Centuries from now, physicists puzzling over the practical realities of time travel will look back on spring and summer 2020 with a mix of wonder and horror at how we’ve managed to make them disappear.
It’s extraordinary to think that we’re almost six months on from the date that lockdown was imposed here in the UK, and yet the calendar doesn’t lie. Many of the biggest releases of the year have of course been pushed back by Covid-19 and its ripples across the industry, but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing going on in September – far from it. And as our list of games not to miss in August so ably proved with its prediction that Fall Guys would become a hit, some of the very best games can come out of the indie and mid-tier side of the business.
This month, we put the spotlight on upcoming games from a wide range of genres – sometimes within the same game. Highlights include a retro sci-fi Soulslike in which your decisions have narrative and gameplay consequences, an experimental lo-fi creative game that allows you to paint overgrown post-apocalyptic scenes, and a rhythm-FPS that finally cements Doom’s flirtation with metal at a gameplay level.
Without anymore chit chat, let’s get right into our list of games that you definitely shouldn’t overlook this month. There’s sure to be something for everyone, no matter where your preferences lie.
Ary and the Secret of Seasons – September 1
Ary and the Secret of Seasons is a beautiful puzzle-platformer inspired by the Nintendo-exclusive Zelda games, proving once again that if it’s not on PC, a decent imitator probably is. You take the role of Aryelle (Ary, to her mates) as she travels the picturesque land of Valdi exploring her newfound ability to manipulate the seasons – something that would’ve been extremely helpful during last month’s heatwave. While the gameplay does look like a lot of fun, what really caught our eye were the graphics which, with the colourful art style of a classic Pixar movie, look set to drown us in nostalgia. Check out the Steam Page to find out more.
Saboteur SiO – September 1
Continuing the nostalgic trend, Clive Townsend’s Saboteur SiO is a retro ninja-’em-up that calls back to the original Saboteur, released all the way back in 1985. The game feels about as retro as you can get, with its pixelated art style, limited colour palette, and Hotline Miami-esque ‘80s soundtrack.
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The action will be familiar to anyone who spent their childhood playing games like Streets of Rage or Double Dragon, and looks to capture that same satisfying feeling of clearing out a screen full of opponents armed with just your fists and your knowledge of an extensive move list. Fight your way to the Steam page for more info.
Star Renegades – September 8
Star Renegades takes the pixel art style beloved of many indie devs and makes it stand out from the crowd, with lighting and reflections of uncommon detail and lashings of hot pink. This gorgeous look is married with a deep combat system emphasing interrupts and counters for an interesting twist to the turn-based RPG formula. On top of this, its Intelligent Adversary system generates unique enemies and bosses for you to fight, adding a procedural element and increasing the game’s roguelite replayability tenfold. Save the galaxy over at the Steam page.
Cloud Gardens – September 9 (Early Access)
This one’s a bit different, but stick with us. Cloud Gardens is the latest project from the creators of the underrated gem Kingdom: New Lands, and allows you to create miniature post-apocalyptic dioramas. You can jump into a six-chapter ‘campaign’ or simply unwind in a relaxing sandbox mode. The more creative among you will enjoy striking an artistic balance between natural and industrial beauty with your Last of Us-esque scenes, while those looking to unwind can whack on a soothing album and mindfully focus on creating a masterpiece. Take a gander at the Steam page to find out more.
As Far as the Eye – September 10
This is a colourful roguelike strategy game in which you build and manage a mobile village. The challenge is to keep your tribe alive on their quest to reach the centre of the world. In the process, you’ll need to improve their miniature society with agricultural, scientific, and mystical research. A variety of game modifiers aid the procedural elements, allowing you to tune the journey to your liking. The vibrant colour palate and otherworldly character design come together to create a uniquely beautiful look that is sure to catch the eye of any fan of the best management games. Take a journey to the Steam page to find out more.
BPM: Bullets Per Minute – September 15
Ever since Doom changed shooters forever in 1993, the more action-packed examples of the genre have had a close relationship with fast, heavy music, as Doom 2016 and Eternal have proved beyond doubt. But BPM: Bullets Per Minute may be the first to formalise this relationship at a gameplay level – you’ll need to shoot, dodge, and jump in time to the beat in order to slay hordes of hellish monsters through a series of roguelike randomly generated levels. You can check out our Making it in Unreal feature to learn how the devs pulled it off – it was as tricky as it sounds – or blast your way through to the Steam Page to see the game in action.
Biomass – September 16
2D Soulslikes and Metroidvanias are popular subject matter for many indie devs, but Biomass looks to bring its own unique touch to the genre. Set in a sinking metropolis, you’ll shape the story and the world around you with your actions. Resolve conflict with words or violence, make alliances or go it alone – it all matters. Not only this, but each boss has a hidden phase that can be triggered by meeting certain requirements before the fight, meaning crazy people like me, who enjoy playing through Dark Souls without ever leveling up, can add some extra challenge to the game. Throw in a retro art style and beam sabers, and Biomass stands apart from the competition. Head on over to the Steam page and don’t you dare go hollow.
Pacer – September 17
Calling all Wipeout fans! This one’s definitely for you. Pacer channels the intense sense of speed of the classic antigrav racing series while bringing it into 2020. After three years’ gestation in Early Access, Pacer is finally ready for its full release, and aims to combine the depth you would expect from a simulation with fun, arcade-style gameplay. Naturally you can customise your craft in great detail, tinkering with everything from the engine and brakes to the anti-gravity and defence systems, and can test your skills against the world in online matchmaking or in the single-player campaign. Race over to the Steam page to find out more.
This is the Zodiac Speaking – September 24
This atmospheric first-person mystery thriller tells the dark tale of the infamous Zodiac killer. The gameplay ranges from tense stealth segments, not dissimilar to Alien: Isolation (but obviously without the alien), to intriguing detective sections that will test your deductive skills. The game’s art style and cinematic music are designed to capture that ‘70s feel and really bring the story to life. Grab your magnifying glass and take a closer look at the Steam page.
Serious Sam 4 – September 24
Our old friend, Sam ‘Serious’ Stone, returns this month with this high-octane prequel to the chaotic, classic series of the early ’00s. Serious Sam 4 builds upon the satisfying, explosive combat that fans have loved ever since the original released back in 2001. The latest entry can render thousands of hellish monsters at any one time, and allows you to upgrade your ridiculous arsenal of devastating firearms. It also sweetens the deal by letting you battle through its bloody campaign with up to three friends in online co-op. Strafe your way to the Steam page for more info.
Bullet Age – September 25
The final game on our list is Bullet Age, a 2D action-platformer that continues the co-op theme by allowing you to play through the whole campaign with a friend. The game seems to take inspiration from games like Hollow Knight, with its side-scrolling fast-paced action and intense boss battles, but it blends sword and gun combat with a charming hand-drawn art style and fluid animations to offer something new. Hack ‘n’ slash your way over to the Steam page to find out more.