2014 is turning into the year that gaming forgot. All the big holiday games have moved to 2015, so most anything of worth that was supposed to come out this summer has moved ahead to the holidays to compensate. The result is a July and August as bleak as any I can remember. Hope you’re up for playing The Last of Us again, because the PS4 remake is the only major game coming out until mid-September.
So, what’s a person looking to get in some lazy summer gaming in to do? Well, major titles may have been thin on the ground this year, but a number of top-notch indie and under-the-radar games have snuck out. Here are the games that are going to get you through the next two months…
Bravely Default (3DS)
A truer successor to old school Final Fantasy than most recent Final Fantasy games, Bravely Default is a gorgeous, classically styled RPG, with just enough of a modern twist to keep it relevant. Perfect cottage gaming.
Shovel Knight (PC, Wii U & 3DS)
There are a lot of indie games doing the “retro” thing, but few that get it as spot-on as Shovel Knight. This game really feels like a classic Capcom or Konami NES game, but, thankfully, with a challenge level that won’t drive you completely insane.
Transistor (PC & PS4)
Transistor is the latest gorgeous RPG from the Supergiant Games (the makers of fan-favorite Bastion). The game isn’t just a pretty face, it also packs some interesting mechanics — basically you dodge enemy attacks in real time until a bar fills up, at which point the game pauses and you choose your actions, then the game unpauses, your character performs the actions at super-speed and then it’s back to dodging again. Action fans and RPG fanatics should both find something to like here.
Child of Light (PC, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PS3, PS4, Wii U & PS Vita)
Child of Light is a beautiful and interesting mash-up of Japanese and Western design sensibilities. Here’s my full review if you want to read me going on at greater length.
Kero Blaster (PC & iOS)
A new game from the Pixel, the guy behind indie classic Cave Story? Yes please. Kero Blaster is more of a straight-ahead Mega Man-esque adventure (as opposed to Cave Story, which was more in the Metroid vein) but it still looks like it delivers the tight action and endearing characters Pixel is known for.
Looking for the best new fighting game of 2014? Well, surprisingly Nidhogg, with it’s Atari 2600-looking characters is probably your best bet. A one-on-one fencing game that takes place in ever-shifting environments, Nidhogg is perfectly balanced and unexpectedly thrilling.
Kirby: Triple Deluxe (3DS)
Wait, a new Kirby game came out this year? Yup! Kirby: Triple Deluxe is pure, classic Kirby suck ‘n’ transform gameplay, and a perfect nostalgic summer diversion.
OlliOlli (PS Vita)
Is there a more quintessential lazy summer game than Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater? Well, the Tony Hawk games don’t exist any more, but OlliOlli looks to fill the gap in its own quaint way. Featuring a retro art style, simplified control scheme and a crushing level of challenge, OlliOlli looks like addictive stuff.
Atelier Rorona Plus: The Alchemist of Arland (PS3 & PS Vita)
Looking for a new filling RPG to while away the summer hours? Like complex systems and have a high tolerance for cuteness? Well, it might be time to give the cult-favorite Atelier series a try with Atelier Rorona Plus.
Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze (Wii U)
Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze kind of came and went without much fanfare, particularly for a game featuring one of Nintendo’s most reliable stars. Tropical Freeze is more rock solid, balls hard platforming goodness, this time with a fantastic new soundtrack by classic SNES DK composer, David Wise.
So there you have it. Don’t be scared by the fact that none of these games have Metacritic scores in the 90s — Infamous: Second Son only got an 80. Watch Dogs only got an 80. These games are as good or better than any triple-A game that’s come out this year, so do yourself a favor and give ’em a try. We’ll make it through this summer together folks.