The 31 biggest games of the holiday season

We’re in one of the most densely packed windows of the year for new video game releases, and it can be hard to keep up with what’s out there.

We’ve got you covered, from the latest Pokémon game to “Call of Duty.”

Here are the 31 biggest games of the holiday season.

'Bioshock: The Collection'

2K Games

'Bioshock,' which first debuted in 2007, is a critically-acclaimed first-person action series that uses allegorical representations of famous philosophers as its main villains.

Strange as that may seem, the 'Bioshock' series is so well-loved that a remastered version of the entire trilogy is coming out in September.

Release date: September 13

Platforms: Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC


Microsoft Studios

Expectations around 'ReCore' are high, and not just because it's being made by some of the minds behind 'Metroid Prime' and 'Mega Man.'

When the first trailer for 'ReCore' came out in June 2015, people were taken by its inventive character design, including the main character's cute robot dog. Though the trailer made some people think 'ReCore' would be an epic role-playing game, it looks like it will be more of a standard third-person action/puzzle game. Even still, it still looks like 'ReCore' will be fun enough to be worth your attention.

It helps that it will only cost $40, a significant chunk less than the $60 price tag associated with modern game releases.

Release date: September 13

Platforms: Xbox One, PC

'Pac-Man Championship Edition 2'

Bandai Namco

The first 'Pac-Man Championship Edition' was a surprisingly well-made update to one of the most iconic games of all time, and it looks like its sequel will deliver more of the same.

In a wonderful press release sent out when the game was announced, publisher Bandai Namco said it will 'build upon Pac-Man Championship Edition DX's 'Chain Eating' mechanics by enabling fans to build up to four ghost trains before chowing down for maximum chompage points.'

You heard it here, folks. Maximum chompage points.

More importantly, the soundtrack of 'Pac-Man Championship Edition 2' is going to deliver some serious jams. Just check out the music from the game's announcement trailer.

Release date: September 13

Platforms: Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC

'The Witness'

Thekla, Inc.

'The Witness' was highly anticipated when it first came out on PlayStation 4 in early 2016, mostly because it's made by Thekla, a game studio led by indie-game darling Jonathan Blow. His previous project, 'Braid,' was arguably the most critically-acclaimed independent game of its generation.

Essentially, 'The Witness' is an open-world puzzle game where you're the sole inhabitant of an otherwise abandoned island, exploring its eerily quiet buildings and beautiful landscapes. Every puzzle in the game is a sort of line-based maze puzzle, but the way 'The Witness' slowly introduces new rules for these puzzles over the course of the game makes it feel like you're learning a whole new language.

If that in any way sounds like your jam, 'The Witness' will completely captivate you for weeks. It is in no way an exaggeration to say that 'The Witness' is simultaneously one of the most challenging and also one of the most peaceful games I've ever played.

Release date: September 13

Platforms: Xbox One (previously released on PlayStation 4 and PC)

'Destiny: Rise of Iron' and 'Destiny: The Collection'


A brand-new expansion for the multiplayer shooter 'Destiny' is set to release in mid-September. With it comes all new gear, a new area called the 'Plaguelands,' and a new set of story missions.

If you have yet to hop on the 'Destiny' train, you should! It's super fun. You get to team up with your buddies to fight aliens and time-travelling robots, all while finding fun new weapons and cool gear.

Rather than buy each individual expansion, series newcomers will be able to pick up 'Destiny: The Collection,' which includes the base game and every single expansion released so far, including 'Rise of Iron.'

Release date: September 20

Platforms: Xbox One, PlayStation 4

'NBA 2K17'

2K Games/YouTube

I probably don't need to spend much time explaining 'NBA 2K17.' These games come out every year and sell a ton of copies.

Just like every new entry, this one will iterate on last year's model, with even prettier and more realistic sweat droplets. Gross.

Release date: September 20

Platforms: Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC

'Forza Horizon 3'


'Forza Horizon' is usually the more amped-up, wild cousin of the more grounded 'Forza Motorsport' franchise. The series' newest entry, 'Forza Horizon 3' looks to continue that trend.

This one takes place in Australia, allowing you to explore the open roads with the 350 cars that will be in the game at launch.

Release date: September 27

Platforms: Xbox One, PC

'XCOM 2'

2K Games

In 'XCOM: Enemy Unknown,' players command a squad of soldiers fighting back a global alien invasion. In its sequel, 'XCOM 2,' players use guerrilla warfare to fight back against the alien invasion they failed to stop in the first game. (Whoops.)

In most games, when a character dies, they just respawn, but not in 'XCOM.' If you lose a soldier, they're gone forever, and you have to train new recruits to take their place.

'XCOM' is a ton of fun, if not a bit more challenging than your average game. 'XCOM 2' first came out for PC earlier this year, but it's making its console debut this fall.

Release date: September 27

Platforms: Xbox One, PlayStation 4 (previously released on PC)

'Mafia III'

Hangar 13

'Mafia III' is an open-world crime game not unlike 'Grand Theft Auto,' but it takes place in a fictionalized version of New Orleans called New Bordeaux.

One of the game's most notable features is the way it attempts to emulate the racial tensions of its 1960's setting through its gameplay. For example, police will respond more slowly in predominantly black neighbourhoods.

Games haven't always tackled social issues with much grace, but 'Mafia III' looks like it might be a step in the right direction.

Release date: October 7

Platforms: Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC

'Paper Mario: Colour Splash'


While it's not a full-blown RPG like the original 'Paper Mario,' the series' newest game still boasts the adorable arts-and-crafts visual style that makes 'Paper Mario' such a delight to play.

It's one of the only game releases for the Wii U this year, so let's hope it's fun!

Release date: October 7

Platforms: Wii U

'Gears of War 4'


The original 'Gears of War' changed the face of third-person shooters, so to say the series' return on current-gen consoles is highly anticipated is an understatement.

This one focuses on JD Fenix, the son of the original trilogy's main character, along with his friends, Kait and Del as they fight all sorts of nightmarish creatures in a post-apocalyptic landscape, like this giant dog demon thing from the most recent trailer.

In terms of its story, part of 'Gears of War 4' asks how the remaining human population, which is in the hundreds of thousands, should deal with the threat of extinction.

Release date: October 11

Platforms: Xbox One

'Rise of the Tomb Raider'

Square Enix

The recent reboot of the iconic 'Tomb Raider' franchise has been a blessing for the series.

Instead of depicting Lara Croft as a hardened veteran of the tomb-raiding world, the reboot is about a younger Lara, with vulnerabilities and insecurities. The second game in the series came out last year for Xbox One, but it's finally making its way to PlayStation 4 in time for the holidays.

In 'Rise of the Tomb Raider,' Lara follows in the footsteps of one of her father's unfinished quests, venturing to Siberia in search of a lost city hidden in the mountains.

Release date: October 11

Platforms: PlayStation 4 (previously released on Xbox One)

'WWE 2K17'

2K Games

Much like other sports games, 'WWE' is an annualized series that comes out on consoles every year. The combat is tactical and methodical, and its character creation offers a surprising amount of control over every dimension of your wrestler's facial and body structure.

Release date: October 11

Platforms: Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3

PlayStation VR


PlayStation's virtual reality headset, colloquially called PSVR, will be available in the middle of October. You'll need a PlayStation 4 to use it, and at the cost of about $400 (depending on which bundle you pick), it's a hefty investment.

But, if you're interested in being on the cutting edge of what the gaming industry has to offer, PSVR will be a blast. Some games coming to the headset include:

- 'Batman Arkham VR'
- 'Star Wars Battlefront: X-Wing VR'
- 'Rex Infinite'
- 'Super Hyper Cube'
- 'Thumper'
- 'Resident Evil VII Biohazard'

Keep in mind that a lot of games coming to PSVR are bite-sized 'experiences' rather than fully-fledged games. The X-Wing mission coming to 'Star Wars Battlefront,' for example, is a single mission rather than a full expansion, but it's free to all who already own 'Star Wars Battlefront.'

This is partly because the system is so new and these 'experiences' function partly as tech demos for this new headset, but also because gaming in virtual reality is much more exhausting than playing on a normal TV.

Basically, make sure you adjust your expectations and realise that not everything coming to PSVR will be as large-scale as something like 'Fallout 4.'


One of the games coming to PSVR at launch is 'Thumper,' but it will also be available to play regularly on PlayStation 4 for those who aren't on the cutting edge.

'Thumper' is being developed by a two-person team made up of ex-Harmonix developers -- the company that makes 'Rock Band' -- so 'Thumper' is a rhythm game, but it takes place in a surreal, nightmarish, Kubrick-style landscape.

The term 'rhythm violence' has been used by its developers to describe 'Thumper,' and that pretty much hits the nail on the head. 'Thumper' has to be seen -- and heard -- to be fully understood.

Release date: October 13

Platforms: PlayStation 4, PSVR

'Eagle Flight'


If you're one of the few who owns a virtual reality headset, a game called 'Eagle Flight' will be available in mid-October.

It puts you in the body of a bald eagle flying through the streets of an abandoned, post-apocalyptic Paris, literally giving you a bird's eye view of one of the world's most iconic cities. Our own Ben Gilbert played it earlier this year and liked it quite a bit.

Release date: October 18

Platform: Oculus Rift, PlayStation VR, HTC Vive

'Battlefield 1'


DICE, the developer of the long-running and hugely popular 'Battlefield' series of multiplayer shooters, is taking on the challenge of making a World War I video game fun.

The signature large-scale battles of the 'Battlefield' games are being transported back to the early 20th century, with jet fighters and high-powered assault rifles being swapped out for biplanes made of wood and unwieldy Gatling guns.

Release date: October 21

Platforms: Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC

'Civilisation VI'

The 'Civilisation' series has been a staple of PC gaming for years, and its newest entry is coming out this fall.

You'll lead a society from the Stone Age into a sci-fi future, controlling its development, choosing where to allocate resources, and negotiating with other societies for dominance.

Release date: October 21

Platform: PC

'Darksiders Warmastered Edition'

Nordic THQ

Aside from having one of the most delightfully punny video game names of the year, the 'Darksiders' series is little-known, but definitely worth your attention.

Structurally, it takes major cues from the 'Legend of Zelda' series, putting you in an open world that grows larger and larger as you gain items that allow you to access new areas.

This remastered version of the first 'Darksiders' is only $20, so you can't go wrong. And when you're done, you can pick up -- again, perfectly titled -- 'Darksiders 2: Deathinitive Edition.'

Release date: October 25

Platforms: Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Wii U, PC

'The Last Guardian'

Sony Computer Entertainment

Even at first glance, 'The Last Guardian' is captivating. It features a painterly art style and a compelling duo of characters at its heart -- a young boy and his giant animal friend named Trico.

It becomes even more intriguing when you learn that 'The Last Guardian' has been in development for over eight years, coming from the same team that made PlayStation 2 classics 'Ico' and 'Shadow of the Colossus.' This October, we'll finally know whether it was worth the wait.

Release date: October 25

Platform: PlayStation 4

'The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Special Edition'


Even if you don't follow the vast, tangled world of video games, you almost certainly have heard of 'The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.'

It's one of the definitive games of the last console generation, truly taking the genre 'open world' to a whole new level. And now, it's coming to current-gen consoles with a shiny new coat of paint.

Release date: October 28

Platforms: Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC

'Titanfall 2'

Respawn Entertainment

The first 'Titanfall' was well-regarded, but it never fully lived up to the potential of what it could be. It was multiplayer only, completely lacking in any kind of story mode that most first-person shooters have, and many people found that it lost its exciting sheen rather quickly as a result.

Cut to 'Titanfall 2,' which seeks to iterate on the series in every way, offering an interesting story about a soldier and his robot companion, as well as the fast-paced multiplayer combat that got the first 'Titanfall' so much attention.

Release date: October 28

Platforms: Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC

'Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare'


'Call of Duty' is a series that succeeds based on its predictability: Every year, you basically know exactly what you're going to get when you play it. This year is a little different.

'Call of Duty' has slowly been pushing more and more towards quasi-futuristic settings, but this year's 'Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare' is going all-in, allowing you to pilot a ship that can go from Earth's surface to space in a matter of seconds.

'Call of Duty' fatigue is a very real thing, but 'Infinite Warfare' is the first one in a long time that actually looks like it might be shaking up the formula and taking some risks.

Release date: November 4

Platforms: Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC

'Dishonored 2'

Arkane Studios

'Dishonored' was an unexpectedly great new IP when it released in 2012. It perfectly blends action and stealth elements, letting players tackle missions in any way they choose, using a combination of gadgets and supernatural abilities in a gorgeous steampunk setting.

The first game put you in the shoes of Corvo Attano, a battle-hardened warrior. The sequel, however, will allow you to choose whether you play as Corvo or the now-adult-aged Emily from the first game, who will have her own unique set of abilities with which to reclaim the city of Karnaca.

Release date: November 11

Platforms: Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC

'Watch Dogs 2'


The first 'Watch Dogs' took the open-world formula of something like 'Grand Theft Auto,' but had a more tech-centric setting, focusing instead on the world of information, hacking, and cyber warfare.

The sequel is doubling down on those themes, centering on Silicon Valley itself and featuring a brand-new protagonist, a hacker/vigilante named Marcus Holloway.

The Hot Topic-esque, faux-rebellious marketing of 'Watch Dogs 2' has been a bit divisive, but there's no denying that its re-creation of San Francisco is stunning to look at.

Release date: November 15

Platforms: Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC

'Pokémon Sun and Moon'

The Pokemon Company

'Pokémon Sun' and 'Pokémon Moon' will be the first full Pokémon games to come out since the phenomenon that is Pokémon Go, so it will be interesting to see what impact it has on the series in terms of sales. So far, Pokémon Go has already boosted the sales of older Pokémon games.

The new games are interesting in their own right, too. They will feature new evolutions of classic Pokémon, dubbed their 'Alola forms,' like Raichu, Meowth, and Vulpix.

Release date: November 18

Platform: Nintendo 3DS

'Final Fantasy XV'

Square Enix has been making the final push for the release of 'Final Fantasy XV,' the latest in the Japanese developer's iconic sci-fi fantasy series. It's been plagued by several delays, but for good reason: it features a sprawling, beautiful world and seems like one of the most ambitious 'Final Fantasy' games ever made.

Narratively, the 'Final Fantasy' series is usually a hot mess of nonsense, but its art direction feels truly unlike anything else in the gaming landscape. Also, 'Final Fantasy XV' features a flying car, so we're pretty pumped.

Release date: November 29

Platforms: Xbox One, PlayStation 4

'Gravity Rush 2'


The first 'Gravity Rush,' which originally came out for PS Vita and only recently came to PlayStation 4, wasn't played by a ton of people, but has a dedicated fanbase.

It iterates on the action-platforming genre by giving its main character a fun power: You can control gravity, which lets you 'fall' upwards into the sky, fly through the air, and walk on walls.

Release date: December 2

Platforms: PlayStation 4



'Steep' is an extreme sports game that takes place in the Alps, allowing you to traverse its snowy peaks using any method you choose, be it skiis, snowboards, or one of those cool wingsuits.

Visually, 'Steep' is beautiful, but it remains to be seen whether it will offer anything new to the genre, or simply be a prettier version of classic snowboarding games like 'SSX Tricky.'

Either way, it's worth keeping an eye on.

Release date: December 2

Platforms: Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC

'Dead Rising 4'


When it comes to a post-apocalyptic zombie setting, you can go one of two ways: You can focus on the reality of how horrifying and terrible it would be, a la 'The Walking Dead,' or you can double down on the absurdity of it all and turn it into a giant spectacle.

The 'Dead Rising' series falls into the second category.

'Dead Rising 4' will center once again on Frank West, the main character from the original 'Dead Rising.' This time, you'll have access to the whole city of Williamette, Colorado, fighting zombies throughout its snow-covered streets with a whole mess of ridiculous weaponry.

Release date: December 6

Platforms: Xbox One, PC

'South Park: The Fractured But Whole'


The crude world of 'South Park' got an unusually well-made video game adaptation a few years ago in 'South Park: The Stick of Truth,' so there's quite a bit of hype surrounding its sequel.

'South Park: The Fractured But Whole' marries the world of 'South Park' with the tropes of Marvel's cinematic universe, offering a parody of the giant superteam epics like 'Civil War,' but with a lot more fart jokes.

Release date: December 6

Platforms: Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC

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