PAX West wrapped up one week ago, and during the exciting weekend in Seattle I got to go hands-on with precisely 35 games, nearly half of which make a great fit for coverage here on Game Together.

If you’re curious about the near-future of co-op and family gaming, check out my hands-on previews for some promising new titles coming soon to various platforms. For all different age groups, party sizes, and methods of play, here are 15 family-friendly games I loved at PAX West 2019.

A Fold Apart

A Fold Apart hit me hard right away, as I expected it would. As a papercraft puzzler, it’s cute and inventive, but the story of long-distance love being told is what’s really affecting. My wife and I met online and on opposite coasts of the US. Six years later, we have two wonderful kids and a lovely life together, but those early years were often brutal. Revisiting those difficulties via A Fold Apart was bittersweetly familiar, but only really because we made it through. For others, it doesn’t end so well, and I’m eager to see how this game unfolds — okay, pun intended. You caught me.

Platforms: Switch, others TBD

Release Date: Fall 2019

Multiplayer: None announced

Avengers

The much-anticipated debut of Avengers finally arrived at E3… and quickly confused everyone. Is it multiplayer? Single-player? How do we choose our heroes? What will post-launch be like? After cleaning up their messaging for the Gamescom and PAX doubleheader, we now understand it all a lot better. I got to play the opening scene of the game in which all five of the starter heroes, Iron Man, Black Widow, The Hulk, Captain America, and Thor, and it was impressive to see how much each one feels different. That can’t be easy to build as game designers, but it felt right each time I stepped into new spandex.

Platforms: Xbox One, PS4, PC

Release Date: May 15th, 2020

Multiplayer: Four-player online

Beyond Blue

From the team behind Never Alone comes this “spiritual successor” which grapples not with the history of a people, but the science and ecosystem of the ocean. E-Line Media has partnered with the BBC to develop the game and is consulting real marinebiologists and oceanographers to depict a near-future version of diving scientists. The developers I met were tight-lipped but promised there was a story beneath the surface, and it’s more than just a game about swimming around. One thing’s for certain, though, those mechanics feel perfect. Underwater levels are not the blemish of a game like they used to be.

Platforms: PC and “consoles”

Release Date: 2020

Multiplayer: None announced

Concrete Genie

Though Concrete Genie won’t offer co-op, it’s still one of the best fits for families to play together on this whole list. Taking place in a magical-realism world, players take on the role of a young bullied kid who resorts to drawing imaginary friends to real life. These player-created friendly monsters exist on the walls and fences in 2D but will follow you if you get creative and paint and light a path for them. There’s a ton of creativity involved with this one and seemingly an emotional core that will be explored too. In a year that sees Death Stranding around the corner, this is actually my most anticipated PS4 exclusive of the fall.

Platforms: PS4

Release Date: 2019

Multiplayer: None announced

Exhausted Man

There’s a surprising lack of any trailers anywhere for this game that can be embedded here. In fact, the only version of this game you’ll find online is under its itch.io name, Yet Another Exhausted Day. It comes from the team behind Candleman, which is now known as Candleman Games. If you haven’t played that one, go track it down. It’s excellent. This one, on the other hand, is so strange and simple on the surface as a puzzler where you play a man navigating interiors by slithering around — he’s much too tired to stand — collecting coins and solving puzzles. It was a bit like if Snake Pass was all a weird dream sequence.

Platforms: PC, Xbox

Release Date: 2020

Multiplayer: None announced

Indivisible

If you like Skullgirls, you probably already know about Indivisible, the metroidvania turn-based RPG from the same team, including, as should be obvious, the same gifted animator. The combat in this turn-based fighting game is unique, with speedy timers and one-button maneuvers deciding when you can attack, making it all much faster and always stylish. I didn’t love the overperformed voice lines, but that’s partly what keeps me away from anime too, so if you like anime you’ll probably feel more at ease with that element.

Platforms: Xbox One, PS4, Switch, PC

Release Date: October 8th (Switch port later)

Multiplayer: None announced

MageQuit

MageQuit has a chance to become one of the next big party games due to its intense competition, funny premise, and subtle skill ceiling. In MageQuit up to ten players draft spells as wizards. Each round you gain one new spell, which is assigned one new button. So while the first round has players spamming their one move, by later rounds you’ve all got an arsenal of attacks and defenses. As you earn eliminations each round, you get points — and, awesomely, beard length. The longest beard after all rounds wins. I played it with a bunch of strangers and by the end it was like one of those Nintendo Switch commercials where everyone was partying on a rooftop.

Platforms: Xbox One, PC

Release Date: Fall 2019

Multiplayer: 10-player competitive

MediEvil

MediEvil may be more for the nostalgic parents in your house rather than the kids, but ultimately it’s a fun fit for both as a sort of gateway horror-lite action-adventure game from years gone by. I recall vividly never beating this game as a kid because it gets pretty tough. At PAX, I revisited some of those feelings at the end of my demo, but now it felt beatable. Still a lot of fun too, which is the best part. If you liked what Activision recently did with Spyro and Crash in their shot for shot remasters, Sir Robert Fortesque’s resurrection should be your next stop.

Platforms: PS4

Release Date: October 25th, 2019

Multiplayer: None announced

Moving Out

Here’s some high praise in just three words to describe Moving Out: Overcooked’s heir apparent. If you love the feeling of the hair-pullingly hilarious co-op seen in Overcooked, Moving Out scratches an identical itch. Instead of cooking meals, you’ll be moving house. It’s funny how two common stressors in adult life, working in a restaurant and moving to a new home, can make such fun games. This game is destined to be a hit. It’s got the same “we can do better than that” appeal of the king of co-op, so much so that Team 17 even picked up publishing for this one too, just like they did with Overcooked.

Platforms: Xbox One, PS4, Switch, PC

Release Date: 2020

Multiplayer: Four-player co-op

No Straight Roads

You don’t have to have good rhythm to excel in No Straight Roads, though it’ll sometimes help. Taking on the EDM overlords of Vinyl City means a pair of would-be rockstars use their guitars as both instruments of music and violence, but it’s all done in a way that feels kid-friendly, at least during what we saw. A multi-stage boss battle ended with such a cool bang, and for all the hate the game gives EDM, it certainly uses the sounds of the genre to great effect. It’s an audiovisual thrill and cartoonishly rebellious in the exact way it should be.

Platforms: PS4, PC

Release Date: 2020

Multiplayer: Two-player couch co-op

Roller Champions

Ubisoft’s roller derby game got unearned hate by many when it was revealed at E3, but going hands-on with it at PAX was eye-opening. It’s going to be a hit, especially as an esport. It’s got the same easy to pick up, hard to master appeal of Rocket League, and it feels just so good to play. It would make anyone a believer. I’m sure of it. Weirdly, it’s announced just for PC for now, but I asked about that and it seems like Ubisoft is maybe already planning on changing their minds and bringing it to consoles after all.

Platforms: PC, consoles likely later

Release Date: 2020

Multiplayer: Six-player online

Sayonara Wild Hearts

I think this was my favorite game at PAX West. It’s the one I can’t stop thinking about at least. It plays a bit like an autorunner, but with some amazing visuals and music, and it constantly keeps you guessing with what the next level brings. Early on I was just collecting little blips on a winding track as some neon-soaked environments whirled past, but soon after it became a rhythm-based fighting game and was consistently some of the most stylish gameplay I’ve ever seen. The PR rep for Annapurna Interactive told me it is her personal favorite game from the publisher, which I find to be a tall order given they also released Ashen last year, but she might be right. I’m excited to learn more.

Platforms: Switch, others likely later

Release Date: 2019

Multiplayer: None announced

Stranded Sails: Explorers of the Cursed Islands

Lately I can’t get enough of the farm life sims like My Time at Portia, Yonder, and the everpresent Animal Crossing. Stranded Sails is a bit like those, with a touch more Zelda to it and, most thankfully, the most intuitive inventory options I’ve ever seen in the genre. With a pirate twist, this was maybe always going to be my favorite in the genre anyway, but it really does make a massive difference that the UI is so intuitive because virtually every other game that lets you live out a farm life causes an eyesore for players navigating their many tools and tradeables. Not this time. It’s so refreshing to see, and makes me even more excited than I was to play the full game next month.

Platforms: Xbox One, PS4, Switch, PC

Release Date: October 2019

Multiplayer: None announced

The Endless Mission

The Endless Mission dares to ask, “what if Roblox was good?” Apologies to anyone who enjoys Roblox, but I think you have to admit the custom games lobby is full of bizarre remakes, broken experiences, and half-baked ideas. A lot of that comes down to the toolset for Roblox not being so sophisticated. The Endless Mission, meanwhile, uses Unity to build its game-within-a-game, and ultimately it teaches players how to make their own games in Unity. A Wreck-it Ralph-like story mode will see players coding their own game to solve problems as you explore many different genres all before heading into the MMO experience of it and downloading custom games from the community. It looks brilliant.

Platforms: PC, consoles being considered post-launch

Release Date: 2019

Multiplayer: MMO

Wattam

I’ve never played Katamari, but I people love it. When I had the chance to try Wattam, in all its apparent delightful weirdness, I couldn’t resist. My 20-minute demo played like an experimental kids program where rocks made friends, tears grew trees, and those trees vacuumed up mouths, acorns, and rocket-propelled, uh, green things. It’s hard to explain, but the way it encourages lots of experimentation was a delight and it felt like something kids will look at in awe as the cause and effect of their joyful, innocent actions take effect.

Platforms: PS4, PC

Release Date: 2019

Multiplayer: Two-player co-op

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s