There were a ton of interesting games big and small at PAX West 2023, but as someone who’s always on the hunt for more fast-paced thrills, I felt spoiled for choice after sampling a huge swatch of action-heavy games at the show. From roguelikes to first-person shooters, there’s a little bit of everything on the horizon; if you’re looking for your next high-energy experience, we’ve put together a list of 9 action-rich games you may want to keep an eye out for.
Developer/Publisher: Batterystaple Games | Available Now
While I’m not typically one to gravitate toward roguelikes, 30XX embraces chaos so wholeheartedly that I couldn’t help but be on the edge of my seat while playing. Influenced partially by Mega Man, the game is tuned particularly well for co-op play, and doles out upgrades at a rapid pace to keep the experience feeling continuously fresh. Optional challenge gauntlets and demanding bosses pair nicely with the highly agile movement system, which rewards the use of directional attacks and thoughtful navigation around the battlefield. This game has been honed and tuned after an Early Access period on Steam, and it absolutely shows in how the game looks and feels to play. This could be a great starting point for those who are dipping their toes into the wide world of roguelikes; it certainly won me over.
Infinity Strash: Dragon Quest The Adventure of Dai
Developer/Publisher: Square Enix | Sept. 28, 2023
The name may not roll off the tongue, but this spin-off game based on the “Adventure of Dai” manga and anime is smooth as butter to play. Its hack-and-slash gameplay is fast and frenetic, and its characters are beautifully animated and rendered. While I didn’t have a chance to play through any of the story-focused content, I did get to play through a few floors of the roguelike Temple of Recollection mode, which promises an ever-evolving experience as players navigate multiple floors of combat encounters, upgrading and bolstering their skillsets. While it’s too early to say how approachable the game will be for those unfamiliar with the source material, I’m optimistic that the core battle mechanics have the potential to be flashy fun for more general audiences, too.
Developer: Marvelous Inc. | Publisher: XSeed/Marvelous | Oct. 3, 2023
I’ll be honest – when Silent Hope was first revealed in a recent Nintendo Direct, it didn’t seem like it was doing anything particularly unique in the action RPG space, and I had a difficult time getting excited for it. After giving it a chance at PAX, though, I think Silent Hope could potentially resonate with players looking for a casual, somewhat lighthearted action experience. It embraces a pick-up-and-play approach, with relatively simple controls that are easy to learn; potential for depth lies in its seven playable characters, who all have different combat styles that vary from traditional short-range melee combatants to long-distance archers and magic users. The art style evokes some nostalgia from the 3DS era of top-down RPGs, which could be perfect for the right audience. The game has some light farming and crafting elements while back at base camp, and apparently shares a universe with Story of Seasons, according to the rep I spoke with, so there’s potential for a satisfying dynamic between prepping for combat and diving into the Abyss below for some spelunking action. The game is less than a month away, so we won’t have to wait much longer to find out.
Developer: FuRyu | Publisher: NIS America | Oct. 24, 2023
This spiritual sequel to 2019’s Crystar aims to tell a dark, emotional story about what it means to be human, by exploring the near-death experiences of a terminally ill girl named Lebel, who finds herself transported to a strange world filled with mechanical creatures and AI-powered humanoids. The razor-sharp combat felt dynamic and versatile during my demo and has a lot in common with Devil May Cry, albeit with more of a focus on trying to find ways to stagger enemies before unleashing massive, stylish special attacks. Lengthy story vignettes help flesh out the characters, with additional opportunities to interact with party members back at a safe haven called the Imitation Garden. While the Switch visuals looked a bit rough around the edges during my demo, the core gameplay loop was thrilling, so I’m crossing my fingers that this one lives up to its very high potential.
Alien Hominid Invasion
Developer/Publisher: The Behemoth | TBC – 2023
The original Alien Hominid was a crazy and charming side-scrolling shooter, managing to combine the energy of something like Invader Zim with the anything-goes mentality of mid-2000’s Flash games. While that original game is planned to get an HD remaster later this year, a sequel is also on the way. This time around, in Alien Hominid Invasion, completing stages is more about tackling specific objectives rather than merely killing everything on screen; in fact, there’s great incentive to be efficient, as a slowly-filling bar at the bottom of the screen will progressively send more aggressive and plentiful troops your way the longer your invasion of Earth takes. I was delighted at the incredible animation and couldn’t help cracking a smile every time my plucky parasite latched onto the head of a burly soldier. It’s delightfully zany fun, and up to three friends can join the chaos, too.
Another Space Opera – Episode 1: The Wake of the Giant
Developer: Terminist Arcade | Publisher: PM Studios | TBC – 2023
Containing some of the most intricate pixel art I’ve seen in quite some time, this gritty side-scrolling platformer is a bloody sci-fi thriller that is immediately absorbing. It has the pace of something like Katana Zero, but with a world that feels so much bigger and more threatening, with a greater focus on platforming. The core shooting is excellent, melee combat is furious and brutal, and I’m a bit baffled by just how atmospheric and detailed of a world the developers have managed to cram into a single 2D plane. The game promises some thrilling set-pieces to shake up the experience, too, from first-person space combat to a sequence atop the roof of a speeding train. According to the PM Studios website, the game has a tentative release window of 2023.
Developer: Zarc Attack | Publisher: PM Studios | TBC – 2023
Old-school first-person shooters have been on a comeback streak lately, but Exophobia is being particularly bold in its reverence; in this game, there’s no need to even worry about aiming up and down! If you can strafe, shoot, and slide, you’ll likely have no issue picking up the flow of the fast-paced combat encounters, often taking place in confined corridors that will test your horde-management abilities. While me demo only took me through a wave-based challenge mode, the full game will be structured more like a Metroidvania, emphasizing things like hunting down keys to open doors and searching for weapon upgrades. It all feels solid enough already, but I’m hoping the developers have other surprises in store when Exophobia launches later this year.
Developer/Publisher: Summitsphere | TBC
This eye-catching indie platformer may be the closest thing we’ll ever get to a new Wario Land game, but make no mistake – Antonblast is faster, edgier and more challenging than any of the adventures that Mario’s rival has ventured on. After Anton’s stash of booze – er, I mean, “Spirits” – were stolen by Satan himself, he sets out on a turbulent sprint through twelve large, dense levels packed with alternate routes and tough stretches of platforming. Anton’s hammer is a powerful tool that lets him not only bash foes to bits, but tear through buildings too. Players will hop between the background and foreground during a level a-la Mutant Mudds, but they better pay attention – making it to the end of the stage and hitting the detonator starts the Happy Hour timer, kicking off a desperate race back to the start of the level before the stage blows up around Anton. I was in love with this game from the moment I laid eyes on it, but having finally played it myself, Antonblast has quickly become one of my most anticipated upcoming platformers.
Zombie Rollerz: The Last Ship
Developer/Publisher: Zing Games | TBC
Don’t judge a book by its cover; while Zombie Rollerz’ visuals may not be immediately striking at first glance, the game takes the horde-based roguelike madness of Vampire Survivors to new mechanical depths with its unique angle of vehicular combat. While your craft auto-attacks on its own, there’s a lot to manage – you’ll have to decide how to staff your mobile arsenal, managing a crew of gunners, medics, engineers and more who all play various roles in operating and defending your craft. Various components can be unlocked and upgraded over the course of a run, from new types of weaponry to armored wheels and more, eventually letting players build some formidable death machines. The more loot you pick up, the longer you’re likely to survive. I was surprised at just how much fun this one was, and it’s definitely earned a place on my radar.
Which of these games are you looking forward the most? Let us know in the comments below and stay tuned for more preview coverage from PAX West 2023 over the next week!
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