The 30 most anticipated games of 2016

UPDATED (05/08/16): Better start scouting your holiday wish lists

Titanfall 2

We're more than halfway through 2016 and on the other side of E3 - which means things are really heating up for gaming.

The Oculus Rift and HTC Vive shipped this spring, finally bringing high-end VR to the masses, and the Xbox One S is out, but there's even more hardware ahead: the PlayStation VR headset in October, and likely the confirmed PlayStation 4K around the same time.

But hardware is only worthwhile if there are great games putting it to use, and thankfully, there's loads of good stuff on the horizon. We've already had a wealth of fantastic games this year, including Uncharted 4: A Thief's End and The Division, but the rest of the year could be even better.

Need proof? Here are the 30 games we're most excited about for the rest of the year, spanning PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC, as well as VR headsets and TVs alike. And do check back regularly, as we'll update this as new games are dated and others are released.

1) The Last Guardian

Platform: PlayStation 4

It's finally happening. Announced seven years ago and brought back into public view last year, Team Ico's The Last Guardian will release this October. At least, that's what they're telling us.

Like Shadow of the Colossus and Ico, you can expect another ravishing and heartfelt adventure, this time built around the companionship of a young boy and his winged beast creature. Our E3 hands-on stirred some familiar emotions, yet also prodded us with unresponsive controls and a rough camera. Hopefully the last months of polish help ensure that it lives up to the massive expectations.

Due: 25 October

2) Battlefield 1

Platforms: PC, PS4, Xbox One

We expected Battlefield 5, but instead we got… Battlefield 1? Try not to think about the name for too long. What really matters is that Battlefield 1 is a welcome move away from the modern gung-ho action of the recent entries, instead embracing the lesser-explored era of World War I.

Otherwise, it's classic Battlefield: expect stunning multiplayer shootouts for up to 64 players, now with a different type of toolset. Expect flamethrowers, clubs, horses, and biplanes as you battle in the Italian Alps, Arabian deserts, and fields of France. And EA promises a much-enhanced solo campaign this time around, too.

Due: 21 October

3) Batman: Arkham VR

Platform: PlayStation VR

The last-gen Arkham remaster was curiously postponed until further notice, but at least PlayStation VR buyers have something potentially more exciting on the horizon: Batman: Arkham VR, which seems set to ship alongside the console headset this October.

Arkham VR isn't the vast, open-world experience we've come to expect from the previous TV-based entries, but rather a more streamlined entry built around the immersion and capabilities of VR. We had a blast trying it out at E3 this year, and expect it'll be an early PlayStation VR must-have.

Due: 13 October

4) Titanfall 2

Platforms: Xbox One, PS4, PC

Titanfall made an awesome initial impact when it debuted in early 2014, although the mechs-and-infantry shooter had some first-game shortcomings: the lack of a proper campaign limited the appeal to some extent, and the community didn't stick around the multiplayer as long as we'd hoped.

But the second attempt could solidify its must-have status, as Titanfall 2 will have expanded multiplayer action including new Titans and a grappling hook, as well as a narrative-driven single-player campaign that looks to be something special. And this time around, it's coming to PS4 as well.

Due: 28 October

5) FIFA 17

Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PC, PS3, Xbox 360

FIFA has been the undisputed football gaming champ for years now, but Konami's Pro Evolution Soccer is on the upswing. What is EA's allure this time around? Well, a proper story mode for starters – you'll command a fictional character through key moments in his career and try to make him a proper star. Good luck with that.

Otherwise, FIFA 17 switches to the Frostbite engine for even more staggeringly lifelike graphics, and other improvements should come with animations and physicality. Will FIFA retain its crown? Whatever the case, we'll probably log dozens of hours gleefully finding out.

Due: 29 September

6) Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare

Platforms: PC, PS4, Xbox One

Not into Battlefield's flashback? How about an extreme flash-forward? Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare takes the series' recent future tilt to its logical conclusion, embracing a full sci-fi universe with starships and outer space shootouts. It's Call of Duty meets Halo, minus the silly-looking aliens.

There's a silver lining here if you love Call of Duty but don't dig the premise: Activision will also release Modern Warfare Remastered, an HD-updated version of the 2007 classic that brings a serious graphical overhaul and includes the campaign and 10 of the original maps.

Due: 4 November

7) Rez Infinite

Platform: PlayStation 4 (VR)

If there's any classic game that seems like a perfect fit for a virtual reality reboot, it's certainly Sega's Rez. And thank the heavens, it's coming to PlayStation VR.

The dazzling, rhythm-matched shooter will be enhanced for PS4, with updated graphics and a brand new world, and the vivid wireframe worlds should be rather mind-blowing when surrounding you in the VR headset. It'll work on PS4 without the headset too, but it ought to sell non-believers on Sony's VR plans.

Due: October 2016

8) Forza Horizon 3

Platforms: Xbox One, PC

This generation's most delightfully entertaining racing game is back for another spin with Forza Horizon 3, which not only drifts over to Windows 10 but brings in a campaign co-op feature that lets up to four players seamlessly connect across both platforms.

Beyond that, the new locale of Australia looks to provide a diverse array of terrain, and the game looks staggeringly beautiful in motion. Add to that a greater emphasis on off-road antics and the largest car roster to date and we're already sold. Bring on late September.

Due: 27 September

9) BioShock: The Collection

Platforms: Xbox One, PS4, PC

Three of the best games of the last generation, and arguably a couple of the best shooters of all time, all remastered for newer hardware? Yeah, we're excited. BioShock: The Collection has long been rumoured, and now it's finally coming just before the holiday season goes ballistic.

The original BioShock is one of the most iconic games ever created, and while sequel BioShock 2 wasn't quite as memorable, the included Minerva's Den DLC campaign is absolutely brilliant. The high-flying BioShock Infinite, meanwhile, may have been a divisive game, but it sure was dazzling. We can't wait to revisit Rapture and Columbia alike.

Due: 16 September

10) Pro Evolution Soccer 2017

Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PC, PS3, Xbox 360

We might've gone footie mad putting both this and FIFA 17 on the same list, but this one-two race for simulation supremacy finished closer than ever with last year's games. Can this be the year that Konami's franchise retakes the crown over the recently-dominant FIFA?

Along with the requisite visual upgrades (which look splendid, mind you), the game brings along an array of gameplay enhancements to make it feel more real than ever, along with new licenses that FIFA can't touch. FIFA's eye is on a big story mode this year, but PES might sneak in a surprise goal and take the lead. We'll find out come September.

Due: 15 September

11) Gears of War 4

Platform: Xbox One

Gears of War has long been the go-to Xbox destination for big, brash action, but Gears of War 4 – the first new entry on Xbox One, and first from new developer The Coalition – apparently aims to shake things up just a tiny bit.

Last year's E3 demo was dark and eerie on the single-player side, much unlike what we saw in Gears of War 3 a few years back, however this year's co-op demo (seen above) has plenty of excitement within. Meanwhile, the multiplayer looks very much tried-and-true, albeit with a bunch of new abilities and features added in. It's looking promising, Gears fans.

Due: 11 October

12) Pokémon Sun and Moon

Platform: Nintendo 3DS

If there's one particularly essential reason to keep a Nintendo 3DS around, it's Pokémon – especially since Nintendo doesn't release the core entries on non-handheld systems. And there's a new one on the horizon, or two rather: Pokémon Sun and Moon.

It looks a lot like 2013's Pokémon X and Y, which certainly isn't a bad thing, and we've got new monsters to choose from including Rowlet, Popplio, and Litten. More details are sure to follow, but for now watch the trailer above and pick a favourite new starter.

Due: 23 November

13) Deus Ex: Mankind Divided

Platforms: Xbox One, PS4, PC

Beloved shooter Deus Ex got a smashing modern revival with 2011's Human Revolution, and Square Enix is primed to release the follow-up almost exactly five years later.

Mankind Divided will explore a future in which natural humans rebel against their augmented counterparts, and lead Adam Jensen helps try to stop the anti-augmented terrorist attacks. Expect all manner of cool new upgrades and gadgets for this techno-stealth-action-thriller.

Due: 23 August

14) The Walking Dead: Season 3

The Walking Dead: Season 3

Platforms: TBD

Telltale Games has expanded its episodic storytelling approach to everything from Game of Thrones to Minecraft, but its biggest success to date – The Walking Dead – remains its best and most accomplished work. And it will continue its tale before the year's up.

We're not going to get into spoilers, but the first two seasons were gut-wrenching and glorious takes on the zombie apocalypse. Season three introduces new character Javier alongside Clementine, and promises old faces and other fresh ones alike. Get caught up now if you haven't played the past seasons!

Due: Late 2016

15) South Park: The Fractured But Whole

Platforms: Xbox One, PS4, PC

Read the title super fast. Got it? Yeah, it's South Park all right. The enduring cartoon series will follow up its best-ever game – 2014's The Stick of Truth – with The Fractured But Whole, another hilarious role-player with a brand new premise.

This time, Cartman is trying to earn a billion dollars by making his own superhero film franchise, and naturally that leads to all sorts of vulgar, violent shenanigans. Whatever you do, don't play this one with the kids around. And if you missed The Stick of Truth, it's coming to current consoles via a bundle with the new game.

Due: 6 December

16) The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim - Special Edition

Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PC

It seems like no major last-gen game will rest until it has been remastered, but we can't be cynical about The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim's revival. This is one of the most beloved and utterly expansive role-playing epics of all time, and we can't wait to experience it all over again on new hardware.

As the last chunk of this video shows, the 2011 game has been dramatically upgraded with enhanced textures and artwork, lighting effects, and even the ability to use fan-made mods on consoles. If you loved The Witcher III or Dragon Age: Inquisition and somehow missed Skyrim, here's your next massive fantasy time sink.

Due: 28 October

17) Dishonored 2

Platform: PC, PS4, Xbox One

One of the last generation's finest stealth-action experiences is back next year in Arkane's sequel, which delivers a second playable lead – Emily Kaldwin in addition to Corvo Attano – and it's still possible to complete the game without taking a life.

Add in new abilities, such as mind-blowing psychic grappling hooks of sorts, as well as a fresh city to roam and Dishonored 2 is shaping up to be one amazing sequel. And if you missed the first Dishonored, it was remastered for PS4 and Xbox One last year.

Due: 11 November

18) Cuphead

Platforms: Xbox One, PC

You've never seen a game quite like Cuphead, but you probably have seen cartoons like it: this side-scrolling indie perfectly encapsulates the visual style of 1930s animated shorts, and it's put to perfect use in a run-and-gun shooter about a man with a coffee cup for a head.

Cuphead is easily one of the prettiest 2D games we've ever laid eyes on, but it's not just a nice-looking game, but also one that builds interesting play mechanics and boss showdowns based on its inspirations. We can't wait to pummel foes as Cuphead and his co-op mate, Mugman.

Due: TBD 2016

19) XCOM 2

Platforms: PS4, Xbox One

Back in February, we dropped a sterling five-star rating on the initial PC release of XCOM 2, calling it, "a refinement and a distillation of everything that people love about the series." And now that impressive tactical strategy concoction is coming to consoles, too.

XCOM: Enemy Unknown made a spectacular transition to controllers, and we expect much the same for this much-enhanced sequel, which picks up after the aliens have taken over the planet. Do you have the wits to battle them back and reclaim the planet?

Due: 27 September

20) Dead Rising 4

Platforms: Xbox One, PC

Thank you, Capcom. After Dead Rising 3 traded away some of its trademark humour and visual panache, this winter's Dead Rising 4 is a return to the series' roots in more ways than one.

Not only does this open-world zombie-slayer look absolutely silly and more over-the-top than ever, but it also brings back original hero Frank West, returns to Willamette, Colorado, and takes place during the Christmas shopping season. Sounds like a concoction for hilarious nonsense, which we can't wait to savour.

Due: 6 December

21) RIGS Mechanized Combat League

Platform: PlayStation VR

Sony has a wealth of existing franchises to bring into virtual reality, but RIGS Mechanized Combat League might be the one to really bring PlayStation VR to the masses.

This original effort is a mech brawler that you'll experience in first-person using the VR headset, and it looks like immersive, aggressive fun. As we said after a hands-on, this game won't only sell the PlayStation VR to existing PS4 owners, but also the PS4 itself to anyone who doesn't already have it.

Due: October 2016 (Likely)

22) Gran Turismo Sport

Platform: PlayStation 4

We sort of assumed that Gran Turismo Sport would be massively delayed, like most of the series' semi-recent entries, but that's not the case: it's coming out later this year, and it sounds like a full-fledged, content-packed release.

As before, it's targeted at racing die-hards, but the multiplayer aspect is enhanced with new online championships governed by the real-life FIA racing body. Also, it's supposed to have PlayStation VR support, but it's unclear whether that will be included at launch.

Due: 18 November

23) Destiny: Rise of Iron

Platforms: PS4, Xbox One

If The Taken King wasn't enough to keep you playing Destiny for months on end, maybe Rise of Iron will do the trick. Bungie's next expansion – and perhaps the last big one before next year's planned sequel – promises to pump a lot more excitement into the online shooter obsession.

The return of the insanely powerful Gjallarhorn rocket launcher is just one perk in Rise of Iron, which will bring a big new narrative arc, plenty of fresh strikes and events in the Plaguelands area, a new raid, and a jaw-dropping flaming axe to try and find. Sadly, however, this one's not coming to PS3 and Xbox 360 players.

Due: 20 September

24) Steep

Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PC

Ubisoft's next open-world game breaks from the publisher's typical action focus and… well, surprisingly, it's a winter sports game. At least it's not just confined to snowboarding: Steep also lets you swap to skis, a wingsuit, or a paraglider at any time, so you can explore the massive mountains however you see fit.

Steep is not only a surprising AAA franchise attempt in 2016, but it's also hugely promising: Ubisoft has the ambition and tech to nail this vision of an open-world winter wonderland, so hopefully all the pieces come together. At the very least, we'll be swooping in to experience the wonderfully insane first-person "GoPro view" with the wingsuit.

Due: December

25) Final Fantasy XV

Platform: PS4, Xbox One

After the underwhelming Final Fantasy XIII and the rough start the online-only Final Fantasy XIV had, it's high time for the once-legendary RPG series to have a big win.

Final Fantasy XV looks like it's up to the task. It's big and beautifully rendered, of course, with an intriguing story about warring nations and powerful beings, plus it has gargantuan boss battles and cool dudes who go on a road trip together. So long as the lengthy quest isn't a grinding slog, it could be something special. And it has PlayStation VR support, to boot.

Due: 30 September

26) Mafia III

Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PC

The Mafia series has succeeded at building compelling, historical open-world cities, although the overall experiences haven't been essential. But after several years away, we're intrigued by Mafia III, which has a new developer and a totally fresh storyline and locale.

Setting you loose in a New Orleans-inspired city in 1968, you'll play as Lincoln Clay, a Vietnam War vet who returns home, gets tangled up in the black mob, and then works to decimate the old guard Italian mafia that tried to wipe them out. It looks like a fun place to cause a little mayhem – and the mayhem itself looks delightful, too.

Due: 7 October

27) Watch_Dogs 2

Platforms: Xbox One, PS4, PC

The original Watch_Dogs had its moments, but was a bit too dour and limited – but the sequel could really deliver on that hack-anything promise. Especially since now you really can hack just about any device in the world, not just those wielded by pre-determined targets.

That should give this open-world action game more of a distinctive tone compared to the competition, plus Watch_Dogs 2 has a much more intriguing destination in San Francisco, not to mention a nerdy lead and a proper sense of humour. Like Ubisoft's own Assassin's Creed II back when, will this be the game that cements Watch_Dogs as an essential action franchise?

Due: 15 November

28) Sid Meier's Civilization VI

Platform: PC

Civilization is one of the all-time classic PC strategy time sinks, and Firaxis is back at it again: Sid Meier's Civilization VI is coming this autumn to keep you up late on weeknights. It's another 4X historical affair, but some new tweaks could make for an even better experience.

There's a more colorful and almost cartoonish aesthetic featured this time around, along with promised multiplayer enhancements and multi-tile city layouts that let you better tweak your home base around the local terrain.

Due: 21 October

29) LawBreakers

Platform: PC

Of all the hero-based shooters coming out around now, LawBreakers looks like the best bet for fast-paced, aggressive thrills: it's a team-based affair, albeit one built like a classic arena shooter. Except that gravity is broken, which totally twists up the demolished environments.

The in-your-face attitude is laid on a little thick, but Cliff "CliffyB" Bleszinski's big PC shooter return looks like it might scratch that itch for a classic Quake III Arena, Unreal Tournament-esque multiplayer experience. And it won't be free-to-play, as first planned, so that's a plus.

Due: Summer

30) ReCore

Platforms: Xbox One, PC

Mighty No. 9 might have underwhelmed, but creator Comcept and ex-Capcom legend Keiji Inafune will get another shot soon with ReCore, a desert-set action/adventure game built with the help of the former Metroid Prime makers at Armature Studio.

In fact, Metroid looks to be the key starting point here: this is a big, diverse quest that blends platforming and combat and seems to have a world that opens up as you play. We heard some mixed reactions after the E3 demos, but we're holding out hope that it'll be a winner.

Due: 16 September

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