The 10 Best Games We Played at Summer Game Fest 2024

Games Lists Summer Game Fest
The 10 Best Games We Played at Summer Game Fest 2024

A whole summer of videogames? It’s more likely than you think. Paste endured the heat of the Californian sun and way too many visits to the JW Marriott bar to both see and play some of the standout titles showcased at Summer Game Fest 2024. From long-awaited returns of dormant franchises to unexpected genre combinations, ẃe came away from the show excited for what’s to come—even if there’s been no shortage of surprises in the first half of 2024 already.

Fear the Spotlight

Release date: Fall 2024 for the updated version – the original was released on September 15, 2023

Independent developers have been embracing the PlayStation 1 aesthetic for a few years now, all the way from Signalis to Crow Country, exploring what made the horror games of that console generation so visually eerie. Fear the Spotlight, originally released on September 15 of last year, is one of the latest to do so. Now, under the arm of publisher Blumhouse Games, the third-person horror adventure is being ported to consoles and getting an extra hour of additional story.

Even surrounded by bright lights and loud music, my 20 minutes with Fear the Spotlight left me with a strong first impression and an uneasy feeling. The premise is simple: two high schoolers stay after hours and make the obvious mistake of fucking around with a oujia board. It plays like a classic horror game, but features no combat. Instead, the focus is on puzzles, exploration, and a grounded dialogue that chronically online folks will immediately find familiar.


Kunitsu-Gami: Path of the Goddess

Release date: July 19, 2024

Amidst so many remakes, remasters, and franchise follow ups, it was time for Capcom to release a new game altogether. Kunitsu-Gami: Path of the Goddess is a bold change of pace, marrying elements from character action games with tower defense mechanics.

Even with an array of tutorial messages thrown at me during the first few minutes of its Summer Game Fest demo, it took me a while to understand what I was doing. My objective in the demo was to escort a maiden from point A to B. Based on a day and night cycle, you spend the first half of the day making preparations—there are people affected by a curse, which you can liberate to turn them into units. From there, you can spend an in-game currency to make them specific classes, and position them around the map as if they were turrets or towers.

Once you’re set and the night comes in, a swarm of enemies comes in from a main gate. I was able to perform a number of combos controlling my character, while my units fulfilled their roles independently. After a few rounds, things got quite complicated, requiring me to re-locate my units and choose different classes for them.

There was another mission later on where I was in an arena fighting a boss, making similar use of the units to aid me in the encounter. I’m not sure how the game will evolve its foundation over time, but once its blend of mechanics clicked for me, it became a game I’m interested in following closely.


Hyper Light Breaker

Release date: Steam Early Access launching in “late summer”

It’s been eight years since the release of Hyper Light Drifter, a time in which developer Heart Machine launched Solar Ash, further exploring the vibrant, neon-infused aesthetic that’s become an emblem for the studio. While those earlier games are tranquil single player experiences, Hyper Light Breaker is banking on recent industry trends, introducing itself as a co-op shooter meets hack-and-slash, similar to the likes of Risk of Rain 2.

Thrusting yourself into procedurally generated levels, you’re tasked with defeating elite enemies on a map until you can defeat a number of challenging guardians. Areas are vast and a joy to navigate, whether you’re dashing in mid-air and then gliding to the nearest cliff or using your hoverboard. At the same time, you’ll be stopped by enemy groups often, which will quickly overcome you if you’re not careful.

The roguelite scene has seen no shortage of interesting iterations lately. While Hyper Light Drifter might seem to follow familiar conventions at first glance, Heart Machine’s DNA sets a different foundation from the get-go.


UFO 50

Release date: September 18, 2024

If you’ve been intrigued by the re-releases of classic videogame consoles in recent years but wished they were bundled with new ideas rather than pure nostalgia, UFO 50 might be what you were looking for.

Virtually packaged as part of a fictional retro console, the collaboration between a number of cool devs groups 50 original games together, ranging across an absurdly extensive number of genres.

During a hands-on demo at Summer Game Fest, I was invited to take a random pick and jump in and out from different games to make the most out of my 20-minute-long session. At that time, I played a golf game that seemed perfect for lunch breaks, destroyed structures using a yo-yo to gain materials for a group of strange citizens, and played some intense air-disc matches against a samurai using a sword and special abilities.

There’s a certain novelty to the premise of UFO 50 that adds to its charm. It’ll take more than 20 minutes to discover the depth and variance of the games available, but if the other 47 I didn’t get to play are this different from each other, we’ll be in for a good time.


Skate Story

Release date: 2024

A demon made of pain and glass. Skate Story kicks off with a gritty introduction for its main character and the world around it, featuring a flashy skater who wants to devour the moon and find a way out of hell.

As somebody who’s been following the project closely for years, as developer Sam Eng shared gifs that would often become standout posts on games Twitter, I was curious about how it’d actually feel to play. And it’s an interesting case. If you’re familiar with the Skate or Tony Hawk series, well, the control scheme is quite different, with tricks requiring a combination of bumpers with certain analog stick movements.

There’s also the fact that, well, you’re made out of glass. Most collisions against objects are bound to either hurt you badly or shatter you completely. Respawning is a fairly quick ordeal, which prevented any sort of frustration during my time with the first act of the game. It also helps that the animation is gorgeous to look at (sorry, demon), with light reflections all over the body that turn almost into sparks once it’s broken.

The first act at Summer Game Fest had me completing missions for a few characters, engaging in “combat” encounters, and taking on a daunting timed trial. Skate Story has enough mechanical depth to meet the genre’s expectations, but it’s clear in every twist and turn that it wants to be apologetically its own thing.


Neva

Release date: 2024

The blend of hand-drawn animations with a watercolor palette made Gris a standout back in 2018. Now developer Nomada Studio is trying to rekindle that spark, while also being unafraid to shake up its own foundations.

At first glance, the side-scrolling nature and visuals of Neva make it seem like a familiar follow up, but it doesn’t take long to notice its singular mechanics. For one, you’re not alone, but rather accompanied by a wolf who gets older as the story progresses. During my hands-on time with the game, most puzzles and navigation obstacles revolved around clearing a path for your furry friend, often pressing a button to call them or pet them after they had been injured.

There’s also the addition of combat, which is an interesting design choice. There are quite a few different movements that you can do, as well as a dodge roll to get out of danger. Fighting basic enemies didn’t prove too difficult once I had learned their patterns and timing, but I admittedly had to restart a boss fight a few times until I claimed victory.

As the developers told me, it’s a challenge to balance the inclusion of combat that extends beyond just a few simple attacks, but without wanting to overwhelm the player, especially when Gris was the first experience with a videogame altogether for some. If you’re worried about this, however, there’s a story mode difficulty that can lower that barrier.


Dragon Age: The Veilguard

Release date: Fall 2024

After being dormant for many years, it’s hard to believe Dragon Age: The Veilguard is set to come out later this year. During a hands-off demo at Summer Game Fest, it’s clear that the stakes for the next RPG of developer Bioware are high. The Veilguard is contesting not only with its own legacy, but also with a plethora of countless surprising iterations in the genre of the past few years.

Visually speaking, it definitely fits modern expectations. Opting for a Fable-esque aesthetic—an ironic comparison considering the new Fable is opting for realism with its obsession for motion capture—both new and returning characters look quite vibrant, while landscapes can be quite striking.

In terms of gameplay, the demo left me with some doubts. The combat is akin to Dragon Age 2, which isn’t a bad thing if you’re a Dragon Age 2 truther like me. The hands-off hour I saw, however, was fairly early on in the game. The developer guiding the presentation talked at length about some of the build possibilities depending on the class and specialty of your choosing, such as focusing on throwing your shield and making it ricochet between enemies, which sounded exciting. Yet, it was hard to see anything out of the ordinary, considering how many good hack-and-slash games there have been in recent years.

Still, the classic Bioware flair remains present, with dialogue choices being immediately put front and center, leaning into the usual personality archetypes (playing aggressively, pushing for eloquence to try and avoid conflict, and so on). Some new options, such as the ability to select they/them pronouns and play as an enbie character seem promising. After these many years, however, Dragon Age: The Veilguard has quite a lot to live up to.


Building Relationships

Release date: To be announced

Turns out that houses can fall in love, too. Building Relationships opens the door to this possibility, presenting a hilarious dialogue-driven game where you bounce around as a humble abode, finding fellow structures to flirt, joke, and contemplate life with.

Don’t expect a dating sim, however. Developer Tan Ant Games considers the game’s structure more in the vein of A Short Hike, taking place in one day. The demo had me fishing cars, finding hidden talking chests, and unlocking abilities that allowed me to jump and strafe further. It was hilarious to climb mountains in the same way that you’d do on a horse in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.

At the heart of it all, the dialogue in Building Relationships is gearing up to be quite special, mimicking online conventions with tons of personality.


While Waiting

Release date: To be announced

Waiting sucks, and While Waiting understands it. In a similar fashion as Untitled Goose Game, you find yourself in a large number of fairly mundane situations—waiting for a bus, waiting for the rain to stop, waiting in the backseat of a car as your parents are stuck in traffic—where you’re free to just wait. Or try and find things to make time pass, following a list of subtle pointers.

During my time with While Waiting, I carried a bag of gold coins back to a bus stop very slowly, and I also pretended that raindrops were projectiles from an arcade shoot ‘em up next to the window that was out of service. Some scenarios are as absurd as you’d expect, and I can’t wait to see more of them. There’s also a clicky button that you can press at will, which is something all games should have, actually.


Phoenix Springs

Release date: September 16, 2024

I’ve never been a fan of point-and-click adventures that are deliberately obtuse. Phoenix Springs has an old-school feel to it, but your pursuit to unravel its mystery is driven by curiosity, as well as a clever use of clues.

In this neo-noir world infused with perhaps one of the most striking art styles in recent times, your main objective is to find your lost brother. The demo had me scourging through old files, searching for addresses on a computer, and doing on the ground investigations chatting with people and looking for items of interest to progress.

The key differentiator is that, whenever you learn a key fact or find an important object, this gets added as a keyword in a sprawling board of sorts. You can then use your newly acquired knowledge to pursue different interactions or try to get information from someone who was previously quite tight-lipped. The presentation already made Phoenix Springs a standout, but even after a short visit to its eery and melancholic world, the mystery it presents is one I’m committed to unraveling.


Diego Nicolás Argüello is a freelance journalist from Argentina who has learned English thanks to video games. You can read his work in places like Polygon, the New York Times, The Verge, and more, and he’s usually procrastinating on Twitter @diegoarguello66.

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