With the Xbox and PC showcase season behind us, I thought I’d make a note of the top games I’m most excited for, for posterity.
Hundreds of games were announced in the past couple of weeks, across every genre, from every studio size, and for every platform. The Xbox & Bethesda Showcase gave us a glimpse at huge budget games like Starfield and Diablo IV, alongside some intriguing indies like High on Life and The Last Case of Benedict Fox.
I often have less-than-mainstream tastes about what games excite me the most, and I’d be lying if I said Xbox Game Pass wasn’t a factor in where my priorities will lie. It’s somewhat absurd how much money I will likely save thanks to the service in the next year, owing to the fact the vast majority of titles on stage at the Xbox show were indeed day-one listed Xbox Game Pass games. I am also increasingly playing games on Xbox cloud on my Galaxy Fold 3, which has also factored into my tastes a little more than it would have in previous years.
In any case, let’s dive into some of my reasoning here, and why I feel like I’ve got more to look forward to than I have had in a long time.
There is No Light
There Is No Light is an upcoming action RPG with brutal combat, a dark and twisted atmosphere, and a karma system that alters the game based on your choices. As a fan of wanton brutality in my games, There Is No Light looks to scratch every single one of my less-than-wholesome gaming itches.
Set in an apocalyptic world where humanity now lives underground, a cult led by a mysterious god takes away your child, setting you on a bloody 30-hour-long story of vengeance.
The pixel art game has been likened to a soulslike in terms of difficulty, with branching skill trees to help you tailor and customize your playstyle. The game’s aesthetic brings back warm fuzzy feels of MS-DOS games like Blackthorne of ages past, complete with a hack ‘n’ slash gameplay edge that reminds me of more recent games like Hades spliced with the difficulty of Hotline Miami.
There’s no known launch window at present, but it’s heading to both Xbox and PC in the future.
Cult of the Lamb
You know what I always thought Animal Crossing lacked? Bloody violence. And through dark ritual and hailing of the Devolver Gods, I may have manifested my perfect game.
The Cult of the Lamb feels like a game that was designed specifically for me. Horror, yet somehow cute and kawaii. Isometric hack ‘n’ slash, but also with base building and colony simulation. All rounded off with a fun and freaky Saturday morning cartoon aesthetic.
Cult of the Lamb is heading to Xbox and PC on Aug. 11, 2022, and it’s undoubtedly going to find something of a cult following (heh heh heh).
In the game, you guide a murderous sheep baby on a roguelike rampage through a demonic foresty world. It seems as though there’ll be plenty of upgrades and loot to grab, eldritch powers to learn, and crazy bosses to battle, all while building up your very own personal fur baby cult. The game has a demo up on Steam for good measure and represents one of my most anticipated near-future titles.
Aliens: Dark Descent
Aliens: Dark Descent is a bit of an odd one, but one I am excited for, nonetheless.
I am one of the many long-suffering Aliens franchise fans who find themselves repeatedly disappointed by half-hearted attempts to transform the movies into meaningful gameplay experiences (let alone disappointed by half-hearted attempts to make meaningful modern movies). And when this slick CGI trailer dropped, initially I wondered whether we were getting a sequel to the insta-classic Alien: Isolation. Alas, ’twas not to be.
Yet, what we got instead is something that looks intriguing, and makes me wonder whether finally we could get a reprieve from the swarm of disappointing Aliens games of recent times.
Aliens: Dark Descent seems like a simple isometric twin-stick shooter on the surface, but the Steam page description elevated my intrigue leaps and bounds.
In Aliens: Dark Descent, you lead a squad of soldiers in real time through an original Alien storyline, fighting new and returning xenomorphs as well as private military mercenaries for reasons unknown. It sounds as though the game does have some almost XCOM-style elements, despite being real-time combat, complete with soldier progression mechanics, resource management, and even sanity management. Your soldier’s mental strain will be a factor in your progress and success, which is reminiscent of games like Darkest Dungeon.
While this isn’t a typical Aliens game, I think it has some serious potential, and I guess we’ll find out for sure in 2023.
Pentiment is an upcoming narrative adventure from Obsidian, and typically I don’t find myself particularly enamored by these kinds of games, but I am a huge fan of Josh Sawyer and Obsidian in general, known for games like Fallout: New Vegas and Pillars of Eternity.
Pentiment refers to paintings that have layers of hidden sketches or etchings underneath, making it the ideal name for this seemingly unique murder mystery.
Set in 16th-century Germany, the game follows an abbey painter who finds himself embroiled in a series of murders and other scandals, against the backdrop of the Holy Roman Empire.
This was a time of great political and social upheaval in mainland Europe, with the rise of Lutheranism and reformation Protestantism that challenged (often violently) the rule of the Catholic church.
Josh Sawyer and his team have shown great skill at tackling serious topics with humor and grace, while weaving in emotional beats that have formed lasting memories for me across Obsidian’s other games. This game takes place over the course of 25 years, and characters will age and change based on your decisions and the consequences therein. Obsidian are masters of the “branching narrative,” and this is the main reason I’m so excited for Pentiment when it hits Xbox, cloud, and PC later this year.
Endless Dungeon is an upcoming tower-defense action RPG hybrid from Amplitude, as a spiritual successor to its popular 2014 hit Dungeon of the Endless.
In Endless Dungeon, your goal is to defend a moving objective through procedurally generated abandoned space station rooms, gathering resources and upgrades, while unlocking new playable heroes along the way. The 1-4 player game is meant to be enjoyed either solo or with friends, and has been described in previews as being particularly brutal.
Endless Dungeon looks like it’ll be another great entry roguelite canon, with a huge variety of powers and combat styles from which to choose. I foresee this being a great game to jump on with friends for some much-needed therapeutic space bug slaying, that could make up for my disappointment with Gears 5’s Horde mode, and its ill-thought-out Escape mode.
Resident Evil 4 Remake
Resident Evil 4 is widely regarded as one of the most influential action games of its time, popularizing the over-the-shoulder gameplay perspective that has become commonplace in the genre. Capcom has been on a remake and remaster spree as of late, and quite honestly, it’s one of the few companies in the business doing it well.
Resident Evil 2 Remake was among the greatest of all modern remakes, alongside Resident Evil 1 Remake before it. Resident Evil 3 Remake was a bit lacking in content, but given Resident Evil 4’s legendary status in the franchise, I suspect Capcom will do it justice.
Resident Evil 4 Remake is set in a fictional region of eastern Europe, as Leon is tasked to track down the U.S. president’s kidnapped daughter.
In the wake of the bio-disasters that led to zombie outbreaks in Raccoon City, the world has become a more dangerous place, with bioterrorism and man-made plagues wreaking havoc in pockets around the globe. Leon discovers fairly quickly that similar forces are at play in Resident Evil 4, but this entry in the franchise is known for dialing up the grotesqueries to the next level. Seeing the horrors of Resident Evil 4 realized with the modern RE Engine should prove a treat.
The Callisto Protocol
Glen Schofield and his team at Visceral Games created the legendary horror classic Dead Space, only for the franchise and studio itself to be mismanaged and ultimately stomped out of existence by the true villain, restlessly disappointing publisher Electronic Arts.
Fast forward to 2022, and Schofield and his uniquely deranged brand of horror are once again grabbing some AAA chops, dubbed The Callisto Protocol.
The debut from Striking Distance Studios gives us a spiritual successor to the now very-dead Dead Space IP, with our protagonist lost in a space colony wreck. Utterly insane half-machine, half-human mutant creatures stalk the darkened halls, and armed only with whatever you can scavenge, you must survive.
The Callisto Protocol looks every bit like the dream survival horror game Dead Space was destined to be without EA meddling, and it’s launching on Xbox and PC just in time for Christmas on Dec. 2, 2022.
Persona 5 Royal
It finally happened. After a very public campaign from Xbox fans on social media, Microsoft finally delivered and showcased Persona 3 Portable, Persona 4 Golden, and Persona 5 Royal all slated for Xbox and PC for the next 12 months, with the franchise hitting modern Xbox consoles for the first time.
Persona is a popular JRPG franchise where by day, you’re a regular high school teenager forming relationships and doing homework, and by night, you leverage unique powers to keep demonic forces and otherworldly horrors at bay.
Combat in the Persona games revolves around the player characters unleashing powerful persona attacks based on different themes unique to each game. Developing your character’s personas through gameplay events, social links, and other progression systems forms a large basis of the gameplay loop, alongside themes of urban fantasy and psychological examination, which explores existential questions anime style!
Persona hitting Xbox was always a bit of a dream as a JRPG fan, but for them to also be hitting Xbox Game Pass is like a cherry on top, and it starts with Persona 5 Royal on Oct. 23, 2022.
The crown jewel in the upcoming Xbox games slate has to be Starfield.
From the legendary Todd Howard and the Bethesda Softworks team, Starfield is from the same minds that brought us the modern Fallout games, and The Elder Scrolls, two pillars of RPG history that even today, have yet to be overcome by competitors in my view.
Bethesda RPGs are typified by their unprecedented interactivity, complete with branching dialogue and choice that well and truly matters. By Todd Howard’s own admission, Fallout 4 fell off that mission a little bit, and Fallout 76 fell off it by a lot. Bethesda is hoping to make up for those disappointments with Starfield, which already looks like it could be a landmark experience for the industry.
After the launch problems and mis-marketing of Cyberpunk 2077, however, there’s already been a wave of negativity leveraged at Starfield, owing to some rough edges in its initial gameplay reveal. The frame rate is a bit spotty, the gunplay seems to lack some modern flair, including gore, with some aspects of its visuals seem unfinished. And if they seem unfinished, that’s because the game is unfinished, set to launch between Q1 and Q2 of 2023.
Personally, I’m not worried about Starfield even slightly, and think a lot of the negative commentary out there is clout chasing at best, and based in bad faith at worst. I want a Bethesda Softworks RPG akin to Fallout 3, or Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, set in space. And that looks to be exactly what Todd Howard and his team are delivering.
Space combat, hundreds of uncharted worlds, dozens of handcrafted cities and planetscapes, building your very own spaceship — all wrapped in a broad and branching Bethesda narrative. This is a dream game for me, in a world where most space games rely heavily on procedural generation, or have very light plot elements.
Bring on Starfield, my body is absolutely ready.
Without a doubt, the one game I’ve thrown all of my hype into following this year’s Xbox and PC showcase season has to be Diablo IV, representing what I believe is destined to overtake Warcraft as the studio’s biggest franchise.
Diablo IV feels like a love letter to fans of classic Diablo, addressing very aggressively the criticism that Diablo III’s aesthetic was too cartoony. Diablo IV is suitably slaked in gallons of blood, mountains of dismembered limbs, and vast oceans of glistening viscera, tinged in that repressive, gothic atmosphere that made Diablo II such a legend.
Diablo IV will launch in 2023 against a backdrop of on-going controversy surrounding Blizzard. The company has been under investigation for its workplace environment, and recently launched one of the most debauched and aggressive pay-to-win games in recent memory with Diablo Immortal, utterly dragging the brand through the mud. The company insists that microtransactions in Diablo IV will be cosmetic only in nature, but they pretty much lied about how Diablo Immortal’s microtransactions could earn you more powerful gear too, so forgive me for my lack of faith here.
I want to desperately trust that Blizzard will deliver with Diablo IV, as a fan of the franchise, and admit I may be falling into a trap of naiveté. But we’ll find out together next year, friends.
So, so, so many games
There are even more games I’m excited for that are missing from this list, like High on Life, Steelrising, Flintlock, Redfall, Minecraft Legends, and many others. Beyond that, there are mountains of games on the horizon that we didn’t see this showcase season that I’m excited for, including Avowed, The Outer Worlds 2, State of Decay 3, and more. I feel like there’s more to look forward to than ever before in my gaming career, and part of that is because — thanks to Xbox Game Pass — I know it’s all going to be very light on my wallet. I don’t need to pick and choose what games to prioritize. I’ll just play EVERYTHING.
In any case, jump onto the Windows Central Discord with us to discuss your most anticipated Xbox and PC games, and thanks a ton for reading!