Sure, you'll still walk around and investigate stuff, but you'll also occasionally need to huff, and puff, and beat the crap out of people that don't know their place. It's super stylish and super fun.
4. Transistor (PS4, PC, Mac)
Yes, Bastion-developer Supergiant Games' Transistor is just as exciting as it looks. No, we can't get the song from the trailer out of our heads, either. The demo we played at PAX wasn't any different than the one we'd tried out at a few conventions in the past, but it didn't matter; Transistor is one of the most incredible games currently in development.
Whereas Bastion played it relatively safe with its gameplay--something it made up for with a beautiful world and incredible atmosphere--Transistor is an entirely new combat experience. To destroy Red's enemies, you actually plan out a series of attacks as the gameplay is frozen, only to watch them unfold after you've finished. It's strategic and addictive, adding a layer of depth that we genuinely didn't expect going in.
3. Contrast (PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, PC)
On the outside Contrast looks like a game with a simple gimmick: You can transform your character from the living 3D world onto a 2D space occupied by shadows on the wall. The shadows act as physical objects to climb and run on to help you get to hard-to-reach areas of the map. You play as Dawn, the imaginary friend of an adorable girl named Didi. Young Didis parents are having troubles of their own: her father is a circus impresario who has borrowed money from the mob and is having trouble paying them back, and her mother is a burlesque singer and dancer just trying to get by on her good looks.
Dawn uses her special abilities to help fix those problems. In one segment, we had to get a carrousel running again to bring more people to Didi's father's failing circus. The story is told in three acts, and there are minor flashback sequences that play out as silhouettes on the wall. Set as a launch title on the PS4 and eventually coming to PC and Xbox 360, we are looking forward to the moody atmospheric story as much as the incredibly original game mechanics. This is a title to keep you eyes on.
2. Dragon Age: Inquisition (PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PC)
Look, we know you might be skeptical about Dragon Age: Inquisition after having played DA2--but if our PAX demo was any indication, you have nothing to fear. In Inquisition, you'll build an entire organization to battle the demonic forces of the Fade, which are freely invading Thedas all while Orlais faces civil war and the Templars continue to battle it out with the Mages.
Worried about combat? Don't be. Inquisition combines the top-down strategic planning of Origins with the fluidity of 2. Fearful that its setting will be too limited? DA:I takes place in multiple regions of Thedas, each larger than the entirety of DA2. There are mounts to ride, tons of optional dungeons to explore, and customizable Keeps to be captured all in the name of the Inquisition. Oh, and there are plenty of dragons to kill for renown and rare rewards. Still not convinced? Ccheck out this PAX gameplay footage.
1. Titanfall (Xbox 360, Xbox One, PC)
The amount of hype surrounding Titanfall couldn't be higher (as the game's three-hour line at PAX can attest), and from what we've played that hype is totally justified. Taking cues from Call of Duty and Battlefield, Titanfall feels like the perfect balance between the two popular shooters. In a matter of moments we were using our jetpacks and wall running off of billboards while taking shots at our enemies.
In place of typical Killstreaks is the ability to call in a "Titan," which we choose from the loadout screen in the beginning of a match. Jumping into the Titan feels like controlling a walking tank, but even more incredible is the ability to turn on "follow" to task the Titan with following our footsteps, killing enemies along the way. Essentially, you're Shia LeBoeuf in Transformers, and the Titan is a cooler version of Bumblebee. Though we first thought that our time with Titanfall would slow down the hype train, we're actually thinking it might be time to throw more coal on the fire--this thing is just getting started.
So much more
We also played Killzone: Shadow Fall, Forza, and like, a million other games. Oh! And we all bought cool matching rings that have 20-sided dice on them that you can spin. They're super neat. Which of these games are you most looking forward to? Let us know in the comments, below!
And if you're looking for more, check out PAX 2013 cosplay gallery and a video of us asking PAX cosplayers tough questions.