I feel it’s necessary to preface all this by admitting that, as a man who plays a lot of games, I’m not the type of person to anticipate new releases. Games are just too expensive of a hobby, and getting caught up in hype trains all the time is a quick and reliable way to lose your shirt. If I didn’t write this column, I’d never pick up a game the first day it was out. With the exception of Nintendo and a few particularly smart indie game developers, every company drops the price of their games drastically a few months after release.
That said, it’s always fun to keep up with the trades, and even I can admit that the prospect of an upcoming new entry in a beloved series is nothing to scoff at. So, here are some things to keep your eyes on in the coming months. Maybe don’t buy all of them right away, but do keep your eyes on them.
Life Is Strange 2 (Sept. 27)
The first “Life Is Strange” and its prequel, “Before the Storm” are personal favorites of mine. Are they perfect? No. Are they good? Well, that’s up for debate. They had janky dialogue that was off-putting just as often as it was charming. They had a nasty habit for constantly referencing more interesting and effective pieces of media like “Twin Peaks.” And as much as they wanted to be affecting progressive dramas about young bisexual women finding their place in the world, they frequently strayed into some problematic “bury your gays” and ableist territory that was ... not so affecting.
Still, there’s nothing else like them. If there’s any one thing you can say in developer Dontnod’s favor, it’s that you can never quite tell where any of their games are headed — details have been sparse about the new game. Dontnod is looking to launch a sort of “Life Is Strange” universe where each new installment tells a stand-alone serialized mystery. What little has been revealed shows that the game starts with two young boys accidently killing a cop — somehow — and then running away from home.
You can’t fault them for originality.
Red Dead Redemption 2 (Oct. 26)
I’m not a huge fan of the “Red Dead” series. Not for any real reason, I just never really got into it. If you summed up all the time I’ve spent playing “Red Dead” over the years and combined it with all the time I’ve spent watching “Red Dead” cutscenes online and reading “Red Dead” plot synopses, it’d probably total up to a little more than 45 minutes.
No, this is here because, good or bad, it is going to be the biggest hit of the fall. Because I’m going to get it, and, chances are, you’re going to get it, too. It’s the first open world title from Rockstar Games to come out since 2013’s “Grand Theft Auto V,” and these games don’t sell like normal games. “GTA V” remains one of the most best-selling, fastest selling and highest grossing media products ever. As of last April, the game had shipped 95 million copies — that’s with an initial sale price of $60 per game.
“Red Dead Revolver” came out way back in 2004. The series doesn’t have nearly the history “Grand Theft Auto” does, but that doesn’t seem to have slowed the hype train for this game in the slightest. I could speculate as to why — Rockstar has been marketing this game very aggressively, the industry as a whole is starved for good western-themed games, and “Red Dead Redemption” came to Xbox One’s backwards compatibility program in 2016, introducing the series to a new generation. But the reasons don’t really matter: The effect is the same. Come Oct. 26, there’s gonna be a line out the door of State Street’s GameStop.
Spyro Reignited Trilogy (Nov. 13)
Spyro the Dragon may be the most resilient and flexible mascot of all time. There seems to be no job the games industry can throw at the little purple dude that he can’t do. Spyro originally comes from the era of PlayStation 1 platformers that were all trying to have their own mascot and launch big new franchises (e.g. “Crash Bandicoot” and “Bubsy”). Developer Insomniac Games invented Spyro to represent the kid-friendly wing of this movement. Spyro games were easier to get into than a lot of the other 3D platformers on the PS1. They had colorful graphics and cute animal characters. They were exploratory. They made kids want PlayStations.
Then Insomniac started selling the rights to Spyro to other developers. Since his initial conception, Spyro has been the star of isometric platformers on mobile platforms, side-scrolling crossovers with Crash Bandicoot, one failed reboot of his original games and a background face in “Skylanders,” an entry in the Toys-to-Life genre. For almost two decades now, fans have been craving anything resembling the original Spyro trilogy, and it suddenly materialized. The developer Toys for Bob appears to be a huge fan of old school platformers. They were behind “Skylanders” and last year’s remaster, “Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy.” The Spyro games are soon getting a similar treatment, so if you’re a fan of dragons or beauty or joy, maybe give it a look.
Hitman 2 (Nov. 13)
The whole history of the “Hitman” series is two steps forward, one step back, five steps forward, sixteen steps back — forget it, let’s just go back to where we started.
The series has always struggled with finding its identity, but the latest reboot in the series had it almost down pat. “Hitman” is at its best when it's about a silly tall man with a barcode on the back of his head finding ridiculously creative ways to kill bad people. The games don’t have great plots — somehow the silly tall barcode man manages to consistently be a boring and unrelatable character — but they do have hateable villains and fun gameplay loops. There are no other series where you’ll shoot your way through the level once and, just for fun, replay the level later so you can complete it by dressing up as a pool boy and seducing your target. It’s a rare breed of stealth game that’s truly based on disguise and interacting social systems, and very little on actually hiding in the shadows.
The last “Hitman” game had two problems. It held your hand a bit too much, essentially telling players the more esoteric solutions without them asking. And its release was butchered, so it didn’t sell. Frankly, it’s surprising a sequel exists at all. Maybe it will have more problems, maybe it will have less, maybe it’ll have the same problems, or maybe it’ll finally be the first Hitman game with no issues and a great story. Either way, it’s something to keep an eye on.
Mega Man 11 (Oct. 2)
This last one is here because somebody had to mention it. This is a major publisher release, but in terms of marketing, it’s close to being the anti-“Red Dead.” Capcom is putting out a new mainline Mega Man game for the first time since ...
Well, since “Red Dead Redemption” came out. Huh.
Following the disappointment that was the Kickstarter-backed “Mighty No. 9,” a revival of the Mega Man series, Capcom decided to start making actual Mega Man again. The writing was on the wall: There was a clear demand for the blue bomber, and for the first time they’re using “Mighty No. 9’s” style of 3D retro graphics in a mainline Mega Man game.
In the interest of full disclosure, I actually got to play a demo of the new installment’s first boss out at San Diego Comic-Con, and the game plays well. Specifically, it plays like classic Mega Man, and the gameplay mechanics it’s added to change up the very rote Mega Man formula are just brilliant. I still wouldn’t pre-order anything, but if you’re looking for a guaranteed crowd pleaser this October, keep both eyes on this one.
Marty Forbeck is the Daily Cardinal's video games columnist. To read more of his work, click here.