6 great games to start the month of July

July is here, and with it its wonderfully (or not so wonderfully) warm temperatures. Here in the States, we just wrapped up a vacation that felt… well, need I mention how jarring and strange things are right now? Probably not. Oh, hey, that’s right: video games! Escapism isn’t always the healthiest strategy, but it can sometimes be a good way to distract yourself from visions of doom and gloom.

Editor’s Note: The Australian version of this introduction is It’s freezing outside and no one wants to leave their homes. Do the only sensible thing and stay in with a video game. Politically, the nation seems to be as awkward as ever, so no change there. Escape is advised, though. – David.

So if you’re looking for games to indulge in when you disconnect from the world, we’ve got a nice selection of digital realms that are well worth your time.

Final Fantasy XIV

Image: Square Enix

Play it on: PS5, Xbox Series X/S, Windows (Steam Deck: your experience may vary)
Current objective: Adventure in the thirteenth

I’m still playing Final Fantasy XIV this weekend, which is a surprise. As I’ve written several times in recent weeks, I’ve been marathoning Square Enix’s MMO in order to catch up on Dawntrail, the new expansion that came out this week. Despite ambitious goals to complete all the quests in the post-Endwalker patch, last weekend I failed to get the job done (in my defense, I had to go watch the Mets play baseball). Which just means I’m here again to talk about how this weekend will be the time I finally get to play Dawntrail. Except that’s not really what I’m here for.

Rather than focus on catching up, I’m taking it easy on what I have left before Dawntrail, as I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the quality of the quests in the post-Endwalker patch. Reuniting with my beloved Scions and embarking on a new adventure that ties into some of the game’s oldest mysteries has been a delight. I’m fascinated by the return to Thirteenth (the world completely awash in darkness) and I’m already deeply in love with Zero, an incredibly compelling character who has somehow made my least favorite MMO villain more interesting by association. All of which is to say, I’m okay with taking it easy this weekend and letting everyone else rush into Dawntrail. I know he’ll be waiting for me. — Willa Rowe

Helldivers 2

Screenshot: Arrowhead Game Studios

Play it on: PS5, Windows (Steam Deck: your experience may vary)
Current objective: Level up for the first time in months, probably

I’ve been covering Helldivers 2 since I first landed on Kotaku a few months ago, and that’s when it became my go-to topic. I wrote several dozen articles about the game ever since, and I really like most of the early coverage I provided about the near-daily upheavals that occurred in the game. However, the truth is that covering the game so extensively also turned me off from playing it as much, and I hit my peak very early.

Now that things have calmed down a bit and the developers seem to be taking their time with updates and new surprises and plot developments, it seems like a good time to get back into it. I think I’ve also been looking for new casual multiplayer games to play with my usual group of friends, and Helldivers 2 kind of fits that profile. We played it a lot in the first few weeks, then our interest dropped off significantly, but recently there’s been some interest in getting back into it. I think we’re going to take the bull by the horns and do it. —Moises Taveras

Summer Games: Don Quick’s Weekend Lineup

Screenshot: Nintendo / GDQ / Kotaku

Watch it on: Tic
Current objective: Donate to MSF while watching amazing speedruns

Summer Games Done Quick has been going on all week, raising money for Médecins Sans Frontières/MSF while also featuring a spectacular assortment of speedruns. However, the final weekend of a GDQ event is usually particularly busy, as the hype builds and donations start pouring in faster and faster, and this marathon seems to be no exception. You can check out program yourself herebut let me highlight a few races that I absolutely do not want to miss.

The Mario Relay Races at GDQ are always a treat, and the one on Friday at 7:00 PM ET is set to be absolutely insane. It pits two teams against each other in a series of Kaizo levels (fan-made levels that are usually extremely difficult) that players have never seen before, meaning they have to both figure out the demanding challenges ahead and how to tackle them, and execute to overcome those challenges before their rivals on the other team can. This is followed around 9:15 PM ET by a quick speedrun of Ocarina of Time. OoT is one of the quintessential speedrunning games, and seeing all the ways it can be broken never ceases to fascinate me.

On Saturday, things will enter what I think is absolutely must-play territory around 7:10 PM ET, when two of the best Super Metroid players in the world will go head-to-head to see who can beat it first. More Mario racing will follow, with two players racing through a series of troll levels in Mario Maker 2, followed by a smooth run through of Elden Ring that should see the game completed in under 90 minutes. Rounding things off in what will surely be a warm and cozy atmosphere as we give everything we can to support the absolutely essential work that Médecins Sans Frontières is doing, is a nice round of last year’s Switch remake of Super Mario RPG. See you in the chat, friends! — Carolyn Petit

Alpha Protocol

Image: Obsidian Entertainment

Play it on: PS3, Xbox 360, Windows (Steam Deck: your experience may vary)
Current objective: Discover stealth

I hadn’t played Alpha Protocol since it came out in 2010. I honestly forgot about the whole game, save for a very clear visual memory of the Saudi hotel room. A few years ago, I wanted to play it again, and that’s how I discovered its mysterious absence. But now it’s back after years of misery in licensing limbo, and last week it came back to Steam, so I installed it right away.

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

Still, the acting is excellent, and it’s often a lot of fun to approach the problem like an im-sim and let chaos reign when things go wrong, and try to talk your way out of trouble. — John Walker

Halo Infinite

Screenshot: 343 Industries / Claire Jackson / Kotaku

Play it on: Xbox Series X/S, Windows (Steam Deck: your experience may vary)
Current objective: Take full advantage of Sentry Defense

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

Since campaign bots were integrated into Halo Infinite’s multiplayer, I’ve mostly played original custom games and the series’ classic “Horde” mode, “Firefight.” Those were fun, sure, but I was really excited to see what the additional bot features in Halo could do, and I’m pleasantly surprised by Sentry Defense.

Each team has its own bosses, so there’s an added layer of combat to be had when you arrive at the enemy base. Or, if you’re playing defense, having those bosses be able to deal lethal damage on their own really changes things up. It’s an added layer of challenge to Infinite’s already difficult PvP nature. I’ve also noticed that players seem to be relying on vehicles a lot more as a result, perhaps in the hopes that the extra firepower will make a significant difference when it comes to whittling down boss health. Because of this, players have to respond to more frequent vehicle encounters, which in my experience has made defending the base a lot more fun (with a lot more potential for multi-kills when a crew arrives with a Warthog).

So far, Sentry Defense is holding up pretty well to repetition. Overall, I think it’s a great look at where Halo might be headed… wherever the future might take this 20+ year old series. — Claire Jackson


Screenshot: Visitor at sunset

Play it on: Switch, Windows (Steam Deck: your experience may vary)
Current objective: I like games again

I have a problem where I occasionally don’t play a lot of games. Sure, I’ll fire up Overwatch 2 and do my daily playthroughs, but I basically stop playing most games that enter the public consciousness. Part of that is because I’m getting older and have more responsibilities, but most of the time I just can’t find the willpower to play a game. I catch up at the end of the year when the GOTY lists are made, and I’m currently trying to improve by playing 1000xResist, an adventure game that has come highly recommended by people I respect and trust. Everyone swears that its melancholy, gay sci-fi drama will hook me, and even within the first hour I can see how it would pull me in. Every now and then you need an incredible experience that reminds you why you love video games in the first place. I hope 1000xResist can be that for me right now. — Kenneth Shepard

And there you have it, our picks for the weekend are complete. Happy gaming!

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