By Michael Mendis
2016 has officially arrived, and with a new year comes the promise of new, exciting games. There are many games coming out this year that hold a lot of potential, so we decided to highlight ten titles (in alphabetical order) that we expect will be heavy hitters, and that you should keep an eye on. So without further ado…
Final Fantasy XV (Xbox One, PS4)
Square Enix’s next game in its long-running Final Fantasy series has gone through a lot of changes over the course of development. Originally announced back in 2006 as a spinoff to the Final Fantasy XIII saga, it underwent major revisions, moved from being a PS3 title to being a PS4/Xbox One game, and was rebranded as Final Fantasy XV. The public has gotten their hands on a demo showcasing a small portion of the game’s beautiful open world, and the final product seems like it will finally ship sometime this year. Expectations are high for this game, especially as Japanese RPGs have lost much of the spotlight they once held among western audiences.
Gears of War 4 (Xbox One)
The Gears of War franchise appears to be undergoing some changes in its latest entry, Gears of War 4, which is set to release at the end of the year. Game development has shifted from its original creators, Epic Games, to The Coalition, an internal Microsoft studio dedicated to Gears series for the foreseeable future (not unlike how Microsoft has built and branded 343 Industries, the makers of the last couple Halo games). We’ve only gotten one brief gameplay trailer so far; the series’ top-notch formula of third-person shooting appears the same, but we’ve been introduced to a couple of new protagonists and an entirely new enemy type. Hopefully The Coalition will be able to capitalize on what makes the Gears franchise fun, while adding new elements to keep the experience feeling fresh and exciting.
Horizon Zero Dawn (PS4)
A new game from Guerilla Games (creators of the Killzone franchise), Horizon Zero Dawn is an action-RPG set in the distant future, where human civilization has been reduced to tribes following an apocalypse, and robotic dinosaurs roam the wilderness. Quite simply, it looks like good old fashioned fun to explore the world, hunting down fierce mechanical prey with your bow and arrow. What we’ve been shown so far looks really cool, and I can’t wait to see more.
No Man’s Sky (PS4, PC)
This upcoming title from Hello Games may technically be an indie game, but its scale is anything but small. No Man’s Sky is a futuristic spacefaring simulator set in a mindbogglingly massive galaxy. Each planet in the game’s universe is procedurally generated, and with over 18 quintillion planets to explore (yes, you read that right, quintillion), you could play this game for the rest of your life and never come close to uncovering everything it has to offer. Players can can spend their time discovering new worlds, trading resources with other players, engaging in space combat, or any combination of the three. It’s a huge sandbox just waiting to be explored.
Overwatch (Xbox One, PS4, PC)
Blizzard Entertainment’s new team-based shooter, Overwatch, borrows heavily from Valve’s wildly popular game Team Fortress 2. Each character in Overwatch has its own unique abilities, and victory requires players to know their strengths and weaknesses, and what role they need to play as part of their team. The gameplay is fast and frenetic as you zip around the game’s colorful environments, seeking out high ground and blasting enemies away with your quirky weaponry. If Blizzard can replicate the dynamics that have made Team Fortress 2 popular long after its original release back in 2007, Overwatch could turn out to be one of the biggest hits not just of 2016, but for years to come.
Quantum Break (Xbox One)
Developer Remedy Games has quite an accomplished history, having created the well-known Max Payne series as well as the critically acclaimed thriller Alan Wake. Their next project, the sci-fi action game Quantum Break, is an Xbox One exclusive that combines a third-person shooter with a live-action TV show (the episodes of the show come with the game, and a new episode plays after you complete certain sections of the game). Actions you take in the game will affect the show, and the show will expand upon and further impact the story told in the game. It’s a fascinating experiment from a studio well-known for its storytelling prowess, and it will be interesting to see how it all pans out.
The Last Guardian (PS4)
This long-in-development title from Team Ico (creators of the beloved cult classics Ico and Shadow of the Colossus) has been eagerly awaited by fans since it was announced in 2009 as a PS3 game. Progress slowed to a crawl, however, and eventually development was shifted to the PS4. At E3 2015, Sony re-announced the game to the public and promised that The Last Guardian would finally be released in 2016. Team Ico has everyone’s attention now; here’s hoping they can bring back some of the magic that made their previous games so memorable.
The Division (Xbox One, PS4, PC)
An ambitious new title from Ubisoft and Massive Entertainment, the Division looks to be one of the most highly anticipated new franchises of 2016. This MMO-esque game set in a distressed New York City is absolutely gorgeous, and sets you loose to explore the city’s abandoned streets and dark tunnels to your heart’s content. Anyone looking to loot some (modern) dungeons with friends should definitely keep an eye on this game as we get closer to its release this coming March.
Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End (PS4)
Arguably the crown jewel of Sony’s first-party lineup, the Uncharted franchise is set to receive a new entry this March, with Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End. Players will once again control the loveable rogue Nathan Drake as he sets forth on another treasure-seeking adventure, this time with a new character: his older brother Sam. It seems that this is likely the last entry in the series from developer Naughty Dog (and possibly the last Uncharted game, period), so many questions hang in the air; will Nate, Sully, and co. survive? What will happen with the on-again, off-again relationship between Nate and Elena? One thing is for sure: Naughty Dog knows how to make fantastic video games, so expectations for what may be Nathan Drake’s final chapter are sky high.
Untitled Zelda game (Wii U)
The Legend of Zelda series has long been one of Nintendo’s most beloved franchises, so fans are naturally excited for the upcoming Zelda game for Wii U. The game’s producer Eiji Aonuma has promised that this new title will be the first open-world entry in the series, with puzzles that can be approached from different angles and solved in different ways. Nintendo has been largely silent about the title since this trailer at E3 2014, though, other than to push the release date from 2015 to 2016. With Nintendo's next console, code named "NX", possibly being released this year, some have speculated that this game might also be announced for that platform as well, as Nintendo did when they released The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess simultaneously on the GameCube and Wii.