Top Games at Summer Game Fest 2024 26

Top Games at Summer Game Fest 2024

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Another year, another massively busy June gaming season. Historically, the month has been home to the Los Angeles-based Electronics Entertainment Expo (E3), but with the formal death of that event last year, Summer Game Fest (SGF) is now its de facto replacement.

Put on by Markham, Ontario-born Geoff Keighley, SGF is effectively one showcase and associated media preview event from The Game Awards creator, plus a hodge-podge of games showcases from the likes of Xbox, Ubisoft and more, all located in LA. All told, it’s a crazy time for games, with companies big and small fighting to get your attention. According to Victoria, B.C.-based PR company Evolve, there were 15 gaming showcases over the past week featuring more than 700 games in total. That’s nuts!

Thankfully, I was able to attend Summer Game Fest, the Xbox Games Showcase, and Ubisoft Forward to check out dozens of games, both in the presentations themselves and in media-only previews. This year, Andrew Mohan, occasional contributor and full-time Sonic the Hedgehog fan, was also able to accompany me, allowing us to see and play more games than I did alone last year.

So, if you feel understandably overwhelmed by the gauntlet that is Summer Game Fest, we’ve got you covered. In this piece, we’ll round up our ten favorite games that we saw or played at the show. We feel it’s a well-rounded list that accompanies both indies and AAA games — some that are doing genuinely inventive things, and others that are exciting throwbacks to our childhoods. (Note: for the purposes of this piece, we’re not including games with cinematic trailers; we have to have at least seen a good chunk of gameplay — sorry, Gears of War: E-Day).

### Afterlove EP
Platform: PS4, PS5, Xbox Series X/S, Nintendo Switch, PC
Release date: Q3 2024

This title stood out to me despite spending a short amount of time playing it. Afterlove EP is a story about Rama, a young guitarist based in Jakarta who is grieving after his girlfriend’s sudden death. This resonated with me for a number of reasons. Perhaps it’s because Afterlove EP reminded me of the anime Bocchi the Rock or that it’s a life-sim rhythm game with a Persona-like calendar system.

However, what most intrigued me was the game’s theme of grieving while learning to move forward with life. For example, you get a sense of Rama’s headspace right from the start because he’s using his girlfriend’s voice as a coping mechanism to react to the environment as if she were there. Afterlove EP’s theme also connects to this game’s development, as the original creator passed away in 2022. As a result, the developers wanted to complete this game in his honor.

Despite spending such a short time with it, Afterlove EP quickly had my attention and it’s looking like a great game to keep your eye out for.

### Astro Bot
Platform: PS5
Release date: September 6th, 2024

I haven’t stopped thinking about Astro Bot since I played it almost a week ago. Team Asobi has taken the innovative DualSense features and abundant charm of the PS5 pack-in game Astro’s Playroom and dialed it up to 11 in a full-blown 12- to 15-hour experience. After my nearly one-hour hands-on demo, I’d even go so far as to say the game feels like Sony’s first true answer to Nintendo platformers after all these years — a joyous and grand adventure just bursting with endless creativity and variety in the spirit of Super Mario Galaxy.

All the while, Team Asobi has come up with some truly creative ways to feature familiar PlayStation characters like Kratos (God of War) and Nathan Drake (Uncharted), ensuring that it should be an even greater nostalgic celebration of the history of the platform. With over 150 of them this time around, I can’t wait to see how they all factor into Astro’s latest adventure.

For more on Astro Bot, check out my preview and interview with Team Asobi creative director Nicolas Doucet.

### Clair Obscur: Expedition 33
Platform: PS5, Xbox Series X/S (plus Xbox Game Pass), PC
Release date: 2025

It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of JRPGs, particularly Final Fantasy, and Sandfall Interactive’s Clair Obscur: Expedition 33, which was unveiled during the Xbox Games Showcase, seems to be the quintessential Brad game. First, its Belle Époque France-inspired aesthetic is simply stunning, offering a wholly unique take on a high fantasy setting. Its story, which centers around a group of people rebelling against a mysterious paintress who can basically “Thanos-snap” people of a certain age out of existence every year, looks to be an intriguing spin on the archetypal “defying fate” story. And its gameplay, which is a glorious marriage of good-old-fashioned turn-based combat with real-time mechanics like free-aim guns, seems to be the perfect compromise between classic and modern design conventions.

Oh, and Expedition 33 features actor Ben Starr, the magnificent and oh-so-charismatic lead of last year’s excellent Final Fantasy XVI, which just sweetens the deal.

### Dragon Ball Z: Sparking! Zero
Platform: PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S, PC
Release date: October 10th, 2024

One game that really tugged at my nostalgic heartstrings was Dragon Ball: Sparking! Zero. I had the opportunity to play 30 minutes of the game and I can confidently say that it’s what I’ve been waiting for since Tenkaichi 3’s release 17 years ago. Like what Super Smash Bros. Ultimate did for its series by reuniting and introducing new characters to the roster, Sparking! Zero aims to do that for Dragon Ball fans both old and new. Unlike the other 3D Dragon Ball arena fighters, this game finally unites Dragon Ball: Super with the other series. This means that you’ll be able to play new characters such as Goku Black, Jiren and Super’s Broly. Keeping with the Tenkaichi games, there will be well over 100 characters during release, with more being added as DLC. Another feature that interested me was giving dialogue choices to the player during the story mode, serving as what-if scenarios to give fans a new experience. I used to love these in the original Budokai, where you see Cell fusing with Krillin instead of Android 18 or Vegeta experiencing Super Saiyan after his first battle with Goku. Considering that we’re getting a complete story mode this time around, there should be multiple alternate scenarios that players can experience.

But the most exciting announcement that awakened my inner child was the ability to customize different scenarios. As a young kid, I always made up various story scenarios to justify the crazy combination of characters I would fight against. In Sparking! Zero, you can actually share those crazy stories online with a customizable battle mode, where you can choose the characters, battle environment, effect/scene setting, and even edit the title card. Meanwhile, Sparking! Zero looks and most of all, plays like a new Tenkaichi title (you can even switch to a different control scheme to replicate the one in previous games).

It feels like Bandai Namco understood what Dragon Ball fans have been craving for a long time. Along with Metaphor: ReFantazio, this is my most anticipated game of the year.

### Harmonium: The Musical
Platforms: Netflix Games (Android and iOS), Xbox Series X/S (plus Xbox Game Pass)
Release date: TBA

Harmonium The Musical is a really unique puzzle-solving narrative-adventure game with charming Pixar-esque animation. Structurally, it’s centered around a musical (hence the title) and Harmony Macato, this game’s protagonist, is a Filipina-American who became deaf when she was younger. However, she’s also finding her place because she was born into a family of musicians.

Harmony is putting together her first show for her friends and ends up being transported to Harmonium, a world where musical instruments merge with the environment. It reminded me a little of Disney’s Fantasia. Throughout my time with the demo, I found the puzzles very interesting because they revolved around using the “Harmonium Sign Language” since Harmony uses American Sign Language and her companion in this world doesn’t understand. It means that you have to interpret the answers through each character’s animations.

Overall, Harmonium The Musical was an endearing experience full of heart and I can’t wait to play it when the game fully releases.

### Life is Strange: Double Exposure
Platform: PS5, Xbox Series X/S, Nintendo Switch, PC
Release date: October 29th, 2024

Dontnod’s original Life is Strange came out at the perfect time for me. During a period of isolation in university, I found myself deeply connected to this coming-of-age story of teenager Max Caulfield, a nerdy but kindhearted outcast, and her touching yet fleeting reconnection with her childhood friend Chloe Price. Therefore, the revelation that an older Max would star in a new Life is Strange murder mystery got me feeling both nostalgic and eager to see how they continue to develop her character in more mature and relatable ways.

That Double Exposure hails from Deck Nine, the studio behind the excellent Life is Strange: True Colors, only further excites me. At the same time, it’s clear that Deck Nine is taking care to honor the legacy of Dontnod’s work, particularly by allowing players to choose which ending is canon and offering different scenes throughout the story to show the impact of that decision. Bring on all the feels.

### Metaphor: ReFantazio
Platforms: PlayStation 4/5, Xbox Series X and S, PC
Release date: October 11th, 2024

Formally revealed at last year’s Summer Game Fest, Metaphor: ReFantazio once again stole the show with a playable demo that showcased its story, dungeon gameplay, and a boss fight. From the brief time that I played, Metaphor, which hails from Studio Zero (a team of former Persona developers), looks like exactly what I wanted from an Atlus game, both in aesthetics and tone.

For starters, Metaphor takes place in a medieval fantasy setting, where different beings exist with one another. For example, your character has a fairy companion, but over your adventures, you can recruit elves and even a bunny rabbit. However, if you’re concerned that this fantasy setting will lead to Atlus being complacent, you’d be wrong. Like other Atlus games known for taking a wacky turn, this demo teases quite a few interesting story bits, like referencing our modern world and the enemies being called “humans.” Very metaphorical, wouldn’t you say?

Metaphor also reintroduces mechanics from the Persona series, such as quick battles (where you can attack low-level enemies without triggering the turn-based combat), a front/back row system, and fusion spells. Overall, Metaphor’s battle system looks to take the improvements from Persona 5 Royal and combine them with other established gameplay mechanics to create great turn-based combat. And like with Persona 5 Royal where Confidants expanded the game’s RPG mechanics, it’s very likely that Metaphor will replicate this with its bonds system.

From the music (which reaffirms Persona composer Shoji Meguro’s brilliance), battle system, and overall theme, this title captivated me in all the right ways. Metaphor: ReFantazio is quickly shaping up to be a Game of the Year contender.

### Phantom Blade: Zero
Platform: PS5, PC
Release date: TBA

Try as I might, I can’t get into most ‘Soulslikes,’ the masterful Bloodborne excluded, so I had concerns that S-Game’s Phantom Blade: Zero might be the latest in a never-ending list of games chasing that trend. Upon starting the demo, though, I was delighted to find that it’s far more of a Ninja Gaiden- or Metal Gear Rising-style action game. Sure, the tone feels reminiscent of FromSoftware’s work, but the actual combat is decidedly faster-paced and far more combo-driven.

In this way, I found it far more enjoyable, as it’s still quite challenging (an in-game tracker said I died 10 times in the 20-minute demo) while emphasizing deep and stylish combos that you’ll string together between a slew of different customizable pairs of weapons. Questions remain about how the overall story and pacing of the game will fare, especially in what S-Game is calling a “semi-open-world,” but above all else, an action game requires tight combat and engaging boss fights, and so far, I’m extremely satisfied in those regards.

### Sonic x Shadow Generations
Platform: PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, Nintendo Switch, PC
Release date: October 25th, 2024

While Brad Shankar is the Final Fantasy stan at the site, my contribution is largely based on my bread and butter, Sonic the Hedgehog. As such, I was excited to try out Sonic x Shadow Generations, a remastered version of Sonic’s 20th-anniversary game back in 2011. Though I was initially skeptical, I’m now more excited to re-experience one of the best Sonic games in history along with some new side content. In the original game, our lovable edgelord Shadow the Hedgehog was just a boss fight (and in my opinion, was the best one). However, in this crossover title, Sega delivered what I’ve been asking for since Generations’ initial release — more stages and boss fights — and it even goes above and beyond that.

During Shadow’s Space Colony Ark stage, we got references to Sonic Adventure 2, Shadow the Hedgehog, and even Sonic 06 through both his moveset and story beats. Shadow’s personality was further displayed in the Biolizard boss fight, with amazing one-liners and over-the-top setpieces. My only criticism is that I’ve played Sonic Generations to death, so the muscle memory with the different control schemes (such as using the homing attack) was hard to adjust to. My hope is that there will be a different control layout (or even customizable controls) so it’s similar to the original.

Overall, I couldn’t help but have a massive goofy smile on my face after playing through this demo because I had a great time. It was clear that the developers embraced the edginess and wanted to deliver a new experience fit for the ultimate lifeform. I can’t wait to experience playing as Shadow the Edgehog once again and see what this new story offers.

### Star Wars Outlaws
Platform: PS5, PC
Release date: TBA

Massive Entertainment’s Star Wars Outlaws is checking all of the right boxes for me. Rather than following yet another Jedi or rebel, it’s using the original trilogy era to explore the seedy underbelly of the Galactic Empire from the perspective of a plucky and self-interested scoundrel, Kay Vess. In my hour-long demo, I got to explore an Imperial base, a High Republic cruiser, and the hideouts of two shady criminals. If the brilliant Andor series showed us the lengths to which everyday folk have to struggle to survive under the Empire’s heel, Outlaws lets you actually live that all out.

Meanwhile, instead of featuring lightsaber and Force power combat like many Star Wars games before it, Outlaws focuses on a mix of tight stealth and blaster combat in which your adorable alien companion, Nix, can be commanded to support both playstyles by distracting enemies, fetching you powerful limited-use weapons, and more. And while my demo frustratingly ended right before I could explore the open world, the first true one of its kind in the Star Wars game canon, the GTA-style wanted mechanic and criminal syndicate favor system sound like excellent ways to make the world feel more dynamic and reactive to your actions.

These were the best games that were seen and played at Summer Game Fest, offering a diverse range of experiences and genres to appeal to gamers of all kinds.