25 Games to Check Out At PAX 2015


Well, this year’s Penny Arcade Expo is happening this weekend in Seattle from Friday to Monday. It’s one of the year’s biggest, most prominent, and most notable gaming festivals chock full of several amazing new and upcoming video games for the public to try out…which only saddens me further when I remember that I don’t have the budget to actually attend it this year.

But just because I lack the necessary travel funds doesn’t mean that I can’t still get involved in some way. After all, it would still be my honor to spotlight several of the amazing pieces of electronic entertainment that will be on display at PAX this year, maybe possibly help those who are able to be there by highlighting some noteworthy titles for them to check out. Because we at Topless Robot are dedicated to providing you the best coverage possible of nerdy events no matter what, because we are determined to feature as many of the most promising and unique games that deserve more attention as we possibly can, and because we are totally not just hoping to have lightning strike twice and end up replicating the success of our E3 2015 list.

I kid, though. Regardless of whether or not you’re going to be attending the show, hopefully our little showcase here will allow you to discover any upcoming games to look forward to. So without further ado, let our little preview of some of the most interesting games set to appear at PAX 2015 begin!

Before we begin, though, I should note that I will be doing this list in alphabetical order. I mean heck, I already had enough trouble keeping the list down to this many games, so no way in hell am I going to wreck my brain by attempting to actually rank them. So let’s begin…

1. Battle Chef Brigade

Curiously, I haven’t heard a lot from Battle Chef Brigade since it was first funded on Kickstarter last year. But now that it’s been chosen to be part of The PAX 10 (a selection of the year’s best and most promising indie games) and will have a fully playable demo at the show, hopefully this culinary 2D action-RPG (think Odin Sphere meets Iron Chef) will get even more exposure. Also, you can apparently win chocolate coins by beating the game’s demo, and I fail to see why you wouldn’t want free chocolate coins.

2. Bedlam

So for those of you sadly unable to afford a copy of Avalanche’s Mad Max game when it comes out on Tuesday, don’t worry – Skyshine will still have you covered for all of your post-apocalyptic gaming needs. Granted, this involves trading in an armored truck for a rig the size of a small town and swapping third-person action for roguelike adventures and turn-based combat, but trust me as someone who has had the opportunity to check out Bedlam in person when I say that it still delivers some great pulpy sci-fi thrills. I highly suggest taking a look.

3. Below

So having had the opportunity to play Below, I found it to be a deep little hack-‘n-slash adventure that encouraged the player to explore every nook and cranny, and where you have to be careful lest even something like one single bat wound you and cause you to bleed out, dying a slow and agonizing death that causes you to start over from square one in an uncaring, unforgiving world. So what I’m saying is that I had a lot of fun with Capybara’s latest, and hopefully others lucky to play it will too!

4. Captain Forever Remix

A space-faring roguelike game where the central mechanic is to build your ship out of whatever debris you can find? That sounds pretty good. A space-faring roguelike game where the central mechanic is to build your ship out of whatever debris you can find to such ludicrous degrees that you wind up on the giving end of a bullet hell shooter in your quest to save the universe from a bubblegum mutant? Now we’re heading into genius territory.

5. Darkest Dungeon

Another honored member of The PAX 10, Darkest Dungeon has already become a huge hit on the Early Access circuit, largely thanks to its inventive twist of adding a heavy emphasis on psychological impacts and Gothic horror to the roguelike RPG genre (and yes, I know that this makes four roguelike games in a row that I’ve mentioned. Sorry, I didn’t plan it to end up like this). Sadly, I haven’t been able to get my own hands on the game yet, but its increase in both pedigree and word of mouth suggests that I may have to open up my wallet sometime soon and experience the stress of constant horror for myself. Yay!

6. Death’s Gambit

First off, I should probably mention that I could have potentially crafted an entire list solely based on Adult Swim Games’ PAX lineup alone. Seriously, if you’re going, check out their booth. You won’t regret it. And one of the notable jewels there is Death’s Gambit, which I had the opportunity to try my luck at a while ago. I found it to be an quite the compelling action-platformer that displayed quite a big Castlevania influence, and considering Konami’s plans for the actual Castlevania franchise right now, you’re going to need a game like this to give you the actual fix you need from now on.

7. First Wonder

From Nick Bruty, the designer behind MDK and several other cult video games you’ve loved and have hoped would desperately get sequels (as seen in the beginning of the trailer), comes the spiritual successor to those games that can probably be best described for now as “jetpacks versus giant monsters.” I suppose I could say something else here, but when you have frigging jetpacks versus giant monsters, what else needs to be said?

8. FutureGrind

Nintendo fans and kids of the ’90s, I believe you may have to accept the hard truth that you probably won’t be getting a new Uniracers game anytime soon. I know, I know, it’s difficult to believe, but we have to move on. Thankfully, FutureGrind has come along to help fill the void left in our hearts. I had a chance to test it out and found it to be a gleefully challenging romp that’s also been compared to OlliOlli, another recent indie sports hit. Considering that I’ve also spent some time this year fawning over OlliOlii 2, I’d say that sounds like a vote of confidence for this game as well.

9. Gassy Mob

From the people who brought you one of last year’s greatest games where you debate and discuss philosophy while solving challenging puzzles, along with previous games revolving around testing one’s ethics and having them solve difficult moral dilemmas, now comes…a mobile game where you fart on people and then try to avoid getting caught by a now-toxic mob. And I honestly cannot wait to play something as simple and chaotic as this. Go figure.

10. Ghost Song

Hey, are you tired of the current deluge of Metroidvania games hitting the indie circuit? Well then you’d best keep moving, buddy. According to developer Matt White, the man behind pretty much every aspect of the game, Ghost Song isn’t aimed towards breaking the mold, but rather just providing a damn fun experience while still focusing on a great story with a theme of isolation. And given that the last one-person Metroidvania game I played – Axiom Verge – is a frontrunner for my GOTY pick this year, I have to say that I’m excited for what this game can deliver as well.

11. GNOG

I initially told myself that I wouldn’t include any game here that I already wrote about during E3 this year, but considering that the developers behind GNOG have announced that the new build of the game that they’ll be showing of at PAX will have new levels to explore, I figured that would justify showing it off here again. Besides, in no way will I allow such an ingenious game about exploring giant psychedelic Knowhere-like monster heads to slip under the radar, dammit.

12. Gunsport

I was going to mention how pretty much all organized sports could be improved with the addition of guns, but looking back on it, I believe The Last Boy Scout already proved me wrong in that area. I will say that having played Gunsport a while back, I found its volleyball-with-laser-pistols setup to be something that takes a little getting used to, but winds up being particularly fun. Also, after Rocket League, I’m in the mood for even more quirky arcade-style sports games with the potential to become multiplayer hits, so yeah, I say bring it on.

13. Hard West

If there’s one indie game that I’ve been hearing a lot of in the past month or so, it would definitely be Hard West. And it’s hard not to see why, because a supernatural Wild West game based around quick, XCOM-style turn-based tactical combat is the type of incredibly unique idea that definitely demands a lot of attention. Hard West is due out this fall, but based on the reception surrounding the Gamescom demo, you’ll want to get your hands on it ASAP.

14. Hob

Another game getting a lot of pre-PAX buzz, Hob is a brand-new IP from the folks behind the Torchlight franchise and presents itself as a sci-fi adventure game based around puzzles and exploration, with a heavy emphasis on narrative presented without any text or dialogue. We don’t have much to go on beyond that, but hopefully the hands-on preview will deliver something that promises to be an epic tale. Hey, at the very least, the art style looks frigging amazing.

15. Hyper Light Drifter

So we finally have a new trailer for one of the most gorgeous upcoming games possible, complete with a release date window of Spring 2016. The earlier version I played a while back charmed the pants off of me with some terrifically fast-paced action, and here’s hoping whatever demo is available at PAX is even better. Hell, if it’s even as half as good as this trailer, expect countless other folks to walk away amazed and pantsless as well.

16. Inside

Also in the category of “Promising Indie Games We Haven’t Heard From in a While,” Playdead’s Orwellian platforming follow-up to their legendary title Limbo will allow the public to get their first hands-on taste of it at a special ID@Xbox PAX event Microsoft is holding. Will Inside end up being as bleak, scary, difficult, and surprisingly great as its predecessor? One can only hope!

17. LawBreakers

Cliff Bleszinski, the man behind the genius that is the Jazz Jackrabbit games (oh, and the Gears of War games too, I guess) has finally unveiled his new free-to-play team-based FPS, LawBreakers. The official gameplay reveal will happen Friday during the show, where lucky individuals will be among the very first to give the game a whirl. For now, though, enjoy this trailer setting up the game’s premise where the moon splits in half, earth adjusts to some screwy gravity, and then drug dealers show up to wreck things up. So it kind of sounds like a sci-fi remake of Narc, which I am bizarrely on board with for some reason…

18. Moon Hunters

A notable indie RPG that I had the pleasure of enjoying at E3 this year, Moon Hunters may have the look of a more old-school Secret of Mana-style game, but it actually also has a larger emphasis on developing a mythology and legacy for your character based on the choices and actions you perform in a Mesopotamian world. I had a blast with it (and it seemed to make for a particularly fun co-op experience as well), and hopefully any others who get a crack at it will have one too.

19. Pit People

Really, all I would have to do for a lot of people is simply point out that Pit People is the latest game by The Behemoth, and that would be enough to create a noticeably-sized mob crowding their booth. But for the rest of you, here’s the abridged version: The folks behind Castle Crashers have created a really funny turn-based strategy game, you go and play the game, you have fun, and you buy pins. Simple as that.

20. Punch Club

Okay, so I’ve seen a lot of tycoon games and similar simulators before, but one where the goal is to help train a street fighter to be the best brawler possible in order to avenge his father’s death? Nope, can’t say I’ve seen a sim like that before. The part of the game I tried out earlier displayed the core mechanics of having to balance your fighter’s training, money, food, and whatnot, and more importantly, also showcased a quirky sense of humor and a bit of a clever personality underneath it all. So keep an eye on this one, for we might have a potential sleeper hit.

21. Rise & Shine

When I previously brought up Rise & Shine on TR a couple of months ago, I mentioned how it showcased a lot of promise as an action-puzzler with a unique hook, but that one of the puzzles I played through proved to be rather aggravating. Impressively enough, the developers actually contacted me over Twitter afterwards to ask what the problem was, and after a quick explanation, assured me that they have since improved the game’s controls. So will the game have a more promising demo now at PAX that allows it to shine any better? We’ll just see…

22. Shantae: Half-Genie Hero

Because in case some of you were wondering where that .gif of the cute bellydancing girl came from, well, now you know. But beyond that one animation lies the biggest adventure ever for the cult platforming series that started out on the Game Boy Color, one the Kickstarter backers got a taste of a couple of months ago via a demo provided to them. It was a short but incredibly sweet taste, but one that definitely provided a glimpse into what will hopefully be an incredible throwback to the glory days of the genre, so the rest of you might be interested in a sample as well.

23. Starr Mazer

I still maintain that merging point-and-click adventure games with shoot-’em-ups is the greatest combination since sea salt and caramel, which we all know is the new peanut butter and chocolate. So I guess what I’m saying is that Starr Mazer and its innovative concept looks to provide the same amount of smooth, unique pleasure as a pint of salted caramel ice cream. And Adult Swim Games appears to agree with me, because the announcement just came out that they’ll be the ones publishing Starr Mazer, no doubt as huge fans of games that remind them of salted caramel as well (note to self: stop writing articles when you’re hungry).

24. To Leave

Okay, Bryce has already named this one of his favorite games from E3 this year, and I named it one of my favorite games from the previous year’s E3. Come on now, who else do we need to bring in order to get you interested in one the most creative, mesmerizing, and surprisingly deep little action games coming out soon? The Pope? Obama? Bruce Campbell? Because we’ll get all three if we have to, dammit.

25. Typoman

Considering that PAX is taking place in Washington, the home turf of both Microsoft and Nintendo, it seems somewhat appropriate that we might see a duel between Microsoft’s previously-mentioned successor to Limbo and Nintendo’s own dark indie platformer. But what helps Typoman stand out is its unique hook of a world with people and objects crafted entirely out of letters, where puzzles are solved by having to craft the appropriate words out of the scenery around you. Having tested it out, I found it to be a mechanic that can indeed make for a damn good platformer, and having previously said that Nintendo needs to put more focus on the indies, this is definitely quite the feather in their cap.

…And thus ends our preview of some of the most notable games that will be appearing at PAX this year! Oh, and there are also plans to have something something Assassin’s Creed something something Halo blah blah blah whatever at the show as well. Hey, it’s a convention that rewards the ten best indie games of year with The Pax 10, has entire prominent sections devoted to indie games such as the PAX Prime Rising Indie Developer Area, and where one of the biggest attractions is straight up called The Indie Megabooth and features seventy-six games. What the heck kind of games did you expect me to write about? Anyhow, here’s hoping PAX 2015 ends up being one of the most terrific events in gaming this year! Cheers!

Previously by Kyle LeClair:

The 30 Best Games of E3 2015
6 Reasons Nintendo Should Make More Games Like Splatoon
50 Songs That Should Be In Rock Band 4 and Guitar Hero Live
17 Cool Things to Check out at Comic-Con Aside From the Obvious