Windows 8 has long been a controversial operating system, with concerns about the user interface, the lack of the Start button and menu, and a general mashing of two completely different user interfaces at the top of many people’s lists of complaints.
There is, however, another dimension to this. Gaming on Windows 8 has also proved a provocative talking point, with people such as Valve chief Gabe Newell declaring that the platform would be “a catastrophe for everyone in the PC space” (although interestingly the 64 bit edition of Windows 8 is now the second most used OS on Valve’s Steam distribution service).
Naturally, the vast majority of games that run on Windows 7 will also run on Windows 8 in desktop mode – but what about games for the touchscreen, Modern/Metro mode?
In fact, there is a good selection of titles, from platform-specific strategy games to titles ported from iOS and other platforms.
What to Look for in a Windows 8 Metro Game
The Windows 8 Store is full of games, some good, some bad, some with Xbox Live integration and some that are completely unsuitable for use on certain devices. For instance, why would a game on a touch-screen platform require a mouse? These games are chosen for the “pure” Windows 8 feel.
As such, there are several things to look for in a good Windows 8 Metro/Modern game. The following titles have been collected here because they are good games with low or affordable prices (where the price should reflect the gaming experience), and have reasonable implementation of touch-screen control methods.
These games also have good reviews in the Windows 8 Store, although I have also play tested them (some more than others; for instance, I’ve run out of achievements on Jetpack Joyride). Additionally, I’ve attempted to cover as many different game genres as possible. With so many games available on Windows 8, this actually proved tougher than I thought it would – there are more games than expected.
A marvellous game with a single-touch control system, Jetpack Joyride puts you in charge of a guy with a stolen jetpack as he makes his escape from a top-secret laboratory inside the company for which he works.
Arcade-style graphics and a range of collectible power ups and Xbox Live achievements make this a fun game. It can be fast and frantic at times as the lab security system track you with lasers, rockets and electrical barriers, but with in-game credits available for upgrades you should find this free title has several layers of fun.
If there is a downside with this game, it is the fact that you can complete the various in-game challenges without progressing too far.
Aimed squarely at younger gamers, this Toy Story game is a lot of fun!
Following the pattern of physics-based puzzlers such as Angry Birds, Toy Story: Smash It! puts you in charge of Buzz in order to protect Andy’s room from various invasions, such as the alien Zurg. As is typical with this sort of game, the fewer the shots taken, the better the score reached. Control of Buzz Lightyear is achieved by tapping controller arrows and dragging back the ball he is throwing, with a crosshairs displaying where the ball will strike.
The soundtrack for the game features some of the tunes from Toy Story (such as the theme tune, “You’ve Got a Friend in Me”) while the graphics are a charming combination of third person 3D and pencil-drawn cardboard targets; that homemade look is a common theme through games on Windows 8, it would seem.
There is no trial option for Toy Story: Smash It! – you’ll need to pay up $4.99/£3.49, but it’s lots of fun and makes a good alternative to Angry Birds.
Adera is a free (to begin with) Xbox Live title of remarkable imagination and depth. A story driven adventure with unique puzzles and stunning graphics, the game is available in episodes. Five episodes comprise a season, with the first episode ready for you to play free of charge (subsequent episodes cost $25 or £14.49). Interestingly, Adera also has an accompanying eBook spin-off novel.
The episodic nature of the game is carried through into gameplay, which is occasionally punctuated by adverts. Adera begins with a cut-scene showing an artefact liberated from a castle strongroom and collected by someone on the street below. Soon after you are in control of the game, a first person point and click affair with a bit of hidden object finding and puzzles thrown in. Gameplay isn’t perhaps what you might expect at first, but thanks to the cut-scenes the game progresses at a good rate.
This type of game isn’t usually my thing, but as I spent over 90 very quick minutes playing it for this round-up, it would seem that its strong reviews are warranted.
Halo? On Windows?
This is, of course, the Spartan Assault game, set between Halo 3 and Halo 4. The aim of what might be mistaken for a lightweight mini-game – but which is actually a fully featured top down action game – is to play through 25 missions of warfare against the Covenant, with the usual weapons and vehicles at your disposal.
Control of the game is achieved using left and right thumbs to control movement, weapons and collect ammo drops. The action is fast and furious as you might expect, but be aware that the top down view doesn’t offer any zooming options.
On the downside, Halo: Spartan Assault requires in app purchases if you want to upgrade your gear – it would be good if Xbox points could be used. Note also that there is no support for the traditional Xbox 360 controller Halo experience.
You’ll need to fork out $6.99/£4.99 for this game, and it doesn’t offer a trial mode. On the plus side, this is a Halo game, it feels like Halo, and it is certainly worth the money.
An unusual title, the aim of this game is to complete a point-and-click adventure game using a stick man created by you in the opening screen. While the adventure element is strong, there is no rolling or character stats, instead, you are encouraged to draw tools to manipulate the in-game world to your advantage.
For instance, you might use the fire pencil to burn down a door or gate, or the snow pencil to freeze an object. So that your character doesn’t look out-of-place, the landscape and backgrounds are also presented as line drawings.
Draw a Stickman: Epic is one of the most original titles on the Windows 8 Store, combining one of the most interesting game genres with a charming visual design. In some ways it is similar to the Xbox Live and Windows Phone game Max and the Magic Marker.
This game can be installed for $2.99/£2.19, and a free trial version is also available.
This is a futuristic RTS, the aim being to secure resources and defeat the enemy faction. Drawing a lot of inspiration from the Command & Conquer series, ARMED! is a polished game with nice graphic design, sci–fi action movie-style music, and a simple-yet-effective method of building facilities and units and initiating combat. Combat units come in several types for ground and aerial assault, and various upgrades can be bought to customise your style of play.
ARMED! has three modes of play. The first single player option pits you against a strong and improving computer AI, and is a good option in the absence of the two multiplayer modes.
For multiplayer you can choose between a ranked game against another player connected to the Internet anywhere in the world, or the hotseat mode, in which you and a friend share the device to take turns.
Although free, the version on sale in the Windows 8 Store is a playable first level that can be unlocked for $2.99. This removes the adverts and gives you five playable levels.
If you’re looking for ace 3D graphics and superb digital stereo sound, Pew Pew is not for you. However, if your thing is playing great games and being amused in other ways as you do, then you might just find something remarkable about this game.
Pew Pew looks ropey; in fact it looks as though it was drawn by hand. Sound-wise, you could be forgiven for thinking that the effects were done by someone saying “pew pew” whenever you attack the alien space craft and “boom” when a ship is destroyed.
You would be forgiven, because this is exactly how the game has been executed! Pew Pew is a free title, can be downloaded in seconds thanks to the ridiculously (albeit welcome) download of 747 kB and it’s great fun!
This Xbox Live title is blessed with a beautiful UI, the Battle Academy challenge mode and a multiplayer game. But before you select a game option, the How to Play video is very important. This space strategy game seems surprisingly sophisticated, with the option to review footage of space combat, customise your units and generally overwhelm your opponent.
With a nice selection of achievements to unlock for your Gamerscore, Galactic Reign is perhaps the most involved Windows 8 game available. Perhaps the only downside is that you will have to wait for combat to be generated; you have no influence once the ships are deployed. This perhaps makes the game more of a simulation than a strategy game. You certainly won’t notice time passing as you attempt to win control of the galaxy and drool over the impressive, cinematic visuals.
Galactic Reign is $4.99/£3.49, but you can take the free trial option to see how it plays.
Previously released on Xbox and Windows Phone, Doom and Destiny is a traditional top-down dungeon-style RPG, with 16-bit style visuals inspired by arcade and console RPGs of the past (for example the original Final Fantasy or Legend of Zelda).
Requiring you to hold your Windows 8 tablet like a game pad (not many games have this dynamic – I’ve only come across Doom and Destiny and Halo: Spartan Assault so far on this platform) you can also play Doom and Destiny with your computer keyboard or game controller.
With a comparatively well-written script and reasonably good storyline, Doom and Destiny is a slow starter but has some great moments.
Available for $2.99/£2.19, a free trial version can also be installed.
Four game modes are on offer here – the single player campaign and skirmish options, the PvP hotseat option (here called pass & play) and the play online alternative, enabling you to challenge other plays remotely and taking turns asynchronously (which might result in a slow game as you wait for your opponent to complete his turn, so be warned!). Note that online play requires that you create a game account.
Using pinch to zoom and taps to guide your team around the multi-level tile based map, Great Big War Game owes a lot to modern table top gaming as well as to the classic Cannon Fodder. This is good fun, and definitely worth trying out.
Great Big War Game is just $2.99/£2.19, and a free trial version is also available.
Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 Games
Note that there are a good few games for Windows 8 that are basically ports of Windows Phone titles. Games such as Gravity Guy, ARMED!, and many more are almost identical to their mobile phone versions.
As such, if you use Windows Phone and have enjoyed any of these titles on that platform, you can be pretty confident that the experience will be largely the same on Windows 8.
Cross-fertilization between the two versions of Windows 8 is likely to continue. With paid games there is of course the possibility of buying the same game twice, so if you prefer to avoid this, shop with care!
Conclusion: Ten Great Windows 8 Modern Games – But Are There More?
So there you have it – ten superb games from the Windows 8 Store designed to run within the Modern interface. More can be found in our best Windows 8 apps list.
Of course, you might not agree.
While we’ve brought together what could be described as the top 10 Metro/Modern games for Windows 8 devices, lists such as this are always subjective. There is no way to accommodate for everyone’s favourites – so if you have your own (better?) top 10, please share it, or suggestions of games you think should be in this list, below.