From The Witness to a brand new Zelda game, it's looking like a very busy twelve months ahead...
It’s hard to know what games we’ll have our hands on by Christmas 2016 - whether that’s the inevitable delays to already announced titles, or the as yet unknown titles we’ll be hearing about over the first few months of the new year (culminating in the flurry of announcements at E3).
There’s even a good chance that Nintendo will have launched a new piece of hardware when it’s time to write this article’s follow-up in 12 months time - but as of now, we barely know a thing about the Nintendo ‘NX’.
So the list below is by no means complete, and don’t blame us if some of the titles get pushed back to 2016. But here’s just a few games that, all things going to plan, should be released into the wild before 2017 rolls around...
The Witness (January 26th, PC/PS4/iOS)
‘It will be done when it’s ready’ seems to have been the driving philosophy behind Jonathan Blow’s long-in-the-making follow-up to Braid. The time and talents of his team seem to have been used exceedingly well - the trailers so far have promised a mysterious, beautiful and involving journey through a stunningly rendered island full of hundreds of puzzles. This is definitely looking like a bright start to a year in gaming.
Firewatch (February 9th, PC/PS4)
Independent games that focus on narrative over gameplay are increasingly common, yet Firewatch - from San Francisco developers Campo Santo - looks like an uncommonly vast, ambitious take on interactive storytelling. Interestingly it seems to be aiming to have the player far more involved in the story than some of its contemporaries. You’ll play a man named Henry, employed as a fire lookout working in a sprawling, stunningly realised wilderness. Your radio interactions with a colleague drive a story that at the moment seems tantalisingly mysterious. Hopefully the full game can do the fascinating setup justice.
Unravel (February 9th, PC/PS4/XB1)
Just look at that trailer. Awwhhhh.
Street Fighter V (February 16th, PS4/PC)
If you're a Street Fighter enthusiast, you probably already have set your February aside. And your March, April, May, June...
Dark Souls 3 (April 12th, XB1/PS4/PC)
Dark Souls 2 was only a disappointment compared to its predecessor, arguably the greatest game of its generation. Any mild doubts the still fantastic DS2 left were pleasantly dispelled with the release of probable 2015 ‘game of the year’ Bloodborne (a new series for From Software, but very much built around the ‘Souls’ DNA) and indeed DS2’s exemplary downloadable add-ons. The brilliant designer Hidetaka Miyazaki is back on board the Souls train after his Bloodborne break, which is extra reason for optimism. One should expect the usual blend of challenging gameplay, deep mechanics and artfully subtle environmental storytelling. Even if it’s disappointing, a below par Souls game is still superior to pretty much everything else out there. Prepared to die? Bring it on.
Star Fox Zero (April 22nd, Wii U)
The only thing more exciting than a new Star Fox Game? A new Star Fox game being co-developed by Platinum Games (the studio responsible for the glorious likes of Bayonetta and Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance). Questions remain about the idiosyncratic control scheme being used for the game, but here’s hoping the late delay to the game’s release date will have allowed Star Fox Zero to reach its full potential.
Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End (April 27th, PS4)
It’s more Uncharted - after a year dominated by sprawling open world titles, the tightly scripted, “cinematic” and very expensive-looking thrills of Uncharted 4 actually seems like a very welcome break from the norm. While Uncharted 3 saw fewer advances than some fans would have liked, the involvement of The Last of Us directors Bruce Straley and Neil Druckmann - who took a break from Uncharted to work on that game - could see the series’ consistently exemplary storytelling pushed in new directions. At the very least, the setpieces will be fantastic.
Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst (May 24th, XB1/PS4/PC)
If any game ever needed a second chance, it’s Mirror’s Edge. The original’s first person parkour gameplay was joyous, but sadly let down by less inspired level design and awkward combat that often got in the way of the glorious free running. There was such promise though, and at its best it was a pleasure to play. Disappointing sales made a sequel unlikely, but more than seven years later a follow-up is mere months away. Whether it will manage to address the flaws of the original remains to be seen, but the draw of running and jumping across the rooftops of a slick futuristic city is still very strong indeed.
No Man’s Sky (June, PC/PS4)
Can they possibly do it? The space exploration game from tiny British studio Hello Games has continued to astound due its sheer ambition - a game promising a full universe to explore and discover. Ever wanted to be the first person to discover a new animal species and name it after you? No Man’s Sky is the game for you. Frequent, confident updates from the developers have hinted that this could very well live up to its incredible promises, but even if it doesn’t quite pull off everything it’s trying to do (and it’s trying to do a lot), the release of No Man’s Sky will raise the bar for what independent studios are capable of.
Persona 5 (Summer, PS3/PS4)
It will have been almost eight years since the release of Persona 4 by the time its proper sequel (as opposed to the numerous P4 spin-offs in entirely different genres) rolls around next summer. Given the previous two titles helped promote a previously niche franchise to full-on video game royalty, the release can’t come soon enough. Everything seen of Persona 5 so far points towards a game that skillfully walks a very tricky balance - starting from (near) scratch without abandoning the identity of its predecessors at the same time.
With a whole new cast, setting and mood - not to mention the promise of entirely new mechanics for the series - this is promising to be another subversive, ambitious, intelligent and delightful title that deserves as wide an audience as humanly possible. Final Fantasy XV? Forget about it - Persona 5 is likely to be the only Japanese RPG you’ll need in 2015.
The Last Guardian (TBC, PS4)
Even writing the words ‘The Last Guardian’ and ‘2016’ in close proximity to each other feels tempting fate. Can it happen? Will we have played the new game from Team Ico by this time next year?
For those unaware, The Last Guardian is the latest title from the makers of Ico and Shadow of the Colossus, the two PS2 (later remastered on PS3) titles that remain two of the strongest hands in those ever present ‘games as art’ arguments. The follow-up has been stuck in what could generously be described as ‘development hell’ for quite some time now - originally announced as a PS3 title in 2009 (after having been in development since 2007), before going years with nary a mention from Sony. Re-announced at E3 earlier this year with a new format in the PS4, fans won’t believe The Last Guardian actually exists until the end credits roll. Nothing short of one of the greatest games ever made could live up to the hype - but Team Ico is one of the few teams that could very possibly pull it off.
Cuphead (TBC, XB1/PC)
To some degree, it barely matters what Cuphead plays like. The retro cartoon aesthetic is so fetching that it has pretty much sold itself to thousands of players already (and opened up an interesting debate about the sometimes troublesome imagery that was seen in 1930s cartoons). Happily, the gameplay itself seems smartly retro-inspired too, with its boss battle heavy ‘run and gun’ style gameplay drawing inspiration from classics such as Contra, Gunstar Heroes and Thunderforce.
Scalebound (TBC, Xbox One)
There aren’t a whole lot of Xbox One exclusives in the near future, beyond the vague promise of Gears of War 4, inevitable sequels and a few smaller titles. But easily the most intriguing prospect is Scalebound - the first Xbox exclusive from the already-mentioned Platinum Games. Gameplay demos have shown a frankly insane battle between giant monsters (everybody loves giant monsters) with your tiny, transforming avatar in the middle. The studio’s resident genius Hideki Kamiya is directing this one, so there’s good cause to very optimistic indeed.
The Legend of Zelda (TBC, Wii U)
The fleeting glimpses we’ve seen of the currently in-development new Zelda game have teased a massive increase in scope and scale for the iconic Nintendo franchise. There’s not much more to go on at the moment, but Nintendo has recently recommitted to a Wii U release next year. One shouldn’t rule out the possibility of a dual-format release if the NX does end up releasing in 2016, similar to the way Twilight Princess was launched on both the Wii and Gamecube back in 2006. Incidentally, while we eagerly await the upcoming game, a HD version of Twilight Princess will be released for the Wii U in March.