The weather outside is frightful, but these games...
If you live on the East Coast of North America and have bothered to look outside (it's that bright, glaring thing with some birds in it, we've heard?) you might be taken aback by the flurry of frosty flakes. Some are calling it an "epic blizzard", and they don't mean the inevitable merger that gives us World of UnrealCraft. For your own wellbeing, comfort and undisturbed joy, we have to insist that you stay inside for a spell, wrap yourself up in a blanket and play some video games.
We've picked one enduring gem for each platform, and all of them are just a quick download away (psst, there's also a nice little PSN sale happening right now). Enjoy, stay warm, and do your darndest not to spill cocoa all over the controller.
PS4 - Galak-Z
If you've got a soft spot for classic anime like Speed Racer and the original Mobile Suit Gundam, or you just enjoy gratifying roguelikes in general, then it's imperative that you play Galak-Z. The gameplay is a callback to the original Asteroids, where you carefully pilot a space fighter to blast enemy bogies and weave through incoming shots from a top-down perspective. But Asteroids never let you pull off tricky maneuvers like split-second dodges and nimble strafing, or let you transform into a giant mech with a laser-deflecting shield. As with any roguelike, dying will set you back to the beginning of the mission (a 'season' of your own fictional TV show, in this case). But that's what makes it so satisfying when you finally reach each season's epic finale and live to talk about how you daringly snatched victory from the alien maw of defeat.
Xbox One - Plague, Inc. Evolved
If you have yet to experience the pure joy that comes from murdering every last person in the entire world, then you really need to get on creating your perfect contagion, pronto. Created using real-world disease models from the CDC, Plague, Inc. crafts a particularly gruesome subject into an absurdly addictive strategy game where you must battle the worlds best brains and soap if youre going to wipe humanity off the map. Oh, sure, developing the perfect bespoke bacteria is easy, but you go ahead and try the Shut Down Everything scenario on Brutal. Or hell, Normal. Go ahead. Try. If youve already played Plague, Inc., the visual upgrades and improved mechanics make the experience feel fresh, but fair warning: Greenland is still full of healthy jerks ready to shut down their sole port if a squirrel so much as farts in France.
Wii U - Affordable Space Adventures
KnapNok Games is made up exclusively of crazy people. Crazy, awesome people. Who else besides crazy, awesome people would make not one, but two exclusives for the Wii U eShop? Unlike its first effort, the gleefully weird Spin the Bottle, KnapNoks Affordable Space Adventures is far more familiar as a straight up video game. Set in a universe where a shabby company farms out the dangerous business of interplanetary exploration, you are an unwitting adventurer stuck in clunker spaceship thats broken down on a far off alien world. Surviving perils like cave ins and spaceship-hungry flora and fauna is only part of the trip in Affordable Space Adventures. The other is actually controlling your ship with the Wii U touch pad, adjusting speed, mass, and other engineering tasks with a bunch of virtual levers and knobs. Played solo, Affordable Space Adventures feels like a complete reimagining of the platformer, using the Wii Us unique controller to realign your expectations of navigating a game world. Played co-op, with multiple manning different parts of the ship, it becomes an awesome action comedy. Speed up! NO SLOW DOWN! WERE GOING TO DIE BAHHHDFHKVHFV! Its one of the best exclusives on Wii U or any other console.
PC - Undertale
Take the joyous nostalgia, profound weirdness, and hilarious exchanges of Earthbound. Now plop them into a modern-day indie game done in the same alluring sprite style, and give players the choice to either slay or spare every enemy they encounter. That magical mixture is Undertale, an extraordinary RPG that will consistently defy your expectations of the genre, and possibly even games as a whole. The less you know going into it, the better - but if you insist on hearing more before taking the plunge, you can expect a cast of strikingly lovable characters, ingenious implementation of bullet-hell mechanics into turn-based battles, and dialogue that's legitimately laugh-out-loud funny. But really, just play it. You'll thank us later.
Mobile - Dungeon Boss
The appeal of this free-to-play dungeon crawler is in its simplicity, visuals, and breadth. The combat is extremely simple, with each character limited to a tiny assortment of moves, but there are oodles of heroes to collect, each with their own strengths and charm. Collecting different bits of loot lets you ascend your fighters, granting them new abilities and new looks, expanding your options for the perfect team. Anything you want in the game can be achieved simply by playing, but you can pay the impatience tax with real-world money if you want better stuff faster. Unlike many F2P games, though, the in-game currency you earn by playing is actually good for something, letting you level up heroes, buy potions, and summon more powerful characters. There are even rewards for dipping your toe into the PvP game, which lets you raid other players dungeons for gold.
Nintendo 3DS - Ikachan
Fire up that 3DS and hit the eShop, no doubt youll be struck by its extremes. Theres a ton of Nintendos mascots staring you in the face and there is a lot of junky looking mobile ports cluttering up the new release list. If youre hunting for something that doesnt star Mario and sounds more appetizing than Best of Arcade Games: Ball Buster, drop $5 on the lovely little game called Ikachan. Made by the same brain behind Cave Story, Ikachan is a smaller scale exploration action game with a very similar style. Rather than playing as a robot exploring mysterious caves and ruins, youre a little squid at the bottom of the ocean, finding new squid accessories to help you explore further. Blocks in your way? Find the pointy hat! The lovely pixel art and infectious tunes are a perfect pairing for the 3DS. At just $5, its nicely affordable too.
PlayStation Vita - Lost Dimension
Assuming you already have Persona 4 Golden (and if you dont, reevaluate your life choices) then your next download should absolutely be Lost Dimension, a party-based tactical RPG that forces you to shake up your typical playstyle. Though you start off being able to choose your party members from a healthy selection of 10 comrades, each with their own special gifts, like manipulating fire or teleportation, a new one is bumped off each level as the games many (randomly selected) traitors are revealed. Not only are you at risk of losing a valuable team member at any moment, but youll also have to swap out party members to gather data on who the current traitor might be. The story is good enough to make you happy to play through a second time just to get the true ending, and even if it werent, the combat is monumentally satisfying - especially when you level up your gifts to their fullest. Perfect gaming for a weekend where youre stuck inside.
Xbox 360 - Geometry Wars 3: Dimensions Evolved
Geometry Wars was a hallmark of the early days of the Xbox 360 - even the demo for Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved 2 was enough to keep many gamers happy as they struggled to earn higher and higher scores. The gameplay was slick, the presentation was gorgeous, and the soundtrack is still thumping through your head. Geometry Wars 3 takes all of that and builds on it, granting a new dimension to stages, adding boss fights, and wickedly fun multiplayer. Plus, it still features the classic mode that so many people love, making Dimensions Evolved a no-brainer.
PS3 - Shatter
A mix between Pong and Bubble Shooter probably doesn't sound like it would make for an electrifying afternoon, but Shatter blows that thought away with its effortlessly addictive gameplay and impressive collection of bouncy mines. Outfitting its simple bounce-ball-hit-blocks concept with a colorful sci-fi theme, it's a joy to look at as you sail from one wave in need of shattering to the next. It might get stale if that's all it had to offer though, so Shatter offers up a wide variety of different scenarios where some blocks are in need of breaking, from stages where you have to keep three or more bombs in play to battles against giant block-shaped monsters. Charming, smooth to play, and far too easy to get hooked on, this one will see you through the storms and probably into next summer.