Well. What a week it’s been, huh? I don’t know about you, but I could definitely go for some good times mashing buttons to a moving image — especially since I basically threw out my neck and destroyed my voice at that Cynic concert last night; I ain’t goin’ anywhere for a couple of days, so I need some games to play, and you might too.
I’ve gathered together some of us fine human beings here at Kotaku to share what we’ve been spinning, so here’s a collection of six games that we think are more than worth your time.
Curse of the Dead Gods
Play it on: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch, Windows
Current goal: Settle an old score
I had a restless night the other day. What kept me up, you ask? Financial or family stress? What the AQI will be this week? I mean, sure, yes all of that, but mainly how I have yet to beat the Dark Avatar of the Jaguar boss from 2021 hidden gem roguelite Curse of the Dead Gods.
From French developer Passtech, Games Dead Gods has a distinct pulpy comic book aesthetic (think Mike Mignola’s Hellboy), and is a fairly brutal experience. Mix Slay the Spire-esque progression, with Hades’ frenetic top-down combat and Dark Souls’ stamina system, and you’ll begin to get an idea of what makes Gods so challenging.
The titular curses are modifiers you pick up throughout your run when your corruption metre fills up which happens by progressing from chamber to chamber but also as damage from enemy attacks. Some are helpful, like making your dodge roll intangible, while others are absolutely crippling, like the curse that continually drains your life until you dispel it — which can only consistently happen after defeating a boss, three for each temple, again very Slay the Spire structure here. There’s even a curse that hides the other curses you have. Should you get a shitty curse leading into the third and final Dark Avatar fight, your run essentially ends. Hence why I have yet to beat the Dark Avatar of the Jaguar. This cat’s been lucky until now, the plan is to make a pelt out of him through sheer repetition. Foolproof!
Curse of the Dead Gods is frequently on sale, like right now as part of Steam’s big summer blow out. I’d recommend it to roguelite fans who want a steeper challenge than Hades with less (and really I mean almost zero) story and after it’s crossover “Curse of the Dead Cells” free update got some much needed balancing for the hellacious Eagle temple along with a slew of new weapons and a new Dead Cells-themed curse. — Eric Schulkin
Planet of Lana
Play it on: Game Pass, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, Windows
Current goal: Make it through the underground ruins
Imagine PlayStation 2 hit Ico mixed with Playdead’s moody puzzle adventure Inside and you get Planet of Lana, a 2D side-scroller where a young child and a shadowy cat-like creature try to escape being captured by alien invaders. You lead the creature from one area to the next while it helps you solve puzzles by hopping on ledges to throw down ropes or running through tunnels to activate switches, all while ominous robotic enemies threaten to fry you on the spot with laser weapons. There are shades of Another World and Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee, and a lot of other brilliant cinematic puzzle games. I’ve been inching forward from one screen to the next after it came to Game Pass earlier this year, but its ambient soundscapes and windy fields make it my favourite game to play first thing in the morning while I’m still waking up with my coffee. — Ethan Gach
Play it on: PS4 and 5, PS4, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, Switch, Windows
Current goal: Get the fuck out of gold
Of course I’m playing Overwatch this weekend — I play this game every goddamn day, no matter how much extra stress and frustration it adds to my life. The burning, aching desire to get back to a Platinum rank in the Support role has all but consumed me, along with my desperate need to get better in the other two roles, DPS and Tank. Because of this, I’m never not playing competitive Overwatch, choosing to make every game a high-stakes battle rather than the lighthearted romp you can enjoy in silly Arcade modes or the helpful Quick Play mode, where there are no stakes. Instead, I fire up the competitive queue and wait, a slave to my own hunger for power. I cannot escape the gold shackles that encircle my wrists — mostly because Overwatch 2’s competitive ranking system is still total arse.
My newer quest to become a high-level Zarya (tank) or a hyper-deadly Bastion (DPS) have at least gifted me with some levity in my competitive experiences, but the moment I dip my toe back into the Support role, I feel that nagging sensation in the back of my heart. I hear whispers like there’s a comp Gollum living inside me. “You shouldn’t be in gold,” it hisses. “You were once a globally ranked Moira main.” Aw shit, here we go again. — Alyssa Mercante
Final Fantasy XVI
Play it on: PS5
Current goal: Figure out what that spooky guy is really up to
Final Fantasy XVI did not leave me with a good first impression. The garbage Game of Thrones influences were (and still are) painfully uninspired. On top of that, early levels felt Final Fantasy XIII-levels linear. The first couple of hours were: Run down corridor, kill things, watch GoT. And don’t even get me started on how poorly underserved the women in this game are. I didn’t think one could make a more dude-fest FF than FFXV, but here we are with FFXVI.
But I continued to give it a chance…and well, wow. Despite the ongoing issues I have, it’s giving me a kind of Final Fantasy experience I don’t think I’ve genuinely had since maybe FFIX (note: FFXII is the only main game in between now and the late ’90s that I haven’t had a substantial chance to play).
I find Clive to be a great FF protagonist, easily understood in his motivations and desires, sympathetic, demonstrating genuine growth and change over the course of the first 30 to 40 hours (roughly how much time I’ve spent thus far). I want to see his story to completion. The same is true of the cosmic, magical plot that lurks in the background, appearing mysteriously, unexpectedly, and giving me questions about the nature of the world and characters in a way that fascinated me in the days of FFVII and FFVIII in particular.
And the level layouts did a 360 on me. There’s no open world, but god, the intersecting branches of dedicated zones make for visual splendor and exploration that doesn’t feel too restricted had it been more linear or too bland had it been an open world like FFXV.
FFXVI really surprised me and I’m excited to finish it, even if it tires me out or pisses me off on occasion. — Claire Jackson
Play it on: Meta Quest (VR only), Windows
Current goal: Watch more Wong Kar-wai, Nobuhiko Obayashi…
Man, I love movies, but I have a terrible time herding my local cats (friends) into a room to watch the things. Enter Bigscreen VR, the venerable virtual reality movie- (and TV, YouTube, Twitch, etc.) watching app. I’ve been kicking its tires over the last few months and have been wildly impressed with not just how great movies look through my Quest 2, but how Bigscreen’s multiplayer social features create a wonderful, communal feel to watchin’ flicks with your buds.
There are a variety of viewing environments — movie theatres and the like — everyone has a cute avatar, talking is easy…it’s the next best thing to hanging out in real life, and much easier to schedule, particularly when some of your friends live 3,000+ miles away.
Bigscreen VR is totally free, so give it a shot if movie hangouts with friends sound fun. I use the PC version via Steam to stream stuff from my Windows desktop, but there’s also a standalone version for Quest headsets that’s easy for less technical pals to join with. — Alexandra Hall
Play it on: PS4 and 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, Windows
Current goal: Don’t die
Back when Diablo IV had its March beta, we wrote that it was “the perfect head empty, kill shit game.” That may be true, but I’ll be honest: I don’t care much for games that don’t force me to be attentive and involved. I’m not here for games that just wash over you like a warm bath while the numbers go up and you get showered with rewards for absent-mindedly pushing buttons.
That’s why I’ve been playing on Diablo IV’s Hardcore setting, where characters have only one life to live. Should they perish, you can recall them fondly in your Hall of Fallen Heroes, but their days of slaughtering goatmen and snagging loot are over. And because even mobs of easy enemies can kill you if you’re totally checked out, this means that I approach every encounter as if it could be my last. I’m not saying that killing a group of ghouls requires a lot of tactical consideration, but just knowing I could face some very serious consequences if I go “head empty” keeps me on my toes. I’ve already lost two Hardcore characters, and I suspect it’s only a matter of time until I lose my third. But while I’m playing, the game sure has my attention. — Carolyn Petit
And those are our thoughts on what games you might enjoy checking out this weekend. Which ones have caught your attention?