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.
A Total War Saga: Thrones Of Britannia
The venerable Total War series of historical strategy games is trying something a little different with its new Saga sub-series. These interstitial entries (the next full-on game in the series is coming this fall and will be set in the Three Kingdoms-era of Chinese history) focus on very specific points in world history, giving players control over the financial, political, and military machinations of a major player in the conflict. In Thrones Of Britannia, it’s the period right after King Alfred of Wessex repelled the Viking invaders threatening England, turning the British Isles into an unstable powder keg. [Matt Gerardi]
City Of Brass has a pretty sold single-sentence pitch: It’s Spelunky, but first person. Reductive as it is, that’s very much what the team of ex-BioShock developers behind the game have created. It’s a first-person roguelike set in an Arabian Nights-inspired city that has you, a fragile explorer, battling skeletons, avoiding traps, buying valuable upgrades, and chucking pottery. You even have a whip, which allowing you to safely set off traps, stun enemies, or even pull them into spikes and pits. [Matt Gerardi]
Pillars Of Eternity 2: Deadfire
May 8—Linux, Mac, Windows
Obsidian’s upcoming follow-up to its well-received 2015 RPG—itself an obvious homage to Interplay’s classic Baldur’s Gate games—is swapping giant castles for high-seas action, with the Watcher from the first game taking to the waves to track down a rampaging god. Powered by a massively successful crowdfunding campaign, Obsidian is promising to fix all of the little annoyances that occasionally plagued the series’ first outing, while also pledging themselves to create a bigger, deeper world for players to explore, and more customization options to liven up the inevitable fights. [William Hughes]
Fighting zombies is fun, but it’s always more fun to cooperatively fight zombies with your friends. State Of Decay 2 is embracing that by introducing a much-requested multiplayer angle to the series. As in the first, State Of Decay 2 is more about surviving in a zombie-infested world than it is about just slaughtering hordes of brain chompers, requiring you to collect supplies and build settlements. That’s similar to the approach Metal Gear Survive took earlier this year, but State Of Decay 2 will do it with less sci-fi nonsense and without stepping over the corpse of a beloved video game series. [Sam Barsanti]
The Bit.Trip series rose to cult status in the late ’00s, making minimalist rhythm games out of simple arcade-like actions and chunky Atari-era graphics. But Bit.Trip Runner was different, taking the series’ mascot Commander Video and having him run through psychedelic landscapes. All you can do is tell him when to jump, slide, or kick to avoid obstacles and collect gold. Because he always moves at a steady pace, all of those button inputs and their associated sound effects are worked into the blippy soundtrack, which is the magic bringing it all together. Runner 3 looks to be sticking closely to its predecessor, which took the series into 3-D and greatly expanded on its deeply satisfying core. We’ll take more Runner however we can get it. [Matt Gerardi]
The biggest selling point for this third installment in Vanpool’s 3DS-exclusive tower-defense series is the addition of a new character creator: For the first time, players will be able to animal-up their personal Miis to fight alongside the titular engine-powered cowboy armadillo as he tries to defend a bunch of furry frontier towns from invading rock monsters. It still looks to offer up a mix of Sonic-esque rolling action and tower defense strategy, but given how light the 3DS release schedule is these days, more of the same might just be enough. [William Hughes]
Detroit: Become Human
May 25—PlayStation 4
David Cage is a lightning rod for argument, iterating, over the course of some two decades, a series of very specific ideas about the convergence of games and film. His latest stab is Detroit: Become Human, a wildly forking choose-your-own-adventure saga (based on a 2,000-page script) detailing a story of android uprising in a near-future Motor City. Digital recreations of Clancy Brown, Lance Henriksen, and Minka Kelly all show up somewhere in the dystopian saga, which, like everything Cage has done, will probably be fun, dumb, and fascinating in equal measure. [Clayton Purdom]
The original PixelJunk Monsters became a cult sensation way back in 2008, approaching the booming tower-defense style of strategy game with an offbeat set of characters and a cute animated look. That once pervasive genre has all but disappeared over the last decade—or more accurately, evolved into the Clash Of Clans formula repeated ad nauseum in mobile games—which makes Monsters 2 an especially exciting chance to revisit and reshape it. What’s more, the game has transitioned to a 3-D, psuedo-claymation look with oodles of vibrant color and soft focus, and the resutls are stunning. [Matt Gerardi]
For whatever reason, Japanese publishers decided to pack May full to bursting with high-profile remakes and re-releases. There are so many, in fact, that rather than clutter up the list of new games, we’ve wrangled all these revivals into a lineup of their own.
Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze
Nintendo’s salvaging of the stellar Wii U library continues this month with not one but two Switch re-releases. First up is Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, the acclaimed icy sequel to Retro Studios’ resurrection of Donkey Kong’s solo adventures. The biggest addition to the Switch version is the inclusion of Funky Kong as a playable character. He essentially acts as the game’s “easy mode,” using his surfboard and special ability to cruise through the game’s challenging levels.
Dragon’s Crown Pro
May 15—PlayStation 4
Soon you’ll be able to take in all the grotesquely proportioned bodies and scantily clad fighters of Dragon’s Crown in glorious 4K! Vanillaware’s fantasy beat-’em-up is making its way to modern Sony systems for a second shot at life, but it’s also not abandoning fans who’ve hung onto their original copies. Owners of the PlayStation 3 or Vita version will be able to transfer their saves to the PlayStation 4 edition or can even pick the game back up for online multiplayer sessions with PS4 players.
Strange Journey was one of the many games in the sprawling, multifaceted Shin Megami Tensei series of occult-obsessed Japanese RPGs to have miraculously made it to North America in the ’00s. Unlike the brand’s more popular Persona sub-series, Strange Journey retains the first-person dungeon exploration of the series’ origins, throwing players into a sci-fi horror story about a growing void that threatens to devour the planet. Things only get stranger from there.
Hyrule Warriors: Definitive Edition
Here we have another Wii U refugee filling out the Switch’s growing library. This time its Hyrule Warriors, the fun, fan-servicing Zelda meets Dynasty Warriors action spectacle. There’s not much new about the Switch version. It comes packed with the many extra characters and levels Nintendo released for the game over the years, and includes a few new costumes inspired by Breath Of The Wild.
Dark Souls Remastered
May 25—PlayStation 4, Windows, Xbox One
Dark Souls II and III were great, but the first entry in FromSoftware’s gothic RPG trilogy still towers above its successors. Now, Namco Bandai is taking this modern classic and bringing it to current consoles for the first time (including the Switch, but that version has been delayed into the summer), expanding the multiplayer functions and giving it a new coat of paint. Early glimpses have shown the remaster looking a bit off, though, with harsh lighting and smooth surfaces rinsing away the game’s essential griminess. Hopefully, the final product has found a more faithful middle ground.
Sega Genesis Classics
May 29 —PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Sega has done a great job of keeping its old games alive, faithfully bringing them to new platforms over and over again. This latest collection, the first for current consoles, packages up more 53 games from the Genesis (or Mega Drive, for our European friends), boasting a similar list to what’s currently available through Steam’s extensive selection. (The most notable omissions have to be Sonic The Hedgehog 3 and Sonic & Knuckles.) This would seem like a perfect candidate for a Switch release, but the Switch is getting its own infusion of classic Sega goodness later this year when the publisher releases a new Sega Ages collection specifically for Nintendo’s console.
Street Fighter: 30th Anniversary Collection
May 29—PlayStation 4, Switch, Windows, Xbox One
Capcom’s year-long celebration of Street Fighter’s 30th anniversary continues with this generous bundle of martial arts classics. It packages up the original Street Fighter (not a great game, but it’s the historical importance that counts) and every iteration of Street Fighter 2, Alpha, and 3. Sadly, it does not include the series’ red-headed stepchildren, like the polygonal Street Figther EX or the wacky NES spinoff Street Fighter 2010.
Purchasing via Amazon helps support The A.V. Club.