Trials Evolution I've suggested that Trials Evolution is, from a skewed perspective, the perfect video game. It may be an outdated representation of the medium's diversification and artistic convolution, but its pure edifice is in no need of all those big words I just used to sound all smart-like. It's about a dude on a bike, falling on his face and being blown up. Beyond the hilarious, intuitive tests of gravity and momentum, Trials Evolution rockets past its predecessors on the back of a mad level editor and a mountain of distinct courses.
Rayman Jungle Run
General praise for Rayman always seems to be a few steps below his pedigree. Jungle Run is the most approachable, bite-sized interpretation of Ubisoft's brilliant platformers, and perhaps the most obvious continuation of a certain hedgehog's ideals. There's little time to ponder the limitations of an automatic run when the traps, loops and leaps come at such a devilish rate, and in such vivid colors. Make sure you have this one on your phone or tablet. Darksiders 2 I'm sure I wasn't the only one to discuss the parallels between THQ's skull-faced protagonist, its financial strife and eventual disbandment. Darksiders 2
is the kind of game they don't and probably won't make anymore: a solitary quest for loot and keys, up spiraling mountains and through elaborate rooms that only exist to unlock a big stone door. It's not that the Zelda-inspired mishmash of combat, fighting and fantasy is dead, but that this scale of production – not spry and small, and big enough to fall – is difficult to sustain without a widespread fondness for the property. So, considering the protagonist and game scope, Darksiders 2
is a medium tee from Hot Topic, and not everybody wants that.
Sound Shapes Everyone is required to play (and then rave about) Beck's album/world in this audio-infused platformer, but I was most impressed by "Incorporeal," a set from Superbrothers and Jim Guthrie. The music and aesthetics felt inseparable from each other, and hid a hint of sly commentary on corporate life. Not that I would know anything about that. Max Payne 3 Max Payne 3 is a stellar collusion between technology, violence, tension and unapologetic shooting, more so than Rockstar's traditional output. The gory presentation should impart guilt, but Payne's pacing and pressurized encounters made it a sublime task of concentration, not a meditation on hateful violence.
When Vikings Attack
When vikings attack a quaint English town, the citizens coagulate into mobs capable of lifting heavy objects and tossing them at the nearest invaders. The simplicity and destructive fun of flinging telephone booths at each other in the competitive mode is a feat of foolishness on par with Bomberman. Bonus: if you get this on PS3, you can also play it on your Vita across platforms.
Far Cry 3
According to those in charge of its narrative, Far Cry 3 is a thoughtful discourse on the dissonance between players, the skills of their in-game counterparts and the incongruous violence that turns normal dudes into expert killers and/or mission completers. Meanwhile, we couldn't stop talking about how we made wallets out of a shark, or dismantled a big-huge bear with a well-timed C4 detonation. Only in a video game.
Theatrhythm: Final Fantasy
It's easy to spot the manipulative strings of nostalgia in this one, but it's best not to cut them. The only thing better than listening to "Man with the Machine Gun" is participating in its tempo through this cute and strange music meta-RPG thingy. Theatrhythm really is a perfect encapsulation of the best and worst of Square Enix today: the central mechanic is solid, the title is a pain to pronounce, it's buoyed by a wonderful legacy of characters and imagery, and the iOS version was priced questionably.
Asura's Wrath is definitely a video game, provided you're willing to give reasonable leeway to what does and does not constitute a valid expression in our exceedingly curious medium. Your participation is often perfunctory (problematic!), but endorsing this approach isn't a rejection of others.
Welcomed as a weird one-off, Asura's Wrath is essentially an anime series about a guy punching everything in existence – including existence itself. I hereby admit that I sometimes enjoy that kind of thing.
Ludwig Kietzmann is the Editor-in-Chief of Joystiq.com. He's been writing about video games for over 10 years, and has been working on this self-referential blurb for about twice as long. He thinks it turned out pretty well. Follow him on Twitter @LudwigK.