The best games we saw and played at Summer Game Fest 2023

Here's what we loved the most out of 'Not E3'

Final Fantasy VII Rebirth overworld

After several days, the “Not E3” busy June period for gaming events has come to an end. Between the likes of Summer Game Fest from Canada’s own Geoff Keighley, Microsoft’s Xbox Games Showcase and Starfield Direct, and Ubisoft Forward, it’s been a steady stream of video game news and reveals.

I was also fortunate to head to Los Angeles to attend these shows, giving me the opportunity to play many of these games and see quite a few more in hands-off briefings. Given that, I have a lot to say about my time in the City of Angels. Those who prefer audio can check out our dedicated gaming podcast, but otherwise, read on for my favourite games that I saw. (For the purposes of this piece, we’ll use “Summer Game Fest” as a collective term for all of the past week’s gaming events.)

I should also note that while everyone I’ve seen who got to preview Alan Wake 2 at Summer Game Fest has said it was one of their top games, I was, unfortunately, unable to get into that appointment. Given how much I like Remedy games, it’s safe to say I’d be high on it as well, but for now, I can’t include it.

With that out of the way, here are the five games that I’m most excited about now that the dust has settled.

Final Fantasy VII Rebirth

Final Fantasy VII Rebirth Cloud

Image credit: Square Enix

Release date: Early 2024
Platform: PlayStation 5

It’s no secret that I’m MobileSyrup‘s resident Final Fantasy stan, and FFVII Rebirth, the sequel to 2020’s incredible FFVII Remake, is already looking to be pretty muchs everything I wanted. Seeing Cloud and friends run through stunningly photorealistic Midgar fields is a childhood dream come true, fully capitalizing on the groundbreaking but limited 3D open-world of the original VII.

Meanwhile, Rebirth wisely doubles down on the flashy team-up moves from VII Remake‘s Intermission add-on, creating a greater synergy between party members both old and new. And if all of that wasn’t enough, the trailer teased more of the tantalizing story deviations that made Remake so fascinatingly audacious, making me eager to see how it all plays out.

Metaphor ReFantazio

Metaphor Refantazio

Image credit: Atlus

Release date: TBA 2024
Platforms: PlayStation 4/5, Xbox consoles, PC

Persona 3, and 5 are three of my favourite games, so it was extremely exciting to get a good look at the new IP from that same creative team at the Xbox Games Showcase. Dumb name aside, I’m loving everything about Metaphor ReFantazio so far. The grand medieval European setting, which offers a nice change of pace from the tired anime school kids setting of previous games. The vibrant style of Persona but with an appropriately grittier edge to it. New music from Shoji Meguro, one of my all-time favourite composers. After many years of Persona, it’s exciting to see that team do something a bit different, and I can’t wait to see how it all plays out.

Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown

Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown

Image credit: Ubisoft

Release date: January 18th, 2024
Platforms: PlayStation 4/5, Xbox consoles, Nintendo Switch, PC

When I first saw Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown as the Summer Game Fest show opener, I didn’t think much of it. But after going hands-on with the game at Ubisoft Forward, I’ve come away extremely impressed. Even more so than Assassin’s Creed MirageThe Lost Crown is avoiding the bloat that I find plagues a lot of modern games, especially those from Ubisoft. Quite brilliantly, Ubisoft Montpellier has taken the core tenets of past Prince of Persia games, like platforming and time manipulation, and translated them perfectly into a 2.5D Metroidvania framework.
The comic book-style aesthetic looks sharp while also allowing the game to run at a satisfying 60fps on all platforms, even Switch. That’s especially important because combat is fast and fluid, offering a surprising amount of flexibility in letting you juggle enemies with light sword combos, arrows and other abilities. The first new Prince of Persia in over a decade looks absolutely fantastic.

33 Immortals

33 Immortals combat

Image credit: Thunder Lotus

Platforms: Xbox Series X/S (plus Game Pass), PC
Release date: TBA 2024 (early access)

Spiritfarer was one of my favourite games of 2020, so anything the Montreal-based team at Thunder Lotus was going to do next was always going to be on my radar. But the idea of a Hades-esque underworld action roguelike centred around 33-player co-op is especially intriguing. I don’t generally enjoy roguelikes due to their repetitive nature, so being able to play with a bunch of other people should keep things fresh. Honestly, Dante’s Divine Comedy inspirations and engaging co-op just sound like the perfect mix. But don’t just take it from me — Xbox chief Phil Spencer even said 33 Immortals was his standout title from the Xbox Games Showcase.

Thirsty Suitors

Thirsty Suitors

Image credit: Annapurna Interactive

Platforms: PlayStation 4/5, Xbox consoles, Nintendo Switch, PC
Release date: TBA 2023

I’m always interested whenever I see a game backed by Annapurna Interactive, but Thirsty Suitors might just be my most anticipated title from the boutique indie publisher in years. The new game from Outerloop Games (Falcon Age) follows a young woman who returns to her hometown to make peace with her angry exes. It’s a premise that evokes the zaniness and style of Scott Pilgrim but adds a wonderfully distinct South Asian flair.
From the over-the-top turn-based combat that represents the back-and-forth between you and your exes (including, hilariously, the ability to summon your angry and disapproving mother to deal damage) to your Uncle Hinti who pops up to give you advice and cooking minigames to impress your parents, Outerloop has injected so much wit and variety into Thirsty Suitors. As someone with a South Asian family, much of the material landed close to home, and I can’t wait to see what the final product has in store. Of all the games I actually got to play, this was easily my favourite.

Honourable mentions: Assassin’s Creed Mirage, Sonic Superstars, Foamstars and Little Kitty, Big City were all pleasant surprises based on behind-closed-doors demos, while Obsidian’s Avowed, which was only shown during the Xbox Games Showcase, continues to impress with its magical action-RPG goodness.

What are you most excited about out of Summer Game Fest? Let us know in the comments.

For more on all of the shows, check out our round-up of Canadian games.

Head image credit: Square Enix