Wacky cartoon pool, a beautiful throwback RPG, and more games to play in July

Image: Pool Panic (Adult Swim Games), Octopath Traveler (Square Enix), Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker (Nintendo), Graphic: Emi Tolibas

With new games of all sizes filling real and digital shelves every week, it can be near impossible for anyone to keep up. So during the first week of every month, we’ll be here to help with a curated selection of new, notable games we think should be on everyone’s radar for the month ahead.

Octopath Traveler
July 13—Switch

Octopath Traveler is a title that’s both bizarre and surprisingly literal. Following in the footsteps of (and sharing a few key developers with) Bravely Default, this is Square Enix’s latest throwback to its early RPGs, a stunning combination of 2D characters and polygonal environments where players can choose to travel the path of one of eight unique characters. The game has had two lengthy demos hit the Switch already, both of which showed off its striking writing and demanding turn-based battles.

Pool Panic
July 19—Switch, Windows

Adult Swim has published a ton of releases at this point, but few have screamed “Adult Swim” quite like Pool Panic, a game that’s irreverent and stylishly illustrated and stars billiard balls with wild toothy grins. It bills itself as “the world’s least realistic pool simulator,” and from all reports, that’s pretty accurate. The designs of its many levels start off looking like a pretty faithful pool game (albeit with anthropomorphic balls) but grow in wildly different directions, building goofy new scenarios and puzzles around the rules of pool.

The Banner Saga 3
July 24—PlayStation 4, Switch, Windows, Xbox One

Stoic Studio’s Banner Saga trilogy is coming to a close this month. The Norse-flavored series is known as much for its gorgeous hand-drawn art as its bleak struggle for survival, and the third and final game in the series might be the bleakest yet. It’ll split your time between two parties of desperate refugees facing down the end of the world: one struggling to keep the last human city from crumbling, the other venturing into an alternate-reality of The Darkness that’s enveloping the world.

Sleep Tight
July 26—Switch, Windows

Sleep Tight is the first game from We Are Fuzzy, where the development team includes folks who’ve worked on projects like Far Cry, League Of Legends, and a few Disney animated films. It’s that cartoon experience that’s most obvious when taking a look at the game, which turns a kid’s fear of the dark and imagined bedroom warfare into a series of battles against some goofy monsters that look like they could’ve fallen out of a Pixar movie.

Remasters, Remakes, And Rereleases

Red Faction: Guerrilla Re-Mars-tered
July 3—PlayStation 4, Windows, Xbox One

Red Faction: Guerrilla is a brilliant game that does not deserve to be saddled with this industry’s most embarrassing attempt at wordplay yet. Yes, Re-Mars-tered is the official name for this HD rerelease of Volition’s open-Mars opus, a game that casts you as a freedom-fighting terrorist who wreaks havoc on the oppressive Earth Defense Force with hammers, explosives, and a rad-as-fuck laser rifle capable of disintegrating everything in sight.

July 10—PlayStation 4, Switch; July 11—Xbox One

There’s a roguelike equivalent for everything these days, and 20XX is your go-to for an infusion of randomness into the hardcore jumping-and-shooting action of Mega Man. We’ve been on board since the game’s stint in Steam Early Access, a lawless limbo that 20XX has since escaped. Now, it’s making its way to consoles, truly the land of Mega Man, and giving a whole new audience a chance to suffer from its devious delights.

Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker
July 13—3DS, Switch

The latest Wii U refugee hoping to find a better life on Nintendo’s more popular consoles is also perhaps the cutest yet. Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker expanded on the clever Toad-centric levels tucked into Super Mario 3D World, making an entire game out of their ingeniously designed puzzle planets. The Switch version, while more visually clean, suffers from a bit of hardware dissonance. Captain Toad leaned heavily on the Wii U’s touchscreen, and while playing in Switch’s portable mode gives you access to the same kind of functionality, you’ll have to resort to using motion controls and an unsightly cursor when docked. The 3DS version doesn’t suffer the same issue, and it’s frankly kind of amazing that we’re seeing these sorts of downports from a dead console to a seven-year-old (!) handheld happen at all.

Sonic Mania Plus
July 17—PlayStation 4, Switch, Xbox One

Remember Sonic Mania, the shockingly good throwback to classic Sonic The Hedgehog that salvaged and modernized the languishing ideas that actually made those games halfway decent? Well, Sonic Mania Plus is that game again, only this time there are a couple of additional characters—Ray The Squirrel and Mighty The Armadillo—as well as an “encore mode” that mixes up the look of the game’s levels. Plus is also the first time Mania is getting a true physical release, and owners of the original can buy its changes as DLC.

Mega Man X Legacy Collection 1 and 2
July 24—PlayStation 4, Switch, Windows, Xbox One

Having already put out two solid collections bringing together every game in the main Mega Man series, Capcom is diving head first into the edgier Mega Man X line and releasing all eight of its games at once. Technically, X Legacy Collection is split into two anthologies containing four games each, and you’ll be able to buy them separately (letting you avoid some of the series’ worst entries, like X7’s janky foray into 3D) so long as you’re okay with going digital. The physical release only comes in a bundle that includes both collections.

No Man’s Sky NEXT
July 24—PlayStation 4, Windows, Xbox One

After months of hype and pie-in-the-sky pitches, the functionally infinite space exploration of No Man’s Sky didn’t exactly light the world on fire. It did capture a passionate, tight-knit audience, though, and one that’s been treated to a suite of massive updates that help bring the game in line with what the developers had been promising all along. This month brings the next of those changes and attempts to rectify perhaps the most damning omission of them all by adding multiplayer support. On the day that free expansion releases, the game will also be making its way to Xbox One for the first time.