Over the last few weeks, Gaming For Couples has spotlighted the best PlayStation 4 bundles, best Wii U bundles, and best Xbox One bundles — now we’re back to our regularly scheduled programming, looking at great games for couples (including gamers and non-gamers) to play together. This week, we’re featuring two very different titles: a retro game that even casual players will enjoy actively exploring, and the other a modern game more impressively cinematic than the movies that share its name. Each can be had for under $30.
Our Gaming For Couples selections are Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition by Square Enix for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, and NES Remix Pack / Ultimate NES Remix for the Wii U and Nintendo 3DS. Here’s why we think they’re worth your time…
Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition
I know, I know: the Tomb Raider name doesn’t carry a lot of weight these days. A half-dozen forgettable games and two mediocre Angelina Jolie movies nearly killed the franchise once described as “Super Mario 64 for the rest of us.” Thanks to a strong female lead character named Lara Croft and a plotline heavily inspired by Indiana Jones, the original Tomb Raider game had nearly universal appeal, though its cool 3-D graphics were offset by control issues that turned off all but hard-core gamers. But a genius team at developer Crystal Dynamics successfully rebooted Tomb Raider with a 2013 video game, which saw a 2014 re-release for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One as Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition. The screenshots you’re looking at here are all actual gameplay, not cinematics, and wow, is this game fun.
How Do You Play? Tomb Raider is a single-player game, played from a third-person perspective. You take control of a young Lara Croft as she’s shipwrecked on a mysterious island in the Pacific Ocean, initially unarmed and struggling to get water out of her lungs. A superb automatic camera lets you focus entirely on learning how to use Lara’s stealth, torch, and handmade bow to survive on the island. Your goal is to find the rest of your shipwrecked team and escape from the island, exploring ruins and hopefully unraveling its mysteries in the process.
The scope and quality of the content is frankly much better than the Tomb Raider movies. Casual gamers may sometimes find the controls to be a little beyond their comfort zone, so couples may want to pass a controller back and forth to get through tougher parts of levels. Even so, the game makes new situations intuitive, displaying on-screen joystick and button icons in any situation where you’ll need them to proceed. The screen below shows Lara suspended from the ceiling with a “LS” icon moving back and forth, so you know to wiggle the left joystick until Lara escapes. Every scene is easy to figure out with a little exploring, but challenging enough to keep players from blowing through the story in a few sessions.
Why Is It Great For Couples? Of all the titles we’ve featured in Gaming For Couples, Tomb Raider is the best for a couple where one person’s already a very good gamer and the second person is willing to learn. It’s forgiving enough that an accidental death doesn’t force you to backtrack, and exciting enough to survive multiple nights of one- or two-hour play sessions. There are occasional cinematics, but regardless of whether you’re watching or actively playing, the story keeps paying off with new twists and details. Anyone interested in the Angelina Jolie movies will get much better value for the dollar watching this game play out.
Be warned: this isn’t a game for kids. There are occasional deliberately frightening moments, including wolves and people who jump out of the shadows and need to be taken out with knives, bullets, or a well-placed kick off a bridge. Lara scales towers, uses ziplines, and crosses narrow bridges in ways that may induce vertigo in some people while absolutely thrilling others. The scenes can be tense, but they’re also realistic and gorgeous throughout.
Which Versions Should I Consider? Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition is available for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One for $30 each – this version of the game includes updated graphics, all of the 2013 version’s downloadable content (DLC), six different outfits for Lara, a digital art book, and a digital comic.
If you have an older PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360, Tomb Raider: Game of the Year Edition sells for less than $30 and includes DLC packs that weren’t found in the original 2013 game. The graphics are as close to the screenshots above as the prior-generation consoles can come.
NES Remix Pack / Ultimate NES Remix
Nintendo is one of the world’s best repackagers of classic games, which is no surprise given that its catalog of past titles is globally well-known and beloved. In an effort to bring some of its 8-bit NES games back to the attention of Wii U and Nintendo 3DS players, it has released two “NES Remix” collections: the late 2013 set NES Remix, and the mid-2014 sequel NES Remix 2. NES Remix includes excerpts from 16 classic NES games, and NES Remix 2 has 12. Nintendo bundled both titles together on a single Wii U disc called NES Remix Pack for $30, and selected 16 of the combined sets’ games for the $30 Nintendo 3DS cartridge Ultimate NES Remix.
How Do You Play? NES Remix (above) and Remix 2 (below) both work in the same way. You’re shown a small collection of screens representing classic NES games, most of which have three unlocked stages — not levels — to start. As you complete each stage, you earn stars for fast completion times, and stars unlock additional stages and NES games. NES Remix comes with Balloon Fight, Baseball, Clu Clu Land, Donkey Kong, Donkey Kong Jr., Donkey Kong 3, Excitebike, Golf, Ice Climber, Mario Bros., Pinball, Super Mario Bros., Tennis, The Legend of Zelda, Urban Champion, and Wrecking Crew.
NES Remix 2 includes Dr. Mario, Ice Hockey, Kid Icarus, Kirby’s Adventure, Metroid, NES Open Tournament Golf, Punch-Out!!, the Japanese Super Mario Bros. 2 (Lost Levels), Super Mario Bros. 2 (USA), Super Mario Bros. 3, Wario’s Woods, and Zelda II: The Adventure of Link. Rather than letting you start at the beginning of each game, the Remix titles generally drop you into small segments of levels, challenging you to achieve one or more goals, such as “collect the mushroom” or “reach the flagpole” in a Super Mario game.
One exception is NES Remix 2’s inclusion of a “new” game, Super Luigi Bros., which is a complete copy of Super Mario Bros. but played in reverse. The question mark blocks are backwards, the maps are backwards, and the enemies move backwards. It’s the only complete game in the collection; everything else is stage-level excerpts from the classic titles.
Why Is It Great For Couples? Everyone knows the big-named titles in these collections — the Marios and the Zeldas — so there’s every reason for a couple to enjoy going back through the classics, as well as learning about some of Nintendo’s lesser-known NES games (Clu Clu Land, anyone?). Perhaps the best part are the “Remix” levels, which add new foregrounds, backgrounds, and characters to well-established games. These levels are in addition to the individual game stages, and sometimes blend elements from two games together for fun.
While the Remix levels aren’t as crazy as they could have been (think Wario Ware), they’re challenging. Playing a classic Super Mario Bros. 2 level mightn’t seem terribly difficult on the surface, but doing so when most of the screen is blacked out really challenges you to learn both the game’s play mechanics and timing. If a level is too frustrating, which is uncommon in the two Remix titles, two people can hold active controllers at the same time, with either one taking control at a given moment to beat a challenge.
Which Versions Should I Consider? Given that both the Wii U and Nintendo 3DS titles sell for the same asking price, the $30 Wii U NES Remix Pack is the better deal if you own both consoles. But if you prefer to play your classics on a portable, the Nintendo 3DS Ultimate NES Remix is a fine value.
Read More Gaming For Couples!
Past editions of our Gaming For Couples column can be found here. If you’re looking for great deals on PlayStation 4 consoles and games, Wii U consoles and games, or Xbox One consoles and games, click on those links to get the official 9to5Toys guides to all three, and our latest excellent daily game deals here.