The first half of 2018 has provided players with another formidable line-up of top games, packed with monster hunting hijinks, earnest indie love stories and god-thumping blockbusters. That is if you can tear yourself away from Fortnite, of course.
We will be keeping an evolving list of the best games for Xbox One, PS4, Switch, PC and mobile across the year –with many of the best new and upcoming games sure to make the grade– so check back regularly for updates and let us know in the comments if any of your favourites demand inclusion.
PlatformNintendo Switch Developer Square Enix/Acquire
What is it? Turn-based, pixel-art JRPG from the makers of the cult classic Bravely Default.
Why we love it As is often the wont of smaller-scale JRPGs, Octopath Traveler evokes a sense of nostalgia for games like Chrono Trigger and early Final Fantasy entries. However, the game has plenty of compelling and modern twists of its own. It has a fascinating art style, with those 2D sprites mixing with more photo-realistic environments, while its ragtag collection of eight uniquely skilled adventurers each has their own tale to tell. Its battle system is exceuted with flourish, too, offering tactical flexibility that stands up to the game’s lengthy running time.
PlatformsNintendo Switch Developer Nintendo
What is it? The latest version of Nintendo’s bubbly tennis ‘sim’ in which Mario and pals engage in an arcadey approximation of everyone’s* favourite summer sport.
Why we love it Mario Tennis Aces uses the backbone of the sport to build a compelling, thrilling and tricksy competitive game. It owes as much to fighters such as Nintendo’s own Super Smash Bros as it does to actual tennis, with devastating special shots, spectacular counters and to-and-fro tactics. Sport purists may want to look elsewhere, but with its decent story mode to teach you the ropes and a fiercely competitive online element, it is a smashing multiplayer fracas.
PlatformsPC Developer Bugbear Entertainment
What is it? Spiritual successor to Destruction Derby from the develoeprs of muscular racer Flatout.
Why we love it Wreckfest, as the name might suggest, is a game of ismple pleasures. Throwing squat old bangers or hulking trucks around a track while smashing into your competitors rarely fails to be entertaining. But Bugbear execute it with real aplomb, with a delightful selection of cars to hurl around and a crunchy, convincing and endlessly satsfiying damage model. Cars crashing, smashing and crumpling as they jostle for first place with a healthy amount of vehicular violence.
Platforms PS4, Xbox One, PC Developer Codemasters
What is it? Boisterous arcade racer that actually isn’t about racing at all…
Why we love it This manic competitive driving game isn’t about finishing first, but causing as much carnage as possible within a stampede of roaring bangers that zoom across endless tracks. It’s a racer that takes more inspiration from Call of Duty and Overwatch as it does Gran Turismo, throwing you different objectives, be it simple destruction of your opponents or controlling fast-moving zones as the pack scrambles for position. It is an odd game and perhaps best enjoyed in small doses, but is a quirky blast of adrenaline well worth strapping in for.
PlatformsPS4, Xbox One, PC, Switch Developer Villa Gorilla
What is it? A pinballing platformer that casts you as a beetle postman on a lush and colourful island.
Why we love it Yoku’s Island Express takes the physicality of pinball and joins it with the thrill and adventure of a Metroidvania. As Yoku you ping yourself and your ubiquitous ball around the island’s beautiful landscapes, flippers and paddles built into the soil. It is a continuously clever game, extracting variety out of its core mechanics by adding extra skills that open up new areas. And when it goes ‘full pinball’, dropping you into areas which you must carefully pelt Yoku into gaps or against bumpers, it captures the satisfaction of nailing a precise shot on your favourite table.
PlatformsPS4, Xbox One, PC Developer roll7
What is it? Competitive Tron-esque multiplayer game which has teams battling out in an arena, casting spinning, coloured walls of light that down the opposition on touch.
Why we love it Laser League’s arcade purity makes for a brilliantly simple game on the surface, but its many layers and tactics elevate it to a multiplayer classic. Different classes offer different skills to influence the battlefield, while scattered power-ups can swing a game at a moment’s notice. And there’s nothing quite like threading yourself through the intricately patterned laser-fields to keeep yourself in the game, or wiping an entire opposition team with the perfect chain of activated walls.
PlatformsPC Developer 11 Bit Studios
What is it? Gritty survival sim from the creators of This War of Mine in which you are in charge of building the last city of a frozen Earth in an alternative 1886.
Why we love it Frostpunk is a thrilling view of dystopia at the end of the world. You must constuct your city around one of the few remaining generators, stoking it for warmth and gathering resources from the surrounding tundra. From there, your city must expand to survive and you find yourself making some harrowing decisions for your populace; putting them to work, passing oppressive laws. After all, what is the life of one overworked, underfed child when compared to the greater good?
PlatformsPS4, Xbox One, PC Developer Throughline Games
What is it? Gorgeous hand-drawn anime adventure taking place in the universe where all of the world’s lost possessions vanish to.
Why we love it The aesthetic recalls Studio Ghibli films or, with its anthropomorphic household knick-knacks, something like Disney’s Brave Little Toaster. But despite its striking exterior, there is something darker at work here. As the titular Anne you play an Enforcer of the realm, able to banish ‘Forgotlings’ for good should they step out of line. Cue some tough choices as you make your way through this apparently unassuming 2D-platform puzzler, punctuated with smart narrative tricks and plenty of moral quandary.
PlatformsNintendo Switch Developer Nintendo
What is it? Less a game than a selection of techologically-enhanced cardboard toys, Nintendo Labo has you constructing a variety of gadgets such as RC cars, fully-working pianos and even a robot jetpack.
Why we love it Much like Lego, much of the joy of Labo comes in the building. You fold, snap and slot together different bits of cardboard, seeing how each contraption comes together. The spark of joy at building a resitant motorbike throttle with just card and rubber bands is irresistible for kids of all ages. With enjoyable software and the opportunity to create your own toys with a simple development suite makes Labo a fascinating (and educational) piece of kit.
PlatformsPS4 Developer Sony Santa Monica
What is it? Fatherly reinvention of gaming’s angriest man as Kratos moves to the Norse mountains in an attempt to escape his past and raise his young son, Atreus. Ends up smacking trolls with a bloody great axe, obviously.
Why we love it Salvation for the seemingly irredeemable Kratos isn’t an easy task, nor is breathing fresh life into an action series that had begun to lose its lustre. God of War achieves both in sensational fashion. The furious combat and gorgeous exploration is the best it has ever been, opening up the land of Midgard for the biggest God of War yet. But in tandem with that is an effecting and deftly-told story, with the relationship between Kratos and Atreus forming its beating heart. Its greatest achievement is humanising Kratos without shying away from his violent past. And also that you can lob your magic axe at an ogre and have it return like a boomerang with a hardy thump and explosion of ice.
PlatformsPS4 Developer Sega
What is it? The final chapter in the story of one of gaming’s finest characters, Kazuma Kiryu, as he returns to the Tokyo district of Kamurocho after three years in prison to search for his missing foster daughter.
Why we love it Yakuza keeps up its strong tradition of crunchy brawling, barmy character and brilliant world-building. Few games mix the wacky and profound in quite the way Yakuza does, a series steeped in Japanese culture, and Yakuza 6 is as fine a send-off for the Dragon of Dojima as you could hope for.