Guide to the games of 2016

2D shooters and action games

Dead Star

Developer: Armature Studio
Publisher: Armature Studio
Release date: In Early Access now
Link: Official site

Dead Star

Dead Star is *deep breath* a top-down 10v10 multiplayer twin-stick shooter with customizable and upgradeable ships. Now here’s the cool twist: the Escape Run mode, which lets a team of five mount up in a big honkin’ capital ship and warp from one battle to the next. Each battle is actually a live player match, so you’ll be jumping in and out of other people's’ games as you try to fully escape the space prison zone surrounding the Dead Star. Survive a few matches, and you’ll reap the rewards. Nifty.

Headlander

Developer: Double Fine
Publisher: Adult Swim Games
Release date: 2016
Link: Official site

Headlander

Double Fine’s latest is a side scrolling, retro-futuristic, action-adventure with an emphasis on discovery, puzzles, bizarre humor, and a deemphasis on combat. You fly around as a disembodied head landing on robots and taking over their bodies’ functionality. Translation: It’s a funny Metroidvania. With a warm, cocktail lounge aesthetic and a twist on a classic formula, Headlander will land in our hearts (hopefully) in 2016.

Katana Zero

Developer: Askiisoft
Publisher: Adult Swim Games
Release date: 2016
Link: Official site

Katana Zero

Askiisoft describes Katana Zero as a neo-noir action platformer, and those words definitely seem apt. It’s got 80s synth, explosive moments of fast-paced violence, and some deliciously moody 2D art (yes, with lots of neon). You can slow down time to reflect projectiles or rewind a whole stage to try it again, which you’ll be doing often thanks to the one-hit kills. Think of a more acrobatic, sidescrolling Hotline Miami.

Enter the Gungeon

Developer: Dodge Roll
Publisher: Devolver Digital
Release date: 2016
Link: Steam page

Enter the Gungeon

A mix between a bullet hell and a rogue-like, Enter the Gungeon pits you against a dungeon full of anthropomorphic bullets. Each level of the gungeon is procedurally generated and, as you go deeper, you face harder enemies—but also find more and better guns. With over 130 guns in the game as of March (and the final number shooting for at least 200), replayability will be high as you try to make it deeper and deeper in a single run. Enter the Gungeon will also have local co-op so you and a friend can shoot waves of bullets with other bullets together.

Just Shapes & Beats

Developer: Berzerk Studio
Publisher: Berzerk Studio
Release date: 2016
Link: Official site

Just Shapes and Beats

If you think Just Shapes & Beats is about anything other than shapes and beats, boy are you in for a rude surprise. Well, it’s also about those shapes being hurtled at you in the form of a bullet hell SHMUP, with some pretty sweet beats underlining the action. And two-player co-op. But mostly it’s the shapes doing their shape thing and the beats doing their beats thing.

Starr Mazer

Developer: Imagos Softworks
Publisher: Imagos Softworks
Release date: Spring 2016
Link: Official site

Star Mazer

The Starr Mazer team calls its game “a retro-sexy Point-and-Click Adventure SHMUP in SPACE,” which is pretty damn accurate from what we can see. It’s got pixel art, a rogueish hero, Gradius-esque shoot ‘em up sequences and adventure game dialogue straight out of classic LucasArts adventures. The structure also looks to be an ambitious episodic structure, weaving in random generation and explicit storytelling to make your choices in each episode feed into the next, with multiple endings waiting for you by the end of the journey.

Mighty No. 9

Developer: Comcept
Publisher: Deep Silver
Release date: February 2016
Link: Official Site

Mighty No 9

The spiritual successor to 2D platformer Mega Man features a combat android named Beck who must battle virus-infected robots and can harvest the weapons and skills from defeated bosses. Funded by a $4 million-plus Kickstarter in 2013, it’s had its share of delays due to issues with multiplayer and online features, but last we heard is on track for a February release.

Noct

Developer: CS3K
Publisher: Devolver Digital
Release date: Early 2016
Link: Official site

Noct

Noct features one of the best “it’s a 2D representation of a 3D world” excuses I’ve seen: the entire game is seen from inside a thermal camera on a satellite. Like the found footage trope in movies, this set-up can either be a bit distracting or a part of a game’s charm. For Noct, a creepy survival horror shooter with tentacled Lovecraftian influences, the harsh whites and grays of the thermal camera add to the atmosphere. Like other multiplayer survival games, the worst part of Noct is going to be coexisting with your fellow humans. We’ll see how well a thermal-imaged, two-dimensional version of Rust works out when Noct leaves Steam early access in the first quarter of 2016.