Every year at this time the kids are hitting up JC Penny, Wal-Mart, and local malls to get their back to school shopping completed. As the kids, teens, and college goers storm the retail outlets to pick up new shoes, shirts, pants, and supplies, they pass by the store windows of game stores scattered in strategic locations. These windows are full of adverts for Madden (which usually hails the return of great games), sequels to the biggest franchises in gaming, and what is being touted as the next big thing in gaming.
From now until the end of the year the release schedule is packed solid with AAA titles on each and every platform out there. It’s that time of year that each Saturday morning you have to make the touch choice: do I watch the early college football games before my team takes the field, or do I frag some baddies and delve deeper into my growing pile of games? It’s that time when your backlog replenishes itself and you scramble to finish off what remains from last year’s slew of releases. It’s that time when you justify dropping hundreds of dollars on game after game. So, what exactly do we have to look forward to this year? What’s going to drive Visa balances through to their limits?
BioShock – Releasing tomorrow, BioShock is a revolutionary take on the FPS genre. Coming out for both the 360 and PC, BioShock provides amazing visuals, creepy motifs, gorgeous art, and action-packed gameplay that varies every time you spin the disc.
Metroid Prime 3: Corruption – The largest title to hit the Wii since Twilight Princess, Prime 3 is Retro’s first release on Nintendo’s landmark console. Adding a new control scheme to the legendary series is proving to fuel hype and anticipation for next week when the game launches.
Blue Dragon – Also hitting store shelves next week is the newest RPG to hit the 360. Blue Dragon is best described as one part Dragon Quest (gameplay) and one part Dragon Ball Z (art style). While not the most revolutionary title, Blue Dragon is helping to diversify the 360 lineup and show gamers that Microsoft is committed to bringing a well-rounded library to the console.
Warhawk – Incognito’s final game is going to be made available on both retail shelves on via download through Sony’s PlayStation Network. The game boasts huge multiplayer battles and a great range of weapons and vehicles. Warhawk is going to give the PS3 this year’s first big online hit.
Heavenly Sword – This stunning action title from Ninja Theory is a great showcase for the PS3’s power and versatility. The game is sure to be a hit with action fans that are craving a good beat ’em up experience.
Halo 3 – Not much needs to be said here. Halo 2 had the biggest first day ever in regards to revenue and Microsoft expects Halo 3 to surpass it. Either way, the game is going to be one of the most talked about games from the day it releases (late September) all the way through the holidays.
The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass – Easily the most anticipated game on portables this year is Nintendo’s newest Zelda adventure. Phantom Hourglass is already raising eyebrows for its unique control scheme, stunning visuals, and depth of gameplay. It should be the perfect title to bring along during holiday travels.
Mass Effect – BioWare’s epic sci-fi action/RPG title features branching storylines, great graphics, and some of the most realistic AI interactions ever seen in a game. Ever since its first showing at E3 last year, Mass Effect has been on just about every 360 owner’s wish list.
Super Mario Galaxy – My personal favorite in the avalanche of holiday hits is none other than Super Mario Galaxy. Every screen, video, or bit of info just oozes with style and charm. If you can’t get excited for this game, you need to re-evaluate why you play games in the first place.
Rock Band – Threatening to talk away Guitar Hero’s title as king of the music genre is EA’s Rock Band. The game is playable by up to 4 people at one time (a guitarist, bassist, drummer, and lead singer). Also, EA is promising to support the game with weekly downloadable content.
Super Smash Bros. Brawl – This game will probably end up being the Wii’s biggest title of the year, and it’s no mystery as to why. The Smash Bros. series has been a fan favorite for years, and Brawl is riding one of the biggest hype waves a Nintendo game has seen in quite some time.
Honorable Mentions – Lair, Medal of Honor: Airborne, Eternal Sonata, Sonic Rush Adventure, Lost Odyssey, Beautiful Katamari, Zack & Wiki: Quest for Barbaros’ Treasure, Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Trials and Tribulations, Castlevania: The Dracula X Chronicles, Virtua Fighter 5, Guitar Hero III, Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, Fire Emblem: Goddess of Dawn, Assassin’s Creed, Army of Two, Resident Evil: Umbrella Chronicles, Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune.
I’m sure I missed a few titles, so feel free to let me know what else you might be looking for. Obviously it’s going to be a financial impossibility to buy all of these games, so getting picky is going to be a necessity. If a major drought should ever hit gaming, however, there’s enough here to revisit for countless hours of gaming.