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Another weekend is upon us. And perhaps in these next few days you’ll find yourself facing an Xbox, PlayStation, gaming PC, or other such contraption and staring into a blank screen of endless, unlit pixels wondering, “What should I play?”
We’re here to help you with that. This week we’ve rounded up nine interesting games of the moment that you might enjoy checking out during your days off. Special this week: I’m told you’ll get awarded bonus points if you can play through all of them before Monday. (Please mail proof of completion to our New York City office.)
Play it on: PS5
My current goal: Whatever Cid wants me to do
I’m still early in Final Fantasy XVI, but between an emotionally devastating intro and my undying thirst for Cid, I’m hooked. I don’t think I’m that enthralled by the politics, but there’s a deeply human core to all the extravagant fantasy nonsense, and it feels like this is the best Final Fantasy has been able to introduce a world in the decade since the FFXIII games sequestered exposition into a codex and Final Fantasy XV put it all in a movie.
FFXVI just had a really strong start, and while I don’t know where the journey is going to take Clive, I know I’m at least willing to stay on the ride, for now. The action-based combat is stylish, but as I start leveling up and unlocking new abilities, I’m starting to see the depth underneath the flashy showmanship. I’m not even close to leaning toward either extreme of calling it one of the best or worst Final Fantasy games, but I’m at least more intrigued than I was at any point in Final Fantasy XV, so that’s why I’ll be spending my weekend playing. — Kenneth Shepard
Play it on: Windows (Steam Deck YMMV*)
My current goal: Graduate to using big-girl guns
As a retro nerd who has Serious Complaints about 90+ percent of video game “remasters” I can’t believe how wonderfully Nightdive’s System Shock remake turned out. It’s not only an aesthetic triumph—feast your eyes on those saturated colors, those tastefully pixelated surfaces—but it near-perfectly recreates the vibe, if not every last detail, of playing 1994’s revolutionary cyberpunk hall crawler.
And true to form, I’m being just as much of a scared, hoarding baby as I was in the original. The chief way this manifests is in my total overreliance on the venerable SparqBeam, a laser-like weapon you find very early on. It uses your own energy supply as ammo, which you can refill at various stations throughout each floor. So while I’m not wasting the limited bullet ammo of other weapons, every few minutes I have to beeline back to a damn refill station (assuming I’ve even found one on the current level).
As you can imagine, that gets old. I’m now several decks in, the enemies are getting nasty, and I’m tired of all the runbacks. But I’m playing on the highest combat difficulty and none of my other guns feel particularly strong either, so switching to ballistic weapons isn’t feeling super optimal. Yet that’s actually awesome. System Shock remake, when you crank the difficulty sliders up, develops a very solid survival-horror feel, giving battles serious consequences and making resource management a continual worry.
I wish I could stop playing it like a weenie, but I’m having so much fun being scared. — Alexandra Hall
*Your mileage may vary
Play it on: PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, Switch, Windows (Steam Deck OK), macOS, Linux
My current goal: Consume blood and achieve penitence
When I was watching Geoff Keighley Fest last week, I was taken aback by one particular showcase debut: the release date trailer for Blasphemous 2. Its harrowing atmosphere, unsettling pixel art, and fluid combat had my eyes locked for all 90 seconds. All I could think about was how this game was practically made for me, yet I had never given the first Blasphemous a try. So, I dusted off my trusty barbed capirote helm, filled that thing with way too much blood and set off into the Metroidvania world of Cvstodia.
Blasphemous leaves an undeniably awesome first impression. The world is blanketed by religious iconography, from a nun’s blood-curdling screams to cryptic riddles on Catholic repentance. You won’t find many games that trap you in their spine-chilling atmosphere as quickly as Blasphemous. It’s mesmerizing, detail-obsessed art is borderline uncomfortable, yet I yearn to descend further into Cvstodia.
The Metroidvania with a Dark Souls spin has been done countless times, but few match the lore and mystery that Blasphemous brings. The combat invokes feelings of Hollow Knight or Owl Boy, but far more grotesque. The addition of fight-ending executions is now a feature I’d like to see in every single Metroidvania.
Blasphemous is relatively short, so if you’re ready to dedicate your weekend to The Miracle, there’s a good chance you can hit credits by Sunday evening. That being said, I’d recommend taking your time and to really soak in the environment. It’s also pretty dang difficult, so be patient, Penitent One. — Jeb Biggart
Play it on: Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, Windows (Steam Deck YMMV)
My current goal: Get at least one overkill…but I’ll settle for a triple
Oh, Halo. You know, if I wasn’t in a line of work where I had to pay attention to more popular games, Halo is pretty much all I would play. And I don’t care that it’s not doing well as a live-service game right now. I don’t play games to buy things in microtransaction shops or complete battlepasses. I want games to give me more reasons to spend less money. Halo didn’t have any of that stuff in the glory years of the 2000s, and Infinite currently features some of the best gameplay the series has ever had. It doesn’t need to be the world’s most popular game for me to love it; it just needs to be fun for me.
But it has been a while since I’ve strapped on some Spartan armor and gotten into a few skirmishes with folks, so this weekend I think I’ll check out some of the new maps from the latest season and maybe download a unique Forge creation or two. — Claire Jackson
Play it on: Windows (Steam Deck OK), macOS, Android, iOS
My current goal: Unlock Abby
20 Minutes Till Dawn is Vampire Survivors with guns you manually aim, fire, and reload. That repetitive tedium breeds tense moments when you’re trying to blow a hole through some demonic trees but haven’t lined up the shot quickly enough or are a couple slugs shy of the finishing blow. It was great when we wrote about it in Early Access and it’s even better now that it’s out with a 1.0 release as of June 8. There are even more weapon variants now, a host of balance changes, and a Watering Gun you can use to power-up a flower that will loyally eviscerate every nearby enemy. It’s still my favorite of the Vampire Survivors-likes. — Ethan Gach
Play it on: Switch
My current goal: I wish I knew how I keep getting sidetracked every four seconds please help me
I don’t remember the last time I even attempted a quest in this game, let alone completed one. Every time I fire it up I mean to make some “progress,” but will then spend hours just running around the countryside murdering things and recreating Point Break skydiving scenes until I realize that maybe the single best thing about this game is that “progress” can be whatever the hell I want it to be, and whatever that progress is will be incredibly rewarding. — Luke Plunkett
Play it on: PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, Switch, Windows (Steam Deck OK), macOS
My current Goal: Get through a new area using minimal guides
I came to Tunic a bit late, only picking it up a few months ago. I immediately fell in love with it, but I find myself looking up guides so much just to figure out where I’m going. And, listen, there’s no shame at all in using guides or looking things up. I just always find myself pushing for as long as possible before doing so, and we all have our own limits or playstyles. But with Tunic, that sense of bewilderment seemed to overtake my playing, so I put it down for a bit while I dove into other games. But this weekend, I’m heading back, confusion and all. I just can’t resist it. — Lisa Marie Segarra
Play it on: PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, Windows (Steam Deck OK)
My current goal: Find better-looking armor for my Rogue, don’t kill my fiancé IRL
For the first time in a very long time, my partner and I are playing a video game together. Diablo IV also marks our first foray into the world of Diablo, so the two of us are learning about its extensive systems and combat quirks side-by-side while also being viscerally reminded of the fact that we, while very much a strong, loving couple, are not the best team.
Diablo IV offers ample opportunities for us to grow (read: I learn to stop being so easily frustrated and snippy, he learns to stop agonizing over every choice he has to make). We are two very different people, and we play games very differently, so when he gets stuck walking into a wall because he “forgot which color” he was and I snap at him like an overwhelmed mother of two at Stop & Shop, it can either be a moment of brevity or the predecessor for a fight. When he snatches up all the loot on the ground (including the armor for my Rogue, who could do with a much better fit at the moment) and stays in his inventory for several minutes min-maxing while I’m impatiently waiting to go into a dungeon, will I have the fortitude to calmly ask him to follow me? Will we learn better communication skills? Will we survive this weekend in Hell and outside of it? Will he remember what color he is? (It’s blue.) We shall see. — Alyssa Mercante
Play it on: Windows (Steam Deck YMMV), macOS, Android, iOS
My current goal: Get to rank 70
Most people I know seem to have dropped this popular card battler, but I still play nearly every day. It helps that I’m constantly trying out new decks as I get bored of old ones, so things still feel fresh. Right now I’m experimenting with a “bounce” deck that has Kitty Pryde growing in power every turn, ideally growing my board to feed Hit Monkey at the end of the game. I’m convinced the deck I put together, which edits a more popular construction, can work if I play my cards right, but so far I’m in a rank limbo. It’s probably a matter of time before I go back to a Destroy deck, which hurts my soul—it’s so common and I’m bored of it—but it also works, you know? At least I’m not running back to a Galactacus deck. For now, though, it’s Bounce and sometimes fiddling with my Move deck, which is centered around Dagger.
In short my greatest obstacle to reaching max rank is my boredom. RIP. But who can resist Spider-Ham?! — Patricia Hernandez
Any of these games likely to be on your list to check out this weekend? Or perhaps something else?