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Joakim Sandberg, Bifrost Entertainment
"Iconoclasts" is a 2D Metroidvania game featuring story, exploration and puzzle solving.

SALT LAKE CITY — Each month, Xbox Live Gold, PlayStation Plus and Twitch Prime 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 up to five free PC games for Prime subscribers.

Here’s a quick look at December's offerings, including the description, critical score, and ESRB rating of each title, as well as important information for parents regarding mature titles.

PlayStation Plus

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 following month. Anything obtained through PS Plus will become inaccessible if your membership expires, but your free games will be waiting for you if you subscribe again.


Frictional Games
"SOMA" challenges players with escaping from a dilapidated underwater research station while avoiding deadly robots.

Platform: PS4

Metacritic Score: 79

Description: After surviving a car wreck, players are taken to PATHOS-II, a derelict underwater research facility, for recovery and observation. A sentient A.I. quickly takes control of the facility and its robotic inhabitants, forcing players to solve the mystery behind the facility as they escape.

ESRB Rating: M for violence, strong language, blood, and nudity

What Parents Should Know: “SOMA” is a science fiction horror game featuring a disturbing atmosphere and some frightening monsters. The game features some brutal, violent scenes with lots of blood, and naked corpses and monsters can be found connected to complicated machinery throughout the game. However, a story-focused difficulty setting can be enabled to remove most combat encounters from the game. Some swearing is also present throughout the game, including the f-word.


Codemasters, Deep Silver
"Onrush" is a car combat multiplayer game featuring speed and destruction. Players can team up with each other to take on opponents using a variety of offroad vehicles.

Platform: PS4

Metacritic Score: 76

Description: “Onrush” is an arcade vehicular combat game focused on speed, destruction and spectacle. Vehicle selection focuses on off-road trucks, motorcycles and buggies, allowing teams of six players to choose whatever vehicle suits their preferred playstyle. The game also features modes like “Overdrive,” “Lockdown,” and “Switch” which focus on high scores, area control and last-man-standing encounters, respectively.

ESRB Rating: E10+ for mild violence

Steredenn: Classic

Pixelnest Studio, Plug In Digital
"Steredenn" is a 2D space shooter featuring randomized environments and layouts.

Platform: PS3

Metacritic Score: 79

Description: “Steredenn” is a randomly generated space shooter featuring endless arcade gameplay and upgradeable arsenals. Players can compete with each other to take down bosses, defeat waves of enemy space pirates and log high scores.

ESRB Rating: E10+ for fantasy violence and mild language


MAGES. Inc, Nitroplus
"Steins;Gate" is an illustrated visual novel featuring time travel and a branching narrative dependent on player choice.

Platform: PS3

Metacritic Score: 83

Description: “Steins;Gate” is a science fiction visual novel about teenage scientists who discover how to send messages to themselves in the past. As the narrative expands, players make decisions that shape the outcome of the game.

ESRB Rating: M for sexual themes, violence, strong language, blood and partial nudity

What Parents Should Know: “Steins;Gate” includes some scenes of violence between characters, as well as some plot points revolving around sexual assault, slavery and mental health problems. Some characters are depicted in revealing clothing, and strong language — including the f-word — are shown in text.


Joakim Sandberg, Bifrost Entertainment
"Iconoclasts" is a 2D Metroidvania game featuring story, exploration and puzzle-solving.

Platform: PS Vita, PS4

Metacritic Score: 83

Description: “Iconoclasts” is a 2D Metroidvania action game focused on storytelling, exploration and puzzle solving. As Robin, a mechanic living in a world controlled by the authoritarian One Concern, players can explore open 2D environments, defeat more than 20 bosses and solve puzzles using tools.

ESRB Rating: T for violence, blood, mild language, use of tobacco and suggestive themes

Papers, Please

Lucas Pope
"Papers, Please" puts players in the role of an immigration inspector stationed on the border of a communist nation. Using convoluted and ever-changing rules, players must identify whether potential workers are suitable for admission into the nation or Arstotzka.

Platform: PS Vita

Metacritic Score: 92

Description: In “Papers, Please,” players step into the role of an immigration inspector responsible for controlling passage between a city split in half by communism. By using the Ministry of Admission's complicated and ever-changing guidelines, players are tasked with identifying smugglers and spies seeking entry at the border.

ESRB Rating: M for sexual themes, violence, strong language, blood, drug reference and nudity

What Parents Should Know: “Papers, Please” deals with themes like communism, authoritarianism and militarized states. While not overtly political, the game presents mature concepts regarding postwar tension and militarized states. The game presents players with a stressful situation and consistently modifies itself to catch players in mistakes, which could frustrate some players. The game also includes strong language — including the f- and s-word — and some nudity, but the simple art style mitigates some explicit content.

Xbox Games With Gold

Microsoft’s free games are usually divided across both Xbox 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. Any games downloaded as an Xbox Live Gold subscriber will stay in your digital library, even if your subscription lapses.

Note: “Race the Sun” for Xbox One will continue to be available for free until Dec. 15.

Q.U.B.E. 2

Toxic Games, Trapped Nerve Games
"Q.U.B.E. 2" Is a first-person puzzle game challenging players with exploring a massive maze on an alien planet.

Platform: Xbox One

Metacritic Score: 78

Date Available: Dec. 1-31

Description: “Q.U.B.E. 2” is a first-person puzzle game starring Amelia Cross, an archaeologist stranded on an alien planet. After waking up in ancient ruins, players use matter-manipulation gloves to interact with cubes in the environment. As players solve puzzles, they’ll come across other survivors, secrets and the truth behind a mysterious maze.

ESRB Rating: E

Never Alone

E-Line Media
Developed in conjunction with the Alaskan Native people, "Never Alone" challenges players with discovering the source of a neverending blizzard.

Platform: Xbox One

Metacritic Score: 66

Date Available: Dec. 16-Jan. 15

Description: “Never Alone” is a story-based adventure game developed in cooperation with the Alaska Native people. As an Iñupiat girl, players will journey across a barren arctic wilderness to discover the source of an eternal blizzard.

ESRB Rating: T for violence

Dragon Age II

Bioware, Electronic Arts
"Dragon Age II" is an action RPG set in a fantasy world. Players can form bonds with allies and make decisions that will shape the world around them over the course of a decade.

Platform: Xbox 360, Xbox One

Metacritic Score: 79

Date Available: Dec. 1-15

Description: “Dragon Age II” is an action roleplaying game developed by Bioware, the award-winning studio behind “Baldur’s Gate” and “Mass Effect.” Set in a fantasy world, players must fight for survival as political landscapes shift according to decisions and allies made.

ESRB Rating: M for blood and gore, language, violence and sexual content

What Parents Should Know: “Dragon Age II” is a dark fantasy game with an emphasis on combat and character interactions. The game includes heavy violence with some blood splatter, but some combat encounters can be avoided depending on choices made by the player. Some minor swearing is present, and players can pursue romantic relationships with characters in the game, most of which end in implied or offscreen sexual encounters.

Mercenaries: Playground of Destruction

Pandemic Studios, LucasArts
"Mercenaries" challenges players with ending an armed North Koran insurrection by any means necessary.

Platform: Xbox 360, Xbox One

Metacritic Score: N/A

Date Available: Dec. 16-31

Description: As a mercenary, players must topple a North Korean military coup by defeating the general and his 51 advisors by any means necessary. The game gives players the freedom to tackle objectives in any order, with any weapon or vehicle.

ESRB Rating: T

Twitch Prime

Twitch usually offers five free PC games on the first of the month for Amazon/Twitch Prime subscribers. While the free games aren’t available on Mac, Windows users can access their 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.

Twitch users can also claim a bundle of retro arcade games from SNK, including “Pulstar,” “Metal Slug 2,” “Samurai Shodown II,” “Fatal Fury Special” and “Baseball Stars 2.”


Team Fractal Alligator
"Hacknet" is a terminal-based hacking simulator designed to teach players basic coding skills.

Metacritic Score: 82

Description: “Hacknet” is a terminal-based hacking simulator challenging players to follow instructions from Bit, a deceased hacker. The game is based on classic hacking language and features accessibility and learning tools to teach real-world coding.

ESRB Rating: T


"Poi" is a 3D platformer featuring dozens of open worlds and hundreds of collectibles.

Metacritic Score: 67

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Description: “Poi” is a 3D platformer challenging players to explore undiscovered lands, defeat enemies and interact with cute characters to become a Master Explorer. The game features leaderboard support, in-depth platforming mechanics and over 100 collectible medallions.

ESRB Rating: E10+

Smoke and Sacrifice

Solar Sail Games, Curve Digital
"Smoke and Sacrifice" is an open-world survival RPG set in a smoky, monster-infested world.

Metacritic Score: 68

Description: “Smoke and Sacrifice” is an open-world survival RPG set in a smoky, haunted wasteland. As Sachi, players must journey away from her fertile home to discover the truth behind the pervasive smoke and strange creatures populating the world.

ESRB Rating: T