SALT LAKE CITY — Sept. 12 is National Video Games Day (truly) and to mark this great occasion we share with you the free video games available in September. Each month, Xbox Live Gold and PlayStation Plus members receive a selection of free games alongside online multiplayer access. Each platform usually offers its users a completely different crop of games for $59.99 a year, per program.
Xbox owners can expect to receive up to four games for Xbox One and Xbox 360 through the Games With Gold Program, and PlayStation fans are offered up to six titles for PlayStation 3, 4, Vita and VR.
Amazon and the popular streaming platform Twitch also offer free PC games for Twitch Prime subscribers. Since Twitch Prime is a branch of Amazon Prime, anyone with an Amazon subscription can download these titles.
Here’s a quick look at this month's offerings, including the description, critical score, and ESRB rating of each title, as well as important information for parents regarding mature titles.
PS Plus games are made available on the first Tuesday of every month and can be downloaded for free until the first Tuesday of the next month. Unlike Xbox’s free games, anything obtained through PS Plus will become inaccessible if your membership expires. Thankfully, your free games will be waiting for you if you subscribe again.
PlayStation is also offering three months of PlayStation Now, a cloud-based streaming service featuring games from PS3 and PS4, for $29.99. The offer runs through Sept. 25 and is open to new and returning subscribers.
Finally, PS Plus subscribers can snag two free experimental games as a bonus through Oct. 2. “Here They Lie” is a first-person horror game for PlayStation VR set in a nightmarish city, and “Knowledge is Power” is a PS4 game that can be controlled with a smartphone.
Metacritic score: 85
ESRB rating: T for violence, blood and language
“Destiny 2” is an open world RPG shooter from Bungie, the team behind the legendary Halo series. In this sequel to the original “Destiny,” you take up the mantle of Guardian, a superpowered warrior tasked with defending humanity against the universe’s dark forces.
After the source of the Guardians’ power — the Traveler — is stolen, you must work with others to defeat Gaul and the Red Legion, an alien military force looking to wipe out humanity and claim the Traveler’s light for their own.
“Destiny 2” features a single-player campaign as well as several seamless multiplayer modes, including Crucible — a traditional player vs. player mode — as well as cooperative Strikes and Raids, which require teamwork, communication and strategy skills.
Metacritic score: 81
ESRB rating: M for blood and gore, intense violence, nudity, strong language and strong sexual content
What parents should know: “God of War III Remastered” is one of the most violent, gratuitous video games ever made. The game follows Kratos — a disgraced Spartan warrior and former God of War — as he exacts revenge against the entire Greek pantheon for killing his family.
“God of War III” features fast arcade action relying on combos and special attacks. Enemies are based on monsters from Greek mythology and can be frightening. As players defeat them, enemies gush blood, and some finishing moves result in graphic dismemberments.
Kratos’ killings of many Greek gods are also uncomfortable and frightening. For example, the game opens with a fight against Poseidon, after which Kratos gouges out his eyes from the sea god’s perspective. Innocent figures like Daedalus are also shown tortured and covered in blood as a result of Zeus’ punishment.
Although the game avoids curse words, some nudity is present. Some monsters — like Medusa and the Gorgons — are depicted with breasts, but not in a sexualized manner. However, Aphrodite — seen twice towards the end of the game — is shown topless. Fans of the first two "God of War" titles may find something interesting here, but children and families should avoid this game altogether.
If you want to get your fill of action and ancient mythology, check out this year’s “God of War,” which marks a more thoughtful and restrained shift for the series and Kratos as a character. While the game is still for mature audiences and doesn’t shy away from violence, It features themes on parenthood, accepting loss and forming strong family bonds.
Instead of reveling in blood and gore, Kratos — now living in Scandinavia after killing his way through Greek mythology — journeys with his son, Atreus, to scatter his wife’s ashes at the top of a mountain. Along the way, Kratos must overcome his dark, violent past to become a better father while avoiding the violent Norse gods’ interference.
Platform: PS3, PS4, PS Vita
Metacritic score: 53
ESRB rating: T for violence and blood
After a nuclear experiment goes wrong, scientist Lester must explore an alien planet, solve simple puzzles and avoid danger at all costs to make it back to Earth. The game, which was first released in 1991, features HD visuals, remastered sound and new, balanced difficulty modes.
Platform: PS3, PS4
Metacritic score: 76
ESRB rating: T for language
“Q.U.B.E.” is a first-person puzzle game in which you wield a pair of reality-warping gloves. By interacting with colored cubes, you can move further into a spaceship, which is on a collision course with Earth.
The game takes advantage of physics mechanics and allows players to manipulate room orientation, platform positions and light in order to solve complex puzzles. A sequel, “Q.U.B.E. 2,” was released earlier this year with a greater emphasis on player freedom and story.
Xbox’s free games are usually divided across both of Microsoft’s consoles, with two titles featured for Xbox One, and an additional two for Xbox 360. It’s important to note Xbox One owners can also download the Xbox 360 titles, thanks to backward compatibility. Additionally, any games downloaded as an Xbox Live Gold subscriber will stay in your digital library, even if your subscription lapses.
Date Available: Sept. 1-30
Metacritic score: 75
ESRB rating: M blood, drug reference, partial nudity, strong language, violence and sexual content
What parents should know: “Prison Architect” deals with themes revolving around crime and violence. While the gameplay itself is depicted from a cartoonish top-down perspective, infrequent comic book cutscenes are used to depict some prisoners’ backgrounds. These scenes often involve violent crimes and depictions of murder.
One sequence in the game involves prisoners taking guards captive and can be tense and frightening. Swear words — including the f- and s-words — also appear occasionally in written text throughout the game.
“Prison Architect” is a construction simulation building game putting you in the shoes of a prison planner. Manage resources to build cell blocks, prison yards and other facilities and set rules for inmates and employees alike.
Players can also decide whether to run their prison as a rehabilitation center or something more akin to "Shawshank." Player choice also affects events within the prison, from riots and suicides to executions and escapes.
Platform: Xbox One
Date available: Sept. 16-Oct. 15
Metacritic score: 77
ESRB rating: T for fantasy violence and mild language
“Livelock” is a multiplayer top-down shooter set in a post-apocalyptic world dominated by machines. Players take the role of a freedom fighter and can use various weapons and abilities to defeat robotic enemies.
Platform: Xbox 360
Date available: Sept. 1-15
Metacritic score: 75
ESRB rating: E10+ for cartoon violence and crude humor
“LEGO Star Wars III” chronicles the events of the Clone Wars in the galaxy far, far away, albeit in brick form. Up to two players can play as dozens of popular Star Wars characters — including Obi-wan Kenobi, Anakin Skywalker and Ahsoka Tano — to free the Republic from the Sith and Separatists.
Gameplay includes the LEGO games’ traditional smash ‘em up level design as well as space battles and real-time strategy sequences — a first for the LEGO series.
Platform: Xbox 360
Date available: Sept. 16-30
Metacritic score: 72
ESRB rating: E for cartoon violence
The “Monster World” collection includes "Wonder Boy in Monster Land," "Wonder Boy in Monster World," and "Monster World IV," three classic action RPG games originally seen in arcades and the Sega Mega Drive. Each game features traditional side-scrolling platforming as well as top-down action sequences similar to modern twin-stick shooters.
Just like PlayStation and Xbox, streaming platform Twitch usually offers five free PC games on the first of the month for Amazon/Twitch Prime subscribers. While the free games aren’t offered for Mac, Windows users can access their monthly free games through the free Twitch Desktop App. To redeem the free games, log into Twitch, click on the crown in the top right corner, and claim the free game offer.
Amazon Prime subscribers should also note several changes to the service. Instead of a 20 percent preorder discount on video game preorders, Amazon is now offering a $10 credit for select preorders. Twitch Prime will also no longer offer ad-free viewing — a service now locked behind Twitch Turbo, which costs $8.99 a month. No changes have been announced for Twitch’s free games initiative.
Metacritic score: 78
ESRB rating: E10+
“The Adventure Pals” is a top-down action game challenging players to complete quests across five unique worlds. Each location features quaint, off-beat characters and side quests involving pirates, zombie cats and dinosaurs. The game can be played solo or in co-op, and adapts to player skill on the fly to create a challenging-but-fair experience.
Metacritic score: 72
ESRB rating: N/A
“Guild of Dungeoneering” is a turn-based dungeon crawler RPG in which players take control of the dungeon’s layouts. Using a deck of cards, dungeon masters can decide room layouts, monster locations and how much loot the hero finds.
The computer-controlled hero explores the dungeon automatically, requiring players to balance combat and rewards in order to prepare their explorers for a final boss fight. Success means an improved Guild, which in turn adds new cards to the Dungeon Master’s deck.
Metacritic score: 83
ESRB rating: N/A
Step into the shoes of a freelance spy and take jobs breaking into high-security locations to steal secure data. Using the Crosslink gadget, players can rewire security systems to outwit guards and open secret passageways.
The game also emphasizes player choice and uniform difficulty — everyone, including you, can be defeated with a single attack, but more difficult challenges and story missions are completely optional, allowing you to play your way.
Metacritic score: N/A
ESRB rating: N/A
“Strife” is an old-school first-person shooter built in the original Doom 3D engine. Originally released in 1996, this updated version of the game features 28 levels and light RPG mechanics as well as a post-apocalyptic fantasy story.
Although the original game criticized for utilizing aged technology and dated gameplay, it’s since become a cult classic, inspiring other well-known games like “Deus Ex,” according to PC Gamer.
Metacritic score: 56
ESRB rating: E
“Pumped BMX” is a side-scrolling physics-based sports game similar to Ubisoft’s Trials series. The game features over 500 challenges, detailed environments, and controller and keyboard support.