25 Coolest Upcoming Games You Probably Haven’t Heard Of From GDC
Coming out sooner than you think.
The annual Game Developers Conference is where you want to be in order to place your finger on the pulse of the latest trends in the games industry. Unlike E3, PAX, or Gamescom, GDC is a far more low-key show, where indies and AAA developers behind the latest and greatest mingle together to figure out what could be next for the gaming world. While the conference doesn't focus on the spectacle that other shows do, it's still a great place to check out some upcoming games that may not be as well known as others.
In this gallery, we've compiled a list of some of the most interesting games we've played during GDC 2018. After exploring the GDC show floor and the conference's surrounding events, which includes Double Fine's Day of the Devs and an assortment of indie games from the The MiX event--we've narrowed things to some of the most evocative and exciting games we played during GDC 2018. Here are 25 games coming to PS4, Xbox One, PC, and Switch--which are expected to see release this year, or early 2019.
60 Parsecs | PC
Surviving in the cold reaches of outer space with minimal resources can be tough--but it's even worse when you're leading a group of survivors who can barely stand each other. As a spiritual sequel to the post-apocalyptic survival game 60 Seconds, the space journey in 60 Parsecs takes things to the next level by having your reluctant crew of astronauts struggle to survive in the isolated depths of the final frontier. When you're not worrying about dwindling supplies affecting your crew's morale, you'll have to contend with mysterious alien factions looking to interact with your crew--either through possession or by bringing your junker spaceship to their home planet.
Despite the bleak premise, 60 Parsecs is largely humorous in its tone and pokes fun at the many tropes and cliches of cheesy '60s sci-fi. It's a game about choices, where even deciding to stay put and repair your ship could lead to drastic consequences--or a happy accident where you'll come into contact with peaceful aliens giving you valuable resources. Expected for release sometime in 2018 for PC, 60 Parsecs is a survival game that will make you appreciate the smaller victories you'll have along your journey. | Alessandro Fillari
Away: Journey To The Unexpected | PC, PS4, Switch
Lovingly referred to as "anime Skyrim" by its developers, Away: Journey To The Unexpected largely lives up to its name. Right from the anime-inspired opening credits, you'll know exactly the type of idealistic and upbeat vibe the game is going for. You play as a young boy who finds himself in a magical land after exploring his grandparents' basement and then gets caught up in an epic quest to save the world. While this type of adventure may seem familiar, Away presents it in a particular way that makes it anything but.
While the lead character is smart and resourceful, he's still a young boy with only a stick to defend himself with. Thankfully, he'll encounter many different characters--such as an old wizard with a pair of cracked glasses and a sentiment tree creature--who can join his party and tackle many of the more challenging battles and puzzles that their young leader cannot. One of the more striking aspects of Away is its unique visual style. With all characters and monsters rendered in 2D, within a fully 3D environment, it exudes a rather rich and vibrant cartoonish-vibe that bolsters the upbeat nature of the game.
Launching in 2018 on PC, PS4, and Switch, Away: Journey To The Unexpected looks be a rather fun dive into a bizarre and colorful world where all it takes to expand your party is to reach out and grab a friend. | Alessandro Fillari
Bad North | PS4, Xbox One, PC, Switch
Bad North is an endearing real-time tactics rogue-lite where you defend an island kingdom against a swarms of Viking invaders. To combat these foes, you command units of adorably tiny soldiers, each with their own unique tactical strengths and weaknesses. Bad North juxtaposes a cute minimalist visual style with mature bloody conflict, which is charming all on its own. However, what really pulls you into the experience are its mechanics, which are accessible, yet difficult to master. Situating units and executing attack formations is quick and simple, utilizing a rock, paper, scissors-like unit dynamic that's easy to pick up and form strategies with.
As a roguelite, there are some punishing aspects to the game. For instance, when the leader of a unit dies, all the upgrades they've accumulated up to that point are lost. While this sounds excessive, it never dampens the experience or makes it overtly punishing, as the game encourages you to play multiple times in order to improve and better hone your skills.
If you've ever had interest in real-time tactics games but were always too afraid to try them, then Bad North should be a proper fit for you. And for genre veterans, there's more than enough depth in Bad North's mechanics that make it well worth playing when it releases sometime this summer. | Matt Espineli
Bard's Tale 4 | PC
Mentioning The Bard's Tale may conjure up images of the snarky comedy game from the mid-2000s, but developer IinXile's second attempt at the franchise (third if you count the VR offshoot The Mage's Tale) attempts to be much more faithful to the spirit of the original hardcore RPG series.
It adds the modern trappings of updated graphics and first-person exploration, though the developers say that there'll be an option for grid-based movement and that some maps will be faithful, one-to-one re-creations of previous games' dungeons. But Bard's Tale 4 is otherwise a party-focused RPG adventure with a few unique additions. A playable GDC demo included the puzzle-upgrading system for some special weapons, spiritually similar to some of Destiny's special weapons. You can earn helpful upgrades after solving arcane clues and completing specific tasks like slotting in specific gems or killing specific enemies using that weapon with it. And the combat is the big change for the series; turn-based battles play out in a limited grid-based system where your party can move around to gain attack advantages or to stay out of harm's way.
And as a Bard game, there's plenty of drinking and carousing. You'll be able to craft a party full of hard-drinking musicians who gain powerful buffs from their alcoholic libations.
The Bard's Tale is set for release on PC sometime in 2018. | Justin Haywald
Blazing Chrome | PC
Joymasher has dedicated years to developing retro games that recall some of the best titles of the 8- and 16-bit eras. Its latest work in progress, Blazing Chrome, mixes elements from Contra, Turrican, and Metal Slug. These homages--specific weapons, enemies, and interactive objects--are immediately recognizable and guaranteed to trigger feelings of nostalgia. More than just look the part, Blazing Chrome features satisfying controls and epic setpieces, the likes of which made games like Contra 3: The Alien Wars such beloved classics in the first place. We only had the opportunity to play a single level, but it was everything we hoped for after watching the game's trailer, and we can't wait to get our hands on the rest. | Peter Brown
Desert Child | PS4, Xbox One, PC, Switch
It's hard out there for a young man on a desert planet with nothing but a rundown hoverbike and some change in his pocket. As a racing game with some light RPG mechanics, Desert Child puts you in the shoes of a drifter who has to earn enough scratch to keep his bike floating and fill his belly with a bowl of savory ramen. In order to make ends-meet, you'll have to compete in a number of races against rivals looking to make a payday.
Created by Oscar Brittain, the upcoming Desert Child blends fast-paced racing and shoot-em-up action with moments of calm that make you appreciate what you have. Despite the lead character's low funds, sitting down for a bowl of ramen and or simply lounging around on your hoverbike after races--win or lose--feel like victories in their own right. Desert Child oozes an infectious and uniquely cool style that uses a rather interesting implementation of rotoscope animation that recalls classic adventure games like Flashback or Out Of This World. Expected to launch sometime in 2018, Desert Child's tale of a vagabond trying to stay chill is one you should keep an eye on. | Alessandro Fillari
Doctor Who | PC, Mobile
The inimitable Peter Capaldi may have taken his last turn as the doctor, but the tales of his exploits live on through Doctor Who Infinity. The game tells its story through comic book style cutscenes that feature actors from the show, headlined by Michelle Gomez as Missy for this first story. Capaldi isn't a part of the initial project, though his lines are humorously filled in by Missy, though the game does feature a new central villain played by Bella Ramsey (Game of Throne's diminutive standout Lyanna Mormont).
Future episodes will release throughout 2018, each featuring a different artist, author, and cast in a new adventure.
Following developer Tiny Rebel Games' success on Doctor Who: Legacy, you'll advance the story in each episode by solving Puzzles & Dragons-style gameplay quandaries. However, a brief demo for the game revealed a few new mechanics to that puzzle formula that change up the gameplay and will introduce an intriguing new set of challenges that go beyond simple matching.
The first episode is due out soon, but no firm release date has been set. | Justin Haywald
Evasion | PC
Whether it's fighting against space aliens or zombies, VR first-person shooters tend to cover similar ground--making for a "been there, done that" feel when booting up your VR device. However, the upcoming Evasion--launching on Oculus and HTC Vive this year--expands upon what people expect from VR shooters, offering one of the most substantial VR-exclusive games in sometime.
Focusing on class-based shooting and squad gameplay with full range of movement with Oculus and Vive touch controls--Evasion pits multiple characters against waves of enemies as they tackle objectives and take out large bosses at the end of each stage. While other VR shooters go for a slower pace, Evasion ratchets up the speed by turning the action and movement into a quasi-shoot-em-up, where evading your enemies and getting off a quick shot is key.
Launching later this year, Evasion offers some surprisingly intense action and a sizable amount of content to dive into for fans looking for the next VR action game. | Alessandro Fillari
Lumines Remastered | Switch
If you owned a PSP, you undoubtedly had Lumines. In a stark library for Sony's ill-fated system, Lumines was a shining light of hypnotic rhythm heaven. The Nintendo Switch definitely doesn't suffer from the same dearth of content, but the introduction of Lumines is like a welcome reunion with an old friend; finally, you'll be able to take an amazing musical journey with you once again.
Lumines Remastered is coming to PS4, Xbox One, and PC as well, and those will undoubtedly be excellent versions as well, but the portability of the Switch makes it feel like the primary platform. That and the fact that you can sync up to eight joy-cons together with the game for a full-on buzzing sensory experience with the game. I only hope they sell Joy-Con compatible straps with the Switch version. | Justin Haywald
The Messenger | PC, PS4, Switch
Retro 2D throwbacks are all the rage in today's age. Often referencing the classics such as Ninja Gaiden, Castlevania, and Ghost and Ghouls--many games seek to reach those same heights, but few go beyond emulating the same style and tone of games from the 2D era. The Messenger--coming to PC, PS4, and Switch--balances its affection for gaming's past, while also crafting a game that pokes fun at the many tropes and challenges of the 8- and 16-bit eras.
Taking on the role of a young ninja, he quickly finds himself caught up in a grander conflict, forcing him to move between two vastly different versions of his reality, one 8-bit and the other 16-bit. While this may seem like a gimmick that's a bit passé, it's also tied to The Messenger's broader Metroidvania design, where you'll have to shift between the two realms while traveling through the interconnected world.
Coming later in 2018, The Messenger's focus on challenging action and platforming have many callbacks to the classics. But in blending together a humorous story that feels like a loving sendup to the era, it looks to have a style all its own that manages to show off a cool new way to experience multiple eras of gaming. | Alessandro Fillari
Minit | PC, PS4, Xbox One
How much can you get done in a minute? In the aptly named Minit, you die every 60 seconds, starting over at your house each time. With the top-down adventure gameplay of the original Legend of Zelda and a low-fi, black-and-white art style, Minit puts a spin on classic games with an interesting concept inspired by the cartoon Adventure Time (where each episode is largely standalone and a fresh start for the characters). To help you progress, you get to keep the items you collect through each minute-long playthrough.
One minute, you might talk to someone who wants you to kill some nearby crabs; the next, you've already died once, found the crabs, and killed them for a reward. Slow-talking NPCs and getting lost will hinder your progress, but part of Minit's charm is learning just how much you can do in an incredibly short time.
Minit is developed by a collaboration between Kitty Calis, who most recently worked on Horizon Zero Dawn; Jan Willem Nijman, co-founder of Vambleer; Jukio Kallio, a freelance composer; and Dominik Johann, art director of Crows Crows Crows. | Kallie Plagge
Mosaic | PC, PS4, Xbox One
First shown at GDC this year, Mosaic is a story-driven game about the mundane parts of modern life. Developer Killbrite Studio showed off 10 minutes of the game featuring a person commuting to their job at a generic corporation, though the full game is planned to be a series of vignettes. A significant part of Mosaic's storytelling is done through your in-game smartphone--with it, you can check Orwellian emails about tardiness demerits and play a clicker game as you stand idly on an escalator. (The clicker game even comes complete with microtransactions using in-game money.) The smartphone is an antidote to the game's focus on repetitive, everyday actions; just like real life, you can pull it out during the boring parts of your day.
Mosaic takes inspiration from games like Inside, and the team also cites Thirty Flights of Loving and Kentucky Route Zero as recent favorites. Killbrite Studio previously made Among the Sleep, a first-person horror game starring a toddler, and The Plan, a game about the struggles of being a fly. | Kallie Plagge
Mothergunship | PC, PS4
If there's one thing you can say about the roguelike FPS Mothergunship, it's that it loves its guns. Before you know it, you'll be armed with several machine guns and grenade launchers, which the game offers up rather generously. But once you dive a bit further in, you'll see the game's rather complex crafting system--allowing you to place connectors and modifiers onto your guns--you'll discover the game's true passion for weapons. In your fight against alien invaders, you're going to need more than just two guns to fight back against the legion of giant bosses and countless minions.
As a roguelike experience, each run will give you a random assortment of guns to use to take down your enemies. Once you acquire enough resources, you'll be able to craft and combine new guns, allowing you to place shotguns, machines guns, and grenade launchers--in that order--on one hand, with the other using flamethrowers and rockets launchers simultaneously. It's a gloriously stupid system, and the game lets you run with it.
Mothergunship's greatest strength--aside from its vast arsenal--is that it's remarkably self-aware of how ridiculous it is. And with its release in 2018, players will be able to experience what it's like wielding 5 or more weapons at once--all the while dodging oversized projectiles from minions and baddies in increasing difficult runs. | Alessandro Fillari
Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden | PC, PS4, Xbox One
Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden is an upcoming tactical turn-based strategy game developed by Bearded Ladies Consulting, a studio comprised of individuals who previously worked on Hitman and Payday. Based on the popular Swedish-made tabletop RPG franchise of the same name, the game puts you in control of a party of mutated humans struggling to survive the wastelands of a post-apocalyptic world. While the game bears similarity to the critically acclaimed XCOM franchise, don't let that fool you. Mutant Year Zero brings its own unique twists to the formula with an emphasis on stealth, freeform ability customization, and exploration across a large interconnected world.
One of the most compelling aspects of the game is the ability to sneak around enemies in real-time, allowing you to position your group of mutants in more advantageous position before launching into turn-based combat. This small addition gives the formula a nice spin, offering you more strategic control in your approach and a deeper sense of connection to each skirmish.
Mutant Year Zero's world and characters are also particularly striking; humanoid pigs and ducks walk alongside mutated humans across its devastated, yet mysterious post-apocalyptic world. At first glance, it's difficult not to be thrown off by its over-the-top '80s-era sci-fi tabletop RPG aesthetics, but that's largely what makes the game so intriguing when you see what it's attempting to do mechanically. It takes the turn-based tactical RPG, plays with its most well-established mechanics, and then houses it within a bizarre and striking retro post-apocalyptic world. If you're a fan of XCOM and tactical stealth games, then Mutant Year Zero should be at the top of your watchlist this year. | Matt Espineli
Noita | PC
Noita, named after the Finnish word for "witch," is a 2D rogue-lite where every pixel is simulated. That means you can burn, explode, or melt most environments; set fire to wood and watch it crumble, or soak yourself in blood to avoid catching fire yourself.
You play as a wizard who possesses a floaty sort of jump as well as different magic staffs. Between levels, you get a chance to upgrade your spells. Each level is procedurally generated, and death is permanent, so learning as you go is paramount.
We played a build of Noita using a controller, which made it incredibly difficult; developer Nolla Games is focused only on a PC release currently. But burning or exploding your way through levels is impressive to watch and satisfying to execute, making this a game to keep an eye on. | Kallie Plagge
Pathfinder: Kingmaker | PC
Games like Divinity: Original Sin II and Pillars of Eternity show that there's a passionate audience for old-school adventure games. But for players looking for a game that follows the Pathfinder ruleset, Pathfinder: Kingmaker looks to fill that niche.
For casual players looking for a general single-player RPG experience, Kingmaker will have streamlined systems that allow you to quickly make character upgrade decisions whether you're familiar with the Pathfinder ruleset or not. But if you're looking to create your own character, or just want to make very specific character upgrade choices, the game will have some of the more recent Pathfinder role-playing game rule additions.
The developer, Owlcat Games, hopes to have the game out on PC in 2018. And the team is exploring the potential for bringing the experience to console as well. | Justin Haywald
Pool Panic | Switch, PC
"The world's least realistic pool simulator" is an accurate descriptor for Pool Panic. In this animatedly goofy game from Adult Swim, you knock around an anthropomorphic cue ball to try and hit other balls into assorted gaping holes. But those other balls don't always want to go willingingly into the black unknown. Sometimes they're hiding in porta-potties. Or maybe you have to knock around a grill to scatter hamburgers on the ground and summon squirrely-looking balls from trees. And sometimes the balls are bears that will actively rush at you and try to knock you into the hole instead.
There's no limit to the strokes you can take to accomplish your goal of hitting every ball in the hole in this physics puzzler, but the game does track of how many hits it takes you to finish each puzzle as well as whether you scratch. So if you're an overachiever, you can go for the high score. Or you can do what I did and just indiscriminately hit balls with reckless abandon until they all fall in. Pool Party lets you make your own weird fun. | Justin Haywald
Rune | PC
Developer Human Head is resurrecting the Rune franchise, and it's shaping up to be an intense, violent exploration of Norse mythology. Formerly Rune: Ragnarok (now just Rune), the focus of the game is still on the apocalypse, but there will be a heightened emphasis on multiplayer both co-op and competitive. Story paths will let you put your allegiance behind the main pantheon of gods--including the instigator of Ragnarok himself, Loki--but the focus of Rune's GDC demo was the combat. The game encourages you to take weapons from your enemies and try out different combat styles. And of course it wouldn't be Rune if you couldn't rip off your opponent's arm and use it to bludgeon him with.
Rune includes ample sailing as well, allowing you to get to your destination in the northern wastes a little more quickly when you have to cross a body of water (and making sure you don't succumb to the frostbite of the game's icy waters). But one thing that was pointed out in the demo is that the 3km x 3km map is meant to prioritize density of experience over having a wide but empty world.
Rune is set for release sometime in 2018, and we'll be keep a close eye on it as it approaches launch. | Justin Haywald
Shadows Awakening | PC, PS4, Xbox One
In this Diablo-style action RPG, you take on the role of a demon named The Devourer, who resurrects a fallen warrior in order to continue their quest for more power. While most action-RPG games focus on a single character, Shadows: Awakening--in an interesting twist--focuses on your entire party, which is led by the The Devourer. In addition to fighting enemies in the mortal realm, you'll also travel to the shadow realm and fight specters as the demonic leader.
Blending together more adventure-like puzzle-solving and storytelling with its action-RPG gameplay, Shadows: Awakened focuses on letting players define their experience, with aspects of the world reacting to it. Set for release in 2018, this isometric action-RPG is one you'll want to keep an eye out for later this year. | Alessandro Fillari
Spartan Fist | PC
Spartan Fist is a game that focuses on letting you punch stuff. It's really that simple. Playing as a former detective caught up in a gladiatorial-style competition, you'll have to make it through several randomly generated levels through a maze-like coliseum, where the crowd awaits bloodshed from your ridiculously overpowered fists. Instead of swords and spears, you'll pick up a variety of different gauntlets for each fist, offering unique modifiers for your fighter.
Coming in 2018, Spartan Fist keeps things simple. Just punch bad guys hard enough, and they'll explode. The crowd goes wild, and you'll continue on to the next fight. What more could you want? | Alessandro Fillari
Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes | Switch
Travis Strikes Again takes the No More Heroes series in a very different direction. While thematically it retains the vulgar excitement of the previous games, the latest version promises to stretch the action across a variety of different gaming genres. The demo for GDC focused on a top-down beat-em-up that showcased frenetic, arcade-style combat, but it retains the series signature elements like shaking the controller to power-up your blade and saving by sitting on a toilet.
Eclectic and energetic, even by developer Suda 51's standards, Travis Strikes Again is likely to be divisive for the change from No More Heroes' previous third-person, cel-shaded style, but thematically, the game feels like a natural fit series for the series' edgy humor. You can see the GDC demo in from start to climatic mini-boss finish right here. | Justin Haywald
Untitled Goose Game | PC
Geese are notorious assholes. In Untitled Goose Game, you get to play as a huge jerk of a goose whose entire purpose in life is to cause mischief. You start with a goose to-do list that includes things like "get the groundskeeper wet" and "get into the garden," and most things involve tricking a human man and running amok.
Developer House House says Super Mario 64 was one of its early inspirations for Untitled Goose Game--it looked to Mario as an example of a 3D protagonist with distinct personality and character. And the titular untitled goose definitely makes a big comedic impact without saying anything (though you can press X to honk). So far, it's looking like a fun, funny adventure in being a little bit of a dick. | Kallie Plagge
WHAT THE GOLF? | PC
What if a golf sim were pretty much everything except actual golf? What the Golf is a cheeky anti-golf game where each level plays by its own rules. It basically works like a golf game in that you aim, charge the shot, and fire, but it otherwise doesn't behave the way you'd expect. Sometimes the club goes flying instead of the ball, sometimes there are portals, and there are even a few levels that parody Superhot and its time-bending mechanics. No matter what, though, it's a lot of fun.
Like the game itself, developer Triband has a sarcastic and lighthearted sense of humor. When we asked what their favorite golf games were, members of the team listed Quake, XCOM, and Hatoful Boyfriend--though they said they had played Golf Story. | Kallie Plagge
The World Next Door | PC
Anime-inspired visual novel/puzzle game The World Next Door is still in its early stages, but developer Rose City Games has shown off a short demo that's left us intrigued. It stars Jun, a human girl who's been taken to the realm of the monsters. Humans can only live a dozen or so days in the monster world, so of course Jun gets trapped there. She and her new monster friends have to figure out how to save her before she dies, and they also get into some fights along the way.
The World Next Door combines stylish visual novel storytelling and art with real-time puzzle battle gameplay. While we only got a small taste, co-founder of Rose City Games Corey Warning says the team is inspired by the narrative styles of Pyre and Banner Saga. This is also the first game published by anime and manga company Viz Media, so we're keeping it on our radar. | Kallie Plagge
Zanki Zero: Last Beginning | PS4, PC
Zanki Zero: Last Beginning is the latest game from the creators of the cult favorite Danganronpa series. At first glance, Zanki Zero bears visible similarities to Danganronpa; it features an ensemble cast, pixel art in its menus, and purposefully flat environment textures. But unlike those games, Zanki Zero is a survival-RPG with a light dose of old school first-person dungeon crawling.
The game puts you in control of a group of eight people--each representing one of the seven deadly sins, albeit with the exception of one--who have awakened from a deep sleep only to find Earth in ruins. Before long, they figure out that they age incredibly fast and are only capable of living up to 13 days. However, a mysterious arcade machine allows them to come back to life after perishing. This throws the group onto a journey to solve the mystery behind their accelerated aging as well as what happened to the world.
Age plays a key factor to the story and moment-to-moment gameplay, as your characters steadily grow older as time progresses. It even affects the abilities of your characters. For example, a character who is a child can only carry so many items and cannot brandish a weapon. As a result of your group's accelerated aging, characters are expected to die often, and depending on how they die, they may earn new ability bonuses when revived.
Aside from Zanki Zero's aging mechanic, one of the most fascinating aspects of the game is the intrigue of its story and characters. As to be expected from a game from the creators of Danganronpa, there's a host of secrets lurking in the darkness of each character's psyche. We only played a brief demo of the game, and we already have so many questions concerning the state of the world and its characters. Suffice to say, we can't wait to uncover Zanki Zero's myriad secrets. The game currently has no confirmed release date, but it's expected to release on PS4 and PC. | Matt Espineli