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Engaged Family Gaming Holiday

Microsoft had a rough year this year with the Xbox One. They had to delay and/or cancel a bunch of games. Fortunately, families have several great options for games to play. Take a look below for our recommendations.

Star Wars Battlefront II


Star Wars is on everyone’s mind right now. How can it not be with Episode 8 looming this holiday season?

Star Wars fans will want to take a look at Star Wars Battlefront II this holiday. It isn’t available for purchase yet as of the time that I published our gift guide, but most early indications from a public beta have been positive. There have been some concerns raised by critics about the micro-transactions that are available in the game, but we don’t have all of the details from the final version of the game yet. We’ll need to wait and see if they end up being a true problem.

Forza Motorsport 7


Another year passes; another Forza game is released for the Xbox One. Last year we were able to race around the Australian Outback in Forza Horizons 3 (which is still a great gift idea in its own right if you have a racing fan in the house). This year we have Forza Motorsports 7. The biggest difference between these two games is where they place their focus on the driving.

Forza Motorsports 7 is a simulation racer so the developer’s attention is focused on crafting as realistic of a racing experience as possible. Forza 7 is also one of a handful of games that is being optimized for play on the Xbox One X so it will be a great way to showcase that new 4K TV Santa brought you!

 

Destiny 2


Destiny 2 is an amazing multiplayer shooter experience set in a cool sci-fi universe. It is also a great compromise for parents looking to find a shooter for their kids to play that isn’t as grim as Call of Duty: WW2 or Battlefield 1.

Cuphead



Ok. This one might be divisive. Cuphead is one of the coolest looking games to be released in years. With that said, it is also incredibly difficult so it will be difficult for inexperienced gamers to fully enjoy.

 

I am putting this game on the list because it is inexpensive, gorgeous, and will definitely appeal to families with kids who LOVE a challenge. Cuphead will push them to the limit, but you’ll love watching it while it happens!

Minecraft


I know I sound like a broken record, but Minecraft should be on top of everyone’s shopping list. It may be one of the best selling games of all time, but there are plenty of kids who don’t have it.

Rocket League



If I told you a few years ago that millions of players would be playing digital soccer using rocket powered cars you’d has told me I was crazy. But, here we are! Rocket League is a game that you will LOVE to watch your kids play. The colors are bright. The action is wild. And the game is just absurd enough that you’ll be laughing the whole time. Don’t sleep on this one. Its great.


Make sure to look at all of our other Holiday Gift Guides for 2017!

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Engaged Family Gaming Holiday

There were a lot of awesome games that came to the PlayStation 4 this year. Take a look at the games we recommend for Holiday gifts this year!

Horizon: Zero Dawn



Arguably the best game of 2017 for young adult gamers. Horizon: Zero Dawn is a story of life and struggle over the remnants of a future civilization. Robotic animal creatures roam a landscape filled with the remnants of a fallen civilization.  Players experience the story of Aloy, a young woman trying to survive and understand the great tragedy of her land.

I linked the Complete Edition above. It will be coming out on December 5th and will include the DLC pack that is launching in November.

 

Star Wars Battlefront II



Star Wars is on everyone’s mind right now. How can it not be with Episode 8 looming this holiday season?

Star Wars fans will want to take a look at Star Wars Battlefront II this holiday. It isn’t available for purchase yet as of the time that I published our gift guide, but most early indications from a public beta have been positive. There have been some concerns raised by critics about the micro-transactions that are available in the game, but we don’t have all of the details from the final version of the game yet. We’ll need to wait and see if they end up being a true problem.

 

Everybody’s Golf



Everybody’s Golf is a casual golf game that the whole family can play. You create goofy characters and play on relatively wild courses. The action is simple enough that just about anyone can play with a little practice. The $40 price tag doesn’t hurt either.

 

Destiny 2


Destiny 2 is an amazing multiplayer shooter experience set in a cool sci-fi universe. It is also a great compromise for parents looking to find a shooter for their kids to play that isn’t as grim as Call of Duty: WW2 or Battlefield 1.

 

Crash Bandicoot Collection


Crash Bandicoot was Sony’s attempt to compete with Super Mario. He never quite succeeded in supplanting him, but there are a lot of people who look back on his games fondly. The N-Sane Trilogy is a collection of the first three Crash Bandicoot games that have each been lovingly remade from the ground up and made available in a $40 collection.

Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 + 2.5 ReMIX



Kingdom Hearts 3 is coming soon. (They say its coming next year, but I’ll believe that when I see it.) Players need to get ready for it and this is a collection of every meaningful game in the series so far.

Final Fantasy XII The Zodiac Age


A sprawling tale about the never ending cycle of war and intrigue. FF12 is the last game in the series from the PS2 era and was recently re-released for PS4 with an HD upgrade. Zodiac Age is the smooth update and rebalancing of an already great game. It even includes some features that never made it to the States on its initial debut.

Minecraft



I know I sound like a broken record, but Minecraft should be on top of everyone’s shopping list. It may be one of the best selling games of all time, but there are plenty of kids who don’t have it.


Be sure to check out the rest of our holiday gift guides for 2017!

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Engaged Family Gaming Holiday

Nintendo has had an awesome year. The Nintendo Switch is selling like crazy, and they haven’t really released a bad game yet. Take a look below for our recommendations for Nintendo Switch games that will make great gifts!

 

Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild


You can read my review to see exactly what I think about this one at length. I feel, strongly, that Breath of the Wild is the best game that Nintendo has ever made. This is an game that will give your family hundreds of hours of enjoyment. I can’t recommend this game enough.

 

Super Mario Odyssey



New Super Mario games are rare. It isn’t out yet, but I played Super Mario Odyssey at E3 for ten minutes and I was sold afterwards.

The biggest new feature in this 3D Mario adventure is Mario’s hat. Its been possessed by an ghost named Cappy. Cappy gives Mario the ability to capture enemies (and other characters) in the various levels and use their powers to help complete puzzles and locate Power Moons.

Splatoon 2


Splatoon was one of our favorite games last generation. We had our doubts initially, but there was no way that we were letting an shooter that’s appropriate for kids slip past us. I wasn’t sold initially, but I played for an single hour long demo and was sold.

The sequel takes every part of the original formula and improves on it. Its a great gift for kids who are asking for an shooter to play, but just aren’t old enough for other games in the genre.

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe


Mario Kart is one of the biggest, and best, franchises in Nintendo history. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is also one of the best games available on the Switch. This game will be a ton of fun for your family so buy with confidence.

Nintendo even added more benefits for families by adding both auto-steering and auto-acceleration options. These two accessibility options make it much easier for younger players (or players with disabilties) to play the game.

Arms



Arms is a super-cool fighting game experience where players battle it out using spring-armed warriors. Most fighting games released to date feature a camera set to the side. Arms is different because the camera sits behind the character like it’s a shooter. It is also a little bit slower since fighters tend to be farther apart. This slower and more methodical pace makes it more accessible for less experienced gamers while still leaving room for players to master it.

Minecraft


I know I sound like a broken record, but Minecraft should be on top of everyone’s shopping list. It may be one of the best selling games of all time, but there are plenty of kids who don’t have it.


Be sure to check out all of our other 2017 Holiday Gift Guides!

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Engaged Family Gaming Holiday

The Holidays are a great time for families to get new home consoles. They make great gifts for the whole family and can be responsible for a lot of great memories. Take a look below for our recommendations for home consoles this year.

Nintendo Switch


The Nintendo Switch launched in March of this year and has been a wild success for Nintendo. It is, without question, the best console for families on the market right now and it isn’t close. The console/tablet hybrid has just passed its 6 month anniversary and it is already home a better lineup of family games that either of its main competitors.

The main attraction for the Nintendo Switch is that it serves two purposes. It is both a home console that you can play on the family TV and a handheld console that you can take on the go. This can be a godsend for families that have multiple siblings because you can use it in “tabletop mode” to play multiplayer games like Mario Kart 8 Deluxe Edition anywhere!

Looking for some Switch games to give? Heres our list of Switch Games!

Sony PlayStation 4



The PlayStation 4 is another great console option. It doesn’t have the strongest lineup of exclusive games, but it is home to all of the major third party games like Destiny 2. You shouldn’t have any problems finding games to play with your family here. The catalog is already full of great games already and the future is bright since Spider Man will come out next year.

The biggest decision that new PlayStation owners will have to make when shopping for a PS4 is whether to purchase a base model or to spend a little bit extra for a PS4 Pro. The main difference between those two systems is going to be the graphics performance. Both of them will play the same games, but the PS4 Pro will make them look better if your family owns a 4k television.

Looking for some PS4 games to give? Here’s our list of PS4 games for this holiday!

Microsoft Xbox One


2017 has been a challenging year for Xbox fans. The exclusives have been in short supply and several high profile games have been delayed or cancelled.

There is a ray of hope though. The Xbox One X has been announced and it looks like a great console for families looking for a powerful console to help show off their new 4k television.

Looking for some Xbox One games to give? Here’s our list of Xbox One games for this holiday!

Last Generation Consoles



Families that aren’t interested in standing on the bleeding edge of console gaming technology still have plenty of reasons to pick up older consoles like the PS3, Xbox 360, and, to a lesser extent, the Wii U. These consoles should be relatively easy to find used from places like GameStop and have huge catalogs of games just waiting to be plucked from bargain bins.

In the worst case scenario a uses Xbox 360 will be a serviceable Minecraft machine for families that want to let their children play, but don’t want them using the family PC or laptop.

3DS Family of Hardware


The Nintendo Switch is the most exciting thing that Nintendo has on the market right now, but the 3DS handheld systems are still useful. They will be great purchases for families that want to introduce gaming to their children, but want something sturdier. The handheld may be entering the sunset of its life, but it has a library with hundreds of games that your children will love.

The only real problem with the 3DS family of systems is that there are so many versions that it can be hard to keep track of them. Fortunately, EFG published a handy guide to help sort all those details! You can read it here.

SNES Classic

The SNES Classic isn’t a traditional console, but it is such a big deal that I had to include it somewhere. It is a bite-sized console that includes twenty of the best games ever made. Its going to be in high demand though, so keep that in mind if you are adding it to your shopping lists.


Thats it for the consoles, but make sure to check out the rest of our 2017 Holiday Gift Guide!

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Secret of Mana is being Remade with Modern Visuals and Sound!
Square Enix has announced a complete remake of the Secret of Mana. It is scheduled to be released on February 15, 2018 for the PlayStation 4, the PSVita, and PC. They aren’t kidding when they say it is a complete remake either. Square is giving the game an overhaul with 3D graphics, bright colors, and voice acting!
 
Secret of Mana is one of the most beloved RPGs of all time. Its claim to fame, at least in my heart, is being the first action RPG to include two player, simultaneous, cooperative play. It was one of the first opportunities my brother and I had to play a game like this together. It actually supported three players, but we were never able to make that happen. We will get that chance again when the remake comes out. 
 
Square Enix is giving Secret of Mana a full makeover. They are using a bright and colorful art style that will be a sight to behold. It’s interesting that Square Enix waited this long to remake this one, but I am hoping that this will become a trend. They have a huge catalog of games that are worthy of remakes like this.
I know that we’re picking this one up the minute it comes out. What about your family? Sound off in the comments!
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Nintendo Miiverse to End In November

Nintendo has announced the Wii U and 3DS focused social media platform, Miiverse, will cease operations on November 7th, 2017 at 10 am PST.

The service was designed to allow players to interact with each other and share content relating to games on the platforms. Players could draw pictures on their Wii U gamepad or on their 3DS and those drawings would actually show up in some Nintendo exclusive games like Splatoon and Super Smash Bros.

Nintendo revealed the closure details in a Miiverse post on August 29th.


End of Miiverse Service Announcement

Hi everyone, it’s Tom at Nintendo.

I have an important announcement: On November 7th, 10:00 pm Pacific Time, we will permanently close the Miiverse service.

We thank you very much for your amazing support. It has been a great privilege for me to serve as your Miiverse guide, and to see people who enjoy similar gaming experiences connect with empathy.

After the service ends:

  • You will no longer be able to access Miiverse from the Wii U console, Nintendo 3DS family of systems or from an internet browser on PCs or smart devices. All Miiverse services will become unavailable, such as viewing or making posts, and messaging with friends. However, for a limited time, you will be able to make a request to download all the posts you’ve made up to the day of the closure.
  • For Wii U and Nintendo 3DS games that support in-game Miiverse functionality, these features and services will no longer be available.
  • Miiverse posts will no longer appear in the Wara Wara Plaza on Wii U.

Information on downloading your post history:

By making this request, you will be able to download your posts – plus any screenshots saved to your album – to your PC after the Miiverse service has ended.

To use this download service, you will need to have a Nintendo Account linked with your Nintendo Network ID, and must make the download request before the Miiverse service ends.

To find out more about this service or to make the download request, click on the “Information on Downloading your Post History” button at the top of the Miiverse website.

For more information on the Miiverse closure and the games it will affect, please visit the support site by clicking on the blue globe icon or the url below to launch the internet browser.

From all of us at Nintendo, we sincerely thank you for supporting Miiverse all these years. We hope you’ll continue using Miiverse until the service ends.

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Fe is the Next EA Originals Game and its Stunning

Fe was first announced back at E3 2016 and has been silent since. EA revealed more about the game during their GamesCom press event. It is being developed by Zoink Games and follows the story of a fox cub as learns to use his voice to help heal the forest of light.

We haven’t been able to get our hands on the game yet, but everything we have been shown so far is looking great! Fe appears to be a 3D platformer (like Super Mario 64, Yooka-Laylee, and other similar titles). Players will control a magical fox cub as he or she explores a forest and learns to use various songs to help befriend different animals. These animals will help unlock new areas for further exploration. The gameplay itself doesn’t really strike me as particularly new or interesting, but I am captivated by the sound design and the visuals. The heavy use of black in the background and the foreground really make everything stand out. It is tough to tell whether or not the art style will get confusing during combat or platforming sections, but we’ll obviously know more about that we get closer to launch.

EA will be publishing Fe in early 2018 on the PS4, Xbox One, PC, and Switch. The trailer is linked below. Take a look and let us know what you think in the comments.

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The Final Fantasy XV Universe is Expanding!

Final Fantasy XV released last year. It was one of my favorite games of the year in spite of its flaws. Square Enix has been working since its release to update the game with continuous improvements. There have been consistent DLC releases that have included Power Ranger style exo-suits and individual story modes for two of the Noctis’s best friends.

Square isn’t done with Final Fantasy XV yet, though, not by a long shot. They’ve made several announcements since the beginning of GamesCom in Cologne, Germany that will expand the Final Fantasy XV Universe and give fans plenty to look forward to.

Final Fantasy XV Comes to PC

There were some who had given up hope that a PC release for FFXV would never come, but those days are numbered. The Final Fantasy Windows Edition will launch in early 2018 and will include NVidia Gameworks technology to improve the game’s visuals. The technologies that will be included are:

  • NVIDIA Flow – creates vivid, combustible fluid, fire and smoke.
  • NVIDIA HairWorks – creates dynamic, life-like hair and fur for characters, animals, and monsters that inhabit the game.
  • NVIDIA ShadowWorks – enables characters to cast shadows on themselves.
  • NVIDIA Turf Effects – creates life-like grass and vegetation in the game environment.
  • NVIDIA VXAO – adds depth and realism based on the physics principles shadows and light.

There is also support for both GeForce® Experience™ capture and share tools:

  •  NVIDIA Ansel™, an in-game photography tool that allows gamers to compose shots from any position, adjust with post-process filters, capture HDR images in high fidelity formats, and share screenshots in 360 via a smartphone, PC or VR headset.
  • NVIDIA ShadowPlay™ Highlights automatically captures the player’s greatest gaming achievements in video and screenshot, enabling seamless sharing through social channels.

Final Fantasy XV Pocket Edition

Final Fantasy XV is a very beautiful game. Its so beautiful, in fact, that porting the game to anything but PC would be almost impossible. The team at Square Enix figured out a workaround though. They have created a game that maintains the same story and 10 chapter structure but replaces the realistic visuals from the original game with a low polygon chibi style. It sounds silly, but it definitely works. Take a look at the trailer and see for yourself.

The simplified graphics make it to the Pocket edition with will be right at home on older phones and tablets, but it also leads me to wonder if it also means that there is potential for a Switch port of the Pocket Edition. Only time will tell, but one would think that Square would want to capitalize on the console’s success in any way they can.

Episode Ignis

We have already gotten two other individual episodes, one for Gladiolus and another for Prompto. Ignis will get his turn during holiday 2017. We don’t really have any idea what the game will be like, but I would make a serious bet that it is more of a stealth game just like Prompto’s episode was more of a shooter.

“Comrades” DLC

One of the most surprising announcements to come from the Final Fantasy XV Universe (and that is saying something) is the comrades DLC. This is a multiplayer mode that allows players to create their own avatars and play through a unique story with different locations. I don’t know who out there asked for a multiplayer Final Fantasy game, but here we are.

Monsters of the Deep VR Experience

Square Enix teased a Final Fantasy VR game built around Prompto last year. This has since been scrapped in favor of a fishing mini game set in VR. I saw this played at E3 and freaked out about it on one of our E3 2017 podcasts. Square Enix has announced that the game will be released on 11/21/2017.

Do any of these things look interesting to you? Sound off in the comments!

 

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Hearthstone: Knights of the Frozen Throne Has Released!

Developer: Blizzard

Platform: PC/Mobile/Tablet

Release Date: 8/10/17

Teaser Trailer:

Website

What is Hearthstone?

Hearthstone is one the first and most popular digital collectible card games. It was created as a spin-off of the popular Warcraft and World of Warcraft game series but has since taken on a life of its own. Hearthstone has set the tone for game design in online games the same way Magic the Gathering has influenced all other physical collectable card games.

Hearthstone is primarily a player against player game, where each player takes turns as they slowly collect mana crystals to play cards in their hand. These cards represent iconic Warcraft monsters, spells, items, and events that can be used to reduce the health of your opponent from 30 to 0. The art style and design is meant to bring out a very casual and relaxed feel. The vary name “Hearthstone” refers to the World of Warcraft item that let you return to the safety of an inn.

Where Magic: the Gathering distinguishes their cards using color to represent various themes and mechanics. Hearthstone cards are primarily divided into groups based on iconic Warcraft heroes and their classes. Players build a deck by selecting a hero and using cards based on that heroes’ class as well as a collection of neutral cards. Each hero also has a unique “hero power” that can be used once a turn to support their style of play. It is this combination of hero based deck building and the steady build up of resources to play cards that makes Hearthstone a lot easier of a game to play than Magic: the Gathering for some family gamers.

What also sets apart Hearthstone and other digital card games from their physical brethren is their free-to-play model of game expansion. Playing games as various heroes initially unlocks cards from that class and completing quests, tasks that require specific actions during a game, reward you with coins that can be used to purchase more packs of cards. While you can use money to purchase additional packs, daily quests and a weekly casual event known as a “Tavern Brawl” provide a steady stream of resources. There is also process for taking extra cards and turning them into a flexible resource for crafting specific cards. There is something satisfying to someone who has played for years with paper card games, to be able to turn a pile of extra cards into that elusive card.

What is Knights of the Frozen Throne?

Knights of the Frozen Throne is the 5th large expansion for Hearthstone. With this expansion comes cards that feature iconic characters and themes from World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King. Arthas the Lich King and his lieutenants of the Icecrown Citadel are available as creatures to summon along with legions of monsters and spells inspired by the treacherous Northrend.

 

Why is the Awesome?

A single player story mode featuring The Lich King himself will be available for all players. The challenge is a series of matches versus computer opponents with special hero cards and decks based on iconic villains of the Icecrown Citadel. Players who conquer this gauntlet of challenges are rewarded with a free legendary card that is a card type unique to this set…

Death Knight Hero Cards

This set features a new set of legendary cards that represent the nine iconic heroes falling under the sway of the Lich King. These cards have an immediate effect when they are played and replace each character’s hero power with an evil, and significantly more powerful, effect. Personally I am excited for the corrupted

Priest hero: Shadow Reaper Anduin

Rarity adjustments geared towards newer players

While announced several weeks ago, this set marks the starting of new features that are geared towards newer players. A legendary card is guaranteed to be opened in the first ten packs of any set purchased, and duplicate legends will never be opened. If a player would open a legendary that a player already has, the game replaces it with a different legendary that the player does not own. These changes were made in response to player feedback on the frustration of opening duplicate legends or very few epic or legendary cards at all.

Lifesteal, a familiar mechanic comes to Hearthstone

Players of Magic: The Gathering and other card games will know this by names like Lifelink and Drain. Cards with Lifesteal heal your hero for as much damage as they deal. This ability is put on creatures and spells, and some death knight hero cards give lifestealing weapons or hero powers. While life gain by itself is not a strong ability, pairing it with a creature or a removal spell can never be a bad thing.

 

Divine Shield and Deathrattle

Two mechanics that are at the core of Hearthstone are getting a large infusion of cards from this set.

Divine Shield is an ability on a minion that prevents all damage from the first time it is attacked or hit by a spell. Not only are there a lot of divine shield minions that have been added, but several paladin cards benefit from divine shield minions going into the fray.

 

 

Deathrattle is an ability that happens when that minion dies, and Knights of the Frozen throne has a lot of creatures that care about when they die. New to the theme are creatures that care when they die and punish opponents who aggressively destroy your creatures.

 

Why should you pick up this game?

Hearthstone, and its recent expansion Knights of the Frozen throne, is a game that is easy to learn and play for computers, tablets and mobile devices. It offers one of the best free to play experiences around and its short games are perfect for gaming opportunities when time is short or physical space is limited. With it being an online only game, it is important to note that chat and social interactions are opt in, which is important for younger family gamers.

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Dragon Quest Builders 2 Announced

The Dragon Quest Summer festival took place this past weekend. Square Enix announced a sequel to the surprise hit Dragon Quest Builders. The game is tentatively titled Dragon Quest Builders 2.

We don’t have a release date, but Square Enix did tease several new gameplay elements. The first game combined Dragon Quest RPG elements with Minecraft building. The sequel doubles down on that and adds additional features like:

  • Underwater diving
  • Up to four player cooperative play
  • a huge increase in the number of blocks that can be stacked
  • a Breath of the Wild style glider to help with traversal

The biggest news, however, to come out of the announcement is that it will be coming to both the PS4 and the Nintendo Switch. Its a perfect system for a game like this. Dragon Quest Builders is a game that encourages lots of small trip out into the wilds looking for materials. The hybrid console will give players plenty of opportunities for that. I can absolutely imagine playing DQ Builders on my Switch in handheld mode while watching football or something similar.

You can watch the gameplay demo that was livestreamed at the event below.

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