Fall 2015 game preview: our 31 most anticipated games of the season

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You need a new video game.

Maybe it’s the first cool weekend of fall and you want an excuse to spend an entire afternoon on the couch. Maybe the first month of school has you feeling low. Maybe it’s almost Christmas and you forgot to buy your niece a gift that will guarantee your title as Coolest Relative. Or maybe you haven’t played a game in years — because of social stigma, disinterest, or lack of time — and now you’re reconsidering this medium that once brought you so much joy.

Whatever the case, now is a perfect time to buy this new game because we live in a bountiful time. Picking games this season is like picking apples at the local orchard. The bad news is that there are a hell of a lot of apples to choose from, and oh no, what if one is just full of worms. You need a new video game, but you also need some help.
Everything is going to be okay, because The Verge has a gaggle of writers who just so happen to have impeccable taste in games. Let us guide you through the upcoming releases, taking a crunchy bite from each game until we find the perfect one for you.

By Chris Plante, Andrew Webster, Adi Robertson, Ross Miller, Jamieson Cox, Rich McCormick, Sam Byford, and Chris Ziegler

Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain

September 1st - Playstation 3, PlayStation 4, Windows PC, Xbox 360, Xbox One

This isn’t the first Metal Gear Solid to be billed as the last, but this time the creators might make good on the promise. Partly because of director Hideo Kojima’s falling out with the series’ developer Konami; partly because Konami seems more interested in slot machines and swimming pools than video games these days. But if The Phantom Pain does turn out to be the series’ swan song, early reviews claim Metal Gear Solid will finish with grace. The eccentric stealth action takes place in an open world for the first time, and trailers to date have cranked up the trademark globe-spanning melodrama.

The Phantom Pain will be a must-play for Metal Gear Solid fans, of course. The shift to open-world play might make it more tempting than usual to series novices, too, but they shouldn’t expect to track the plot. Then again, most Metal Gear Solid devotees probably won’t either. And really, they wouldn’t have it any other way.

Super Mario Maker

September 11th - Wii U

The original Super Mario Bros. for the Nintendo Entertainment System is like Game Design 101. Each hurdle, pit, and enemy is introduced in an order that teaches the player a skill, then tests that skill, then mixes and matches the various lessons across increasingly difficult stages. By the final level, an amateur has become an expert, because the game has wordlessly trained them to be nothing less.

Barring some exceptional, but unofficial tools on PC, Super Mario Maker will be the first game to let players create their own 2D Super Mario levels. Over the past three decades, Nintendo has been schooling its fans on pacing, design, and structure; now we'll get to apply those skills as creators. Surely this power will be used responsibly, and not as a quick means for creating phallic symbols in a family friendly video game.

Mad Max

September 1st - PlayStation 4, Windows PC, Xbox One

Avalanche Studios hasn't released a big-budget action game since Just Cause 2 in 2010, despite speaking feverishly about its ambition to be the open-world video game developer of this generation. The rubber will meet the road with Mad Max, a game that has been in and out of development since 2008. Don't let the troubled production dissuade your interest in the game; Mad Max: Fury Road had an even longer and more troubled path to reality, and now half my Twitter feed is adorable fan art.

Here's the rub: the game isn't technically inspired by the film. And it's unclear from the promotional trailer and preview videos whether or not the game has the same mash-up of skin-melting action and inspired social commentary. Maybe it will! Or maybe it'll just be a mash-up of Batman-style combat and Just Cause-style car battles, which doesn't sound too bad.

The Witness

TBD 2015 — iOS, PlayStation 4, Windows PC

Braid was one of the first, and most important, of the new wave of indie games. The two-dimensional, time-manipulating puzzler proved a small team with a big idea could make a hit game on a console. But it takes time. Six years after the initial release of Braid, designer Jonathan Blow is finally ready to release his next project, The Witness.

It’s still not entirely clear just what The Witness is, but it appears to be a very different game from Braid. Set on a huge, completely open island that you can explore as you like, its buildings, vegetation, and landscapes are full of puzzles and bits of visual storytelling. Think of it as the modern take on Myst you’ve been waiting for all these years.

Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime

September 9th - Windows PC, Xbox One

The fast-paced, neon-laden Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime is a cooperative game about two people trying to control a giant round spaceship beset by hostile aliens. It’s got the frenetic pace of an Asteroids-style shoot ‘em up, but instead of just hitting buttons and moving joysticks to dodge and attack, you and a partner (or AI) have to jump around the ship to man its many battle stations.

Fans of the more strategic spaceship maintenance game FTL will find something thematically familiar here, and there’s a little bit of SpaceTeam in the fast two-player gameplay. Maybe there’s a whole subgenre of games that make you feel like you’re stuck in a Star Wars or Star Trek space battle. Beyond the premise, it’s a creative take on one of the oldest genres in gaming.

Forza Motorsport 6

September 15th - Xbox One

Forza Motorsport 6 is, contrary to its name, actually the eighth full game in the Forza franchise if you include its two open-world Forza Horizon spinoffs. Over the years, Forza’s mission has been steadfast — a racing simulator with a heavy focus on car count and customization, serving as Microsoft’s direct answer to Sony’s storied Gran Turismo. The latest title in the series learns from Forza 5’s shortcomings, adding weather, nighttime racing, and destructible environments.

Like so many sports titles, Forza 6 is accessible to newcomers: you don’t need to know anything about the series to jump right in and start racing. But be warned: unless you can be entertained by driving cars on tracks and doing very little else, the game may not be for you. In an industry where a AAA game often wants to be everything for everyone, Forza is pleased to be the best thing for car fanatics.

Destiny: The Taken King

September 15th - PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Xbox 360

Bungie’s divisive MMO-FPS hybrid has long been criticized for a lack of content. The Taken King is the developer’s response. The $40 expansion adds more strikes, raid, maps, and a new campaign, but the biggest changes will come with the countless player-friendly tweaks Bungie is making so that defending the galaxy isn’t a mindless chore.

Most Destiny addicts will welcome The Taken King with open arms — the $40 price feels steep for an expansion, but Destiny doesn’t charge a subscription fee, and it’s hard to argue with the value proposition in terms of dollars-per-hour. For new players, though, it’s a far better deal — they can pick up the base game, its two previous expansions, and The Taken King all for $60, making it one of the largest games available this year.

Soma

September 22nd - PlayStation 4, Windows PC

Soma is the latest — and potentially weirdest — release from indie studio Frictional Games, which horror fans may recognize from the Lovecraftian Penumbra and Amnesia series. Why are you at the bottom of the ocean? What happened to everyone in the Pathos-2 underwater research facility? What are the hunched, glowing things that look like diving suits and hunt like predators? Since the game’s not out yet, we obviously don’t know, but these are the kinds of questions that will presumably be answered. Or they won’t! As Lovecraftian lovers, the developers appreciate the horror of the unknown.

The story-driven Soma doesn’t ask you to shoot up monsters or hoard resources or solve complicated logic puzzles, but it’s still not for the faint of heart. Traversing Pathos-2 will mean hiding and running from any mysterious creature that crosses your path, while trying to figure out how to get to your next destination. Expect a combination of jump scares, underwater exploration, and cerebral science fiction.

Persona 4: Dancing All Night

September 29th - PlayStation Vita

The original Persona 4 has become a cult classic among role-playing fans for good reason. It managed to combine a small town murder mystery with typical high school drama, and somehow made it work within the confines of a fairly traditional Japanese RPG. So it only makes sense to follow that up with a music game.

Dancing All Night features the same cast of characters, but in a completely different context. You’re still fighting shadowy monsters, but this time you’re using the power of dance to ward them off, instead of your combat skills. It’s a silly departure, but given Persona 4’s wonderful soundtrack and unforgettable cast of characters, it’s also one that could work. Plus, your Vita is really desperate for something new to play. You remember Vita, right? That thing sitting in your sock drawer. Go give it a hug.

Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer

September 25th - Nintendo 3DS

Animal Crossing is the game series we most want to live in. We relish performing menial tasks around its fictional small towns, helping personified animals solve countless pedestrian problems. It’s like real life, except colorful, safe, and everything we do is incrementally rewarded.

Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer is a spinoff that focuses on the interior and exterior designs of the cartoonish homes. With some of the limitations removed from Animal Crossing’s traditional sell-buy-sell story progression, the player can spend large sums decorating homes to please lovable residents. With more creative freedom from the get go, it may be an even more welcoming entry point to one of Nintendo’s most charmed worlds.

LEGO Dimensions

September 27th - PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Wii U, Xbox 360, Xbox One

It’s hard to imagine a better fit for the ever-expanding toys-to-life genre — games like the Skylanders and Disney Infinity franchises that incorporate real-world toys into their video game worlds — than LEGO. The company’s massive catalog of original universes and licensed properties already spans both physical toys and video games: it was only a matter of time before it found a way to unite the two. LEGO Dimensions mashes characters from dozens of different fictional realms into the same universe. If you want to a build a super-team consisting of Batman, Gandalf, Marty McFly, Homer Simpson, and Emmet from The LEGO Movie, this is the game for you.

LEGO plans to support the game with expansions and level packs for at least a year post-release, so nervous buyers can rest assured there will be more to play, and anxious parents can tremble knowing there will be more to buy. While the potential damage to the family budget may scare away some parents who’ve already littered their house with similar toys, consider this: the chance to pit Gollum and Wonder Woman against each other in heated combat. How can any self-respecting comic book shop frequenter resist?

Mushroom 11

Fall - Mac OSX, Windows PC

A few years ago, we saw a tech demonstration at a New York City art museum in which a green blob traveled across a wasteland by splitting and rebuilding itself. It had the pleasure of bubble wrap, and the thoughtfulness of a platforming puzzle game. This fall, it will be released as a full-fledged video game called Mushroom 11.

We know many relatives and friends who don’t play many games, but enjoy mobile distractions like the hit World of Goo. Mushroom 11 should be their latest, unexpected video game fixation. It’s easy to learn, immediately enjoyable to play, and the green goo is adorable — despite having no discernible emotions. Plus, few people have heard about Mushroom 11, so when it becomes a surprise hit, you can grin and say you played it before it was cool.

Rock Band 4

October 6th - PlayStation 4, Xbox One

Developed by the company that created the original Guitar Hero, Rock Band expanded the concept of a rock star rhythm game to include drums, vocals, and bass. It saw a panoply of sequels and spinoffs for specific bands like The Beatles, but the last major title was released five years ago followed by a slide in interest in plastic instruments. Rock Band 4 will refresh the series for a new generation of consoles. This means more songs, new fancy plastic guitars and drum kits, and a focus on "freestyle" performances that let you improvise along with songs instead of just recreating them.

Where the new Guitar Hero Live is trying to revamp rhythm games and the plastic used to play them, Rock Band 4 is shaping up to be a gentler, more party-friendly alternative. If you had fun staying up late with your friends and playing the video game version of air guitar, it’s an easy time to get back into the series — if you still have your old instruments from a previous game around, they should even work with it. Developer Harmonix hopes to release new songs and features over time instead of putting out a sequel right away.

Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection

October 9th - PlayStation 4

If you’re a PS4 owner petrified that you won’t be able to catch up on the Nathan Drake saga before it wraps with Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, fear not: Sony and Naughty Dog have a solution. Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection is a standard next-gen port in terms of enhancements — a little bit of graphical polish, a superior resolution and frame rate, new modes and trophies — but it’s notable for two reasons. First, it squeezes all three of the Uncharted games released on PS3 — 2007’s Drake’s Fortune, 2009’s Among Thieves, and 2011’s Drake’s Deception — into one beefy package. Second, buyers will gain entry into A Thief’s End’s multiplayer beta when it’s released (the date hasn’t been announced yet).

This might be enough to render The Nathan Drake Collection a worthy purchase for neophytes and die-hards alike.

Yoshi’s Woolly World

October 16th - Wii U

Who doesn’t like video games where everything is made of yarn? (We look over the audience, and see no one has raised their hand.) Good, because Nintendo has constructed the latest installment in its Yoshi series of platforming games with the frizzy material of homemade Christmas presents. Yoshi’s Woolly World stars a threaded version of the titular green dinosaur and boasts various yarn-themed elements, like yarn balls that let Yoshi knit a path forward or secrets that can be found by unraveling a level.

Yoshi’s Woolly World will have a built-in base of existing Nintendo fans, and the cute look will surely entice at least one or two yarn enthusiasts. (We look over the audience and realize everyone is actually just a gang of cats. No wonder y’all are so excited about yarn!) It’s also got some extra features for anyone who’s invested in Nintendo’s Amiibo toys. Placing a Yoshi figurine on the Wii U’s GamePad controller will import a bonus Yoshi into the game, and other Amiibos will unlock new themes based on characters like Mario or Samus Aran.

Guitar Hero Live

October 20th - PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Wii U, Xbox 360, Xbox One, plus "select mobile devices"

In 2005, Guitar Hero sold players a simple plastic guitar controller and the fantasy of being a rock star. One decade and over a dozen titles later, it’s building upon that formula with a new generation of live-action music videos. Guitar Hero Live has replaced computer graphics with ‘90s-style full-motion video, and it’s launching with an MTV-style 24-hour music channel running videos to play along with.

Guitar Hero Live might be more complicated than the Guitar Hero you remember — its new controller adds dual rows of buttons that look a lot like frets, players will want to tune into the music channel at specific times for their favorite musical genres, and there’s a system of earning (or buying) points for premium songs. But the other way of thinking about Guitar Hero Live is as a great flattening of fake rockstar skills. It’s the first meaningful revamp of one of the best rhythm games of all time, making it a new experience for just about everyone.

Assassin’s Creed Syndicate

October 23rd - PlayStation 4, Xbox One, with Windows PC release in November

The Assassin’s Creed series is an incredibly complex science fictional saga about genetic memory retrieval, millennia-old conspiracies, virtual reality, and… okay, look, no one really cares about that. Assassin’s Creed is like the multitemporal version of that Full Metal Jacket quote: do parkour runs through exotic, exciting time periods; meet interesting historical figures; and stab them while wearing a stylish cloak. This time around, you’re fighting gang wars in Victorian London, with new technological touches like a grappling hook and a sword cane.

A Victorian Assassin’s Creed — the most modern time period so far — has been on some people’s wish lists for quite some time. If you’re not sold on the gameplay, the entire series is still consistently beautiful, priding itself on detailed and (relatively) historically accurate cityscapes in places like Paris and Jerusalem. Syndicate will include a playable female character, even if she’s sharing a spotlight with the primary male protagonist. Unfortunately, last year’s Assassin’s Creed Unity suffered from crippling and sometimes hilarious technical problems at launch, so some caution might be in order for Syndicate.

The Legend of Zelda: Tri Force Heroes

October 23rd - Nintendo 3DS

We are human; we are doomed to be endlessly fixated on what is just out of reach. Countless Wii U owners are waiting for the next big console Legend of Zelda— an open-world game that was a disappointing no-show at E3 2015. The primarily cooperative Tri Force Heroes, though, is right around the corner. Instead of an epic story, it’s a puzzle-based 3DS game meant for three people (all playing as Link). Players will need to coordinate everything from their actions to their outfits to succeed.

If you’re desperate for some new Zelda, this is an obvious choice. It’s also a stand-alone puzzle game that should be accessible to most people with a 3DS, but without an established loyalty to the series. The optimal experience might be sitting on the couch with two friends, but there’s an online multiplayer option where players communicate with built-in gestures instead of voice chat. If you don’t want to deal with multiplayer at all, there’s always the option to play alone, controlling all the Links yourself. It’s not the next big Zelda, but that’s okay. May we be so fortunate to experience the present.

Halo 5: Guardians

October 27th - Xbox One

Halo 5: Guardians is the first new Halo game to hit the Xbox One, following last year’s compendium of Halo: Combat Evolved through Halo 4: The Master Chief Collection. The story follows Halo 4, with Spartan Locke tracking Master Chief, and will be playable via four-player co-op.

The Halo mythos may intimidate newcomers, but the cooperative campaign, multiplayer mode, flashy graphics, and comparatively cartoonish violence make it one of the more accessible first-person shooters to be released this fall. Microsoft supports the Halo games long after release, making it — along with Destiny and Call of Duty — a game that could last deep into 2016.

Call of Duty Black Ops 3

November 6th - Playstation 3, PlayStation 4, Windows PC, Xbox 360, Xbox One

We at The Verge play each annually released Call of Duty game, and even we’re disoriented by the series. Black Ops 3 takes place in the future, but not in the same future as Call of Duty: Ghosts, Modern Warfare, or Advanced Warfare. The Black Ops series set itself apart by taking place in the past, but it’s unclear if the past will be present this time around. But there are robotics and super soldiers and fear of a robot takeover, and as we read that aloud, we realize that sounds nothing like a Call of Duty game.

Perhaps that’s the joy of Call of Duty at this point. It’s now just a brand that stands for a certain scope and quality, and can be placed onto any setting or plot. Hopefully Black Ops 3 distinguishes itself from its cousins. And if it doesn’t, there’s always reliably enjoyable multiplayer and the Zombies mode, which will feature the vocal stylings of Jeff Goldblum.

Yo-kai Watch

November 6th, 2015 - Nintendo 3DS

Yo-kai Watch is probably the most popular game you’ve never heard of. It’s sold millions of copies, spawned multiple sequels and a popular anime, and it has enough merchandise to make Pikachu jealous. Problem is, up until now it’s only been available in Japan.

Nintendo will be publishing the Level-5-developed game in North America this year, bringing what could be the next Pokemon-style phenomenon to the region. Like that series, Yo-kai Watch is a fairly straightforward RPG, but one where you use a magical watch to uncover hidden creatures that others can’t see. It’s also just plain adorable, so if you love Pokemon, it’ll very likely be your next obsession.

Rise of the Tomb Raider

November 10th - Xbox One, Xbox 360

Rise of the Tomb Raider is the sequel to Crystal Dynamics’ successful 2012 Tomb Raider reboot, which transformed the old-school action-adventure series into a breakneck blockbuster. Xbox chief Phil Spencer hasn’t been shy about positioning Rise of the Tomb Raider as his console’s answer to Sony’s Uncharted series. (The game is exclusive to Xbox One for a limited window.)

And it’s true: for Xbox One owners looking for their fix of treasure hunting adventure, this is the closest thing you’ll find to Uncharted on the console. But it’d be selling the series short to view it solely as an imitator; 2012’s Tomb Raider was a hugely accomplished game in its own right, with excellent pacing, strong world-building, and surprisingly solid combat.

Fallout 4

November 10th - PlayStation 4, Windows PC, Xbox One

The world is a wasteland, and you must scavenge, claw, and steal to survive. But don’t worry, because Fallout 4 is out this November! Bethesda’s vast RPG casts you as a survivor of a catastrophic nuclear war, freed from an underground bunker to roam the wilds around Boston some 200 years after the bombs fell. Now inhabited by zombie-faced ghouls, irradiated rodents, and worse — other humans — you’ll need to shoot, loot, and chat your way through hundreds of darkly comic quests.

Fallout is surprisingly welcoming to those turned off by the joyless stories of other post-apocalyptic video games. Fallout 4 borrows the color palette of its predecessors, painting the nuclear wasteland in muted browns and greens, but adds a slate of new features. A detailed weapon-crafting system means you’ll be able to cobble the gun of your dreams, and salvaging wreckage from the wastes will allow you to build yourself a house and defend it with automated gun turrets. It’s a good thing you’ll have somewhere to stay in the game — if it’s anything like Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas, Fallout 4 will swallow players for months on end.

Star Wars: Battlefront

November 17th - PlayStation 4, Windows PC, Xbox One

EA’s upcoming Battlefront is to your Star Wars fantasies what the publisher’s long-running Battlefield series is to your regular war fantasies. Like Battlefield, Battlefront is a multiplayer shooter that pits two teams of soldiers against each other, but unlike Battlefield, the action takes place in a galaxy far far away. Where Battlefield lets you drive tanks and APCs, Battlefront gives you the keys to X-Wings and AT-ATs, allowing you to relive fights from the movies, like the Empire Strikes Back’s battle of Hoth, over and over again.

It’s a game designed explicitly for Star Wars fans who dream about being on the ground (or air) in the franchise's most iconic scrimmages. The game draws on the classic trilogy for its settings, but also bridges the 30-year gap between Return of the Jedi and the new films: Star Wars obsessives will want to join the Imperial or Rebel forces to see the battle of Jakku, a fight that Episode VII director J.J. Abrams says is pivotal in the freshly rebuilt Star Wars canon. Fortunately, you won’t need to be deep into the expanded universe to enjoy Battlefront: the game’s massive and messy multiplayer combat looks suitably cinematic even if you don’t know your AT-AT from your Endor.

Star Fox Zero

November 20th - Wii U

Brace yourself for "do a barrel roll" memes,  Star Fox is back for the first time in nearly a decade. Star Fox Zero isn’t reinventing the series’ trademark space combat — it’s supposed to feel similar to Star Fox 64, and recycles many of that game’s locations and beloved sidekicks. Instead, it’s framing the familiar action within the Wii U’s gamepad. Players will operate Fox McCloud’s Arwing from the cockpit using the gamepad, freeing up their big screens for a more dynamic look at the action.

Nintendo is positioning Star Fox Zero as a major showcase for the GamePad’s capabilities, one that can stand alongside games like Splatoon and Super Mario Maker.The gamble might not pay off, but the world of Star Fox has the potential to make a great foundation for a GamePad-based shooter if Nintendo can work out the kinks from early previews.

Mario Tennis: Ultra Smash

November 20th - Wii U

How big is the Mario brand? The tennis spinoff — Mario Tennis, naturally — is on its seventh iteration. Like Mario Party, Mario Golf, and Mario Paint, the series takes an established sport or hobby, seals it in a Ziplock bag full of Super Mario mythos, gives the code plenty of time to marinate, then plates and garnishes each new serving with some hand-selected features.

This time, Mario Tennis will feature more power-ups, including the ability to grow characters so that they consume nearly a quarter of the court. If you’re thinking, Wait, didn’t they do that already, well, you’re not alone.

Mario Tennis is unlikely to attract Wii U holdouts to the console, and if it's tennis simulation you want, obviously look elsewhere. But it does further solidify the Wii U as the most consistent home for local multiplayer games in a time where playing with friends on a couch is the feature most likely to get cut from big-budget titles. It’s tennis. It’s Mario. It’s an easy way to get your friends who haven’t played video games in years to grab a controller and have a little fun.

Just Cause 3

December 1st - PlayStation 4, Windows PC, Xbox One

The Just Cause series deserves to be in the same conversations about ambitious open-world games as Grand Theft Auto. What Just Cause lacks in precision — its cities aren’t compulsive replications of recognizable neighborhoods and landmarks, its animation and AI aren’t so poured over as to make sure a cat reacts properly to a suburban fire fight — the series makes up for in messy, unpredictable chaos. It can be just as spectacular, jaw-dropping, and well frankly garish as its better-known contemporary.

Just Cause 3, we suspect, will click with a larger audience than its predecessor, in some part because Just Cause 2 continues to be the material of zany, popular internet videos that provide hours of free promotion. But we also believe Just Cause 3 is arriving in a period of gaming that values creativity and freedom more than the cinematic, guided corridors of previous generations. Its creators have been boastful about the opportunity to blow up practically everything in the game’s tropical setting. Plenty of open-world games fill the market, but Just Cause 3 reminds us that what’s more valuable than an open world is freedom to engage with it.

Rainbow Six Siege

December 1st - PlayStation 4, Windows PC, Xbox One

The Rainbow Six games have always been more tactically minded than their shooter peers, and Siege is no exception. Rather than the bombastic breach-and-clears of games like Call of Duty, Ubisoft’s FPS demands that players plan their approach into enemy-held territory, taking things slow in order to avoid a messy death. The game’s Terrorist Hunt mode fills a map with foes, demanding precision and teamwork, while a new multiplayer option assigns players to either the terrorist or counterterrorist faction. The former are holed up inside a building and need to hold out, while the latter are on the outside, trying to get in without too many casualties.

Siege appears to be the thinking-person’s first-person shooter, though it doesn’t sacrifice the wanton demolition of similar games. A terrain destruction model means you’ll need to watch out for bullets flying through walls, doors, and floors, but both sides have a set of gadgets they’ll be able to deploy to keep them out of the line of fire. If players get the tools to devise their own cunning plans, and the game’s guns feel as good as they did in predecessor Rainbow Six: Vegas, then Siege could be the antidote to the typically stupid shooter.

Hitman

December 8th - PlayStation 4, Windows PC, Xbox One

Fresh off an attempt to neck-stab the movie industry with another dry thriller, Agent 47 is leaping back into the world of games with Hitman, the sixth main entry in the long-running stealth series. Developer IO Interactive is approaching the game with renewed ambition and new technical power, and it’s hoping to achieve the same sort of "stealth sandbox" feel that characterizes Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. It’s also promising to keep the game interesting with new missions and areas, some of which will only be available for a limited time.

The agent’s recent cinematic gambit may have been widely maligned, but he’s delivered reliable and capable excitement as a video game protagonist for well over a decade now. If you like sneaking around and solving puzzles with blades and bullets, Hitman should do a fine job satisfying those urges. All that’s left is the announcement of a game version of The Verge’s own take on the Hitman mythos, Hitman: Bloodtribution. Hey, I’d preorder it!

Xenoblade Chronicles X

December 4th - Wii U

Role-playing games tend to send you to far flung fantasy worlds, filled with swords and magic and monsters to fight. The Xenoblade series does that to, but it also takes place in a sci-fi future where robotic aliens have taken over the planet. The first game was a cult hit on the original Wii, and spawned an excellent port for the 3DS. But Xenoblade Chronicle X is the first proper follow-up. Like the original, X lets you explore absolutely massive, open environments and do battle against towering alien creatures. The combat is much more action-oriented compared to most Japanese RPGs, but the biggest change is the chance to pilot a mech suit.

Since it’s billed as a "spiritual successor" and not a straight sequel, X should be approachable to anyone looking for a good RPG, even if you missed the original. And in a genre that tends to be overly cautious, with games that can feel very similar to one another, the Xenoblade series stands apart thanks to its epic scale and fluid combat.

Persona 5

TBD 2015 - PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4

Persona is one of the few Japanese RPG franchises that still engenders enthusiasm in the West. The series has managed to carve out its own niche by blending a dark dungeon crawler with surprisingly deep high school drama. By day you have to worry over exams and that student you have a crush on, but night is all about fighting terrifying shadow creatures.

Persona 3 dealt with an after-school, monster-hunting team, while 4 was all about solving a series of murders in a small town. The next adventure is still somewhat of a mystery, but it involves a group of high school kids who also pull off Ocean’s Eleven-style heists in their time off. Plus, it has a talking cat.

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