Play these games
Stressing out over the holidays? Ready to kick 2017 to the curb? Just bored and looking for something new and exciting to pour your attention into? If any of those statements apply to you, then you might be in sore need of a fun Mac game to play, and now’s the time that we’re tallying up the year’s top releases—2017 didn’t disappoint in this regard.
We’ve picked the 15 must-play Mac games from the year, which includes games that we’ve reviewed or played and enjoyed, as well as other top releases that made a big splash with players and critics alike. There’s plenty of variety here, from enormous big-budget action experiences to ultra-realistic racers and experimental indie fare. Click through the slides ahead and find something great to play on your Mac.
Torment: Tides of Numenera
We’ve seen a small but strong resurgence of the old-school, isometric computer role-playing (CRPG) genre in recent years, and Torment: Tides of Numenera ($45 on Green Man Gaming, the Mac App Store, and Steam; $22.49 on GOG.com; ) is one of the best of the bunch. It may also be an especially meaningful one for some fans of the genre, as Torment is the spiritual successor to the much-loved Planescape Torment from nearly two decades back.
As in that game, your decisions matter here—especially since you’re an immortal warrior with sadly mortal companions, all fighting against an enemy called The Sorrow. Torment is filled with compelling writing and unique gameplay scenarios, in which you’ll need to outthink enemies at times instead of just fighting. It lacks replay value, but the 40-hour campaign is time well spent.
Night in the Woods
Night in the Woods ($20 on GOG.com and Steam) is one of this year’s indie sensations, although it might seem like a bummer at first blush. It’s about a young cat-person, Mae, who returns home to her parents’ place after dropping out of college. The town has changed, friends have changed, and Mae has certainly changed too, and now she has to navigate all of that while readjusting to her old life. Oh, and something weird is definitely happening in the woods.
OK, so it’s not the most upbeat game of the year, but Night in the Woods shines thanks to its rich, relatable dialogue and lovably wounded characters—and that wonderfully evocative art style, too. A larger mystery tale drives this narrative experience, but it’s really the town and its inhabitants that’ll keep you compelled to see it through.
Apple’s Mac App Store pick for the best game of the year is well-chosen, as The Witness ($40 on the Mac App Store and Steam; $16 on GOG.com) is certainly one of the most striking and most compelling puzzles games on the Mac or anywhere else. It’s also enormous, with several hundred challenges spread across a gorgeous island, and it could take you dozens and dozens of hours to solve them all.
You’ll begin in the beautiful locale unclear on where you are or how you got there, but by solving the conundrums—which begin with maze-like line puzzles that become much more complex and befuddling over time—you’ll hopefully find some explanation. This one’s also available on iOS, but it really benefits from a large screen and as much power as you can throw at it.
Plenty of action games throw seemingly endless amounts of enemies your way to speedily slay, leaving piles of digital bodies in your wake. But in Hitman ($60 on Steam), every kill must be plotted and executed to perfection, and any corpse left lying around is a clue. You’re a professional assassin, perhaps the best in the world, and precision is critical for every single assignment.
The Hitman series has been around since 2000, but this episodic reboot is the best version to date, offering up several locations each with its own unique missions, challenges, and clever opportunities to execute assassinations. A recent Game of the Year edition bundles up all of the episodes (to date) with fresh content for under $60.
Rallying isn’t quite like any other kind of racing: not only does the rough, natural terrain give it a different feel than road racing, but having a co-driver to call out turns and tips makes it as much about precise execution as it is pure instinct on the track. And Codemasters’ Dirt Rally ($60 on Green Man Gaming; $32 on the Mac App Store; $12 on Steam) impressively captures that whole experience on your Mac.
This entry is a bit more challenging and realistic than the previous, numbered Dirt games. However, it’s no less immersive as you hurtle your rally cars across 70-plus stages within six rallies, with more than 45 licensed cars to unlock and command. And since it shares servers with the Windows and Linux versions, you shouldn’t have trouble finding online competition.
Tacoma ($20 on the Mac App Store and Steam; $10 on GOG.com;) is a lot quieter than your average outer-space game, and unlike in a lot of sci-fi scenarios, exploring an abandoned space station doesn’t set you up for freaky alien violence. Instead, this clever game—from the makers of Gone Home—finds you wandering through the eerily empty vessel to find out exactly what led to this scenario and recover the ship’s AI.
You’ll explore the station while playing back translucent, 3D recordings of the ship’s former inhabitants, all captured by the fancy AI that runs the ship. These are lifelike moments that really resonate, and they all add up to paint a picture of what led to the eventual turmoil. It’s quiet but hugely atmospheric, and worth savoring even if the interactivity is pretty thin.
Fortnite ($59.99 MSRP for the Deluxe Edition) is one of the rare AAA shooters that released on Mac at the same time as PC and consoles, and it’s a pretty entertaining one as well. Epic’s original affair blends Left 4 Dead-style co-op zombie blasting with a neat, almost Minecraft-esque construction element, as you build up defensive structures to help your team survive the onslaught of frantic foes.
And there’s another component that arrived after launch: the free-to-play Fortnite Battle Royale, a standalone mode that delivers a 100-person player-vs-player online survival mode in which you’ll fight until one player is left standing. We don’t have the enormously popular PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds on Mac, but Fortnite offers the next best thing out there.
Who or what do you play as in Everything ($15 on GOG.com; $8 on Steam)? Well, it’s right there in the title: everything. You’ll play as a pig, or pizza, or a hot air balloon. You can experience the world as a tree, a polar bear, or a microscopic organism. If it’s in the game’s oddball world, you can inhabit it and see what life is like through its eyes... or whatever it might have.
It’s a weird one, obviously, but it’s also incredibly delightful. True, it’s an open-ended game with scads of playable characters and no real missions, but Everything is also a meditation on philosophy and what it means to be alive and perceive that. It might surprise you! Everything won’t be for everyone, quite likely, but it is deeply and impressively original.
While Nintendo has found success bringing games to the iPhone and iPad, we will probably never see their games on the Mac. It’s sad but true, especially if you love the frenzied fighting of the Super Smash Bros. series. But while we may never enjoy Mario kicking Pikachu into the abyss, you can find the same kind of multiplayer fun in the indie tribute Brawlhalla (free).
Like Smash Bros, Brawlhalla is all about chaotic, arena-style battles in which several fighters pummel each other to be the last one standing in the end. You’ll fight on suspended platforms and lay on the punches, headbutts, and axe-swings as one of 30-plus legends, and it’s a pretty friendly free-to-play experience to boot.
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided ($60 on Steam) made it out just before the end of the year, and while Square Enix’s cyberpunk adventure hit Mac a bit late, it’s still the perfect game for anyone who wants a vast, exciting action experience to savor well into the next year.
Like the much-loved Human Revolution before it, Mankind Divided blends stealth, intense combat, and incredibly cool abilities within a dazzling futuristic world. As before, hero Adam Jensen can augment himself with tech-addled skills to get the jump on foes, while Mankind Divided’s compelling quest spotlights a world in which robotically-enhanced humans are hated and feared by their unaltered counterparts. We’d still advise starting with Human Revolution, though, even if Mankind Divided is bigger and newer.
Myst is a legend in Mac gaming history, and now nearly a quarter-century after the original game debuted, Cyan Worlds and the brothers Miller are back with Obduction ($30 on the Mac App Store; $15 on GOG.com and Steam), a spiritual successor. As before—albeit now with modern-day graphics—this first-person adventure sends you along to explore gorgeous terrain, this time across an array of alien worlds.
Each beautiful world is brimming with unique, compelling puzzles that are often immensely clever, but thankfully never become too frustrating. Obduction launched with some hitches, including visual issues and lengthy load times, and not every part of the game (like the story) is up to par. But the best parts of Obduction still make it well worth playing for genre fans.
Codemasters’ annual Formula One racing series has been continually praised over the years, but F1 2017 ($60 on Green Man Gaming; $50 on the Mac App Store; $36 on Steam ) is widely considered the best entry to date. Released on Mac at the same time as other platforms thanks to Feral Interactive, F1 2017 delivers an impressively realistic take on the popular motorsport with loads of compelling content to explore.
An expansive career mode is the main draw, letting you live a life in racing across 10 years as you speed around the track, oversee your team, and manage your vehicle. The game also includes classic F1 cars, 20 official circuits, 20-player online races, and really dazzling graphics as well. It’s stunning stuff if you’re into motorsports.
Bithell Games has a knack for doing wondrous things with offbeat concepts—such as building rich characters out of simple shapes that leap across platforms, as seen in Thomas Was Alone. The studio’s latest endeavor is much different in tone and approach, but Subsurface Circular ($5 on Steam) keeps that same knack for compelling storytelling and distinctive game design.
Subsurface Circular is a text adventure about futuristic robots riding the underground train. You control one of them, a detective, and you’ll chat up the others to piece together a mystery about the world up above, where working-class robots are subservient to humans. It’s very cool, albeit very focused: it’s a one-sitting game that can be finished in a couple hours, much like an interactive film. But it’s priced accordingly, and well worth it (and also on iPad).
Supergiant Games makes some of the most uniquely (and visually) memorable games today, which was true with Bastion and Transistor and remains so with Pyre ($10 on Steam). This one-of-a-kind fantasy game imagines ritualistic team-based battles that play out like a weird hybrid of basketball and football, with each character bringing certain skills to the squad.
Pyre isn’t just a fantastical take on sports, however: there’s so much more going on outside of the ritual matches, as the exiled characters are playing for their chance to escape limbo and spark revolution against an oppressive societal regime. Pair that with the same kind of gorgeous artwork and music as in Supergiant’s other games and Pyre lands like nothing else out there today.
Like the game Everything earlier on this list, TumbleSeed ($8 on Steam) has a one-of-a-kind feel to it—even if it is inspired by an old-school mechanical arcade game. But at least there’s nothing quite like it on Mac or other platforms, as this gorgeous game finds you guiding a small seedling up a treacherous mountainside filled with adorable-yet-dangerous threats.
Rather than personally control the seedling itself, you’ll command the large platform it sits on and rolls along, moving the left and right sides to nudge him up and around the mountain. That’s tricky, and it might throw you for a loop at first, but the mesmerizing music and graphics should soothe the short-term frustration. It is a tough game, though, and you’ll need a calm persistence to keep pushing through the obstacles.