Like any form of entertainment, gaming is growing with its audience, and gamers—including the writers who observe the medium and the developers who make the games—are adjusting to a culture that’s rapidly changing. The last few years have been turbulent, to say the least.
It’s not all bad—far from it. New genres are being born, old ones are being revived, and technological advancements are providing us with some of the most ambitious projects in gaming history. This list focuses on titles that might emerge from the crowds to define this generation and shape gaming’s future.
Destiny has brought the patience and time-consuming “grind” of massively online games to the rabid fanbase of the first person shooter, crafting a new genre that brings with it exactly what devs and publishers desire: long term investments. Destiny needed to be consistent and keep players engaged well beyond its own release window, even getting players to return after they put down other big titles that hit the shelves.
With plenty of active players and an impending [huge expansion] ready to kick off the game’s second year this fall, they’ve certainly succeeded. Destiny addiction is in full swing, which bodes well for future expansions. Ubisoft is preparing The Division to be one of the first with a shot at capitalizing and possibly improving on the formula formed with Destiny—the online shared world shooter—and it certainly won’t be the last.
Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA) games came on the scene like a storm, sparked by the long-brewing popularity of DOTA but ultimately inspired by the success of League of Legends. Gigantic, despite sharing much with the genre, deviates significantly from its core mechanics. But it has a lot of potential.
The MOBA genre has been focused mostly on PC so far, but Gigantic will stand out with its fresh take on competitive play for console gamers. If it can rope these more casual players into the battle arena genre, the MOBA could be cemented as the ultimate eSport for console and PC players alike.
Virtual Reality is looking a whole lot less like an expensive gimmick, considering its massive presence at E3 this year and the wealth of games now in development. Many could have made this list, but Adr1ft is shooting for the stars in pursuit of an intense experience that’s akin to the recently popular film Gravity.
As players traverse the zero-g setting of their wrecked space station, they will be in fairly persistent dire straights as they try to find a way back to earth while managing a depleting oxygen level. A gameplay experience like this would be tense enough with just the controller in hand, but the immersion offered via VR goggles like Oculus Rift and Sony’s Project Morpheus will make Adr1ft a pivotal Virtual Reality experience.
Firewatch drops players into the psychologically trying experience of serving as a ranger on fire lookout duty in the Wyoming wilderness. Only equipped with your thoughts and a walkie talkie linked to your boss Delilah, you keep intruders away and investigate the occasional strange happenings.
A Firewatcher likely doesn’t hit the top ten when discussing professions that deserve video game adaptations. But with incredibly high and flashy production values, the focus on character development, and an impressive, minimalist art style helmed by Olly Moss, Firewatch could be the sleeper hit of the generation.
'KINGDOM COME: DELIVERANCE’
Medieval elements serve as the foundation for many epic stories across various realms of fantasy, but authentic medieval gaming experiences have been mostly limited to strategy games games like Total War. Thanks to Kingdom Come: Deliverance, that might soon no longer be the case.
Authenticity is the foundation of the experience in Kingdom Come, with the game’s medieval setting being recreated down to the color of the chickens. Interaction will be pretty legitimate across the board as well: combat is based on real physics and equally dependent on input skill and how the player layers his or her armor. The whole game stays as true to the era as possible, and it could set a new bar for period realism this generation.
Spiritual successors—games made in the style of older games that aren’t technically sequels—planted major seeds early on in this console generation, with Kickstarter campaigns for Bloodstained (by the creator of Castlevania) and Mighty #9 (by the creator of Megaman). Shenmue, though, is the true champion of nostalgia. With an assist from Sony and some crowdfunding, the series is receiving its third entry more than 10 years after the second game was released.
There are legitimate reasons to be concerned about Shenmue 3, but if the third game can capture the living world that made the original two titles so endearing, it will leave a major stamp on this gaming generation and prove once and for all that cult hits can be successfully revived with proper care and backing.
'METAL GEAR SOLID V: THE PHANTOM PAIN’
September 1st, 2015
Metal Gear Solid V will potentially serve as series creator Kojima’s swan song with Konami after his recent turbulent departure. The long partnership was broken, along with the hearts of many fans.
Regardless of all this, Metal Gear Solid V doesn’t just look like a great, overwhelming beam of light that will provide an engaging cinematic experience, redefine open world stealth/action, and supply the Kojima charm in spades when it comes to the narrative. It also marks the end of an era, and gamers will be looking to it to define what we love about this generation of games.
Based on Celtic myth, Hellblade is the spiritual successor to the cult hit PS3 game Heavenly Sword, created by Japanese developer Ninja Theory. Like that game broke ground on emotion and expression in digital format, Hellblade aims to go much deeper into the minds of the characters we control.
With full funding and publishing being handled by Ninja Theory, the dev team is steering this blockbuster indie title into unfamiliar territory. The team is partnering with a psychiatrist in order to bring an authentic take on mental health to their lead character, Sensua, and incorporate it into the gameplay and narrative. This subject matter could make it extremely important to the future of adult content—actually mature content, not just gore and crass sexuality—in games.
'HORIZON: ZERO DAWN’
Assassin’s Creed, Mirror’s Edge, Dishonored, and more action games have embraced the desire for substantial female leads and left a great impression at recent game industry events. Horizon: Zero Dawn, a completely new franchise, could serve as the anchor for this movement, with a woman leading the charge in an epic, original, high budget console exclusive.
With what developer Guerilla presented at E3, the response to heroine Aloy taking down massive mechanical dinosaurs has been overwhelmingly positive. Much like Naughty Dog‘s hit The Last of Us, the unique post-apocalyptic setting of Horizon will be the perfect canvas upon which Guerilla Games can paint their masterpiece—and prove once and for all that gamers can embrace female protagonists.
Not only has Star Citizen become a champion of crowdfunding ($84,875,903 from over 920k players at the time this was written), it’s one of the most ambitious undertakings in gaming history and it’s all happening without the watchful eye of a publisher. Fully independent development has allowed Robert Space Industries to strive for some ideas that sound near impossible in this day and age, but are well on their way to reality via the multiple indie studios contributing to the game’s various modules.
No Man’s Sky and Elite: Dangerous are equally responsible for reviving interest in the space sim, but Star Citizen wants to create a “First Person Universe” with very few limitations. Space exploration and combat, up-close infantry conflicts, and planetside exploration are just a few of the ways you’ll be able to leave your mark on this overwhelming venture. The game is split into different modules that are being developed by dedicated groups and those pieces will be released over time to create the full picture. If it can deliver on half its promises, it will be truly incredible.
'NO MAN’S SKY’
No Man’s Sky will offer up an overwhelmingly ambitious space exploration sim that aims to give gamers an infinite amount of space to explore. And “infinite” isn’t being used simply as a buzzword to push the game either: every single player that picks up a copy will start on their own planet. There’s a goal in place at the center of the massive universe, but that’s barely the tip of the iceberg. With 18 quintillion possible planets, No Man’s Sky could be a game passed on well into gaming’s future.
Procedurally generated content—that is, environments created automatically with complex algorithms rather than designed by people—runs the risk of creating some chaotic things that no developer can plan for. The hope is that the formulas used and parameters put in place will keep things together as the game crunches the numbers, but the possibilities are near limitless. No Man’s Sky’s goals remain shrouded in the years since it was announced, even as we loom close to a release date. In theory, this a video game that none of us will fully explore in our lifetimes. Another mystery remains as well: Will the gameplay be engaging enough that new gamers carry on exploring after we put it down? If it comes remotely close to that realization it won’t just be a defining game for this generation—It will solidify a space in history forever.
Charles Singletary Jr. was born in Germany, raised in Birmingham, AL, and currently scribbles frivolously in San Antonio, TX. An addiction to the written word cultivated a fascination with fantastic worlds, leading to entertainment journalism and creative fiction. He continues to hone his craft with aims to be a legitimate voice in gaming culture, the seed from which his writing inspiration grows. You can also check more of his work on CharlesSingletaryJr.com.
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