While I lack much of the fond nostalgia for the 3D platforming genre, I was completely enthralled by A Hat in Time. Its bright, cheery art and music, witty dialogue, and grandiose level designs instantly catapulted Hat Kid among the upper echelon of the late 90s Golden Age classics.
Simply put: A Hat in Time is the most fun I’ve had with a 3D platformer since Psychonauts.
This was one of the best years for family and kid-friendly gaming, thanks in large part to Nintendo. The Nintendo Switch, which released in March, has been a huge success this year. We’ve seen big titles like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey cement Nintendo as the premiere resource for family-friendly gaming.
The Super Nintendo Classic Edition also makes a great holiday gift for families nostalgic for early 90s gaming.
We’ve gathered all the best and biggest games of the year for each console, organized by younger kids (under 10), older kids (10-16), and mature teens & parents (17+).
In lieu of a traditional review I’m going to do something a bit different with the SNES Classic Edition. I’m going to rank all 21 games included in the retro 90s emulator.
The SNES Classic Edition is a great little product that nails the original design of the console and controllers. It’s not without flaws: the short cord range (about 5 ft) can be a big annoyance, and in order to change games and use the rewind and save-state features, you have to physically push a button on the console. But those features also add a lot of modern convenience to classic games, greatly improving accessibility.
As the front-runner for greatest console of all time, the Super Nintendo had some pretty good games. The SNES Classic Edition does a near-perfect job of drawing from a wide variety of genres and gameplay styles to represent some (though not all) of the best games of the era.
Last year Disney abruptly announced they were ending Disney Infinity after three years. Earlier this year Activision gave the foreboding announcement that they would not release a new Skylanders game this year– for the first time in six years. This week Warner Bros. confirmed that they’re ceasing development on LEGO Dimensions (though online support will remain).
At this point there are more discontinued (or on hiatus) toys-to-life games than ongoing. In the span of a year we went from most major game publishers wanting a piece of the surging toys-to-life pie, to suddenly being left with a grim outlook for the future of the genre.
Many of my favorite games stick with me over the years not because of finely-honed combat systems or impressive visual effects. Often it’s the story and characters that remain the most memorable aspects of the those cherished gaming experiences.
Masquerada: Songs and Shadows has one of the best stories I’ve experienced in years. It’s an epic tale about heroic sacrifice, forbidden love, political betrayal, and self discovery set within a richly realized world of urban renaissance and ancient mystery. Masquerada’s tactical combat is serviceable, but it’s the story and characters that demand you experience this unique RPG.
At my daughter’s preschool graduation she confidently announced that she wanted to be an artist when she grew up. She draws and colors every day. Her desk is a warzone of papers, crayons, paints, Play-Doh, and magic markers.
Like most kids she’s also in love with her iPad, an old hand-me-down. She watches videos and plays games. Nothing had prepared me for how well two of her favorite activities could intersect with the newest Dr. Panda product. Dr. Panda Plus: Home Designer combines the creative joys of drawing with the magic of augmented reality to transcribe your creations into a kid-friendly digital playhouse.
All eyes are on the Nintendo Switch this year, as well they should be. Nintendo has been in a weird place with home consoles over the last decade. The Wii exploded onto the scene as a gimmicky toy, then quickly collected dust in everyone’s closest. The Wii U failed to capture an audience at all, reaching only 10% of the sales of its predecessor. Launching earlier this year, the Switch is faring much better, including a killer app like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and featuring full portability.
It’s the portability that had me worried about my favorite Nintendo product of this century: the Nintendo 3DS. With the announcement and launch of the Switch, I had concerns over how Nintendo’s handheld-only console would fare when stacked up with a device that could do both.
Turns out my concerns were completely unfounded. The six-year old Nintendo 3DS is having its best year ever in 2017.