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Platforms: Windows, Mac, Linux (coming to PlayStation 4)
All of your favorite '80s action films are on parody watch in Broforce, the side-scrolling shooting game that doesn’t just wear its patriotic bro-ness on its sleeve, it practically writes the lyrics to “America, F--- Yeah” in bullets in the sky. The game is all about crazy, quick action, and its intensity is wrapped in a joyously ridiculous aesthetic. Plus, players can take on the persona of characters parodying famous action heroes like Ellen Ripley (Ellen Ripbro), John Rambo (Rambro), and John McClane (Bro Hard).
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Platforms: iOS, Windows
Fun at home or on the go, the iOS, Android, and PC release Downwell tasks players with, well, going down a well and defeating enemies along the way. Armed with gunboots, players navigate a different well and descent each time, ensuring the central game mechanics offer a fresh new challenge each time.
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Platforms: Windows, Mac
Romance can be awkward, confusing, and even frustrating, even more so when you’re not interacting with that person face-to-face. Game designer Nina Freeman took the inspiration of her own online dating and transformed it into Cibele. With a focus on bonding while talking and playing together online, Cibele allows players to channel Freeman’s experience, blurring the line of reality and narrative to such fascinating results. (For more, it’s worth hearing from Freeman herself about the experience of making the game.)
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Emily Is Away
Platforms: Windows, Mac
Does the image above evoke memories of spending days on AIM instant messenger? The sound of new IMs chiming in, the task of composing the perfect lyrics-filled away messages, and the danger of hiding secret messages to friends in invisible texts. Emily Is Away channels the days of cultivating friendships through AIM, as players interact with Emily, crafting the narrative as they go. Few games can boast buddy icons, away messages, and more as their selling points, but Emily Is Away’s ability to set players in a familiar yet new world makes it well worth signing in once again.
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Fast Racing NEO
Platform: Wii U
Well, the title pretty much sums it up. This gorgeous hovercraft racer is blisteringly fast and buttery smooth. Both the F-Zero and Wipeout franchises are seemingly on hiatus, but Fast Racing Neo delivers a fast, furious, futuristic racing fix. With a single-player tournament mode, four-player split screen, or eight-player online race across 16 tracks, it’ll satiate your winter need for speed.
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Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime
Platforms: PC, Xbox One
Don’t let the Lisa Frank-style graphics fool you: Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime’s challenging missions have the power to end friendships. The two-player co-op game has you working with a friend to pilot your (adorable) ship and rescue (adorable) hostages from (adorably dangerous) enemies. Your ship features a number of turrets, shields, and engines to keep track of, and teamwork is absolutely essential for the survival of your (friend-) ship.
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Platform: Wii U
The most hectic party game of the year, Runbow lets up to nine players run, jump, and punch through brightly colored platform levels in a frantic race to the finish. By using the Wii U’s gamepad and four Wiimotes paired with four classic controllers, you’re actually physically tethered to another player — which puts you in dangerously close elbowing distance of your competitors —and makes Runbow a raucous riot.
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Platforms: Windows, Mac, Linux, PlayStation 4
From the creators of some of the most acclaimed horror games of the past decade, Soma sets players off on a survival tale blending horror and science fiction. And despite having its share of twists and turns, Soma isn’t built solely around delivering those moments — it’s about allowing players to explore and fully understand what those twists in the game’s underwater facility actually mean.
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Super Time Force Ultra
Platforms: PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita (previously released on Windows and Xbox)
If you missed it on Xbox last year, STFU and play STFU on PS4 and Vita. Capybara Games’ madcap shooter lets you rewind time when you die and jump back into action as a new character to fight alongside your past self, adding additional teammates every time you die, until the screen is absolutely bursting with pixels. It’s the world’s best single-player co-op game.
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The Talos Principle: Deluxe Edition
Platforms: PlayStation 4 (previously released on Windows, Mac, Linux, Android)
Price: $49.99 (regular version $39.99 on Steam)
You wouldn’t expect the developer of the trigger-happy Serious Sam series of shooters to deliver a thoughtful puzzle game, but Croteam produced more than 100 increasingly difficult — and incredibly rewarding — brain-teasers to PS4 this year. Check it out if you have a Portal itch you want to scratch.
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Platforms: Windows, Mac (previously on iOS and Android)
Released on iOS in 2014, the fascinating text adventure that was Time’s 2014 Game of the Year, is worth visiting, or revisiting, with its PC debut. Set in the late 1800s, players take on the titular challenge of traveling around the world in 80 days, choosing how, where, and with what they’ll travel, all through a simple yet engaging design. The beautiful, minimalistic art style pairs well with the gamer’s emphasis on letting the player craft their journey, discovering fascinating characters and opportunities in a race around the world.