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Casual gaming for the busy modern Indian

Gaming is no longer just a small hobby a few enthusiasts enjoy in their basement

Contrary to popular belief, gaming is no longer just a small hobby a few enthusiasts enjoy in their basement. The Nintendo Wii proved that, and the rise of smartphone gaming continues that trend. Console gaming, ranging from home consoles to handheld consoles, continues to destroy analyst estimates and grows at a nearly iPhone-esque pace. Console gaming right now is bigger than it ever was. Grand Theft Auto V made $800 million in less than 24 hours when it launched in 2013 and has shipped 45 million copies to date. This guide will help you get into the console gaming space and there’s something for all kinds of gamers here.

In the home console space, Sony’s PlayStation 4 (PS4) and Microsoft’s Xbox One are fighting it out to find a place in your living room. It has been over a year since both consoles have been available abroad and now is the best time to get one. Both platforms have a variety of exclusive games ranging from first-person shooters to racing games, and are now backed by strong third-party support. Gaming consoles are also no longer just about gaming. Microsoft and Sony continue to pour their resources into making these consoles a complete entertainment solution. Microsoft has been doing a better job here with robust media support, better TV integration, and supporting more media-streaming services at launch. Sony recently upped the game by partnering with Spotify so you can stream music while playing.

Deciding the platform for you is relatively easy. The PS4 is more powerful and comes packed with Sony’s first-party offerings including the best looking racing game ever, Driveclub. There’re no two ways about this. Seeing Driveclub on your big-screen TV is a jaw-dropping experience. It truly feels like a next-generation game. The PS4 also comes with great independent developer support bringing unique games such as violent but trippy Hotline Miami and the zen-like musical platforming game Sound Shapes. The PS4 also has remote play that lets you access your PS4 games on another device. More on that a little later. The Xbox brings Microsoft’s strong first-party games like Forza Horizon 2 that is one of the most fun racing games out there and Halo: The Master Chief Collection that bundles four Halo games together with better visuals. The Xbox can be the centre of your home entertainment system since it allows you to plug in your set-top box and even PS4 and control everything from a single place. I would recommend getting an Xbox without Kinect, because as much as Microsoft makes it seem awesome, it isn’t.

Nintendo’s Wii U might not be selling nearly as well as the big two in the home console space, but it is definitely something worth considering if you are open to importing or buying games from abroad. The Wii U is in a weird place right now. It consistently gets critically acclaimed games, but is far behind when it comes to third-party support. Don’t expect to see the next Call of Duty or a WWE game on it.

The handheld gaming space has taken quite a hit from the rise of iOS and Android devices for gaming. While most people still think of gaming on the go as something to waste your time, there is so much more. Handheld gaming consoles are best used while travelling, and a long flight can seem painless when you’re engrossed in saving the world from destruction.

Nintendo’s 3DS XL has been printing money for the company and it continues to be the best selling portable console. The company just released a New 3DS XL that has improvements akin to Apple going from the iPhone 5 to the 5S with externals being more or less the same, but internals being a lot better. The 3D aspect, which was a selling point for many, has been improved considerably and can be enjoyed without much effort now thanks to face tracking.

While Nintendo continues to put more into the 3DS as a dedicated console, Sony’s PlayStation Vita is in an interesting place. It hasn’t sold well, but has a strong and loyal following. It is a lot more powerful than the 3DS and has been seeing more support from independent developers and Japanese game publishers. It also excels at being a great companion to the PS4, with remote play, cross play and cross buy. There will be times when gaming on your big screen TV while lying on your couch is not possible and this is where remote play comes into the picture. You can play games from your PS4 on your Vita (or Xperia Android device) via streaming. This can even be done remotely assuming you have a good Internet connection at home for your PS4. Sony is also heavily pushing PlayStation Now, a game-streaming service that enables playing classic games on your PS4 or Vita.

Handheld gaming devices are the perfect travel companions. There are games that you can pick up and play for a bit like the fantastic side-scrolling skateboarding game OlliOlli to role-playing games such as Persona 4 Golden that have you engrossed and in love with the characters for days to come.

Grand Theft Auto V for the PS4 or Xbox One is the easiest recommendation for every kind of gamer. It offers tons of content with its amazing story mode and robust online multiplayer. Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare is another easy recommendation along with PES2015 if you’re a football fan. From the exclusives, here are some games you absolutely need to buy when you get your brand-new console. While the many of the mentioned games might be familiar, I have included one wild-card recommendation for a game that is worth your time but probably isn’t well known.

PS4

Driveclub: The best looking racing game in existence today. It had a rough launch, but is now a lot of fun with all the issues ironed out. This has to be seen to be believed. Available at retail and digitally for 2,750.

The Last of Us Remastered: Yes, I’m recommending a remaster of a game from last year, but it is something every PlayStation owner should experience. A gripping story, stunning visuals and production values usually seen in big-budget movies make The Last of Us an essential title. Available at retail and digitally for 2,750.

Transistor: This sci-fi action role-playing game was one of the highlights of 2014 for most people. You control Red, who travels and battles enemies while equipping functions to your sword that narrates a large amount of the game. The audio and visual design seen in Transistor is unmatched. Available digitally for 1,581.

XBOX ONE

Forza Horizon 2: An open-world racing game with stunning visuals and gameplay that is actually fun make Forza Horizon 2 the quintessential purchase for any Xbox One owner. What’s better than being able to race in southern Europe with an insanely good soundtrack? Available for 3,490 digitally and 4,299 on Amazon India.

Halo: The Master Chief Collection: This is a no-brainer. Halo has been the flagship first-person shooter franchise that has been synonymous with the Xbox for a long time. Four critically acclaimed Halo games packed with all the extras and redone visuals make this the best value package available on the system. Available for 3,490 digitally and 4,299 exclusively on Amazon India.

Super Time Force: Super Time Force plays like the lovechild between 2D Contra and time travelling. You have 30 lives and voluntarily kill yourself at some point to rewind back and continue with a new character while keeping everything intact. The game mechanics are unique and the music is spectacular. Available for 940 digitally only.

NINTENDO WII U

Mario Kart 8: While Driveclub and Forza Horizon 2 have taken the spotlight for their realistic visuals, Mario Kart 8 is the highest rated racing game in a long time. It gets everything right with tons of characters and tracks from Nintendo’s franchises. Mario Kart 8 was a system seller for Nintendo and there’s no surprise why. Available for $60 in NTSC regions.

Super Mario 3D World: It may seem like Nintendo keeps milking the Mario name ever year with the amount of releases, but each game manages to keep things fresh. 3D World is a new instalment in the 3D Mario games that is the embodiment of the word charming. The puzzles are fantastic and the music is great. Super Mario 3D World is one of the best Mario games in years. Available for $60 in NTSC regions.

Bayonetta 2: Bayonetta 2, the sequel to the PS3 and Xbox 360 game Bayonetta, shocked everyone when it was announced to be exclusive to the Wii U. It has the best action gameplay from last year, with every hack and slash making you crave more. The developers are known for going over the top, and Bayonetta 2 is a proper showcase of a game pushing all boundaries, keeping you excited from the get go. This package even includes Bayonetta 1 that plays much better on Wii U than it did on last-generation consoles. Available for $60 in NTSC regions.

NINTENDO NEW 3DS

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D: Ocarina of Time 3D is the definitive version of the classic that was released on the Nintendo 64 console in 1998. The Zelda games are known for their great stories, game setting and puzzles. Ocarina of Time is a classic, and the 3D remake of it remains one of the best games available for the Nintendo 3DS. Available for $40 in NTSC regions.

Fire Emblem Awakening: Fire Emblem Awakening is the latest instalment in the Fire Emblem strategy role-playing game franchise that is known for its great level design and characters. When I played this last year, I was shocked at how good it was. I often forgot I was experiencing the game on a small screen. This game is also perfect for playing while travelling, with the ability to save anywhere and get a quick bit of gameplay in a short time. Available for $40 in NTSC regions.

Fantasy Life: Fantasy Life is one of the best and most unique games available today. It takes the best parts of massive multiplayer online role-playing games such as World of Warcraft and combines these with the charm found in Nintendo first-party games. Which other game lets you be a wizard who goes on quests but takes breaks fishing, cooking and cutting wood to make your own magic wand? You can play as anything you want and the hours just fly by. Available for $40 in NTSC regions.

PS VITA

Tearaway: Tearaway is the flagship game for the PS Vita. It is the perfect showcase for what the device is capable of, with touchscreens, motion tracking, cameras and more. You play as Iota or Atoi in this adventure game that takes place in a paper craft world. Tearaway also makes use of the person playing the game in story sections with the camera to capture facial expressions. Available for 1,129 digitally.

Persona 4 Golden: Persona 4 Golden is a remake of Persona 4 that was on the PS2. It takes place in a rural Japanese town where murders start taking place. You and your friends discover the equivalent of Pandora’s Box as you try and discover the truth behind everything. Persona 4 Golden is the highest rated game on the platform and it deserves all the praise. It ties together social elements of high school life with dungeon crawling that has amazing turn-based combat. Available for 1,899 digitally.

Danganronpa (1+2): While this third recommendation is technically two games, Danganronpa Trigger Happy Havoc and Goodbye Despair are two parts of the same story. Danganronpa is a murder mystery that perfectly blends together puzzle-solving trials for murders with great humour. Anyone even remotely interested in good stories should check this one out. Available for 1,899 each digitally.

The year 2015 has already gotten off to an amazing start with Life is Strange (think “Scrubs" meets the “OC" in an adventure game setting) and the cult classic Grim Fandango Remastered. There’s a lot to look forward to with Batman: Arkham Knight, The Witcher 3, Persona 5 and Xenoblade Chronicles X. Now is the best time to get into gaming. It is stronger than it ever was and it is more welcoming than ever before with games for everyone.

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