One year ago we fixed up a list of games to play in 2015 at a moment in time when it seemed like The Last Guardian, Team Ico's stirring next gen title had become vaporware. A year later and, boy, are we glad to eat those words. To the surprise of everyone but the optimistic, The Last Guardian is in fact a real video game that actually exists. We also ate our words because No Man's Sky, Y2K, Mighty No. 9 and Persona 5 were all pushed into 2016. So here's a fresh new list of even more video games to play in the new year, assuming they'll actually hit their launch dates, and assuming you'll ever find the time to wrap up Fallout 4 and The Witcher 3.
What is The Witness? We know it is the new game from Braid creator Jonathan Blow, and that it will offer about 100 hours of mind-bending puzzles. Is it Myst? It looks a lot like Myst. A 100 hour Myst. Whatever it is, the game, that Blow began in development as early as 2008, is scheduled to release in late January for PC and PlayStation 4. Then we will definitively know what The Witness is....probably.
Designer and most-ripped-off pop artist Olly Moss teamed up with Telltale Games vets Jake Rodkin, Sean Vanaman, and Mark of the Ninja designer Nels Anderson to form Campo Santo, and hype immediately set ablaze for the supergroup. Their first game is Firewatch, a mysterious and unique looking adventure about Henry, a park ranger in 1989, alone in the crisp woods hued in the sunset beams Moss is known for, as odd occurrences begin to manifest around him. There's also this turtle. It seems a lot like Gone Home, if you were a fan of that personal narrative, exploration heavy game, though Campo Santo is probably a little sick of that comparison.
Final Fantasy XV
Final Fantasy has been doing a lot of soul searching. FFXIV and FFXIII landed with hard, unpleasant thuds, and were reworked until they re-released as enjoyable titles. The hit was so bad that Square Enix braced themselves for a 90 percent dip in profit. Final Fantasy needed a phoenix down, but it wouldn't happen by playing catch up to other streamlined RPGs or popular MMOs, it needed something totally new. Final Fantasy XV seems like that weird ass new thing, the high-anime wardrobe scaled back to black suits and classical armour (don't worry, they still have the same barbers), a more seamless merger of action elements than the previous frustrating attempts, and, most dramatic of all, an experience centered on road trippin' with your bros.
The great thing about video games is sometimes the idea can be about as blunt as cars playing soccer, but you can make it the most talked about thing by completely nailing it. Cuphead is a 2D platformer, with one or two players taking on a mad, fever dream of boss battles: angry flowers, devils, and bees, modelled after Fleischer cartoons. When it debuted in 2014, Cuphead was just part of Xbox One's E3 indie showreel, but suddenly became one of the platform's most anticipated titles. Namely because a passing glance could convince you the animation originated from an era where people said "jazz cigarette" in earnest.
One of the deepest, most versatile stealth games about whale oil, Dishonored was an exciting gothic romp about cryptic powers and political coups. Announced earlier this year, the followup stars the previous game's hero Corvo, as well as Emily Kaldwin, the grown-up heir to the throne. The reveal trailer displayed Emily using a rotation of newly found powers to navigate the most menacing, affluent version of Pee-wee Herman's breakfast machine. The first game introduced one of the most creative, original science fiction worlds we've seen in games for years, and it'll be interesting to see how Dishonored 2 will flesh it out.
Get out of here, cats. Yeah that's right, Neko Atsume, Fran Bow, Catlateral Damage, Night in the Woods, Rain World, and Bubsy. We've had enough of your cat video games. Bring on the motherfucking d-o-gs. Kevin Cancienne's game, en route to PlayStation 4 and Steam this fall, began as an arcade game touring festivals called Dog Park, where you didn't compete for points as much as play around like dogs often do. The fully realized version of Cancienne's vision is Home Free, where you are a pooch trying to find its way back home in a big city, filled with various hazards, strangers, and other dogs. Video games are fun. Dogs are fun. Bury me in a pile of dog video games, I say.
Departing from the tone, style, and planet of their highly acclaimed game Gone Home, The Fullbright Company have shot into outer space to bring us Tacoma. While Gone Home had you piece a story together from objects found inside a middle-class mansion, the stakes seem noticeably higher aboard the Tacoma, a sprawling space-station 200,000 miles away, and completely abandoned. That is, unless, Tacoma is just continuing Gone Home's tradition of accidentally duping gamers into thinking it's some haunted house genre fiction when it's in fact another self-discovery tale told through space-zines, space-faxes and space-Pizza Hut receipts.
Boiling in the cauldron since 2013, when Piotr Iwanicki created a browser version for a game jam, Superhot is one of the most anticipated high-concept action games there is. Though the red, white, and bullet all over visual style is captivating in itself, the mind-boggling hook of Superhot is that it is a shooter that comes to a halt whenever you do. If you move, the bullets move. If you stop, the bullets stop, and so every battle is a kind of temporal puzzle of setting up shots and walking around bullets.
Best described as a cross between Hohokum and a Mighty Max toy, Gnog is an exploratory trip-out that takes place inside the floating heads of various space monsters. You fidget with tools and cranks to solve weird puzzles. Developer KO-OP has even promised compatibility with the PlayStation's Morpheus VR device, meaning you can use your head to go into other heads. Wait, or are those heads getting into your head while you go into their heads? If your head is inside their head then… I think I need to lie down.
Rare goofed up with the last Banjo-Kazooie, Nuts & Bolts, which didn't feel like a Banjo-Kazooie game at all. As a consolation prize, much of the team responsible for Banjo-Kazooie have introduced Yooka-Laylee, which doesn't star Banjo or Kazooie, but appears to be identical in every other imaginable way. I know the trend of all-star game devs raking in crowdfunded cash can seem like an unhealthy practice, but I couldn't help but let my smile grow as Yooka-Laylee's Kickstarter effortlessly soaked up 3 million dollars like certain bears had collected golden musical notes in the past.
More than two decades later, the first two Doom games are still some of the best first person shooters ever made (especially if you're using the Brutal Doom mod). Developer id Software tried to revive the name in 2004's Doom 3, and while it was a technological showcase, it missed the mark on what made Doom work: fast, borderline psychotic violence. Everything we've seen of the latest attempt at a reboot, titled simple Doom, seems like id Software is getting back on the right track, which is to say it's working on creating a technological showcase that's also a moddable, bloody mess.
Horizon: Zero Dawn
Horizon: Zero Dawn is a post-post-apocalyptic game. If Fallout 4 takes place in the aftermath of total nuclear war, Horizon: Zero Dawn takes place hundreds later, where what remains of humanity can barely remember civilization as we know it. Horizon: Zero Dawn'shumanity looks more like hunter-gatherer tribes, only instead of hunting down sabretooth tigers and wooly mammoths, you'll hunt down what looks like robot dinosaurs. I'll sign up for any game with robot dinos, but Horizon: Zero Dawn is also being developed by Guerrilla Games, which has been saddled with the boring Killzone first person shooter series for years, so it's also really exciting to see them try something completely new.
Adr1ft can be most easily summed up as Alfonso Cuarón's Gravity, but as a first person game. Developer Three One Zero has been good about not revealing too many details about the story, so all we know at this point is that you play an astronaut named Alex Oshima, struggling to survive on a space station that just suffered a catastrophic accident. It's also not required, but Adr1ft is one of the few games I'm looking forward to experiencing in virtual reality.
The previous Nier was destined to be sidelined. A potluck of an adventure, combining JRPGs, hack n' slashes and somehow dabs of Ikaruga and The Last of Us paired with a madcap ensemble of skull-faced talking books and sailor mouthed heroes. But it was one of those potlucks where everyone brought deli meats and no one brought bread. The eclectic though novel design choices struggled to mesh together, making for a game you desperately wanted to enjoy more. Square Enix has seemingly identified exactly where Nier struggled, reassigning it to Platinum Games, the developer responsible for Bayonetta, Vanquish and Revengeance. It's a team that exists to justify ambitious-yet-really-stupid action games, so Nier: Automata is in really good hands.
Sylvio, a game about recording ghosts, and Until Dawn, a choose-your-own-undoing, were two of 2015's best horror games, and by what seems like kooky chance a perfect, stylistic zenith point between the two seems to be already arriving mid-January with Oxenfree. A ragtag group of #teens head off to a fogged over island to tell ghost stories, and fidget around with the area's infamous rogue radio signals, one of them seemingly broadcasting from some horrifying, ethereal place. The game revolves around what you say and what you hear, trying to keep the young hapless group from becoming cannon fodder, and listening to the radio's white noise to discover what the fuck is going on.
The Last Guardian
It was and then it wasn't. It wasn't and then it was. The followup to Shadow of the Colossus, which came out in 2005, aims to strike the same tier of muted epics. Again a mysterious lad in a mysterious kingdom, though now paired up with the giant monster, a haggard-yet-cuddly pigeon-rat that appears to loathe windchimes. A lot of people are counting on this one, a lot of wounded hearts and desperate feelings. Here's a toast to what could be the best game of 2016, or the most remarkable disappointment of all time!