A month of Mac gaming to savor
March’s selection of intriguing new releases serves as a testament to how strong Mac gaming has become. It’s a wide selection of experiences—large and small—spanning a nice array of genres: City building, role-playing, strategy, simulation, action, puzzle, and more. And what’s especially great is that almost every game on this list launched at the same time as on other platforms—waiting for ports is much less of a concern on Mac these days.
Eager to dig into something new and exciting? Here are the 10 games released in March that we’ve been playing and/or hearing good things about, and if you missed our earlier lists, January and February weren’t so shabby themselves.
If you’ve been dismayed by the recent direction of EA’s once-sterling SimCity series, then be sure to check out Cities: Skylines ($30). It’s a city-builder that puts modern hardware to good use by delivering incredible scale and customization in your cities, which can sprawl while remaining impressively realistic and detailed.
True, Cities: Skylines essentially modernizes the classic SimCity design, but it does so in a more solid and satisfying way than EA’s own 2013 reboot, which was sullied by technical irritations and other flaws. Plus, it has mod support, so the community can keep this one fresh for some time to come. And it seems quite likely that they will, because user and critic reviews alike are exceedingly positive—like the one from our sister site, PCWorld.
Pillars of Eternity
Role-playing games have gotten grander and flashier over the years, but there’s still a strong contingent of fans that long for classics like Baldur’s Gate and Planescape Torment. Friends, this is your game. Pillars of Eternity ($45) hails from Obsidian Entertainment, one of the top RPG studios around (see: Fallout: New Vegas, Wasteland 2), and it’s a total throwback to that era.
It’s an isometric fantasy adventure, and it’s absolutely sprawling—if you’ve got 100 hours, Pillars of Eternity is probably happy to fill it. Keeping with the old-school design, the game might look a little dated, but it’s a love letter to the genre’s best, and it might be the closest anyone has come to replicating it in some time. Check out PCWorld’s review impressions for more.
Out of the Park Baseball 16
If you’re both a baseball fan and a hardcore stats junkie, then you probably ought to check out Out of the Park Baseball 16 ($40). The simulation series has been pleasing armchair general managers since 1999, and this year’s edition is the first to feature the official Major League Baseball license, meaning you get official team logos and more visual flair to go along with all the charts and numbers.
It’s still a menu-driven affair: You’ll never swing the bat or throw a single pitch, but the deep tools give you a lot of flexibility in how you run your organization. And the license brings minor league teams, as well, in addition to every MLB season’s stats since 1871. Yeah, it’s a deep one.
Fancy a choose-your-own-adventure game with a cartoonish Lord of the Flies-like premise? Then Dyscourse ($15) should be right up your alley. When your plane crashes on an uncharted island, you’re left with an array of curious travelers to coexist with as you attempt to survive.
Stories are emergent and completely depend on your responses to the myriad dialogue prompts, so no two games should ever be exactly alike—and there’s 120,000-plus words worth of script to ensure that probability. It sounds like each game only lasts a couple of hours, but the real appeal should come with the replayability, giving you a chance to soak in the humor and oddball characters on the island.
Sid Meier's Starships
Love the brainy strategy of the Civilization series, but can’t quite muster the time or focus to pump dozens of hours into a single game? Consider playing Sid Meier’s Starships ($15) instead. Spawned from the same legendary game designer, this sci-fi-themed game (inspired by last year’s Civilization: Beyond Earth) delivers a more compact experience, letting you play through a game in as little as a couple hours.
The tactics are simpler and the scale is significantly trimmed down, with the result having something of a board game influence to it. But despite the compact design, the turn-based action is still plenty appealing, says PCWorld’s review.
Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number
Like its cult classic predecessor, Hotline Miami 2 ($15) takes NES-era graphics and soaks them in the blood of your enemies, as you clear rooms of gun-toting guards via heavily stylized, yet horrifyingly violent kill maneuvers. It’s a surreal, stylish affair in which one wrong move can trigger your immediate demise; but if you plan out a route and think fast, the satisfaction of your revenge can be immense.
Wrong Number’s reviews have been more mixed than the original. Some have praised its expanded gameplay and added variety, while others—including PCWorld’s appraisal—see it as a less-focused, less-entertaining follow-up that loses sight of what made the original so great. But fans of the first game are likely to enjoy at least some of the experience.
We’ve seen all manner of match-three puzzle/role-playing hybrids over the years, thanks to the inventive Puzzle Quest, but Ironcast ($15) strikes a different kind of balance. It’s a Bejeweled-like puzzler still, sure, but it’s paired with a Steampunk-inspired scenario in which you battle tank-like robots—and if you lose, you’re done for good.
Indeed, it has a bit of roguelike, FTL-esque permadeath in the mix, so one wrong move can be very painful indeed. But you maintain some progress with each new game, so there’s incentive to keep pushing ahead. The alternate-history Victorian London aesthetic looks fantastic, and the ample machine customization outside of the puzzle gameplay seems plenty engaging.
Shelter 2 ($15) has one of the most compelling and distinctive concepts we’ve ever heard for a game: You take the role of a pregnant lynx, who then gives birth to cubs and must nurture and protect them in the unforgiving wilderness. It’s a sequel (the first game featured badgers), so the premise may not be 100-percent new this time around, but it still seized our attention.
Pair that with absolutely stunning art design and Shelter 2 seems like an essential pick this month. However, reviews have been incredibly mixed—some love that it’s a more open world than in the original, while others say that even with added scale, the game is too simple and short. Still, we remain intrigued, especially at just $15.
The Sims 4: Get to Work
Forgive our oversight: The Sims 4 made its way to Mac last month via EA’s own Origin digital service, and we didn’t have it in our already-overstuffed roundup. But it’s certainly not to late to start digging into the latest entry in the much-loved life simulation franchise, which builds upon the people-manipulating fun of the earlier entries.
And the first expansion pack, Get to Work ($40), just launched this week, adding even more opportunities to experience life as your Sim. You can create a business and take on several different professions, including doctor, detective, or baker, each with its own unique goals and gameplay elements. It’s a pricey addition atop an already-$60 game, but it should add a fair bit to the overall experience.
Oddworld: Stranger's Wrath
If you enjoyed last month’s release of Oddworld: New ‘n’ Tasty, you’ll be pleased to know that the series’ long-awaited trek to Mac continues this month with Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath ($10). Unlike the earlier game, which put a colorful, humorous spin on the 2D side-scroller, this decade-old entry delivers 3D action and shooting playable from both third-person and first-person perspectives.
You’ll take the role of a bounty hunter, using all sorts of curious weapons (which use, uh, living ammunition) to blast prey and collect cash. It’s a lengthy adventure and regarded as a genre highlight of its era, although some time has passed. However, with that bite-sized asking price and cloud save compatibility with the recent iOS release, it seems well worth a look.