Tons of awesome games come out every month, but in the shadow of high-profile AAA titles, even the best ones can slip under our radars. Whether you’re a fan of top-down and isometric shooters, mesmerizing puzzle games and weird physics simulators, or experimental takes on classic genres, there’s plenty to love in this month’s roundup.
Brigador is one of the most stylish isometric tactics games out there right now, with its huge selection of combat mechs, neon-tinted weaponry, and fully destructible environments. It’s a clear throwback to the giant robot retro shmups of yesteryear, but brought into a new era, with quicker combat and even more intense action. It was initially released last June, but already has a sleek new re-release in the form of Brigador: Up-Armored Edition, which adds more missions, balance tweaks, improved controls, and even better lighting effects.
Play if you like: MechWarrior, Syndicate
Game developer Marc ten Bosch has spent a lot of time thinking about the fourth dimension, as evidenced by his upcoming 4D puzzle game Miegakure. Like Miegakure, 4D Toys explores the concept of a fourth spatial dimension, only instead of solving puzzles, it lets you play around with mind-bending geometric shapes in an interactive minimalist sandbox setting.
Play if you like: Antichamber, Monument Valley
The colorful and mesmerizing M.C. Escher-style dreamscapes return in Monument Valley 2, the surprise sequel to the surreal geometric adventure from Ustwo Games. Monument Valley’s iconic, optical illusion-inspired architecture and toy-like puzzle structures are recaptured perfectly in this follow-up, which doesn’t require you to play the first game to appreciate.
Play if you like: The Bridge, Fez, GNOG
Available: App Store
Passpartout lets you embody the life of a baguette and wine-addicted French artist as you struggle to make a name for yourself. The most amusing part about it is that you actually get to paint your own masterpieces by hand, using an MS Paint-style interface that directs your little artist character’s movements as you draw.
Play if you like: Cart Life, Tilt Brush
Virush is an intense arcade-style room-scale action game for the Vive, where you control a program battling off waves of computer viruses. The interface is super clean and minimal, and if you’re not afraid of heights, the visuals are neat too.
Play if you like: Geometry Wars, Space Pirate Trainer
A compact and minimalist horror game with a couple visual tricks up its sleeves. While its handful of jump scares are easy to predict, the constant shifting of its environment once it’s out of sight and eerie backstory delivered via old cassette tapes is enough to keep up the tension for the 10-20 minutes it takes to complete.
Play if you like: Layers of Fear, P.T.
Framed 2 keeps up the clever comic-inspired puzzling established in its award-winning, noir-themed predecessor from 2014. As its story plays out in a sequence of animated comic strips, it’s your job to rearrange the panels to adjust the outcome of each interaction. Even if you fail, you still get to watch each possible scenario play out, like an ever-branching graphic novel, until you nail the correct order and progress to the next event.
Play if you like: Film noir and comic books
Available: App Store
Scanline is a bright and flashy action game made for CGA Jam, which challenged game designers to create a game using the CGA 4 color palette. It combines the charm of a DOS game with the sensibilities of a more modernized arcade-style action-platformer. It’s also pretty tough, especially with a deadly moving force field constantly propelling you onward into the path of danger.
Play if you like: Downwell
BVOVB, or Bruising Vengeance of the Vintage Boxer, is a comically old-timey arcade beat ‘em up in the style of black-and-white photos from the ‘20s and ‘30s. You play an apparent drunkard and ex-boxer named John who’s going on a punching spree to get back his dog after a dogfighting ring kidnaps him. While the combat is pretty standard, BVOVB’s silly collage-inspired art (like a more vintage Richard Hamilton piece) combined with its silent film-like comedy and a fitting ragtime piano OST make it worth a look.
Play if you like: Silent films and boxing
Nex Machina is the latest game from the creators of Resogun, and it’s been receiving critical acclaim for being one of the best new twin-stick shooters out there. Like a modern Smash TV, the self-described “cablepunk” shoot ‘em up features some of the most explosive looking weapons and power-ups, plus semi-destructible environments that make running and gunning an even flashier spectacle. Our 8/10 review of Nex Machina called it “a recipe to delight those looking for an attractive, arcadey challenge to overcome.”
Play if you like: Resogun, Ikaruga
This one actually came out last year, but it hit Steam just this month. You could call that cheating, but the chance to sneak Magic Wand into this list was too good to pass up. Like most experiences from thecatamites, Magic Wand is a charming, weird, and surprising adventure with an art style like no other. It describes itself as a “JRPG,” and with its overworld-style exploration and colorful characters, it’s not far from the truth. But like Goblet Grotto and Space Funeral, two of thecatamites’ most well-known games, Magic Wand is really just about existing in its world and seeing what sorts of secrets and surprises you find there.
Play if you like: Future Unfolding
GoNNER is one of the cutest looking side-scrolling shooters out there, but it also packs quite a challenge for fans of tough, procedurally generated platformers. Instead of getting standard upgrades or power-ups, GoNNER’s special abilities come in the form of new heads for your character, which grant health and fun new skills or attributes, like triple-jumping, exploding enemies, or reduced cooldown. Its score-based, platforming-heavy gameplay and daily challenges have lead many to describe it as Spelunky, but with shooting. This one came out last year on PC, but just recently hit Nintendo Switch.
Play if you like: Spelunky, Enter the Gungeon
Chloi Rad is an Associate Editor for IGN. Follow her on Twitter at @_chloi.