The best of the best (or at least what I want to play) before the year is out.
I remember not long ago when the video game ecosystem was simple: for the first nine or so months of the year, you would usually get a couple good games that were worth playing. Then September would arrive, and approximately 500,000 games were all released at once, hoping to capitalize on the Holiday shopping season. But for the past few years (and especially in this cycle of gaming), things have been pretty different.
Publishers have begun to realize that you can launch a game at pretty much any point, and have thus used previously vacant months to release their biggest games. This isn’t such a bad thing (there always has and will forever be too many games released in October/November), but it does mean that some of my most anticipated games of the year (namely Uncharted 4 and Firewatch) saw release months ago.
Still though, the Holiday season is as crowded as ever, and there are more than enough games launching in the next three months for me to cobble a list together. I could probably even feature at least 10 of those games in said list, and would probably even rank them in descending order. But you know what? Let’s just not THINK things — let’s DO things. Here’s the 10 games I’m looking forward to playing the most this holiday season.
10. Gears of War 4
Release: October 11
I am not a huge Gears of War fan. I played the first one, and never beat it. I played almost all of the third one…and never beat it. I played a few hours of multiplayer from all three of the core installments, and had a decent time doing it. Altogether, I’ve probably played 10–12 hours of this universe, combined. And yet, I’m strangely looking forward to what The Coalition has done with what is essentially a reboot (or at the very least lega-sequel) of the franchise.
I think the key to that is the game’s E3 showing, which I thought looked extremely cool and fun. And the main problem I’ve always had with the series (the bro-y and oddly dislikeable main characters) are mostly gone, with the new trio of heroes seemingly more likeable and, at the very least, having less TOTALLY GOD AWFUL dialogue. The gameplay of this series is incredibly sound (and has been for nearly a decade), but everything about the universe never really grabbed me. With a clean slate like this one, maybe now is Gears of War’s chance to do just that.
9. The Last Guardian
Release: December 6
Will The Last Guardian be good? This is a question I’ve found myself asking for what feels like a century now, as the game’s release date just continued to fumble and its existence became more and more uncertain. On the one hand, Team ICO has an excellent pedigree, as Ico, Okami, and Shadow of the Colossus speak for themselves. On the other, it’s been a decade since the developer has released a game, with all their eggs tied to this particular goose (or, if you prefer, dog bird thing.) Since then there’s been a lot of turnaround within the developer, and it’s hard to say if the Team Ico that made those two great games is even there anymore.
The little we’ve seen of The Last Guardian looks promising enough, and this could be one of the cases in which more time in the oven creates an even better game than could be imagined. After all, it’s not like there’s never been a great game released off of the back of many delays and various production strife. But Duke Nukem Forever is a thing too, so I think it’s important to add a bit of “cautious” to my optimism here.
8. Final Fantasy XV
Release: November 29
If you thought the extent of my fandom for Gears of War was tiny, then you haven’t seen nothing yet: I’ve played exactly two Final Fantasy games in my life, each for approximately one hour. I long ago rented Final Fantasy X from my local renting chain (hey, remember those?), simply because I was a huge Kingdom Hearts fan and I thought “Hey, this is probably like that!” It was not like that, so I took it back the next day. My subsequent run in with the series was a few years later, when I was bored and with no games to play. I had Gamefly at the time, so I decided to check out Final Fantasy XIII. After all, I was a few years older since my previous experience with the franchise, and a few years wiser. Maybe I would like it now.
I did not.
And yet once again, here we are: the newest iteration of a game franchise that I’m not even a fan of making my list of anticipated fall games. What makes Final Fantasy XV different? Well, because I HAVE played it — and if the “Platinum Demo” is anything like the actual game, I might actually like it! And the reason why is pretty simple: it feels a lot like Kingdom Hearts. And though I’m sure that gives a lot of the series’ fan pause, for a noob like me, that’s all I can ask for. After all, if I spent my time simply waiting for the next Kingdom Hearts game, I would never play another video game in my life. In this particular case, Final Fantasy XV will have to scratch that itch — and from the looks of things, it might actually have a chance of doing so.
7. Titanfall 2
Release: October 28
I’ll be upfront here: like many others, I found the Titanfall 2 beta to be a tad bit disappointing. While I was hoping to come away from the beta excited for what Respawn had done and stoked for a radically different game that built up on what made the first game work (ala Call of Duty 4 to Modern Warfare 2), what I found instead was BASICALLY the first game, but with the addition of a grappling hook.
That doesn’t have to be a bad thing of course, because the nuts and bolts of the first game are so sound you don’t need to fix much. My main issues with that game stemmed from a lack of content and variety, which the beta did not give a clear indication of changing either way. If Titanfall 2 is just Titanfall with a dozen more guns and plenty more ways to customize, I will be happy. But whether or not the game can actually take the series to new heights, and join the upper echelon of multiplayer first person shooters, is still very much in question.
6. Dead Rising 4
Release: December 6
I’ve pretty much enjoyed every other Dead Rising game (to varying degrees), and I especially have a soft spot in my heart for the first game in the series. Well it hasn’t aged especially well, Dead Rising was the first game I EVER played on a Generation 7 console, and really making the jump from the Playstation 2 graphics of old to a game featuring thousands of zombies on screen and a huge open world to explore was kind of perfect. As such, the adventure of Frank West at the Willamette Parkview Mall is a surprisingly poignant memory in my life as a gamer.
Capcom seems to realize this is the case for many gamers, and is such banking on nostalgia for the now decade-old game in order to get people on board for Dead Rising 4. Once again bringing back original protagonist Frank West AND the setting of Willamette, Colorado, my hope is that Dead Rising 4 will be a tribute to how great the first game is, and build up on what worked then with the capabilities of the new hardware. If it can do that, I’ll be satisfied. Having the Christmas time setting too doesn’t hurt. I am kind of a sucker for that shit.
5. Modern Warfare Remastered
Release: November 4
Yes, I am probably way to excited to replay a game that I have replayed probably a dozen times. But what can I say? I’m a Call of Duty junkie, and it’s been a while since I’ve had some quality stuff to inject in my bloodstream (Advanced Warfare is GREAT, though, so at least I have that.) Every year it seems like Activision is playing a game with me, trying to see just how far they can take my addiction before it reaches the dreaded “dead baby in a crib” phase. But those motherfuckers KNOW that I love me some of that old fashioned strain of Modern Wafare, and don’t even have to try hard to push it on me. They could probably bundle it with a bag of cocaine swimming in vomit, and I would still buy it whole-heartedly.
In fact, they already might have. But let’s hope Infinite Warfare isn’t that bad.
In any case, just take my freaking money Activision. I have a jonesing to play one of the best shooters ever made again on my shiny next generation console, and I’m sure there’s millions of others like me who are itching to do the same. We might be addicts, but at least this time, we know the product will be worth taking.
(Update: so yeah, literally two hours after I posted this, Cuphead was officially delayed to 2017. Always has to happen to one of these games, huh? In any case, none of what I said below changes…I’ll just have to hold it until 2017 now.)
Ever since I first saw gameplay from Cuphead, I have been desperate to get my hands on the offbeat indie. Combining an entirely unique, 2D animation inspired art style with good old fashioned, run and gun platforming looks like a complete and utter blast, and unlike any other game I’ve seen. Studio MDHR might be new on the block with an unproven track record, but it speaks to how great the game looks that I placed them so high on the list.
The only con with this game? Honestly, it’s the fact that it’s the only game here that doesn’t have a confirmed release date — this late in the game that can be a bit of a concern, and could signify a delay. However, Cuphead is an indie game, which really operates on a different level than the big studio releases: they can announce a release date today for next Tuesday, and it really wouldn’t be much of a shocker. And last we heard, the developers were pretty determined on launching by the end of the year. I’m certainly keeping my hopes up.
The past few years have all had a great, “old-school” style indie game that impressed me a great deal (see previously: Shovel Knight and Ori and the Blind Forest), and I’m hopeful that Cuphead will manage to do the same. First it needs to make it in to the year, though.
3. The Walking Dead: A New Frontier
Since the premiere of Telltale’s Walking Dead game back in 2012, I’ve liked-to-loved every one of their new series (except Minecraft: Story Mode, which I never played, cause “eh…..”) But even then, I’ve always had a special place in my heart for The Walking Dead in particular, and find the first season to still be the magnum opus of what Telltale’s approach to interactive storytelling can do. And even with my sky high expectations, I ended up loving the hell out of The Walking Dead: Season 2, and found it to have just the same amount of high drama and strong writing that made me love the series in the first place.
After 10 episodes of such high quality, it wouldn’t be shocking if Telltale doesn’t manage to deliver with the third season of the series, subtitled A New Frontier. It’s certainly breaking the formula from previous game with multiple playable characters and a teenage Clementine, and the story could end up getting repetitive depending on how Telltale chooses to explore it. That said, I’ve loved the last two seasons so much that I have complete faith in Telltale to deliver. And since even their non-Walking Dead games have all been consistent in quality, well, I expect something great here. Let’s hope the release of the first episode in November doesn’t prove me wrong.
2. Battlefield 1
Release: October 21
Am I a fan of the Battlefield franchise? The honest answer would be “not really,” even if my experiences with the series are a little more filled out than some of the other franchises on this list. I’ve played a few of the series’ previous entries, primarily Battlefield 1942 and the (incredibly fun) Battlefield: Bad Company series. That said, I would never consider myself to be a hardcore fan of the franchise: I was always a Call of Duty guy, as the above entry of Modern Warfare: Remastered shows. But if Battlefield 1 plays its cards right, that soon might change.
I was very interested in the game the moment it was officially announced, primarily because it stood in direct contrast to all of the other big FPS games coming out: while it seemed the industry was moving more and more towards futuristic, kinetic shooters, Battlefield 1 chose to go the opposite route, an admirable (and smart) path indeed. Foregoing modern warfare and exploring the battlefield of World War I separates the game from pretty much every other game out there, and shines a light on an oft-explored conflict of history.
But of course a concept is one thing: the real attention getter here was the beta released back at the end of August. I don’t think I played another beta as much as I played the one for Battlefield 1 — the fact that it was already so beautifully orchestrated and wonderfully assured in everything it was doing is rare for betas, and only makes me excited to see just how DICE can improve the experience even further. I can totally see myself getting sucked into this game as my FPS shooter of choice, and that alone makes it one of my most anticipated games of the holiday season.
1. Dishonored 2
Release: November 11
But if there’s any game on this list that I feel has a strong chance of being my favorite game of the year, it’s this one. I was a huge fan of the original Dishonored way back in 2012, and have been chomping at the bit in the years since for a follow-up. Dishonored was an imperfect game, but exactly the type of imperfect game that can easily be improved with a sequel.
The bare bones of the game were incredibly strong, from the steampunk aesthetic to the nearly perfect stealth-infused gameplay. That’s enough to overcome any of the minor issues the story and mythology might have had, and enough to make me believe that Arcane Studios will deliver in an even bigger way with Dishonored 2. Multiple playable characters, a brand new city to explore, a more over-arching approach to missions — all things that could make for a vastly improved sequel (for a game that doesn’t even need it.)
Modern video game history is filled with very good games giving way to all time great sequels. Mass Effect gave us Mass Effect 2. Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune gave us Uncharted 2: Among Thieves. Assassin’s Creed gave us Assassin’s Creed 2. Portal gave us Portal 2. The list honestly goes on and on. And I truly feel like said list will one day feature Dishonored giving us Dishonored 2. We can only hope, at the very least.
And there you have it, the ten games I’m eagerly looking forward to this Holiday season. If you’ve made it this far, congrats — you are a trooper, and I respect the hell out of you for it.