2016 is a massive year for gamers. As we’ve said before, with virtual reality becoming more of an actual reality, all aspects of what was once a nerd’s hobby have entered the mainstream. At family gatherings, it’s not unheard of to walk in on your grandmother crushing mobile games next to her grandson, who’s building fortresses on Minecraft, while your dad watches and re-watches the new Battlefield 1 trailer, sweating uncontrollably.

Plugging in has become a way to unplug, the latest and greatest leisure activity; that’s good news for everybody. We already covered this year’s big-name reboots and sequels here, and as we wait for the next iteration of Call of Duty, Battlefield, Mass Effect, Gears of War, Zelda and Final Fantasy later this year, we chose to focus on the wide array of the promising indie and niche games for summer. Because — and this is true now more than ever before — there’s a video game for everyone.

Ark: Survival Evolved

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This first-person action/adventure game drops the player into a rugged world occupied by dinosaurs, saber-toothed cats and mammoths, among other things. In order to survive, players must build and maintain a base, gain weapons, tame some of the 60 types of dinosaurs (for use as transportation and for attack/defense), and fight hostile humans. A multiplayer option allows you to join friends in a prehistoric battle royal. — John Zientek

Release Date: June
Platform: PC, Xbox One, PS4
Developer: Studio Wildcard

Obduction

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Created by Cyan Worlds, the developer of Myst and Riven, Obduction is a first-person adventure game with all the puzzles and twists you’d expect. In the game, the player has been abducted from Earth and transported to one of several alien worlds. Only through exploration and problem solving can the player find a way back home. — John Zientek

Release Date: June
Platform: PC
Developer: Cyan, Inc.

Hyper Light Drifter

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Developer Alex Preston found inspiration for this 2D action role-playing game in The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past and Diablo. In the game, the player controls the Drifter, who is outfitted with an energy sword and must battle monsters of increasing skill, honing abilities and attack strategies along the way. — John Zientek

Release Date: March 31
Platform: PC, Console Coming Soon
Developer: Heart Machine

The Walking Dead: Michonne, Episode 3

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The first two episodes of the episodic interactive drama graphic adventure survival horror game (whew) The Walking Dead: Michonne follow the sword-wielding character as she finds her way around the zombied world without Rick Grimes and the rest of the Walking Dead gang. The third finishes out the trilogy; taken together, they’re ripe for binge-playing. The gameplay is timing- and decision-based, making the real draw here a dramatic storyline, brutally choreographed fight scenes with the undead and a deeper look into one of The Walking Dead‘s great characters. — Chris Wright

Release Date: March 31
Platform: PC, Console Coming Soon
Developer: Heart Machine

Overwatch

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This game has a bigger cast of characters than a Judd Apatow movie. A la Team Fortress, it’s a goofy-yet-intense FPS-style multiplayer melee involving such characters as a turret-transformer, a sexy sniper, an angry gorilla, a death wraith and Western gunslinger in offense, defense, tank and support roles. The beta’s out now, and it’s going well. — Chris Wright

Release Date: May 24
Platform: PC, Xbox One, PS4
Developer: Blizzard

No Man’s Sky

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The mindblowing question behind No Man’s Sky: which of 18 quintillion procedurally generated worlds would you like to explore in your space ship? It’s a shockingly simple premise that takes a lot of complicated procedures to pull off (hence the long wait, and multiple delays, since its reveal at E3 in 2014). Other than that, it’s all exploring, naming the planets you discover, harvesting minerals (to upgrade your ship, space suit and weapons), and, if you decide to kill animals, fighting the space police. — Chris Wright

Release Date: June
Platform: PC, PS4
Developer: Hello Games

Back in 1995

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Created by 29-year-old Takaaki Ichijo, this retro horror game doesn’t just have the look of a game created in 1995, it also has the frustrations. Bad camera angles, a “Loading” icon for aesthetics and tank controls make this uncomfortable to play, adding to the horror element in a way that doesn’t depend on graphics, but rather atmosphere and the horror of remembering you aren’t a kid again. — J. Travis Smith

Release Date: April 28
Platform: PC
Developer: Throw the warped code out

Edge of Nowhere

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Play as Victor Howard and find his fiancé, who manage to get lost on an expedition in Antartica. But as you travel farther into the white waste, reality begins to shift and you realize not all of Antartica is of this world. A VR game that remains in the third person, this psychological thriller will invoke claustrophobia, vertigo and mild hallucinations. — J. Travis Smith

Release Date: June 6
Platform: Oculus Rift
Developer: Insomniac Games

Dead by Daylight

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As in Left 4 Dead, players get to play as both survivors and unstoppable killers. In each round, four survivors run from a weapon-wielding killer in a randomly generated map layout, so each round is unique. The killer plays in first person, using power and speed to catch the more agile survivors, who play in third person. Like any good survival game, teamwork is the name of the game. — J. Travis Smith

Release Date: June 14
Platform: PC
Developer: Behaviour Digital Inc
The Best Games of Spring 2016

video-games-16-gear-patrol-feature For a few reasons, the industry’s pulling out all the stops. Make sure you take advantage. Read the Guide