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Summer Game Fest: our 10 favorite games we saw and played

Summer Gaming Marathon Feature Image
This story is part of our Summer Gaming Marathon series.

Digital Trends attended Summer Game Fest Play Days once again this year, as well as events held by Xbox and Ubisoft, and we were able to play demos of a variety of upcoming games from all corners of the industry. We played or saw a hands-off demo of over 30 games slated to release throughout the next year or so. From new entries in long-running series like Mortal Kombat or Armored Core to more quirky and experimental indies that are pushing the video game medium forward, there was a lot for us to like at this Summer Game Fest Play Days and its surrounding events.

Still, we talked and narrowed things down to our ten favorites so you could have a succinct list of some of the best-looking video games that are on the horizon. In no particular order- with the exception of our Game of the Show – here are our 10 favorite games we played last week as part of Summer Game Fest.

Game of the Show: Cocoon

A bug carries an orb in Cocoon.
Annapurna Interactive

It’s incredibly difficult to describe what makes Cocoon so special; it’s truly one of those games you need to actually play to understand. The atmospheric, insect-themed adventure game transported me to another world entirely during my demo session, letting me get fully lost in its sci-fi ambiance. Part of that is due to the astonishingly tight game design that had me traversing its visually striking environments and naturally solving puzzles with no explanation necessary. It’s an experience that stuck with me long after I put the controller down, and I wasn’t the only one. It was the one game on my peers’ tongues all weekend, as both press and content creators couldn’t stop praising it despite not being able to describe why. That makes it an easy pick for our game of the show, beating out some impressive Titans on this list. ~ Giovanni Colantonio

Armored Core VI: Flames of Rubicon

A combat encounter in Armored Core 6
Bandai Namco Entertainment / FromSoftware

A brief 20-minute hands-off theater presentation for Armored Core VI: Flames of Rubicon did enough to rocket boost FromSoftware’s upcoming mecha game onto this list. It’s unlike anything we’ve gotten from the developer over the past decade, but that’s a bad thing. Its frenetic gameplay and intense enemy encounters look like they will constantly keep players on their toes, while deep customization options will allow players to adapt their mech to their favorite play style or what’s best for a given encounter. Armored Core VI’s August 25 release can’t come soon enough. ~ Tomas Franzese

Mortal Kombat 1

Key art for Mortal Kombat 1 shows Liu Kang.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

After falling in love with Street Fighter 6 this month, I was excited to give another fighting game a chance. I’d get to do that at Play Days with a limited build of Mortal Kombat 1, and it certainly didn’t disappoint. Other than its stomach-churning fatalities, what really stands out here is its Kameo system, which lets players call in a second character to perform some extra attacks. It’s a small system that has a big impact, giving players tons of ways to get creative with their playstyle and easily extend combos in unexpected ways. That should pave the way for another genre-pushing fighting game that can go toe-to-toe with Street Fighter 6 later this year. ~ Giovanni Colantonio

Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown

Sargon attacks a boss in Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown.
Ubisoft

A total left-field surprise to kick off this year’s Summer Game Fest stream, Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown quickly became one of the most talked about games of a very busy weekend. And while it wasn’t playable at Play Days proper, Ubisoft invited us to demo it at a close-by event, along with The Division Resurgence and The Crew Motorfest. After 30 minutes with The Lost Crown, I can assure you that the 2D action game deserved the spotlight it got. It’s shaping up to be a fantastic Metroidvania with deceptively complex combat, rewarding exploration, and an incredibly cool sense of style. It’s the complete package, running laps around a lot of much bigger, flashier games we saw during Summer Game Fest. ~ Giovanni Colantonio

Disney Illusion Island

Donald Duck tries to fly in Disney Illusion Island.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Punching way above its weight as a licensed platformer starring Mickey Mouse, Disney Illusion Island impressed at Summer Game Fest Play Days. This is a gorgeous, full-blown Metroidvania starring four iconic Disney characters, and while each of them may not have a unique moveset, the game is a joy to play. It also doesn’t feature any combat and allows players to choose how much health they want their character to have when they start playing, so the experience is tailored to all ages. On top of that, this game is entirely playable in co-op and has co-op exclusive mechanics that encourage players to help each other out. No matter if you prefer Mickey Mouse or Metroid, you will get something great out of Disney Illusion Island. ~ Tomas Franzese

Viewfinder

A character looks at a Mega Man like power-up in Viewfinder.
Sad Owl Studios

Viewfinder is the kind of game that you could throw in a room with 1,000 demos and it would still stand out. That’s thanks to its unique twist, where players can seamlessly turn 2D photos into full 3D environments. That creates an unbelievably clever puzzle game hook that feels like you’re watching an impossible magic trick. Though I’d already gotten to see it in action at GDC earlier this year, I was still blown away seeing how it works. It’s a truly special piece of game design that I’m dying to dig into when it launches on July 18. ~ Giovanni Colantonio

Simpler Times

Taina's bedroom in Simpler Times.
Iam8bit

Unpacking walked so Simpler Times could run. Simpler Times is a fairly simple game about a young girl packing up things around her childhood home as she prepares to go off to college. Instead of being a somber experience like that premise might make you think, this is actually something much more optimistic and reflective. It struck a personal chord with me as I’m moving quite soon, but I’m soon anyone who has even gone through a significant life change that’s made them reflect on their past will get something, hopefully positive, out of playing Simpler Times. ~ Tomas Franzese

Alan Wake 2

FBI agent Saga Anderson exits a car in the Alan Wake 2 trailer.
Remedy Entertainment

Though we didn’t get to physically play Alan Wake 2 at Summer Game Fest, a 40-minute gameplay demonstration would tell us more than enough about the upcoming survival horror game. The impressive snippet I saw traded in some of the pulpy horror of its predecessor for a dark, moody FBI investigation that felt more like True Detective than Twin Peaks. I’d get to see plenty of gameplay that piqued my interest, from Resident Evil 2-style shooting to an intriguing investigation mechanic that lets co-lead character Saga work out the game’s central mystery on an evidence board. What’s exciting is that the clip I saw is only half of the game, as the parts starring Alan Wake himself are supposed to play differently. Considering how creepy the section I saw was, I’m looking forward to seeing how else developer Remedy can scare the crap out of me. ~ Giovanni Colantonio

Sonic Superstars

Sonic runs through a level in Sonic Superstars
Sega

My personal feelings about Sonic Frontiers aside, Sonic Superstars is shaping up to be a fantastic 2D platformer that will help push the Sonic the Hedgehog series forward. Its solid-level design and new Emerald Powers enable all the exploration and movement options one would want out of a 2D Sonic the Hedgehog game, and the four bosses we fought in its Summer Game Fest Play Days demo build were some of the best in the entire series. And, while we didn’t get to try it, this game will even feature co-op to take advantage of its multiple playable characters. Sonic fans have no need to be worried about Superstars, as even a Frontiers hater like me is very much looking forward to it. ~ Tomas Franzese

Lysfanga: The Time Shift Warrior

Remnants attack a shielded enemy in Lysfanga: The Time Shift Warrior.
Quantic Dream

I always appreciate seeing a tried-and-true formula shaken up in a way that I’m not expecting. That was exactly what I got when I demoed Lysfanga: The Time Shift Warrior, a new indie published by Quantic Dream. At first, I thought it was your average top-down, hack-and-slash action game. I’d soon realize there was much more to it, though, as I’d learn its core cloning hook. When entering a combat arena, players have 15 seconds to do as much as possible before they’re respawned as a new version of themselves. They then work alongside every clone that came before them to fully clear the room in one short loop. It’s an ingenious idea that makes it feel more like a strategic puzzle game than just another action game. ~ Giovanni Colantonio

Tomas Franzese
Tomas Franzese is a Staff Writer at Digital Trends, where he reports on and reviews the latest releases and exciting…
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