The Biggest Games to Play in 2016
By Matt Espineli on
The anticipation is building.
Now that all 25 of our Game of the Year choices have been revealed, it's time to look towards the future. And so, our editorial staff has compiled a list of our 25 most anticipated games coming out next year. The following games are all officially confirmed to release in 2016, so you won’t find any mentions of games like For Honor, Titanfall 2, or Cyberpunk 2077, which are still waiting on firm release dates. Join us as we fill you in on what we can't wait to play in 2016!
Following a delay from its initial 2015 release date, Nathan Drake is finally returning in April 2016 in Uncharted 4: A Thief's End. As the final chapter of Drake's saga, it follows the fortune hunter coming out of retirement for one last adventure with his long lost brother.
This latest entry looks to deliver on the series' signature storytelling and action set pieces. However, developer Naughty Dog is changing things up. The addition of dialogue choices promises exciting narrative possibilities, and the larger emphasis on stealth mechanics aims to provide added flexibility in combat. But what's most compelling is the underlying somber tone that makes us question if Drake's adventure is all that it seems.
While Uncharted 4 may be the end for Drake and our years spent playing him, it's a finale that we can't wait to experience for ourselves.
Platforms: PS4 | Release Date: April 27
Mirror's Edge: Catalyst
For many years, traversal was merely a means to an end in action games. Even if you had jetpacks or grappling hooks or low gravity, traveling from point A to point B was just something that needed to happen so you could go kill more bad guys. The original Mirror’s Edge, in contrast, made movement its core gameplay mechanic, boldly pushing combat to the periphery. Its stylish first-person parkour was in many ways a revelation, but its hackneyed narrative and flawed overall design failed to provide a compelling framework for its novel traversal system.
Mirror’s Edge Catalyst seeks to rectify these shortcomings by retaining the original’s first-person free running--as well as its lead character, an underground courier named Faith--while revamping the rest of the experience. Rather than discrete missions and levels, for example, the game now takes place in a massive, open city full of ledges, zip-lines, and climbable objects. In theory, you’ll be free to roam wherever, and if you’re feeling lost, you can activate Runner Vision, which creates a subtle path towards waypoints and objectives by highlighting certain objects in the environment. There should still be room for creative pathfinding, however, thanks to the city’s puzzles, time trials, and races.
Combat has reportedly been adjusted as well. Though she can no longer wield weapons, Faith can apparently execute fluid takedowns designed to feel like a natural outgrowth of her parkour skills. Unfortunately, guns or not, you’ll have wait until May before you can smash the totalitarian plutocracy and corporate monoculture of Faith’s dystopian future.
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PC | Release Date: May 24
Street Fighter V
Though its title doesn't immediately reflect the extensive number of releases and spin-offs the series has seen over the years, Street Fighter V represents over two decades worth of experimentation. It resembles Street Fighter IV on a superficial level, but behind its familiar presentation lie multiple changes to the core formula, which Capcom hopes will reset and reinvigorate the series' competitive scene.
Historical significance aside, SF V is a promising fighting game with an exciting cast that offers diverse skill sets and personalities. There are a lot of familiar faces returning to battle, like Chun-li and Ryu, but every character has been retooled, and thus presents different strategic options compared to previous franchise entries. This concept is cemented in V-Skills--special abilities that offer a unique advantage to each character. Where Ryu can parry an attack with his V-Skill, Nash can grab projectiles and harness their energy to fuel his V-Gauge, which, when full, allows him to tap into a powerful V-Trigger attack.
Compared to games like Street Fighter Alpha 3 and Capcom vs. SNK 2, Street Fighter IV's cast felt relatively homogenized by the introduction of the Focus Attack--a pivotal move that was ultimately the same for every character. While Street Fighter 4 has largely sufficed for the past seven years--albeit with a few major updates--Street Fighter V is exciting because it’s taking risks with new mechanics and new characters.
Platforms: PC, PS4 | Release Date: February 16
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided
The cyberpunk journey of stoic cyborg Adam Jensen continues in the upcoming Deus Ex: Mankind Divided. As a direct sequel to 2011's Deus Ex: Human Revolution, this latest entry is bringing the series' open-ended gameplay to a new world where civil unrest looms everywhere you look and where morality in the face of cybernetic augmentation is steeped in shades of grey. And as Jensen, you must face the pressures of this society that's on the verge of imploding.
In addition to its new story, the game also looks to be building on the previous entry's mechanics by introducing new augmentations, improved combat, and expanded weapon customization. With these various components and a new world we can't wait to engage with, Mankind Divided is shaping up to be an exciting sequel.
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PC | Release Date: August 23
Dark Souls III
With the next installment in the brutal Dark Souls series, From Software is borrowing from one its other franchises: Dark Souls' twitchy, fast-paced cousin Bloodborne. After playing the beta, it's clear Dark Souls III will have faster combat than its predecessors. Stamina also recharges faster, and dodging seems to play a bigger part than it did in earlier Souls titles.
However, this is still, first and foremost, a Dark Souls game. It's structured around sword-and-shield combat in a medieval world. Enemies can take a beating. They can also dish one out. And the various bosses we've seen are massive, aggressive, and, in terms of artistic design, gorgeous. Although Bloodborne may be influencing From Software's direction with its upcoming title, we're excited to see the numerous ways Dark Souls III sets itself apart.
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One | Release Date: March 24
DOOM is back, and it's returned in ALL CAPS. Following some rather disquieting leaked footage of the notorious shooter series aping Call of Duty, it's a relief to see those ideas scrapped and replaced with pure, classic, blood-curdling depravity and glamorized slaughter. Such brutality makes DOOM what it deserves to be: the kind of game that you want parents, focus groups, and schools to be appalled by because they'll never know what's cool.
Here you'll find none of the armed forces fetishism that the FPS genre has been awash with for more than half a decade. DOOM arms players with chainsaws the size of motorbike engines that can slice naked alien musculoskeletal models in half. It blasts white-hot balls of plasma from bloodstained, double-barrel shotguns and through the thoraxes of badass motherf****ers who barely flinch. No strategy. No cover fire. No slow-motion heartbeat scenes. This is horror, slaughter, pain. This is my gun versus yours, pig. This isn't doom, this is DOOM.
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PC | Release Date: Q1/Q2 2016
Alan Wake developer Remedy's new Xbox One game Quantum Break should be on your radar for 2016. Not only does the time-bending gameplay look promising (stopping time opens up all kinds of compelling opportunities), but the game itself is an experiment of sorts. The story plays out both through traditional gameplay and a companion TV show featuring people like X-Men's Shawn Ashmore along with Dominic Monaghan from Lost and Lord of the Rings, among others.
What's especially notable here is that the market Quantum Break will launch into next year is not the one Microsoft originally had in mind. The company had grand plans for a wide array of non-gaming entertainment, including TV and film content. But Quantum Break's TV show was one of only a small handful of TV projects that survived after Microsoft closed Xbox Entertainment Studios. It remains to be seen how the gameplay and TV show come together, but it's an exciting prospect all the same.
Platforms: Xbox One | Release Date: April 5
Final Fantasy XV
Final Fantasy XIV aims to change up the long-running RPG series. Unlike its predecessors, the game features a Kingdom Hearts-like real-time combat system and an open world to explore. Initially announced as Final Fantasy Versus XIII in 2006, the project has undergone a host of changes significant enough to keep it in limbo until it was later rebranded as the fifteenth entry in the main series in 2013.
It follows young Prince Noctis on a journey across the world to save his country from ruin. Accompanied by his best friends and his father's swank luxury car, he sets out to find his lady love and the tools to protect his people. The game will include features like cooking meals to regain health and acquire status buffs, along with the ability to drift on a Chocobo. You can drift. On a Chocobo. Think about that for a minute.
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One | Release Date: TBA 2016
Tom Clancy's The Division
If ambition won awards, Tom Clancy'sThe Division would already be running out of room in its trophy case. As an online-focused cooperative shooter set in a open, sprawling New York City recently ravaged by an unspecified biological catastrophe, it sounds--at least on paper--almost like a more grounded, third-person Destiny. There are upgrade trees and loot drops and ambient PvP and even narrative moments designed to propel the experience forward.
Unfortunately, ambition is just as demanding as it is exciting, so The Division is now slated to launch two full years after its originally scheduled release date. This could ultimately ensure the final product is far more stable and complete than it might have been otherwise, but we won’t know for sure until the game finally hits store shelves in March. For now, we’ll just have to continue daydreaming about stalking the snowy streets of New York with our friends, not knowing what we’ll encounter in the next building down the block.
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PC | Release Date: March 8
No Man's Sky
No Man's Sky is, by all accounts, the definitive open world game; its procedurally generated galaxy houses 18 quintillion explorable planets, each of which is created by an algorithm that uses galactic coordinates as determining variables. Everyone who plays No Man's Sky will explore the same galaxy and share the same information, with individual discoveries catalogued in the game's galactic database, The Atlas. After discovering a planet, you can seamlessly break through its atmosphere, land your craft, and explore on foot in search of new resources and alien life. Some planets--those that are far from a life-giving star like our sun--will be boring, while those closest to the center of the galaxy are more likely to house exotic landscapes and animals.
In No Man's Sky, wonder is tempered by the presence of an oppressive, robotic force, and those who exploit planets with a heavy hand will learn the hard way that not all boundaries are meant to be broken. No Man's Sky doesn't owe us any favors. There are no guarantees that you'll make worthwhile discoveries, or survive long enough to report your findings, but the unimaginable potential has us craving the chance to test our luck.
Platforms: PS4, PC | Release Date: June 2016
Horizon: Zero Dawn
Seeing early footage of Guerrilla Games' new project Horizon: Zero Dawn at E3 2015 gave us plenty of reasons to get excited: fast-paced strategic combat, tense hunting and stealth mechanics, and a beautiful post-apocalyptic landscape to explore.
But the game's most alluring element is its blend of prehistoric and futuristic imagery. Its protagonist Aloy appears cut from a more natural world, her outfit adorned with animal furs as she wields a bow and arrow. But at the same time, she's up against a world filled with deadly robotic creatures and abandoned technology. These two styles create an incredibly captivating juxtaposition that--when combined with its various gameplay systems--makes Horizon: Zero Dawn one of the most unique and promising looking games coming out in 2016.
Platforms: PS4 | Release Date: TBA 2016
The Last Guardian
Video games' white whale has finally reappeared. It has been in development since 2007, and was first announced in 2009 with a planned release window of 2011. The years slipped by and after several showings at trade shows, news on the title went dark. Then at E3 2015, Sony opened its press conference with a shocker: The Last Guardian was back, and it would be here soon. Next year soon.
We still know very little about the game after being such a mystery for so long, but we have learned that you play as a small boy tending a giant bird-dog creature called Trico. Together you and Trico travel through environments that look strikingly familiar to those who have played Team Ico's other games; drab gray stone, lush fauna, and creeping, living shadows color the world, painting a fantastical picture we can't wait to jump into.
Platforms: PS4 | Release Date: TBA 2016
The pending release of the first new IP from Blizzard in over a decade is reason enough for excitement, but it helps that what we've played of Overwatch so far has been ridiculously good. Compared to some other publishers, Blizzard doesn't put out many games, and even the titles that come out are rarely wildly different or experimental. Instead, the company develops focused, best-in-class experiences that make us see familiar genres in new ways.
With Hearthstone, Blizzard turned card-collecting and battling into rapid matches with endless strategic depth. World of Warcraft wasn't the first--and it isn't the prettiest--MMO, but it's still the de facto genre champion. Now Overwatch looks like it'll turn squad-based shooting with highly specialized roles into a game that's as much fun for beginners to jump into as it is for professionals to compete in. Unique support roles (Mei's ice cannon lets you create walls on the fly), crazy damage dealers (Hanzo's Dragonstrike literally goes through walls), and tank options, Overwatch has a class for you no matter what your playstyle. And that's on top of the intriguing story, which was introduced with a Pixar-like animated short in 2014.
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PC | Release Date: Q1/2 2016
Fire Emblem Fates
Fire Emblem Awakening was the first game in the long-running RPG series to catch fire outside of Japan, and it reinvigorated Nintendo's interest in the series in general. It's an ironic turn of events when you consider that developer Intelligent Systems was told Awakening would be the last game in the series, but because it sold well beyond Nintendo's expectations, Fire Emblem's fate was ultimately reversed.
This brings us to Fire Emblem Fates, the follow-up to Awakening. Fates promises a grand, multi-faceted experience and more of the same great combat and relationship-management mechanics that made Awakening such an engrossing game. These challenges are set in a world in the midst of a power struggle, and with three different perspectives that focus on distinct sides of the conflict, we potentially have the chance to dive deep into three new Fire Emblem games. You may need to spend a bit more than usual to see all of the next Fire Emblem, but if Awakening is anything to go by, it will be worth the cost.
Platforms: 3DS | Release Date: February 19
Good games offer the freedom to approach objectives from multiple angles. Exceptional games make it interesting to do so. The assassination missions in Dishonored were set in intricate sandboxes where Corvo Attano's supernatural abilities could produce dynamic, rewarding results. He could manipulate the world, its inhabitants, and the rules that govern his own vengeful objectives.
Although developer Arkane Studios has revealed very little about Dishonored 2, the trailer shown during E3 2015 teased an interesting set of new powers to play with. As Emily Kaldwin, the daughter of the Empress murdered in the first game, players use what looks like a magical arm to reach out and pull themselves across vast distances. Her “Shadow Walk” ability, meanwhile, transforms her into a ghostly black form capable of moving around silently--perfect for taking out targets quickly and quietly.
Corvo also returns in the sequel, no doubt with some new tricks of the assassin trade to show off. Since players can choose between the two characters, there are now two different sets of abilities available to get creative with. Letting our imaginations run wild we can’t help but get excited about the possibility of a co-op mode. Imagine missions designed around two players using the unique capabilities of both characters simultaneously to execute the perfect assassination. We can't wait to see what Arkane has in store.
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PC | Release Date: Q2 2016
In a genre currently dominated by decision-driven narratives in the style of Telltale's Walking Dead games, Firewatch actually manages to innovate. By combining the exploration and puzzle-solving of classic adventure games with modern dialogue trees that gradually shape your characters' relationships, Firewatch emerges as a fresh, clever take on adventure gaming, one that potentially relays a rich, branching story without compromising the moment-to-moment mechanics that make the experience feel like, well, a video game.
Firewatch even cleverly sidesteps a persistent problem from the past. Early adventure game heroes were constantly talking to themselves so players would have some idea what to do next, but here, your character--a volunteer fire lookout working in a national park in Wyoming--consistently communicates with his boss via walkie talkie. Not only does this create a logical, organic hint system, it also eliminates the need for tedious exposition, leaving players to feel that much more immersed in Firewatch's inviting, expansive wilderness.
Honestly, we’re still not sure what mysteries await us in Firewatch's forest, but we’re excited to find out when the game launches on February 9.
Platforms: PS4, PC | Release Date: February 9
Mass Effect: Andromeda
Truthfully, we know very little about Mass Effect: Andromeda. But then, we actually know very little about Mass Effect in general. Though the original game launched nearly a decade ago, Mass Effect's legacy rest entirely on the shoulders of its original trilogy and the epic saga of the iconic Commander Shepard. Now that Shepard's journey has ended, Mass Effect must finally break new ground, and that’s an exhilarating prospect. Its universe is rich and expansive, leaving BioWare plenty of room to branch out. Question is, which direction will they choose?
So far we know Andromeda takes place long after the events of Mass Effect 3 in the distant Andromeda galaxy. Judging by its E3 2015 trailer, players can once again select a male or female avatar and pilot the six-wheeled, all-terrain Mako in between gunfights infused with jetpacks and biotic powers. BioWare has described Andromeda as a "completely new Mass Effect," but in all likelihood, its core pillars--planet-hopping exploration, branching dialogue trees, cover-based shooting, and so on--will return in some form.
Say what you will about Mass Effect 3’s contentious conclusion, the Mass Effect series is perhaps the single greatest piece of video game storytelling ever, period. That, coupled with BioWare’s history of excellence, gives us plenty of faith in this project (even though it’s not Mass Effect 4).
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PC | Release Date: December 2016
After 15 years and five full console installments, the Hitman franchise has decided to hit the reset button. Opting for a subtitle-less prequel to Agent 47’s earlier stealth-action adventures, this latest Hitman embraces the open-ended structure of earlier games like Hitman: Blood Money, eschewing the more linear approach of 2012's Hitman: Absolution. With no checkpoints, few constraints, and plenty of open space to explore, players are free to be self-directed and creative in their approach to taking down assassination targets: snipe from a distance, don a disguise and go in with girot, blow up a building, find some way to make the whole thing seem like an accident--whatever your preferred method, Hitman aims to support it.
Perhaps more interesting than the game itself, however, is publisher Square Enix's approach to launching Hitman. Basically, when the game releases digitally on March 11, it will contain three locations, six campaign missions, and a robust Contracts mode, which allows players to craft and share their own assassination missions. Square will then add one new location--complete with additional costumes, weapons, and missions--each month for the following three months. If this all sounds a bit complicated, don’t worry, we've got you covered. And regardless, we're plenty excited to stare at the back of 47's beautiful bald head again soon.
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PC | Release Date: March 11
XCOM 2 asks a compelling question: what would Earth look like under an alien regime? In Firaxis Games' sequel, the aliens have already won, and 20 years after the events of Enemy Unknown, only a few humans are willing to fight back. XCOM 2 is bringing back the intelligent blend of squad tactics and overall strategy of its predecessor, but with more units, more locales, and more possibilities for turn-by-turn tactics. You can begin missions in stealth mode. You can carry wounded squadmates. You can select a variety of objectives to complete, ranging from simple extractions to search-and-rescue missions.
We'd be happy if Firaxis was simply adding to Enemy Unknown. But XCOM 2 looks as if it's taking everything that made Enemy Unknown great and making it better, with a new world to conquer and new ways to do so.
Platforms: PC | Release Date: February 5
World of Warcraft: Legion
There's a reason World of Warcraft is still the top subscription-based MMO in the world: it's a finely honed experience that gets more refined every year. Players return by the millions every time a new expansion is released to see the new content and to check out the continuously updated mechanics and options. Legion will offer plenty of reasons for veteran players to return: a new Demon Hunter class, better transmog options for old armor sets, artifact weapons, and, as always, a new level cap.
But World of Warcraft is also a great place for beginners to start, and that's what keeps it exciting for 2016. Despite being more than 12 years old, WoW will still be some people's first MMO, and it offers a streamlined, friendly ramp-up to some of the best adventures and raids in the genre. There are better-looking, cheaper MMOs out there, and some day WoW will come to an end, but Legion gives us a reason to continue to root for Blizzard's legacy franchise.
Platforms: PC | Release Date: Q2/3 2016
The Shin Megami Tensei: Persona series garnered renewed buzz thanks to Persona 4: Golden. And with a little help from unlikely spinoffs Persona 4 Arena and Persona 4: Dancing All Night, it has remained at the forefront of our collective consciousness. While it's great to see a beloved game get so much attention, it's time we move on. It's time for Persona 5, the first major entry in the series since the original version of Persona 4 launched in 2008.
Like previous Persona games, Persona 5 follows a band of high school kids, but these aren't your typical classmates; they lead double lives, taking to the streets as masked thieves when they aren't clad in school uniforms. The troupe lives in modern-day Tokyo where conformity is the norm for a vast portion of the population. Blending in can be a blessing for some people, but it can also be a curse for anyone with an individual spirit. For Persona 5's leads, their masks ostensibly allow their inner-selves to shine through during less-than-legal extracurricular activities, but could they be hiding something else? Time will tell, and we can't wait to find out.
Platforms: PS3, PS4 | Release Date: TBA 2016
Bravely Second: End Layer
Getting a resolution to the cliffhanger ending of Bravely Default is the biggest reason we want to play Bravely Second: End Layer. But there are plenty of other reasons this follow-up to Square Enix's quirky RPG franchise has us eagerly anticipating its arrival in early 2016.
The speedy combat system will make a comeback for Bravely Second, as will the unique ability to take multiple turns at once (e.g. a character can attack four times in one turn, but if the enemy isn't dead at the end of that fourth turn, the character will have to wait for the enemy to take its four turns). In addition, new jobs like the Pirate and Patisserie mean there will be new party combinations to level-up and experiment with.
The original Bravely Default proved that Square Enix can still make a great RPG that ventures outside the confines of Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest. If this sequel goes over as well as the original, it's possible that Bravely Default could become a long-running franchise in its own right.
Platforms: 3DS | Release Date: TBA 2016
Dragon Quest VIII 3DS
Here in the West, The Dragon Quest series may be second to Final Fantasy in Square Enix's RPG library, but the quality of DQ's prolific back catalog stands with the best of FF. Dragon Quest VIII was the first entry in the series to remove random enemy encounters and go full 3D, which made exploring the game's fields and castles more immersive than ever before. And like The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, DQ VIII's colorful, animated art style holds up well without the need for a massive graphical update to look like a current-gen game.
But the best thing about the re-release of DQ VIII in 2016: it gives us the hope that even more DQ games will get international releases. The sprawling Dragon Quest VII is already slated to come out on 3DS in 2016, so it's safe to assume that future entries might also come to the US. Who knows, maybe we'll finally see an English version of Dragon Quest Monsters 2 or the MMO Dragon Quest X.
Platforms: 3DS | Release Date: TBA 2016
2K's Mafia crime series returns to the spotlight next year with Mafia III, the first new entry in the franchise since 2010's Mafia II for last-gen consoles. This game--benefitting from the power of new-gen systems and PC--goes in something of a new direction in terms of story and setting. It tackles racism and the Vietnam War in 1960s New Orleans by putting you in the boots of a war hero of mixed race who is at odds with the Italian mob. That premise and the game's setting opens up all sorts of interesting possibilities. While we haven't seen much gameplay yet, the brief snippets released so far have been striking. We're eager to see and learn more in 2016.
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PC | Release Date: TBA 2016
The Legend of Zelda
The next entry in one of the most iconic video game series has been in the shadows for some time now. In 2011, Nintendo showed a tech demo for what the next Legend of Zelda might look like. At 2014's Game Awards show, Zelda creators Shigeru Miyamoto and Eiji Aonuma showed off a different game entirely, complete with glimpses at a lush open world. Details still lurk on the periphery as we wait for news on the Wii U's Legend of Zelda, but that doesn't stop us from being excited.
Questions have been raised as to whether the game will release on Nintendo's upcoming NX platform as well, or whether it will miss the Wii U window entirely. But Nintendo has almost always treated the Zelda property with care. And based on the brief demo Miyamoto and Aonuma showed us, we can't stop imagining what the legendary series will play like in a completely open world. Here's hoping 2016 brings more news.
Platforms: Wii U | Release Date: TBA 2016