The 7 biggest trends from Summer Game Fest 2024

Summer Game Fest trends - Perfect Dark (2024)
(Image credit: Xbox Game Studios)

Frankly, I don't know how many trailers I saw over the frenzied Summer Game Fest weekend. However, considering I watched every single event, and that each one contained anything between 30 and 80 trailers, I'm thinking there were at least 250 in total – and now they're all coagulating into one mega-game in my head. 

Each time I close my eyes, I see a machine gun-toting ninja attacking a futuristic tank piloted by a cute hand-drawn mouse who's on a quest to save their farm. Anyway, I did manage to draw a number of recurring themes from the maelstrom of images. Here's seven top trends I've gleaned from Summer Game Fest 2024, from gaming's obsession with anime to certain thematic interests and more.


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7. Heartbreaking journeys with heartwarming pets 

A character hugs a dear in upcoming adventure action game Neva

(Image credit: Nomada Studio)

I feel like there's a Covid lockdown influence behind this year's influx of games in which vulnerable human characters set off on melancholy adventures with cute pets. In poetic platformer Deer & Boy, a child on the run from a tragic event meets up with a stray fawn; Koira from Don't Nod is a musical adventure where a playful pup follows on your hike into a surreal forest; and Neva is a gorgeous-looking adventure in which a young woman and her wolf travel through a dying world. Were these games first conceived during those long, lonely lockdown days, when we spent an hour a day just walking alone, and when so many people bought dogs and cats for company? I think so.

6. It's all about the delivery 

Crescent Country

(Image credit: Electric Saint)

This may be another hangover from lockdown, or it could be inspired by our growing reliance on delivery companies such as Uber Eats and Deliveroo, but there were a LOT of games about being a courier. Petal Runner is a Gameboy Advance-style role-playing game where you breed and deliver pets in a cyberpunk town (we'll come back to cyberpunk vibes in a bit), while Tom the Postgirl is a weird spooky tale about delivering packages and staring in the windows of your bizarre customers. The time loop adventure Hello Again starts with you delivering a package to a professor on a remote island, and the dreamy color-drenched Crescent Country has been memorably described as "Gay Death Stranding" thanks to its queer, witchy take on parcel delivery. Elsewhere, Tiny Bookstore and Fruit Bus are both about mobile retailers meeting new people on their travels. In short, this is the era of slow-paced driving and socializing games and I'm here for it.  

5. Mash those genres 


(Image credit: Bad Guitar Studio)

The UK PlayStation development team used to have a neat brainstorming exercise: they'd write down dozens of games onto pieces of paper, put them in a hat and draw two out – then they had to work out a way to combine those into one new game concept. Maybe that idea-generating approach has caught on, because check these out. Arranger: A Role-Puzzling Adventure manages to combine an RPG with block-shifting puzzlers; Screenbound is both a 2D Gameboy game and a first-person 3D adventure; and Squeakross: Home Squeak Home is Picross meets The Sims, but with mice. My fave example though was FragPunk, shown at the Xbox event – it combines a 5 vs 5 hero shooter with a collectible card game. You just know someone at fledgling developer Bad Guitar Studios said, "what are the two biggest genres right now? Okay, let’s combine 'em" and rather than replying, "shut up, you're crazy"’, they went ahead and did it. And all credit to them. 

4. We're all cyberpunks now

Perfect Dark (2024)

(Image credit: Xbox Game Studios)

OK, so cyberpunk has always been a static noise in the background of game design, but it was really loud over the weekend. Standout examples included the visually incredible Psychroma from Rocket Adrift, psychological horror romp KARMA: The Dark World, detective thriller Nobody Wants To Die and moody city builder, Dystopika. I think there are two reasons for this cyber-invasion: just as William Gibson prophesied, our lives really are being governed by tech super corps nowadays (hi there, Apple, Amazon and Google!), while the genre’s exploration of transhumanism – including the breakdown of gender norms and the increasingly intimate invasion of technology into our lives and bodies – also feels extremely relevant. Radically invasive times call for radically invasive video games, I guess.

3. Anime with everything  

Metaphor: ReFantazio

(Image credit: Atlus)

Like cyberpunk, anime is an aesthetic that's loitered in games for decades, but it dropped a little out of favour when the industry turned away from beat-'em-ups and JRPGs to western open-world giants such as GTA and the best Assassin's Creed games. Now it's very back. There were so many cinematic anime moments through the weekend – just go and watch the trailers for Abyss X Zero, Zodiac XX: Leo, Battle Suit Aces, Metaphor, Battle Crush, Mecha Break, Honkai StarRail and Nova Hearts. It's like jetting back to the Tokyo Game Show-circa 2002. Maybe we're tired of the pervasive gritty realism major publishers have been pushing for the last five years. Maybe it's time, once again, for mechs, maidens and megacities. 

2. Ecology vs end times 


(Image credit: Texel Raptor)

Traditionally, video games have explored our fears of climate disaster through post-apocalyptic adventures – but there was a more hopeful strand of ecologically-themed titles at SGF. Generation Exile is a sort of sci-fi city construction sim, but on a giant generation starship where space and resources are in short supply. Then there were farming titles such as Croakwood, Garden of the Sea, Fantastic Haven, Crab God and Kamaeru: A Frog refuge, which all looked to be focusing on maintaining healthy ecosystems. I also loved the look of Spilled, an ocean cleaning game with a bright pixellated art style. Forget post-apocalyptic dystopias – let's try a little pre-apocalyptic optimism.     

1. Aid for indies 

Among Us

(Image credit: Innersloth)

It's heartening to see that during a tough time for the industry, there are organizations looking to support small studios. During the Summer Game Fest live event on Friday, horror movie company Blumhouse revealed its initial slate of six spooky games, all from independent teams. At the same event, Among Us creator InnerSloth announced Outersloth, a funding initiative aimed at burgeoning teams. Then there was a whole showcase organized by the non-profit Day of the Devs, providing a platform for indie events and bundles from emerging and underrepresented talent. What's more, Future introduced its Indie Elevator Pitch initiative, designed to give publicity to new dev teams. Grassroots game creation is vital to the industry and it needs to be protected 

Plenty of upcoming indie games are in the works, and we have the cream of the crop right here for you to wishlist.

Freelance journalist

Keith Stuart is an experienced journalist and editor. While Keith's byline can often be found here at GamesRadar+, where he writes about video games and the business that surrounds them, you'll most often find his words on how gaming intersects with technology and digital culture over at The Guardian. He's also the author of best-selling and critically acclaimed books, such as 'A Boy Made of Blocks', 'Days of Wonder', and 'The Frequency of Us'.