I’ve said before in the past (three weeks ago, in fact) that I normally don’t like Top Anticipated Games lists. A lot of times, game reveal trailers alone tell us absolutely nothing about the game and said games can end up being huge disappointments.
However, there are those that grab my attention with actual gameplay footage coming from reliable developers, some of whom I am a fan of based on their previous work. Also, there are a surprising number of games I’m actually looking forward to in 2016 already.
My picks for Top Ten Anticipated Games of 2016 won’t be games with insubstantial information like a teaser or one CG trailer, meaning games like Final Fantasy VII Remake and Detroit: Becoming Human don’t count.
Instead, I’ll be focusing on games that have enough details and footage to actually keep me interested for the entirety of the release leadup.
If you had told me the indie studio responsible for a couple of 2D dirtbike stunt games would be making a potentially infinite space exploration game next, I would have thought “Wow, that’s very specific”, and then “Wow, that sounds like fantasy”. Lo and behold, the developer of the Joe Danger games, Hello Games, is working to make a randomly-generated, potentially infinite space and planet exploration game called No Man’s Sky.
After seeing it announced from what feels like over 2 years ago, more information has been slowly leaking out regarding what the game’s about. Is it a space sim? Is it Minecraft: Space Mode? Will there be combat? From what we’ve seen so far and from developer commentary, it’s clear that Hello Games’ focus is to make exploration the key feature. There will be combat in both space and on land (notably to a much lesser degree) since Sentinels will hunt you down if you disturb ecosystems too much.
With the number of potential planets numbering into the quintillions (that’s one million trillions), No Man’s Sky is going to be a huge undertaking for me. Normally, I don’t like when games are too open ended. Games like Skyrim and Minecraft give me too many options that it makes getting started that much more difficult. With No Man’s Sky, however, the emphasis on just straight exploration at your own pace makes me want to take the time to sit down and give it an honest try. The potential’s there for No Man’s Sky to be a truly unique and memorable experience, and I be anticipating it in the meantime.
Back in the heyday of Kickstarter when it seemed like games were getting funded left and right, there was one game that really stood out to me (besides Shovel Knight). That game won me over with just its pitch trailer showing raw gameplay and a very clear art direction. That game was Hyper Light Drifter.
Hyper Light Drifter is an isometric Action RPG set in a world with ancient technologies just waiting to be discovered. You play as a Drifter, scavenging through ruins to try and find a cure for his illness. While the Drifter has your standard sword, he’ll also gain access to a variety of weapons, skills, and modules to face a variety of enemies, in both large sizes and groups.
The goal of this game according to the developer Heart Machine is to bring the feeling of SNES RPGs to a modern world, making use of both that style and the limitations of working with lower end hardware. Even though people may consider the pixelated art style to be overdone in indie games, good pixel art makes games stand out. The same is true for Hyper Light Drifter, and this direction allows the world to really pop as it should. This may be the only game on the list that has me hooked on its pitch trailer alone, but I have faith that Hyper Light Drifter will be worth anticipating in 2016.
If you caught my Top Ten lists last year (I don’t blame you if you hadn’t), Bravely Default had an entry in each category for good reason. It was and I still consider it to be an excellent RPG. it was also the game that opened me up to the traditional turn-based RPG style that I was resistant to for so long. With that setup, I expect Bravely Second: End Layer to live up to that standard.
Bravely Second: End Layer will be expanding the world and mechanics established by Bravely Default. The game takes place in Luxendarc (the same world as the first game) two-and-a-half years later, and will feature Tiz, Agnès, and Edea as returning characters. With the focus on story over exploration, Bravely Second has the potential to develop the characters better than the first.
Gameplay structure remains similar as far as battles go, but we’ll be getting some tweaks to usability. Many familiar jobs like the Monk and Red Mage will be returning with new jobs being added like Wizard, Chariot, and Astrologer. These will be sure to add a lot to the experience and hopefully they won’t be as exploitable as the Ninja class was in Bravely Default. I’m surprised that there’s still no specific release date of Bravely Second over here in the West. In that case, I’ll just have to patiently anticipate it for whenever in 2016 it’ll come out.
7) NeiR: Automata
If you asked me what Square Enix RPG I was most looking forward to in 2016, you may be surprised to hear that it’s not FInal Fantasy XV or Kingdom Hearts III. In fact, it’s a game that wasn’t even on my radar until I saw some awesome-looking combat at Paris Games Week last month. That game is NeiR: Automata.
NeiR was a rather niche action-RPG that I never actually played. Fortunately, NeiR: Automata will only be tangentially related to the first game. That way, you don’t have to play NeiR to get what’s going on. The part of the game that really tickles my fancy is that it’s being developed by Platinum Games. Unlike their involvement with Star Fox Zero, Platinum Games will be the primary team behind Automata, so you know that the combat will be good at the very least.
NeiR: Automata won’t just focus on combat gameplay. It will also be bringing in familiar RPG elements from NeiR, as well as storytelling elements from NeiR and Drakengard like Weapon Stories and branching story paths. The most interesting part coming from someone who hasn’t even remotely touched the series is that you’ll be playing as androids, not humans. To me, this seems strange from the game’s appearance as it looks to fall in line with your expected fantasy aesthetic. Almost every aspect of NeiR: Automata has me intrigued, and I can’t wait to find out more and possibly play it for myself.
I’ll admit that I was underwhelmed by Star Fox Zero when it was revealed at E3 2015. It wasn’t because of its graphical fidelity. As much as it may have bothered others, I thought the game looked just fine. It also wasn’t because of its use of the Gamepad. I honestly think it’s that kind of second-screen design that more Wii U games need.
My biggest gripe for a while after its reveal was that it looked like Star Fox Zero was going to be a retread of Star Fox 64. That really wasn’t something we needed again since the 3DS remake came out just a couple years ago. I wanted to see something drastic like Star Fox Assault or a better-executed Star Fox Adventures.
Now with the change in its release date, Star Fox Zero won’t be coming until late April 2016. My hope is that this will give the developers some time to really make the most of this entry. Instead of seeing Star Fox 64 HD, I’d like to believe we may be getting something akin to Metroid: Zero Mission. A game that is true to the original, but adds some extra content like new story and gameplay elements. True, only one sentence mentioned by Shigeru Miyamoto alludes to this, but that still won’t stop me from anticipating Star Fox Zero in 2016.
It’s not often that a studio would change genres so dramatically between their first and second game, but Lab Zero Games is taking on the challenge. Their first game Skullgirls was a fighting game with amazing hand-drawn sprites an in-depth technical system, and it had some of the best attention to detail and the player experience. Now, Lab Zero is working on their next project, the action-RPG Indivisible.
Indivisible takes inspiration from labyrinth-style 2D platformers like Super Metroid and the combat system of Valkyrie Profile. Exploration throughout the world will be reliant on your tools and abilities. For example, the game prototype shows off wall-climbing using an axe. Combat will be active instead of turn-based, and makes use of Lab Zero’s fighting game experience to give Ajna and her Incarnations variable attacks and supers. Of course, like Skullgirls, all of the animation will be hand-drawn and tweened. It looks beautiful, even in its early state.
Even though I am totally on board for this game, this is the only entry on this list that has a decent chance of never coming out. Right now, Lab Zero Game and their publisher 505 Games are running a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo. Their goal looks high compared to some campaigns at $1,500,000, but there isn’t any fluff here with initial funding for a first episode or stretch goals for content they hope can be added. If the goal is reached, Indivisible gets made. If it doesn’t, the game doesn’t get made. Now they’re sitting at a little over $1,000,000 with 17 days to go at time of writing. Don’t just take my word for it. Give the free prototype a try (available for PC, Mac, Linux, and PS4) and let that be your deciding factor on whether or not you’d back the game. As for me, I’ve done what I can and all I can do now is hope that I’ll still be anticipating this game in 2016.
Having come off of recently beating Fire Emblem: Awakening, I’m riding high on Fire Emblem and strategy RPGs in general. It seems like pretty good timing going into 2016, as the next entry in the Fire Emblem series is coming in not just one, but two titles. They are Fire Emblem Fates: Birthright and Fire Emblem Fates: Conquest.
As much as it looks like it, this isn’t Intelligent Systems trying to work the Pokémon magic on the Fire Emblem series. Birthright and Conquest will share the first 6 chapters, but each game will have stories, characters and scenarios respective to their own games. Birthright and Conquest will have the main character side with the Hoshido and Nohr kingdoms respectively.
Each version also has a different playstyle. Birthright will play like Awakening, and Conquest will have more of a time and experience constraint, making your decisions carry even more weight. Units types will also be tied to each side, and you can recruit enemy units to obtain those types not on your side. While Birthright seems like the easier of the two, both games look to be well worth their separation. An additional DLC campaign called Revelation will also be coming to tie it all together, and I can say that I’m looking forward to playing all of them.
If it wasn’t obvious by my Top Ten Boss Fights of 2015, I’m a big fan of the Persona series. Atlus really hits that special sweet spot between visual novel and JRPG that’s just not something you find anywhere else. That said, the last main entry was released 7 years ago with only spin-offs and remakes keeping it fresh. It’s due for a reinvigorating, and we’ll be sure to see one in 2016 with Persona 5.
Persona 5 will see the series make its return to the big city, this time taking place in the heart of Tokyo. The theme this time around will be freedom, with the protagonist and friends being vigilantes and thieves. Their Personas will also invoke this, as they are inspired by famous vigilantes from both fiction and legend. The antagonist will also have an interesting twist, as there will be multiple throughout the story rather than a mastermind behind them all (at least, from what we’ve seen so far. Atlus does like to hide those reveals).
Most importantly, I’m hoping that Persona 5 breaks from the formula somewhat. Randomized dungeons help replayability, but nothing beats a well-designed one. We got a taste of that in Persona 4 Golden with the Hollow Forest’s MP-draining mechanics, and I hope to see more design like that. Persona 5 is definitely a game that will be hard to wait potentially another year for, making it an easy pick for this list.
It may not be a popular opinion, but Twilight Princess is my favorite 3D Zelda game, perhaps even my favorite Zelda game of all time. However, it hasn’t aged well, and it’s one of the hardest Zelda games to go back to. While it’s nowhere near Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask’s N64 quality, I feel like it’ll get there given enough time. Fortunately, there’s a solution to look forward to next year with the release of Twilight Princess HD on the Wii U.
As a game, Twilight Princess has one of the best structures of modern Zelda games. Aside from the drawn-out opening-to-first-dungeon sequence and the initial difficulty of Wolf combat before getting used to it, the rest of the game has a good balance of challenge and guidance. These help to make the world and the dungeons in Twilight Princess some of the best and most memorable in the series.
The best part is that Twilight Princess’ main drawbacks will be fixed with Twilight Princess HD. First off, it looks like motion control has hit the bricks. This marred the combat with waggles and made aiming difficult since the game had the early motion delay issues of developing for the Wii. The enhanced visuals will also get rid of the awful blurry effect that the Wii version has. Twilight Princess HD won’t have the visual bombastics that Wind Waker HD has, but a cleaner and smoother-running version of one of my favorite games of all time is good enough for me to anticipate in 2016.
If it wasn’t clear enough, Genei Ibun Roku #FE is a pretty sharp (pun intended) left turn from what some fans expected of a Shin Megami Tensei/Fire Emblem game. Rather than being dark and gut wrenching as a staple of SMT, this crossover seems to be taking cues from the series’ spin-off games by having a bright, modern setting with darker undertones.
The Japanese entertainment/anime culture influence is pretty on-point and heavy from what we’ve seen, even by Japan’s standards. In amateur hands it would be overbearing, but with Atlus at the helm I’m confident they can pull it off. With the release in Japan coming next month, we’ve already gotten quite a bit of information, even more so than most other games on this list.
While Genei Ibun Roku #FE is an Atlus game at heart, they are taking characters and gameplay inspirations from the Fire Emblem. As characters, the Fire Emblem cast functions as this game’s Personas (called Mirages). The characters confirmed so far will be coming from Awakening (Chrom, Virion, Tharja) as well as from older games (Caeda, Cain, Draug). The weapon triangle will also be taken from Fire Emblem, while the magic system will stay in line with SMT games.
With systems this complex, I’m surprised with how well it appears to be fitting together. I got to see the game in action E3 2015, and ever since then I’ve been watching it over and over in anticipation. Fittingly, that makes Genei Ibun Roku #FE my most anticipated game of 2016.
So there you have it, my Top 10 Anticipated Games of 2016. Were they what you expected? Where there any that I neglected or that you are looking forward to more and would have put in instead? Either way, feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below. We’ll be finishing out Gaming Month 2015 with my Top Ten Games of 2015 next week. In the meantime, you can check out my Top 5/Bottom 5 Sonic Games here and my Top Ten Boss Battles here.