12 Cool Games We Saw At PAX East 2024

12 Cool Games We Saw At PAX East 2024

PAX East was in Boston this past week, and while there were some heavy hitters at the show like Baldur’s Gate 3 developer Larian Studios and Square Enix showing off Final Fantasy XIV’s Dawntrail expansion, the show didn’t have a ton of big names.

Part of this is likely because the show was held the same week as the Game Developers Conference (a mistake it won’t be making next year as it plans to return in May in 2025), but it does mean that little guys got to steal the spotlight at the Boston Convention Center. Developers with small teams showing smaller games get more time to shine when they’re not sat next to a giant PlayStation or Xbox booth, and that means we saw a handful of really cool projects in the works or in early access. Here are some of the highlights.


Tate Multimedia

The soulslike is a well-worn genre by now, which means that we’re finally getting ones that don’t just ape the setting and aesthetics of FromSoft games, but try to implement mechanics that turn the genre on its head. Case in point: Deathbound, a party-based soulslike from a studio in Brazil. In Deathbound, players will recruit numerous characters to their party, but only be able to play one at a time. However, they’ll be able to swap between four of them with the press of a button, and each has their own playstyle and health pool. For example, if I begin with my heavy melee character but he’s being pummeled from afar, I can swap to my ranged mage character who has full HP and take out his attacker. Additionally, dealing damage as one character will restore the health of the others, making players have to consider when and where to swap between characters for the health of the overall party. Characters also have alignments which can grant buffs and debuffs based on how well they get along with one another, and are capable of synchronized attacks or techniques if you swap between them mid-combo or dodge, forcing players to always consider the entirety of the group at all times to maximize their chances of winning and/or simply doing cool shit in the game.

And while that’s all great and obviously gets into Deathbound’s meaty helping of systems, I want to especially shine a light on the last character I was able to unlock in the demo, who was a capoeira fighter and served as a great example of how cultural touchstones can make your game that much more interesting. The game could maybe use some better signposting considering how turned around I got in my demo, but otherwise, Deathbound is looking pretty great. You can see for yourself too, since Deathbound has a demo up on Steam right now. — Moises Taveras

Enter the Chronosphere

Effort Star

Stick with me here: Superhot as a top-down roguelike with hero characters, Borderlands-style loot, and a visual style similar to something like Void Bastards,. Yes, there’s a lot going on there, but also goddamn, does it work so well. Enter the Chronosphere has got an incredible trick that makes its tactics gameplay gripping: everything moves at the same time. Your character can only take a step at a time, and everything moves (or doesn’t) in lockstep with them. That means that bullets fly across arenas as you move, allowing you to chart a course around or through them, and bombs that are launched by giant machines might not come crashing back down for another handful of steps. You begin every run by picking a character with their own abilities, like a dodge roll or a forceful shout, and a planet with its own difficulty, then proceed through increasingly difficult floors while picking up loot and weaponry that range from the mundane to the extraordinary. I picked up a melee weapon that granted me a combo on one run, and dual pistols that automatically made me strafe as I fired them like I was a character ripped out of The Matrix on another. My absolute favorite was a weapon called a super shotgun alpha, which apparently had infinite ammo, fired from both barrels simultaneously, and also (and this is crucial to my enjoyment of it) unloaded seemingly a few dozen pellets with every pull of the trigger. I simply evaporated everything that dared step into the same room as me.

Enter the Chronosphere is tactical but up-close, measured but also wildly unhinged, and I loved every second of it. — Moises Taveras



Ritual Studios’ genre-blending RPG Fretless was easily my game of the show for PAX East 2024. Fretless is a deck-building, turn-based, rhythm RPG that has a lot of things going for it. Its use of musical instruments as weapons can fundamentally change your strategy in each battle. If I had an acoustic guitar equipped, my cards would prioritize defensive buffs, whereas the bass guitar deck would hit harder, but have drawbacks that backfired on me.

But what I adored most about Fretless was how these different builds also informed the music that my attacks would riff on. The acoustic guitar’s joyful tones embody its playstyle, juxtaposed by the rumbling basslines when I used the bass guitar. Rob, the battle-ready musician who wields these guitars as weapons, would play a different melody with each card I played, and the background music would shift and sway to accommodate my improvisations. Every attack or defensive spell is perfectly punctuated by a chord, lick, or rhythm drumming to make a turn-based fight feel like a battle of the bands, with my enemies responding in kind.

Fretless has the kind of singular vision and vibe you can only get when a project is smaller. Every design choice, animation, and musical composition feels perfectly in tune with the rest of the game. If you want to try it out for yourself, there’s a demo on Steam until Sunday, March 31. — Kenneth Shepard

Killer Klowns From Outer Space: The Game


Killer Klowns From Outer Space: The Game, which is adapted from the baffling movie that I was only introduced to last year, keeps the energy of the film while distilling it into an asymmetric multiplayer game. A crew (krew?) of three clowns are tasked with hunting down seven humans on a pretty large map, turning them into these bulbous cotton candy cocoons, and suspending them from hooks. When you’ve played one of these games (like Dead by Daylight), you kind of get the conceit of the others. Where Killer Klowns stood apart was in its production values and polish, as well as how uniquely empowered both sides felt this time around. Many of these games thrive on the power imbalance presented by the predator-prey relationship, but when playing as a clown, the humans’ ability to strike me down a number of times suggested they weren’t as weak as other games would posit. As for the clowns, let’s just say that I was able to become a pizza box, run around, and uppercut people, which is at the top of my hierarchy of needs. And that was only one of the clown abilities I got to use, which apparently include wacky executions from the movie. If it can continue capturing the ludicrous nature of the source material (please let me use popcorn that turns into little killer klown pets), then I think this could be the asymmetric multiplayer game that finally pulls me in when it launches in June. — Moises Taveras

Kind Words 2

Ziba Scott

It’s a very bad time to be on the internet. Finding basic human decency, much less kindness and compassion, can be difficult. And yet, Popcannibal is taking a second shot at its video game community builder Kind Words with a more involved sequel. In the original game, players wrote letters to one another about their hopes, dreams, and challenges, all in search of encouragement and connection. Kind Words 2 is keeping that going, but bringing in even more exploratory and social elements beyond the letters that players have been writing since the original launched in 2019. The sequel lets you leave your room to explore a populated city where you can join other players in activities, such as going to a coffee shop or stargazing. All of this in service of fostering connections without the toxic, number-chasing nonsense of most other social media.

Popcannibal is hosting periodic playtests for Kind Words 2, and you can request access on the game’s Steam page. — Kenneth Shepard


Apogee Entertainment

I’m always saying how much I love tight platformers and metroidvanias, and then along comes Lucid which delivers the best of both worlds and then some. Miraculously enough, it channels some of my favorites, like Mega Man and Celeste, with pinpoint precision and marries them into an exciting and kinetic blend of platforming and action that felt like a nice jolt through the veins. I’m sure there are games that get either side of the equation right (hell, I’ve played tons of them) but Lucid’s greatest strength is how fluidly it allows the player to float in and out of both ends of that spectrum. One second I’m blasting an enemy with my little Mega Buster-equivalent and the very next I’m dashing over crystals and air-slashing bats with no buffer between these scenarios. Platforming gauntlets give way to tiny skirmishes and vice-versa in the blink of an eye, and Lucid’s easy-to-understand controls never got so far out of hand that I was dropping inputs. I entered that all-too-good flow state in practically no time at all and zoomed all the way to the end of the demo in what felt like record time. Sure, I had foreknowledge from watching someone demo Lucid before me, but I think it’s a testament to the incredible feeling of its gameplay that I clicked with it so immediately and viscerally. — Moises Taveras

My Familiar

Chintzy Ink

I really loved Sea of Stars last year, but I’m admittedly a sucker for games like it. I like charismatic characters and pixelated graphics that make otherwise grand and fantastical views foreign to me feel home-y and warm, even nostalgic. But what if a game kind of tried to be the opposite? Well, I think it’d be kind of like My Familiar, an RPG in the vein of the Super Mario RPGs but with a lot more grime. You begin the game as a down-on-your-luck guy who’s tricked into a dingy apartment where you’re essentially jumped and then pushed out of a window to your death. As you hit the ground though, you seem to pass into another world called Wish City, where people are monsters in some fantasy take on grimy urban living in the 80s. Described to me as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles meets Super Mario RPG, My Familiar immediately makes its inspirations known.

My Familar’s gameplay consists of timing-based attacks not unlike the games I’ve already invoked, which can be quite enjoyable but is also very…well, familiar, meaning that its strongest pull was the presentation and story. While it’s entirely too early to tell how it’ll pan out, I did appreciate a number of things about both. Firstly, the battle UI is largely graffiti set against brickface walls that wouldn’t look out of place in the TMNT TV series I grew up on, which imbues it with a wholly unique nostalgia I can actually relate to. Secondly, I liked its brash writing and intentionally decrepit feel. Wish City is thoroughly unclean, and that seems to extend to its people and institutions. The game doesn’t outright say ACAB, but the early introduction to the police doesn’t paint them in a great light, and your first party member is an alcoholic private eye who could give Harry Dubois (of Disco Elysium) a run for his money.

The developers see My Familiar as the beginning of a story they’re invested in telling, sharing that they intend to release DLC episodes for free that would effectively double the game’s content and function as a sort of sequel to the main release. A lengthy demo is available right now, and the game is slated for release in Q4 2025. — Moises Taveras

Nirvana Noir


I never played Genesis Noir, but when the developers at Feral Cat Den told me the detective game sequel, Nirvana Noir, had found a way to exist in both of its divergent endings and play with that narratively, I was immediately intrigued to go back and see a game I’d only experienced through osmosis. Nirvana Noir is experimenting with what most branching narratives are too scared to touch. So many choice-based games either try to find ways to erase the impact of a player’s decisions when they get a sequel, or make a hard decision to follow a certain path. Nirvana Noir has found a third option, in which it’s using what others would consider an insurmountable obstacle and using it to its advantage. Genesis Noir was already pretty well-loved when it launched, so I’ve had it in the back of my mind. Knowing that its sequel has such an intriguing concept means it just shot up near the top of my backlog. I gotta see if Feral Cat Den pulls it off when Nirvana Noir launches on Steam. — Kenneth Shepard

Pipistrello and the Cursed Yoyo

PM Studios

As I darted around the PAX East showfloor, my former coworker Elijah Gonzalez at Paste Magazine made sure there was one game I knew about: freakin’ Pipistrello and the Cursed Yoyo. On my final day at the show, I finally found the time to visit its booth and stood transfixed as I just watched others play through it. Pipistrello, a GBA-style “yoyovania,” has undoubtedly got the sauce. The titular hero is the crown prince (and a yo-yo enthusiast) visiting his auntie when the castle is suddenly besieged by some ne’er-do-wells who try to use her own device to capture her. Thanks to some intervention from her nephew, though, her soul is instead trapped within his yo-yo and she becomes your companion. What a whimsical setup for what I already believe to be a charming little game.

Once I got my hands on Pipistrello, it really came together. Screens are filled with angular walls and slants which you are able to bounce your yo-yo off of to incredible effect. Instead of just processing the positions of enemies relative to yourself, Pipistrello really encourages players to consider the geometry of the room when deciding on the best approach to a fight and to puzzle solving. A later ability allowed me to launch the yo-yo separately from the string and similarly bound it off walls to retrieve far-away items, and every solution tickled my brain. The simple and succinct change wrought by this new ability immediately made me pay attention to my surroundings even more than the game’s adorable and vibrant art style.

Thanks to its deliberate throwback to GBA-style visuals, every screen of Pipistrello is also compact and filled with just what it needs, nothing less and nothing more. At a time where most games are bigger than they ought to be, it’s refreshing to play something that’s a small and tight experience by design, and I can’t wait to see how the yoyo-based gameplay evolves. — Moises Taveras

Rightfully, Beary Arms


Daylight Basement Studio’s roguelite shoot-em-up is deceptively challenging. I walked up to the booth and saw the key art of the cutest little teddy bear holding a space blaster and thought I would be seeing something a little edgy but simple enough. I was swiftly kicked in the teeth by its challenge. Rightfully, Beary Arms is brutal, but it’s also rewarding in all the ways you expect a mash-up of two of the toughest, most demanding genres to be. Plus, it’s also full of dry humor and wit that makes the moments where bullets aren’t flying a genuine delight to reach.

If you want to try it out now, Rightfully, Beary Arms is in its early access period on Steam and is getting its next update on April 17. — Kenneth Shepard

So to Speak

So To Speak Game

Whether it’s through Duolingo or taking a class, there are a lot of ways to learn new languages out there. So to Speak, a game by Erik Anderson, argues that one of the best ways to learn a new way of reading, writing, and speaking is to be pushed out into the deep end and made to figure it out. The puzzle game asks you to learn Japanese by way of context clues and puzzle-solving. So to Speak emulates the feeling of showing up somewhere and realizing you can’t read the signs and having to sort things out and contextualize it all in English. I’ve taken some language courses over the years, but sometimes you need to get out of a textbook and into the world to learn how to understand others, and So to Speak seems like something that will help me far better than Duolingo could ever hope to. A demo is available now on Steam. — Kenneth Shepard

Urban Myth Dissolution Center


I’m a simple man, I love a mystery game. Mix that concept with a pixel-art style and a devilishly creepy vibe? I’m sold. Urban Myth Dissolution Center is a vibe, and that vibe is deliciously rancid and spooky. The adventure game follows Azami Fukarai, who investigates mysteries involving curses, monsters, and anything occult. While much of the game plays out through visual novel-style text, Azami investigates environments and doomscrolls online to search for and connect evidence, which makes for interconnected systems through which to solve puzzles, connect clues, and ultimately solve mysteries. Her investigations will have her face the easily explained and the paranormal, and the entire thing is depicted through gorgeous, retro-inspired pixel art.

Urban Myth Dissolution Center is coming to PC. — Kenneth Shepard

The Cheapest NBN 1000 Plans

Looking to bump up your internet connection and save a few bucks? Here are the cheapest plans available.

At Kotaku, we independently select and write about stuff we love and think you'll like too. We have affiliate and advertising partnerships, which means we may collect a share of sales or other compensation from the links on this page. BTW – prices are accurate and items in stock at the time of posting.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *