The video games we’re most excited for this summer season
Prepare to stay indoors this summer.
Already in 2023 we’ve seen the arrival of a number of major, lengthy games including “Star Wars Jedi: Survivor” and “The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom”— and the release slate isn’t letting up. Whether you want to battle hellish demons — both literal ones and the more existential kind — or take part in an interactive Mickey Mouse film, games this summer will have you covered. And this just scratches the surface.
Here are five games we can’t wait to play.
Release date: June 5
Platforms: PlayStation consoles, Xbox consoles, PC
Look, life can be stressful. Sometimes the best relief is to escape into a metaphorical hell-world and slash at demons and battle with the dead. “Diablo IV,” from Irvine’s Blizzard Entertainment, promises plenty of necromancy action as we explore the elegantly gloomy world of the Sanctuary, a realm between heaven and hell that the demon master Lilith is using as her plaything. It’s been 11 years since the initial release of “Diablo III,” and Blizzard is counting on a new generation of cult-slayers to take to “Diablo IV,” which promises to make it easier to play with others and team up with friends. If the line between good and evil is clear, expect an encyclopedic-level of options — from character attributes to sorcery to a lengthy demonic roster — to get lost in.
‘Final Fantasy XVI’
Release date: June 22
Platform: PlayStation 5
The “Final Fantasy” franchise can be overwhelming to the uninitiated, with its multitude of games and spinoffs often providing no obvious point of entry. “Final Fantasy XVI” could be that place to jump in, as this standalone story promises a “Game of Thrones”-esque battle for control of a magical realm. There are multiple factions, peace is threatened and a young, magic-blessed royal must become a hero while protecting his family. It’ll get more complex than that — no “Final Fantasy” game is truly simple — but the fantasy epic setup seems tailor-made to lend a hand to newcomers. The action will be fast, the colors will be vivid and the game should provide a summer’s length stable of adventures to get lost in.
‘Goodbye Volcano High’
Release date: June 15
Platforms: PlayStation consoles, PC
Suburban sprawl. Dinosaurs in high school. The impending extinction of the world. The power of rock ‘n’ roll. “Goodbye Volcano High” is all about characters trying to maintain a sense of normalcy when the world is upside down and heartbreak feels like the end of the world. You know, just like all of us. A choice-driven, narrative-focused adventure with light, rhythm-focused mini-games, expect the game to be relatively approachable to all play styles. “Goodbye Volcano High,” with a look worthy of a modern animated series, boasts itself as a coming-of-age game, but the struggles the characters manage are ones we battle throughout life. And sometimes, when things get really rough, it’s best to just disappear into a song.
‘Oxenfree II: Lost Signals’
Release date: July 12
Platforms: PlayStation consoles, Nintendo Switch, PC
Local game developer Night School Studio — now a part of the Netflix empire — has focused its efforts on honing conversation in games, creating a relatively realistic dialogue system in which characters speak, interrupt one another and overlap with each other. The result: games that more closely merge the interactive medium with television. The original “Oxenfree” had a mystical, slightly foreboding tone — think “Goonies,” “Stranger Things.” Its sequel promises another set of mysteries that main character Riley Poverly, an environmental researcher, will unravel via radio frequencies. Through the latter, characters communicate with ghostly voices, confront the history of their hometown and see their futures forever altered.
‘Disney Illusion Island’
Release date: July 28
Platform: Nintendo Switch
The first thing that stands out with “Disney Illusion Island” is just how much story is present in the game, as developers promise 30-plus minutes of original animation to augment gameplay. The second is what a joy it looks like to play, as Mickey, Minnie, Donald and Goofy don’t do battle with anyone so much as run, jump and look for ways to interact with the environment. This is essentially a combat-free game that aims to be a digital playground, one that emphasizes old-school video game platforming (in other words, running and jumping). Mainly, it’s a game about inspiring our curiosity, introducing us to new characters and focusing on ways to play with everything we see on the screen.