The 30 most anticipated games of 2016

UPDATED (16/09/16): The autumn release barrage is upon us!

Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare

We've already had a great year for gaming, but the run up to Christmas is when things get totally insane.

In fact, the 30 games profiled below are only a fraction of the titles shipping between now and 25 December, but this is the cream of the crop in our opinion - the games we expect to rave about, recommend, and play well into 2017 too.

It's going to be a wild couple months for hardware, too, what with the PlayStation VR and PlayStation 4 Pro releasing soon. We've already had the Xbox One S, Oculus Rift, and HTC Vive debut this year, and there are plenty of games coming to make great use of all of those.

Looking to build your wish list in advance? Here are the most exciting games still coming for the rest of 2016, spanning PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, and even Wii U and Nintendo 3DS.

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 December. At least, that's what they're telling us, following another delay from October.

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: 9 December

Pre-order The Last Guardian here from Amazon

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

Pre-order Battlefield 1 here from Game 

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

Pre-order Titanfall 2 here from Amazon

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

Pre-order FIFA 17 here at Game

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

Pre-order Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare here from Amazon

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: 13 October

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

Pre-order Forza Horizon 3 here from Game 

9) Gravity Rush 2

Platform: PlayStation 4

You'll be forgiven for missing the original Gravity Rush: it was a niche standout on the Vita, and the recent PS4 remaster landed pretty quietly. Now's the time to catch up, however, as sequel Gravity Rush 2 looks bigger, prettier, and possibly even wilder than before.

And that last part would be a mean feat, if so. Gravity Rush puts you in the boots of Kat, who can manipulate gravity on whim to soar through the sky and assault frantic, gargantuan bosses, and the sequel seems much the same. The cel-shaded anime style is a real treat, while the eccentric personality and over-the-top design should be a nice respite from all the intense shooters on the calendar.

Due: 30 November

Pre-order Gravity Rush 2 here from Amazon

10) Battlezone

Platform: PlayStation 4 (VR)

Yes, it's that Battlezone – the very-old-school Atari classic has been reborn once again in which should be its ultimate incarnation on PlayStation VR. The first-person tank game just cries out for VR implementation, and it's sure to be one of the most enticing titles in the launch batch.

We've had a lot of fun with the game in demos so far, and the Tron-like aesthetic is a perfect pairing for this classic reboot. Between procedurally-generated locales and four-player online co-op action, Battlezone could keep us in our headsets well into 2017.

Due: 13 October

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

Pre-order Gears of War 4 here from Amazon

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

Pre-order Pokémon Sun and Moon here from Game

13) Paper Mario: Color Splash

Platform: Wii U

You're looking at the one noteworthy exclusive Wii U game this holiday season, and really only one of a handful of larger games releasing at all for the rest of the year. It's not a core Super Mario game, but if you've missed the Paper Mario series, now might be the time to jump in.

Paper Mario: Color Splash is an adventure that blends light role-playing elements with platform and puzzle-solving action, and it seems to be even more streamlined than some earlier entries. Hopefully it'll keep you entertained 'til The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild next spring.

Due: 7 October

Pre-order Paper Mario: Color Splash here from Zavvi 

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: November 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

Pre-order South Park: The Fractured But Whole here from Amazon 

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

Pre-order The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim here from Game

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

Pre-order Dishonored 2 here from Amazon 

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

Pre-order XCOM 2 here from Game

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

Pre-order Dead Rising 4 here from Amazon

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: 13 October

22) PlayStation VR Worlds

Platform: PlayStation 4 (VR)

For those of us in the press, PlayStation VR Worlds is essentially a collection of all the various VR demos we've played over the last couple years, albeit fleshed out into fuller experiences. For everyone else, it's an easy way to get immersed in an array of very different VR challenges.

It might seem a bit like a demo disc, but we're optimistic this full retail release will be worth its while. The London Job is a tense and taut VR shooter, while VR Luge is a thrilling downhill drop and The Deep puts you underwater with a hungry shark. Add in two more experiences and you've got your early PSVR fun sorted.

Due: 13 October

23) Batman: Return to Arkham

Platforms: Xbox One, PS4

You've got copious Batman options this autumn: Telltale's continuing episodic series, Batman: Arkham VR for PlayStation VR, and now also Batman: Return to Arkham on PS4 and Xbox One. Originally set to release this summer, this last-gen dynamic duo will debut next month.

Return to Arkham bundles together two of the all-time greatest superhero games, Batman: Arkham Asylum and Arkham City, complete with major graphics upgrades and all bundled DLC. If you're not into VR and you've already exhausted Arkham Knight, this might be the way to go.

Due: 21 October

Pre-order Batman: Return to Arkham here from Amazon

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

Buy Steep here from Game

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: 29 November

Pre-order Final Fantasy XV here from Amazon

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

Pre-order Mafia III here from Game

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 NovemberP

Pre-order Watch_Dogs 2 here from Amazon 

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

Pre-order Sid Meier's Civilization VI here from Game

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: TBD 2016

30) SuperHyperCube

Platform: PlayStation 4 (VR)

Much as we might think that realistic experiences are ideal for VR, so are uniquely dazzling ones that surround you in light, colour, and sound. That's true with Rez Infinite, and it looks to be true with SuperHyperCube as well, from Kokoromi and Fez publisher Polytron.

It might look a bit like 3D-shifted Tetris at a glance, but instead you'll use the PlayStation VR headset to look around and position each block so it blasts through an opening – but each consecutive one becomes slightly tougher to clear. All the while, you're immersed in a glowing, technicolour dream.

Due: 13 October

Liked that? Read this...