Technically, fall this year begins on Sept. 22, the autumnal equinox. But since this is the busiest time of year for game releases, as publishers and developers fight for dominance in the run-up to the holidays, it only seems right to begin our list of the biggest games of the season early in the month.
By “biggest,” there are of course the blockbuster staples like Call of Duty: Vanguard and Battlefield 2042. But we also mean highly anticipated indies that are getting their time to shine, such as space exploration adventure Jett: The Far Shore and 3D adventure platformer Solar Ash. And we can also expect new installments of Japanese role-playing games from Tales of Arise to Shin Megami Tensei 5.
Among these new releases are plenty of re-releases, including two from Sega to celebrate Sonic and Super Monkey Ball anniversaries, while Rockstar Games is determined to sell everyone Grand Theft Auto 5 again.
Almost a year on from the release of Sony’s and Microsoft’s new consoles, however, this lineup is notable for a lack of current-gen exclusives, apart from Deathloop, a PlayStation 5 timed exclusive that’s ironically coming from a studio now owned by Microsoft.
Below, we’ve selected highlights of what you can expect from the game industry this fall.
[Ed. note: This list is built around games that have been announced for release this fall, but between delays, surprise releases, and other factors, things can change.]
Sonic Colors: Ultimate
Celebrating Sonic’s 35th anniversary is a remaster of the 2010 Wii title Sonic Colors, which many people considered one of the blue hedgehog’s high points — at least in comparison to something of a lost decade in the post-Dreamcast era, with misfires such as the disastrous Sonic ’06. Switching between third-person and side-scrolling perspectives, Sonic Colors features Wisps, multicolored creatures that the evil Dr. Eggman is trying to enslave but which can also grant Sonic new powers, from speed boosts, to drilling through the environment, to turning blocks into rings.
Fans might have been hoping for a fresh Sonic title or the new compilation Sonic Origins, neither of which will be arriving until 2022, but Sonic Colors: Ultimate still promises plenty of enhancements and additions to a decade-old game. Along with improved visuals and a frame rate of 60 frames per second, there’s a newly recorded soundtrack, a new Wisp power-up, new cosmetics, and a Rival Rush mode where players race against Metal Sonic.
Available Sept. 7 on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Windows PC, Xbox One, with early access via a Digital Deluxe Edition on Sept. 3
The Artful Escape
A trippy space rock opera from Beethoven & Dinosaur — whose creative director was once a rock star himself — The Artful Escape tells the story of up-and-coming folk musician Francis Vendetti struggling to escape the shadow of his late folk legend uncle, Johnson Vendetti. On the eve of his first show, he embarks on a cosmic journey where he will create his voice and musical identity.
More a narrative-based platformer than a game focused on following a set rhythm, The Artful Escape lets you effortlessly shred your guitar for floating across the air or interacting with the environment. As another title from the prolifically chic Annapurna Interactive, the game boasts a star-studded voice cast, including Teen Wolf’s Michael Johnston as Francis and Caroline Kinley as Violetta, as well as Lena Headey, Mark Strong, Carl Weathers, and Jason Schwartzman, in case the surreal visuals remind you of a Wes Anderson film.
Available Sept. 9 on PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X
Tales of Arise
Pandemic-related delays meant that Tales of Arise missed the long-running Japanese role-playing franchise’s 25th anniversary last year. But with current-gen consoles now supported, this is looking like Bandai Namco’s most gorgeous installment of the series yet, providing a painterly look to its trademark anime aesthetic.
Promising a mature story focused on the fate of divided worlds Rena and Dahna, where the former has colonized and enslaved the latter for 300 years, Arise had upgraded series staples, such as Tales’ real-time arena combat system, while its characters are more expressive than ever in the many skits that let you get to know this diverse group as they journey together.
Available Sept. 10 on PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X
WarioWare: Get It Together
The dastardly Wario is back for more microgame mayhem in WarioWare: Get It Together, except this time he and his friends have been sucked inside his newest creation. As in past installments, the goal is to complete a series of very short minigames — often no longer than five seconds — in rapid succession. But the twist here is that you’ll actually be controlling Wario and his friends, who each control differently, as characters inside each game.
Whether it will feel as instinctive playing a different character each time, rather than a finger picking a nose or a fly swatter hitting flies, is up for debate. Either way, you’ll be able to play through the whole thing in two-player co-op, and there are further games available for up to four players. There’s also already a demo live that gives you a taste of around a dozen of the 200-plus microgames in the final game.
Available Sept. 10 on Nintendo Switch
2021 has been the year of the time loop, and so of course here is another time loop game but with a first-person shooter and immersive sim twist from Arkane Studios, developer of the Dishonored series and Prey. Deathloop drops you on the island of Blackreef, where a party is lasting seemingly forever. As Colt, you have to assassinate eight targets across the island before midnight in order to break the loop.
One of these targets, however, is a woman named Julianna. She’s not just actively protecting the loop — she can be controlled by another player to invade your game at any time, adding an unpredictable cat-and-mouse dynamic to this ambitious and stylistic assassination sim.
Available Sept. 14 on PC, PS5
Kena: Bridge of Spirits
Kena: Bridge of Spirits has the look of a Pixar film with the spirit of Studio Ghibli. As the titular Kena, you’re a young spirit guide who travels to an abandoned village, where you use magical abilities to help the deceased move from the physical world to the spirit world. The story will also explore Kena’s traumatic past with her father.
As a third-person action-adventure game, Bridge of Spirits has hints of Zelda in the design — Kena fights principally with a staff that can also be upgraded into a bow. Another Nintendo inspiration is Pikmin, as you can collect adorable little spirit companions (unfortunately known as the Rot) to help in puzzles and combat. Bridge of Spirits is the debut game from Ember Lab, which previously worked on animated commercials as well as Terrible Fate, a short film tribute to Majora’s Mask.
Available Sept. 21 on PC, PS4, PS5
Think Breath of the Wild, but with no combat and an open world of vast desert that you can traverse via hoverbike while exploring the ruins of an ancient alien civilization, and that’s a good description of Sable from Shedworks — a two-person studio based in a shed, just like the name says.
An ambient coming-of-age adventure as the titular character freely explores sand dunes at her leisure with no imminent danger, it promises to be a chilled, meditative experience. Its relaxing nature comes from its distinctive Moebius-inspired graphic novel aesthetic and a hypnotic score from Michelle Zauner, aka Japanese Breakfast. The story from 80 Days’ Meg Jayanth should mean a strong free-form narrative where it’s unlikely you’ll discover everything on a first playthrough. After multiple delays since its E3 2018 premiere, Sable could well be one of the most talked-about indie games when it finally arrives this month.
Available Sept. 23 on PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X
Following the successful spinoff in Sega’s Yakuza series from pure gangster brawling to gripping legal drama, lawyer-turned-detective Takayuki Yagami returns in sequel Lost Judgment with a case that takes him to the same part of Yokohama seen in Yakuza: Like a Dragon, and requires going undercover in a high school. While the mainline series has transformed into a turn-based RPG, Yagami will still be kicking ass in real time with some new parkour moves, as well as a range of sleuthing mechanics.
There will be plenty of fun and quirky distractions, whether it’s playing a bunch of Sega Master System games at Yagami’s office, skateboarding around town, or walking an adorable dog. But the levity is also going to balance out what’s set to be one of Yagami’s darkest cases, with a story that explores sensitive themes like suicide and bullying. With the intrinsically Japanese Yakuza series finally finding appreciation from Western audiences in recent years, Lost Judgment marks the first time an installment in the franchise is launching simultaneously worldwide.
Available Sept. 24 on PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X
It’s difficult not to ignore the colonial connotations, although New World isn’t a historical game but rather an open-world fantasy MMO where players find themselves shipwrecked on the supernatural island of Aeternum, and get to wield powers themselves. With meaty combat that’s more Dark Souls than World of Warcraft, there are all kinds of ways to make a name for yourself. There’s the classless, real-time combat system and the ability to craft and trade rare gear. You can go it alone, work together in a small team, or form an army taking on Aeternum’s threats — or each other.
New World has had a long road, suffering multiple delays but sticking around after publisher Amazon’s titles Breakaway and Crucible were axed. After its previously scheduled August release was pushed back to September due to feedback from its closed beta, an open beta will be happening from Sept. 9-12 for players to get a taste of Aeternum ahead of launch.
Available Sept. 28 on PC
Super Monkey Ball: Banana Mania
Celebrating the arcade puzzle-platforming series’ 20th anniversary, Super Monkey Ball: Banana Mania rolls up the original classics into a definitive remaster. Using real physics, it’s up to players to guide their simian characters to the goal by tilting the stage itself. They quickly go from straightforward to mind-bendingly impossible, although there are now accessibility options including a slow-motion button, optimal path guides, and the jump button introduced in Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz.
Consisting of hundreds of levels taken from Super Monkey Ball, Super Monkey Ball 2, and Super Monkey Ball Deluxe, Banana Mania will also see the return of beloved party games including Monkey Fight, Monkey Bowing, and the all-timer Monkey Target. Along for the anniversary celebrations are Sega guest characters like Sonic, Jet Set Radio’s Beat, Persona 5’s Morgana, and even Yakuza’s Kazuma Kiryu. Super Monkey Ball and Yakuza share Toshihiro Nagoshi as series creator — indeed, it’s also Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio that’s developing Banana Mania.
Available Oct. 5 on Nintendo Switch, PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X
Jett: The Far Shore
Sword & Sworcery developer Superbrothers returns a decade later with Jett: The Far Shore, a cinematic interstellar epic about exploring a new ocean planet in hope of securing a future for your people. Compared to most games about space exploration, this is decidedly less about combat or pillaging resources, but rather about laid-back exploration. As scout Mei, you’ll pilot your “jett” almost like a platformer, skimming low over waves and “jumping” across otherworldly woods, while scanning but keeping a respectful distance from the local fauna, which may not always be friendly.
Alongside action that occasionally switches to the first person, Jett: The Far Shore features an introspective story that will have you contemplating the cosmos as you bond with an intimate cast of fellow companions and experience visions from Mei’s own dreams and memories.
Available Oct. 5 on PC, PS4, PS5
Far Cry 6
Ubisoft Toronto lights a political powder keg in Far Cry 6 as you join the revolution to liberate the fictional Caribbean island of Yara from a brutal fascist regime. It’s a more cinematic story in the series than ever, as cutscenes play out in the third-person — an excuse to be able to see your own guerrilla fighter, Dani Rojas, who can be customized as male or female, as well as to cut away to more scene-stealing moments from the game’s chilling but charismatic dictator Anton Castillo, played by The Mandalorian’s Giancarlo Esposito.
Far Cry 6’s Cuba-inspired setting is the biggest open world in the series yet, offering more ways to liberate the island. You also have the ability to holster your weapon and not go into areas guns blazing as soon as you’re spotted, and to get around on horseback. Of course, the series’ over-the-top violence is still a staple, which will include some wacky makeshift weaponry for taking down the enemy, like shooting deadly CDs while playing the Macarena.
Available Oct. 7 on Luna, PC, PS4, PS5, Stadia, Xbox One, Xbox Series X
Celebrating the series’ 35th anniversary, Metroid Dread is the first side-scrolling Metroid title in 19 years. It picks up where Metroid Fusion left off, in what is also the long-awaited conclusion of the mainline Metroid arc involving bounty hunter Samus Aran and the titular parasites. It’s also perhaps going back to its original Alien inspirations by injecting elements of stealth and horror — besides combat and exploration, you’ll find yourself being pursued by seemingly indestructible EMMI robots, who can instantly kill Samus if they catch her.
The game was originally a Nintendo DS title that was later shelved, so it’s going to be interesting to see whether a new Metroid game can reach the high bar that indies like Hollow Knight have set for the Metroidvania genre in recent years. Nonetheless, with MercurySteam, the studio behind the 2017 3DS remake Metroid: Samus Returns, co-developing the game with Nintendo, Metroid Dread could be the game to fill a huge Metroid-shaped hole for fans still waiting patiently for Metroid Prime 4.
Available Oct. 8 on Nintendo Switch
Back 4 Blood
Turtle Rock Studios brings back Left 4 Dead in all but name with Back 4 Blood, a new take on co-op first-person survival horror. With a larger roster offering more variety, and unique perks and abilities, you’re no longer just survivors. Now you’re working in a team of four “cleaners” running missions to take back what’s left of civilization after the world is hit by a new infection transforming people into “Ridden.”
Besides working together with friends, strangers, or bots (although full cross-play between platforms and console generations should ensure less of the later), new to Back 4 Blood is a deck-building system where you can select and unlock cards that increase perks, which can benefit your play style as well as the team. However, you also have to contend with the game’s AI — the Game Director — which will throw a few wrenches into the works with Corruption Cards, which are bound to make each run unique and unpredictable.
Available Oct. 12 on PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X, with Deluxe and Ultimate editions granting early access on Oct. 8
Set in a grim high-tech future devastated by climate change where many soldiers are climate refugees known as “No-Pats,” first-person shooter Battlefield 2042 surprisingly wants to steer clear of political statements — a single-player campaign is absent. Instead, the focus for developer DICE is purely on mass multiplayer mayhem, as up to 128 players (on PC and current-gen consoles only) engage in warfare across vast maps while taking control of Assault, Engineer, Medic, and Recon classes.
Players can expect plenty of gadgets, from a wingsuit to a robot attack dog, as well as extreme weather like tornadoes and sandstorms. But the fan-pleasing addition that will really mix things up is Battlefield Portal, a community-driven platform where players can create their own gameplay modes by mixing and matching elements, features, and maps from past games, including Battlefield 1942, Battlefield: Bad Company 2, and Battlefield 3.
Available Oct. 22 on on PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X
Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy
Eidos-Montreal’s take on Guardians of the Galaxy may be the right kind of single-player action-adventure romp for Marvel fans left wanting by the live-service nature of Marvel’s Avengers. Rather than taking control of the whole gang, players will control their leader Peter Quill, aka Star-Lord, who will issue commands for Gamora, Rocket Raccoon, Groot, and Drax the Destroyer during battle. Dialogue trees will also crop up throughout the story, with decisions that may affect (in a Telltale Games manner) mission outcomes and your relationships with your teammates, although there is ultimately a single core story and ending.
As well as the galactic misfits’ trademark banter, music will also play a huge role: Star-Lord can fire up mixtapes during Team Huddle special attacks that blast out ’80s hits from the likes of Bonnie Tyler, Pat Benatar, Wham!, Joan Jett, and Kiss. Most surprisingly, it’s also coming to Nintendo Switch, albeit as a cloud-streaming title.
Available Oct. 26 on Nintendo Switch, PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X
Heart Machine, developer of adventure platformer Solar Ash, has moved from the hardcore top-down 2D Zelda-like action of its 2016 debut Hyper Light Drifter to a full 3D game that has both the open traversal of publisher Annapurna Interactive’s The Pathless as well as huge monolithic boss encounters that conjure memories of Shadow of the Colossus. Combat is less the priority here compared to movement, as players control voidrunner Rei, who can jump, surf, and glide in the air and on clouds, and must journey inside a giant black hole that threatens to destroy her world.
In the works since Hyper Light Drifter’s completion in 2016, Solar Ash was first announced at Sony’s State of Play in 2020, where it was confirmed as a PlayStation 5 title, although it will also be available on PlayStation 4 and PC. After a year of narrative-driven experiences more inspired by film and TV, Solar Ash is one of the more gameplay-focused titles from Annapurna.
Available Oct. 26 on PC, PS4, PS5
Billed as an extreme sports MMO, Riders Republic takes the extreme winter sports of Ubisoft Annecy’s Steep and applies them to a greater variety of activities set in a massive and diverse open world made up of a number of real-life national parks in the U.S. meshed together. Up to 50 players can compete with each other in mountain biking, skiing, snowboarding, wingsuit flying, and rocket wingsuiting, with the freedom to switch between activities at will, or just hang out in a big social hub showing off their looks with a variety of outfits and cosmetics.
Originally set for release earlier this year, Riders Republic was delayed to September and then October. A recent beta appears to have gone down well, with a game that aims to take extreme sports to the um, extreme, while also being quite accessible as an arcadey social game rather than as a demanding simulation.
Available Oct. 28 on Luna, PC, PS4, PS5, Stadia, Xbox One, Xbox Series X
Mario Party Superstars
A Mario Party title may have you assume that Nintendo is lacking in big releases this fall, but tell that to 2018’s Super Mario Party, which is among the best-selling games on Switch, just behind Super Mario Odyssey. Mario Party Superstars is not a new entry in the franchise, but rather a compilation that updates the party games from the Nintendo 64 and GameCube titles, featuring five remade boards from the N64 era, including Peach’s Birthday Cake from the original Super Mario Party.
The game contains over 100 remade minigames from past installments, new graphics based on Super Mario Party, and characters like Waluigi and Rosalina (as well as the return of Birdo, last seen in Mario Party 9). These classic minigames are all played with buttons, with local, wireless, and online multiplayer all supported.
Available Oct. 29 on Nintendo Switch
Call of Duty: Vanguard
After taking the series back to the Second World War, Sledgehammer Games is staying in that era for blockbuster first-person shooter Call of Duty: Vanguard, with a multi-protagonist campaign that takes a leaf from Battlefield 5 by showing the conflict from a number of diverse fronts that are connected by the origins of the special forces. The game will cover both the Eastern and Western fronts, as well as combat in North Africa and the Pacific. Currently, the most attention is being paid to its female protagonist, Russian sniper Lt. Polina Petrova (played by The Last of Us Part 2’s Laura Bailey), who is based on the real-life Soviet sniper Lyudmila Pavlichenko.
Call of Duty: Vanguard’s multiplayer will launch with 20 maps, including a new two-on-two arena mode called Champion Hill. The game will also come with a Zombies mode, being developed by Treyarch, that will be an expansion of the Dark Aether story from Black Ops Cold War — and it’s also supposed to integrate with free-to-play battle royale game Call of Duty: Warzone.
Available Nov. 5 on PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X
Forza Horizon 5
A new console generation hasn’t really begun without a shiny new racing game to show off the stunning tech. For the Xbox Series X, this comes courtesy of Playground Games with open-world racer Forza Horizon 5, which takes the series to the huge and diverse geography of Mexico. With breathtaking locations that span beaches, historic cities, canyons, deserts, jungles, and a snow-capped volcano, variety is the spice of life with hundreds of cars intact. Seasons, first introduced in Forza Horizon 4, also make a return, although they will be more dynamic in this environment, where you can be driving through dust storms one moment and tropical storms the next.
With a story mode, environments, and artwork done in close collaboration with Mexican creators, there will be plenty of activities to explore and unlock in the campaign, although at its heart Forza Horizon is still a social world where players can seamlessly connect with friends for races and challenges.
Available Nov. 9 on PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X, with a Premium Edition that includes early access on Nov. 5
Grand Theft Auto 5
With over 150 million copies sold since its debut in 2013, Grand Theft Auto 5 is already one of the biggest-selling games of all time, with the ongoing popularity of Grand Theft Auto Online ensuring that the game consistently stays near the top of the sales charts. No wonder Rockstar Games seems to be in no hurry to announce Grand Theft Auto 6.
Instead, the company will be launching its modern satirical open-world epic on PS5 and Xbox Series X, the third console generation release for the game. Little is currently known about what enhancements or additions will be included in the latest version that will have people forking out for it once again — the PS4 and Xbox One versions introduced a first-person mode not in the original release — although just being able to drive around Los Santos causing chaos in 4K at 60 fps will probably be enough for many.
Available Nov. 11 on PS5, Xbox Series X
Shin Megami Tensei 5
A cult classic that found itself eclipsed by its own spinoff Persona in recent years, Shin Megami Tensei 5 is the return of Atlus’ original hardcore post-apocalyptic Japanese role-playing game series. A high school student is caught in a battle between angels and demons in an apocalyptic version of Tokyo, and transforms into the Nahobino, a being that is neither human nor deity but has the power to recruit, command, and fuse demons.
First announced at the official unveiling of the Nintendo Switch in 2017, it’s the franchise’s first home console release since Shin Megami Tensei 3: Nocturne, the remaster released earlier this year, which was the first official English debut for the series. In an unprecedented step for the franchise, Shin Megami Tensei 5 will launch simultaneously worldwide.
Available Nov. 12 on Nintendo Switch
Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl
This year sees the release of Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl, remakes of the original Nintendo DS titles for their 15th anniversary. Set in the Sinnoh region, inspired by the Japanese island of Hokkaido, with plenty of nature and Mount Coronet at their center, these games faithfully reproduce the original story with familiar characters, but also contain new surprises.
Visually, these remakes look quite simple — on par with the Pokémon Let’s Go spinoffs, retaining the original game’s top-down perspective and turn-based battling. They’re being handled by external developer ILCA, while Game Freak focuses on the future of the series with open-world action RPG Pokémon Legends: Arceus slated for January 2022.
Available Nov. 19 on Nintendo Switch
Final Fantasy 14 Online: Endwalker
Rescued from disaster to become one of the most beloved online MMORPGs of all time, Final Fantasy 14 Online is experiencing its greatest popularity ever. So there’s a lot of anticipation for its fourth and supposedly final expansion, which will conclude the epic Hydaelyn and Zodiark story arc. Since the story was elevated to new heights with the critically acclaimed Shadowbringers expansion, the stakes are only raised further in a climax that will take the Warriors of Light to the enemy’s home in Garlemald, and even to the moon.
Besides new job classes, including a healing sage, raised level caps, more dungeons, and raids, expect the return of many beloved characters, including Heavensward’s dragoon Estinien, in what’s set to be an emotional curtain call that will also herald a new dawn for Final Fantasy 14 Online.
Available Nov. 23 on PC, PS4, PS5, with pre-order early access on Nov. 19
Originally set to launch with the Xbox Series X in 2020 before being delayed into 2021, Halo Infinite has had a rough development process, with developer 343 Studios losing a few high-profile executives along the way. Little is known about the game’s single-player campaign, other than that the option to play it in co-op mode will be missing at launch, as will the creative Forge mode.
While that makes for gloomy reading, there are plenty of reasons to be excited about the return of Master Chief in the most iconic franchise in Microsoft’s library, including an actual full-scale ringed planet that you can freely roam and find tense firefights to engage in. Also, for the first time, the multiplayer mode is launching as a free-to-play experience. It will see the return of classic arena battles with fair starts and on-map equipment, as well as big team battles, while cosmetics and customization options will allow for players to create their very own Spartans.
Available Dec. 8 on PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X