September's Mac games
Another month, another impressive stack of new games to play on your Mac. September brought us a fine bounty of fresh releases, and there’s quite a bit of variety in the mix. Fantasy role-player Pathfinder: Kingmaker and episodic narrative adventure Life is Strange: Before the Storm are this month’s biggest releases, but they’re just the start of this fine collection.
Flip through the slides ahead to learn more about those games and others, including coding-based puzzler 7 Billion Humans, Lego-esque vehicle-builder TerraTech, and even a Mac version of the charming iOS/Apple TV snowboarding game, Alto’s Adventure. And if you don’t find what you’re looking for here, then maybe August’s excellent list will generate some interest.
Pathfinder: Kingmaker ($40)
It’s been some time since the heyday of isometric role-playing quests like Baldur’s Gate and the original Fallout games, but lately we’ve seen a renaissance of that style led by Pillars of Eternity. Owlcat Games' Pathfinder: Kingmaker is the latest such release, catapulted to life by a $900,000+ Kickstarter campaign and the popularity of the Pathfinder tabletop franchise, which spun off from Dungeons & Dragons nearly a decade ago.
Kingmaker really does look a lot like Baldur’s Gate, with its fantasy world and isometric combat, but it tries to do quite a bit more by adapting the entire Pathfinder story and allowing players significant control over the world. As PCWorld suggested in its fall PC games preview, “If they pull it off, it could be one of the best CRPGs of all time.” It’s too early to tell, since the game just released this week, but the initial signs are promising. You can buy it on Steam and GOG.com.
Life is Strange: Before the Storm ($27)
The five-part Life is Strange episodic series is one of the best narrative experiences you can find on Mac (and iOS) today, telling the compelling saga of a teenage girl who suddenly discovers the ability to manipulate time. If you’ve already played through that storyline—and seriously, start there—then you might welcome a chance to fill in some gaps with prequel tale, Before the Storm.
Set three years before the original game, Life is Strange: Before the Storm shifts its focus to Chloe, a friend of original protagonist, Max. Chloe doesn’t have the same kind of time-travel skills, but the “backtalk” ability lets you try to talk your way out of problems… or potentially make them even worse. Fans of the original should appreciate this shorter tale, and the Deluxe Edition also includes a bonus episode with both Chloe and Max. You can buy it on Steam and the Mac App Store, plus the iOS version also released this month.
7 Billion Humans ($15)
7 Billion Humans actually released in late August, but it’s still well worth checking into now. Like Human Resource Machine before it, Tomorrow Corporation’s latest is a brain-teasing puzzler built around computer programming elements. With each level, you’ll build chains of code to instruct the little humans to complete the desired task.
While the first game was based on Assembly language, this one expands upon that with a new in-game programming language that allows for numerous workers at one time. As before, however, you don’t need to be a coder to understand 7 Billion Humans: You’ll learn as you go, and potentially emerge with a better understanding of coding mechanics. But trust us—play the original game first. You can buy 7 Billion Humans on Steam, GOG.com, and the Mac App Store.
You might might have heard of CrossCode, but this indie role-playing game already has a huge following of fans who adore it. Just have a look at the bulk of “Overwhelmingly Positive” reviews on Steam, some of which claim that it’s on par with the kinds of 16-bit Super Nintendo classics that it strives to emulate. Mission accomplished, it seems.
CrossCode certainly looks like a Chrono Trigger or Secret of Mana analog from back when, delivering an epic RPG saga with precise pixel graphics and likable characters. It’s a bit of a hybrid, though, bringing in epic dungeon quests inspired by those of The Legend of Zelda, including 30+ unique bosses to battle. You can buy CrossCode on Steam and GOG.com.
The Gardens Between ($20)
The Gardens Between is a charming-looking puzzle quest about a pair of friends backtracking through their memories together. And you’ll help them in a unique way: rather than individually control one or both characters, you’ll instead manipulate the flow of time, thus helping both of them navigate through conundrums to reach the goal in each stage.
The level design itself looks fantastic, with various islands based around childhood objects: computers, video games, a family couch, and more. Reviews suggest that this few-hour adventure is inventive with its world design but thankfully never overwhelming or frustrating, delivering a smart little experience for anyone to enjoy. You can buy it on Steam and the Mac App Store.
Alto's Adventure ($10)
Alto’s Adventure is a delightful experience on iOS and Apple TV, and now it’s also surely a delightful experience on Mac, as well. Launching a few years later, the side-scrolling snowboarding game is now available on the Mac App Store, letting you effortlessly glide down the slopes, grind on hanging bunting, catch some mad air, and take in the stunning sights.
Our recommendation is a bit tempered, however: The Mac version is twice the price of the iOS/Apple TV edition, despite being seemingly the same game, plus this year’s Alto’s Odyssey has since expanded upon the premise for those other devices. Still, this charmingly chill game is sure to entertain, so if you prefer to play games on Mac and haven’t already tried this one, give it a shot. You can buy it on the Mac App Store.
Well, this looks incredibly fun. Distance fuses together racing games, platform-hopping adventures, and a dash of parkour—vehicular parkour, that is—as you speed through a series of futuristic tracks towards a finish line. There’s no straightforward path to the end of each track, however, since you’ll need to leap and fly to traverse huge gaps and myriad hazards.
Like CrossCode, this game built a strong following through an Early Access development period, and its boasts a strong “Very Positive” review average on Steam. With a single-player campaign, standalone arcade levels, and both online and local multiplayer in the mix, Distance delivers a few different ways to experience its thrills. You can buy it on Steam.
If Minecraft is digital Lego bricks for building structures, environments, sculptures, and whatnot, then TerraTech is Lego bricks for creating vehicles and machines of all shapes and sizes. And it looks like a blast. Whether it’s trucks, tanks, airplanes, spaceships, wacky hybrids, or something completely new and unseen, you can assemble it and give it a whirl.
Once they're built, the open-world sandbox environment lets you freely explore and test out your creations, or you can jump into a campaign with combat elements or enter Gauntlet Challenge time-trial races. There’s even a competitive multiplayer mode, although it could really use a more freeform, collaborative online mode. In any case, there should be plenty of fun within. You can buy TerraTech on Steam.
The Universim ($30)
Like the classic god games of yore, The Universim is vast and complex, with many interconnected systems governing the world and its inhabitants. Also, those inhabitants look kind of ridiculous, flailing around as you use your godly influence to give, take, attack, drop in disasters, and do just about anything else your heart desires.
Starting with just a couple of human-like Nuggets on the ground below, you’ll help shepherd along their civilization with either a strong hand or a relaxed gaze, with many unique planets to play with and unexpected twists along the way. The Universim is still in Early Access, so it’s not fully polished or complete just yet, but the initial results look intriguing. You can buy it on Steam.
It’s been a heck of a time lately for indie “Metroidvania” games, including Celeste and Dead Cells and plenty more in between—but if you’re still itching for more, then Timespinner seems like another compelling concoction. On the surface, this side-scrolling adventure certainly looks like another 16-bit relic from the Super Nintendo days.
And while it’s built on some of the same genre elements exemplified by the Metroid and Castlevania classics, Timespinner puts a unique twist on the formula by letting you stop time in battle to gain an edge over foes. Along with magic orbs and Familiars to train, this looks like yet another strong pick from a genre that’s exploding with greatness of late. You can buy it on Steam.