Thelast week showcased a number of exciting games coming this year and in early 2023. Along with the reveal of , we also got an early look at and .
But there was much more to Summer Game Fest than its online show. Select members of the press and games industry insiders got exclusive access to games at SGF’s Play Days hands-on event, which showcased several exciting games coming out sooner than you think. Some of these games included Sonic the Hedgehog’s first foray into an open world with Sonic Frontiers and Capcom’s upcoming fighting game Street Fighter 6.
These were the nine games from Summer Game Fest’s Play Days event that stood out.
Street Fighter 6
Street Fighter is one of Capcom’s most iconic gaming franchises, and the latest game is in a great position to revitalize the series in a big way. Street Fighter 6 brings many of the series’ legacy characters into a more modern take on the classic setup of a globetrotting trek to see who’s the world’s strongest warrior. It sticks to its roots as a 2D fighter. Still, it adds modern flourishes and tweaks to make it less daunting for newcomers but engaging to veterans.
I got to play Street Fighter 6 at Play Days, and it was a stunning fighting game to jump into. There were four characters for me to try: returning fighters Ryu and Chun-Li and relative newcomers like Luke and Jamie. Jumping in felt familiar but brand new, as the upgraded visuals greatly enhanced the series’ strengths for intense fights that revolve around reading your opponent and executing tactical, split-second choices to take them down.
Even with its classic roots, it felt fresh and exciting to jump into different matches without knowing where things would go next. It’s not coming out until 2023, but I was stunned by how impressive the game looks and feels. With more characters being announced, I’m excited to see what else is in store with Street Fighter 6, especially its intriguing single-player World Tour mode.
If there’s one classic gaming franchise that could use a-esque breakthrough, it would be Sonic the Hedgehog. I got a chance to play Sonic Frontiers, and it has some interesting ideas, bringing the lovable hedgehog into a large open world that has surprising connections to its classic roots.
I should stress that my hands-on time came from an early build, which had several odd bugs and technical hitches. Unfortunately, these quirks showed up quite often, but I still got a sense of the game’s ambition. 3D Sonic games have had difficulties translating Sonic’s speed into a new dimension. Being able to speed across landscapes with Sonic’s agility felt like it captured those moments from cinematics from Sonic CD, the ones you’d usually see before jumping into the more confined stages. My time with Frontiers is the first time since Sonic Adventure that I could get a sense of the series venturing into exciting new territory.
If there’s one Sonic game that needs to get it right, it’s Sonic Frontiers. I hope it nails its attempt to bring Sega’s speedy mascot into a new era.
Escape rooms have been all the rage over the last few years, and the upcoming Escape Academy aims to offer its own take on the shared experience of solving puzzles and escaping confined spaces in the nick of time. Described as “Hogwarts, but with escape rooms instead of magic,” Escape Academy has you play as young students who must master the art of solving puzzles under pressure. In this puzzle adventure game, you’ll interact with a group of teachers and students who attend the academy in between challenges, which you can take on solo or cooperatively.
In my experience, playing the game in co-op felt like the best way to play, as my escape partner and I would shout out instructions to each other. It created this impromptu social element that was fun. It felt tense being trapped in several rooms with flooding water, but that gave way to a thrilling sense of satisfaction when accomplishing a goal. Escape Academy is one to watch for those looking for a puzzle game to dive into, especially with a friend.
Lights and shadows are often left as background details to convey the look and atmosphere of games. It’s not so simple in Schim, a charming puzzle platformer that uses shadows as actual platforms to jump onto. Featured in the 2022 Day of the Devs lineup, the indie platformer puts you in the role of a magical creature called a Schim that can only survive in the shadows. Unfortunately for the Schim, it’s stuck outside during a particularly sunny day. To survive, it’ll need to jump from one shadow to the next one, all cast by everyday objects.
The concept for Schim is wild, but I found it so clever and endearing to jump between shadows to survive, often using stationary objects or timing your movement with moving objects. There’s a lot of activity in the various stages, and it was fun getting to explore and figure out how to best move around the level by shifting your camera’s perspective and looking at what’s around you. Schim takes the “what if shadows were platforms” concept and runs with it, and it’s a game I’m looking forward to checking out more in the future.
Tower of Fantasy
Coming from the developer and publisher Perfect World, Tower of Fantasy is an incredibly stylized take on an open-world action game. It’s clear Tower of Fantasy has similarities with Genshin Impact, which swept the gaming world in 2020, but that’s OK in my book. There’s plenty of room to operate with the premise of an anime-inspired open-world game, and Tower of Fantasy brings exuberance and depth with its approach.
What sets Tower of Fantasy apart is its focus on customization with your chosen character. While there’s a roster of colorful and energetic characters to amass, just like in Genshin Impact you also have a custom hero. This character can be whoever you want them to be, and you can give them a set of skills and weapons that fit your play style. Moreover, the world effectively blends sci-fi with fantasy, creating an intriguing world to explore. I dug the sense of style Tower of Fantasy had, and as a free-to-play game on PC and mobile, it’ll be readily available for players who want to jump on.
OK, get this, Metal: Hellsinger is a first-person shooter that’s also a rhythm action game. Think of it as Doom with a dash of Guitar Hero’s pacing and a heavy metal soundtrack. Playing as a half-human, half-demon warrior with a massive arsenal of guns, you’ll fight through a hellish demonic underworld to take down the ruler of Hell itself. The premise sounds like a description you’d read from the back of a vinyl cover for a heavy metal rock album, which is appropriate because the rhythm and intensity the music inspires is a core part of Metal: Hellsinger’s experience.
Instead of firing your guns with wild abandon, you’ll need to maintain a level of focus to efficiently clear out demons. You’ll stay in step with the music by timing your shots and skills with on-screen musical chords. This emphasis on staying in step to a specific rhythm can be tricky to grasp, and it can initially feel like your play style is limited by keeping up with the music. But once you get into the flow of Metal: Hellsinger’s music is thrilling. I was so impressed by how I managed to pick up on the game’s approach to musical combat. And with a diverse arsenal of weapons, you effectively have difficult instruments to use to unleash hell on foes.
If you’re looking for a fresh and thrilling shooter that puts its killer soundtrack at the forefront, then Metal: Hellsinger is one to watch out for. If you’re itching to give the game a shot, there’s a free demo on the game’s Steam page right now.
Soul Hackers 2
The upcoming Japanese role-playing game Soul Hackers 2 is another stylish and engaging adventure from Atlus, the developers of Shin Megami Tensei V and Persona 5. In the same vein as their previous RPGs, Soul Hackers 2 has you control a group of hip and witty youths who tap into demonic powers to take down some of their city’s most sinister forces. But unlike Persona and SMT, Souls Hackers 2 takes a more mature look at the seedy underbelly of a cyberpunk-inspired city, which will test the bonds of each member of the ragtag group of demon slayers.
I got to play a short section at Summer Game Fest, and even in that brief time, I got a sense of how stylish, fun and deep its combat and social elements are. Along with it being a dungeon crawler, letting you control your squad and fight demons in the city’s lower depths, you’ll also spend time bonding with each member over drinks and activities. Soul Hackers has a clever mix of classic RPG mechanics with a heavily stylized and exuberant tone that makes it enticing to want to jump into.
Star Trek: Resurgence
We don’t often get Star Trek games, especially ones that focus purely on storytelling and the intricacies of its deep universe. That’s wherecomes in, blending the sensibilities of classic Trek with modern games storytelling. Coming from developers who worked on Telltale’s The Walking Dead and The Wolf Among Us, Star Trek: Resurgence is a story-driven game that feels like you’re playing a season-long story from the era of The Next Generation.
I played Resurgence during GDC 2022, and I was impressed with the game’s attention to detail and its approach to replicating classic Trek. I played another section of the game at Summer Game Fest, which picked up at a later point in the overarching story.
With the game set on the USS Resolute, you play as two Starfleet officers — one who works on the main bridge and the other who works on the lower decks — who see a large diplomatic crisis from different sides. I do enjoy and admire theof Star Trek, but there’s still something enjoyable about the classic era, and Resurgence effectively re-creates that. This latest Star Trek game has some big shoes to fill, but I’m feeling good with its intimate and diplomatic approach to its storytelling, which is almost always the best kind of Star Trek.