November's best Mac games
It’s the season of giving—but if you love gaming on your Mac, why not treat yourself to a little something? November saw the release of dozens of new Mac games, and we’ve picked out the best and most intriguing of the bunch. Half of these are $20 or less apiece, so even if you’re tight on cash amidst ample holiday shopping, you can still grab something new to play.
Granted, it’s a pricier game that leads the month: StarCraft II: Legacy of the Void, Blizzard’s standalone expansion to the real-time strategy classic. But exciting (and cheaper) indies like Galak-Z, Mini Metro, Cibele, and others are also well worth a look, plus the Game of Thrones episodic series has finally finished its first season. And if you need more recent options to consider, be sure to browse October’s picks as well.
StarCraft II: Legacy of the Void
November’s biggest Mac release is an expansion to a five-year-old game—and believe it or not, that says more about the game in question than the state of Mac gaming today. It’s StarCraft II: Legacy of the Void ($40), the third large chunk of the massively popular real-time strategy sequel, following the excellent 2010 original and also-great 2013 expansion, Heart of the Storm.
Legacy of the Void focuses its campaign on the Protoss race of the series, with widely-praised storytelling as well as co-op missions in addition to the traditional solo quests. And multiplayer is the star, of course, with new units for all races and some major shifts in how you begin each match. It’s a standalone expansion, so you don’t need StarCraft II to play it… but you should definitely play all the earlier stuff first.
Galak-Z: The Dimensional
If you were raised on amazing giant robot anime shows, then you can’t miss Galak-Z: The Dimensional ($20). It definitely looks and sounds the part, with great-looking characters and ships, and it nails the homage by letting you transform your spaceship into an awesome mech robot.
Whatever your ship’s shape, you’ll battle through an open-world space environment, and the game takes on a roguelike feel—which means it’s a hardcore survival game. If you die, you start the whole “season” (like a TV show) all over again. Galak-Z is tense and tough, but the throwback style is fantastic, and the space-set dogfights look plenty entertaining as well.
There’s beauty in the minimal subway maps found in major cities, and there’s certainly beauty behind all of the urban planning needed to create those track layouts. Now, Mini Metro ($10) has delivered a game that merges those elements: It looks like a simple, easy-to-understand transit map, but really it’s a tricky game of city design distilled to its purest essence.
You’ll start with three stations and learn to connect and manage them as your city expands. It features 11 real-world cities, including New York and London, and multiple modes allow you to choose how intense you want the experience (and challenge) to be. Mini Metro is a stunning example of design simplicity—and it’s coming to iOS soonish if you’d rather play with touch (which sounds great).
Wholly unlike anything else on this list, Cibele ($9) is a personal exploration of love and sex on the Internet as a young adult. Created by and starring indie developer Nina Freeman, the game pairs full-motion video of her with faux desktop interactions and a fake MMO-like game, wherein which she meets and becomes close with a fellow player.
It’s a narrative experience, filled with conversation and small moments, as you fill the shoes of this 19-year-old who plays the game and falls for a guy on the other side of the screen. Cibele digs into adult themes in a meaningful, intimate, and potentially uncomfortable way, and it’s sure a very unique way to spend a couple hours.
Thief: Master Thief Edition
Released early last year on PC, Thief: Master Thief Edition ($33) reboots the classic stealth franchise, letting you sneak around the gothic City as you steal precious goods and work through puzzles. It’s mostly played in first person as your master thief, Garrett, uses his considerable skills for personal gain, although it has some third-person segments in the mix.
Our sister site PCWorld had a largely ambivalent review of the PC version back when, slogging its very slow start and unexpectedly stiff movement. Granted, some of the complaints were because another game, Dishonored, had already updated the classic Thief template for the modern era—and did a better job of it. But since that’s not on Mac, your choice is a bit easier here if the premise intrigues.
Game of Thrones: A Telltale Games Series
The first episode launched one year ago, but given that the final installment of the first season just released, now seems like an ideal time to spotlight Game of Thrones: A Telltale Games Series ($30). The six-part season begins right where the third season of the HBO television series concludes, spinning a side story that complements and winds within the events of the show while showcasing new characters and scenarios.
For Telltale, it’s largely business as usual, which isn’t a bad thing by any stretch of the imagination. Like The Walking Dead, Tales from the Borderlands, and other series, Game of Thrones delivers a compelling adventure built from conversational choices, light action, and exploration sequences, and your decisions help shape the story start to finish. It’s coming back for another season, so now’s the time to dig in if you love the gritty fantasy franchise.
Without the proper context, most players are likely to start up Oases (free), fly their little plane around the surreal settings for a few minutes, and then wonder what the point is: There aren’t missions and you can’t even crash. But with context, everything changes: Developer Armel Gibson created it for the grandfather he never knew, whose plane crashed during the Algeria Independence War in 1960.
Oases, then, is an alternate outcome: That his grandfather’s plane warped into this other world where he can fly around forever in stunning settings, never crashing or feeling pain. The game is absolutely beautiful, with pulsing backdrops and an ultra-catchy soundtrack to match, but the story behind it makes Oases heartbreakingly wonderful as well. It’s a quick play, and you can pay whatever you want for the download—even free, but it’s worth a little something.
Got an itch for an old Western? What about one with a supernatural twist? You’re in luck this month, as tactical strategy game Hard West ($20) fits the bill. It’s being called an XCOM-like game in approach, albeit streamlined, faster to play, and smaller in scale—oh, and with undead cowboys instead of space aliens.
Hard West has a really cool and unique style about it, as well as an intriguing premise, and the verdict from professional reviewers is that it’s interesting but rough around the edges. Steam users seem a lot more enthusiastic about it, at least, with a “Very Positive” consensus thus far. If you dig the concept and enjoy tactical combat, it sounds like Hard West falls into the short-but-solidly-sweet category.
Football Manager 2016
Games like FIFA and Pro Evolution Soccer—neither on Mac, sadly—let you play a full simulation of soccer, but if you’re into stats more than actively scoring goals, you’ll find a boatload of them in Football Manager 2016 ($50). The menu-driven experience has been a hit with footie die-hards for years, and Sega’s latest implements a handful of new modes and improvements.
Now you can create your own club and hold a fantasy draft, plus the game offers more realistic injuries, more advanced press interactions, and even more stats than ever before. Pick your favorite squad from more than 50 countries—or again, create one—and lead it to victory on the pitch with your strategic choices.
Trine 3: The Artifacts of Power
The first two Trine games are widely loved for their cooperative spin on side-scrolling action, letting you work together as a trio of fantasy heroes to overcome puzzle-laden stages. Given their reputation, Trine 3: The Artifacts of Power ($22) should be a sure thing, right? Well, not so much: it switches to full 3D environments, and many fans haven’t found them as polished and entertaining.
Trine 3 has also drawn wide complaints due to its very brief adventure, which comes off incomplete, as well as the eliminated progression system and an array of bugs. Developer Frozenbyte admitted they had to curtail plans due to budget, but many buyers aren’t happy about the release. It’s still a super pretty game, and you might still dig enough of it despite the changes—but it’s worth knowing all of that going in.