4. PixelJunk Inc.
PixelJunk Inc. is a game about having robots make soup on the moon, because if the Japanese can have rabbits up there making their snack treats, why can't we get a piece of some similar action? Now, assuming you still haven't finished going "whaaaaa??" over the initial concept, you might be asking what the actual gameplay consists of. Well, hopefully a sandbox/simulation/tower defense hybrid sounds like a good answer for you, and hopefully a fun one as well. The meat of PixelJunk Inc. takes a bit fo the Terraria route, with a fully digable 2D world which you'll look through to gain the materials needed to run your facilities, as well as letting you potentially uncover alien lifeforms who are apparently jealous of your mad soup-making skillz and will therefore attempt to ruin your operation.
So now you have to balance both building and running gigantic factories that rocket your chicken noodley goodness back to earth, and defending it all from soup-hating E.T.s, either by building various killing machines or doing the job yourself. All while surrounded by some incredibly unique and vibrant aesthetics that are a staple of the PixelJunk series. It's a weird little trip, yes, but one that looks damn enjoyable all around. Plus, someone's got to show those damn Campbell Kids who's boss...
3. Fables: The Wolf Among Us
So let's say you're Telltale, the company behind one of last year's most award-winning games, The Walking Dead, a character and dialogue-driven adventure game full of moral dilemma based upon an immensely popular comic book for mature readers. What do you next? Well, how about all of that again, but this time with a different comic book as the basis! Joking aside, Fables: The Wolf Among Us looks to use the same core gameplay that made The Walking Dead such a huge success, but this time making sure to expand upon it as well.
That means more intense combat situations, more complex relationships and dialogue options, and more cel-shaded graphics that make everything resemble a living comic book even further, all wrapped up in a noir adventure perfectly suited for Bigby Wolf and the other residents of the Bronx neighborhood known as Fabletown. Only time will tell if Fables can match the metric ton of acclaim bestowed upon its predecessor, but I'd say it's definitely shaping up to be damn good no matter what. And yes, you will be able to transform into a wolf on certain occasions, but the number of potential maulings is still unknown.
2. Shovel Knight
If there's one subgenre I have a particular fondness for, it's early '90s NES games; the ones made during the console's twilight years that really knew how to push everything to the max and get the most enjoyment out of it. So it kind of goes without saying that as a giagantic tribute to those glory days, Shovel Knight is a game I am all over like the molten orange plastic covering one's movie nachos. The objective of the game is simple: You are Shovel Knight, a knight armed with a shovel (go figure), and you are on a quest to defeat the evil enchantress and save your beloved.
Not exactly the most complex, but what it lacks in story it more than makes up in presentation, be it the absolutely gorgeous sprites and scenery, the killer boss and enemy design, and all the terrific old-school touches right down the DuckTales-style pogo move. While not much new was revealed at PAX Prime this year, every moment of this game is still enough to get me excited all over (plus they were showing off a few things on the Wii U version), and you need to definitely check it out. And now I'll stop before I make a lame pun about "digging it" (damn).
1. Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number
Given my largely vocal support of new IPs and more creativity in gaming, does it feel wrong to offer the number one spot here to a sequel that essentially initially started out as an expansion to the original game? Well, given that the same scenario applies to Saints Row IV and the fact that I loved the hell out of that game, why not, I'll say hell no. Of course, it helps that the original Hotline Miami was one of may Game of the Year candidates for 2012, a top-down, visceral, neon-soaked action game that lit up all the right buttons.
Hotline Miami 2 so far appears to offer exactly what a sequel should: Original - Flaws + More Kickassery. In this case, the kickassery is represented by a stronger emphasis on story, expanding upon the game's alternate 1980s universe and giving you multiple characters to play as. And of course, having more weapons, powers and all-new music to add to the series' line-up of already impressive '80s-style synth tunes. The developers have said that Hotline Miami 2 is intended to be the final game in a sadly short saga, but oh, what a bloody and beautiful bang it appears to be going out with...
Honorable Mention: Mighty No. 9
It would pretty much be a crime for me to not mention what was possibly PAX's biggest story this year, that being Mega Man creator Keiji Inafune's announcement of "Fuck you Capcom, I'm just going to make my own Mega Man game," Mighty No. 9. Yes, you can argue that this pretty much looks like the gaming equivalent of "I'm not touching you, you can't do anything", but I say screw it. This is the man behind my childhood hero, the man behind Mega Man 3, a.k.a. my own personal Greatest Freaking Game of All Time, and the man behind a bunch of really damn good games in general. He has pretty much earned the right to do whatever he wants in my eyes, and no matter how you see Mighty No. 9, it still looks like a gorgeous and terrific action game in the works that's a truly, truly worthy entry into the MM legacy.
Granted, I couldn't put Mighty No. 9 onto the main list since it wasn't playable, had no footage, and only kind of just began devlopment thanks to a Kickstarter campaign that you should totally support, dammit. But since I just love this so damn much, since this was a truly big event, since I have a lot of confidence in this and since I know people who will bash my legs in if I don't include it somehow, I had to let it in. Seriously, 2015 can't get here fast enough.
But before we go, let's give a few more sentenced to some other Honorable Mentions, just because we can...
Broken Age: Oh, I wish I could rave about the god Tim Schafer's latest adventure here, but I limited this list to playable games. But we did learn that Jack Black would be popping up in it, so that's a thing, right?
Nekro: Cartoony Diablo-esque adventures where you control a necromancer spawning twisted abominations and creatures from beyond this earthly realm? Can't go wrong with that!
Life Goes On: Because sending countless knights to sacrifice themselves in horribly painful ways just so can get a grail sounds like a happy experience indeed.
Loadout: An MMO shooter emphasizing weapon customization over hat customization? Hell yes I'm in (until the first DLC hat shows up).
Shantae and the Pirate's Curse: I have no idea when the Shantae games evolved into these must-play cult platformers (with a full next-gen console game already in development with Kickstarter), but seeing this beauty in action sure makes me glad it happened.
Fantasia: Music Evolved: I think I'm legally required to mention this game, or else Luke's boss will bash my legs in as well. Still, looks pretty sweet. Plus, now it has Vivaldi!
...I could go on (and will, and have), but you can probably just view more sweet games at the Indie Megabooth lineup here. And yes, odds are I've omitted some other notable titles - in fact, I pretty much know I've omitted some other notable titles - so feel free to mentions any other highlights you may have seen from PAX 2013 in the comments. Better yet, if you were actually at PAX, feel free to share any stories, opinions, or pictures as well! Now if you'll excuse me, I need to find the best way to sell organs so I can save up for a trip to it next year...I wonder how much a good spleen can go for...
Previously by Kyle LeClair