Kotaku’s Weekend Guide: 9 Incredible Games We Can’t Stop Thinking About

Gaming

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Crash slides down a branch,  Zau stands in a forest, and Nemesis holds out a hand.

Whether you have a bunch of free time or hardly any at all, whether you’re playing on console or PC, there are plenty of great games to obsess over right now. Our recommendations for what to play this weekend include everything from sci-fi thrillers and loot-driven action-RPGs to esoteric puzzle games and action platformers.

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It feels like this terrible year for the video game industry overall peaked in new and horrifying ways this month, with some of the biggest companies slashing some of the smallest teams. Grand Theft Auto VI owner Take-Two cut Roll7, the studio behind Rollerdrome and OlliOlli World last week, and this week Microsoft dropped the hammer on Arkane Austin and Hi-Fi Rush maker Tango Gameworks, among others. It’s felt bleak, not least of all because of some of the seemingly absurd things execs have been saying about the cuts.

At the same time, this week was saw the release of a bunch of new and daring indie games demonstrating the breadth and depth of the different types of experiences gaming can offer in the year 2024. On top of Early Access breakouts like Hades 2 and Manor Lords, we also just got Animal Well, Crow Country, Little Kitty, Big City, 1000xRESIST, and Cryptmaster. Not to mention vampire survival game V Rising just came out of Early Access and surreal horror adventure INDIKA is making a splash.

“It’s never been more clear that indie games are carrying the industry right now,” wrote Kit Ellis, former head of social media for Nintendo of America. That definitely feels true in a cultural and creative sense, even if too many of them still fall through the cracks when it comes to attention and sales. Below are nine games, big and small, that currently have us hooked.

Nemesis confesses her failure.

Play it on: PC

Current goal: Beating Chronos and unlocking the surface

Surprise, someone on staff is playing Hades 2 and really enjoying taking their time with it. Guilty! But really, the sequel to everyone’s favorite (and incredibly hot) roguelike of 2020 isn’t just more of the same: it’s one of the most highly-polished follow-ups to a game I’ve ever played, and it’s still being developed. Hades obviously had a lot going for it, but it wasn’t perfect, and Hades 2 somehow manages to be intimately familiar while addressing things I didn’t even know were pain points in the first game. It tacks even more systems, like farming and resource gathering, on top of the already dense foundation laid out by Hades, but streamlines and implements them in ways that feel complementary to the gameplay loop without deviating too far from what made it work in the first place. Little about what’s new in Hades 2 feels forced and it’s kind of unbelievable how well it all clicks together.

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Hades’ story was an obvious high point for many players, but I was always more interested in Zagreus’ interactions with the Greek pantheon than the larger narrative of finding his mother, Persephone, and defeating his father once and for all. Hades 2’s narrative, which unites the forces of Olympus and the Underworld in a war against Chronos, makes the gods into larger and more active players in the plot, rather than simply purveyors of boons and aspects, and I am loving it. It’s fun occasionally bumping into Artemis as she’s hunting enemies in the same arena, and hearing about how Hermes is deep undercover trying to learn about what Chronos’ forces are up to. It’s cool how Hephaestus, who was not in the first game, is introduced here because we need armaments against Chronos, or how Charon goes from a ferryman to the crux of our supply lines. We obviously recognize these mythological characters and their abilities from the stories we’ve read or been told, and it was great to see them adapted and honored in the first game, but seeing them mobilized in Hades 2 and acting on their strengths just hits different.

I’m enjoying Hades 2 so much that I got really close to the Chronos boss fight pretty early on, and let me tell you, some of those later areas and story twists are kinda wild. Rather than sighing in despair every time I fall in combat, I’m relishing every chance I get to go back through Supergiant Games’ immaculately constructed environments and continue unraveling the secrets the scarily dense Early Access build has to offer, including a whole other route through the game with its own set of environments.

Hades 2 already feels like a full game, and yet it isn’t, and that is as terrifying as it is tantalizing. I’m about to lose several dozen, if not hundred, hours to it, and I’m ready to make that sacrifice in the name of whooping Father Time. — Moises Taveras

A warrior attacks a strange monster.

Play it on: PS5, Xbox Series X/S, Windows

Current goal: Defeat the false Arisen

I confess, my admiration for Dragon’s Dogma 2 is borne in part out of my frustration and disappointment with Final Fantasy VII Rebirth, which I played right before. That game had its merits, but god, was its world lifeless. No day/night cycle, no sense that anything truly unexpected or unplanned could happen, just little dollops of “content” (ugh) that repeated again and again: here’s another lifespring, same as every other; here’s another tower, you know the drill. Dragon’s Dogma 2 is, in many ways, the opposite of this, and I love it for that.

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Take, for instance, the time a story-crucial NPC—our good friend Brant, for my fellow players—went and got himself killed valiantly fighting a minotaur that had stormed the city gates. His body was just lying there in the street, and there I was with nary a wakestone to my name to bring him back. Coincidentally, however, just before he perished, he’d given me an item that would highlight wakestone shards on my map. So I began frantically using the damn thing, desperate to scrounge up three shards and resurrect him before his lifeless body was dragged away. Was this whole ordeal kind of an annoyance? Sure! But I love it. I love that this is a world in which, because of all the game’s complex, interacting systems, sometimes wild or inconvenient shit just happens and you have to deal with it! I’m hoping for fairly smooth sailing as I continue my quest this weekend. But not too smooth. — Carolyn Petit

A blob stares at some crows.

Play it on: PlayStation 5 (on PS Plus), Switch, PC

Current goal: Find my last egg

Out this week, the inventive lo-fi Metroidvania Animal Well earned an extremely glowing review from yours truly. And despite completing the game, I feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface of its deepest mysteries. There are effectively three layers to the 2D side-scroller. The first is finishing the main campaign. The second is collecting all 64 eggs. And after that, well, there’s bunnies to find, instructions to print out, and a wild community puzzle to crowdsource the solution for. Solo developer Billy Basso says he he thinks there are puzzles so random in the game that some players won’t even discover them, let alone figure them out, for possibly years to come.

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Even aside from the pull of uncovering its secrets, however, there’s something so rich and rewarding about wandering through Animal Well’s creepy underground labyrinth that I’m genuinely enjoying patiently combing back through each room for any little details I missed that might reveal the hidden locations of those last few eggs I’m missing. Games this special don’t come along often, and I’m content to take my time with its dense post-game. — Ethan Gach

A rogue stands beneath the stained glass depiction of a prime evil.

Play it on: PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S (on Game Pass), PC (Steam Deck OK)

Current goal: Defeat Lilith and watch get to level 100.

I bounced off of Diablo IV before finishing the main campaign, and despite occasionally returning to fiddle with each new season, I’ve never gotten lost in the action-RPG the way I’ve sunk hundreds of hours into Destiny’s loot chase. I’m excited for that to change with next week’s Loot Reborn update and have been feverishly grinding through the last few missions in preparation to hit the ground running when season 4 arrives. I still really enjoy the worldbuilding, presentation, and main cast, even if the actual progression through the campaign feels flat and often unremarkable. Once I complete all of the side quests and hit 100, I can free myself from the curse. At least until the Vessel of Hatred expansion hits later this year. — Ethan Gach

Crash hops over a conveyor belt.

Play it on: PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, Switch, Windows (Steam Deck OK)

Current goal: Make it to the next “island”

Everyone’s favorite orange marsupial recently had a big sale on Steam. Having already played the very good, and very authentic, N. Sane Trilogy a few years ago, I knew I had to snag a copy to play on my Steam Deck to revisit ‘em and determine which of the original three games really is my favorite (it’s Crash 2, FYI). And, as it happened, 2020’s Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time from developer Toys For Bob was also on sale.

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I had been curious about this entry since it released. While, I’m shocked we’re just totally overlooking the PS2-era Crash Bandicoot: The Wrath Of Cortex as the actual fourth title (which played it perhaps a little too safe, but otherwise delivered a solid Crash experience), I was open to spending some more time with my orange buddy, this time with new devs at the helm.

And folks, I am very not disappointed. While Crash 4 has had to compete with a few other games I’m juggling right now, every moment I spend with it is delightful. Yes, it’s friggin’ hard, even compared to the old-school Crash games. But thus far, it’s feeling more in tune with the core of what makes Crash Crash than even Crash Bandicoot 3 did!

The jumping feels good (yeah, yeah, the double jump is kind of a get-out-of-death-free card) and all my old muscle memory tricks remain. And the rail grinding is nowhere near as gimmicky as I’d feared. I also appreciate the harder difficulty. As an old-school Crash fan, I’m glad to take on a new challenge.

This weekend I’ll definitely be taking some time to jump back in and smash some boxes…as I realize that a youth spent with Crash Bandicoot probably had something to do with my destructive tendencies as a kid. — Claire Jackson

Yellow squares are displayed on a white background with numbers and question marks.

Play it on: Mobile, PC

Current goal: Finish it without visiting the Discord for help

Polimines was a really smart, but slightly too easy, puzzle game released for Steam. Its sequel, Polimines 2, is one of the smartest, most well-crafted puzzle games ever made. Polimines Deluxe is the two games in one package, and ported to your phone. And I’m just obsessed with it.

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Imagine combining Picross with Hexcells, and you’ve got a good idea of the nature of the puzzle—it’s about marking or deleting cells, based on information given both outside the grids and within. But unlike Picross, this is far more than a process of elimination: these puzzles, especially in the second game, require the most outrageous stretches of lateral thinking. The techniques and patterns you need to fathom are breathtaking.

I’ve completed it multiple times, but the puzzles get so complex that my memory doesn’t get me through. Also, as an idiot, I get stuck in the same places every time, and end up visiting the game’s lovely Discord community for prompts. I’m determined, on my third run through of the mobile version, not to do this.

The only gripe is that the mobile port doesn’t have the best zoom. On the few larger puzzles, you either have the full grid, sometimes too tiny to use, or zoom too far in to have enough context. It desperately needs an adjustable pinch zoom. I’ve raised this with the super-lovely lone developer, Molter. — John Walker

A warrior jumps between red brambles.

Play it on: PC, Switch, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S

Current goal: Grieve

I’ve been chipping away at Tales of Kenzera: Zau for a few weeks now, and I forget how much I jive with the Metroidvania genre until I’m actually playing one. Surgent Studios has mastered the crisp, fluid movement needed for a good platformer, as well as created a world that is beautiful to navigate. But that’s all extra for me. The draw of Tales of Kenzera for me has been its story of grief. Protagonist Zau’s mission is to revive his father after his passing, but as he explores the world in pursuit of this goal, he is confronted with different forms of death and grief. Mourning a loved one affects everyone in different ways, and Tales of Kenzera’s examination of that is already fascinating to me only a few hours in. I want to see what conclusions it comes to. — Kenneth Shepard

A person with a red mask on chats in front of a neon red background.

Play it on: Switch, PC

Current goal: Roll credits

I’m only about a third of the way through sci-fi narrative adventure 1000xRESIST but I assume I’ll roll credits before the weekend is out. I just can’t stop thinking about the game, and every time I’m not playing it I wish I was. That’s because 1000xRESIST is so confident and unique in its stylistic and narrative style, it’s unlike anything I’ve ever played before. To oversimplify a plot that gets more complicated with every hour, 1000xRESIST is about a woman named Watcher, one of many clones in a society worshipping ALLMOTHER. Watcher’s job is to look through the memories of ALLMOTHER and interpret them for her sisters, but that job quickly leads her to learn that her world may be built on lies.

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Through the time-bending traversal of memories, Watcher dives deeper and deeper into the truth behind ALLMOTHER. What begins as a hard-to-parse sci-fi story quickly unfolds itself into a more emotionally complex game that touches on themes of identity, motherhood, and diaspora politics. It’s a lot of things crammed into one package, yet 1000xRESIST hasn’t stumbled yet in the time I’ve spent with it. It’s one of many amazing indie games out this week, but one I think people really shouldn’t miss. — Willa Rowe

Peely gives the thumbs up.

Play it on: PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S, Switch, PC

Current goal: Finish the battle pass.

And once again, another weekend arrives and I realize that I’ll be spending most of it playing Fortnite. I’m very close to maxing out both my battle pass and Festival pass, so that’s the plan.

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I hate how deep Fortnite has its hooks in me–to the point where I’m choosing to play it over brand-new, cool-looking video games–but I can’t help it. I must finish these damn passes, get all the rewards, and earn the right to play other stuff. Well, until the next season starts up and I once again return to Fortnite to drop in and level up all over again. It’s sick. I hate myself. I can’t wait to play more this weekend. — Zack Zwiezen

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