Every Game We Played At This Year’s Not-E3 Summer Game Fest Extravaganza

Every Game We Played At This Year’s Not-E3 Summer Game Fest Extravaganza

Summer Game Fest, aka Geoff-con/Keighley-palooza, has come and gone. The E3 replacement included multiple online showcases and onsite events, each aimed at drumming up excitement for a flood of upcoming games. Which games rocked? Which ones sucked? Which ones will become video game industry touchstones while the rest fade from memory? We tried to play as many of them as we could to find out.

After flying back from LA, throwing all our dirty laundry in the corner, and passing out, we started gathering every single game we got a chance to actually go hands-on with during Summer Game Fest, from Marvel Rivals to Phantom Blade Zero, and all of the indies in-between. In some cases, we only got mere minutes with the the games as their developers and brand managers pitched us on what made them great. But for other games, like Star Wars Outlaws, we were able to roam new worlds at our leisure and chew on them for a while.

We saw loud monster truck races, real-time strategy battles, Souls-likes, sidescrollers, hotly anticipated Overwatch knockoffs, and much, much more. Every game we got a chance to try out is here for your perusal, along with details on where they’ll launch and when.

New World: Aeternum

Release Date: October 15, 2024

Platforms: Xbox Series X/S, PS5, PC

Amazon Games’ New World has had an interesting few years. Billed as an MMORPG and launched in 2021 on PC, it’s now being repackaged and re-released as New World: Aeternum for a console drop. Weirdly, Amazon is also shifting the marketing approach for New World: Aeternum: it has all of the base game material, the Rise of the Angry Earth expansion, and a slew of new content—and the team is calling it an RPG, not an MMO, even though it’s still an MMO. Yes, I am also confused.

Aeternum clearly wants to court new players while also attempting to not alienate the exist fan base, but I’m not sure how well this will work out. My hands-on was fairly brief, but showed off the new story content and new characters. At first, the RPG elements were obvious—there’s a cool story at play here, your build can be varied, your approach diverse, but then after getting through the on-boarding process, it hard-pivots back to an MMO. And a kind of boring one at that.

If you already play New World, you won’t be annoyed by the tedious crafting and leveling that comes standard with an MMO. But if you haven’t (and that’s clearly who Amazon is trying to court here), why the hell would you sign up for an RPG just to play this? If the full game launch is more fleshed out in terms of solo gameplay that isn’t as tedious, New World: Aeternum could be a solid RPG. We’ll have to wait and see. — Alyssa

Stormgate

Release Date: Early Access July 30

Platforms: PC

If you loved StarCraft II you’ll probably like Stormgate, a real-time strategy revival project led by some ex-Blizzard developers. It’s free-to-play with an emphasis on 1v1 competitive modes, though additional content and campaign missions will be available in the paid version. The team recently revealed its third faction called the Celestials which turn the traditional resource extraction, base expansion, army creation loop on its head due to an intricate set of mechanics that allow players to explore, expand, and attack all at once.

I was able to demo the game ahead of the event and chat with the team at Summer Game Fest and it looks good and plays great. I’m still not sold on if it can break out beyond the hardcore, esports-minded crowd it’s initially pitched at, but it’s snappy, matches are quick, and I’m excited to play more. I never got into StarCraft but love the genre, and have been on the hunt for an old-school RTS that can fill that void in my life. — Ethan

Dragon Ball: Sparking Zero

Release Date: October 15, 2024

Platforms: Xbox Series X/S, PS5, PC

Budokai Tenkaichi fans, we are so back. After playing half a dozen matches against AI-opponents, I can’t wait to get my hands on Dragon Ball: Sparking Zero and relive all of my favourite DBZ highs and lows while getting ultra sweaty online, if the netcode allows it. It sucks that local versus is limited to the Hyperbolic Time Chamber but it’s better than none at all. I have a sneaking suspicion that I’ll find plenty of things to complain about once I’ve spent dozens of hours with the finished game, but that’s also part of the Budokai Tenkaichi legacy. A flawless series it was not, but what I saw of Sparking Zero made it feel like Bandai Namco is serious about making it more than just a next-gen nostalgia cash-in. — Ethan

Read More: Dragon Ball: Sparking Zero Hands-On: Shaping Up To Be The Budokai Tenkaichi 3 Sequel Fans Deserve

Monster Jam Showdown

Release Date: August 29, 2024

Platforms: Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, PS4, PS5, Nintendo Switch, PC

The newest game in the Monster Jam series, Showdown is exactly what it says on the label: you drive around massive monster trucks across several different game modes and three major locations. There are 1v1 races, traditional multi-truck races, and a destruction mode that rewards you for—you guessed it—demolishing shit.

During my Summer Game Fest hands-on, I struggled a bit with steering my monster truck, and flipped over a lot. Luckily, there’s a simple “respawn” button that blinks you back a few feet and sits you upright, but I did not do well in any of my races because I couldn’t keep the damn thing from tipping over. I was told that I could use the right joystick to better control my truck, as Showdown has independent suspension, but that just made me even wobblier.

I can see Monster Jam Showdown being a fun game to pick up and play with friends while having a few brewskis, and for fans of the series, this will probably satisfy them, but this isn’t really my jam. Teehee. — Alyssa

Battle Aces

Release Date: TBD (beta this summer)

Platforms: PC

Battle Aces is another RTS led by ex-Blizzard developers. You might have caught it during the Summer Game Fest showcase where it debuted with a flashy anime trailer that set many viewers up for crushing disappointment when the worst “real-time strategy” eventually followed. But Battle Aces isn’t your standard RTS. It’s much closer to something like Clash Royale, the mobile deck-building tower-defense game.

In Battle Aces you unlock new units, build a “deck” out of the ones you want,” and then go into battle against opponents on a super small map where matches are only expected to take about five minutes or so. Resource extraction is all automated outside of investing in a limited set of additional base nodes, and building units is almost instantaneous. Where the strategy comes in is trying to counter-play against your opponent’s army, capitalise on big swings to cripple their resource extraction, and incrementally build up advantages until you crush their final base Dota-2 style. As with Stormgate, competitive play isn’t where my RTS love lies, but Battle Aces felt approachable and low commitment enough to peak my interest once it’s out. — Ethan

Kunitsu-Gami: Path of the Goddess

Kunitsu-Gami: Path of the Goddess – “Soh” Gameplay Trailer

Release Date: July 19, 2024

Platforms: Xbox Series X/S, PS5, PS4, PC

I love tower defense. I love Capcom action games. Kunitsu-Gami: Path of the Goddess combines the two into a Japanese folklore-inspired adventure where you guide a maiden from one demonic gate to another across a mountain until all of the evil spirits have been banished. It was one of the best demos I played at Summer Game Fest, and luckily most players won’t have to take a risk on buying it to find out what’s so special about it since it’s coming to Game Pass. As someone who put dozens of hours into the original Dungeon Defenders, I’m so glad tower defense sickos are about to get what feels like a big-budget action strategy game with some of the visual flair of Okami. — Ethan

Read More: Kunitsu-Gami: Path Of The Goddess Is An Incredibly Clever Strategy Mash-Up I Can’t Wait To Return To

Age of Mythology: Retold

Release Date: 2024

Platforms: Xbox Series X/S, PC

I am very much not an RTS person, so perhaps I won’t do Age of Mythology: Retold justice, and for that, I’m sorry. But even I can understand the excitement around Retold’s release, as it’s finally bringing back a 22-year-old RTS classic with modern graphics, improved mechanics, and a chance to fight through Greek, Norse, Egyptian, and Atlantean pantheons. And instead of having just swords, shields, spears, and other typical classic RTS weapons to fight with, you’ll get some sick powers as well: Zeus’ lightning, a barrage of meteors, dragons, centaurs, crocodiles, cyclops—you name it, Age of Mythology: Retold probably has it.

During my playthrough, I quickly picked up on some of the hotkeys to make this RTS really sing, like selecting the entirety of my troops in one click so I could direct them to destroy an enemy stronghold, or pressing F3 to heal everyone in the vicinity. There is a zen-like appeal to RTS games that my hands-on has allowed me to understand, and I zone out almost immediately. Before I know it, the preview is over. A rep for the dev team said that the goal with Age of Mythology: Retold was to attract non-RTS players, and it could very well do that—it’s available day one on Xbox Game Pass for the Series X/S and PC. — Alyssa

Flock

Release Date: July 16 2024

Platforms: Xbox Series X/S, PS5, PC

I played Flock for about 15 minutes and in that time I discovered six new specimens of exotic indie game creatures and managed to get four of them to follow me back to my quest giver. Think Pokémon Snap mixed with a chill flight sim. I’m not sure how much deeper the game will go, but I enjoyed spotting new, weird little animals and guessing what they were based on their appearance and behaviours. — Ethan

Lushfoil Photography Sim

Release Date: 2024

Platforms: PC

Lushfoil Photography Sim is a game about taking pictures, I think. It doesn’t really tell you want to do, which is good because I was happy to just spend my time walking around mountain paths like I was on a hike. There’s an incredible soundtrack of chill licensed tracks that made me feel oddly meditative. The first-person view made me a little motion sick, but I did not expect any of my demos at Summer Game Fest to lead me down a trippy trance of existential reflection. — Ethan

Bounty Star

Release Date: TBD

Platforms: Xbox Series X/S, PS5, PC

I did not like Bounty Star at all for the first eight minutes or so, which involved a tutorial of walking around a ranch following glowing markers and making items like I was trapped inside a survival crafting sim. Then I got into an actual mech and fought through my first mission and fell in love with the crunch robot combat. Getting hit felt a little wishy-washy and there’s a lot of room to improve on the overall look and level of polish, but I could definitely see getting hooked on a Borderlands-style loot loop of blowing up bandits and customising my mech. — Ethan

Marvel Rivals

Release Date: Early 2025

Platforms: Xbox Series X/S, PS5, PC, Mac

Marvel Rivals is like Overwatch if it snorted a line of Adderall off the TTRPG table in a comic book store. The free-to-play superhero PvP shooter aims to fill a gap left by Blizzard’s struggling hero shooter, and boasts a massive cast that will only get bigger, but it’s unclear if this will strike the right cord. There are so many aspects of this that feel directly lifted from Overwatch—Doctor Strange wields a shield like Reinhardt, The Punisher has a turret form like Bastion, Luna Snow can send heals across the map to a single teammate like Zenyatta. Hell, even the modes are similar, with opposing teams either fighting to maintain control over an area or one squad attempting to escort a hi-pri mobile object across a map.

But there is just so much going on that it’s immediately overwhelming. The roster is huge, the voice lines are constant, the colourful explosions and flashes of light as every Marvel hero fires off their abilities makes matches hard to read with all the visual noise. I only had a little bit of time with Rivals (back-to-back Summer Game Fest appointments that almost all run over make for an intense experience), but it took me more than half of my appointment to get a feel for everything. By the time I did, I was quite good at Luna Snow, who felt like the perfect character for me, a perpetual support player (though I did notice that NetEase and Marvel Games had to scrape the bottom of the hero barrel for a solid support character, as Luna was introduced into Marvel canon via the mobile game Marvel Future Fight).

I’m not sure if Marvel Rivals will have any legs. Overwatch has, indeed, left a gap in the hero shooter market, but Rivals feels clunkier, busier, and less inspired than Blizzard’s hero shooter once was. I guess we’ll have to wait and see. — Alyssa

Robots at Midnight

Release Date: 2024

Platforms: Xbox Series X/S, PC

If you liked Another Crab’s Treasure, don’t sleep on Robots at Midnight. It’s another action-RPG Souls-lite that takes the edge off punishing combat with cartoony robot enemies and a whimsical world. In addition to the standard stamina bar and dodge roll, there’s also an air dash that lets you quickly retreat from combat. I still got my ass-kicked, especially at night when, as the title implies, the stakes ramp up with extra and tougher enemies. I enjoyed what I played and it’s definitely on my radar now. — Ethan

Sky of Tides

Release Date: October 15, 2024

Platforms: Xbox Series X/S, PS5, PC

Sky of Tides is a narrative-driven sci-fi game where you try to navigate a world torn apart by revolutionary politics and heal its divides. There’s a slick-looking series of animated shorts attached to it that expand on the story, while the game itself was described to me by one of its developers as an “anti-RPG.” Instead of trying to min-max stats and role-play as a particular character, your aim is to progress by building stats and choosing dialogue responses that help your character grow in a balanced way. It’s an interesting idea though I’m not sure how compelling it will be in practice. Still, it’s the most interesting approach to subverting the traditional CRPG structure I’ve heard of since Disco Elysium. — Ethan

Fera: The Sundered Tribes

Release Date: 2024

Platforms: Xbox Series X/S, PC

What if The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild was a survival crafting game that looked (even more) like Princess Mononoke? You might get something like Fera: The Sundered Tribes, a gorgeous and ambitious looking sandbox monster fighter where you can hookshot and paraglide around a massive map. It’s a huge pivot from Massive Damage’s last game, the pixel-art strategy roguelite, Star Renegade. The world looked really cool even if the game felt a bit messy to control at times and very chaotic during boss fights. It’s a tall order for the studio to pull off, but if it can it could be a really fascinating addition to the exploding (and quickly overheating) survival crafting genre. — Ethan

Fatal Fury: City of the Wolves

FATAL FURY: CotW |Announcement Trailer

Release Date: October 15, 2024

Platforms: Xbox Series X/S, PS5, PC

I’m by no means an old-school Fatal Fury head or a fighting game aficionado but I liked what I played of Fatal Fury: City of the Wolves. Like, a lot. It’s definitely not as approachable as Street Fighter 6, but it certainly feels like that’s where part of SNK’s attention is in brining the direct sequel to 1999’s Garou: Mark of the Wolves into the world of 3D animations. There’s even a new simpler control scheme you can select that makes pulling off super moves a lot easier, even if some of the full-gage attacks are still locked behind some intricate manual button presses.

A lot of the tactics revolve around cancelable “Rev” moves and defensive advances that make City of the Wolves reward skilled and cautious play. Mostly I just had a ton of fun beating up on CPU opponents as Preecha, a brand-new addition to the SNK roster and a Muay Thai fighter who brings a bubblier energy to the brooding dude-fest. Everyone should have “their” fighting game and I think I’m not determined to make Fatal Fury mine. — Ethan

Enotria: The Last Song

Release Date: September 19, 2024

Platforms: PS5, PC

I will admit to approaching this hands-on with a heavy amount of bias. Enotria is an Italian folklore-inspired Soulslike from a small team of nine people based in Milan, Italy, and I love Italian shit.

I spent about half an hour with Enotria, and boy, did I struggle. The developer on-hand promised me that the team will be making it more accessible for launch, as it absolutely whooped my ass, but I enjoyed every second of it. The beautifully vibrant, over-the-top world and all its Italian influences (from the music to the bosses, like the multi-faced, batshit worshiper Vermiglio the Red Prior) were a delight to behold, even if I had to get help beating every one of the demo’s bosses.

And while Enotria feels and behaves a lot like a Souls game, Jyamma Games has gone to great lengths to add layers of customisation that might surprise you. You can set up three loadouts and swap between them on the fly and apply aspects to the masks you wear that will adjust your stats and give you certain buffs and debuffs. There’s a lot going on under the hood here, which is really impressive considering how small the dev team is! — Alyssa

Sonic X Shadow Generations

Release Date: October 25, 2024

Platforms: Xbox Series X/S, PS5, PS4, Switch, PC

Sonic X Shadow Generations has never looked so good or featured Shadow as a playable character. That’s the long and short of my take-away from the remaster of the PS3/Xbox 360 era action platformer. I will say that the linear 3D spin on the speedster’s traditional formula has aged remarkably well, and feels focused and even somewhat fresh in comparison to a lot of the genre-scrambling bloat we sometimes see these days. Game was good. Game still good. — Ethan

Arranger: A Role-Puzzling Adventure

Release Date: July 25, 2024

Platforms: PS5, Switch, Mobile (Netflix exclusive), PC

No gaming expo is complete without that one puzzle game that lowkey scrambles your brain and blows your mind after just a few minutes with it. For me this year that was Arranger: A Role-Puzzling Adventure, a beautifully illustrated top-down adventure where you manouvre through mazes by sliding their tilesets. It’s simple at first, but the gimmick quickly reveals clever tricks and unexpected challenges. It was made by a surprisingly large team of over a dozen people, one of whom was the artist on indie darling Braid. There’s a bit of how Crypt of the Necrodancer was remixing Zelda for music junkies, except this time around it’s puzzle logic sickos who are benefiting. It was another one of my top demos from Summer Game Fest. — Ethan

Phoenix Springs

Release Date: September 16, 2024

Platforms: PC

This is probably the most beautiful game I played at Summer Game Fest. Animated with a lithographic style and set music that oozes neo-noir vibes, Phoenix Springs has you point-and-clicking through objects in the environment for clues about your missing brother. As a reporter, you try to tease out information from strangers and uncover the tools needed to progress by chaining together nouns. Instead of building up an inventory of stuff, you collect ideas that can be combined to initiate new interactions or strings of dialogue that advance the plot. As someone who doesn’t really gel with point-and-click adventure games, I wish there was another way to play through Phoenix Springs’ world and story, but both of them were irresistible enough that I am going to struggle through it regardless when it eventually comes out. — Ethan

Replaced

Release Date: 2024

Platforms: Xbox Series X/S, PC

Replaced is an ‘80s homage that feels like The Lost Boys met The Warriors in an arcade cabinet. The 2.5D cyberpunk platformer tells the story of R.E.A.C.H., an AI that was trapped in a human body and is now on the run through a dystopian world marred by corruption and littered with outlaws. I didn’t get a huge taste of what Replaced’s combat will be like in my half-hour demo (I got a gun towards the end of my playthrough, which I could charge up by using my melee ability to whack baddies), but I was immediately entranced by its set-dressing.

Though Replaced’s graphics are hyper-pixelated and decidedly retro, small details like flickering light particles, incredible audio design, and seamless transitions from side-scrolling movement to animated cutscenes adds a slightly modern twist. At one point, when I’m prompted to access my inventory, the camera zooms in on R.E.A.C.H.’s back and then through it for a tight shot of his “Wingman,” an obvious spin on the Walkman retro music player. This game is beautiful from top to bottom, and my brief demo left me wanting a whole lot more. — Alyssa

UFO50

Release Date: September 18, 2024

Platforms: PC

UFO50 is the latest game from Spelunky maker Mossmouth and one fans have been waiting a while for. The title refers to a collection of 50 retro-inspired games built from the ground up to look and feel like a library of long-lost NES cartridges. I tried to flip through as many as possible in my short 10 minutes with the game, and found an RPG in the vein of Dragon Quest, a beat-em-up reminiscent of Double Dragon, and a space golfing game that is unlike anything I’ve played before.

There’s local co-op and a meta-story that runs through each game about the fictional company that made them. None of the ones I came across seemed like something I might end up spending hours playing, but I’m excited to dig into the full collection and pretend I’m back in my neighbour’s basement grinding through the same five games we had lying around over and over again because we were too poor to buy more. — Ethan

While Waiting

Release Date: 2025

Platforms: PC

While Waiting is what it says on the tin. The game is on a timer and will automatically move along from one day-in-the-life-style vignette to another. What you do while waiting for each new scene to arrive is up to you. Most of it consists of making messes, annoying people, or making up imaginary games to play with yourself like pretending your finger is a spaceship dodging asteroids as you move it along a window pain as rain drops run down it. It’s a clever idea with a perfectly suited visual style and lots of hidden achievements to collect. — Ethan

S.T.A.L.K.E.R 2: Heart of Chornobyl

Release Date: September 5, 2024

Platforms: Xbox Series X/S, PC

People have been waiting a very long time for S.T.A.L.K.E.R 2: Heart of Chornobyl. The immersive FPS from Ukrainian studio GSC Game World was delayed in 2022, when the team had to flee their country after it came under siege by Russia. Making a game is already incredibly difficult, now try making one the midst of an invasion. After several delays, S.T.A.L.K.E.R 2 is set to launch this fall, and I got a chance to try out a demo build at Summer Game Fest. Though my build wouldn’t let me invert my Y-axis and I embarrassed myself in front of Phil Spencer (who was behind me while I wheeled the camera about wildly trying to unlearn years of inversion-brain), it’s clear that GSC has made something special.

S.T.A.L.K.E.R 2 looks incredible. The game world is incredibly dark, not so much so that you can’t clearly see where you’re going, but just enough that the bizarre electrical anomalies chasing you through a sewer will overwhelm you and make a scary situation even more terrifying. Then there’s the resource management, which you’ll quickly learn is crucial if you’re going to make it through the Chornobyl Exclusion Zone. Enemies are smart and painful, ammo dwindles fast, radiation poisoning stacks quickly, and you can very easily get over-encumbered with shit. You need to have your head on straight to succeed in S.T.A.L.K.E.R 2, as it offers a level of immersive FPS that surprised me. This game is going to be brutally fun when it launches in the fall, and it’s an instant cop for me (though it’ll be day one on Xbox Game Pass). — Alyssa

After Love EP

Release Date: Q3 2024

Platforms: Switch, PC

After Love EP is an adventure game where your dead girlfriend talks to you as you explore and try to recover from the grief of her passing. There’s rhythm gameplay when you’re jamming with your band, which I didn’t get to play, but the other part of the game is navigating conversations with friends and the daily toil of living in a beautiful, bustling part of Jakarta, Indonesia. The game is partly a tribute to Coffee Talk creator Mohammad Fahmi, and based on his work before passing away at the age of 32 a couple years ago. — Ethan

Building Relationships

Release Date: Q1 2025

Platforms: PC

Play as a house, roll around lo-fi PS1-looking environments, flirt with other buildings. That’s the crux of Building Relationships, an indie game from a single developer named Tanat Boozayaangool. The part I like best is how all of the dialogue feels like someone downloaded their messiest group chats and text message threads and boiled them down into the funniest moments. It’s deeply personal but with the breezy nonchalance of a modern online dating profile. Boozayaangool said it’s about two hours and was partly inspired by the brief meditative journey A Short Hike. — Ethan

Akimbot

Release Date: August 29, 2024

Platforms: Xbox Series X/S, PS5, PC

Ratchet & Clank fans, rejoice, Akimbot is coming later this summer and bringing with it a whole shoebox full of love letters addressed to the PlayStation platformer. Evil Raptor, the team behind the MediEvil-inspired Pumpkin Jack, has proven once again that they can take a winning formula, replicate it, and add some extra toppings to sweeten the deal. Akimbot follows two robots, Exe and Shipset, who have just escaped the clutches of the Roboglioni mafia family and are on the run from the very Italian-coded ‘bots (they even wear funny little old-school hats).

The platforming is incredibly fluid and seamless, with a double-jump and dash allowing you to move through the beachy environment with relative ease. It’s simplistic, but effective, and the level design feels like it’s gently nudging you in a direction rather than strapping you to rails. Combat is similarly simple: Exe can melee enemies with a blade, shoot them with an AR, and pick from one of four special attacks from a merchant I encountered almost immediately in my demo. You’ll need some firepower here, too, as one set piece where a giant, turreted ship rained hell down upon me was quite difficult.

Akimbot is fast and fun, and feels like the perfect game for Ratchet & Clank fans looking for some light platforming, fluid combat, and an unlikely duo leading the way. — Alyssa

Yars Rising

Release Date: Late 2024

Platforms: Xbox Series X/S, PS5, PS4, Switch, PC

Shantae maker Wayforward has teamed up with Atari to bring back Yars’ Revenge, a 1980s space shooter that was one of the best selling games on the Atari 2600. Yars Rising tries to build that out into a Mega Man Zero-style action platformer with hacking mini-games (the developers really didn’t want me to call them that) where you complete challenges modelled after the gameplay of the original. It’s a neat homage that I didn’t feel any particular attachment to, especially because the presentation of Yars Rising feels quite distinct from its ‘80s source material. It certainly doesn’t seem like a bad game but I’d need more time with it to have a sense of whether it’s more than just a competent exercise in brand revival. — Ethan

Astro Bot

Release Date: September 6, 2024

Platforms: PS5

Astro Bot was hands-down the best thing I played at Summer Game Fest. It is more Astro Bot, but it is not only more Astro Bot. I recently described it to someone as PlayStation’s version of a Nintendo game except that unlike a lot of those it doesn’t feel like it was trying to copy anyone’s homework. The platforming is tight, the secrets on each level are delightful, and challenge levels made me sweat just enough to want to keep coming back. — Ethan

Read More: Hands-On With Astro Bot: Pure Joy

Lego Horizon Adventures

Release Date: Holiday 2024

Platforms: PS5, Switch, PC

If you’ve played one of the many recent licensed Lego games you’ll know exactly what to expect from Lego Horizon Adventures. It’s retelling the events of the Horizon Zero Dawn in a slightly different and much funnier way, and prioritises two-player co-op with streamlined controls and straightforward combat. It reminded me a lot of Minecraft Dungeons, which is excellent. Hopefully there’s enough meat on the Horizon Adventures bone to make it feel similarly fulfilling. — Ethan

Read More: Hands-On With Horizon Lego Adventures: A Perfect Fit For Nintendo Switch

Star Wars Outlaws

Release Date: August 30, 2024

Platforms: Xbox Series X/S, PS5

I wasn’t sure what to expect from my hands-on with Ubisoft’s upcoming open-world game, Star Wars Outlaws. I hoped that it would showcase a beautiful Star Wars world, and that it would play nothing like an Assassin’s Creed—and I was pleasantly surprised. Though my demo was on rails, it’s clear that there will be a variety of gameplay options and features at protagonist Kay Vess’ disposal, from blaster gunfights to stealth options to leaning on her sidekick, Nix, to distract Stormtroopers or fetch objects. There’s hacking, lock picking, dogfights in space, sabacc matches, and more.

The world Ubisoft has crafted is steeped in reverence for George Lucas’ galaxy, and Kay is a fantastic protagonist, a loveable scoundrel who feels rooted in Star Wars’ seedy criminal underbelly. I wish I could have gotten a feel for just how open this game will be when it launches later this summer, but from what I did get a taste of, I am hungry for more. — Alyssa

Read More: Star Wars Outlaws Hands-On: Good Gameplay, Wonderful World

Super Monkey Ball Banana Rumble

Release Date: June 25, 2024

Platforms: Switch

What can I say? It’s more Super Monkey Ball, folks, just with a lot of additional bells and whistles this time around. The game did not visually look that great running on Switch, though maybe that’s because it was blown up on a massive Samsung TV. The gameplay was decent and I never felt like I was slipping off stages or floating in the air for too long (the Sega rep told me there was a conscious effort to make the controls weightier this time around following some complaints about the recent remaster of the original games).

Did I mention you can play as Sonic? He, Knuckles, and the rest of the gang are part of a season pass players can pick up to expand their roster of characters, and a lot of the push behind the game seems to be inspired by things like Fall Guys, including a multiplayer mode featuring 16-player activities. There’s also a spin-dash move this time around that lets you store up momentum and fling your monkey around like a pinball. It was perfect for trying to cheese levels. — Ethan

Fear the Spotlight

Release Date: Fall 2024

Platforms: Xbox Series X/S, PS5, PC, Mac

This ‘90s-inspired low-fi horror game from a two-person development team (Cozy Game Pals) was so vibey when it first launched, Blumhouse Games noticed it and offered money to expand upon it. Fear The Spotlight will return to Steam (and other platforms), later this year, and if you’re interested in vibey, VHS-quality visuals and creepy liminal spaces, I highly recommend it. My hands-on with Fear the Spotlight was an incredibly gripping and satisfying experience, like playing through an old point-and-click PC game with a throwback Resident Evil twist. The vibes are, simply, immaculate. — Alyssa

Read More:This Blumhouse Game Is Like Playing Through A ’90s Horror Movie

Phantom Blade Zero

Release Date: TBD

Platforms: PS5, PC

Phantom Blaze Zero looked an awful lot like a copycat Soulsborne made in Unreal Engine 5 when it was revealed last year, but getting hands on it for a few minutes this week proved it was very much not. The S-Game project promising a 30 hour campaign with tons of different weapons and exploration looks years away still, but what I played much more like a PS3-era action game. Cool combos and flashy animations, complete with long range attacks and parrying. It didn’t blow me but I’m interested to see what the rest of the game ends up looking like once it exists. — Ethan

Metaphor: ReFantazio

Release Date: October 11, 2024

Platforms: Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, PS5, PS4, PC

Metaphor: ReFantazio wasn’t quite what I was expecting. I went into my demo thinking it would have more real-time action flavor, but it is very much Persona in a fantasy setting. There’s a calendar system and social interactions to build deeper relationships with your party (but no romances), and transformations in battle to cast spells or use extra powerful attacks that feel a lot like summoning Persona in suits of armour.

You can perform attacks out in the world, but only against weaker enemies. The stronger ones still require a familiar turn-based battle to defeat. None of this is bad. In fact, with Persona 6 nowhere in sight at the moment, Atlus RPG fans are lucky to have something so meaty and stylish to dive into this fall. I was just hoping to see the formula shaken up more. Metaphor: ReFantazio plays like a great, if conservative, Persona spiritual spin-off. — Ethan

SteamWorld Heist II

Release Date: August 8, 2024

Platforms: Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, PS5, PS4, Switch, PC

The newest side-scrolling robot tactics game from Thunderful Development was my final appointment at Summer Game Fest 2024. I felt completely dead while sinking back into the blue couch I was sitting on for the demo, but not so dead that I didn’t immediately get stoked for the new possibilities coming in the sequel. The first SteamWorld Heist was XCOM in 2D, with players lining up ricocheting bullets and collecting rewards from surviving successful battles.

SteamWorld Heist 2 doesn’t change what’s not broken, but it does add some big twists. There’s now overworld exploration via a submarine you can upgrade and battle other ocean enemies with in real-time. Each character can also train in various classes and share abilities between them similar to the job systems popularised in Final Fantasy Tactics and other strategy RPGs. The result seems like a much deeper tactical experience that I’m really looking forward to checking out the full version of when it drops later this summer. — Ethan


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