The future is bright
The Xbox One is going strong. With 2016 more than halfway through we've added some outstanding games to our library and now it looks like there's plenty more to come. What are the next big games to look forward to? Take a look into the future to see what else 2016 and beyond has to offer. At a glance, the year looks absolutely amazing.
With a mixture of exclusives, vaunted indies, some huge returning names and some long-lost projects (hello, Final Fantasy), it's going to be the best kind of mixed bag - a bit of something for everyone. Next year looks to hold some of the best Xbox One games we've seen hit the console yet. Want a sneak preview? Check out the Xbox One's upcoming game lineup right here.
We Happy Few
Release date: July 26, 2016 (Game Preview program)
Set in a dystopian '60s Britain where no one is allowed to stop smiling, We Happy Few is not your usual game set-up. Nor is it your usual game - it's stealth-survival as interested in forcing you to blend in with the crowd as it is staying out of everyone's way.
The upshot is a game that pivots between tension and terror, while you try to stay calm and remember how to act in public depending on which class of society you're surrounded by. One of the year's weirdest prospects.
Release Date: August 3, 2016 (Game Preview program)
Here's something you don't see every day: an Xbox One-exclusive, free-to-play action RPG from a Japanese developer. Happy Dungeons is a co-op, hack-'n'-slash adventure set in the same universe as Happy Wars, the cartoony PvP brawler from Toylogic Inc. that made a splash on 360 (and was subsequently ported to Xbox One and PC).
Where Wars was all about slaying your fellow Warriors, Mages, and Clerics, Happy Dungeons has you banding together with up to three other players to slice, stab, and spellcast your way through hordes of cutesy monsters, including (but not limited to) excitable goblins, buff minotaurs, and baby-like aliens. Besides the goofy enemies and chaotic combat, character customization is among Happy Dungeons' biggest draws: on top of helpful equipment and powerful abilities, you have a ton of creative freedom to make your hero's facial expression look as ridiculous as possible.
Earthlock: Festival of Magic
Release date: Aug. 17, 2016
Within a ruined world where powerful magic and advanced technology have fallen by the wayside, archeologists and scavengers comb through countless ruins searching for remnants of the past. Caught up within the conflict between the worlds most powerful nation and those looking to bring it down, you and your partys quest for peace spans this world past its prime.
But that could be the premise for any RPG - what makes Earthlock: Festival of Magic unique? Its turn based combat admittedly takes a cue from the past, but a pairing system where one character is the attacker and another the defender turns party management into a whole new experience. Additionally, players magical ammunition is grown within a home island, meaning that keeping your attacks strong will require a bit of a green thumb. Its like someone mashed Final Fantasy and Harvest Moon into one package, which is fine by us.
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided
Release Date: Aug. 23, 2016
Ol' Adam might not have asked for it, but we've definitely been looking forward to another chance to use anatomical enhancements to destroy our enemies. Deus Ex: Mankind Divided takes place after Human Revolution, in a world where augmented humans are persecuted, 'transhuman' terrorism is a global threat, and Adam Jansen has signed up to a special task force to put a stop to it all.
Expect to have all of the social, stealth, and guns-blazing gameplay options available to you as you take on your mission objectives. But one thing to note: the shooting mechanics are getting an overhaul, so you can still be effective with firearms if you decide to build out your stealth skill tree.
Madden NFL 17
Release Date: Aug. 23, 2016
Football’s back on Xbox this fall with the latest addition to the Madden franchise. The team at EA Sports has said that it is working on updates to the defense AI and special teams plays. Fans can also expect to see improved ball physics and catch animations that better fit a particular player’s style and skill.
Release Date: Aug. 26, 2016
Party game SpeedRunners has been accumulating fans since long before its official launch thanks to a stint on Steam early access. It’s a high-octane race with an ever-shrinking field of view and a growing collection of racers to choose from. Throw in obstacles and weapons and you’ve got a recipe for delightful mayhem. SpeedRunners is slated to arrive on Xbox One some time in 2016.
Release Date: Aug. 30, 2016
Xbox already has some familiar driving game franchises, but the arrival of this racing simulator on console is a big deal. It has been closely tied to the PC gaming community since launching in 2014, and fans have been skeptical about whether the experience would translate onto other platforms. But Italian developer Kunos Simulazioni is standing strong with plans to make it happen.
Release Date: Sept. 16-20, 2016
Based on sneak peeks of the cover, it seems like NBA 2K17 may finally add in Olympics play. It's a fitting time to add that international setting given the Summer Games happening in Rio this year, but we're still waiting on official confirmation for most details about the game.
The popular basketball franchise will release two special Legends Editions of this game with swag honoring the recently-retired Kobe Bryant. Fans who pre-order can get the game Sept. 16, but the official release isn’t until Sept. 20.
Forza Horizon 3
Release Date: Sept. 27, 2016
Forza Horizon 3 is taking the race to the land down under giving players a new open world to explore and plenty of off-road tracks to tackle. The new Australian map is said to be twice the size of Forza Horizon 2's world and features much more environmental diversity from the varied Aussie landscape, while also giving you plenty of different settings to customize your own racing events with other online players. Like the previous games, you can invite and race other players in the open world, but the Horizon Blueprint mode enables you to modify the rules and even course routes of pre-set races to your own specifications.
Final Fantasy XV
Release date: Sept. 30, 2016 [Pre-Order it on Amazon]
It's changed so many times that it's a wonder it looks this good but, against all odds, Final Fantasy XV seems like it might come out just fine. Playable demo Episode Duscae showed a glimpse of the gorgeous road trip that we'll be taking with Prince Noctis and his well-coiffed chums.
It also introduced the new combat system, pitched between classic FF and thoughtful action titles like Monster Hunter. And, in traditional style, summoning made us gawp and yell with excitement. It's a miracle it got here, but we're cautiously happy that it did.
Release date: Fall 2016
Outlast's combination of first-person horror and trembling reliance on night vision was always going to work in new contexts. The first game took us round the stereotypes of the asylum gone wrong, and based on a teaser trailer, it looks as though the sequel's taking us into the queasy world of Satanism.
An inverted, burning cross surrounded by otherwise invisible eyes? Yep, we're ready for some supernatural horrors to tear us to shreds. Oh goody.
Release date: Oct. 7, 2016
Lincoln Clay is the anti-gangster, a Vietnam vet bent on wiping out the mob in his town. Set in 1968 New Orleans, this isn't just a strange story for a gangster game, but a strange location, too. And that's what makes it so interesting,
The last game in the series was criminally underrated, despite having one of the most interesting stories going in last-gen. Perhaps that was because people mistook it for a straight "Wise Guy makes it big through murder" storyline. There's no doubting this has a better hook.
Gears of War 4
Release Date: Oct. 11, 2016
Strap on your space marine armor and slip into your standard issue COG boots, because the Gears are going to war...again. Marcus and Dom's stories are over, but the new Gears seems to be returning to the darker, creepy tone of the original Gears of War.
The first Gears of War 4 gameplay shown at E3 2015 follows a different pair of protagonists, JD and Kait and it certainly was dark. As in, everything is pitch black outside of anything directly in front of the Gear's flashlights. Developer The Coalition is keeping a tight lid on any more details, but we can't wait to see where the series goes from here.
Release Date: Oct. 21, 2016
After detours into cops-vs-robbers and Star Wars, Battlefield is getting back to its roots. The new game from the franchise will be set in World War I, which means bayonets and flame throwers, biplanes and janky tanks. The focus so far from DICE has been on presenting a gritty, guttural experience of the trenches, but we’re hoping to still have lots of epic fights and a high skill cap on the gunplay.
Release Date: Oct. 28, 2016
The first Titanfall might not have been the commercial success the developers wanted it to be but it has some solid multiplayer concepts that totally set it apart from other multiplayer FPS games. With Titanfall 2 on the way, the sequel looks to be improving on the first game's missteps. Pilots have become much more agile with the use of a grappling hook allowing you to pull yourself to walls or your titan from a distance, or even pull yourself to an enemy for a close quarters kill. But what's most exciting is Titianfall 2 has more titans, more guns, and will feature a full single-player story mode. Oh, and the titans are getting swords, so get hype.
Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare
Release Date: Nov. 4, 2016
Shooting! In! Spaaaaace! Call of Duty’s next installment is committing to a futuristic setting, and so far the trailer is promising players everything from spaceships to jetpacks. Other than doubling down on the space theme, the new game looks like standard fare from the series. For those who also want a stroll down shooter memory lane, the special editions of Infinite Warfare come with the long-awaited Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Remastered.
Release Date: Nov. 11, 2016
The supernaturally powered master assassin, Corvo Attano, is back, ready to feed guards to hordes of rats and make enemies shoot themselves in the face. More than a decade after the events of the first game, Corvo has taken the young Empress Emily Kaldwin under his wing, after shes dethroned by an as of yet unnamed force. In order to defeat the usurpers, Corvo and Emily team up as the master assassin instructs his new protege in the arts of sneaky-sneak, stabby-stab.
Players will have the option to play as either Emily or Corvo, with each character having separate powers at their disposal. You can expect Corvo to use his classic blink, telekinetic, and mind control abilities, but Emily's powers appear to be completely new. She seems to be able to transform into an ink-y shadow-like form that can, more than likely, dismember enemies in brutal fashion.
Mayan Death Robots
Release Date: Nov. 20, 2016
With a name like this, you know to expect something zany, and Mayan Death Robots delivers on that front. It takes inspiration from Worms for its strategic artillery gameplay, which happens on top of a goofy alternate history premise that assumes the Mayan civilization was destroyed by alien robots. The game debuted on Steam in late 2015, but it and its irreverent sense of humor will be landing on Xbox some time this year.
Dead Rising 4
Release Date: Dec. 6, 2016
It seems that the zombie craze will ever end - at least, not for Frank West. The hero from the first game is coming back to decapitate, incinerate, and pummel the undead zombie horde with a variety of makeshift weapons in Dead Rising 4. There haven't been too many details released on the game yet, but from the E3 2016 trailer, we can see that it will hit all of the typical notes that go hand in hand with the irreverence the series has for the zombie apocalypse. There are more zombies on screen than you can count, Frank is seen taking wacky photos and selfies (now on his cell phone), and the hero takes down the undead with candy cane crossbows and various Christmas-themed explosives.
South Park: The Fractured but Whole
Release Date: Dec. 6, 2016
The kids’ imaginations have run away from them again but this time Stan, Kyle, Kenny, and Cartman have dropped the wizards, knights, and rogues affectation in favor of playing with superhero powers. The Fractured but Whole brings all of the main character's alter egos from the show into the game. Cartman has become the Coon, leader of Coon and Friends, but because he's such an ass to his friends the other neighborhood kids break off to form their own organization, which seemingly will result in infighting of the heroes, mimicking the Civil War events from Marvel's cinematic universe.
Release Date: Dec 2016
This game is for all the thrill seekers out there. In Steep, you have an entire mountain range open for you to explore as you see fit, and what better way to see the sights than while performing death-defying stunts? You can strap on a snowboard to carve a path down the slopes (or ski if that's your thing), put on a wingsuit and pretend to be a giant flying squirrel, or paraglide hundreds of feet off the ground. The entire open world can also be shared with other players online, so you can take on course challenges and record extreme trick videos in coordination with your friends on the mountain. We haven't seen too many open-world action sports games, so it's definitely going to be interesting to see how the gaming community takes to the new sense of freedom.
Halo Wars 2
Release date: 2016
Halo Wars has long been the forgotten piece of the Halo puzzle, an RTS that harked right back to the series' roots - before Combat Evolved, Halo was going to be a top-down strategy game, don't you know. It lived up to the series' other achievement, too - it made a traditionally PC-centric genre feel at home on a console controller.
All of this is to say that Halo Wars 2 has more to live up to than you might think. Luckily, developers Creative Assembly are the team to do the job - cutting your teeth on Total War proves some strategy expertise, and its work on Alien: Isolation displays a slavish dedication to much-loved source material. We're ready for a second war.
Release date: 2016
It's not fair to judge a book by its cover - but they kind of want you to. Same goes for Cuphead - Studio MDHR wants you to notice its homage to 1930s animations the second you look at its retro combat-platformer. You will.
Nothing else has ever looked like Cuphead, meaning we want to see all of it. The fact that it looks like a more than competent take on the likes of Contra, but focusing almost exclusively on boss battles is a very nice bonus.
Release date: 2016
You wait for one slow space disaster game and two explode silently in the vacuum of your life at once. Adrift takes a similar tack to Tacoma, but in more spectacular fashion - this time your space station isn't just empty of people, but air and, occasionally, walls. What follows is a zero-grav travel to escape safely.
While you'll be solving puzzles and piecing together information, there's also the constant ticking down of your oxygen to manage, exacerbated by the fact that you need to jettison the stuff to get around when "outside". Remember all those bits where you felt like you couldn't breathe during Gravity? It's that feeling: the game. Have fun!
Hyper Light Drifter
Release date: 2016
Indie games inspired by retro gaming are a dime a dozen, but not too many seem to be as competent as Hyper Light Drifter. The top-down swordsman gameplay is similar to A Link to the Past. Mix and match secondary weapons and abilities that are unlocked as you play through the game are similar to The Legend of Zelda as well. A tiny floating companion following you throughout your journey you get where this is going.
But while HLD (encouragingly) takes bits and pieces from a classic, its also noticeably unique in its own right. The pixel art and ruined sci-fi world contribute to a surefooted sense of style, while the pace of combat is a bit more punishing than your average Zelda battle. Count this as a Kickstarter were glad to see succeed.
Release date: 2016
The folks at Capybara Games have yet to deliver a subpar gaming experience. They are at the top of the indie scene, and their games enchant, mystify, and entertain in ways few others can achieve. This new game, Below, looks to continue those quality experiences in ways we've never seen before, thrusting onto a giant yet empty island and asking us "what lies Below?" We don't know, Capybara, but we want to find out.
We've only seen brief trailers for the game, but Below's minimalistic approach to the roguelike formula has us very intrigued. We're not sure why the camera is zoomed out so far, though. It looks like we're viewing the events of the game from the top of Mount Everest, but we're sure there's a reason for it. Maybe the bosses, if any, will look that much more menacing from this far away, we don't know. All we want to do now is answer that simple question: what does lie Below and, more importantly, when can we find out?
Release date: 2016
For many, the main fault of the latest SimCity was an invasive business model and many, many problems. For us, it was just that we don't get those kind of games on console these days. Enter Cities: Skylines, a brilliant city-builder, which first fixed all those problems for PC players, then went ahead and announced an Xbox One release. Magic.
This is a classic town planning sim, built to allow for realistic growth but indulge your weirdo creativity. Publisher Paradox is retooling the original for a console set-up, meaning it shouldn't be unduly unruly to control, either.
Gwent: The Witcher Card Game
Release Date: TBD
If you ask for it, apparently CD Projekt Red will provide. When would-be witchers began playing the tavern card game just as much (or more than) the actual open world adventure, the devs took note and began working on a standalone Gwent game, complete with single-player campaigns and full voice acting. Soon you'll be able to enjoy a game of Gwent against other players with an entirely new interface and card animations all outside the of the grimy pubs of The Witcher 3.
Release date: TBD
DayZ may never be truly finished, so the idea of having an actual full game release date for its incoming console version is almost laughable - but we at least know when it will hit Xbox Preview, and continue its slow metamorphosis from army game mod to world's premier survival experience.
You join a server covered in bloodthirsty zombies and, usually, even more bloodthirsty human players, then attempt to live for as long as possible. Scavenge, build, ambush, run, feel very, very bad about our species. All in a day's work.
Release date: 2017 [Pre-Order it on Amazon]
After an unbroken run of silky-smooth action games, we have to say we never saw Scalebound, the next Platinum game as an RPG. Not least an RPG from action genius director, Hideki Kamiya.
And yet here we are. Starring Drew and Thuban, a man and his soul-linked, AI-controlled dragon respectively, we'll be travelling through a fantasy world, upgrading stats, evolving dragon-physiology and colecting ever-better loot. Luckily, that's married to a combat system that definitely errs on the side of action, so it won't be totally unfamiliar fare.
Release date: Feb. 14, 2017
There's very little more 'classic video games' set-up than 'big dudes in armour smash each other over the heads with swords'. And yet For Honor seems strangely new - built around competitive multiplayer and an in-depth, never-before-seen combat system.
Inspired by creator, Jason VandenBerghe's experiences with real-life sword fighting, it's somehow mixing the crowd-clearing hack 'n' slash action of Dynasty Warriors with the contemplative 'blink and you're dead' duels of Bushido Blade. It sounds absolutely insane - and from the, let's say, comfortable developers at Ubisoft, it's a pleasingly fresh concept.
Ghost Recon: Wildlands
Release Date: March 7, 2017
Most Ghost Recon games up to now have typically been mission-based. You'd get briefed on an objective, drop into the target zone, complete your tasks, then exfiltrate. In Ghost Recon: Wildlands, the formula seems to have changed. This time, your mission is contained in one massive, open-world environment filled with enemies to shoot, hostages to rescue, and goals to complete. Plus, the game supports up to four player co-op for some coordinated espionage action.
While Ghost Recon has always been about players choosing how to approach their objectives, Wildlands' open world expands on the concept dramatically. Players will be able to do things like wait for the cover of night to sneak into enemy compounds, set up sniper nests to cover teammates, or hijack helicopters for a full frontal assault.
Mass Effect: Andromeda
Release Date: March 2017
Commander Shepard's story is over, but there's still an entire universe full of alien worlds and ancient mysteries to explore. In Mass Effect: Andromeda, players will be taking on the role of a new protagonist for an adventure set in the Andromeda Galaxy. From what we've seen so far, the game seems to take a Star Trek-style exploration approach to the story, showing a character scanning different planets from his spacecraft.
It also appears that the space adventure won't be devoid of action. The story takes place after the events of the first Mass Effect trilogy, so we see some familiar technology and weapons. A landrover similar to the Mako is shown speeding through sandy terrain, the soldiers have personal shields, and the omni-tool can flip out an energy blade for close encounters. There's much more to learn about Mass Effect: Andromeda, but we already can't wait to see what Bioware still has in store for us.
Release date: March 2017
Perhaps Rare's newest just isn't quite Rare-y enough for you. Allow Playtonic - a studio made up of ex-Rare staff from the good old days - to provide your old-school, new-look fix. You might recognise the two-names-in-one title or the walking animal-flying animal combo as just a tad Banjo-Kazooie-esque. Here's the spiritual sequel you've been waiting for.
This Kickstarter smash has the vibrant colours, platforming focus, even the seaside postcard British humour (there's a snake called Trowzer - we'll leave that one to you) of '90s Rare. Let's hope it matches up in quality, too.
Release date: TBD
Well, Crackdown 3 might secretly be the most exciting game in the world. The return of the superpowered open-world, third person shooter was always going to be exciting, but it comes with some very modern tricks up its latex sleeves.
A full single player campaign will hark back to the past, but a co-op mode, set in an entirely different city, uses the power of the Xbox One's cloud servers to allow for full destructability. By which I mean you can knock down buildings into other buildings, exploding things willy-nilly, without a hint of performance drop. You have to see it to believe it. We have. We believe in Crackdown 3.
Sea of Thieves
Release date: 2017
D'you remember the days when Rare turned around and said things like, 'our next game is about a forgotten character in Diddy Kong Racing who now swears and fights turds'? OK, Sea of Thieves isn't quite that much of a departure, but it's a classically Rare-like step into the unknown.
A cartoony, pirate-themed MMO, it will apparently allow players to craft their own stories as they join a crew, grab a ship and, presumably, brutally attack unsuspecting passers-by. There's not much more than a trailer to go on right now, but Rare's pedigree is enough to pique our interest.
Release Date: 2017
We know Prey is happening, but from the trailer we got at E3 2016, we aren't entirely sure what it's going to be about. The cinematic showed the presumed protagonist repeatedly waking up in the same apartment to the same events like he was stuck in a Groundhog Day time loop. The only thing that would change is that his body is becoming infected with what looks like a bad case of pinkeye. Knowing Prey, it's probably some kind of alien infection you don't want to catch. And yes, there are aliens, but these space creatures don't seem to have solid mass and act more like ghostly shadows than physical beings.
State of Decay 2
Release Date: 2017
The first State of Decay pitted you and your community of survivors against an endless horde of undead, maintaining enough supplies to keep your group fed, armed, and defended. State of Decay 2 does seem to follow that basic gameplay formula, but now you can attempt to survive the zombie apocalypse with online or couch co-op with four friends. The E3 showing didn't tell us much about the fine details of the gameplay, but if you're looking for a serious zombie survival game, keep a lookout for this one.
Kingdom Hearts III
Release date: TBA [Pre-Order it on Amazon]
If we think the wait for Final Fantasy XV will be bad, the time spent anticipating the newly revealed Kingdom Hearts III will be agonizing. We've waited for this direct sequel for seven years, through an entire console generation, sifting through portable game after portable game to finally get our bone. The lore is jumbled and messy, and the direction of the new game is nigh impossible to predict, but one fact remains: Kingdom Hearts III is real, and it is coming.
All we were able to pull from the teaser trailer is that Sora picks up another Master's keyblade on Destiny Island, and that we'll have to hang ten with a tidal wave of normal Heartless enemies in Twilight Town. At this rate, we don't care if the first three hours of KHIII are watching Donald and Goofy dance, we'll be playing Kingdom Hearts III, and all will be right in the world.
Release date: 2017
Whether you liked it or not, Gone Home made an impact. Turning the "walking simulator" into a rich, twisting, personal tale, it established Fullbright as a genuinely different kind of game developer. On first glance, Tacoma looks seems like an evolution of that original idea - but we're not so sure that's the case.
While keeping the detail-packed environments and methodical pace, the story of Amy Ferrier's arrival on a space station that really shouldn't be abandoned seems to be cutting far closer to sci-fi horror than you might expect. We're sure there will be twists, but we're damned if we no what direction they'll head in.
Release date: TBD
Most studios like to specialise in a type of game, but The Behemoth take a different approach. Alien Hominid, Castle Crashers and Battleblock Theatre all played very differently, but they feel the same, with cute-gross animation styles and a focus on humour. Pit People fits right into that lineage.
It's a hex-based strategy game centred around arena fighting (with some offbeat combat mechanics and Pokemon-like enemy caputring), but you'll know immediately that it's a Behemoth game - primarily because the story is a bout a space bear whose blood has broken the flow of time and space.
Release date: TBD
This is perhaps a bit reductive, but let's go with it - Space Engineers is grown-up Minecraft. With the same open-ended approach, and bafflingly deep creation systems, it draws on the creativity Minecraft thrives on, but adds some extremely complex ideas.
It's rooted in real-life physics for a start, with more complex mechanical ideas possible as a result. People have made everything from huge mining contraptions to models of the USS Enterprise on PC - now it's time for console players to give it a go.
Release date: TBD
When we first watched Aztezs combat teaser trailer, we didnt know if we were watching a side-scrolling brawler (as it was advertised) or a new monochromatic 2D fighter. We saw a few red gushes of blood, but we didnt see any health bars or time limitsjust what the heck is going on with this game?
We didnt have to wait long to find out: Aztez is indeed a 2D brawler, but it also contains some strategy elements that keep it from being a mindless experience. Players will have to control and manage the lead characters empire in a few strategy sections of the game that may have some folks feel like theyre playing Risk. The art style drew us in, but the combat kept us watching and wanting more of this Aztez as soon as we can get it.
Release Date: TBD
MOBAs are having their moment this year, and the Xbox One is getting another option in the genre. Gigantic falls in line with the current trends for the game style: free-to-play, lots of teamwork, and a colorful cast of characters. The unique element is the presence of a very large (one might even say gigantic!) guardian on each team.
Release date: TBD
And you thought The Witcher was big. CD Projekt RED has already confirmed that its next game is "far, far bigger" than Geralt's last hurrah, another open-world RPG taken from an unusual source - in this case a pen and paper role playing game last heard of in the last decade.
Details are short, as you might expect from a game initially announced 5 years before its release, but the original Cyberpunk games are replete with cybernetic augmentations, corp-hacking, high tech weaponry and cool, cool 1980s sunglasses. Expect all of that, and more.
Dead Island 2
Release date: ????
We thought the trouble was over. After Techland's series was handed to Spec Ops: The Line creators, Yager, we played demos that preached a new, ultra-silly direction. Apparently, that wasn't satisfactory - publisher Deep Silver didn't like what Yager was making, and dropped the developer it had instated.
Now, we don't know what to expect. The game is officially on hold, but not cancelled, so only time will tell what'll come of the First Person zombie smasher.