I sank to the bottom of the sea in my first stab at Microsoft’s Sea of Thieves. The closed beta started this week, and I played long enough to realize I won’t play that game for very long because I don’t have any friends.
But it reminded me that we’re about to start the whole new cycle of fighting about which are the best games of the year. 2018 has a lot going for it, since so many games were pushed from 2017 into the new year. My colleagues named their list earlier, but I was too busy traveling to participate. (Those guys got it mostly wrong anyway.)
And so, after everybody else has done their lists of highly anticipated games, I’m sneaking in with the last and best list. Waiting this long has helped, as we know more release dates now. I’m keeping it real, though. I would love to play Grand Theft Auto VI in 2018, but it ain’t going to happen.
Yes, these games have the Dean Takahashi stamp of approval. Before you put too much stock in that, I’ll have you know that I’ve been playing a lot of Ultimate General: Civil War, a title that was on nobody’s 2017 game of the year list. I don’t know why, but I feel like convincing you these games will be great.
Plenty of games are still unknown at this point. Nintendo hasn’t tipped much of its hand, and I suspect we’ll see a Call of Duty game. But I’m talking here about the ones that we already know about.
Check out the list below. The links on the titles go to YouTube videos.
Rockstar Games/Take-Two Interactive (PS4, Xbox One). Based on how much I enjoyed Red Dead Redemption in 2011, I’m ready to give this title the game of the year award right now. The only thing that holds me back from doing that is I haven’t played it yet. Oh, and it might have some serious competition from The Last of Us: Part II. And it might not actually come out in 2018, even though it has a launch date in the second quarter. To me, very few studios come close to delivering the cinematic storytelling and addictive gameplay that Rockstar Games consistently delivers. The original release date of this game was in 2017. Right now, that’s not a reason to worry. After all, polishing a game is a good thing. So far, the screen shots and trailers look amazing in terms of graphics quality, giving me an itch to revisit the Wild West once again.
Sony Santa Monica/Sony (PS4). I am not a fan of the hack-and-slash God of War series. The gameplay typically doesn’t hold my attention for a sustained time. But this game has a story about a father and son that speaks to me. Kratos is an ungentle killing machine, but he has a little human boy who clearly isn’t much of a god. Kratos really wants to drop the hammer on the boy, but he holds back and tries to be a father. His restraint is almost admirable, despite the way he yells, “Boy!” with his booming voice. They journey from the world of Greek mythology to the Norse environment, and Kratos is like a fish out of water. But the boy understands the language of the creatures, and his father becomes dependent on him. Now that’s the kind of story that will draw me into any game, and the gameplay looks outstanding as well. The effort seems quite worthy of a reboot, much like what Crystal Dynamics did with Tomb Raider. This game has been cooking for a while, but Sony finally gave it a launch date of April 20.
Naughty Dog/Sony (PS4). I was not a fan of Naughty Dog’s hyper-violent trailer for the sequel to my favorite game of all time. It was very well done, and it was consistent with the brutality of the original game from 2013, which had such a poetic bookends between its beginning and ending. The Last of Us wasn’t just another post-apocalyptic zombie game. It was Sony’s fastest-selling new intellectual property in history. The original was violent, yes, but the characters and stories of the original overshadowed that violence. I don’t want this game to turn that around and focus on violent action. In Naughty Dog’s Nathan Drake series, you got into huge firefights where Drake took down an army of enemies, testing the limits of believability. But with The Last of Us, a fight with a single human enemy could be so dramatic and grueling. It has no release date, but my superhuman hearing tells me it’s near.
Hazelight/Electronic Arts (PS4, Windows PC, Xbox One). This game is already memorable because its creator, Josef Fares, said, “Fuck the Oscars” during The Game Awards, as the medium of games needs to bow to no other form of entertainment. But Hazelight has already produced the beautiful Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons. And now it has the story of two prison inmates who break out of jail together, in a co-op game where each player controls one character. It is an innovative split-screen game that could be incredible to play if it is executed right. Fares promises that we can break his legs if we don’t like it. I got a small taste of the gameplay, and I saw the chance for players to think together as they played. I don’t think I’m going to break Fares’ legs.
All Yes Good (Windows PC). George Fan made his name in games as the co-creator of Plants vs. Zombies, which has generated tens of millions of downloads. He’s back with Octogeddon, which debuts on February 8 on Steam. Like PvZ, this game is utterly ridiculous. You play an angry, giant octopus who is bent on destroying the world. You can add new arms to your octopus, and each new arm adds a new kind of accessory, like a shield, or a weapon. You have to choose the right weapon to take on the different kinds of enemies that come at you at the same time. It’s pretty frenetic fun. Fan got the idea for the game during a game jam, Ludum Dare, in 2012. One person was supposed to design an entire game, from the gameplay to the art, in 48 hours. He’s been working on refining it ever since, with a little help. With so many other serious games on this list, I figure this game will be a welcome break.
Ubisoft (PS4, Windows PC, Xbox One). I fear that game will cause me to buy a new PC. It looks beautiful, but preview builds have been running a little slow. This game will follow the formula of running through a huge open world and doing crazy things within it with all kinds of weaponry. But it has a disturbing story about an armed religious cult in Montana that takes over a place called Hope County, and it shows what the rise of American extremism could be like. It seems terrifyingly on point, given the uncomfortable direction where our society is going. In this case, you are a one-person army trying to overthrow the cult and save the county from its brutality. I believe in the premise that looking at a small, remote corner of our country could teach us a lot about our nation. It comes out on March 27.
Quantic Dream/Sony (PS4). This game is about a group of human-serving androids who have had enough and stage their revolt against the human race. The main character, Connor, is tasked with the job of hunting down deviant androids and neutralizing them. It is heavy on story and hunting down clues, but I’m curious what it wants to say about humans by looking at the way we will treat robots in the future. It doesn’t have a launch date yet. Quantic Dream hasn’t let me down with past games like Heavy Rain and Beyond: Two Souls. You’ll get chances to rewind time and see if you can get better outcomes. This game has suffered from too many demos over time, and many sci-fi stories out there have similar themes, like Blade Runner: 2049. But I think it still looks promising, if only because the choices will reveal so much about what kind of people we are.
BioWare/Anthem (PS4, Windows PC, Xbox One). We don’t know if BioWare’s holding it all together, but the initial revelation of this game at E3 2017 looked amazing. You could fly around a lush planet in an exosuit or dive underwater. You could target a bunch of enemies at once and fire some homing rockets at them. And it looks like you can play co-op style with several friends. I am looking for a fresh new game universe from BioWare, as Mass Effect sadly ran out of gas. I like the banter between the characters in the trailer, where they are quite casual as they engage in dangerous combat that they make look so easy. If BioWare is going to put some other big projects on hold, I sure hope that Anthem is going to deliver. It is coming sometime this year. We hope.
Media Molecule/Sony (PS4). The potential of this game is virtually unlimited, as Media Molecule will supply you with a bunch of dream worlds created by its own designers, and it will also give you the tools to turn your own dreams into reality. I very much doubt that I could create anything that looks anywhere as good as what you see in the demos. But tools look so fluid that they could raise the bar on what an ordinary person could create. I’d be happy with one good dream story. But the creative possibilities here are endless. I just hope they strike a balance between creativity and storytelling.
Insomniac Games/Sony (PS4). Kudos to Insomniac for creating a Spider-Man game without the origin story. I think this game looks beautiful, it blends interactivity through quick-time events, and it makes you feel like you have a whole city to explore. The movement is fluid. The cinematics and gameplay look seamless, and the humor of Spider-Man and the human side of Peter Parker come through. Superhero games have had a good run, thanks to the revival made possible by the Batman series. I hope the superhero genre takes off in a new direction with this one. The game is coming out sometime this year.
Bend Studio/Sony (PS4). Nothing beats the scene depicting the swarm of zombies chasing after a lone bounty hunter from the original 2016 trailer for Days Gone. The rhythmic music, the screaming zombies, and the traps set up such a compelling drama with a nice panoramic shot at the end. My colleagues think this is pretty mundane zombie fare, but I’ve got some very high hopes for it. Maybe it won’t be The Last of Us, but I sure hope they’ve quietly been working on a thought-provoking story and good characters. I know that you’ll have a cool upgradeable motorcycle, and you’ll have to deal with a zombie bear. But it’s the humans of the apocalypse that I am interested in. The game comes out sometime in 2018.
My honorable mentions include Metro Exodus (PS4, Windows PC, Xbox One), Sea of Thieves (Windows PC, Xbox One), State of Decay 2 (Windows PC, Xbox One), and Wattam (PS4, Windows PC, Xbox One).