You’ve probably already seen all the news out of Summer Game Fest 2023, but as with E3 in the past, this show allows members of the media and other content creators to meet with the developers of many of the hottest games on the horizon. At Summer Game Fest Play Days, we spent hours trying out all the most anticipated games, all while discovering several hidden gems among the leviathans.
While the Play Days aren’t nearly on the scale of something like E3, which would typically happen during this time of year annually, the Game Informer crew has seen plenty of amazing games over the course of our time there. Check out our favorite titles we’ve seen, played, and talked about below, and be sure to check back throughout the weekend as we see more games!
Less than one year removed from his most well-received 3D entry in decades, Sega’s Blue Blur is hoping to deliver a strong 2D entry to bolster the brand’s recent resurgence. Sonic Superstars gives players the same 2D action they know and love from the classic run of Sonic games, as well as Mania. In addition to branching paths and the best 2D physics we’ve ever seen in a Sonic game with modern visuals, players can also play four-player co-op and utilize a new suite of Emerald Powers.
For more on Sonic Superstars, check out the reveal trailer here, or our full, hands-on impressions here. –Brian Shea
Oxenfree II: Lost Signals
Oxenfree II: Lost Signals feels like returning to a familiar place in a great way. I’ve known about the sequel for a couple of years – since it was announced in 2021 – but it wasn’t until I went hands-on with it during Summer Games Fest that it dawned on me just how long it’s been since Oxenfree first came out.
It looks beautiful and features some excellent voice acting. While it plays largely the same as the first Oxenfree – walking, talking, and using things like a new walkie-talkie or radio to communicate with others on the sequel’s Camena Island while selecting dialogue choices to add flavor to seemingly pre-determined conversations – it’s fluid and feels like exactly what you’d expect out of a sequel to Oxenfree. I only got a taste of the story to come, but my 30 minutes of hands-on time ended with an event that reminded me that at the heart of the Oxenfree series are strange phenomena and spooky happenings.
I’m excited to see what this appetizing taste is teasing in the full game when Oxenfree II is released on July 12.
For more on Oxenfree II: Lost Signals, be sure to read my full impressions here. –Wesley LeBlanc
Viewfinder is a first-person puzzle game where you use outdated technology to manipulate your reality. The core gameplay mechanic on display during my demo is the ability to hold up a photo, drawing, or painting and transform it into reality wherever you were holding it from your viewpoint. During my playtime, I cross gaps by creating rooms and rotating a photo of a bridge to create a ramp that lets me reach the roof of a building.
These forced-perspective puzzles create trippy effects that I never got used to during my short time with the game, but the perspective-based puzzles were so enthralling that Viewfinder immediately catapulted to the top of my most anticipated games of this summer. Thankfully, if you want to check it out for yourself, you can play a demo right now, or you can simply wait just longer than a month for the full release on July 18. –Brian Shea
In Hauntii, you step into the role of a ghost who has arrived in the afterlife exploring to learn more about your past life. While that typically sounds like the setup for a cozy experience (particularly with the serene-yet-striking art style you see in the image above), Hauntii leans closer to an atmospheric twin-stick shooter with enemies and obstacles to blast through.
However, that doesn’t mean you should expect bullet-hell-style gameplay. Instead, you use the twin-stick combat to solve puzzles and “haunt” objects. I use this to haunt a hillside, which does little to progress my playthrough. But by possessing a nearby turret, I’m able to crack open a previously impenetrable reservoir of resources and load up on health and shards. I enjoyed my time with Hauntii, but we have a bit longer to wait, as Hauntii is scheduled to arrive on PC (including Steam Deck) and consoles in Q2 2024. –Brian Shea
From the creator of the critically acclaimed Chicory: A Colorful Tale comes Beastieball. This Pokémon-inspired adventure subverts traditional team-building and role-playing mechanics by framing it all through the lens of a turn-based volleyball RPG experience with team member recruitment mechanics.
While it’s difficult to truly grasp the merits of an RPG during a short demo, I love how the game pays homage to the basic Pokémon formula, complete with wild-creature encounters. And yes, the battles play out as turn-based volleyball games with each turn allowing for three actions. Beastieball sunk its hooks in me quickly, and I can already tell it might be a favorite indie title of mine when it comes to PC and Mac in 2024. –Brian Shea
Mortal Kombat 1
Each successive entry in the Mortal Kombat franchise feels like a big deal, but Mortal Kombat 1 feels monumental even among the long-running, beloved series. Representing a new era for the franchise, Mortal Kombat 1 brings its brutal-yet-beautiful combat forward, while adding new levels of depth in the form of a new Kameo system where you bring a classic version of an iconic character to perform various moves.
You can read our full hands-on impressions of Mortal Kombat 1 right here. –Brian Shea
Lysfanga: The Time Shift Warrior
I hadn’t heard of Lysfanga: The Time Shift Warrior before Summer Game Fest, but now it’s a game I can’t wait to play again. Developed by Sand Door Studio, this top-down action hack ‘n’ slash is novel and polished: fight opponents and obstacles, rewind time, and work with past versions of yourself to progress through challenging arenas. The core goal is to destroy every enemy in the arena as quickly as possible. Impressively, the development of Lysfanga started as a student project at ISART Digital, an international video game institute, and is now part of Quantic Dream’s new indie game publishing label.
Before starting a fight, the camera hovers over the arena – often featuring door switches, forcefields, and other traps – and allows you to chart the best path forward. While you can make quick work of weaker opponents, more complex enemies require precise coordination to defeat. For example, the Twins are a pair you must eliminate simultaneously, which is only possible by killing one, rewinding to the start of the fight, and targeting the second unit. At the same time, your remnant loops your previous actions. Another favorite is a shield-bearing enemy that requires you to draw its attention on your first path and then attack from behind during your second.
Perhaps the best sign of a great gameplay system, I found myself quickly reloading arenas repeatedly to best my previous completion time.
What games are you most interested in from this month’s various showcases? Sound off in the comments section!
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