Summer is a traditionally viewed as a slow season for games, with many developers and publishers preferring to hold off their releases until the busier buying season of fall. Conventional wisdom holds that people are on vacation, or in their gardens, and less likely to be playing video games.
This is also the time of year when annual sports franchises — Madden, FIFA, NBA and NHL — find their way into stores, sucking up mass market attention and marketing spend. (Those sturdy perennials are not a part of this round-up.)
Still, there are a significant number of releases across all platforms this year, a few of which could make claim to being the most anticipated games of the year. There are also innovative indie games to keep us from dozing under our deck umbrellas.
Here then is a selection of 25 original games that have been given release dates over the next three months. They are presented chronologically, by release date. In the meantime, don't forget our deep dives into some of the biggest games shown at E3.
From the makers of the outstanding Limbo, Inside is another sideways scrolling platform puzzle game that takes the genre's many conventions and freshens them up with a monochromatic backdrop that creates the convincing illusion of depth and substance while playing with light and darkness.
Players run, jump, swing and crouch, but also tackle imaginative environmental puzzles that reach into an unfolding environmental story about mind control. An Xbox One version of Inside was released earlier this week. You can read Polygon's review here.
Here's a reminder of all that '90s-style excess in the form of automobile violence. Players take control of 30 cars in 10 environments, doing damage to one another in multiplayer mode as well as to innocent bystanders, some of whom are in wheelchairs. (Ah, the old days, when such things seemed fresh and amusing.) There's also a single-player career mode.
Stainless' game may hark back to the glory days of car combat, but it's also an attempt to embrace the future, to resurrect a franchise that's taken plenty of damage in recent years. Carmageddon Reincarnation, a Kickstarter-aided Windows PC game that arrived last year, failed to impress the critics. Perhaps this console title will do more than spin its own wheels.
Videoball is a minimalist competitive couch game in which two teams (or individuals) seek to score goals on one another on a field of play that's part pro-sport, part retro-future.
Players control 2D players that release triangular projectiles that can shift the game ball goalwards, or hamper opponents. Power-ups can also be used to effect bigger results. Videoball comes with dozens of arenas and includes AI opponents and customizable rules.
Necropolis is a combat game set in a randomly generated network of underground rooms and tunnels, featuring plenty of loot drops and upgrades. It's developed by Harebrained Schemes, the studio co-founded by Jordan Weisman, who is best known for creating the Mechwarrior and Shadowrun role-playing worlds.
Weisman calls the world "one great big death trap." Art director Mike McCain likes to call it "Dark Souls lite mixed with Spelunky." It's a polygonal, procedurally-generated 3D combat world. When you die, you die. You go back to the beginning and start again, once again seeking new weapons, potions and defenses. Each time you play, the world is different.
Song of the Deep is developer Insomniac Games' underwater side-scrolling shooting adventure. The player controls a nimble submarine that explores ancient rooms, blowing away menacing enemies in familiar "Metroidvania" style.
Its main claim on your attention seems to be a colorful world and a set of appealing characters, most notably protagonist Merryn, who searches the seas for her fisherman father. She emerges from the submarine in order to resolve puzzles, and to appear in a storybook series of cutscenes.
A video game based on a summer blockbuster movie, published by Activision? It sounds like something from the deep past, the days when such things were common fodder in Babbages.
This foray into concurrent licensed fare comes in the form of a four-player couch co-op shooting game in which players fire proton guns at succeeding rooms full of enemies, before taking down ghoulish bosses. Ghostbusters features various optional characters, but none of them are from the new movie, nor the old ones. This looks like a game to keep the kids occupied, together on the couch.
Ostensibly, this handheld release is a celebration of the franchise's decade-plus of popular critter-slayer releases. But it offers two major new systems that add significant depth to the combat.
One is a style option that governs how the character wields weapons, while the other is a series of boosts and special moves that can be applied to weapons. There are also new monsters to be slain, as well as some familiar foes from games of yore.
This PvP free-to-play, top-down twin-stick action game comes with an unusual four-against-two-against-four competitive structure. Larger teams (humans) can be turned by smaller teams (mutants) shifting the balance of power.
Sony San Diego's game concludes when all the humans are turned, or bases are overrun, or time runs out. Apart from the unique playground rules, Kill Strain has a zombie MOBA-like feel to it, with human characters stronger at handling range weapons while mutants are more powerful in melee.
The first game from Square Enix's Tokyo RPG Factory draws its artistic and gameplay inspirations from '90s Japanese role-playing games such as Chrono Trigger. It also pays homage to the Final Fantasy series, with items and spells taken from those games.
I am Setsuna is prettily wintry story of the eponymous hero, a young woman with supernatural abilities, who goes on a long journey through perilous lands. The battle system includes a momentum gauge that fills up once the standard battle bar is filled, yielding extra power.
Cyan Worlds' successor to the studio's phenomenally successful Myst and Riven adventures raised more than $1.3 million on Kickstarter back in 2013. While it's taken a long time to complete, the developers have clearly succeeded in creating beautiful environments, especially with the VR version, which was much admired at E3.
The player begins on an alien world, where few of the usual rules apply, and must find their way home. Unlike in those old '90s point-and-click adventures, this is a 3D puzzle.
Chambara from USC's Team OK is a split-screen multiplayer stealth and combat game of hide-and-seek that takes place in a hall of silhouettes.
Players make use of a sparse environmental color palette to conceal themselves against backgrounds which then prove to be treacherously revealing. Enemies move, changing the angle of view and revealing the panicked player in sudden and stark contrast.
Described as Brave New World by way of BioShock, We Happy Few is a first-person survival horror game with a twist. Set in an alternative 1960s England, populated by drug-addled grotesques, you play as the one sane person, seeking to escape the madness.
The game resets each time you play. It's not just a hardcore survival game, it also demands careful resource management in order to not starve or die of thirst, cold or sickness. There's a lot of stealth involved as the player decides when and when to make the biggest sacrifices to fit into this strange world, by taking a dangerous hallucinogen called Joy.
Ocean life and strangeness are the intertwined themes of Abzu, a gentle quest into an underwater place of beauty, movement and color.
From some of the people who made Journey, players take on the role of a diver, trying to find out where and who she is by solving puzzles and exploring environments, some of which are natural, and others exotic and even magical. Abzu pulls the player along a lovely predestined path, lured by music, light and flow.
One of the most highly anticipated games of the year, No Man's Sky is a massive, open-ended space exploration game that promises an unlimited universe of possibilities.
Inspired by 1960s science-fiction, it tasks players with adventuring through the galaxy, journeying onto the surfaces of millions of randomly generated planets, each with unique ecosystems. Currency is earned by finding new stuff that is uploaded to a central database. Essentially, the player is an explorer. Survival, combat (both on planet surfaces and in space), upgrading and trading make up the game's other significant activities.
Hailing from Plastic Studios, the Polish indie team behind such experimental works as Datura and Linger in Shadows, Bound is a gorgeous 3D platformer starring a ballerina.
Set in an abstract, geometric world inspired by modern art, the player throws dance moves in order to traverse levels. According to the developers, this is a game that explores metaphor, as the central character uses dance as an exercise in introspection and self discovery.
This first-person shooter Metroid series spinoff gives players control of a Galactic Federation marine in which a single player or up to four co-op friends battle space pirates. There's also a sci-fi sports section. Player character mechs are tactically customizable to focus on offense or defense.
Federation Force was received with cool indifference at E3 in 2015, and not a priority by Nintendo at this year's Zelda-focused event, though the company had released a series of promotional videos detailing, among others things, exploration and amiibo support.
A massive stealth, action, puzzle and narrative adventure, set in a world in which the people of the world are divided between a despised minority who have chosen mechanical augmentations, and those who have not.
The players takes on the role of Adam Jensen, a man with a lot of special abilities, trying to get to the bottom of a global conspiracy. Mankind Divided is the sequel to 2011's Human Revolution. Five years and one console generation on, significant improvements are expected in narrative style and systems. There's also an extra section in the game, called Breach, that takes place within virtual cyber-security systems.
Based on the popular anime and manga series, Attack on Titan is a combat adventure that pits players against merciless, naked, human-eating giants.
It was created by Omega Force, best known for the Dynasty Warriors series. Presented as a third-person combat game, players make use of individual movement skills and weapons to launch fast-paced attacks on enemies while negotiating convoluted urban environments. Cooperative attacks are especially important to take down the huge enemies.
In Blizzard's sixth expansion to the world's most popular MMO, "the warlock Gul'dan unleashes a demonic invasion force upon Azeroth unlike any the Horde and the Alliance have ever faced," according to the company.
There's a raising of the level cap from 100 to 110 and new lands to explore, called the Broken Isles. Legion also comes with a new class, the demon hunter. Illidan Stormrage, the antagonist in 2007's Burning Crusade is returning, heavily tipped to be on the players' side this time.
Keiji Inafune's third-person action-adventure follows a young woman named Joule and her gang of robot companions (dog, giant spider, brute and more) as they fight their way through a sandy world of mechanized enemies that's vaguely reminiscent of Star Wars planet Jakky.
In trailers released since the game's unveiling last year, we see Joule making frequent use of a grappling hook. Joule must also color code her attacks and her companions according to the strengths and weaknesses of her enemies.
Bungie's fourth expansion for its planetary shooter arrives a year after The Taken King. Players must own that expansion in order to play Rise of Iron. The story is a campaign shepherded by Lord Saladin, master of the Iron Banner tournament, that centers on a Fallen incursion into Old Russia.
We're also promised a new strike, a new raid and a new Crucible mode. There's also a limited-use two-handed ax, among new weapons and armor that can be collected.
The third installment of Forza's action-racing spin-off will be set in Australia and promises the largest car roster and open world environment the series has ever seen, as well as a four-player split-screen mode.
A trailer released at E3 showed traditional street courses as well as rally and off-road racing, as befits the series that takes its driving a little less seriously than the track-based core game. Forza Horizon 3 will also support Microsoft's Xbox Play Anywhere initiative, offering cross-platform functionality between the Xbox One and PC versions; buyers of either version will be able to play the other for free.
WayForward's cartoon-like platformer is another nostalgia piece that was enthusiastically backed on Kickstarter before suffering long delays. Colorful and appealing in a fast-paced mid-'90s mascot way, it's the fourth game in a series that harks back to a Gameboy Color title released in 2002.
As in all the games, the main character is a genie who uses her hair as a weapon, while also turning herself into various creatures that can resolve specific challenges.
This year marks the 25th anniversary of Sonic the Hedgehog, one of the most influential and beloved games of the early 1990s. Undoubtedly, Sega's chief mascot has suffered some wear and tear over the years, with dozens of sequels or spinoffs, few of them memorable.
Fire and Ice is the follow-up to Sonic Boom: Shattered Crystal. Once again, it's a pacey platformer in which Sonic and friends fight enemies, with the player switching between characters to make use of individual special abilities and weapons.
The latest in Square Enix's epic series is set in a land that's vaguely similar to modern Earth, in which a prince called Noctis and his retinue travel and battle enemies. Grand in scale, the game's explorable world can be traversed on foot, by car or by chocobo.
This long awaited game features real-time combat that also offers an automatic pause mode for those who prefer a more measured approach. Final Fantasy games have sold more than 110 million copies over the last 29 years, according to the publisher.\
Hugely popular in Japan, Level-5's Pokemon-like game puts the player in an open world, seeking out and collecting spirits and ghosts that are loosely based on mischievous folklore myths.
Playing as either Nathan or Kate, the players uses the 3DS touchscreen to travel around the world, before fighting, befriending and recruiting the eponymous Yo-kai. Peppered with personality-laden cutscenes, Yo-Kai Watch is also a cartoon series, movies and a line of toys.