Motion controls are a touchy subject within the gaming landscape. Either they’re an innovative, immersive way to finally get right into your favorite games, or they’re gimmicks that facilitate lazy game design. One thing’s for sure in all of the debate: when they’re done right, it’s a sight to behold. Here are our top 10 video games that got motion controls right.
10. Johann Sebastian Joust
Sometimes the simplest uses of a given technology can be the most compelling and so it is with Johann Sebastian Joust. Released as part of the Sportsfriends compilation of small Indie games in 2014, Johann Sebastian Joust is a game about getting your opponents to move without moving too much yourself. The game is played by a group of people with Playstation Move controllers, Dualshock 3s or Dualshock 4s. The controllers sense the force and speed of the player’s movement and any player who moves their controller too quickly is out of the game. That’s it, just don’t move and you win, a simple concept on paper but in practice, playing against actual people who may or may not care about accidentally breaking your controller, it becomes a tense back and forth battle of careful shoves and gentle slaps. If this sounds familiar a close look at several of the mini-games in Nintendo’s recent 1,2,Switch reveals the influence of Johann Sebastian Joust on the development of motion controlled games. Ultimately Joust may end up remembered more for being influential than amazing in it’s own right.
~ Stephen Krusel
Journey is often praised for its gorgeous art design, wordless storytelling and seamless multiplayer systems. One aspect of the game that is often forgotten, though, is the way Journey used the Six Axis controller. While most of the motion controls of the early days of the PS3 tried and failed to use motion to accomplish detailed actions with a lot of precision, the sweeping fluid nature of the character movement in Journey made the Six Axis’ rudimentary motion sensor feel more natural than almost any other game to use that controller. For some, motion controls may not have been the best way to play Journey but at least they didn’t make the game unplayable in the way a lot of PS3 gen motion controlled games were.
~ Melissa Buranen
8. Gravity Rush
This topsy-turvy game that involves controlling gravity to fall through the air can be interesting enough for some in terms of gameplay. The addition of motion controls made the fast-paced action more engaging for players. The motion controls are used for aiming and movement while using interesting gravity abilities. Those who do use the motion controls seem to prefer them. After getting a handle on the movement it can be easier than moving the analog sticks to adjust the camera. The motion controls are also optional, making it a player’s prerogative to use them or not.
~ Melissa Buranen
7. Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz/Banana Splitz
The Monkey Ball series has always been a fun, if niche, puzzle title with a lot fun coming from just how unique the idea is. Controlling a rolling ball through increasingly treacherous terrain and trying to keep the poor little chimp inside from falling to their doom was tricky, but rewarding. Precision aiming, however, was a hit or miss opportunity, especially if your controllers were finicky or worn down. This changed with two of the series’ entries, Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz and Super Monkey Ball: Banana Splitz. Both games attempted to utilize their systems’ motion controls to allow the player to directly control the game without the need for a joystick. There’s just something that feels so right about moving the controller (or, in Splitz’s case, the Vita) and watching things just fall into place. Or you could just wave the Wii Remote like a madman and watch the chaos ensue, but that’d just be monkeying around.
~ Donovan Bertch
6. D4: Dark Dreams Don’t Die
D4: Dark Dreams Don’t Die is a pretty strange game, with its wacky characters, surreal visuals, and unusual choice in quick-time events (catch the rampaging catgirl!). What happens when you throw Kinect motion controls into the mayhem? Actually, that’s the key to the whole experience-at least in the Xbox One version. Point and click games feel so much more rewarding when you’re actively reaching out and feeling for clues, especially when the controls actually work (a rarity in terms of Kinect titles). Feeling like you’re actually snapping up flying plates, poking around an airplane cabin, or beating down an arrogant criminal with your bare hands feels so much better when you’re actively moving around the screen than via a control stick. The game did come to PC via Steam some years later, but it just doesn’t offer the same level of immersion that the original Kinect variant did. There’s no mystery here-motion controls made D4 a hell of a time.