Second Son for the PS4 is just one of a host of big games coming out during the normally quiet February-March period.

Second Son for the PS4 is just one of a host of big games coming out during the normally quiet February-March period.

There's a natural cycle that video games go through every year, a kind of inhalation and exhalation.

September to early December is when everything comes out, especially late October and early November. Publishers work hard to get their games on shelves for the Christmas gift shopping season, and there are nearly always far too many to even play, let alone buy.

Thankfully, this rush period is followed by a quiet period when few games are released, running from January until at least March, and sometimes April, or even May. This annual period of drought is when we gamers have the chance to catch up on all those games we missed at the end of the previous year, or to discover interesting independent games that were drowned out by the din of pre-Christmas marketing.

The problem is that this year we won't have any such lull. Our traditional catch-up period has very rudely been stuffed with a pile of excellent game releases. Give that stack of unfinished games one last sidelong glance, because you won't be getting rid of it any time soon.

Following is just a sampling of the games coming out in February and March - if I was to include every one, this article would be far too long.

Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII - Publisher Square Enix has returned to the Final Fantasy XIII well for a third time, this time with the heavily revamped Lightning Returns. Instead of the ponderous pace of most Japanese RPGs, this new entry in the series has been engineered to feel fast-paced and urgent, thanks to a high-action real-time battle system and a constantly running down time limit. It's been out in Japan since November, where it became a big hit, so Aussie fans will want to snap it up when it arrives the week after next.

Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze - The next in an impressive series of games intended to revive the flagging Wii U is the new Donkey Kong Country. This is the franchise's HD debut, after appearing on the original Wii and the 3DS. Some new gameplay features will be included, but mostly this is just the Donkey Kong Country gameplay that fans love.

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 - I was surprised to hear that Lords of Shadow was getting a sequel. I didn't like it much, and I thought it hadn't sold many copies, but it turned out that it shifted over a million units worldwide, and publisher Konami pushed ahead with a sequel. The good news is that it looks set to fix everything that was wrong with the original, thanks to huge areas, smart camera control, real exploration and discovery, and an evolving environment true to the Castlevania name.

Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare - One of the few surprises of last year's game convention season was this squad-based shooter based in the Plants vs Zombies universe. At the end of February, players will be able to take on the roles of their favourite plant heroes to repel waves of zombies, and then they can swap roles and have a try at being the brain-munching undead. This one will only be on Xbox One, Xbox 360, and PC for starters, but it will come to other platforms eventually.

Thief - As fun as Garden Warfare looks, it is dropping on the same day as one of my most anticipated titles of the year: the reboot of Thief. As a fan of this franchise right from its original release, and having played several hours of pre-release code, I can't wait. All the classic gameplay is in place: sneaking from shadow to shadow, bopping guards on the head with a blackjack, and stealing everything that isn't nailed down. The dark world also makes a return, with the inexorable march of technology pressing up against centuries of tradition and superstition. It's a good way to end the month.

Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z - ...except that it isn't the end. Also releasing on the same day will be the hilariously blood-splattered and over-the-top Ninja Gaiden Z, a zombie-themed spin-off of the venerable action series that eschews its normal straight-faced earnestness for ridiculous humour, cartoonish cel-shading, and gory slapstick. I had hands-on time with this title back in June, and it is outrageous fun.

South Park: The Stick of Truth - In the first week of March, we will finally get Screen Play readers' most requested delayed game. This South Park game was supposed to come out last year, but THQ's bankruptcy meant it changed hands and eventually ended up with Ubisoft, which severely delayed its release. It has been dogged with controversy, with the classification and censorship bodies of several countries objecting to some of its more off-colour humour, but fans still can't wait to get their hands on it.

Dark Souls II - Another Screen Play favourite is the game that everyone seems to still be playing three years after its release, Dark Souls. Its long-awaited sequel will finally arrive in the middle of March, bringing smarter enemies with less-predictable movements and attacks, and a much larger and more open game world. One thing won't change, though: it will still be very, very hard, which is of course exactly the way its fans like it.

Titanfall - While the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 were released in November, neither has any must-play games as yet, so neither console is an essential purchase for the average gamer. This could change in mid-March when the first major release the the Xbox One arrives, the sublime man-versus-machine shooter Titanfall. Pitting nimble infantry against lumbering giant robots, Titanfall successfully mixes two very different types of gameplay on the same battlefield. it will also be on Xbox 360 and PC, but Xbox One will be its flagship platform.

Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes - Legendary game designer Hideo Kojima's imagination is clearly too big to fit into a single game. As such, Metal Gear Solid V will be two games, each set in a different time period, but with interlocking plotlines and shared characters. While The Phantom Pain has no release date announced, the first of the pair, Ground Zeroes, will arrive in mid-March on PS3 and Xbox 360, as well as PS4 and Xbox One.

Infamous: Second Son - A week after Titanfall lands on Xbox One, the PS4 gets its first big exclusive, with the return of its beloved Infamous series. Second Son is a reboot, starting a new storyline with a new cast of characters, but the core gameplay will remain largely unchanged. That said, the increased power of the PS4 promises to make the urban action even more seamless and fun than ever before.

Diablo III: The Reaper of Souls - Finally, wrapping up March, comes the expansion pack to Diablo III, accompanied by a major patch that overhauls some of the original game's more problematic aspects. While the always-online nature of the game remains unchanged for Windows and Mac gamers, this will be the end of the controversial real money auction house, and loot drops will be revamped to match. The expansion also brings open-world roaming, a whole new character class, a new magic system, and more.

Which games are you most looking forward to? Did I miss any games that you think should have been included? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

 - James "DexX" Dominguez

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