A pro wrestling RPG, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, many new indie Souls-likes and more games stood out at this year's show.
PAX East returned this year as an in-person gaming convention. This event was once North America's largest gaming convention, even surpassing its Seattle-based sister show PAX West. While the shows had been on hiatus since the pandemic lockdowns of 2020, PAX East returned to Boston with a large amount of visitors — and there were plenty of games on display as well.
At the show this year, I got to play several games that will be ones to watch in 2022 and for early 2023. In the list below you'll find a quick rundown of games that stood out at PAX East 2022, including the next Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game, the peculiar platforming game Tinykin, the Souls-like parody The Last Hero of Nostalgaia, and the social satire adventure game The Last Worker.
These were the 13 games that showed great promise across the days of PAX East 2022.
Developer Flying Wild Hog honed its craft for fast-paced action gameplay with the Shadow Warrior reboot trilogy, and now it's taking that know-how to the Wild West with the action-horror game Evil West.
With the game set in a supernatural Wild West, you play as a vampire-hunting bounty hunter who uses classic cowboy weaponry and advanced gadgets to slay demons of the night. Evil West is a third-person shooter that deftly blends shooting gameplay and melee combat, which opens up slick moments where you can disarm enemies and launch demons into the air with ease.
This game came out of nowhere for me, and I like its pulp-style horror take on the Wild West. I'm very interested in seeing more of it later this year.
There have been many games based on the popular Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series over the last three decades, but none has matched the impact of arcade beat-'em-ups. With the upcoming TMNT: Shredder's Revenge, we're getting a spiritual successor to the classic beat-'em-up games directly inspired by the 16-bit era.
Developed by Tribute Games and DotEmu, this throwback game looks stunning, and the gameplay offers that satisfying thrill of barreling through Foot Clan ninjas -- something the classic games did so well. However, it also introduces some slick modern touches to the gameplay, giving you and your teammates some added skills and defense to help fight off Shredder's minions. This was a real blast to play, and it proves just how great TMNT games can be.
It wouldn't be a stretch to say that FromSoftware's Elden Ring -- like other Souls games -- has made a massive impact on the gaming industry. So much so that other devs are taking a crack at making their own Souls-inspired games. One game coming from Brazilian developer Massive Work Studio and published by Prime Matter is Dolmen, a sci-fi take on the genre.
In the far future, you play as a mercenary who travels to a planet hosting crystals that spawn multiple timelines. The gameplay will feel familiar to players of FromSoftware's games, but combat is spiced up by the addition of firearms and energy powers. This might be one to watch out for if you're itching for a Souls-like with a change of setting.
One particular frustration with Souls games: They tend to have a fairly complex approach to co-op multiplayer. There's usually a story behind it, but simply put, adding another player to the game isn't easy. That's one thing The Last Oricru, another sci-fi Souls-like, is looking to remedy -- with couch co-op.
On an alien world, you must decide which faction you'll side with during an increasingly hostile war. But you won't have to take on the fight alone. One skill the key protagonist has is summoning a hologram copy, which another player can control. Split-screen co-op is possible along with online play, which means you and a buddy can pair up and endure steep challenges and harsh defeats together.
One game that surprised me at PAX East was Tinykin, a peculiar but visually impressive puzzle-platformer. Mixing 2D visuals with 3D environments, this game sports a style that looks right out of an animated film such as Who Framed Roger Rabbit.
Playing as a shrunken-down explorer, you team up with miniature critters to overcome platforming challenges and explore the world within a human's house. The story and gameplay seems to borrow heavily from Nintendo's Pikmin, but the game does present clever and surprisingly heartwarming twists on that premise. It looks like it'll be fun for all ages, so keep it on your radar.
Yes, it's another Souls-like game, but it's my favorite from PAX East 2022.
The Last Hero of Nostalgaia is set within the world of a high-fantasy Souls-esque game, in which you play as a hilariously undefined protagonist that looks like a walking stick figure. With no class or backstory, you make your own tale within a game that has a self-aware narrator who is actively trying to stop your adventure. The Last Hero of Nostalgaia is a parody game, and its fun combat is boosted by solid writing that pokes fun at the cliches and formulas of fantasy games. Playing this was a riot, and I'm keen on seeing where this oddball will go when it's released later this year.
One of the most eerily atmospheric and unnerving games I got to play this year at PAX East was Signalis. Coming from developer Rose-Engine, this game is a throwback that pays homage to classic survival horror games like Resident Evil and Silent Hill. As the main protagonist awakens from her cryosleep, she'll have to uncover what occurred on the ship and the planet it crash-landed on, all the while avoiding grotesque creatures that have taken over her former crewmates.
This game's impeccable atmosphere shows shades of 1979's Alien and the classic anime film Akira, and I think that's such a great mix for a horror game. Signalis features a retro-futuristic style that showcases an analog, industrial-style vision of the distant future. That gives it a unique aesthetic that feels so unorthodox for its genre, yet it works well in motion. Even when I was getting spooked by creatures lurking in the shadows, I couldn't help but admire the game's rich design and visuals. It's certainly a game that's right up my alley, and with its fall release it could end up a great, moody game pick for play during the Halloween season.
Black Mermaid's Moonscars is a gorgeously grim 2D action game that really impressed me.
Set within a slowly crumbling fantasy world, it has you playing as a resurrected clay warrior that's tasked with seeking out an elusive sculptor who can reveal what has happened to the world -- and the meaning of the protagonist's existence. As you explore more of the world, you'll unlock new powers. However, doing so will also require leaving a piece of yourself behind, which will then take on a life of its own and seek retribution further down the line.
The setting and plot take place in a bleak world, but I couldn't help but admire the richly detailed 2D animation at work in Moonscars. The visuals are just so stunning in motion, and it made exploring and engaging in combat such a delight. The action gameplay can be quite challenging, and as another Souls-style game, each death offers a lesson, and learning from your defeats can give way to satisfying moments of triumph. If you're into a 2D action game that revels in its atmosphere, then Moonscars is definitely one to watch.
The 2D action-adventure game No Place for Bravery has been in the works for some time, and it's finally on its way to release later this year. What's kept the game on fans' radars is its lush and colorful fantasy world to explore, but also its focus on combat and tactics gives it a bit of a different flavor compared to other 2D action games.
Taking inspiration from Norse mythology and the classic manga of Lone Wolf and Cub, the story focuses on a veteran warrior named Thorn who's haunted by his daughter's disappearance. After discovering clues about where she might be, Thorn embarks on a journey to rescue her, but he'll also have to keep his disabled son safe along the way.
My time playing the game at PAX really clued me in on the artistic and gameplay design craft at work in No Place for Bravery, which blends the sense of exploration of classic Legend of Zelda with the challenge and brutality of combat. This is an awesome combination in my book, and it's got me excited to see more of the game later this year.
There's a noticeable overlap in my generation with people who are fans of pro wrestling and those who grew up playing classic Super Nintendo RPGs and actions games. The team at Mega Cat Studios saw potential in that and has married those two interests into a single video game called WrestleQuest, which brings the history and mythology of modern pro wrestling into the realm of a 16-bit-style role-playing game.
There's an awful lot to unpack with WrestleQuest, which takes place in a fantasy world inhabited by wrestling action figures that worship icons like Macho Man Randy Savage, Jake "The Snake" Roberts, and Diamond Dallas Page. But actually diving in to unpack this bizarre yet so satisfyingly exuberant tribute to the joy of classic pro wrestling was really enjoyable.
I played the game's opening act at PAX East, which saw our up-and-coming wrestler who seeks to be the best in world wrestling entertainment. His quest begins with learning the basics of turn-based wrestling combat, which pays a wonderful homage to games like Super Mario RPG and Earthbound. From there, he explores a face-paint shop being looted by bandits who have taken wrestling fandom too and have become a nuisance.
WrestleQuest, while firmly rooted in a retro-style RPG from the SNES era, is still very much about wrestling -- and I really like that aspect of it. There are so many loving homages and other deep cuts to classic pro wrestling that was so satisfying to see play out. It looks like a fun time, and I cannot wait to see more of it.
Dome Keeper is a game about multitasking. As the title suggests, your primary goal is to keep the dome secure. However, in order to do that, you'll need to outfit your infrastructure and defenses with material found from mining in the depths below. As you drill into the ground and explore the caverns below, uncovering resources and lost alien artifacts, there will come a time when you'll need to return to the surface to defend your dome from encroaching hostile lifeforms.
It's a fairly simple premise, but trust me when I say that things can get really tough in Dome Keeper. It blends the gameplay of tower defense with exploring a Metroid-style game. These are two gameplay styles so opposed to one another, but they come together in a fun and engaging way that really pushed me to keep going deeper into the world to keep my base safe. It can be stressful as things ramp up, but I always felt satisfied with managing to survive another round. Dome Keeper works as a great pick and up play action base builder, and with plans for more worlds to explore after its release later this year, this roguelike mining game has got potential to be a solid bit-sized action game.
The Diablo series is one of the most influential and often-imitated action RPGs. Yet most games trying to replicate the Diablo-style gameplay loop of hacking, slashing, and collecting loot tend to stick with the dark-fantasy aesthetic. One game coming out soon that takes things in a different direction is Superfuse, which brings that familiar isometric action-RPG combat to a sci-fi world with an over-the-top comic-book-style aesthetic.
The vibe and atmosphere of Superfuse, when compared to Diablo, feels very much like a high-octane and pulpy space adventure -- and that's its biggest strength. Playing as mercenaries for hire, you'll band together with other explorers to take on missions and amass more power to overthrow the galactic influence of humanity's top 1%, who have infused themselves with superpowers to control the galaxy. You pick from a group of mercenaries, all of whom are very diverse in their backgrounds and have their powers and weapons to use.
Easily my favorite part of playing Superfuse was how you could boost each hero's power. You can place modifiers onto some normal skills, like a lightning ax that you toss at enemies. And when I mean modifiers, I emphasize the plural. You can stack abilities onto abilities, which can radically transform basic attacks like the lightning ax into gnarly special skills that can clear rooms instantly. It was so satisfying to see my experimentation with skills pay off in such a big way, and I even impressed some of the devs on hand with my ideas.
That's something that has me interested in Superfuse, which will be released in early access later this year on PC. I've got a soft spot for Diablo-style games. This game takes that familiar formula in a fun and very satisfying direction, and I want to see where it'll lead.
Social satire is still a realm that games don't often touch upon. The Last Worker, a new narrative-driven adventure game, is seeking to rectify that with its socially conscious plot about being a worker trapped in an automated warehouse distribution facility.
That previous line might have you think of recent news about Amazon's growing influence, and the conditions workers have to endure. The Last Worker certainly leans into that for its satirical and humorous take on the modern world of capitalism. Playing as the last human worker in the Jüngle corporation distribution center, you'll need to escape as the facility has gone amuck. While learning more about Jüngle's motives, the protagonist will interact with members of a growing activist group with plans to expose the company's corruption.
Thankfully, playing The Last Worker doesn't feel like a tough and tedious job. It's a first-person adventure game, and you're very immersed in the world, sneaking through air ducts to bypass security and solving puzzles to slip further into the facility. I was very impressed with the approach to getting you into the perspective of a character who's become lost and seemingly left behind inside an embodied of a massive corporation's greed and lust for "progress." The sharp and socially relevant writing also buoyed The Last Worker's atmosphere, which film director and writer Jörg Tittel wrote.
I spoke with him briefly at PAX East, and he said that "we have a responsibility as artists to speak about the world," and that's a sentiment that's prevalent from the short demo of the game I played.
It's an intriguing game, and I admire it for sticking to its effort to bring bits of the real into this oddball satire -- which even has its own pretentious, pseudo-intellectual tech billionaire who just won't go away. The game will be available on most platforms later this year, but the developers have also made the game for VR, which will be released for the Meta Quest 2. According to Tittel, the VR mode enhances the sense of immersion, which will make exploring this massive facility feel all the eerier and all the more bizarre.