August's Mac games
I’m always happily surprised by the diverse mix of new Mac games that make up our monthly roundup, but it should be noted: This is really only a fraction of the dozens and dozens of games that hit the platform each month. Seriously, just hit the Steam listings and browse away—plus you’ll find other games sold elsewhere.
Still, even as a small sample, this month’s selection of top picks is another great one, spanning huge AAA-style games (Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor), impressive indie titles (Volume, OlliOlli 2), and even revivals of old favorites (like the Homeworld Remastered Collection). If you’re looking for a few great games to dig into as the summer turns into fall, flip ahead to view the complete selection. And don’t miss our list of July’s most notable Mac games for even more options.
Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor
Finally, a great, recent Lord of the Rings game that doesn’t feature virtual Lego bricks. Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor ($50) recently made the move over to Mac, and while it looks a fair bit like a fantasy-themed take on the Assassin’s Creed franchise, this gripping open-world tale has some memorable additions of its own.
Chief among them is the Nemesis system, in which enemies have their own hierarchy that you can disrupt by killing leaders, whose names and reactions to you persist across multiple battles. Most action games have generic, interchangeable foes, but this gives Shadow of Mordor some extra depth. J.R.R. Tolkien fans seeking a serious, intense adventure in his iconic universe should be well-served.
From the indie developer behind the wonderfully offbeat Thomas Was Alone comes a much different kind of game—a stealth-action affair that’s all about sneaking around environments. Volume ($20) is very much like a Metal Gear Solid sort of game at its core, albeit trimmed down and removed of the cinematic excess and melodrama of that series. In other words, as one Steam reviewer notes, “It’s like Metal Gear without all the Metal Gear.”
What’s especially neat is that while the game ships with a hearty 100 levels to take down, users can create and share their own, and even remix the built-in stages. So there’s sure to be plenty to play, and the futuristic look is very cool indeed.
OlliOlli 2: Welcome to Olliwood
When most people think of skateboarding games, surely Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater comes to mind—or maybe something more sim-minded like EA’s Skate. But there’s another name worth knowing in this genre: OlliOlli, a wonderful little indie side-scrolling game in which you’ll build epic, out-of-this-world combos in colorful locales. And now the sequel is on Mac.
OlliOlli 2: Welcome to Olliwood ($15) builds upon the winning formula of the original while amping everything up. You’ll find an expanded combo system and trick set, new worlds and terrain types, and even a local multiplayer mode. It’s still worth checking out the original if you haven’t, but the sequel seems much-improved indeed. Check out sister site PCWorld’s review for a deeper dive.
Beyond Eyes ($15) is surely the most unconventional game on this list, due to its premise: You’ll guide a young, blind girl around the world in search of her missing cat. It’s a game built around overcoming and working around her notable disability, and it’s represented in a watercolor world in which splashes of the environment are painted in close proximity to her.
It’s a striking game indeed, and the concept is definitely intriguing. Professional reviews have been mixed, but Beyond Eyes seems to be doing better with average players, as the Steam review ranking is “Very Positive.” It’s supposed to be pretty short, but it also looks pretty sweet to us.
Homeworld Remastered Collection
Widely remembered as two of the best games the real-time strategy genre ever produced, Homeworld (1999) and Homeworld 2 (2003) are back in action on Mac this month with the release of Homeworld Remastered Collection ($35). The set brings both of the games up to date with revised graphics, support for up to 4K resolution, and even re-recorded voice acting.
Homeworld is memorable for putting a 3D spin on the typical real-time strategy affair, with both games delivering a mix of tactical combat and outer space simulation. And the set even includes both games in their original forms if the remastered entries are just a little too crisp for you. It’s exclusive to the Mac App Store for now, but a Steam release is coming at some point.
Shadowrun: Hong Kong
Cyberpunk fantasy role-playing series Shadowrun was more or less left for dead after an unremarkable Xbox 360 shooter spinoff in 2007. Luckily, the original creator got the rights back and released Shadowrun Returns in 2013—and they keep cranking them out. Last year’s standalone expansion Shadowrun: Dragonfall was widely seen as even better than Returns, and now Shadowrun: Hong Kong ($20) delivers another strong, turn-based tactical RPG.
Shadowrun: Hong Kong promises more than 15 hours of single-player gameplay and builds upon the isometric design of the prior entries, delivering improvements to decking and the skill tree. PCWorld’s review says it feels a little “aimless” at times, but otherwise recommends it to fans.
Now here’s a management simulation that might double as a moral barometer. Big Pharma ($25) puts you at the head of a pharmaceutical company, which has the power to create drugs that can rid the world’s top diseases—or simply profit from the ones that generate the most income.
Will you do the most good, or make the most bank? That’s the struggle at the heart of Big Pharma, which earned praise in its beta release for pushing players’ buttons. And the actual gameplay looks pretty extensive, as you’ll start with an empty warehouse and expand your efforts in time, putting money into research and seeking out new ingredients to build new cures and further your enterprise.
Company of Heroes 2
Love real-time strategy? Want a World War II game that isn’t a first-person shooter? Perfect: Company of Heroes 2 ($40) has just arrived on Mac to satiate both needs. It’s a couple years late to the party on Mac, as the PC version debuted in 2013, but this action-packed tactical affair can surely still entertain for hours and hours.
Company of Heroes 2 digs into the Eastern Front of the war, with showdowns taking place in the likes of Stalingrad and Germany as you lead troops into brutal battles of attrition. When PCWorld gave Heroes 2 the full review treatment two years back, the biggest knock against the game was that it felt like an expansion to the much-loved original. But more of a great thing isn’t bad, even if it’s a little delayed.
Spider: Rite of the Shrouded Moon
Spider: The Secret of Bryce Manor was one of the first truly great original iPhone games, and now a sequel has finally come out—for both iOS and Mac. Like the original, Spider: Rite of the Shrouded Moon ($13) puts you in command of the titular creepy crawler, letting you snare other bugs by creating webs while you zip around the colorful rooms.
But there’s much more happening amidst the lighthearted action. In this game, everything all takes place inside an abandoned mansion that one housed a secret society, and you’ll solve puzzles and explore the mystery while you play. The hand-drawn look is even better in the sequel, and in a neat twist, the game’s time of day and weather mirror what’s happening outside your own windows.
Serving as a visual homage to the sci-fi anime shows of the 1980s, Capsule Force ($15) delivers a frantic local multiplayer experience in which up to four players battle it out for control of a galaxy-controlling capsule. You’ll blast enemies in the side-scrolling stages while trying to maintain a hold on the capsule and ride your tram into the opposing base.
It’s a chaotic affair along the lines of Samurai Gunn or Towerfall, and it’s purely a local experience—the lack of online gameplay is a bummer, for sure. But the game also has single-player challenges, in case you’re lacking nearby pals or simply want to practice your laser shots while solo.