We’re back with another weekly recap of all the family-appropriate games we played this week. A quieter and more contentious week than the debut the week before, these last seven days brought three new games, each with notable asterisks if you’ll be playing with family, but each totally worth it for the right household. Let’s jump in.

Stranger Things 3: The Game

Recommended

We’ll have a lot more to say about this one tomorrow (hint, hint) but to be briefer than that, here’s what you need to know about the game adaptation of Netflix’s massive ’80s sci-fi/fantasy series. For one, it retells the third season’s story, albeit with some video gamey touches like a lot more combat and side quests which take you all across Hawkins. The detailed open world hubs feel like a great compromise between true-to-form retro homage and modern conveniences.

You can also unlock 12 characters from the show, like Eleven, Max, Hopper, and all the D&D boys. So far, it’s been our favorite part to unlock more and more characters because the pixel art makes it exciting to see each of them for the first time, but even cooler is how every character plays differently with their own weapons and abilities. Lucas has his slingshot, Dustin has defensive hairspray, and Johnathan uses some old-fashioned heavy-handed punches. We haven’t unlocked her yet, but we expect El’s telekinetic abilities will be awesome.

Playing in co-op with your loved ones will be a blast if you love the show. Just understand that much of the same content warnings the show has also come with the game. It’s pixelized, but there’s still a lot of violence and swearing to be aware of. But if your family is watching the show, the game is surely acceptable.

Outer Wilds

Recommended

This game may be a future Family Game of the Week. We just haven’t given it enough time yet. After playing it at E3 last year, we got the feeling Outer Wilds (not to be confused with Obsidian’s upcoming RPG The Outer Worlds) was something different, something truly unique. Though you can try to ballpark the experience by mentioning No Man’s Sky, ultimately they do two very different things.

Outer Wilds’ use of space exploration as the central gameplay element is different because the story and every planet — and there are only a few of them compared to NMS’ infinite destinations — is authored and static. What this game does instead is let you explore however you’d like, go wherever you’d like, because upon death or after 22 minutes, whichever comes first, you’ll respawn like Phil Connors in Groundhog Day. There’s plenty to see and do and there’s a rewarding sense of time well spent no matter how you spend it.

Time loops are in right now, and Outer Wilds uses its trippy mechanic to tell a story of personal and universal discovery simultaneously. Our only caveat would be the controls are a bit complex, and sometimes even feel suboptimal, which may hinder some players’ ability to enjoy it as intended. Its weird mix of folksy cabin life and deep sci-fi stands alone as best we can recall, and after just a few hours we can’t wait to see more of this wonderful, inclusive, mysterious universe.

Sea of Solitude

Recommended

SOS is something of a questionable recommendation for this outlet. Even the PR rep I spoke to when requesting my review code gave me a content warning, and for good reason. Sea of Solitude is dark, scary, and through the eyes of its protagonist Kay, self-deprecating. It’s certainly not appropriate for most young people, but I think once you get to age 12 or so it will start to resonate with some players in a way that is worth letting them see it.

Sea of Solitude is a fantastical adventure game that follows Kay as she explores a flooded version of Berlin, running from and battling her own inner turmoil. The game depicts her and others’ mental health issues as gigantic, red-eyed monsters, and though we found much of the dialogue to be too on-the-nose to be very moving, we attribute that in part to there being several other games as of late that have dealt with mental health topics.

That doesn’t change the fact that Sea of Solitude can still be the exact game someone needs to see and play in order to help them with their own struggle. It grapples with a lot, from bullying to marital decay to manic-depressive disorder and more. Its wide-ranging and empathetic investigation of these feelings will help (and surely already has helped) people, and that’s a great thing.

That’s all we played this week that suits family gaming time. Come back tomorrow for the Family Game of the Week, and be on the lookout soon for a complete breakdown of 2017’s masterpiece, RiME.

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