What are the best upcoming PC games? Hope, anticipation, agony and elation - it’s the endless cycle of emotions we gamers go through during the annual PC release schedule. Year in, year out, games - via Steam and otherwise - are produced in such varying degrees of quality that no announcement is destined for certain success. Masterpieces are released alongside utter disasters, franchises are born while others dwindle and occasionally - so very occasionally - a game actually lives up to our expectations.
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And there's plenty on the horizon to feel positive about. From franchise heavyweights to inventive indies, the sheer range of exciting titles due for release in the not too distant future is enough to spread a smile across the face of even the most cynical of gamers. Well, almost.
Upcoming PC games Q3 2016
Io Interactive's efforts to turn the adventures of globetrotting baldie Agent 47 into an episodic series are going better than anyone dared to expect. The developers are midway through building six city sandboxes, each seven times the size of Hitman: Absolution’s largest area. Marrakesh in particular is the densest, most ambitious the assassin sim has ever been.
Hitman Episode 6 release date: Winter, 2016
Upcoming PC games Q4 2016
Civilization is back and in some ways history is destined to repeat itself: diplomacy will eventually fail, war will break out, and Mahatma Gandhi will reveal a surprising appetite for blood. But management is getting a huge overhaul, with cities becoming sprawling, multi-tile objects to siege over. If there’s one thing us PC gamers can never quite sate, it’s our megalomania.
Civilization VI release date: October 21, 2016
It’s perhaps DICE’s most historically charged and intriguing choice of setting to date, but the multiplayer formula is familiar: noisy, vehicular FPS combat over large chunks of territory. The Battlefield 1 campaign promises something newer, however, as the studio continue their push towards not only more freeform level design but freeform narrative too. The game’s five stories can be played in any order.
Battlefield 1 release date: October 21, 2016
Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare
At one time the big sell of a new CoD was super-furry dogs (it was an off-year, to be fair - remember Ghosts?). This year it's space dogfights. Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare sees the series give up pretending to be grounded and embrace the ludicrous, with an outer-atmospheric adventure that casts you as a space spec-op wearing mag boots that allow you to lock onto any surface in any orientation. The silliness of it all seems to have upset CoD fans on YouTube, but hey - they've always got the remastered Modern Warfare that comes with the more expensive editions.
Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare release date: November 4, 2016
Football Manager 2017
A new Football Manager! Imagine! While it might not be a shock to the schedule, this entry should be particularly good if the series can maintain its current upward trajectory. Last year’s game was cracking, the match engine gets better and better, and the lingering launch bugs that once seemed inevitable have more recently been smoothed out almost immediately.
Football Manager 2017 release date: November 4, 2016
Steampunk, stealth and stabbing - what more could you want? Set 15 years after the events of the original, Dishonored 2 will allow players to choose and swap between previous protagonist Corvo and a now-grown-up Emily Kaldwin. Each character boasts their own perspective on events as well as a host of unique powers, adding even more replayability.
Dishonored 2 release date: November 11, 2016
Watch Dogs 2
Ubisoft Montreal have wasted no time in jettisoning Watch Dogs’ biggest problem - everyone’s least favourite uncle, Aiden Pearce. The #YOLO youngsters they’ve replaced him with might smack of down-with-the-kids dadness instead, but at least they’ve infused this sequel’s considerably more advanced open-world hacking with a palpable, positive energy.
Watch Dogs 2 release date: November 15, 2016
Dead Rising 4
The Christmas movie is an annual TV tradition, so it’s nice to be able to book in a Christmas game for the other significant screen in the house. Dead Rising 4 finds Frank West returning to the scene of the series’ original outbreak in Willamette, Colorado during the holiday season. It’s in the hands of Capcom Vancouver, the same Canadian studio thrown the keys to Dead Rising after Keiji Inafune wrote the blueprint for gleeful shopping mall zombie disassembly.
Dead Rising 4 release date: December 6, 2016
Frozen Synapse 2
After distilling the merits of their simultaneously turn-based tactical shooter in the purist sports strategy of Frozen Cortex, Mode 7 Games have returned to the Synapse series with a view to expand. They’ll retain the waypoint system that evokes early Rainbow Six, but move the action outside those familiar office complexes in favour of “open world tactics”. However that manifests itself, it’ll be a huge departure from the taut, two-player maps of the original Frozen Synapse.
Frozen Synapse 2 release date: TBC, 2016
Without a doubt the most wildly ambitious game in a long time, Star Citizen aims to be the ultimate space exploration experience. Taking to the skies in one of numerous ridiculously detailed craft, you will be able to engage in military service, become a reputable trader of goods, live the life of a smuggler, or become a universe-famous race pilot. If it ever gets finished, that is…
Star Citizen release date: TBC, 2016
Torment: Tides of Numenera
Another old-school RPG looking to get you all warm and fuzzy with nostalgia. A spiritual successor to Planescape: Torment, this classic isometric roleplayer will carry on the heavy themes of its inspiration, but transfer the action to the setting of Numenera (an already established pen-and-paper RPG world). Expect a heavily story-led, dialogue-rich campaign exploring the darkest corners of existence and mortality, a solid helping of wit, and tactical combat rife with opportunity.
Torment: Tides of Numenera release date: TBC, 2016
Upcoming PC games Q1 2017
Resident Evil VII
Absolutely nobody outside of Capcom expected the familiar Resident Evil / Biohazard logo to pop up at the end of this sequel's E3 reveal. The series that defined third-person shooting until Gears came along has turned its back on that perspective altogether, leaping instead into the eyes of a non-combatant creeping through a derelict plantation mansion in rural America. Obvious P.T. comparisons aside, this is a brave reinvention worth keeping a close (wide, bloodshot) eye on.
Resident Evil 7 release date: January 24, 2017
Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Wildlands
Ghost Recon has sometimes struggled to find its place along Ubisoft’s spectrum of stealth-action games - jostling for space with Rainbow Six and Assassin’s Creed - but it’s now decided to be Far Cry crossed with GTA, and that turns out to be a really attractive idea. Shoot narcos every which way you like.
Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Wildlands release date: March 7, 2017
To hell with ultra realistic settings, brutal melee takedowns and all things trendy in gaming, give us vibrant colours, some endearing animal protagonists, and loads of floaty jumping any day of the week. Yooka-Laylee, a crowdfunded throwback to the 3D platformers of the '90s, is offering up something a little lighter for gamers to sink their teeth into - just as you'd expect given that it's being made by ex-Banjo-Kazooie devs.
Yooka-Laylee release date: March, 2017
Dawn of War III
For seven years the forge worlds lay silent - or so we thought. Turns out Relic have fired them up again for Dawn of War III, producing huge numbers of units to match the original game’s bigger battles, as well as ginormous walkers designed to swallow a sizeable portion of your screen. Expect Eldar, Orks and Space Marines to converge on the mysterious world of Acheron, where they’ve found - what else? - a terrible weapon.
Dawn of War III release date: TBC, 2017
Divinity: Original Sin II
2014’s Divinity: Original Sin was one of best classic RPGs made in recent years, with plenty of charm, depth and challenge to spare. Larian Studios’ follow up promises the same respect for player choices, new origin stories, a revamped crafting system and addictive competitive party elements. And we can attest to all of this following our Original Sin II hands-on.
Divinity: Original Sin II release date: TBC, 2017
South Park: The Fractured But Whole
Obsidian opened a wildly successful series of RPGs with South Park: The Stick of Truth, but it continues on without them. Ubi are tackling this one internally, sensibly sticking to the map left behind by some of the most respected role-playing designers in the world. No bad news here - except for that which saw The Fractured But Whole delayed into 2017.
South Park: The Fractured But Whole release date: TBC, 2017
Kingdom Come: Deliverance
Ever wondered what Skyrim without magic and cat people would look like? Wonder no more, because Warhorse Studios are in the process of making a medieval RPG set in 1403. The game promises to have historically accurate armour, weapons and combat techniques, and is intended to allow the player to become whoever they want - rogue, warrior or bard. Even more so when Kingdom Come mods get going.
Kingdom Come: Deliverance release date: TBC, 2017
These are the upcoming PC games that have got us most excited. Any games on the horizon that have you seriously considering a pre-order? Let us know in the comments.