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The sleeper hits of Summer Game Fest 2023

The sleeper hits of Summer Game Fest 2023

To fill the hole left by the lack of E3 in this year’s gaming calendar, there have been more than a few trailer-filled video presentations showing off hundreds of upcoming games. But for a select few creators and critics who could make it to Los Angeles, there were also some hands-on preview opportunities to play upcoming games at “Play Days” as part of this year’s Summer Game Fest “not E3” festivities.

Rather than focus on the big-name sequels and established franchises (which, let’s face it, usually just provide a small twist on their predecessors), we tried to focus on games from lesser-known studios. Here’s a selection of the 10 upcoming titles we played in the last week that you definitely shouldn’t sleep on, especially if you’re looking for something out of the ordinary.

33 Immortals

Platforms: Xbox Series X/S, Windows
Planned release: 2024
Links: Official site

While 33 Immortals’ Summer Game Fest trailer focused on the game’s 33-player co-operative gameplay, we only had six players gathering for our 30-minute Play Days demo. But that was still enough people to get a feel for how the game layers classic MMO raids on top of a simple but effective 2D presentation.

The usual co-op brawling tactics all apply here, letting you mix ranged attacks from your archers with melee beatdowns from your sword-equipped warriors, for instance. The co-op angle gets a strong boost from a series of partner spells, requiring players to stand in a triangle to activate healing areas or a powerful volley of light arrows.

The most memorable part of the demo, though, came after we destroyed the powerful demonic mini-bosses found inside portals dotting the map. The developer warned that we had “angered god,” and our party was inundated with screen-filling pyrotechnic hazards. These left us all screaming and clamoring for the precious little safe space remaining on a map that was quickly becoming a hellscape of flame and falling projectiles, all while simultaneously dealing with encroaching enemies.

I’m not sure how well this will all work if you’re not in the same room with your fellow players or if you’re playing with 32 strangers. Still, we have high hopes for any game that gives us an excuse to run from hellfire with our buddies.

-Kyle Orland


Platforms: PS4/5, Xbox One/Series, Nintendo Switch
Planned release: 2023
Links: Steam | Official site

Tired of games that bog you down with hours of wordy tutorials to explain their complex mechanics? Cocoon is just what you need. Without a single word or pictogram, the game’s early minutes gently lead you through everything you need to learn about the clockwork machinery powering this imposing, intricate world. Then, just as you’re getting the hang of things, you place a puzzle-powering orb on a pedestal, only to find that the orb contains an entire new world with its own intricate puzzles to solve.

The mechanic of jumping between these fully portable orb-worlds was used to great effect for some brain-bending puzzles and even some interesting, non-traditional boss combat in my demo. But what makes Cocoon really stand out is the environmental design. The way the seemingly sterile world stirs and comes to life evokes games like Tunic or Samorost, where just seeing how the mechanized pieces fit together is at least half the fun. The slick animations and clever, subtle lighting cues convey plenty of grandeur and emotion without ever saying a word.

-Kyle Orland

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