The end of June is upon us, and it's once again time to make our picks for the best games of the month. Read on for our favorites, and keep checking back for more picks as the year continues.
It's only June, but we're well into the dog days of summer here in the videogame industry.
With E3 2014 done and dusted, this is one of the few times that we really get a break from the torrent of reviews. Next month, it will be even quieter, with only a scant few games (and the Destiny Beta) set for release. In the meantime though, we've found a few gems this month, pretty much all of them for Nintendo platforms.
The overwhelming favorite is Shovel Knight, which earned a 5-star review and was described by primary reviewer Mike Williams as a "a loving homage to an era we left behind long ago." But Jeremy and Jaz have their own favorites this month, which you can read about below.
As always, feel free to share your own favorites in the comments below, whether from the Steam Summer Sale or elsewhere. We're always happy to hear your thoughts.
Shovel Knight (Nintendo 3DS, Wii U, Steam)
Bob Mackey, Senior Writer: I haven't put much time into Shovel Knight, but it's far and above my favorite game of June, and I can't wait until I can dig into more of it (pun thoroughly intended without regret). To be fair, you could swing a cat and hit roughly 30 indie games with an 8-bit aesthetic, but Shovel Knight isn't just aping this look for the sake of nostalgia: It's 8-bit to the bone—though it does benefit from 20-plus years of lessons learned from game design. In short, Shovel Knight is as if the best Konami, Capcom, and Sunsoft games of the NES era had a beautiful baby, froze said baby, and unthawed it in 2014. I'm no expert on baby-freezing, but I approve of these actions.
Mike Williams, Staff Writer: I just published my review for Shovel Knight, so I think it's unsurprising that it's my Editor’s Choice game for June. As Bob noted, Shovel Knight lives and breathes the old NES era is a way that many games can never really touch. Yacht Club Games spent a ton of time making a game that literally could've run on an NES and their dedication to their craft shows. Shovel Knight is a lovable and endearing throwback to my childhood. The game is an absolute joy to play from beginning to end and it's well-worth the $15 asking price if you haven't already backed it on Kickstarter.
Kat Bailey, Senior Editor: It's easy to be cynical about Shovel Knight, which by all appearances is just another retro platformer like so many that have come down the pipeline over the years. It's all too easy to put together some baseline pixel art, throw in some chiptunes, and call a game a "retro homage" to the days of the NES. Fortunately, Shovel Knight is better than that.
As Mike and Bob have said, Shovel Knight is just ridiculously fun to play. The stages are exquisitely varied, and so are the boss battles, which feel like duels to the death. But Shovel Knight's real masterstroke is its approach to difficulty, which effectively allows the player to decide how hard or how easy they want it to be (and it can be pretty dang hard if you destroy those checkpoints). I'll admit, I'm stunned by how downright modern this ode to 8-bit is. It's a really pleasant surprise.
For me, it's a no-brainer. Shovel Knight is the best game I've played this month, and absolutely one of the best games I've played all year. Even if you're not big into the retro scene, this is a game worth owning. Go and play it as soon as possible.
Tomodachi Life (Nintendo 3DS)
Jeremy Parish, Editor-in-Chief: Tomodachi Life has been this month’s most interesting gaming experience for me. I hesitate to say best, because there's not much too it... yet it's kept me dabbling, picking it up every few days to play around a bit with my imaginary citizens, even after it broke my heart a little bit. I suppose Tomodachi Life is a sort of like the Force tree on Dagobah: What you find there is only what you take with you. It's less a game than a toy, but there's certainly nothing wrong with that, and thanks to its excellent voice synthesis system it works as a toy for all ages—even for kids too young to read.
Pushmo World (Wii U)
Jaz Rignall, Editor-a-Large: I'm a big fan of Pushmo on Nintendo 3DS: a clever, mind-bending puzzler that challenges you to think in ways you don't normally have to. This scaled-up version is basically the same mechanic, expanded into an even bigger game. It doesn't look like much, as is often the case with good puzzle games, but beneath its bright, colorful and almost childish exterior lies a really well designed and thoroughly engrossing brainteaser. It's the sort of thing that you sit down to play, and then you get up after what feels like 10 minutes and then realize that an hour has actually passed. At a measly $10, Pushmo World is a bargain. If you enjoy puzzle games, you really owe it to yourself to download this little gem.