Best New Video Games and Upcoming Releases of Summer 2024

It’s mid-May, which means that you’re probably ready to touch some real grass rather than the virtual kind. That’s understandable, but the typically slower summer months of video-game releases nonetheless look set to deliver ample entertainment for those languid afternoons when all you want to do is kick back with a controller. What have we got to look forward to? Namely, an expansion (and maybe even a pseudo-sequel in terms of scope) to the most widely beloved action RPGs of recent times, a Star Wars game that could finally deliver on the space-hopping fantasy of the movies, and a life simulator that looks set to surpass The Sims in terms of sheer existence-simulating ambition. It’s a testament to how varied games have become that there’s practically something for everyone hitting (virtual) shelves in the next few months.

This year has already yielded a handful of exceptional 2-D action-platformers, and the winning streak for the seemingly indefatigable genre could yet continue with the intriguing “Taopunk” of Nine Sols. Developed by Taiwan-based studio Red Candle Games, whose previous game was the 2019 first-person psychological horror Devotion, Nine Sols rocks an altogether cuter cartoon aesthetic, but that doesn’t mean its sense of place isn’t any less evocative. You play as Yi, a sword-wielding protagonist who is able to deflect enemy attacks, bringing to mind FromSoftware’s 2019 3-D action game Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice. If all these elements coalesce — the rich lore, pinpoint platforming, and deflection-focused combat — then Nine Sols could yet stand above 2024’s already outstanding 2-D cohort.

The Destiny formula has proven itself incredibly resilient over the ten years since the original was released. Combine rock-solid, first-class gunplay with captivating sci-fi settings, all while releasing semi-regular updates that whisk players off to new locales, and you have the makings of a modern multiplayer hit. But last year’s Lightfall expansion was a damp squib, churlishly drip-feeding levels that really should have been included in one big update. The Final Shape looks to make good where Lightfall fell short, delivering a rip-roaring conclusion to the “Light and Darkness Saga,” and likely laying the groundwork for whatever comes next in the Destiny franchise.

In recent years, the Persona series has eclipsed Shin Megami Tensei in popularity, a somewhat strange situation considering it actually began as a spinoff of that franchise. Where the turn-based RPG Persona explores both the humdrum and fantastical elements of its school-age protagonists’ lives, Shin Megami Tensei is darker, crueler, and more unsettling, tasking you with recruiting demons and gods to fight by your side in a twisted, postapocalyptic version of our world. Shin Megami Tensei V was originally released in 2021 and only for Nintendo Switch, but this new version boasts upgraded visuals and additional story content for every major console going. For newcomers, it’s perhaps the best place to start with the decorated series that has long offered an enjoyably deviant slant on the JRPG.

The latest game from the Chinese Room, maker of landmark walking simulators Dear Esther and Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture, sees it pivot to horror. Still Wakes the Deep is set during Christmas 1975 on an oil rig off the coast of Scotland. Like the studio’s previous games, there’s no combat, but that doesn’t mean the experience lacks action as you’re tasked with traversing the rickety rig at the mercy of the elements and something altogether more supernaturally terrifying. By appearing to suggest that nothing good can come of drilling down into the earth’s crust, Still Wakes the Deep could turn out to be a pressing slice of ecohorror.

What lurks in the shadow of the erdtree? If you’ve played the original Elden Ring, you know the answer is a rogues’ gallery of grotesque, menacing, and downright bizarre monsters including, as per the reveal trailer, a gigantic worm with arms that eats people. Base game Elden Ring was an admittedly friendlier, open-world take on developer FromSoftware’s brutal soulslike formula, and this DLC, essentially an old-school expansion, looks set to offer more of the same in an area roughly approximate to that of Limgrave in the base game. For those of us tapped into the lore of Elden Ring, this additional content will flesh out its universe further. For others, you’ll simply get to swing a big sword around in one of the most visually arresting fantasy realms ever made. “In that forsaken place, blood must spill,” says the trailer’s narrator. Yes, we’re ready.

Ten years in, the blockbuster MMO Final Fantasy XIV is setting sail for new horizons with the Dawntrail expansion. The water-filled realm of Tarul looks gorgeous, the result of a graphical overhaul that arrives with the expansion, and there’s also an all-new intensely emotional story centering on the Tarul throne. This might sound like a small detail, but one of the things we’re most excited about is the ability to further customize outfits — Dawntrail adds a second dye slot. More so than any other MMO (certainly the generic fantasy of World of Warcraft), Final Fantasy XIV is a game that indulges the sartorially minded adventurer.

If the summer heat is too stifling, cool off with the chilly survival strategy sequel Frostpunk 2. The first entry, a modern classic, offered society building and tough moral quandaries on a future planet Earth ravaged by a second Ice Age. Frostpunk 2 picks up the action 30 years later with the frozen apocalypse effectively bested, yet an immeasurably more scheming foe presenting itself: humanity — or at least what remains of it. Case in point, the factions in revolt whose names are delightfully on the nose: Engineers, Foragers, Technocrats, and, our favorite, the Icebloods. How you deal with these groups, all while managing a growing city, will determine the outcome of your political reign. It’s safe to say that in Frostpunk 2, fortune doesn’t favor the brave but the smartest and most ruthless.

With the likes of Naraka: Bladepoint and Genshin Impact scoring success in recent years, Chinese video games are having something of a moment in the West. Black Myth: Wukong could offer another breakthrough moment for the country’s game-makers, an acrobatic soulslike based on the 16th-century Chinese novel Journey to the West. You play as a staff-wielding monkey, traversing a series of sumptuously rendered, semi-open environments, all while facing off against enemies with names like Centipede Guai and Tiger Vanguard. Change your staff grip and you’ll gain access to different moves, with the weighty mêlée combat-supported by a spell system. If you’re looking for a fresh spin on the soulslike formula, Black Myth: Wukong is one to keep an eye on.

Arriving hot on the heels of Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora, Ubisoft’s mostly successful open-world take on James Cameron’s sci-fi franchise Star Wars Outlaws is another high-profile licensed project from the French publisher. The game puts you in the shoes of Kay Vess, a scoundrel in the vein of Han Solo who must pull off what Ubisoft describes as “one of the greatest heists the Outer Rim has ever seen.” Kay will of course be able to use her trusty blaster against enemies in the galaxy far, far away, as well as leveraging her influence, reputation, and hard-earned (okay, maybe stolen) credits to avoid violent encounters altogether. If Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora was anything to go by, this should be immaculately crafted fan service, and maybe even something more.