With August now upon us, it’s nearly time for the holiday gaming rush. August is usually a preamble, where a few perennial titles and early big releases launch to get out of the way of the incoming slam. From now until the end of the year, the number of high profile games coming out will make space on a monthly list like this very scarce – even more so since the goal here is to provide a well-rounded representation of what you can expect every month, not just what’s big and going to make a lot of money. Niche and grassroot games need their moment to shine too, and I intend to share the spotlight with some of them.

For those who may be disappointed by what may be missing on these lists, my apologies. It’s nothing against you. Especially when you look at a release schedule like the Nintendo Switch has, where some games will have vague release dates until the last minute (see Dark Souls Remastered, and its “Summer 2018” date). So many games on that system get released in their own time, it’s like I need to keep a separate list just for them. So bear with me as I try to be fair, even if it might not make sense to you.

See you all next month!

This is definitely a game that can be classified as “Metroidvania,” kids.

Iconoclasts (Switch)

Publisher: Bitfrost Entertainment
Developer: Joakim “Konjak” Sandberg
Release Date: 8/2/18

What is it?

Iconoclasts is a Super Metroid-inspired indie game that debuted in January to good reviews and a fair amount of attention. While a Switch port was expected, the release date was only unveiled last week – August 2. Tomorrow. Surprise!

Why is it important?

Iconoclasts is the work of one man, Joakim “Konjak” Sandberg, and it took him eight years to make it. If nothing else, this reminds us how hard it is to make games, and how grueling the process can be. That we can celebrate his achievement now must feel like a miracle – and a relief. It’s also available on PC, PS4, and Vita.

For every movie like Akira to make motorcycles look cool, there’s a figure like Wario to make them look dorky.

WarioWare Gold (3DS)

Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Nintendo/Intelligent Systems
Release Date: 8/3/18

What is it?

A screen pops up. You see a finger and a nose. “Pick it!” the onscreen text says, so you press a button. You did it, you picked the nose. The game changes, and now you’re jumping over a hole, then running a race, and then ten other things before you can take a breather. That’s WarioWare’s microgames in a nutshell. Simple, quirky activities thrown at you rapid-fire style. Gold is the first entry in the franchise in several years, and it’s billed as a hit parade of sorts, bringing back some of the best microgames in the series. It also promises to be weird as ever, down to the questionably necessary voiced cutscenes and involved storyline.

Why is it important?

The game was announced in March, taking most people off-guard. It’s surprising the game isn’t also on Switch – it’s almost as if, somewhere along the way, a Nintendo employee realized the 3DS never had a WarioWare game, and the team went into overdrive just to prevent that from happening. Just as there’s always a Mario Kart and a Zelda on each Nintendo console – they must also have their WarioWare, apparently. Its punched up presentation looks promising, but we’ll see how it shakes out in the end. Stay tuned.

Fútbol.

Madden NFL 19 (PC/PS4/XB1)

Publisher: EA Sports
Developer: EA Tiburon
Release Date: 8/10/18

What is it?

I debated putting this title on the list because there’s not much to say. It’s Madden. It’s American Football. The series has been around for three decades now. While there isn’t much to talk about, I wanted to include it because down the road when more of the perennial sports titles hit, like NHL and NBA Live, there won’t be much room to include them. So here’s your yearly reminder that a Madden game is coming out. The gaming world should be diverse, so why not celebrate that diversity, even if it’s through something that comes around every year?

Why is it important?

It’s interesting to note that this entry will be the first time Madden will be on PCs in over a decade. Aside from that, the game features your standard changes – updated rosters, gameplay tweaks, and a bevy of dynamic animations to make plays feel more fluid. As Madden is still a top-seller whenever it releases, the continued importance of the series cannot be understated. EA Tiburon puts out these games like clockwork and it’s kind of amazing, so good on them. It’s just sad these titles never retain their value down the line.

Like a mix of A Clockwork Orange and THX 1138, it’s enough to make you put opaque white glasses over your own eyes. Or is it?

We Happy Few (PC/PS4/XB1)

Publisher: Microsoft Studios (PC/XB1)/Gearbox Publishing (PS4)
Developer: Compulsion Games
Release Date: 8/10/18

What is it?

We Happy Few was an Early Access game (meaning you could pay to play it as the developers kept working on it) until it wasn’t. Since its debut as a survival game a couple years back, its identity has undergone many changes as it’s evolved. With an official release looming, it will be interesting to see how people react – will they prefer the smaller scope originally presented, or the larger, more story-focused game they’ll play now? Here’s hoping it all comes together in the end.

Why is it important?

During E3 this year, Microsoft announced that it had acquired We Happy Few’s developer, Compulsion Games, along with three other studios. Theoretically, they bought Compulsion based on their work with We Happy Few, so this release will be an early test for their current decision making. This is also the second time in recent memory that a property worked on by a Microsoft studio will show up on competing platforms – the other being Minecraft, which was released on the Wii U, Switch and 3DS after Microsoft bought the game’s developer, Mojang.

The real question – does Telltale believe in circular storytelling, or not?

The Walking Dead: The Final Season Episode 1 (PC/PS4/XB1)

Publisher: Telltale Games
Developer: Telltale Games
Release Date: 8/14/18

What is it?

The modern resurgence of the adventure genre owes everything to Telltale’s The Walking Dead. From Life is Strange, to the King’s Quest reboot, to subsequent Telltale games, it was the popularity of this series that allowed it all to happen. To see Clementine’s story come to an end now is bittersweet, but logical. Not all stories are meant to be told forever. It’s time to get used to that fact and move on.

Why is it important?

There may be other games called The Walking Dead down the line, but it’ll hard to match the experience players had with Clem’s story over the years. Not all game franchises get proper endings, so I’m at least grateful we’re getting one here. Interestingly, as the trailer notes – a Switch version of the game will be coming in “Late 2018” – the first time the series will appear on a Nintendo console. Better late than never, right?

The vistas look nice – can you believe this was originally a game that came out in 2004?

World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth (PC)

Publisher: Blizzard Entertainment
Developer: Blizzard Entertainment
Release Date: 8/14/18

What is it?

Like Madden, World of Warcraft has long been one of the biggest entities in gaming. While the popularity of MMOs might not be what it once was, Blizzard knows how to keep their games going strong, and how to appeal to longtime and new players alike. Subscriptions may have sagged (at least, the last time we heard about them), but WoW is a game still played by millions. That’s the sort of dedication that deserves some respect.

Why is it important?

World of Warcraft sits on its own island as a PC exclusive, and that will likely never change. It’s amazing to think about how Battle for Azeroth is the seventh expansion for a game that released back in 2004 – the gaming landscape has changed so much since then; it’s impressive WoW continues to draw so many people in.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Shenmue I & II (PC/PS4/XB1)

Publisher: Sega
Developer Sega AM2
Release Date: 8/21/18

What is it?

While the long-awaited Shenmue III faced a delay that pushed it into 2019, fans of the franchise were at least given an olive branch with Sega announcing an HD remaster of the first two games. Whether or not you’ll enjoy this series depends on your tastes. It contains many of the seeds we see in open world games today, it just requires you to play by its rules to experience those aspects. I’d argue the quest to track down the murderer of Ryo Hazuki’s father is worth it – even if an adjustment period is necessary. If you give it a chance, you’ll get used to it eventually.

Why is it important?

The biggest barrier to playing this series right now is that one entry is on Dreamcast, while the other is on Xbox (at least in America). Having the series easily accessible on modern consoles will do a lot for its popularity, and hopefully lead to a new generation discovering it again. The control scheme is unique at best, and the voice acting is fun in a bad way, but the open worlds the series provides are still untouched in some ways by the advancements technology has made since then. I think it’s bound to draw people in. Plus, it sets up nicely for the third entry next year, even though Sega isn’t isn’t making it.

I can picture my professors from film school now – “Why is that countertop coming out of their heads?”

Little Dragon’s Cafe (PS4/Switch)

Publisher: Aksys Games
Developer: TOYBOX Inc.
Release Date: 8/28/18

What is it?

Probably the highest profile niche game releasing this month, Little Dragon’s Cafe is a new property by the original designer of Harvest Moon, Yasuhiro Wada. A combination of adventuring, restaurant management, and pet raising, this game simulates the struggles of real life. That is, if your life involves cute dragons and exploring the world for fresh ingredients.

Why is it important?

Aksys Games has spent a lot of time localizing visual novels and otome games over the years, so seeing them publish something like this makes me interested. They seem to be working very closely with the developers on the game as well, which makes me wonder if they’re trying to turn this into a marquee franchise. Harvest Moon (now known as Story of Seasons) has been around for so long, it’s not surprising other companies are trying to get that kind of magic to happen again.

It looks…uh…cool…

Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate (Switch)

Publisher: Capcom
Developer: Capcom
Release Date: 8/28/18

What is it?

Given the success of Monster Hunter: World, it’s not surprising Capcom wants to strike while the iron is hot and release another title. Generations Ultimate is an HD port of the 3DS game Monster Hunter Generations, so it will not feature many of the Quality of Life features that World introduced – meaning, for some people, that playing this title will be a step back. But Capcom is pairing a super successful franchise with a super successful console – hopefully things turn out alright here. Monster Hunter World is one of the few games confirmed to not be coming to Switch, so this is the next best thing, and it’s certainly not bad by all accounts, either.

Why is it important?

As someone who’s seen people import this game when it released in Japan last year, I knew there was a demand for it. That the game lacks the improvements World made to the Monster Hunter formula throws a wrench into the mix for sure –  there are bound to be people who don’t want to look back. Still, there’s no better time to slip in another Monster Hunter or two to ride on the coattails of World’s success. Personally, I think there’s one more 3DS title that might be worth bringing over, but that’ll probably never happen now.

He’s either very proud or really mischievous. Probably both.

Yakuza Kiwami 2 (PS4)

Publisher: Sega
Developer: Sega CS1
Release Date: 8/28/18

What is it?

Yakuza 0 was one of 2017’s biggest success stories, and Sega hasn’t missed a beat, as they’ve released Yakuza Kiwami, Yakuza 6: The Song of Life, and now Yakuza Kiwami 2 in the year and a half since. I don’t think the fact that this is technically a remake of Yakuza 2 on PS2 will matter too much. This series was on the fringes for so long, most people haven’t played the older entries and don’t want to dig out their old consoles to do so. A remake built with the technology used to create the latest Yakuza games is the best way to bring these new fans in from the cold, and Sega has plenty more where that came from, as Yakuza 3, 4, and 5 are all coming to the PS4 as well.

Why is it important?

It’s Yakuza versus Shenmue, as Sega’s two giant open world franchises go head to head for the first time. They represent two very different moments in Sega’s history – with Shenmue, you have the Sega who still made game consoles, and with Yakuza, you have the Sega who transitioned into being just a software developer. Really, both games deserve to do well. It’s definitely possible Yakuza burnout will prevent Kiwami 2 from seeing the success the other most recent titles have, but it’s also just as possible Shenmue I & II might look too dated for a modern audience. Just know what you’re getting into if you choose either one, and you should be fine.

Yup, he’s both.

Hopefully you found something new to play this month. If you want, you can email me about it at dcichocki@tiltingwindmillstudios.com or talk to me on Twitter!