Gaming's best days are still ahead. If you need further evidence, look no further than some of the medium's most hotly anticipated releases. Over the next year or so, gamers can look forward to entries in every genre that promise action, adventure, romance, imagination, excitement and awe. While there are dozens of promising games in the pipeline, the Tom's Guide staff has chosen fifteen that stand out above the rest. Whether or not these games live up to their own hype, they've done a great job holding our attention until they come out.
Battleborn (PS4 / Xbox One / PC)
What do sci-fi soldiers, Elven archers and futuristic swordsmen all have in common? You can play as all of them in Battleborn, an upcoming action/role-playing game from Gearbox Software, the company behind Borderlands. This cooperative, multiplayer first-person adventure, slated for release in late 2015, will feature 25 characters at launch, and no two characters are controlled the same way. Clockwork robot snipers work alongside musclebound berserkers, who see no issue cooperating with aristocratic lady fencers and mushroom men who can throw their own heads at enemies. With tight, varied gameplay and a surprisingly interesting sci-fi story, Battleborn should be a joy to play either solo or with up to five players.
Apparently, we're all gluttons for punishment. We've died and died again to Demon's Souls, Dark Souls, Dark Souls II and Bloodborne, and yet we keep coming back for more. From Software is ready to give us what we want in early 2016: Dark Souls III, even if we have to work for our fun. This is the first Dark Souls game designed from the ground up for current-gen systems, and as such, it sports a huge, beautiful, interconnected world with sophisticated enemy behavior and plenty of combat options to exercise. This action/role-playing game will test your skill and try your patience, but it will also reward you with breathtaking sights and a genuine feeling of accomplishment.
Fallout 4 (PS4 / Xbox One / PC)
Fallout has been a fixture on the gaming scene since the first installment came out in 1997. Gameplay and graphics have improved over the years, but the core conceit in Fallout 4 is just the same as it's always been. Explore a post-apocalyptic wasteland with a trusty (but probably ill-fated) dog by your side, engaging in turn-based battles with mutated fauna and negotiating with the tattered, sometimes misshapen remnants of civilization. Fallout 4, currently slated for release Nov. 10, will let you create your own protagonist, customize your equipment, upgrade your skills and set forth into a huge re-creation of Boston that's like our own — just weirder and more radioactive.
The Halo series has been going strong since 2001, and the fifth installment in its main story is less than a year away. Picking up where Halo 4's heartbreaking story left off, Halo 5 will follow the exploits of Master Chief, one of the most taciturn protagonists in modern gaming, as he once again saves the galaxy from an ancient threat. The game's main draw, however, will be its multiplayer capabilities. As in previous games, players will congregate on servers for massive firefights, complemented by slick improvements in visuals and animation facilitated by the Xbox One's impressive hardware.
The Last Guardian (PS4)
The Last Guardian first showed up as a PS3 title way back at E3 2009, and you could be forgiven for thinking that it had disappeared forever in the intervening years. This action/adventure game from Team Ico is still on its way, slated to arrive in 2016. Like Ico and Shadow of the Colossus before it, The Last Guardian tells an ambiguous story set in a huge, lonely environment with very little music, but gobs of visual atmosphere. In this game, you play as a young boy who, with the help of a huge, doglike griffin, must navigate his way through a confusing and mysterious castle as he tries to escape it once and for all.
The Legend of Zelda (Wii U)
The Legend of Zelda has been one of Nintendo's most consistent series in terms of quality, but the flip side is that it's been hesitant to change up the formula over the last two-and-a-half decades. The upcoming Legend of Zelda on Wii U promises to be one of the franchise's most ambitious entries yet by dropping recurring protagonist Link into a fully explorable open world. The game aims to be much larger and more nonlinear than its predecessors while still offering the famous swordplay, offbeat gadgets and epic story that define The Legend of Zelda. Other details are still scarce, but expect to see more information about this one as time goes on.
Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain (PS4 / PS3 / Xbox One / PC)
The fifth major installment in the Metal Gear Solid franchise picks up nine years after the events of Metal Gear V: Ground Zeroes, in which Big Boss (Snake) was put in a coma after rescuing friend and comrade Paz, one of the few survivors of the Peace Walker incident in 2010's PSP game, from Camp Omega in Cuba. Now, Big Boss and his mysterious fellow patient, Ishmael, must escape from the hospital and get revenge on the people who put them there. With a gorgeous new version of Konami's Fox Engine development platform and series creator Hideo Kojima at the helm, there are no limits to where The Phantom Pain can go. And that's exactly what makes the Metal Gear series so good.
Mighty No. 9 (Xbox 360 / PS3 / PC / Vita / 3DS)
Fans of the classic side-scroller Mega Man were devastated when the Blue Bomber's creator, Keiji Inafune, founded his own company without the rights to the beloved character. Mega Man may be gone, but Inafune has replaced him with Mighty No. 9: a spunky blue robot with a big smile and eight evil automaton bosses who stand in his way. (Any resemblance he bears to Mega Man is, of course, purely coincidental.) Mighty No. 9 ran one of the most successful Kickstarter campaigns in history, and the result looks like a gorgeous retro game with a lot of heart to spare.
No Man's Sky is one of the most ambitious games in development right now, which is all the more impressive when you consider that it has a development team of about a dozen people. In this open-ended adventure, players simply explore the whole procedurally generated universe. Each player begins his or her quest on a totally unique planet, and can set out from there to see the flora and fauna on hundreds of worlds, or the unpredictable wonders of the cosmos. The game will also feature space combat, just to make sure that action junkies have a reason to dive in as well.
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Quantum Break (Xbox One)
Remedy, the company behind the Max Payne and Alan Wake series, seems categorically incapable of making a bad game. Hopefully, that trend will continue with Quantum Break. This Xbox One-exclusive title casts players as two protagonists with the ability to manipulate time. Stopping the flow of time to gain an edge in combat or solve puzzles sounds like fun, but the game's storytelling looks like its most interesting aspect. Remedy and CERN worked together to make sure the temporal physics make sense, and a tie-in TV show will affect how the game plays out over the course of one season.
Rise of the Tomb Raider (Xbox One)
Rise of the Tomb Raider is the sequel to 2013's masterful reboot of everyone's favorite loot-plundering action-adventure game. After surviving the wreck of her ship, The Endurance,and the thwarted revival of the Yamatai Sun Queen, the young Lara Croft must choose a path for her future, as she realizes that her father's stories from the past are more than just fairy tales. Now on a quest to find immortality, Lara's search for the mythical city of Kitezh leads her to the frozen wastes of Siberia. This looks to be the game where the new Lara finally becomes the Tomb Raider.
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StarCraft II: Legacy of the Void (PC)
StarCraft II: Legacy of the Void should need no introduction. Between StarCraft, Brood War, Wings of Liberty and Heart of the Swarm, players have waited 17 years to discover how the sprawling sci-fi story of Jim Raynor, Sarah Kerrigan and Zeratul the Dark Templar would end, and the wait is almost over (although the release date is still “when it’s ready,” according to Blizzard). Legacy of the Void will provide more of the tried-and-true, real-time strategy gameplay that the series epitomizes, this time from the perspective of the enigmatic and advanced Protoss race. Between creative single player and finely balanced multiplayer, Legacy of the Void should keep players busy until the next StarCraft property emerges.
Star Wars: Battlefront (PS4 / Xbox One / PC)
To play a multiplayer shooter, gamers have to suspend a little disbelief, so why not take it one step further and throw some lightsabers into the mix? Fans have been awaiting Star Wars: Battlefront for years, and Electronic Arts will finally make it a reality in 2016. Players take control of characters from either the heroic Rebel Alliance or the domineering Galactic Empire, then play out large-scale battles involving dozens of players across a variety of maps. If blaster pistols aren't to your taste, you can always take control of a futuristic vehicle, or even play as Jedi Knights like Luke Skywalker or Sith Lords like Darth Vader.
Street Fighter V (PS4 / PC)
Can you really expect something new from the Street Fighter series, which has already released 30 games in nearly as many years? SHORYUKEN! Street Fighter V will debut in 2016 and bring back classic fighters like Ryu, Chun-Li, Cammy and M. Bison into colorful, gorgeously animated arenas. In addition to the classic punches, kicks and special attacks, Street Fighter V will also feature the Variable System, which gives each character unique methods of parrying and counter attacking. With drastically different characters, beautiful graphics and balanced gameplay, Street Fighter V will likely be a mainstay of the fighting circuit for years to come.
Uncharted 4: A Thief's End (PS4)
Like Indiana Jones, wisecracking, globetrotting treasure hunter Nathan Drake has starred in three blockbusters that delighted just about anyone with a hankering for adventure. Also like Indiana Jones, Nathan Drake is going for a fourth outing — hopefully with better results. Uncharted 4: A Thief's End will be the first game in the series on the PlayStation 4, which should afford it opportunities for refined gameplay, even more realistic graphics and a new chapter in the ongoing saga of Drake, his colorful friends and his charismatic enemies. Few series combine gunplay, exploration and platforming as deftly as Uncharted, and A Thief's End looks to continue that trend.
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