July proved to be a surprisingly solid month for the gaming industry, even if it didn’t seem like it on paper. While there was only one really significant AAA release, a wide range of experimental titles from lots of different genres stepped into the spotlight throughout the month. From a remake of a game that never got a western release to a short, immersive experience about cats, some of the most distinct and unconventional games of 2022 dropped during the month of July.
As a result, there are quite a few games we recommend players check out this month ahead of the rush of releases this fall. In particular, the following seven games really spoke to us.
Xenoblade Chronicles 3
One of the month’s last releases was also its best. Nintendo and Monolith Soft released Xenoblade Chronicles 3 on July 28, and it serves as a culmination of what the series has built toward since the first Xenoblade Chronicles title was released. While its combat system is pretty complicated, with MMO-like structure and character fusion, its standout story and faithfulness to the series’ formula should please JRPG fans who are now getting a third Xenoblade Chronicles game on Nintendo Switch.
“If you get emotionally attached to characters, especially passionate ones who don’t want to hurt people and are just trying their best, then it’s a must-play,” Jess Reyes wrote in Digital Trends four-star review of Xenoblade Chronicles 3. “You just have to be ready for an action RPG that isn’t always the picture of elegance — and be prepared to live with those quirks through a long, long adventure.”
One of the year’s best video game narratives is packed inside one of its longest RPGs. But if you’re a fan of Monolith Soft’s RPG formula, there doesn’t seem to be any reason not the check out this game. Xenoblade Chronicles 3 is now available exclusively for Nintendo Switch.
One of the other biggest games this month is Stray, an indie title from BlueTwelve Studio and publisher Annapurna Interactive about a cat exploring a post-apocalyptic cyberpunk city. For cat owners, Stray is a dream come true as it gamifies all the weird behaviors adorable cats are known for. Stray is a beautiful-looking game with a compelling story that only lasts five hours, so you should fit it into your gaming schedule if you can.
“Much has been made about the game’s adorable feline lead since the game was first announced, but Stray isn’t just a cute gimmick; it’s a forward-thinking science-fiction game about our increasingly complicated connection with technology,” Giovanni Colantonio wrote in his four-star review of Stray. “Between its clever (though limited) gameplay ideas and weighty social commentary, Stray is a special experience that works best as a futuristic mood piece. And a really darn cute one at that.”
If you love cats, then it seems like it’s impossible to not fall in love with some parts of Stray. Just don’t ask me what I think of the cat’s actions in the game; I’m a dog person. Stray is available now for PC, PS4, and PS5. It’s available with a PlayStation Plus Extra or PlayStation Plus Premium subscription, too, making it the first game to launch on day one of Sony’s new subscription service.
Live A Live
The other big JRPG to release in July was Live A Live. This Nintendo Switch exclusive from Square Enix is actually a remake of Super Famicom RPG that never made it stateside. It’s rare that games in this situation ever get a western release, let alone get remade, so this is a notable game just for that. Still, it manages to stand out even further thanks to its HD-2D makeover and its unique structure where players go through several separate adventures before they all come together in the end.
“Live A Live mostly accomplishes what it’s supposed to do: tell a serviceable story and back it up with engaging gameplay,” George Yang wrote in Digital Trends’ three-and-a-half star review of Live A Live. “However, the game takes too long to get to the best part, which is the final chapter when all of the characters are available to join a single party. Until then, a few of the character chapters can be slogs to get through. The visual presentation and music are great, though, making the journey to the end a treat for both eyes and ears.”
The developers who worked on Live A Live in the 90s went on to influence titles like Chrono Trigger and Octopath Traveler. If you want to see a modernized version of where those ideas originated, then Live A Live is a fantastic game to check out. Currently, Live A Live is available exclusively on Nintendo Switch.
As Dusk Falls
As Dusk Falls is for those who enjoy narrative adventure games like Life is Strange: True Colors. Split into two books that are three chapters each, As Dusk Falls tells the story of a hostage situation at a hotel in Arizona and the effects it had on the people who were there during it. The game is presented in a motion comic-like format, with minimal movement, so the choices are really the crux of the interactive experience here. Its unique presentation isn’t for everyone, but if the atypical style clicks with you, then you’ll really enjoy it.
“Even if As Dusk Falls doesn’t feel great to play on a controller, it’s a compelling crime drama narrative that remains exciting even as the scenario ramps up and becomes increasingly outlandish,” I wrote in the game’s three-and-a-half star Digital Trends review. “If you like crime dramas or narrative-driven games, it’s worth checking this out on Xbox Game Pass at the very least.”
As Dusk Falls is also notable because it’s one of the only Xbox Game Studios-published games coming to Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S in 2022. As a result, Xbox fans looking for exclusive content should really check it out as it’s a unique and exclusive experience.
Klonoa Phantasy Reverie Series
Klonoa Phantasy Reverie Series is a remaster of the two main console games in a somewhat obscure Bandai Namco platformer series. The games follow the titular character as they explore and save a dream world. For the most part, the games are lighthearted platforming adventures, though the first game, in particular, has a shocking ending. Add in its unique 2.5D-level design and Klonoa’s enemy-inflating abilities, and you’ve got a series that never really got the love it deserved until now.
“From grassy lands to whimsical forests, all accompanied by calming and cheerful music tracks even when the situation is dire, Klonoa constantly reminds me that a great video game can just be a pure fun-first experience that brings players to a different world,” De’Angelo Epps wrote in a Digital Trends article recommending the collection.
Klonoa games have historically underperformed, so hopefully, this remastered collection does well enough to warrant a continuation of the series. This is the game fans of platformers will want to check out this month. Klonoa Phantasy Reverie Series is available now for PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, and Nintendo Switch.
Endling: Extinction is Forever
Endling: Extinction is Forever mixes adventure and survival game elements to tell the story of a fox who is just trying to protect its four children in a world that humans are quickly destroying. In between moments spent searching for a lost cub, players must also dodge hunters and furriers and find food to eat. Endling: Extinction is Forever is masterful at environmental storytelling, as with each passing day you’ll slowly start to see trees cut down, trash fill up the rivers, and once beautiful vistas become covered in smoke and grime.
Earlier this month, I wrote about how this was a standout title that might have gotten drowned out a bit by launching on the same day as Stray and As Dusk Falls. “It’s harrowing and pretty depressing but effective in getting its pro-environment and anti-capitalist message across,” I wrote. “Although Endling: Extinction is Forever is more pessimistic than Stray as it more negatively describes the direct impact of humanity’s actions, it’s an equally worthwhile indie game about nature that features a cute animal protagonist. In fact, these differences make Endling: Extinction is Forever a good companion piece to Stray.”
It’s a little surprising that we got two post-apocalyptic games starring animals on the same day, but Endling: Extinction is Forever does more than enough to stand on its own. If this harrowing premise intrigues you, I’d recommend giving the game a shot. Endling: Extinction is Forever is available now for PC, PS4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch.
Bear and Breakfast
Sometimes, games stand out just because of their kooky titles or concept. Bear and Breakfast is one of those games because of just that; it’s a game about a bear who’s running a bed and breakfast! While it features pretty art and vibrant areas for players to explore, Bear and Breakfast also isn’t afraid to lean into the simulation elements of its concept, as players have to build their bed and breakfast and make sure it operates smoothly.
“I find its cartoon visual style soothing, with its simple shapes and colorful palette,” Giovanni Colantonio wrote in an article recommending Bear and Breakfast as a relaxing summer game. “Though most of all, it’s that creation aspect that stands out. It’s a game about fixer-uppers, one that plays with the satisfaction that comes from mending a broken space and making it feel like home. Building comfortable, miniature spaces out of a few well-placed objects makes for a zen-like gameplay loop that has been chilling me out amid an un-bear-able heat wave.”
If the title didn’t already sell you and Bear and Breakfast, then maybe its relaxing vibes will. Bear and Breakfast is available now on PC and is in development for Nintendo Switch.