This year has already offered a lot of great gaming experiences. Uncharted 4 capped off Naughty Dog’s pulp adventure saga with a flourish that showed off the developer’s signature breathtaking tech and storytelling alike. The speed and fury of DOOM’s run-and-gun play surprised critics and fans by redefining how to do modern old school. Inside was quietly released in the aftermath of E3, and, without spilling any details, is easily one of this year’s most evocative and best games. (Also Pokémon Go). It may only be July, but the rest of 2016 has a number of other promising games on the horizon. Here are some to watch out for.
If you wished that Journey had been an adventure underwater, Abzû is tailor-made for you. The aesthetic similarity is no coincidence, given that creative director Matt Nava worked as art director on ThatGameCompanys landmark PlayStation indie before breaking off to form Giant Squid. Nava reportedly wanted to make a game using environments teeming with life, and from what’s been shown, his artistic take on oceanic exploration is as beautiful as it looks fun — the developers even seem to have nailed the swimming part.
Another incredible achievement in art direction for the medium, Cuphead seems like a game whose very existence shouldn’t be possible. Modeled after the surreal cartoons of Max Fleischer and his 1930s contemporaries — complete with the Devil in a major role — the tiny Studio MDHR has gone to painstaking lengths to make an astoundingly authentic (and interactive) animation that bristles with the hardcore difficulty of classic run-and-gunner shooters like Contra. For animation and old-school buffs, it’s basically a match made in heaven, and something gamers have never seen before.
After the disaster of Mighty No. 9 (among other forsaken projects) Keiji Inafune needs a win. Despite a history of creating Mega Man, Onimusha and Dead Rising, his reputation has taken quite a hit with a number of bungled decisions and seemingly poor creative investments in the past few years. Partnering with some ex-Metroid Prime* developers at Armature Studio to release a new sci-fi project, complete with an interesting female protagonist and robot friends that help you traverse the game’s desert planet, looks like it could be a return to form, particularly given Nintendo’s evident focus elsewhere. Let’s hope it delivers.
Though Mafia has been forced to play second fiddle to Rockstar in the open-world crime arena, it has the benefit of being both a period series (the original took place in the 1930s, Mafia II was post-war) and having the tact to eschew sophomoric attempts at satire for a serious narrative. Mafia III’s time and place (a New Orleans stand-in circa 1968) sounds promising on its own, and the story follows a mixed-race Vietnam vet who must deal with the racial tensions of the era while waging war with Sicilians after they murdered his friends in the black mob. Assuming the narrative is handled with care and doesn’t feel too incongruous measured against the violence of an open-world crime sim, this could be the first time Mafia gets a chance to really say something.
Dynasty Warriors games, or “Musou”, are about one thing: cutting down endless waves of enemies in hack-and-slash battles. Historically, violence hasn’t been the focus. Berserk follows a mercenary named Guts, forever plagued by demons. It’s one most popular manga and anime series ever. Set in the middle ages, it’s also known for it’s brutality; you wouldn’t think it’d be a good match for Musou, but developer Omega Force seems determined to prove that assumption wrong by embracing its violence head-on. While Guts has starred in other adaptations before, none have really felt all that satisfying. With Omega’s design prowess and a ton of fan service, Berserk might back that trend. If you’ve ever wanted to cleave hordes of enemies in twain as Guts, this looks like your chance.
Dead Rising 4
Dead Rising 4 hasn’t received much fanfare since it was announced last month at E3, despite featuring the return of photojournalist and series protagonist Frank West. The debut feature seems to up the ante on Dead Rising’s humor, with Frank taking selfies with the undead and shooting candy canes at shambling enemies. How any in-game social media aspect of the game works isn’t totally clear, but more personality definitely sounds promising (not to mention the fourth game should be better equipped to handle current gen. requirements like high on-screen enemy count than Dead Rising 3 could have at launch). In short, it looks like the kind of zombie fun park it should be.
Batman: The Telltale Series
If you like Batman you probably don’t need much convincing. The developer’s take on the Dark Knight is apparently more of an even split between Bruce Wayne and his costumed alter-ego squaring off against a rogue’s gallery of classic villains — no surprise there, given their narrative game-making design — and, out of all the properties they could have developed is arguably the most exciting choice yet for a Telltale game.
Pokémon Sun and Moon
Not to be totally overshadowed by Pokémon Go, Nintendo is also releasing a new mainline Pokémon entry for the 3DS in November. Aside from the obligatory new species and a new region to explore, Sun and Moon also introduces some new features like a four-player free-for-all battle mode and the ability to train up your critters beyond level 100. You know, for when you get tired of trying to re-take that local gym.