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The best games we played at Summer Game Fest 2024

A warrior faces down a dragon in Phantom Blade Zero.
S-Game
Summer Gaming Marathon Feature Image
This story is part of our Summer Gaming Marathon series.

It’s been a long seven days here at Digital Trends. While gaming fans may have had a busy few days thanks to live broadcasts like Xbox Games Showcase and Ubisoft Forward, we were on the ground in Los Angeles for a full week full of hands-on demos and previews. Over that time, we played more games than we can count, from big fall releases like Metaphor: ReFantazio to smaller titles like Bounty Star. The big takeaway? Even if the game industry is currently facing a rocky moment, plenty of developers are still pouring their hearts and souls into making great games.

There’s so much that we’ve already written about already (and so much more coming), but we want to highlight some of the best games we played over the past week. Our picks represent a wide selection of games, from tentpole console exclusives to indies made by one or two developers. Each one is entirely different from the others, showing that passion and creativity are still thriving even in the industry’s toughest moment.

Game of the Show: Astro Bot

A robot punches a boss in Astro Bot.
Sony Interactive Entertainment

If we had to pick a game of the show this year, it would have to be Astro Bot. PlayStation’s upcoming exclusive impressed at the show with a deep demo showing off its precise platforming, intricate bosses, and tricky challenge stages. What’s most impressive here is how different each level we played was. One had us boosting through walls with a Bulldog Backpack, while another revolved around froggy boxing gloves that could turn Astro into a slingshot. The more we played, the more we were surprised and delighted. Team Asobi has something special on its hands here with a family-friendly platformer that feels just as tight — if not better — than Nintendo’s best. Don’t sleep on it this September. ~ Giovanni Colantonio

Fatal Fury: City of the Wolves

A character dropkicks another in Fatal Fury: City of the Wolves.
SNK

Though I’ve played fighting games my entire life, I’ve only gotten serious about learning their nuances in recent years. I’m glad I did, because that knowledge helped me appreciate the cerebral brawling of Fatal Fury: City of the Wolves. SNK’s stylish revival may look like Street Fighter 6 at a glance, but it has its own distinct voice thanks to its unique rev system. Certain actions, like special moves, build up rev, which is tracked by a rising gauge. When that hits 100%, players overheat and lose access to some key moves. That means that combatants can’t just spam moves; they have to think carefully about when to unleash the big guns. It’s a great approach that opens the door for lots of strategic thinking and dramatic moments. ~ Giovanni Colantonio

Kunitsu-Gami: Path of the Goddess

Two warriors in Kunitsu-Gami: Path of the Goddess.
Capcom

My quick elevator pitch for Kunitsu-Gami: Path of the Goddess? Bloons Tower Defense 6 meets Onimusha, but even that wouldn’t quite do it justice. Capcom’s latest is an action strategy game where the main goal is to guide a princess from one side of a level to the other so she can dance and rid the area of “defilement.” During the daytime, players can save villagers and earn currency that can be used to buy combat units or make the princess walk a certain distance. At night, players then must position and command the villagers they turned into warriors and fight off hordes of enemies trying to attack the princess. It’s a unique gameplay loop, and Path of the Goddess looks great while doing it. ~ Tomas Franzese.

Fragpunk

A sword deflects a bullet in Fragpunk.
NetEase

When I sat down to play Fragpunk at Summer Game Fest the day before its reveal at the Xbox Games Showcase, I knew nothing about it. About 20 minutes later, I was all-in. Fragpunk takes the idea of Valorant, with its attack-defend multiplayer shooting setup, and sprinkles in a layer of goofiness thanks to a card system. At the start of each round, each team activates up to three cards that drastically change the rules. Those cards can get very silly, turning the ground into ice or activating big head mode. It’s a wacky spin on a competitive shooter that feels much better tuned for casual players who just want to goof off with friends. ~ Giovanni Colantonio

Fear the Spotlight

A woman hides from a spotlight-headed creature in Fear the Spotlight.
Blumhouse Games

While Blumhouse Games announced several titles at Summer Game Fest, only one was playable during the event — and it was a great choice. Fear the Spotlight is an expanded version of a tiny indie that briefly launched on Steam last September. The developers took it offline and decided to rework it once Blumhouse showed interest in supporting it. The new version is already showing promise thanks to its retro ’90s aesthetic, tactile puzzle box gameplay, and more modern storytelling that almost brings me back to Life is Strange. While the original version gained a very small audience of dedicated horror fans, I imagine it’ll get a lot more eyes when it relaunches this year. ~ Giovanni Colantonio

Harmonium: The Musical

A screenshot from Harmonium: The Musical.
The Odd Gentleman

Harmonium: The Musical is a new adventure game from The Odd Gentleman about a young girl who’s transported to a magical world, Alice in Wonderland style, after going deaf at a young age. Players solve puzzles, many of which are based on interpreting sign language in order to gain the context needed to solve a puzzle. Mix in some solid writing and pretty animation clearly inspired by studios like Pixar, and Harmonium: The Musical is a charming adventure game that you’ll want to keep an eye on — especially since it will be available for all Netflix subscribers when it launches. ~ Tomas Franzese

S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2: Heart of Chornobyl

A man walks through a wasteland in S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2.
GSC Game World

After several delays, the release of S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2: Heart of Chornobyl is nearly upon us, and I was impressed by what I played at Summer Game Fest. This supernatural horror shooter set in a radiated Chornobyl immediately makes the player feel unsafe in the exclusion zone they’ve broken into. From environmental hazards to aggressive enemies, almost everything is out to kill players. You’ll bleed if you get shot or suffer from radiation poisoning if you walk in something toxic, so there are survival game elements underpinning the entire experience. S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2 doesn’t feel janky like its predecessor either, so it seems like it will be well worth playing when it hits Xbox Game Pass this September. ~ Tomas Franzese

UFO 50

A character fights monsters in a UFO 50 minigame.
Mossmouth

UFO 50, the latest game from Spelunky studio Mossmouth, is the kind of game you need to play to truly understand how wild it is. The setup is that Mossmouth “discovered” 50 lost games from a fictional developer called UFOsoft. Players can dive into 50 8-bit games by the imaginary studio, each of which is entirely different from one another. One minute you’re playing a multiplayer platform fighter like Super Smash Bros., the next you’re playing a mini-golf game in the style of Zelda. It’s an eclectic collection with some deceptively deep secrets that already have me eager to dig back in. ~ Giovanni Colantonio

Phantom Blade Zero

Phantom Blade Zero protagonist Soul
S-Game

Both of the trailers for Phantom Blade Zero were so flashy that I had my doubts that the game would live up to the hype. Thankfully, I was pleased to see that wasn’t the case when I went hands-on with it at Summer Game Fest this year. It’s definitely a more familiar-feeling action game than its trailers suggest, but it’s still a joy to play. This is a game where players feel powerful when on the offensive. There is tons of combat depth and combo potential, and all of the attack animations are gorgeous to look at. Still, smart parrying, dodging, and move canceling are what will give the best players an edge in battle. ~ Tomas Franzese

Building Relationships

A house with a green roof talks in Building Relationships.
Tan Ant Games

Building Relationships takes its title quite literally. Playing as a house on the prowl for a bachelor, you’ll tumble your way across an island looking at different buildings. You’ll meet a riverboat who loves to fish, a tent who can’t get enough of bro culture, and even a windmill looking for love. Its crunchy, low-poly graphics mixed with reality-television-driven writing made it an oddball standout at Summer Game Fest this year. You’ll probably never play another dating simulator quite like it. ~ Jesse Vitelli

Giovanni Colantonio
Giovanni is a writer and video producer focusing on happenings in the video game industry. He has contributed stories to…
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