Video games coming Holiday 2016 that you must own

It's never too early to think about future video game releases. First, you need to see which retailer offers the coolest exclusive content, and then you need to order early enough to get the cool deluxe package, and then you need to save up for that sweet DLC package. The fourth quarter of 2016 holds a lot of lofty video game promises across multiple systems and genres, but which ones should you be looking forward to the most?

The Last Guardian

When a game has been in development for nine years, you know that it'll either be amazing, or a sad pile of wet garbage. All eyes are on the long-awaited The Last Guardian, so Sony is approaching the game's release from Development Hell very carefully. The story focuses on a boy escaping a castle with a hostile, giant, cat-eagle thing and, according to reports, the game's fighting and puzzle mechanics revolve around the awesome stuff one can presumably do with a giant bird monster at their command.

At E3 2016, Sony finally gave a release date of October 25th, 2016 for the PS4 exclusive, so expect this to be all you hear about throughout most of November, as well as all you excitedly tell Santa about.

South Park: The Fractured But Whole

Say it out loud. With The Stick of Truth getting almost universally positive reviews, we can only expect greatness from Fractured. But instead of the Lord of the Rings-inspired fantasy of Stick, we'll be getting a superhero adventure, undoubtedly blowing up the too-familiar hero tropes that many of us pretty sick of by now. Superheroes fighting each other instead of villains? Yawn. It might not be the most compelling or emotional experience, but no one is expecting The Last of Us or Gone Home. Sometimes, it's okay to just have fun with something stupid. In development since June 2015, Fractured should be out in early-December 2016.

Drawn to Death

Not to be confused with the friendly Drawn to Life series, Drawn to Death may end up being more style than substance, but what a style it is. Much like how Brutal Legend took its stylistic inspirations from heavy metal album covers, Drawn to Death is inspired by the gnarly doodles one might find in the notebook of a misunderstood early-90s high school kid. A highly imaginative, anything-goes, competitive arena shooter, characters include a cyborg who can shoot homing missiles from his head, and some kind of demonic sheriff. It's hard to tell if Drawn to Death does anything that Battleborn and Overwatch don't already do, but it'll be totally fun and refreshing to find out, as the genre continues to grow.

For Honor

It's Vikings against samurai against knights, and it looks totally awesome. Focusing on strategic sword-based melee combat instead of being a straight-up arena shooter, For Honor seems like a history nerd's fantasy come to life. It'll also be one of those rare games that features "friendly fire". In most games, if you accidentally wing a comrade, they'll stumble and yell, but emerge unscathed. However, For Honor is serious business, and it's fertile ground for backstabbing traitors. It's also being developed by Ubisoft Montreal, so if Far Cry Primal is any indication of what they're up to, it'll be beautiful from top to bottom. Gird your loins.

For Honor has been pushed to slightly post-holidays, but it'll still be there in time for you to use that gift card from Aunt Judith, who knows you still like to play the Nintendo.

Horizon Zero Dawn

Do you really need to know anything aside from "robot dinosaurs"? Take the post-apocalyptic theme of Fallout 4, add the heroine from Pixar's Brave, and you get something like Horizon: Zero Dawn. The word-salad-titled open-world game is a third-person shooter that already looks incredible from preview footage. The title may imply some kind of generic space opera, but the game promises some intense human vs. mech battles across a dynamic, beautiful landscape.

If you can break yourself away from the foraging and fighting of No Man's Sky, this looks like it'll be a truly awesome title that'll hit just after the holidays.

Ark: Survival Evolved

If the world of Dinotopia fell into disarray and became a video game, it would be Ark: Survival Evolved. The ability to both build fortresses full of sci-fi weaponry, and cultivate armies of dinosaurs to do your bidding, makes Ark a really weird, thrilling entry into the rarely-explored Multiplayer Online Survival Arena genre.

The path to Ark's release is a little different from the other games on this list, as portions have been available to play for free on Steam since early-2016, in kind of a massive beta test for publisher Studio Wildcard amping up to a smooth console release. Said release is scheduled just in time for the holidays, but the game's prolonged development process (and small lawsuit tangle) may delay things slightly. Either way, strap that saddle onto the stegosaurus, because we're ready.

Rez Infinite

The October release of Playstation VR will open up the floodgates of new, interesting, overwhelmingly creative games, and hopefully even revitalize the increasingly repetitive world of 2D gaming. If there's any one game that's going to create the foundation of what PSVR can become, it's Rez Infinite. Rather than focus on complex textures and making things as realistic as possible, Rez presents everything as wire frameworks. The original Rez, released in 2001, was a fairly standard flying shooter with an innovative soundtrack, but this virtual reality sequel promises to be a completely new experience. Remember what Star Fox was for Nintendo? Rez could be that for Sony. Exciting stuff.

Cuphead

On the exact opposite end of the spectrum is Cuphead, a traditional 2D platformer that looks like it stumbled out of a 1930s cartoon. As far as retro goes, this thing even beats Mario, and that dude is ancient. There are plenty of games that look like they could be part of an animated series, but Cuphead really brings things back to the roots of animation, by emulating the likes of Betty Boop and Popeye. It may not innovate a whole lot when it comes to gameplay, but Cuphead's visuals are a stunning, pitch-perfect interpretation of cartoons from back when people used to do things the hard way.

Dishonored 2

The first Dishonored is generally regarded as a superlative game in almost every sense, but it's been a long time since its 2012 release. Despite four years passing, players still haven't been able to stop talking about its awesome sci-fi supernatural semi-steampunk world, so it's pretty exciting that we'll be getting a sequel by the end of 2016. A choice of protagonists, the ability to complete the game without killing anyone, and all of the excellent mechanics from the original, promise a game that'll likely win even more awards than the first.