2015 was a strong year for gaming, and 2016 looks set to continue the trend. Whether Nintendo reveals its new console or not, there are plenty of titles on the horizon worth getting interested about. In as close to calendar order as we could get ’em (several games still lack a confirmed release date), here are 30 titles we think are well worth a look…
Overwatch (PC, PlayStation 4 & Xbox One, spring/summer TBC)
Blizzard makes its first steps into a brand new genre for the company, trying out an online shooter. With a cartoony aesthetic and a variety of super-powered characters you can switch between mid-fight, this is getting some good buzz about it and certainly looks intriguing. Quake III meets Team Fortress 2 by way of The Incredibles and a dash of Splatoon, anyone?
XCOM 2 (Mac & PC, February 5)
Firaxis’ utterly masterful reboot of the XCOM series with 2012’s XCOM: Enemy Unknown gets a well-deserved sequel. Set 20 years after the original, the aliens have taken over the Earth and XCOM is now a covert resistance force operating from a mobile base. Expect more of the viciously tough but oh-so-satisfying turn-based strategy.
Street Fighter V (PC & PlayStation 4, February 16)
The latest in Capcom’s legendary scrapper series has already been making waves in beta form. Expect old stalwarts (Ryu! Zangief! A newly-bearded Dhalsim!), unexpected returns for long-absent characters (R. Mika! A newly chubby Birdie! A reanimated, Frankenstein’s monster-esque Charlie!) and some intriguing newbies (Laura, the most stereotypically Brazilian character ever devised! Necalli, an animalistic scrapper with improbable dreadlocks! F.A.N.G, a weird camp guy in a nice suit!).
Far Cry Primal (PlayStation 4 & Xbox One February 23, PC March 1)
The newest addition to Ubisoft’s best-selling open-world FPS series is less a shooter and more a clubber, taking place as it does in the Stone Age. Playing as a hunter left stranded without tools or weapons after his hunting party is ambushed, expect an emphasis on archery (and, indeed, hunting).
The Division (PC, PlayStation 4 & Xbox One, March 8)
Ubisoft again, with its long-delayed and very ambitious title actually, seemingly, ready. An open-world third-person shooter with heavy MMO elements set in a virus-ravaged New York, players are required to team up in an effort to discover the virus’ source.
Hitman (PC, PlayStation 4 & Xbox One, March 11)
Erm, yes. This popped up on our “21 Christmas Gaming Blockbusters” feature but got delayed, so…here it is again. As we said back in September, expect a more freeform approach and extra levels being added for free, as developer IO doesn’t care for season passes and the like.
Quantum Break (Xbox One, April 5)
Remedy, the team behind Max Payne and Alan Wake, comes up with an interesting new shooter starring a fellow with – gasp! – a reasonably sensible name. Oh, and time-manipulation powers. Jack Joyce and his chronological escapades will be followed both through the game and a TV show that alters depending on your actions.
Dark Souls III (PC, PlayStation 4 & Xbox One, April 12)
After the similar-but-different Bloodborne, From Software returns to its legendarily nails action RPG. Series creator Hidetaka Miyazaki is back in the director’s seat and will no doubt be making you die. A lot.
Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End (PlayStation 4, April 29)
Charismatic adventurer/relic hunter Nathan Drake returns to accidentally blow more stuff up in the search for something that probably won’t cover his travel insurance. This instalment sees him reunite with his long-thought-dead older brother Sam. Are we getting a Last Crusade, Ford-and-Connery vibe? Possibly.
Star Fox Zero (Wii U, April TBC)
Er, here’s another one we already covered last year but then got delayed. Talking animals in spaceships, lots of (sometimes literal) dogfighting, etcetera.
Battleborn (PC, PlayStation 4 & Xbox One, May 3)
Borderlands creator Gearbox moves into online shooting in a title that sounds very similar to Overwatch, albeit with a less colourful aesthetic. With 25 characters to choose from, and the ability to swap between first- and third-person cameras depending on your situation, it’ll be interesting to see which arena battler takes the crown.
Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst (PC, PlayStation 4 & Xbox One, May 26)
Some eight years after the first game, this much-anticipated prequel sees modern tech applied to make it the game its predecessor wanted to be: a fully open-world city to parkour around with impunity. Developer DICE is so confident in its revamped traversal and combat options it’s actually done away with Faith’s ability to pick up and use guns. Which, since that was the worst part of the original game, is fine with us.
Doom (PC, PlayStation 4 & Xbox One, spring/summer TBC)
Originally Doom 4, now just Doom. Or, technically, DOOM. id Software returns to the FPS series to end all FPS series, blowing away the tedious military-obsessed po-faced nonsense it’s become with a shotgun the size of a cow, probably. Expect ultra-fast ultraviolence and a blanket ban on cover systems. We’re excited. We’re gonna sing the doom song now.
No Man’s Sky (PC & PlayStation 4, June TBC)
The preposterously ambitious explorathon from Guildford-based Hello Games is boasting 18 quintillion planets to land on and wander over. Thanks to its procedural generation, this is an actual full universe to poke about in. Possibly the most ambitious game of the year? Decade? Millennium?
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided (PC, PlayStation 4 & Xbox One, August 23)
The fourth main game in the brilliant cyberpunk RPG series (fifth if you count The Fall) takes place two years after 2011’s Human Revolution and sees everyone’s favourite pointy-chinned reluctant cyborg Adam Jensen back in the starring role. Developer Eidos Montreal is looking to make the stealthy, non-lethal combat options more dynamic and wide-ranging this time, as well as focusing on the excellent “conversation boss fights”.
Crackdown 3 (Xbox One, summer/autumn TBC)
Series creator Dave Jones returns to his ridiculously over-the-top GTA With Superheroes. This time, Microsoft is harnessing the power of cloud computing to make the city destructible (full destruction is only available in online mode, obviously). And yes, those alluring agility orbs are back to be hunted down.
Yooka-Laylee (Mac, PC, PlayStation 4, Wii U & Xbox One, October TBC)
A spiritual successor to Rare’s classic Banjo-Kazooie games, being made by several of BK’s original developers. Expect a very similar collectathon 3D platforming style, down to the same one-character-piggybacking-on-the-other mechanic. This was the fastest game to make $1 million on Kickstarter before Sony dropped its Shenmue III bomb, so there’s certainly an appetite out there for classic late ‘90s/early ‘00s 3D platform antics.
Horizon Zero Dawn (PlayStation 4, autumn TBC)
In which cavemen fight robot dinosaurs. Do you need to know anything else? Well, it’s by Killzone creators Guerrilla Games and is their first attempt at an RPG style of gameplay. Your player character, Aloy (who bears a bit of a resemblance to Game of Thrones’ Ygritte), is armed with a fancy bow and various trick arrows – tripwires and the like – that she uses to hunt the robosaurs in order to scavenge their corpses for parts.
Gravity Rush 2 (PlayStation 4, autumn TBC)
The first Gravity Rush was critically acclaimed and loved by those that bought it. Unfortunately, since it was only on the PS Vita, “those that bought it” amounted to about six people. Regardless, demand has been sufficient for Sony to get to work on a sequel, offering the same gravity-flipping action-platforming with added Jupiter and Lunar gravity modes. And there’s even a PS4 remaster of the original game coming in February to get everyone up to speed.
Wild (PlayStation 4, winter TBC)
The latest offering from Rayman and Beyond Good & Evil creator Michel Ancel, Wild is a stunning-looking open-world adventure casting you as a Stone Age shaman who can communicate with – and control – animals. So if you want to get somewhere you could call for a bear and get a piggyback ride, or just take over the bear yourself, for instance. There’s optional online play and an emphasis on choosing your own route through the game. Between this and Far Cry Primal, is this the year that developers realise the potential in games set during humanity’s early days?
Mass Effect: Andromeda (PC, PlayStation 4 & Xbox One, winter TBC)
Following the controversy surrounding Mass Effect 3’s ending, Bioware returns to its famed interstellar RPG. Set a long time after the Shepard trilogy in, as the name suggests, the Andromeda galaxy, you’ll still make your own human avatar before setting off to – presumably – shoot some aliens and seduce some others. Multiplayer’s in, as is the Mako buggy which hasn’t been seen since the first game. There’s a reason for that. Stupid thing.
Release Window TBC
The Legend of Zelda (Wii U)
Rumours are circling, that, gulp, Link’s open-world stunner (name still to be finalised) may actually end up skipping the Wii U altogether in favour of Nintendo’s next console, the to-be-unveiled-next-year NX. The Zelda series actually has form here, as 2006’s Twilight Princess was originally announced for GameCube then pushed onto Wii as development time lengthened (although the GameCube version did come out in limited numbers). Speaking of, an HD re-release of Twilight Princess is Wii U-bound on March 4 to tide you over. Which, given that Twilight Princess was easily the weakest of the 3D Zeldas, hardly has us jumping for joy.
Hellblade (PC, PlayStation 4)
The latest offering from Cambridge developer Ninja Theory is certainly intriguing. Rooted in Celtic myth, it takes the company’s proven track record with action games (see: Enslaved and the Devil May Cry reboot) into new territory by exploring the lead character’s mental state after she is left with PTSD following a Viking invasion. A potentially tricky move but Ninja Theory has been working with neuroscientists and experts on mental health to get the game right, and it’s received the approval of the Wellcome Trust.
Tekken 7 (PlayStation 4)
The latest in Namco’s legendary brawler series has already had a limited roll-out in Japanese arcades (another reason to be jealous of Japan: they still have arcades) and is due for a worldwide PS4 release sometime this year. Reports suggest it’ll use PlayStation VR (how on earth will that work?). Given that Tekken’s longtime rival Virtua Fighter has been MIA for years now, it looks like it’ll be between this and Street Fighter V for fighter of the year.
The Last Guardian (PlayStation 4)
We’re a little scared to put this on the list, in case we invoke some sort of jinx and it vanishes again only to turn up several years down the line for PlayStation 5 instead. Team Ico’s long-gestating tale of a boy and his griffin-cat thing, it looks closer to the hauntingly stark environment puzzling of Ico than the hauntingly stark environment puzzling/killing of Shadow of the Colossus.
Dishonored 2 (PC, PlayStation 4 & Xbox One)
The sequel to 2012’s utterly fantastic steampunk stealther is set 15 years on, and allows players to choose between original protagonist Corvo Attano and Emily Kaldwin, the girl he was trying to rescue the first time round – she’s now grown up to be just as handy in an assassination situation as he ever was. Just as well, as developer Arkane intends to make this game harder than the first.
Final Fantasy XV (PlayStation 4 & Xbox One)
The Final Fantasy name may not be the instant seal of quality it once was, but a new instalment is always worth a look. This started off as a XIII spin-off before graduating to a full-on Proper Numbered Game, so Square Enix is obviously confident of its worth. Control a group of boy-band lookalikes through an open-world environment that takes its combat cues from the real-time mechanics of Kingdom Hearts rather than FF’s traditional menus.
Mafia III (Mac, PC, PlayStation 4 & Xbox One)
After the first two Mafia games dived gleefully into gangster movie cliché, new developer Hangar 13 – so new it’s the company’s first game – is seeking to come up with something a bit more inventive and interesting. Given that the setting has changed to 1960s New Orleans and players are cast as a mixed-race veteran of the Vietnam war, we’d say Hangar 13’s succeeded. This should prove interesting, and the fact that Mafia II protagonist Vito Scaletta is now available as one of your lieutenants helps to highlight the differences with the previous games in the series.
Fire Emblem Fates (3DS)
2013’s Fire Emblem Awakening was a last roll of the dice for Nintendo’s veteran strategy RPG series – if it hadn’t done well, it would’ve been the last one. It proved to be the most successful of the lot both critically and commercially, so more Fire Emblem for all! Fates has already launched in Japan to similar levels of acclaim, so we’re in safe hands. (A US release is confirmed for February, but the EU launch is still only pencilled in for sometime this year.) The game takes a Pokémon-esque approach – the player character is born to a royal family but raised by a rival kingdom and has to choose to side with his/her birth family or adopted family. It’s still unclear how the European version will work, but in Japan there are two different game carts to buy and you can download the other version as DLC. At any rate, more of Fire Emblem’s patented strategy-RPG-matchmaking-sim mishmash is always welcome.
Shadow Warrior 2 (Mac, PC, PlayStation 4 & Xbox One)
Who would’ve thought that a reboot-slash-prequel of Duke Nukem 3D’s kung-fu obsessed little brother made by an obscure Polish indie developer would’ve been one of the most gonzoid, enjoyable games of 2013? But it was, and here’s a sequel. Set five years on, ninja assassin Lo Wang returns to carve up more legions of demons with his sharp katana and sharper wit (or so he’d like to think). Developer Flying Wild Hog is promising a less linear campaign, four-player co-op and over seventy weapons to choose from.
So there we are. Thirty games, thirty worlds to explore, considerably more than thirty weapons to wield, untold thousands of enemies to slap about, a startling amount of money to be spent…On the plus side, if 2016 remains the washout it’s started off as being weather-wise we’ve now got plenty of reasons to stay indoors.