There's more Batman. There are also aliens. Not in the same game… yet.
Batman: The Telltale Series – Children of Arkham
When the first of this five-part miniseries of Choose Your Own Adventure-style games launched, we were a bit skeptical. Batman: The Telltale Series seemed too enamored of well-worn plot points in The Dark Knight's history, and didn't seem to offer up that fresh of a take. Turns out our worries were quickly put at ease—the series' first episode, Realm of Shadows, was a promising start, a game that builds tension and intrigue by bringing Bruce Wayne under fire, not Batman.
On September 20, the second episode, Children of Arkham, drops. It's here where the series will either continue to surprise or drift towards more comfortable, disappointing waters—and right now, things look promising. The previous episode saw the integrity of the Wayne family brought under intense scrutiny as mysterious power players make moves in the Gotham underworld— moves that, depending on the choices you made in episode one, will be varying degrees of difficult to deal with.
When it comes to video games, September tends to offer a moderate lull before the onslaught of big-budget marquee games competing for holiday shopping dollars, games that are often as massive and time-consuming as they are impressive. While it'll be some time before we see how everything plays out, at the moment Batman is an engaging, worthwhile experience—either as a diversion from the oncoming holiday glut of games, or a palate cleanser before diving right in.
TL;DR: Batman, but as a TV show where your choices can change everything and Bruce Wayne is the most interesting part.
Released in 2012, XCOM: Enemy Unknown was a powerful gateway drug. A revival of a classic '90s computer game, XCOM was a name revered among brainy strategy-game types and unknown by anyone else. There was no reason to believe the 2012 revival would be anything besides a well-made game that would be appreciated by strategy enthusiasts but few others. No one expected Enemy Unknown to be one of the best games of 2012. It was.
If you haven't gotten a chance to check out Enemy Unknown for yourself, that's okay. After being exclusive to PCs for a while, XCOM 2 is finally coming to video game consoles like Playstation 4 and Xbox One on September 27. It's a game with a steeper learning curve than most—like the old '90s game it's based on, XCOM 2 is a strategy game first and foremost. This means it plays more like a board game than a straightforward action game, with you taking turns with a computer-controlled opponent as you lead a small squad of specialized soldiers in a desperate resistance against alien occupation.
But what sets the rebooted series apart is just how badass it makes such a cerebral game feel—the soldiers you command aren't just grist for the mill, they're desperate, capable people in hopeless situations that—with careful planning and a bit of luck—can pull off the impossible.
XCOM is also good at making you feel attached to your soldiers: You can name your squaddies, give them specializations and abilities that turn them into unique rifle-toting superheroes—and you can lose them, too. Because once they're gone, they're gone for good, and you'll have to train up another green recruit to take their place. Few games are as thrilling and infuriating, and we mean that in the best possible way.
TL;DR: What if chess were badass and about fighting aliens?
Bioshock: The Collection
Unlike movies or books, video games are still working towards building out a bona fide set of modern classics, relatively recent games that are equal parts pivotal, influential, and worth passing along to newcomers. 2007's Bioshock is arguably one of these, a big-budget game that gave players guns to shoot and superpowers to wield, but also made its literary ambitions just as much of a priority as its fireworks. Set in an underwater city called Rapture constructed in the '60s by a wealthy billionaire to embody the philosophy of Objectivism as put forth by Ayn Rand, the game was an aesthetic and narrative triumph, sending players on a journey through a waterlogged art-deco hell where science and hedonism, unfettered by regulation and morality, turned a utopia against itself, leaving players to wander through the wreckage of its collapse and experience one of the best plot twists in video games.
On September 13, a remastered version of Bioshock and its sequels—the misunderstood Bioshock 2 and the significantly more flawed Bioshock Infinite—will be released in one package, Bioshock: The Collection. It's been nearly ten years since Bioshock arrived, and now's the perfect time to either visit the underwater city of Rapture for the first time or make your return trip. And while its sequels aren't nearly as cohesive and acclaimed as the original, they are, for the most part, flawed in interesting ways and worth at least checking out.
TL;DR: Ever want to blow up a city full of Ayn Rands?