A continually updated, alphabetical round-up of video game Micro Reviews. Any and all games are eligible for review, regardless of age, platform, popularity or otherwise.
Nintendo 64 (1998)
Nintendo turned its hand to something a little more realistic than usual with 1080° Snowboarding, and predictably enough served up another genre classic. A slight lack of content can’t spoil what is a visually stunning, mechanically deep and beautifully designed extreme sports title.
Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One (2016)
With a team that included several developers who had previously worked on the stunning Journey – including it’s art director – its perhaps no surprise that Giant Squid’s Abzu was a meditative and utterly gorgeous underwater explore-em-up – the shimmering seas absolutely teeming with life and colour.
GameBoy Advance (2001)
Intelligent Systems’ strategy title for the Game Boy Advance is a stunningly realised handheld masterpiece that is perfectly suited to it’s host hardware. Combining visual simplicity with gameplay depth and complexity it is rightly regarded as one of greatest strategy games – one of the greatest games – of all time.
Despite a couple of popular sequels, Intelligent Systems would later drop the series in favour of the incredible Fire Emblem titles, but there is a laser-cut precision and focus present in the original Advance Wars that remains unsurpassed to this day.
PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 (2007)
Originally intended as a new entry in the Prince of Persia series, Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed instead took on a life of its own and eventually evolved into the gargantuan series we know today. Despite many ups and downs over the years, it remains one of gaming’s most successful properties.
Astro Bot: Rescue Mission
PlayStation VR (2018)
A true VR killer app, Astro Bot: Rescue Mission is a game of astounding creativity and polish. Taking the tried and tested 3D platformer template and transporting it into scenarios only possible with VR, Sony’s Japan Studio created a game perfectly suited to its host hardware, with the craft and care usually reserved for Nintendo.
PlayStation 5 (2020)
Not quite a full game but certainly more than a mere demo, this PS5 pack-in’s wonderful gameplay and myriad PlayStation references make it a glorious celebration of the brand’s history. Team ASOBI! and Japan Studio’s follow up to PlayStation VR’s Astro Bot: Rescue Mission was designed to showcase Sony’s new DualSense controller, and it succeeds in spectacular fashion. The feel of power ups, different floor surfaces and even rainfall are transferred wonderfully from controller to hand. A wonderful freebie for PS5 owners of all ages.
Nintendo 64 (1998)
Rare’s answer to Super Mario 64 was a sprawling platformer epic that, although not as important as Nintendo’s seminal masterpiece, came remarkably close to matching its quality whilst adding better visuals and a more ambitious, coherent over-world. Banjo-Kazooie is the best 3D platformer to have emerged from outside of Nintendo’s own headquarters.
Batman: Arkham Asylum
PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 (2009)
The leanest and most intricate of the Arkham series, Rocksteady Studios’ Arkham Asylum doubled-down on the idea of Batman as detective and tasked players with escaping from the elaborately designed titular institute. It also pioneered a brutal new combat system which has been widely adopted elsewhere since.
Batman: Arkham City
PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 (2011)
Taking the core mechanics from the original game and unleashing them on the city of Gotham itself made for a highly compelling open-ended open-world Batman adventure. Less focused than its predecessor, but just as accomplished. Arguably the ultimate Batman game.
PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 (2007)
A truly remarkable opening hour gave way to a game of quite staggering confidence and maturity, culminating in a bold and brilliant twist. The incredible atmosphere and sense of place conjured by Rapture makes it one of gaming’s all-time great locations. Would you kindly?
PlayStation 2, Xbox (2005)
If the release of a first-person-shooter from Criterion Software – the makers of Burnout – initially came as a shock, the fact that it was a blisteringly fast, all-out action extravaganza probably didn’t. Criterion designed Black to “do for shooting what Burnout did for racing – tear it apart.” It mostly eschewed the narrative-led focus of most shooters at the time in favour of a back-to-basics approach the likes of which was rarely seen at the time, or indeed since.
Nintendo 64 (1997)
A unique light-puzzler from Rare, Blast Corps tasked players with clearing a path for a runaway, out of control nuclear missile carrier by bulldozing everything that stood in its way. Rare’s ingenuity, sense of humour and sheer talent ensured the game was another top N64 title.
PlayStation 4 (2015)
After the medieval stylings of Souls, this was a big stylistic sidestep for FromSoftware, trading knights and castles for outright gothic-horror. The combat was drastically altered too, encouraging hyper-aggressive play over the defensive systems of old, resulting in a far more action orientated experience. Another FromSoftware masterpiece.
PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 (2008)
Labelled pretentious and too self-conscious by some, Jonathan Blow’s time-manipulating puzzler Braid is a game of mind-bending complexity that played a pivotal role in the ‘indie game revolution’ that followed in the early days of the Xbox 360 and PS3.
PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 (2008)
The most divisive title in Criterion Software’s racing series, Paradise moved Burnout’s classic formula to a seamless, fully open world for the first time, trading the laser-focused precision of earlier titles for a refreshing but messier sense of freedom that was absent from the series before.
War had never been so much fun until Sensible Software’s top-down classic arrived. The game combined strategy elements with action-heavy gameplay and sported a breezy art-style and dark sense of humour which sparked both praise and controversy in equal measure upon its release.
Created by Sonic Team and given away for free by Sega, ChuChu Rocket! for the Dreamcast marked the dawn of a new era for console gaming; true and accessible online multiplayer. That it was a frantic and brilliant action-puzzler in its own right was the icing on the cake.
Conker’s Bad Fur Day
Nintendo 64 (2001)
In one of gaming’s most stunning U-turns, Rare cancelled the completely innocent-looking Conker 64 and turned it into the profane and controversial title we know today. One which saw our squirrel-hero Conker embark on a violent, vulgar, alcohol-fuelled quest to find his way home to his girlfriend.
It released late in the N64’s life cycle and remains one of the most sought-after titles for collectors of Nintendo’s 64-bit console. A remake was later released on the original Xbox which featured a stunning graphical overhaul but unfortunately featured many changes from the original game.
Xbox 360 (2007)
Initially made famous for including a free multiplayer beta test for the upcoming Halo 3, Crackdown turned out to be a wholly enjoyable title in its own right. It’s ability-boosting orb hunt and over the top gunplay provided a compelling gameplay loop throughout its campaign.
Sony’s answer to Super Mario 64 couldn’t hope to live up to its revolutionary rival, but Naughty Dog’s brilliant animation and a great sense of humour meant the game stood out from the crowd and birthed a genuinely popular new gaming icon, despite its many rough edges.
Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back
Naughty Dog’s Crash Bandicoot 2 was a huge improvement over the original game. It had better controls, better graphics and a more ambitious and polished campaign, but was more focused and somewhat less chaotic than Crash 3. The high point of the series.
CTR: Crash Team Racing
Naughty Dog and Sony’s answer to Mario Kart was a highly polished racer with surprising depth and nuance to its controls. It never received the same critical acclaim or popularity as its inspiration, but retains its deserved cult-favourite status to this day.
Arcade, Dreamcast (1999)
First released in the arcades and then later ported to the Dreamcast, Crazy Taxi is an unashamedly bonkers but brilliant game in which you must pick up and drop off passengers against the clock. Terrible pop-in and some graphical glitches can’t ruin the immediate gameplay that remains utterly satisfying to this day.
The first release in the hugely popular eJay series, Dance eJay brought sophisticated music creation to the mainstream, offering an easy to use drag-and-drop sample interface across eight audio tracks and inspiring a countless number of music-makers-to-be.
PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 (2011)
Retaining the design principles of its spiritual predecessor Demon’s Souls and moving them into a fully open world was a masterstroke by From Software. Dark Souls is an epic on the grandest scale and is arguably the most influential title of its generation. Deep, brutal and endlessly rewarding it is a true masterpiece and one of the greatest games of all time.
PlayStation 4 (2019)
A classic case of critic/user divide, Bend Studios’ Days Gone released early in 2019 to decidedly average reviews from the typical gaming press but still managed to foster a very positive and enduring relationship with many gamers, who seemed to take to the game’s characters and narrative more than the reviewers did.
Dead Space 2
PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 (2011)
The ‘Aliens’ to Dead Space’s ‘Alien’, Dead Space 2 from Visceral Games took the tight, claustrophobic terrors of the original game and ramped up the scope and action to truly epic proportions, ensuring the game took its place as one of the true action-horror greats.
PlayStation 3 (2009)
Although Dark Souls gets most of the plaudits, this is where it all began for From Software (earlier conceptually-similar King’s Field titles aside). Demon’s Souls is an unimaginably confident and complex game with depths and secrets which took years to fully understand and gameplay which laid the sturdy foundations on which the entire ‘Soulsborne’ genre was built.
Diddy Kong Racing
Nintendo 64 (1997)
Rare’s contribution to the kart genre was another N64 classic from the British studio. It boasted state of the art graphics, introduced planes and hover-crafts and featured a genuinely brilliant single player adventure mode which still stands today as one of the greatest campaigns in the racing genre.
PlayStation 4 (2013)
A disastrous launch meant that Driveclub never had the impact it probably should have, but incredible post-launch support from Evolution quietly transformed the game into one of the best and most feature-rich racers of the generation. Also: Best. Rain. Ever.
A marketing campaign that claimed “this game stinks” didn’t help a title that traded the extraordinary fantasy settings of regular RPGs of the time for an ordinary town. The game sold terribly, but the endless charm and incidental details of Earthbound ensured those who played it remember it fondly. A true cult classic.
PlayStation 4 (2017)
The evergreen Everybody’s Golf series has been quietly going about its business across every generation of PlayStation hardware (both home and handheld) and remains one of the most consistently enjoyable sports titles; most recently released on PS4 and PSVR.
Nintendo Switch (2017)
In the absence of any new F-Zero games, Shin’en Multimedia handily stepped in to fill the void with FAST Racing League on the Wii, FAST Racing NEO on Wii U and FAST RMX on the Switch. Not as impressive as their inspiration by any means, but still totally worthwhile sci-fi racers in their own right.
Final Fantasy IX
Following successor Final Fantasy VIII’s modern-futurist setting, Final Fantasy IX instead went all-in on a sumptuous and more traditional fantasy setting, introducing characters that would become true fan favourites. All of the series’ hallmarks were here, but with an easy charm that still delights to this day.
PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One (2016)
An utterly gorgeous, painterly art style from Olly Moss set the scene for a brilliantly scripted and naturally acted tale that hits hard early and continues to enthral throughout. The relationship between the two leads subtle, believable, and often surprising.
Forza Horizon 4
Xbox One (2018)
Moving the series’ peerless driving model and stunning visuals to Britain was a masterstroke from Playground Games, it’s famously erratic weather captured perfectly and making for a varied and immersive racer. The fourth entry didn’t really improve upon the already-stunning third, making it ‘merely’ the joint-best arcade racer of its generation.
A blisteringly fast and ultra-responsive futuristic racer, in 1990 there was nothing else quite like F-Zero. Incredibly, despite its popularity, the 30 years since it’s release has produced only two console sequels; F-Zero-X on the Nintendo 64 in 1998, and F-Zero GX on the GameCube way back in 2003.
Incredibly built on a version of the Super Monkey Ball engine, F-Zero GX (actually developed by Sega’s Amusement Vision) is a blisteringly fast and unforgiving futuristic racer that was so good Nintendo has yet to see reason to make another one. A real tragedy, considering it remains stranded on the under-performing GameCube console.
Gears of War
Xbox 360 (2006)
One of the most important releases for the Xbox 360, Gears of War delivered a genuine step forward in real-time graphics. Visceral and real, it became and remains one of the important titles in Microsoft’s roster. So much so that they bought the rights to continue the series after Epic Games left it behind.
Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved
Xbox 360 (2005)
The sequel to a Project Gotham Racing mini-game, Retro Evolved is the game that legitimised Microsoft’s then-new Xbox Live Arcade service and was Xbox 360’s best launch title. A perfect blend of old-school arcade mechanics and modern visuals, it remains one of the greatest arcade-style shooters on any platform.
God of War
PlayStation 4 (2018)
God of War combines epic scale with incidental detail in spectacular fashion to deliver a relentlessly entertaining adventure from beginning to end. Sony’s Santa Monica Studio added heart, soul and genuine emotion to a series already so accomplished at everything else, creating something truly special in the process.
Grand Theft Auto
Who could have imagined that this unassuming and playful top-down crime sim from DMA Design would become one of the biggest properties in all of gaming. Brilliant open-ended mission design and a dark sense of humour only hinted at what was to come from the series.
Grand Theft Auto III
PlayStation 2 (2001)
Arguably an achievement similar in scale and scope to moving Mario and Zelda into 3D for the first time, Grand Theft Auto III was a remarkably ambitious reworking of the top-down GTA template that pioneered many of the open-world standards taking for granted in gaming today.
Grand Theft Auto IV
PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 (2008)
After the excess of San Andreas, Rockstar took GTA back to the grittier inner-city street crime the series was originally known for. A living city the likes of which had never been seen before set the stage for a dramatic rags-to-riches story to unfold.
A monumental achievement for the racing genre, Polyphony Digital’s Gran Turismo introduced realism on an unprecedented level for the time. Hundreds of cars (ranging from the mundane to the exotic), stunning visuals and a truly revolutionary physics model kept it ahead of the pack until its own sequel arrived two years later.
PlayStation Vita (2012)
Released in 2012 on the PlayStation Vita, Gravity Rush was a unique and beautiful game from Sony’s Japan Studio that seemed to appear from nowhere and won many fans with its wonderful art style, unique gravity-defying gameplay and genuinely endearing protagonist Kat.
A sumptuous and evocative Day of the Dead inspired aesthetic provided an incredible backdrop for the hilarious story of Manny Calavera – travel agent to the dead – to unfold. Some frustratingly obscure late-game puzzles (as per point-and-click tradition) only slightly dulled a classic adventure of quite extraordinary craft and wit from LucasArts.
Halo: Combat Evolved
Originally set for release on Apple’s Mac platform, Microsoft instead courted Bungie across to Xbox with the hopes of securing a high quality exclusive for its debut console. The plan worked magnificently, with the game’s remarkable gunplay and enemy AI resulting in one of the best and most important launch titles in history.
Xbox 360 (2010)
Bungie’s final game in the Halo series takes everything learned from earlier titles to create the best and most polished campaign since the original. A fitting swansong, Reach combines Bungie’s trademark shooting mechanics with class-leading visuals and extensive multiplayer options.
ISS: Pro Evolution
Arguably the birth-place of the modern football game as we know it. The more realistic ‘Pro Evo’ spin-off of the ISS series ended up becoming the mainline series itself and during the PlayStation 2 era dethroned even the mighty FIFA in both critical consensus and sales, causing EA to drastically remould its series into what it is today.
PlayStation 2 (2001)
Often held up as a shining example in the ‘games as art’ debate, Fumito Ueda’s ICO is a wonderful puzzle/adventure game in which a young boy and girl are tasked with escaping a giant castle together. Like the game itself the relationship between the two leads is delicate, poignant and utterly beautiful. A truly timeless classic.
Jet Set Radio
Released during one of the most creative periods in Sega’s long (and highly creative) history, Jet Set Radio is a compelling and stylish tour-de-force unlike anything else except for its own sequel. A relentlessly cool aesthetic and soundtrack ensure this rollerblading graffiti-em-up remains totally fresh to this day.
Jet Set Radio Future
Doubling the number of games in the Graffiti Rollerblading genre to two, Jet Set Radio Future was another outrageous and stylish Sega classic. Out of the console business at this point, the game arrived on Microsoft’s Xbox console with improved graphics and unique gameplay every bit the equal of the Dreamcast original.
Unfortunately, stunning cel-shaded visuals and a peerless soundtrack didn’t equate to high sales; Jet Set Radio Future was nominated for the unfortunate ‘Best Game No One Played on Xbox’ award by GameSpot, and won OXM UK’s ‘Most unfairly ignored game’ award. An underappreciated gem well overdue an update.
PlayStation 3 (2012)
A timeless classic, Journey is a truly wonderful way to spend two hours. Short but so, so sweet it features stunning art direction, a wonderful score and a subtle but affecting story. Despite its prominent position in the “games as art” debate, Journey’s accomplishments are far more than surface-level.
Gameplay is fast, fluid and highly compelling, and the moment you realise your companions throughout the story are actually other real-life players is one of gaming’s most surprising and poignant revelations.
Nintendo Switch (2017), PlayStation 4, Xbox One (2019)
KAMIKO is short, simple, and cheap. But none of that can take away from its retro charm, gorgeous art style and enjoyable puzzle mechanics. A delightful way to spend a couple of hours.
The Last of Us: Part II
PlayStation 4 (2020)
The Last of Us Part II is an incredible ride. Its brutal, intense, way longer than expected and frankly not always enjoyable. But it’s a storytelling tour-de-force and another technical masterpiece from Naughty Dog, with a scale and ambition few (if any) other developer would even attempt, let alone pull off.
The Last of Us Part II is a bold, brilliant and divisive game that will be discussed for years to come, and one which has to be experienced.
The Legend of Zelda
35 years ago this week The Legend of Zelda released in Japan for the Family Computer Disc System and a legendary franchise was born. A year later the game released in North America and Europe for the NES and became the first home console game to feature an internal battery for saving progress. An essential addition to a game with such a large and complex overworld.
This first iteration of Zelda was a truly landmark release and featured many elements that have remained mainstays in the series ever since; the overworld itself, the use of hidden areas and puzzle-dungeons, classic items such as the sword, bomb, boomerang and rupees, and many plot elements and characters such as the Triforce, Link, Ganon and of course Zelda herself.
The Legend of Zelda was perhaps most notable for it’s willingness to let players complete many of it’s areas and dungeons in any order they wished. A feature that was gradually lost throughout the series over the years but then spectacularly revived in 2017’s remarkable open-world masterpiece Breath of the Wild.
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
Nintendo 64 (1998)
Nintendo’s first 3D Zelda was a game of truly remarkable ambition and scope. Ocarina of Time took the player from sleepy village to end-of-the-world showdown via stunning locations in an unprecedented open world with a few trips backwards and forwards through time for good measure. Ocarina shook the industry, and its impact can still be felt today.
DMA Design’s masterpiece is a genuine industry classic. It has charm and style to spare and features one of the most memorable (and infectious) soundtracks of all time. Tasked with protecting the titular creatures from certain doom, Lemmings is original, immediate and relentlessly tense. One of gaming’s greatest puzzlers. One of it’s greatest games.
PlayStation 3 (2008)
A relentlessly joyous celebration of game development, British studio Media Molecule’s LittleBigPlanet mixed a wonderfully charming aesthetic with deep but accessible game-creation tools to create a title which went on to win the hearts of millions across the world.
Little Nightmares II
PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, PC, Xbox One (2021)
Little Nightmares II is a beautiful, dark and disturbing journey that mixes elements and themes from Limbo, Inside and it’s own predecessor to create an experience entirely it’s own. Tarsier Studios’ sequel is bigger and bolder than the original and features enemy designs that are as beautiful and unique as they are repulsive and terrifying.
Slow combat can prove frustrating, as can the reliance on unavoidable traps and instant deaths, but Little Nightmares II is so full of wonderful touches and incredible imagery that it is an essential experience for fans of horror-tinged, puzzle platformers.
Met with disappointment upon its release at the launch of the GameCube for not being the Mario game that many expected, Luigi’s Mansion was nonetheless a technical wonder that has since gone on to develop a cult following. It has spawned two sequels; one on Nintendo’s 3DS handheld and the well-received Luigi’s Mansion 3 for Switch.
Luigi’s Mansion 3
Nintendo Switch (2019)
Third time’s a charm for Nintendo’s nearly-man. Expanding upon and refining what came before, Luigi’s Mansion 3 is a big improvement over its predecessors. Whilst it will never be placed in the same bracket as Mario’s mainline titles, it is undoubtedly the pinnacle of the Luigi’s Manson series; packed full of ideas to delight both young and old.