Kotaku’s Weekend Guide: 6 Great Games We’re Kicking Off July With

Image: sunset visitor / Arrowhead Game Studios / Obsidian
Image: sunset visitor / Arrowhead Game Studios / Obsidian

July is here and so are its wonderfully (or not so wonderful) high temperatures. Here in the States, we just wrapped a holiday that feels…well, do I need to spell out how discordant and weird things are here right now? Probably not. Oh, hey, that’s right: Video games! Escapism isn’t always the healthiest of strategies, but sometimes it can be a good way to distract yourself from visions of gloom and horror.

So if you’re looking for some games to tune into as you tune out of the world, we’ve got a lovely selection of digital realms well worth your time.

Final Fantasy XIV

Image: Square Enix
Image: Square Enix

Play it on: PS5, Xbox Series X/S, Windows (Steam Deck: YMMV)
Current goal: Adventure into the Thirteenth

I’m playing more Final Fantasy XIV this weekend, big surprise. As I’ve written about many times in the past handful of weeks, I am marathoning through Square Enix’s MMO in order to catch up to Dawntrail, the new expansion that was released this week. Despite lofty goals to complete all of the post-Endwalker patch quests, over last weekend I fell down on the job (in my defense I had to go see the Mets play some baseball). That just means I’m here again talking about how this will be the weekend I finally get to Dawntrail. Except, I’m not actually here for that.

Rather than focus on catching up, I want to take it slow through what I have left before Dawntrail, because I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how great the post-Endwalker patch quests are. Reuniting with my beloved Scions, and going on a new adventure with ties to some of the game’s oldest mysteries, has been a delight. I am fascinated by returning to the Thirteenth (the world completely flooded with darkness) and am already deeply in love with Zero—she’s an incredibly compelling character who has somehow made my least favorite villain in the MMO more interesting by association. All that to say, I am fine taking it slow this weekend and letting everybody else rush through Dawntrail. I know it’ll be waiting for me. — Willa Rowe

Helldivers 2

Screenshot: Arrowhead Game Studios
Screenshot: Arrowhead Game Studios

Play it on: PS5, Windows (Steam Deck: YMMV)
Current goal: Level up for the first time in months, probably

I’ve been covering Helldivers 2 since I first landed at Kotaku some months ago, at which point it basically became my beat. I’ve written several dozen articles about the game since, and I love much of the early coverage I provided of the near-daily upheaval that occurred within the game. However, the truth is that covering the game that extensively also turned me off to playing it all that much, and I peaked real early.

Now that things have kind of settled down, and the developers seem to be taking their time cranking out updates and rolling out new surprises and plot developments, it seems like a perfect time to jump back in. I think I’ve also been grasping for new casual multiplayer games to play with my usual group of friends, and Helldivers 2 kind of fits that bill. We played it a bunch in the first few weeks, and then sharply dropped off, but recently there’s been some interest in returning. I think we’re going to bite the bullet and do it. —Moises Taveras

Summer Games Done Quick’s killer weekend lineup

Screenshot: Nintendo / GDQ / Kotaku
Screenshot: Nintendo / GDQ / Kotaku

Watch it on: Twitch
Current goal: Donate to MSF while watching some amazing speedruns

Summer Games Done Quick has been going on all week, raising money for Doctors Without Borders/MSF while showcasing a spectacular assortment of speedruns. However, the final weekend of a GDQ event is usually particularly packed, as the hype builds and the donations start rolling in faster and faster, and this marathon looks to be no different. You can check out the schedule yourself here, but let me highlight a few runs that I definitely don’t want to miss.

Mario relay races at GDQs are always a treat, and the one on Friday at 7PM ET should be absolutely bananas. It pits two teams head-to-head in a series of Kaizo levels (fan-made levels that are typically extremely difficult) that the players have never seen before, meaning they’re racing to both understand the demanding challenges before them and how to tackle them, and execute on overcoming those challenges before their rivals on the other team can do so. That’s followed at around 9:15 ET by a quick Ocarina of Time speedrun. OoT is one of the quintessential speedrun games, and seeing all the ways in which it can be broken never ceases to fascinate me.

Then on Saturday, things enter absolutely must-see territory in my opinion at around 7:10 PM ET, when two of the best Super Metroid players in the world race to see who can beat it first. That’s followed by even more Mario racing with two players racing through a series of troll levels in Mario Maker 2, and then a glitchless run of Elden Ring which should see the game finished in under 90 minutes. Closing things out with vibes that are sure to be warm and cozy, as we give all we can to support the absolutely essential work that Doctors Without Borders is doing, it’s a nice run of last year’s Switch remake of Super Mario RPG. See you in chat, folks! — Carolyn Petit

Alpha Protocol

Image: Obsidian Entertainment
Image: Obsidian Entertainment

Play it on: PS3, Xbox 360, Windows (Steam Deck: YMMV)
Current goal: Figure out stealth

I hadn’t played Alpha Protocol since its release in 2010. I’ve honestly forgotten the entire thing, other than a really clear visual memory of the Saudi hotel room. A few years back, I wanted to give it another play, which is how I discovered its mysterious absence. But now it’s back from years in the misery of licensing limbo, and last week returned on Steam, so I installed it right away.

Wow, the stealth sucks. I’m amazed how decent the game still looks, especially running at 1440p. It came out in that sweet spot, when ears were almost round, and glasses could sit on a character’s face, rather than be part of it, and that era has lasted nicely. But it is so monstrously unforgiving when it comes to sneaking my way around the mission-based RPG’s enemy bases. This isn’t helped by a really terrible checkpoint save system, where the save points are always right before I have to complete the hacking game to unlock a door that leads to a long corridor, before a ladder that goes down to the crates where the psychic enemy keeps spotting me.

Still, the acting’s great, and it’s often a lot of fun to approach it like an im-sim and allow chaos to reign when things go wrong, and just try to shoot your way out of trouble. — John Walker

Halo Infinite

Screenshot: 343 Industries / Claire Jackson / Kotaku
Screenshot: 343 Industries / Claire Jackson / Kotaku

Play it on: Xbox Series X/S, Windows (Steam Deck: YMMV)
Current goal: Enjoy the hell out of Sentry Defense

So Halo Infinite has an interesting playlist right now: Sentry Defense. And by interesting, I mean pretty friggin’ awesome. It’s a semi PvPvE mode where two large opposing teams each get a pair of “Sentries” to defend. The sentries are a boss from Infinite’s campaign: Adjutant Resolution, an enemy that’s fully capable of doing damage on its own, and requires players to shoot specific parts of it to do damage. It still plays like a PvP game, not terribly dissimilar to something like Capture the Flag, but the added bosses on both ends really mixes things up for the old Halo format.

Since the inclusion of campaign bots in Halo Infinite’s multiplayer, I’ve mostly played quirky custom games, and the series’ classic “Firefight” wave-based “horde” mode. That’s been fun, naturally, but I’ve been really eager to see what the added functionality of bots in Halo could do, and I’m pleasantly surprised with Sentry Defense.

Each team getting their own bosses means there’s an added layer of combat you need to bring to your arrival at the enemy base. Or, if you’re running defense, having these bosses capable of dealing lethal damage on their own really changes things up. It’s an added layer of challenge to the already challenging PvP nature of Infinite. I’ve also noticed that players seem to be resorting to vehicles a lot more as a result, perhaps with the hopes of the added firepower making a significant difference when it comes to chipping away at the bosses’ health. Because of that, players need to respond to more frequent vehicle encounters, which in my experience has made defending the base a lot more fun (with way more potential for multi-kills when a crew rolls up with a Warthog).

Sentry Defense is pretty resistant thus far to getting too repetitive. Overall, I’m finding it to be an excellent preview of where Halo can grow…wherever the future is likely to take this 20+ year series. — Claire Jackson


Screenshot: sunset visitor
Screenshot: sunset visitor

Play it on: Switch, Windows (Steam Deck: YMMV)
Current goal: Like games again

I have a problem where every so often I just get into a rut where I don’t play that many games. Sure, I’ll boot up Overwatch 2 and do my dailies, but broadly, I stop playing most of what passes through the public consciousness. Part of it is growing up and having more responsibilities, but a lot of the time I just can’t muster the willpower to play a game. I make up for it at the end of the year when GOTY lists are coming together, and I’m trying to be better about that right now by playing 1000xResist, an adventure game that has come highly recommended by people I respect and trust. Everyone is swearing to me its melancholy, gay as hell sci-fi drama is going to hook me, and even in the first hour, I can see how this might pull me in. Every now and then you need an incredible experience that will remind you why you like video games in the first place. I’m hoping 1000xResist can be that for me right now. — Kenneth Shepard

And that wraps our picks for the weekend. Happy gaming!

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