Now is the perfect time for Humankind to grab the reins. Between this and Kingdom Hearts 3 last year, JRPG fans are running out of white whales. If you want to build a nation-state from the Bronze Age to the space race, the only correct recommendation anyone could make was the venerable Civilization series. Neo: The World Ends With You

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Humankind

Sid Meier has held a monopoly on the era-spanning strategy game since the early ’90s. But now they’re attempting to replicate the magic with scholastic world history. Will Amplitude pull it off? It’s one of the most interesting storylines of the summer. Chivalry 2

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Ninja Gaiden: Master Collection

With action games growing increasingly slower and more Souls-ian — where even Kratos needs to hold the block button from time to time — it’s liberating to receive a Ninja Gaiden remaster to remind us how much fun there is to be had when you ditch the shield. Available on PlayStation 5 and Windows PC September 14. Available on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Windows PC, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X June 8. It was first released in 2011, during the twilight period for the Wii, and boasted a tight, one-to-one control scheme that used the Wiimote for directional sword combat. There is a moment in No More Heroes 2 where a pouty football jock blasts off into deep space alongside his battalion of cheerleaders, who then combine together into a giant mecha. Mario Golf: Super Rush

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$60

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The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD

Nintendo has dutifully remastered almost every game in the 3-D Zelda canon at this point, and yet, Skyward Sword remains the series’s only significant outlier. The game was set in an indistinct region of Europe, featured a huge arsenal of dark-age munitions, and players spent most of their time caught in the stormy, messy chaos of pre-mechanization warfare. The catch? Ratchet & Clank is not the juggernaut it was during the PS2 days, but we’re still very excited for its latest reboot, Rift Apart. Game director Suda51 is a maniac; he stuffs his discs with countless ridiculous cutscenes, inane mini-games, and bizarre easter eggs. Available on Nintendo Switch July 16. It’s a fascinating, divergent take on multiplayer, especially from a studio that has previously been pretty stringent about its commitment to thoughtful, solo adventures. Ninja Gaiden: Master Collection

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Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart

It’s heartwarming how even as Insomniac levels up as a studio — taking on the Resistance trilogy and Sony’s new Spider-Man line — they still make time to nurture the franchise that made the company famous. Take that as proof of the enduring vibrancy of the games industry; even when the best-laid plans disintegrate and the power brokers are in retreat, this community still has plenty to look forward to. Photo-Illustration: Vulture; Photos by Nintendo, Amplitude Studios, Bethesda and Sony Interactive Entertainment

We’ve never seen a video-game calendar quite like 2021. Amplitude certainly has the right pedigree for such a bold assertion. In fact, I’d reckon that a significant portion of the greater millennial population can thank 1999’s Mario Golf for first introducing them to the basic rules of the sport. Available on PlayStation 5 June 11. The game did a great job of using the DS’s touchscreen for different attack inputs, which makes the Switch’s tablet form a natural successor for a sequel. This is a game where you must grow comfortable with uppercutting a demon into the air to finish out a 100-hit combo if you ever want to succeed. I’ve written before about the chilling effect COVID has had on the games industry, with a number of major studios losing precious development time and pushing their target windows into the safe harbor of 2022. They called it World of Warcraft: Classic, and thanks to a blend of wistfulness and a simmering dissatisfaction with the modern game, a whole commonwealth of players returned to capture the magic they left behind in the Bush years. Honestly, all of this disarray has been kinda freeing as a gamer. But we don’t have a representative from Ubisoft or EA on the docket, and the only Activision entry belongs to a 17-year-old MMO that’s repackaging a 14-year-old expansion. With Classic already welcoming a massive injection of winsome veterans, and a level-boost option available for newbies to quickly get up to the new content, now is the best time to jump into Classic since its initial release. No More Heroes 3

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Deathloop

Deathloop is developed by Arkane Studios, which previously gave us some of the best first-person PC Games in recent memory with Dishonored and Prey. It was shockingly fun; dirty sword combat is somehow way more personal gratifying than blowing a machine gun clip at a window. If Arkane can retain its excellent level-design sensibilities while still seamlessly folding in the chaos factor, Deathloop has a chance to go down as 2021’s best game. Never heard of it. Now the company is taking its storied pedigree to a sepia-toned Tarantino facsimile, where two assassins are caught in an endless Groundhog Day time loop. Everything that’s old is new again, and Blizzard will continue to rake in that nostalgia dollar unapologetically. Insomniac keeps giving their foundational mascot the respect he deserves, almost two decades after his debut. I’m hopeful that No More Heroes 3 will keep its indelible tone while ironing out the inefficiencies. Torn Banner Studios are returning in June for Chivalry 2, so if you’re eager to take a stand against the Templars, you’ll get an opportunity in a couple of weeks. In seasons past, a list like this would be filled out with auto-includes from the most powerful companies in the industry. Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart

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$70

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Mario Golf: Super Rush

I am a sucker for the Mario sports line. It sounds like it could be an absolute disaster, and with luck, it will be the mainstay on many post-quarantine couches throughout the summer. Available on PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch July 27. I’ve been asking myself that since I played through the first entry in 2007. The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD

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$60

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Neo: The World Ends With You

The original The World Ends With You, which came out in 2007 for the Nintendo DS, belongs to a proud lineage of JRPGs that ditch the pearly castles and waifish catgirls in favor of a narrative set in modern Tokyo. You took control of an antisocial young man named Neku who, like many teenage protagonists before him, ingratiates himself with a bevy of other lost souls who are all in search of their fundamental purpose on the streets of Shibuya … while constantly being harried by a legion of inter-dimensional beasties. Humankind

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No More Heroes 3

Is No More Heroes a good video-game series? No More Heroes is unapologetically stupid; there are few video-game franchises that are easier to root for. Zelda would be put on ice till 2017 and Breath of the Wild, which dramatically reimagined the franchise’s core gameplay. However, there remains an enthralled tract of Zelda lifers who believe that Skyward Sword never received a fair shake. We are happy to welcome the series back on modern consoles, and we hope that this is a sign of a more formal sequel on the horizon. Yes, no longer do you need to wait for Princess Peach to select her club, and check the wind, and put down her marker. In June, Blizzard will iterate on Classic with The Burning Crusade, the first expansion that ever blessed World of Warcraft all the way back in 2007. The back half of the year, from September onward, is a wasteland. Available on Windows PC and macOS August 17. Available on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Windows PC, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X June 10. Deathloop

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$60

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Tags: That said, there’s always been a certain layer of B-movie jank around the edges — fiddly animations, bad cameras, convoluted game flow. Available on Nintendo Switch August 27. Elsewhere, there are a few long-awaited sequels from franchises that have kindled a devout cult for over a decade, a turn-based strategy game aiming to challenge Sid Meier’s throne, and a platoon of oddball Nintendo curios that will absolutely dominate the summer. We deserve a technically sound Suda51 masterpiece! When Team Ninja resurrected the classic NES series with 2004’s Ninja Gaiden, the gaming public quickly grew lusty for its razor-tight combos, unrelenting difficulty curve, and oodles of gelatinous gore. Now, everyone hits their ball at the same time, and the first player to reach its landing spot can take their next swing. The most recent Civ game, Civilization VI, just received its final content update and is entering an indefinite slumber state as Firaxis prepares the inevitable Civilization VII. World of Warcraft Subscription

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Chivalry 2

The first Chivalry enlightened a wide community of gamers to how much fun multiplayer could be when nobody had a gun. The game was successful, but famously forced a reckoning at Nintendo. Parrying? Available on Mac and Windows PC June 1. But that dogma will be challenged in August, when Amplitude Studios releases the very Civ-y Humankind. World of Warcraft: Burning Crusade Classic

In 2019, Blizzard re-released the original World of Warcraft — exactly as it was in its 2004 incarnation with no cumbersome expansions weighing it down — to anyone who had a subscription. After 14 years, a slew of re-releases, and a 7-episode anime adaptation, Neo: The World Ends With You is the franchise’s first official sequel. Available on Nintendo Switch June 25. Yes, there will be some release-date announcements at whatever E3 facsimile we get in June, and a couple indie studios will inevitably blindside us and shoot up the Steam charts throughout the warmer months, but the broader horizon is downright barren. That trend has yet to reverse itself, and we’re running out of time. The studio’s other turn-based efforts, Endless Space and Endless Legend, did a great job of adapting the 4X formula to both galactic exploration and high fantasy. Ratchet retains his double-jump, his armory, and his distinct, ’90s-Nickelodeon raditude, but now his adventures are rendered in glorious 4K on the Playstation 5. Square finally cashed in. Nintendo is going back to that well in June with Mario Golf: Super Rush, which has the internet thrilled about one particular feature: Speed Golf. Both of those assassins are controlled by real players, and one of them is trying to stop the other from carrying out their hit. Everyone will be able to see for themselves in July, when Nintendo brings the game to Switch.