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Best new PC game of 2018



The countdown is over and we have solidified our list for the 50 best games in 2018, covering the spectrum of big-name blockbusters and triumphs in small teams. But we know it's a pretty long list, so here are the picks that can be played on the Windows PC (and sometimes even Linux and Mac).

Of the top 50 games, 35 can be played on PC. It's more any other platform. Of these, seven titles cannot be played on any console: Frostpunk, Wreckfest, World of Warcraft: Battle of Azeroth, The Red Strings Club, Eternal Pillar 2: Deadfire, BattleTech, and our # 2 game of the year, Return of Obra Dinn . There is more than any other platform represented on our list.

When it comes to the inclusion of games like Hollow Knight that came out technically before 201

8, well, what we said in the top 50 post, is true here too:

You may notice inclusion of games that were either fully released or made available in Early Access before 2018. Because many games change from update to update, than year to year, we will include previously available games that receive a significant update during the year or become available on a platform that greatly influences how the game is experienced. For example, Fortnite Battle Royale is included, ranked No. 13, because we feel the recent seasons were the first great game in 2018.

Don't worry too much about the rankings. It's a fun and easy exercise. Finally, we recommend all these games. That's why we've included a bit of what makes each individual special: so you can find the best games for 2018 for you.

Related, we have fixed the numbers from this because, out of the context of the top 50


  If you're looking for recommendations that expand beyond 2018, check out our important page for the very best PC games <strong> </p>
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  Ni no Kuni 2: Revenant Kingdom - Prince Evan

Level-5 / Bandai Namco

Ni n o Kuni 2: Revenant Kingdom

No, you do not need to have played the first Ni now Kuni to enjoy her sequel, a feverishly optimistic (and inviting naive) Japanese role-play inspired, in part, by Studio Ghibli. Its colorful animation hides a rich but not overly complicated royal management system that gives the adventure a great sense of scope. An adventure story gives its motley band of heroes a playful pep that feels anachronistic, if not flagrantly in conflict with our times.

Here is Cameron Kunzelman's recording from our review: "It is not a wasted breath or a plot point that is unable to pay off significantly. Ni no Kuni 2 is a solid modern JRPG that brings many design ideas that I love in sharp, clear focus while keeping you entertaining and engaging. "

-Chris Plante

Available on PlayStation 4 and Windows PC.
Get it here: Amazon | Best Buy | GameStop | PlayStation Store |


  Steam </small></p>
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  Frostpunk - person who walks behind the group crosses the glacier

11 bit Studios

Frostpunk

Frostpunk gives me a deep sense of fear and satisfaction I did not believe city ​​management sim could deliver. Unlike its contemporaries, which can include fiddling with the city's economy, zoning and citizens' happiness, in this game, all my decisions have the consequences of life and death. Because in this world resources are limited and there is hardly any security net to be found. Abuse can mean people can starve, freeze, or kill each other.

While I enjoy the quiet pace of similar sims, I really love how Frostpunk always manages to keep me on the edge. Keeping a community alive, stable, and most hopefully, in the darkest scenarios, is reason enough to continue playing. Not every decision I have to make is easy – many of which are the toughest I have ever been asked to make in a virtual world – but being a pillar in a crumbling society is a task I couldn't help taking on time and time again. There is something about crawling from the depth of despair to finding hope over the horizon that holds me back, even though all I could see ahead was a close storm.

-Jeff Ramos

Available on Windows PC.
Get it here: Amazon | Steam | Microsoft Store | GOG |

Humble

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  A ninja skips a lavapit in The Messenger

Sabotage / Devolver Digital

The Messenger

I devoured The Messenger over a holiday in my in-laws. After a slow start to the flight, I found myself late and woke up early to get a little further in this throwback 2D action platform that happily borrows from the Ninja Gaiden series and Metroidvanias. Its creators filled the crunchy, pixelated world with small, smart creative choices. A store owner with a winning personality; secret, bad bosses with good intentions; environmental puzzles that bend the fabric of reality.

Many critics just celebrated Messenger's second-act twist, which changes the game's structure in an unexpected way. It's neat! But what sticks to me after the sprint through the campaign are the characters, both of whom get a complete story and feel primed for a sequel. In addition, the technical problems from the launch on Switch seem to be resolved. Do you have a holiday coming up? Have I got the game for you.

-Chris Plante

Available on Windows PC and Nintendo Switch.
Get it here: Steam |


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  Fallout 76 - a barn / garage labeled & # 39; The Devil & # 39; s Pitchfork & # 39;

Bethesda Game Studios / Bethesda Softworks

Fallout 76

Fallout 76 understands that an open world must be rewarding – not in terms of finding resources or new missions, but because the exploration itself must be engaging. Foregoing skeleton-on-a-bed storytelling that worked so well in earlier games, Fallout 76 's landscapes of West Virginia are spotted with descriptive mise-en-scenes. Every time I stumble upon one, I feel I have uncovered a secret about the world. I have found a birdhouse workshop, a gladiatorial arena and a household covered with cat head wall tracks. It's just a small piece of what is being offered.

Fallout 76 can cope because there is only so good content; tons of enemies, buildings, quests, outfits. Sure there are no NPCs, but with the spice of online multiplayer added, I found that I didn't miss it much. The interactions I have experienced have been most kind – strangers show their bases or desperately need clean water. Sometimes they have been violent, but the wilderness is a dangerous place, and the consequences of being murdered are quite small. More importantly, everything is possible in a virtual world, and Fallout 76 opens up the possibilities in a way that few games do.

-Jenna Stoeber

Available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Windows PC.
Get it here: Amazon | Best Buy | GameStop | Walmart | Bethesda Store

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Arc System Works / Bandai Namco

Dragon Ball FighterZ

Through its various manga and anime incarnations, the Dragon Ball world has defined an unmistakable look. While these versions of the series remain unbearable classics, the franchise has always played on the video game front. Fortunately, Dragon Ball FighterZ lives up to the series' heritage and delivers one of the best fighting games of the year.

The game's cell-shaded art style is a clear nod to the aesthetics of Dragon Balls illustrated and animated forms, even down to tearing the same angles from manga and anime. The visual play goes hand in hand with the game's simplified control system, which makes experts and beginners alike to players who can easily distinguish harmful laser light shows. These elements work together to deliver one of the most satisfying multiplayer experiences of the year and the Dragon Ball fighting game I've always dreamed of.

-Jeff Ramos

Available on PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One and Microsoft Windows.
Get it here: Amazon | Best Buy | GameStop | PlayStation Store | Xbox Store | Nintendo eShop | ” style=”object-position: 50% 50%” data-upload-width=”1920″ src=”https://cdn.vox-cdn.com/thumbor/f6VpGiXADZCXgsv7C1Y0ZRbf0EY=/0x0:1920×1080/1200×0/filters:focal(0x0:1920×1080):no_upscale()/cdn.vox-cdn.com/uploads/chorus_asset/file/11636187/ss_4c3359577cd25c518e2f583048afc17179fffcb3.1920×1080.jpg”/>

Steam

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  A car crashes during a race in Wreckfest

Bugbear / THQ Nordic

Wreckfest

The long development of Wreckfest encapsulates the path of medium size independent game studies over the past six years. Developer Bugbear began working on the project in 2012, around the same time as Double Fine's Broken Age established Kickstarter as a potential financing tool for modest games. So in 2013, Bugbear tried to crowdfund their game. When it became apparent that the studio would not meet its $ 350,000 goal, it ended the Kickstarter campaign.

The team swung, offering pre-orders and a surprisingly deep demo on its website. The orders exceeded the $ 350,000 threshold within a week. In 2014, Bugbear swung again, this time putting the game on Steam Early Access. Within a week, it hit a million dollars on sales.

The project didn't even have a name; Bugbear had called it Next Car Game . It was Wreckfest in October 2014, and as so many Kickstarter and early access games it began to sputter with setbacks, delays and fussy updates. But as a special pair of games within this ecosystem, at a certain time, year in development, everything began to click. Fans who had soured the game came back for new updates. Its voting began to shift towards the positive again. And in June 2018, the official release of Wreckfest delivered the happy destruction of the original demo, while also standing as a racing game that emphasizes destruction in a way that its contemporaries do not or because of licensing agreements, cannot .

There is something about Bugbear's ambition that a game originally intended to be released in 2014 feels so fresh, looks so beautiful and handles so well in 2018. And it speaks to the state of the industry that a doomed Kickstarter from a Half a decade ago could be, today, one of the best games of the year.

-Chris Plant

Available on Windows PC, comes to PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.
Get it here: Amazon | Best Buy | GameStop |

The Gardens Between


  The Gardens Between

The Voxel Agents

The Gardens Between

The Gardens Between starts on a rainy evening with two middle-aged friends huddled together in a wooden house. A mysterious light transports them to a gorgeous, mysterious world filled with islands populated by memories of their friendship. Each island is a transverse puzzle; Tweens must work together to reach the top, but obstacles block the path. A character carries a lantern that holds a mysterious light that can withstand fog and create bridges, while the other works with magic machinery that can stop and reverse the time.

Playing The garden between feels like a clear dream. The lack of control – I can't directly choose where the characters go – and manipulation of time and memory can be a bit trippy, but never overwhelmingly so. When I get frustrated by a difficult puzzle, I stop and observe the flow of time. Usually I find my solution by seeing the time passing by.

The garden between is not the first game to explore memory and grow up. It's probably not the last. But visuals, history and bending of time harmonize on the way that raises the game, giving new light to an overworked theme.

-Emily Heller

Available on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Windows PC, Linux and Mac
Get it here: Amazon | PlayStation Store | Xbox Store | Nintendo eShop | Steam | ” style=”object-position: 50% 50%” data-upload-width=”3840″ src=”https://cdn.vox-cdn.com/thumbor/RDcLiDyg02dP6L_eCz92NMX4LKE=/0x0:3840×2160/1200×0/filters:focal(0x0:3840×2160):no_upscale()/cdn.vox-cdn.com/uploads/chorus_asset/file/13301567/Black_Ops_4_Multiplayer_Beta_screenshot_03.jpg”/>

App Store

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  Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 - urban chaos

Treyarch / Activision

Call of Duty: Black Ops 4

Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 's multiplayer package is both bigger and more refined than its predecessors. The traditional multiplayer and zombie modes – two hallmarks of the Call of Duty franchise over the last few decades – have been freed from bloating in recent years, with the developer Treyarch focusing on the central mechanics that give Call of Duty its iconic feel.

Instead of releasing an overwhelmed single player campaign, Treyarch has invested in a large multiplayer expansion. Blackout is fighting royally with the signature Call of Duty Shine. It's faster and smoother than almost any other match royal game. But where the mode really sets itself apart is the map. Every city in the massive space is taken from the multiplayer maps of previous Call of Duty games, and made sure it was designed to stand as a full multiplayer map. It has a level of authorship that borrows from over decades of top multiplayer design, which its contemporaries have not liked.

Each of the three modes that make up Black Ops 4 can easily stand on its own as a valuable game, but together they prove it to survive this year and into the future, Call of Duty creators are wise to focus on what the series does best.

-Austen Goslin

Available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Windows PC.
Get it here: Amazon | Best Buy | GameStop | Walmart | PlayStation Store | Xbox Store | ” style=”object-position: 50% 50%” data-upload-width=”3840″ src=”https://cdn.vox-cdn.com/thumbor/326Q_KxtZQDWt169Fqxs2RSvEoc=/0x0:3840×1738/1200×0/filters:focal(0x0:3840×1738):no_upscale()/cdn.vox-cdn.com/uploads/chorus_asset/file/11698583/WoW_Battle_for_Azeroth_Teldrassil_Burns.jpg”/>

Battle.net

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  World of Warcraft: Battle of Azeroth - Burning of Teldrassil

Blizzard Entertainment

World of Warcraft: Battle of Azeroth

World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth is difficult to place in 2018. It has been up and down, loved and despised. Our first impressions praised the leveling experience and content of the world. But our updated review hit hard on the many problems of enlargement, especially where it has fallen seriously short of its predecessor, Legion .

But Fight for Azeroth s standout function is endurance. A system like Azeritt can do so much to damage the game's reputation and feelings, but World of Warcraft has survived dark times and curved extensions for over 14 years now. A system, no matter how bad, can't take away the good times MMO still offers each week – playing through dungeons with friends, or trying your hand at the most difficult of the raids.

Slowly, Blizzard and the players find a point of equilibrium with each expansion. New updates have just come with more in the works. And most importantly, we still play forward despite frustrations and imperfections. Battle of Azeroth is still an extension of World of Warcraft and World of Warcraft is still pretty damn good.

-Ryan Gilliam

Available on Mac and Windows PC.
Get it here: Amazon | Best Buy | GameStop | Walmart |

Battle.net

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  A case of mistrust - woman sitting in the apartment

The Wandering Ben / Serenity Forge

A case of mistrust

A case of mistrust is one of the slickest-looking games in 2018. It is a 1920-murder mystery that was filmed and then rotoscoped so that it appears to be made of moving paper clippings.

As San Francisco's only female private detective, the player must resolve the case of a missing bootlegger. It is watered in a jazz age aesthetic and historical detail. Developer Ben Wander did his homework, and it turns out in the travel segments where the detector can choose to chat with the city's taxi drivers. Not once I skipped this option, because every taxi driver has an opinion on a cultural event, or a story that tells about his life. Attempting to miss historical detail in fiction can come out as silent, but here they feel present and lived in.

In our review, Colin Campbell wrote that A case of mistrust "gives flight to a genre It has been so thoroughly tiled in other media." It is true that noir has been made and then redone to death , but it's something different when I'm calling the shots and solving the crimes.

-Simone de Rochefort

Available on Mac, Nintendo Switch and Windows PC.
Get it here: Steam | Game Jolt |

Nintendo eShop

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  Moonlighter - guy standing in front of door with four locks

Digital Sun / 11 bit Studios

Moonlighter

Moonlighter answered a question I never thought to ask: Where do adventure game shops find the items they sell in their stores? In this fantasy world, at least one shop job works double duty as the kind of fairytale manager they serve in their shop. This double life sets one of the most lovable genres of the year: Moonlighter is more than a fairy-tale villain – it's also a retail sim.

Collecting items to sell, every night raises the protagonist into the darkest depths of various dungeons, slaying animals and collecting items. When he returns from his mission, these spoils become the next day's holdings. As a shopkeeper, he has to store the shelves, speculate on pricing, lure customers with lovely decor and tackle would-be thieves. Whatever remains in his checkout that day, his purse gets around the city to the various gun dealers, potion makers, and more. With better equipment he can explore more dangerous dungeons, which get better loot, which gets higher prices in the store and so on. It is a convincing loop that swings between the part of the brain seeking adventure and the part that believes in good oil entrepreneurship.

-Jeff Ramos

Available on Nintendo Switch, Microsoft Windows, Mac, Linux, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.
Get it here: Amazon | Best Buy | GameStop | Nintendo eShop | PlayStation Store | Xbox Store |

Steam

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  Donut County - the guy went out on a garden chair in his garden

Ben Esposito / Annapurna Interactive

Donut County

Ninety-nine hundred and ninety meters below the Earth's surface is a crackling campfire and a ragtag group of animals who lost their homes and loved ones to the holes that terrorize Donut County. Guilty of the catastrophe of BK, an extremely selfish and extremely sweet raccoon with an ugly smart phone addiction.

Donut County invites many comparisons to Katamari Damacy : A strange, inexplicable force goes down on a city and its ignorant residents, consuming everything it comes across. But where chaos literally reaches new heights with Katamari, the holes that terrorize Donut County are quiet, effective, and clean. Where Katamari gives, Donut County removes.

The prerequisite for the game is simple: Be a hole in the ground and swallow as many things as possible while solving a few puzzles along the way. It is strangely therapeutic.

The dialogue is witty, charming and fun. Texting BK is a pleasure. I spam him an and-emoji; He spammers it right back. Between stages I can review all the elements I have extinguished as a hole in something called Trashopedia. For example, it shows a candle as a "really bad version of the sun. Tastes ok."

When puzzles go, Donut County is a sugary treat. Like any good donut, it is short, sweet and best enjoyed in a sitting.

-Ashley Oh

Available on PlayStation 4, iOS, Nintendo Switch, Microsoft Windows, Xbox One and Mac.
Get it here: PlayStation Store | Xbox Store | Nintendo eShop | Steam |

App Store

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  The Red Strings Club - woman in bar

Deconstructeam / Devolver Digital

The Red Strings Club

I love the way games can turn into the most secular activities in delicious loops which I will slurp up with my morning cereal. Red Strings Club got me as soon as I heard it was a bartending game. Mixing drinks and chatting customers: I could practically taste mundanity before I started.

The story is centered on the titular club's bartender, Donovan, who has a sidetrack as an information broker. In this cyberpunk setting, all ulterior motives have. It is a shady company, a scrappy rebel group, and issues of body maturation and free will. Using his "muse", Donovan mixes drinks that bring out their customers' feelings. And then you go about the complicated task of collecting information, not necessarily made easier by alcohol. You are expected to learn to read between the lines of these conversations – what do people think but don't say?

The game's weighty themes are enhanced by their gorgeous, worldly gaming activities. They are grounded. Even during a sequence when cutting cybernetic implants, the work is tactile and strangely soothing.

-Simone de Rochefort

Available on Linux, Mac and Windows PC.
Get it here: Steam | ” style=”object-position: 50% 50%” data-upload-width=”1920″ src=”https://cdn.vox-cdn.com/thumbor/WlZe9b_fWqZCAgeN_lkb9XVmwTU=/0x0:1920×1080/1200×0/filters:focal(0x0:1920×1080):no_upscale()/cdn.vox-cdn.com/uploads/chorus_asset/file/10542789/DQXI_InGameScreenshot_March28_C10.jpg”/>

GOG

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  Dragon Quest 11 - Horseback rider looks at ruins

Square Enix

Dragon Quest 11: Exclusive Age Echoes

The Dragon Quest franchise recorder likes to play it safely. Under the leadership of Yuji Horii, creator of the iconic Japanese role-playing game, the games have gone where the audience goes, boomerang from Nintendo to PlayStation to Nintendo and back again. For over three decades, they continue to tell stories of legendary heroes who are fighting evil to save their homeland or world.

Dragon Quest 11: Exclusive Echo sticks to many of the series' formulas, for the better. It is a great role-playing game that spans many hours (as required by the JRPG law), filled with swing-based battles against slimes, dragons, golems, and other cute heavyweight monsters. I love it for all its Slavic adherence to the Dragon Quest formula. I love visiting charming towns, exploring the countryside with a party of engaging and sweet heroes, and vanquishing evil. Dragon Quest games have always had these things, and Exclusive Age Echoes have several of them, in high fidelity and polished to a pleasurable smoothness.

In our review of Dragon Quest 11 we rightly criticized the game to appeal largely to long Dragon Quest fans. It is true; There are a large number of things in this game aimed at the veteran Dragon Quest player. But I am, and it is wonderful to be back to this world-class world class again.

-Michael McWhertor

Available on PlayStation 4 and Windows PC.
Get it here: Amazon | Best Buy | GameStop | Walmart | Target | PlayStation Store | Steam

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  A screen shot from a pig of a giant woman holding pig

Nomada Studio / Devolver Digital

Pig

At the beginning of Pig The protagonist loses his voice and begins a journey to regain what is taken. It echoes Journey, another game without words and limited instruction that sends me on assignments with little guidance other than moving on. The charm reveals itself gigantic as I examine at my own pace, interact with the environments, and solve some platform puzzles. My travels are the accompaniment of warm ambient sounds and an orchestra track that increases the scale.

There is no fight or struggle to interfere with my quest, you avoid escaping an inky black shapeshifter once. I adapt to my environment. Sometimes I become a big block to resist desert winds, sometimes I use my power to crash through unstable floors. Pig is a story of grief, powerlessness and self-discovery. Through its non-voting leadership, it explores these topics not with words but actions.

-Ashley Oh

Available on Mac, Nintendo Switch and Windows PC.
Get it here: Steam | GOG | ” style=”object-position: 50% 50%” data-upload-width=”1920″ src=”https://cdn.vox-cdn.com/thumbor/0NFz5YP1ZKZCpF-zSBJ_t2RS5SA=/0x0:1920×1080/1200×0/filters:focal(0x0:1920×1080):no_upscale()/cdn.vox-cdn.com/uploads/chorus_asset/file/13643654/ss_415508d81560ac70c36b130afd94970f10da1560.1920×1080.jpg”/>

Nintendo eShop

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  Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire - adventurers traveling through ruins

Obsidian Entertainment / Versus Evil

Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire

OK, I'll be the first to admit that the CRPG has been something of a blind spot on Polygon. Last year we did not Divinity: Original Sin 2 in our top 10. Or our top 50. I know we have gone. The game writer Shawn Kittelsen rightly took up the task with a great buoyancy, " Divinity: Original Sin 2 ignored the biggest trends of 2017, and that's why it's great." And yet, this year I made almost the same mistake, slept on Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire .

Deadfire is different from Original Sin 2 . It's even closer when it comes to text and lore. I found their systems difficult to learn; So again, I'm a beginner to the genre. But what I discover about CRPGs – a little late – is immersion and interactivity. The amount of marketing spoken for so many AAA games is really delivered through Deadfire . The closest comparisons are dungeons on a kitchen table with a brilliant Dungeon Master. First, this kind of video game seemed incompatible with my schedule. But in reality it is much easier to make time for Pillars of Eternity 2 than to maintain a regular game of D & D.

It seems like we are getting a fantastic CRPG every year now. I am grateful that people finally made me pay attention. ] | Available on Linux, Mac and Windows PC.
Get it here: | Amazon | Best Buy | GameStop | Microsoft Store | Steam |

GOG

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  The sea is scanned in Subnautica

Unknown Worlds Entertainment

Subnautica

Subnautica first appeared on Steam Early Access in 2014, but did not receive a formal, full edition for January. I remember many years ago playing a promising but relatively thin and unfinished game that borrowed from previous buildings, such as Minecraft and paved the way for glut of survival games that would flood the market during the long run. How wonderful to say that Subnautica in 2018 is richer and more mysterious than I could have expected, a sprawling and playful experience that captures the excitement of survival and exploration while greatly trimming the busy work who have gathered at the genre as a biofouling on the stomach of a boat.

In 2016, right in the thick development, Subnautica traveled director Charlie Cleveland questioning why the game did not contain weapons. Cleveland, who had previously worked with first-person shooters, described a change in heart in response to the tragic Sandy Hook shooting. "I've never thought that video game violence is creating more violence," Cleveland said. "But I couldn't just sit by and" add more weapons "to the world either.

" So Subnautica is a voice against a world of smaller weapons. A reminder that there is another way forward. One where we use non-violent and more creative solutions to solve our problems. One where we are not at the top of the food chain. "The decision has nurtured something beautiful, inspirational, different .

-Chris Plant

Available on Mac, Windows PC and Xbox One.
Get it here: Amazon Best Buy | GameStop | Steam |

Microsoft Store

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  Forza Horizon 4 - fighter flying over driving car

Playground Games / Microsoft Studios

Forza Horizon 4

Playground Games is a UK studio of developers with a wide range of driving experience, so it is appropriate that this latest in Microsoft's fun and light Forza The Horizon series takes place in a lovingly designed version of the UK.

With the amazing Forza brand, it is almost clear that the cars look beautiful and handle great, from high-performance racing animals to retro runarounds. a number of challenges o g mini racing sesonger, med stor vekt på utfordrende virkelige spillere til online-kamper, eller samarbeider med venner for ulike utfordringer.

Men den virkelige stjernen av showet er Storbritannia, gjengitt i fire årstider av sceptered wonder. Forza Horizon 4 is one of those driving games in which open exploration really is as much fun as carefully designed courses.

—Colin Campbell

Available on Windows PC and Xbox One.
Get it here: Amazon | Best Buy | GameStop | Microsoft Store

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Dead Cells - leaping with a hammer

Motion Twin

Dead Cells

Without losing focus, Dead Cells brings together no fewer than six different genres into a single adventure. It’s an incredible feat. Creating an excellent roguelike or Metroidvania is a challenge on its own, but Dead Cells shows a mastery of each form as well as its contemporaries dedicated to a single genre.

Some credit goes to the game’s roots in Early Access, where its developers used feedback to refine and revise their ideas. By the time the game officially launched, Dead Cells felt like a fully formed creature, rather than a half-finished Frankenstein creation.

Despite the complexity of its design, it’s friendly to newcomers, slowly introducing new mechanics rather than repeatedly hurling players into impossible fights. And thanks to numerous secrets and upgrades, each death feels less like a game over and more like a step toward progress.

In the end, Dead Cells feels like so many games we’ve loved, and yet, there’s nothing quite like it.

—Russ Frushtick

Available on Linux, Mac, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Windows PC and Xbox One.
Get it here: Amazon | Best Buy | GameStop | Nintendo eShop | Steam | PlayStation Store | Microsoft Store

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Hitman 2 - Agent 47 dressed as a flamingo mascot

IO Interactive/Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment

Hitman 2

It isn’t inaccurate to describe Hitman 2 as “more Hitman,” but it is reductive. If anything, Hitman 2 is the culmination of its predecessor, rather than a cash-grab sequel. 2016’s episodic collection of open-world assassination locations has been cemented into a traditional stand-alone release, featuring all the additional back-of-the-box bullet points you’d expect. Smarter baddies! Sillier costumes! Mirrors that actually fog and reflect!

While the story is still barely intelligible, it’s the last thing on my mind as I explore Hitman 2’s sprawling environments, filling Agent 47’s bottomless pockets with everything he needs to distract and incapacitate anyone standing between him and his targets.

Every Hitman level is a giant puzzle box in which people, places and things are linked by what must be a rat’s nest of AI routines. Figuring out the connections between everything remains the most thrilling element of the game. The AI of the hundreds of people drifting through each set-piece isn’t realistic, nor should it be.

Hitman 2 doesn’t work like a simulation of a real-life assassination. How grim that would be! Hitman 2 works like Groundhog Day with considerably more murder. I’ve put enough hours into the games to be able to anticipate the reactions to every action — because I understand the interplay between the systems and mechanics, the NPCs and objects. The more I play, the more I learn about how these intricately layered contraptions function, how each person will behave. And once I know the rules, I can bend them to my will as I orchestrate the perfect hit.

—Samit Sarkar

Available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Windows PC.
Get it here: Amazon | Best Buy | GameStop | Walmart | PlayStation 4 | Xbox Store | Steam

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A Way Out - Leo and Vincent playing Connect Four

Hazelight Studios/Electronic Arts

A Way Out

A Way Out may have frustrated some players with its ending. But the hours leading to the conclusion were by turns ludicrous, heartfelt, quirky and memorable. The split-screen co-op game veers between identities and styles with abandon, and that’s part of its charm.

The plot follows two escaped convicts on the run from every police officer in the world. And yet, the leads seem unconcerned when controlled by me and a friend. Might as well stop and play some baseball in the trailer park, right? Might as well try on hats in the house we’re robbing. Action movie set-pieces invariably follow these more playful sequences, destroying tonal consistency but giving players a lovable ride.

Leo and Vincent’s friendship still has a place in my heart, and though this game sure has its faults, I don’t regret my time with it one bit. Like people say, sometimes the journey is more important than the destination, especially when the journey features so many hats. Yes, that is exactly what they say.

—Simone de Rochefort

Available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Windows PC.
Get it here: Amazon | Best Buy | GameStop | Walmart | PlayStation Store | Xbox Store | Origin

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No Man’s Sky portal

Hello Games via Polygon

No Man’s Sky Next

The No Man’s Sky Next update is the game No Man’s Sky appeared to be in its early trailers and demos. Players have been given more freedom to explore the universe as they see fit, be it constructing an underwater bases or assembling a massive fleet of frigates. Crafting systems are revamped, the UI enhanced and new music added. You almost never lack something new to do or discover. And you can now truly play online with three other players — exploring the galaxy, transferring resources and building bases.

The addition of multiplayer has had an unexpected side effect: the need for a third-person camera option. This new angle reframes the game. Your explorer is now an avatar who can gesture, sport different looks and be photographed in the game’s fantastic photo mode. We enjoyed the solitude of No Man’s Sky right from the start, so the third-person camera feels like a dramatic enhancement. There’s something about seeing our own character on a vast, unpopulated planet that nails the game’s impeccable sense of isolation and the vastness of space. The update that finally brings players together also makes it easier to feel like the only being in the entire universe.

—Clayton Ashley

Available on PlayStation 4, Windows PC and Xbox One.
Get it here: Amazon | Best Buy | GameStop | PlayStation Store | Microsoft Store | Steam

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The heroes of Prey Mooncrash

Arkane Studios/Bethesda Softworks

Prey: Mooncrash

In 2017, Bethesda released a handful of deep and inventive single-player games, including PreyThe Evil Within 2 and a stand-alone expansion to Dishonored 2. Though critically lauded, none of them sold especially well, raising questions about the sustainability of smartly designed single-player games, particularly those in the so-called immersive sim genre. Since then, some fans and critics have speculated on what the developers of these projects might be forced to create to stay alive. Vapid first-person shooters? Cynical battle royale modes? Match-three apps?

Prey: Mooncrash is our first look at the future of immersive sims, and it’s unquestionably influenced by the rise of Twitch streams, with its pseudo-procedurally generated design emphasizing player expression and unexpected scenarios. In one playthrough, I had nearly escaped the game’s moon base when I found myself cornered by a gang of roaming enemies with telekinetic powers. I decided to wait them out in an air vent, but I made too much noise. Rather than wait for me outside, the enemies used their powers to detonate the gas lines in the vent, causing the pipes to spew fire. As I tried to escape, their telekinesis ability lifted me into the air, pressing me against the ceiling of the vent, allowing the fire to roast me like a pig on a spit.

Mooncrash hasn’t been made easier or less complex to appease a broader audience. Its semi-permadeath sessions encourage you to actually use all your fancy skills, rather than sitting on them for the perfect occasion. And its goals are refreshingly opaque, inviting players to discover how its elaborate systems work over the course of dozens of hourlong playthroughs — or to learn with help from a Twitch chat audience. That is to say, it’s a single-player game that might be better played with others watching, providing insight from their own playthroughs.

If Prey: Mooncrash hints at the future of Bethesda’s single-player and immersive sim projects, there’s reason to be comforted and excited about the future of the genre and its creators. (Though its commercial viability remains a question mark.)

—Chris Plante

Available on PlayStation 4, Windows PC and Xbox One.
Get it here: PlayStation Store | Steam | Microsoft Store

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Destiny 2 loading

Bungie/Activision via Polygon

Destiny 2: Forsaken

A year after Destiny 2’s release, the Forsaken expansion reinvented the entire game. Bungie completely re-engineered the weapons system to offer more flexibility and increased access to powerful guns like shotguns and sniper rifles. The flow of every combat encounter feels different, yet the series’ fantastic gunplay remains intact.

Forsaken also adds two new environments and Destiny’s best raid to date. PvP and the new hybrid PvEvP mode, Gambit, are faster and more enjoyable than the Guardian-on-Guardian combat of years past. Forsaken pours a foundation that the team at Bungie can build upon for years to come, starting with its new approach to seasonal content in the upcoming Annual Pass.

—Ryan Gilliam

Available on PlayStation 4, Windows PC and Xbox One.
Get it here: Amazon | Best Buy | GameStop | PlayStation Store | Microsoft Store | Battle.net

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A screenshot of Quill the mouse in a forest from the game Moss

Polyarc Games

Moss

In so many ways, playing Moss is like vacationing in a storybook. I take on the role of the Reader, a powerful force that the residents of Moss can sense but not see. I come across a tiny mouse named Quill who is on a quest to save her uncle, after their kingdom was overthrown by a fire-breathing snake. As the Reader, my job is to solve puzzles and clear obstacles to aid Quill in her journey.

Magic radiates from every corner of the game: Pulling a handle from the ground renders a tower of stone steps. Pushing and pulling objects feels like an act of wizardry — wisps of light follow my path, as if from a magic wand. There are tiny libraries, mouse-sized pubs and rich forests, each worth the few minutes rest to pause and marvel at their details.

Moss’ creators have built each scene like large dioramas. Had I not stood up, leaned forward or looked left to right, I would’ve missed so many more lovingly crafted details along my adventure. Polyarc Games uses VR fostering a sense of intimacy, to build a protectiveness of its lead character. Like its central characters, Moss is a game of small things that make a big impact.

—Ashley Oh

Available on PlayStation VR and Windows PC.
Get it here: Amazon | Best Buy | GameStop | Steam | Oculus | Vive | PlayStation Store

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sea of thieves 1.12 update the skeleton thrones

Rare/Microsoft Studios

Sea of Thieves

Sea of Thieves emerged as a promising game in need of more content — a chaotic pirate sandbox kept interesting by its players. The core concepts of the game have simmered over time, its flavors bolstered by a regular update schedule and new systems that enhance the the game’s appealing foundation.

The beauty of Sea of Thieves is how organic and responsive it is. Very few systems stand between the player and the pirate sandbox. There are minimal menus, and goals are straightforward. The pirates’ tools have specific purposes, but can be manipulated in a variety of ways by clever players. And yet, when you combine all of the above and add other players to the mix, you end up with cinematic ship battles, dramatic betrayals and alliances, and an adventure that feels different from one session to the next.

The first two expansion packs added new concepts to the game, but the recent addition of the Devil’s Roar region and the re-tuning of the game’s core systems in Shrouded Spoils really unlocked the game’s potential. As the game stands in 2018, between the AI threats on the sea and the other players at the helm of their own ships, a session of Sea of Thieves can be as tranquil as a road trip with friends or as frantic and terrifying as the final firefights of a battle royale match.

— Cass Marshall

Available on Windows PC and Xbox One.
Get it here: Amazon | Best Buy | GameStop | Microsoft Store

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Minit - lighthouse

JW, Kitty, Jukio and Dom/Devolver Digital

Minit

Unlike in other adventure games, where exploring vast landscapes and poring over the tiny details of the surroundings is the norm, every second counts in Minit. The main character dies every minute, only to get another chance at the moment. It’s like Majora’s Mask and Groundhog Day but, well, you know, shorter.

The hero makes gradual progress by reaching checkpoints from which death restarts the adventure. Progress, die, restart from the beginning, apply what you learned, reach a checkpoint, die, restart a little further in the quest, and repeat.

Tasks are simple enough to be completed in 60 seconds, whether that’s finding the perfect radio station for a stranger, listening to an old man’s story or solving the mystery behind the cursed sword that has plagued the hero’s hometown.

With the finite amount of life there is to live, mundane tasks turn into monumental undertakings. Each new life becomes a fresh opportunity to learn more secrets or find more money to buy new sneakers. Most modern games expect players to do a bit of everything at once; Minit succeeds because it focuses on one thing at a time. Progress, it shows, is incremental and deliberate.

—Jeff Ramos

Available on Linux, Mac, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Windows PC.
Get it here: Nintendo eShop | PlayStation Store | Xbox Store | Steam

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Harebrained Schemes

BattleTech

When Firaxis Games released XCOM: Enemy Unknown in October 2012, I was forced to add a new word to my turn-based strategy vocabulary: “lavish.” Here was a fully three-dimensional game with all the bells and whistles I had come to expect from a AAA developer. It looked as good as it played, something rare in the strategy space.

After playing BattleTechI need a lot more words.

Harebrained Schemes’ presentation of the now 35-year-old franchise is stunning, from the emotional introductory CGI sequence to the interstitial cutscenes. As I wrote earlier this year, it’s also, compared to many of its contemporaries, a surprisingly multicultural affair. The game’s writers lean into a vision of the future that includes palace intrigue and heroic last stands, but also a universe that has a place for everyone.

On top of it all, the gameplay keeps everything that makes this particular brand of big stompy robots so much fun to inhabit. Unlike other tactical games, BattleTech challenges players to plan ahead and then actually gives them the freedom they need to execute those plans on a massive stage. It forces difficult decisions, with missions that can bleed over into the category of roguelike experiences. As painful as some missions are, there’s always a way out and it never feels like the AI is cheating at its dice rolls behind the screen.

—Charlie Hall

Available on Linux, Mac and Windows PC.
Get it here: Steam | GOG | Humble

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Fortnite - woman looking at a glowing cube

Epic Games

Fortnite Battle Royale

Don’t worry about being late to Fortnite Battle Royale. The creators of this colorful and constructive twist on the battle royale formula ensure that new players have plenty of chances to jump on board as they constantly reimagine and retool the map, weapons and modes. The most dramatic changes take place across seasons, in a fashion reminiscent of Blizzard’s Hearthstone model. Over a couple of months, players progress through the ranks, unlocking new costumes, gliders and bonuses. And when the season wraps, everybody returns to zero. Of course, none of these upgrades and rewards give players an advantage on the battlefield, so if you don’t care about cosmetics, there’s no wrong time to start — or a reason to spend money.

Whether you come to Fortnite through a console, a PC or a smartphone, the items and experience you earn are persistent. (Unless you play on PlayStation.) We’ve found ourselves rotating where we play, enjoying a week on an iPhone, then craving the precision of mouse and keyboard, then spending a week on the couch with an Xbox controller in our hand. PUBG revolutionized this genre, but Fortnite is quietly revolutionizing the fashion in which big video games seamlessly exist wherever you wish to play them. And it’s free!

The game technically launched in beta in 2017. It&#39;s unclear if it will ever graduate from being “early access,” as that status makes the process of releasing regular patches and updates easier, particularly on consoles with complicated publishing contracts. But beneath all that legal stuff that gets in the weeds is the kernel of what made Fortnite Battle Royale uniquely special this year: the use of game updates as an interactive group storytelling device. The 2018 seasons told a exciting, confusing, messy and surreal story fueled by a handful of sci-fi plots that have fueled countless B-movies. The meta-story of Fortnite has lost some of its energy — entropy! — but at its peak, the game felt all encompassing.

—Chris Plante

Available on iOS, Mac, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Windows PC and Xbox One.
Get it here: Epic Games Store | App Store | Microsoft Store | PlayStation Store | Nintendo eShop

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Team Cherry

Hollow Knight

Yes, we know Hollow Knight first came out in 2017. We’re ashamed to admit it, but most of us never actually played it last year. That changed when the game arrived on Switch this summer, and I realized just how big of a mistake that was.

I adore Metroidvania games, and, quite simply, Hollow Knight is the greatest the genre has ever produced. The game’s design, from its sprawling map to its bespoke customization system to its countless boss fights, is peerless. Better than Symphony of the Night, better than Super Metroidbetter than Bloodborne. That quality is matched by a haunting score and hand-drawn visuals that look ripped from the pages of a Tim Burton sketchpad. It’s a feast.

And on the Switch, it has found a truly perfect home. Hollow Knight’s length and difficulty are made far more palpable when you’re able to trawl the depths of the bug kingdom on the go. As a bonus, the game has only gotten bigger with a handful of free updates over the last year. If you’ve got the stomach for it, you’ll find an unforgettable experience awaiting you.

—Russ Frushtick

Available on Linux, Mac, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Windows PC and Xbox One.
Get it here: Amazon | Best Buy | PlayStation Store | Microsoft Store | Nintendo eShop | Steam

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Assassin’s Creed Odyssey - Alexios leaping toward a soldier

Ubisoft Quebec/Ubisoft

Assassin’s Creed Odyssey

Exploration, combat, stealth, role-playing progression and dialogue choice make up the core activities in this giant open world, but its kinetic elements don’t entirely do it justice.

Assassin’s Creed Odyssey is a teeming saga of the Peloponnesian War, loaded with likable, believable characters, both fictional and drawn from history. Moody marine hues and bright Hellenic contrasts create an eye-pleasing world of mountains, meadows, cities and islands.

The story twists a warm familial reunion narrative with a cold, hard search for vengeance against an evil cult. Hidden shipwrecks, mythical beasts, combat arenas and creepy tombs add to a sense of a fantastical, expansive world.

Ubisoft built the Assassin’s Creed series on its big, dense open worlds. But Odyssey’s world feels like a turning point, loosening its focus on muted historical settings seen from grimny rooftops, and instead embracing vibrant colors, mythological beasts, and sprawling swaths of ocean and countryside.

—Colin Campbell

Available on PlayStation 4, Windows PC and Xbox One.
Get it here: Amazon | Best Buy | GameStop | PlayStation Store | Microsoft Store | Steam

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Monster Hunter: World - chef palico

Capcom

Monster Hunter: World

Here’s Polygon’s Chelsea Stark laying out everything you need to know about Monster Hunter: World: “To answer the three most pressing questions around Monster Hunter: World: Yes, its creators have made a notoriously inaccessible franchise into something that, if not totally accessible, somewhat resembles it. Yes, it’s still filled with countless menus and tough-to-parse mythos. And yes, this game lets you be best friends with a cat.”

There’s a BFF cat — what else can I add that might convince you to give Monster Hunter: World a try? You demand more? For fans of Capcom games who haven’t leapt into this daunting franchise, Monster Hunter: World carries a bounty of goofy cameos. The game has received post-launch updates featuring characters from Street Fighter, Devil May Cry and Mega Man. For non-Capcom fans, the guest stars complement the abundance of other additions, from new quests to humongous beasts. Monster Hunter: World was a great game at release. With each month, it’s only gotten better.

—Chris Plante

Available on PlayStation 4, Windows PC and Xbox One.
Get it here: Amazon | Best Buy | GameStop | Microsoft Store | PlayStation Store

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An eight-by-eight grid where Into the Breach’s battles play out will include flat tiles, cities and water features as well as mountains

Subset Games

Into the Breach

Into the Breach would feel like a Nintendo game, were it not so fascinated with the death of human civilization at the hands (claws? maws?) of grotesque aliens. Similarly to what Nintendo has done with so many genres, creators Justin Ma and Matthew Davis distill a complex strategy formula into an approachable, forgiving idea that feels almost like a classic board game. That isn’t to say Into the Breach is easy — it isn’t! Rather, it’s fair, taking time to teach you rules, presenting them clearly within the world’s design, then testing you to see what you learn and how you adapt.

In an interview with Rock Paper Shotgun, Ma said the team spent half of the game’s four-year development on its user interface. “When we decided we had to show what every enemy was doing every single turn, and that every action needed to be clear, it became clear how bad that nightmare would be,” said Ma. The magic of Into the Breach is that, to the average player, the work doesn’t show. It’s invisible. Everything works, just as you’d expect it to. Which, again, mirrors the je ne sais quois of Nintendo’s catalogue. What makes truly great games special is, often, not something you spot. It’s something you feel.

—Chris Plante

Available on Nintendo Switch and Windows PC.
Get it here: Steam | GOG | Nintendo eShop

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Celeste - ‘I can’t breathe’

Matt Makes Games

Celeste

Matt Thorson’s follow-up to TowerFall takes one move from the competitive multiplayer game (its buoyant jump) and mines it for every fleck of creativity, like a chef creating a prix fixe menu around a single, delicious and flexible ingredient. Celeste is a challenging platformer, in the line of Mario or Meat Boy, but notably, it includes tools to modify and alleviate the difficulty. You can slow the game speed, turn on invincibility or skip chapters. Thorson’s game doesn’t judge players for how they experience his work. And for those who want a more difficult experience, collectible strawberries are tucked throughout the world of Celestetypically in precarious places, provoking highly skilled players to pursue challenge for no greater reason than “it’s fun.”

The decision to trim the stress from a notoriously stressful genre pairs well with Celeste’s story, which plunges into the shadowy trauma of anxiety, depression and meeting the expectations of those we love most. A charming art style and an uplifting score hold everything together, like a warm sweater or a bear hug. Life is hard enough, Celeste seems to say, there’s nothing wrong in asking for help.

—Chris Plante

Available on Linux, Mac, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Windows PC.
Get it here: Steam | PlayStation Store | Nintendo eShop | Amazon

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Return of the Obra Dinn - men carrying long guns

Lucas Pope/3909

Return of the Obra Dinn

Return of the Obra Dinn is a detailed, unique and beautiful murder mystery from Lucas Pope, the maker of Papers, Please. Drawn in retro monochrome, it’s set aboard an abandoned ship in 1807.

The player is an insurance agent tasked with investigating the ship, seeking clues to the deaths and disappearances of its crew. By a process of elimination, the agent pieces together the tale of a torrid voyage.

It’s a highly original cross between an old-fashioned novel and a narrative sudoku puzzle, in which facts and events are pieced together to present a satisfying whole. Pope’s game is a masterpiece in detail, style and story.

—Colin Campbell

Available on Mac and Windows PC.
Get it here: Steam

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