2017 was an annus mirabilis for video games. There was at least one game released (Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild) that will live on “Greatest Games of All Time” lists for a long time to come, and plenty more that will hold their top spots on Metacritic for the foreseeable future. You could easily spend 2018 just getting through the backlog of what you missed in 2017 and still only being playing really, really high-quality stuff. So it’s gonna be tough for 2018 to live up to all that.
But the new year still promises some extremely intriguing releases, including a new title from Grand Theft Auto publisher Rockstar and complete moonshots like the PS4’s “make your own game as you go” title Dreams. There’s a 100 percent chance some of the games below will get delayed — after all, we put Red Dead Redemption 2 on our 2017 Most Anticipated list. It shows up again here, and we’re pretty sure it’ll hit shelves this time around. The same can’t be said for all the other titles, but here’s what we’re most looking forward to this year nevertheless.
Monster Hunter titles have always had a big following in Japan, but struggled in the U.S. due to grind-heavy gameplay and extremely complex RPG systems that do little to hold your hand. That said, Monster Hunter World’s open beta was encouraging, showing a game that promises co-op fun for you and up to three friends, but with the rough edges from previous titles smoothed down, keeping the appealing core game loop alive: You gear up to hunt down some gargantuan bad guys, and then loot their corpses to fashion weapons and armor to hunt down even bigger and badder guys.
An RPG set in 15th-century Bohemia, Kingdom Come will see if the mechanics of an RPG can work in a world grounded in historical realism. You won’t cast any spells, talk to any wood sprites, or fight any dragons — you’re just the son of a blacksmith caught up in the nasty business of internecine warfare in the Holy Roman Empire. Expect a gritty, grounded take on a genre that all too often devolves into pure power fantasy.
The Metal Gear franchise has lost series visionary Hideo Kojima, but Metal Gear Survive still piques the curiosity. The story is predictably batshit crazy: A wormhole sucks the mercenary army from Metal Gear Solid V into a world filled with crystalline zombies, and you and up to three other players have to build out a base and survive against them. It’s only about the 17th wackiest thing to happen in the Metal Gear Solid universe.
An exclusive for the PC and Xbox One, Sea of Thieves is a sandbox world where you crew a pirate ship and sail the seas, fighting off other players’ vessels, searching for treasure, and upgrading your clipper. At press events where I’ve played it, I dug the pure frantic fun of trying to fire a cannon shot toward an opposing ship on your port side, the joy in checking your compass, triangulating landmarks, and following that X on your paper map to find buried treasure.
Developed by Josef Fares, the developer behind the critically acclaimed Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, A Way Out is a split-screen co-op prison-escape adventure, heavy on storytelling and set pieces. One of you plays the hotheaded Leo, one of you plays the smooth operator Vincent, but both of you are probably gonna have plans go badly, badly awry as you attempt to escape the long arm of the law. The split-screen action (even if you’re playing online) means that you can always see how well — or how badly — your partner is doing as you attempt to bust out.
The Far Cry series, to date, has mainly centered around feckless young Americans going to interesting places, meeting interesting people, and shooting them. Far Cry 5 brings the action back home to Montana, where a racist, doomsday militia takes over a town and you set out to liberate it. The gameplay doesn’t seem too different from the previous three Far Cry games, and whether what has traditionally been a pretty shallow open-world action series can tackle a thorny issue like the rise of modern neo-Nazis in light of real-world tragedies like Charlottesville is a looming question, but Far Cry’s run-and-gun gameplay and endless buffet of things to do keep the series wildly popular for a reason.
Frozen Synapse 2, Early 2018 (PC)
The first Frozen Synapse was an intricate game of tactical planning, where two fire teams plotted out moves in advance, and then hit the go button, with actions playing out in real time. Anticipate your opponent trying to flank you, and you lay down covering fire and catch them out in the open. But if your opponent fakes you out, then it’s your own agents who get gunned down. Frozen Synapse 2 expands out the world, introducing a strategy layer on top of the tactical gameplay, with you playing in a cyperpunk world as a megacorp competing with other outsize conglomerates for control of a city.
Griftlands, Early 2018 (PS4)
Griftlands is a beautifully animated RPG where everything is negotiable, from money to morality. While the gameplay looks to be your standard turn-based RPG combat, the experience is much more open-world sandbox than you might expect. You play as a roving band of pirates, and who you screw over or spare will come back to haunt (or help) you. Developer Klei Entertainment has a sterling track record (past titles include Mark of the Ninja, Don’t Starve, and Invisible Inc.), which makes this one to watch.
Kratos, having killed pretty much the entire Greek pantheon of gods in seven previous games in the series, is now a proud papa, though he’s still got a bit of an anger problem. Setting off for the wintry north with his son in tow, there’s only one thing left to do: kill off some Norse gods as well. God of War has always been a game about fast action and massive spectacles, but the addition of playing alongside your son — a kid who you’ll need to defend and rely on as the game progresses — adds in an interesting new element to all the hacking and slashing, as does a more mournful, elegiac tone than previous games.
It’s odd that one of the most fun comic-book characters hasn’t had a very fun video game since 2004’s Spider-Man 2 for PS2. This game looks to fix that, creating an open-world adventure where you web-sling and parkour your way through Manhattan, engaging in highly acrobatic and kinetic combat along the way. You’ll also get a chance to play as Mary Jane Watson, who works as an investigative reporter for The Daily Bugle and is looking into shady dealings by Wilson Fisk, a.k.a. Kingpin. (Frankly, it stretches credulity that The Daily Bugle still publishes a print title and hasn’t pivoted to video, but that’s why we play video games: to experience different worlds than our own.)
Red Dead Redemption 2, TBD Date (PS4, Xbox One)
The latest game from Grand Theft Auto publisher Rockstar, this is technically the prequel to 2010’s Red Dead Redemption, one of the high-water marks of open-world action games. Where Grand Theft Auto series’ sneering take on American excess often feels corny, the original Red Dead Redemption had something subtler and sadder to say about American history. Not much is known about this game, except that you’ll play as a member of the infamous Van der Linde Gang, and some people are definitely gonna get shot out of their saddles. The real appeal for many may be the online mode — Grand Theft Auto 5, now nearly five years old, still has a thriving and surprisingly deep multiplayer scene, and Red Dead Redemption 2 could offer Rockstar a chance to refine that even further.
The Last of Us 2, TBD Date (PS4)
The Last of Us was, in my opinion, the best game released on the previous generation of consoles. Set in a world where a fungal infection has turned most of humanity into chittering zombies, it managed to combine Naughty Dog’s stellar cinematic chops with tense combat sequences, but its beating heart was the relationship between hardened survivor Joel and his young ward Elie, capped off with a confidently ambiguous ending. Almost nothing is known about The Last of Us 2, except that it centers on Elie and, as director Neil Druckmann puts it, “This is story is about hate.” (Also, judging from the completely context-free second trailer for the game, it’ll feature enough ultraviolence to make Takashi Miike blanch.)
For what it’s worth, if there’s a game on this list I would put money on being delayed into 2019, it’s probably this one.
Crackdown 3, TBD Date (Xbox One, PC)
The first two Crackdown games were power fantasies par excellence, putting you in the shoes of a superpowered cop who, in the line of duty, had to wreck the ever-living crap out of criminals in the generic futuristic cities you patrol. Crackdown 3, long delayed, promises to bring more of the same, with even more destructible environments and bigger superpowers. We’re ready to protect and serve.
Soulcaliber 6, TBD Date (PS4, Xbox One, PC)
Now nearly 20 years old, the Soulcaliber series has a loyal following even among those who usually shun old-school fighting games, thanks in part to a weapons-based system that allows high-level play but remains accessible enough for beginners enjoy. Soulcaliber 6 brings the franchise back after a six-year hiatus, and promises even more ways for newbies to feel like that have a chance in the fight.
Dreams, TBD Date (PS4)
Media Molecule, maker of the Little Big Planet series, is back with a title that once again is nominally a game, but much more a way to create games — or, as it appears in Dreams, create sorta surrealistic levels for people to wander around in. Much like Little Big Planet, a lot of the appeal of this title will come from how much excitement you get from the idea of creating stuff. For those that love built-in level editors, this is a (groan) dream come true.
State of Decay 2, TBD Date (Xbox One, PC)
Even when the first State of Decay was released back in 2013, the zombie genre was already feeling very played out. But that game, while very rough around the edges, managed to inject some new life into the genre by focusing more on creating a community of survivors and less on simply gunning down hordes of zombies. It also added an intriguing gameplay mechanic: If your character dies, someone else from the community steps up to take its place. State of Decay 2 looks to take that concept and expand it out into a four-player co-op.
Donut County, TBD Date (PS4, PC, Mac, iOS)
The classic game Katamari Damacy saw players rolling around, trying to accumulate ever more stuff to grow ever bigger. Donut County works like that, but with a nihilistic twist: You play as a sentient sinkhole that slowly grows bigger in order swallow up larger and larger things. A deadpan sense of humor and solid puzzle mechanics make this an intriguing potential sleeper hit for 2018.
Metro Exodus, TBD Date (PS4, Xbox One, PC)
If you like your post-apocalyptia Russian-flavored, the Metro series is right up your alley. While the previous two games were mainly set in the subways of Moscow (thus the series’ title), Metro Exodus sees players emerging onto the shattered, snowy streets. Bullets look to remain scarce, but mutants are in even more abundant supply. Don’t forget your gas mask, comrade.
Anthem, TBD Date (PS4, Xbox One, PC)
Destiny 2 is still the king of the hill when it comes to four-person co-op loot shooters, but its player base is restless and annoyed by what it sees as Bungie’s bungled endgame options. Now, Bioware’s Anthem appears to be angling for the top spot. The game features players loading up into exoskeletons and flying around a wild and woolly outside world, killing monsters and finding ever-better loot to upgrade their gear. Early gameplay offers some intriguing moments: jet-packing through mountain passes is beautiful, and submarining through deep grottos and then popping back to the the surface to take out a group of enemies looks extremely fun. But since these games live or die based on how good moment-to-moment combat feels, we’ll see how it plays.
Kingdom Hearts 3, TBD Date (PS4, Xbox One)
This JRPG series plays like bizarre crossover fanfic about Final Fantasy and Disney characters, but it all works shockingly well. Despite some initial cognitive dissonance, it soons feels entirely natural to see Donald Duck unleashing Fire spells on enemies. While there have been multiple mini-sequels and add-ons, fans have waited since the 2005 release of Kingdom Hearts 2 for a full-fledged sequel. A big trailer reveal showing Toy Story characters and a promised release date at some point in 2018 at E3 this year should give Kingdom Hearts fans hope that their 13-year-long wait is finally over.
Death Stranding, TBD Date, (PS4)
Director Hideo Kojima has a long history of wild ideas. In Metal Gear Solid, a boss with psychic powers would read the memory card on your PS1 and mock you for other games you had played, and the only way to defeat his mind-reading abilities was to switch which port you plugged your controller into. In Metal Gear Solid 3, there’s a deadly but very elderly sniper called The End — and in Kojima’s original vision, the only way to win was to wait one or two weeks in real time until he passed away from old age. (Cooler heads successfully argued that there needed to be some other way to beat him, though you can still just not play the game for a week and come back and find that The End has died.)
In other words, Kojima is the reigning mad genius of video games. But when he worked on the Metal Gear Solid series, he was often reigned in by higher-ups at Konami. After Konami pushed him out during the development of Metal Gear Solid 5, Kojima started his own production studio and has slowly been teasing trailers for his next game, Death Stranding, starring Norman Reedus, Mads Mikkelsen, and Guillermo del Toro. Almost nothing is known about the gameplay or story line, and the trailers amount more to surreal short movies than any indicator of what kind of game Kojima is working on. There isn’t even a firm release date yet, and I’m putting it on this list mainly out of some hope that Kojima surprises us all again. All we can say for sure is that when it is released, it will be Kojima let off the leash. It’s going to be absolutely insane, and I can’t wait.