- A whole slew of new games to watch for
- Our favorite games from PAX East 2023
- Mina the Hollower
- Rift of the Necrodancer
- Wargroove 2
- Unannounced Train Project
- Slay the Princess
- VICE NDRCVR
- Trinity Fusion
- Born of Bread
- The Mageseeker: A League of Legends Story
- Xenotilt: Hostile Pinball Action
- The Legend of Nayuta: Boundless Trails
- Street Fighter 6
A whole slew of new games to watch for
2023 has no shortage of big, blockbuster games on the horizon. It’s a year where Final Fantasy, Zelda, and Diablo are all getting new entries. Yet coming back from PAX East 2023, I kept thinking about the smaller games now littering my release radar.
Honestly, this is a major appeal of PAX, at least to media and the games vying for their attention. It’s a time where we’re in town for a few larger projects, like a panel or a big hands-on, but we then have a lot of time to fill with various booths and games we might not have known much about going in.
So, my list of favorite games I saw at PAX East 2023 reflects that. Some of these entries feel entirely expected, as they’re the most obvious candidates. However, others are surprise hits I barely knew about going into the weekend. All of them are great, even the few that didn’t manage to make the cut or that I couldn’t find time for in my schedule. Even in 2023, PAX East reminded me that there’s no shortage of interesting games arriving in the near-future. I hope you look into at least a few, and I’ll add in Steam page links so you can wishlist anything you want to follow.
Our favorite games from PAX East 2023
Mina the Hollower
This was easily my most anticipated demo going into PAX East 2023, and it did not disappoint. Mina the Hollower feels like a full foot-forward for Yacht Club, applying a similar blend of nostalgic reverence and modern updates to the Game Boy era.
Despite looking like it was from that time, though, I was constantly surprised at how modern it felt. The action was fast, and Mina has so many tools at her disposal, despite a limited control scheme. This studio has been defined by Shovel Knight for a long time, but I think they’ve found an excellent new addition to the crew in Mina.
Follow Mina the Hollower on Steam here.
Rift of the Necrodancer
At first, Rift of the Necrodancer may feel a bit too straightforward. A normal rhythm game without a dungeon-crawling, roguelite twist could seem unusually vanilla to longtime Necrodancers.
What Rift actually does is mix several different styles of rhythm gaming together into one mash-up that’s greater than the sum of its parts. One part Guitar Hero, one part Rhythm Heaven, and one part Punch-Out!, Rift of the Necrodancer feels like a celebration of the rhythm games that inspired the original Crypt. And let me tell you, the higher difficulties are no cake-walk.
Follow Rift of the Necrodancer on Steam here.
In a time where turns, tiles, and tactics are on the rise, Wargroove 2 sports a similar vibe with one big twist. I got to check out this new roguelike Conquest mode at PAX East 2023, and I found it to be a refreshing take on the long-running Famicom Wars foundation.
Rather than building a base and pumping out units, every individual piece is all the more critical. Items and commanders make for huge potential swings in the tides of war. Where I was once curious where Wargroove 2 would fit into this new landscape, I’m now eager to see how it continues to forge its own path ahead.
Follow Wargroove 2 on Steam here.
I wouldn’t ever say that a game feels made for me, but I can certainly feel like a game is hitting all of my favorite styles, concepts, and ideas in one fell swoop. That’s the case with Demonschool. University students get caught up in demonic happenings, bouncing between slice-of-life hangout sessions and sleek, challenging, turn-based tactical battles.
Demonschool was already something I was watching based off the pitch alone, but playing it at PAX East 2023 just confirmed what I knew: that Necrosoft’s RPG is one to watch. If you dig tactical RPGs, horror-infused style, or games that break from the norm, this is a project worth following.
Follow Demonschool on Steam here.
Unannounced Train Project
Now, you may be asking yourself how we managed to get such a beautiful artistic rendition of a video game in our list here. Well, the answer is the Unannounced Train Project, a new game THQ Nordic was showing off at its booth at PAX East 2023.
It doesn’t quite have a name yet and hasn’t even been fully announced, but the studio was demoing a slice of it on the show floor. It’s essentially a real-time strategy squad tactics game, with some serious Commandos vibes in what I’m assuming is World War II, or some version of it. Commanding a small unit to make its way into a nearby town, then planning an assault on an enemy artillery emplacement while simultaneously defending the town, felt incredible, and was easily one of the more memorable gameplay moments I had at East.
That said, there are no official assets available for the game at this time, so please enjoy my personal rendition of the events of the demo. I hope they aptly convey the drama and magnitude of the experience.
I only got a few minutes with Wreckreation, but even those bits I played felt spectacular. This new high-speed racing game from former Criterion devs has all the action you’d want, as well as some big sandbox potential.
In the demo I played, I was able to place various ramps, then race along the course against the computer. The cars controlled great, the creation was intuitive, and slamming opposing racers off the course in Burnout fashion was solid. All in all, if you like vehicular racing and destruction, this is one to watch.
Follow Wreckreation on Steam here.
Slay the Princess
The demo for Slay the Princess became a hot-topic of PAX East 2023, and for good reason. Black Tabby Games’ horror story offers a lot of choice, and adapts well to however you approach it. The moral dilemma of the titular drive—slay the princess, save the world—can branch and fork out into many directions depending on how you approach it.
For those who love The Stanley Parable, or just enjoy seeing unique narrative direction in games, Slay the Princess is well worth your attention. It’s got eye-catching art and stellar writing, further strengthened by the great voiceover work. It’s a small gem that’s an easy recommendation for anyone who’s tired of the same-old, same-old in their video game storytelling.
Follow Slay the Princess on Steam here.
I am, admittedly, a massive sucker for interface-driven stories in games. Something about poking and prodding around an operating system and files, especially with a tinge of detective work and snooping where you shouldn’t, just works for me.
VICE NDRCVR does all that, with an added air of ’80s drug-fueled thriller, as you hack your way into the systems of the cartel to expose their secrets. It’s all the joy of discovering aliases and establishing a crime network, with all the tension of sneaking into systems you shouldn’t be in.
Follow VICE NDRCVR on Steam here.
I know “roguelite Metroidvania” is a common refrain these days. Maybe it’s because of those expectations that Trinity Fusion surprised me. It handles well, for sure. It also has a novel concept: you play as three multi-versal versions of the same character, trying to merge their dying universes into one, less-doomed universe.
What really hooked me was how those different universes worked; each one has its own biomes, enemies, and layouts, and each version of the character has their own traversal options. So swapping between characters and universes added ample variety and a sense of exploration that’s often missing in roguelites. It’s enjoyable, and it’s hitting Early Access on April 13.
Follow Trinity Fusion on Steam here.
This was my second time demoing Cuisineer at PAX East, and it was a good reminder of how solid the set-up is. One part action-RPG dungeon crawler, one part shop management sim, these are two great flavors that go well together.
Add in a cute look and some solid cooking-battle theming like slamming a giant skillet down for damage, and Cuisineer just seems like a pleasant game to vibe in. Absolutely watch this one if you like the idea of some Recettear in your Hades.
Follow Cuisineer on Steam here.
Born of Bread
I dig that Paper Mario has been steadily inspiring more and more indie RPG projects, and Born of Bread certainly captures some of that charm. Following a sentient bit of dough that becomes a real boy, Loaf and pals journey across the realms for answers and adventure.
It’s hard to convey this in a text write-up, but Born of Bread is an endearing world to be in. It’s lively and vibrant, with gorgeous art and some stellar music. Additionally, the humor is filled with puns and gags without being overbearing. There’s enough character here to drive a solid RPG that seems pre-destined to eat up hours on my Steam Deck.
Follow Born of Bread on Steam here.
The Mageseeker: A League of Legends Story
The League of Legends spin-offs have been largely working out well, and the trend looks to continue with The Mageseeker. I got to check out a behind-closed-doors look at PAX East 2023, and Digital Suns’ action RPG experience from Moonlighter translates well to Sylas’ magical rebellion.
Alongside some great, fluid combat, there’s a magic system that rewards clever copying-and-firing of enemy magic. It offers fast action that also makes you think, without those two ideas ever conflicting enough to cause friction. Add in some gorgeous pixel art of popular League characters, and Mageseeker could make an impact this month.
Follow The Mageseeker: A League of Legends Story on Steam here.
Xenotilt: Hostile Pinball Action
From the makers of Demon’s Tilt comes a sci-fi sequel Xenotilt. Much like its predecessor, Xenotilt is a pinball game where you’re essentially fighting the table itself. Different enemies and bosses appear in each zone, and you’ll need to accurately and carefully deliver pinball fury to their faces.
It’s not quite full sensory overload, but there is something magnetic about how much light, noise, and text Xenotilt delivers. It’s hypnotic. You just enter the Pinball Zone (TM) and stay there, slamming metal spheres into faces and seeing numbers climb higher. In other words, if you enjoy pinball, you will enjoy Xenotilt. Heck, you’ll probably enjoy Demon’s Tilt, too.
Follow Xenotilt on Steam here.
The Legend of Nayuta: Boundless Trails
In another special demo at PAX East 2023, I got a chance to check out the upcoming English localization of the Switch remaster of the 2012 PSP Trails spin-off, The Legend of Nayuta: Boundless Trails. It is an action RPG that’s a little more Mana than turn-based, and it has some older game vibes.
But those throwback-feeling vibes are why, at the end of the show, I kept thinking back fondly on Nayuta. It felt like a quaint, charming reminder of that style of RPG, before the action portion overwhelmed the RPG side. There was just the right amount of hack-and-slash mixed with adventuring, and even the early PSP-era aesthetic feels strangely nostalgic for its PS1 predecessors. I dig the older RPG port vibes, I guess.
No date’s been confirmed yet, but The Legend of Nayuta is expected sometime this fall.
Street Fighter 6
Okay, this may be cheating. It’s not like this was the first time Street Fighter 6 was playable, and Capcom itself was not at PAX East 2023. Rather, several hardware companies were using SF6 as a showcase to draw players towards their set-ups. And look: it worked.
I’m putting Street Fighter 6 here, not just to assert that it’s quite good (it is), but to confirm that it’s good in-person. Playing local Street Fighter 6 was fantastic, in a way I haven’t felt about this series for a while. Even just playing a bunch of matches in the standard Ryu vs. Chun-Li match-up (I played the latter), I’m reminded of how good Street Fighter can be when it nails the fundamentals. And Street Fighter 6 feels like it’s got that in spades right now.
Street Fighter 6 hits on June 2.
The post PAX East 2023: 15 of our favorites from this year’s show appeared first on Destructoid.