The feeling that springs up when looking out over the sea of games currently scheduled to land in 2018 is uncertainty. Uncertainty because some of its heaviest hitters, like God Of War and Monster Hunter: World, are ambitious reimaginings of well-established series. Uncertainty because Electronic Arts’ year-long meltdown is sure to have huge, unseen consequences on its biggest launch of the year, Anthem. Uncertainty because, less than six months from release, we still have little idea what Red Dead Redemption 2 is and how the massive success of Grand Theft Auto Online might affect Rockstar’s approach to balancing a money-making multiplayer mode with the rich Western narrative players expect. Uncertainty because, hell, Nintendo has barely announced any games for 2018 so far.

Despite those questions, and the fog surrounding what is surely a huge number of games yet to be announced, there are a ton of intriguing projects already lined up for the year. So many, in fact, that cutting the release calendar down to a manageable list of the most-promising, or at least most-interesting, morsels was a hell of a task, but cut we did. These are the 20 games we’re most looking forward to getting our hands on in 2018.


Dragon Ball FighterZ
January 26—PlayStation 4, Windows, Xbox One

There have been dozens of Dragon Ball video games released during the series’ more than 30-year history, even a handful of decent ones, but none have come anywhere near the promise of FighterZ. This jaw-dropping tag-team fighter comes from the wizards at Arc System Works, whose Guilty Gear Xrd games sported an incredible faux-2-D visual style that’s a perfect fit for bringing Akira Toriyama’s Dragon Ball art to life. But the authenticity is more than skin-deep. Arc has built a frenetic game with all the iconic eccentricities and cinematic flourishes of the series. It’s only a few short weeks until we find out if it handles as marvelously as it looks. [Matt Gerardi]


Monster Hunter: World
January 26—PlayStation 4, Xbox One; Fall—Windows

The beta for the latest iteration in this dinosaur-murdering series showed off one must-have, killer feature: no loading screens. Instead of forcing Hunters to move between discrete chunks, as in past installments, each map in World is now a massive, seamless ecosystem full of rampaging beasts and plenty of opportunities to lay traps (or just get ripped apart.). It’s exactly the sort of quality-of-life consideration this series has been needing to bump itself up from “great” to “must-play” for years. [William Hughes]

Advertisement

Advertisement


A Way Out
March 23—PlayStation 4, Windows, Xbox One

These days, Josef Fares might best be known for his manic, foul-mouthed appearance at the 2017 Game Awards, but before that, he made a stunning game-industry debut with Brothers: A Tale Of Two Sons, an ingenious game that communicated the connection between two brothers by forcing a single player to control both at once. His next game, the prison-break drama A Way Out, flips that concept completely; it can only be played as a two-person cooperative experience, and early looks show it’s taking an innovative approach to how multiplayer stories are presented. [Matt Gerardi]


Detroit: Become Human
Early 2018—PlayStation 4

David Cage is a veteran video game con-man, but he always includes just enough steak in his games to lend his more egregious claims a little bit of sizzle. There are already plenty of hints that Cage’s latest attempt at “interactive theater” will be just as much of a train wreck as the instantly forgettable Beyond: Two Souls, but we can’t help but hope that some of that old Indigo Prophecy magic will finally rub off on his latest tale of artificial intelligence and renegade robot cops. [William Hughes]


God Of War
Early 2018—PlayStation 4

God Of War is a series that was in need of a rethinking far before it went into hibernation after 2013’s flaccid prequel story Ascension. In 2016, Sony unveiled that its Santa Monica Studio had indeed been reimagining the game from the ground up, plunging series star and angry murder-guy Kratos forward in time and deep into Norse mythology. The series’ now-vintage combo-heavy combat and static cameras have been jettisoned completely, but the real hook here is the relationship between Kratos and his son, something returning director Cory Barlog (who helmed God Of War 2, a.k.a. the best one) has made it his mission to nail. [Matt Gerardi]

Advertisement

Advertisement


Red Dead Redemption 2
Spring 2018—PlayStation 4, Xbox One

Nobody should’ve expected Red Dead Redemption 2 to come out in 2017. Rockstar likes to take its time, and considering that Redemption 2 will be a sequel to one of the most critically acclaimed games of all time, it’s probably good that the studio decided to delay it into 2018. Plus, Rockstar finally dropped a new trailer earlier this year, revealing that it’s a prequel to the previous game and that it will revolve around the gang that original hero John Marston used to run with before he became a good guy. Let’s just hope there isn’t another delay. [Sam Barsanti]


Vampyr
Spring 2018—PlayStation 4, Windows, Xbox One

Dontnod follows up the beloved but contentious coming-of-age time-travel adventure Life Is Strange with Vampyr, a gothic-as-hell take on the titular nightwalkers. This appears to be a much meatier game than its predecessor—it’s billed as an open-world action RPG, just like everything else on the planet these days—but the studio’s devotion to narrative remains intact. You play as a doctor recently afflicted with vampirism, stalking through a fire-lit, cobblestone London that evokes the moody beauty of The Knick. You can apparently beat the game while still honoring the Hippocratic oath, and thus not turning anyone into a vampire, all of which sounds very difficult. Alternately, you can apparently also turn any character in the game into a vampire, which sounds like a bloody good time indeed. [Clayton Purdom]


Mega Man 11
Late 2018—PlayStation 4, Switch, Windows, Xbox One

Mega Man has faced some fallow years of late—not helped by the bad press around creator Keiji Inafune’s Kickstarted mess Mighty No. 9—but it’s always exciting to see the Blue Bomber ready to leap back into action. We’re not exactly in love with the art style shown off in Capcom’s recent announcement trailer for Mega Man 11—those 2.5-D graphics tend to muddy the perfect, pattern-memorizing precision the series requires—but we’ll take what we can get when it comes to new Mega Man in 2018. [William Hughes]

Advertisement

Advertisement


Anthem
TBA—PlayStation 4, Windows, Xbox One

Anthem is dragged down by its terribly unmemorable title, but in EA and BioWare’s defense, the lawyers probably couldn’t clear Destiny But With Iron Man Suits. Thankfully, Anthem’s reveal trailer was much less forgettable, with players zipping through an enormous alien world in rad space armor, teaming up to kill big monsters and grabbing loot. We don’t know if it’ll share Destiny’s legs, but it’ll definitely be wearing some cool robot pants on those legs. Plus, Anthem is coming from Mass Effect 2 writer Drew Karpyshyn, which bodes well for its story. [Sam Barsanti]


The Artful Escape
TBA—Windows, Xbox One

A sci-fi space jam that features some of the most unusual applications for a guitar solo ever seen, The Artful Escape was picked up by Annapurna Pictures as part of the film studio’s initial foray into games—and as far as upstart indie offerings go, this one’s a hell of a light show. A side-scrolling platformer that features music as a key element, designer Johnny Galvatron’s creation puts a fusion of imaginative imagery and guitar pyrotechnics front and center with players assuming control of Francis, a teenager who sets out on a multidimensional quest to figure out who he is—and just as important, what his “stage persona” should be. Like a Playdead game on LSD, it looks to be a smart combination of old-school controls and new-millennium audaciousness. [Alex McLevy]


Bloodstained: Ritual Of The Night
TBA—Linux, Mac, PlayStation 4, Switch, Windows, Xbox One

Bloodstained: Ritual Of The Night hoovered up $5.5 million in Kickstarter funding for the simple promise of returning famed game designer Koji Igarashi to the task of making a new Castlevania game. Of course, this is a “spiritual successor” rather than a new installment, thanks to Konami’s vice grip on the series’ copyright, but one glance at the side-scrolling RPG action, full of overwrought anime horror and laser-tight combat, makes clear that Bloodstained is obsessively recreating the glory days of Game Boy Advance vampire hunting. Here’s hoping for some extremely overwrought voice acting to complete the ambience. [Clayton Purdom]

Advertisement

Advertisement


Donut County
TBA—iOS, Mac, Windows

Donut County’s a tough one to explain: You play as a big hole that goes around, gobbling up portions of Los Angeles. Worse still is trying to explain that actually it’s a broader commentary on gentrification, and—you get the point. Once you’re actually playing the game, all that fades away in favor of a delightfully low-key physics toy, with expressive West Coast landscapes drawn in winsome, pale hues and a puckish sense of humor that pops up in the strangest places. One-man design team Ben Esposito’s been working on the game for years, and it shows, not through its fussiness but through its very lack thereof. [Clayton Purdom]


Kentucky Route Zero: Act V
TBA—Linux, Mac, PlayStation 4, Switch, Windows, Xbox One

It’s been five years since Cardboard Computer released the first installment of its magical-realist masterpiece Kentucky Route Zero. At the time, it all felt like a high-minded take on LucasArts adventure games, but over the ensuing years it has turned into something else entirely, a gothic tragedy with sprawling characters and timelines and influences ranging from Brian Eno to Andrei Tarkovsky to Flannery O’Connor. It all comes to a conclusion in the upcoming final act, which will also see the saga finally brought to consoles. [Clayton Purdom]


No More Heroes: Travis Strikes Again
TBA—Switch

It’s been eight years since we last saw Travis Touchdown, the goofy underdog assassin and Johnny Knoxville lookalike at the heart of Suda 51’s No More Heroes. Travis Strikes Again isn’t a full-on sequel in the stylish action series, but with Suda at the helm and a bonkers premise that has Mr. Touchdown getting sucked into a possessed game console and battling through the history of video games, it could be an excellent appetizer for a real No More Heroes return. [Matt Gerardi]

Advertisement

Advertisement


SoulCalibur VI
TBA—PlayStation 4, Windows, Xbox One

It’s been more than a decade since SoulCalibur II practically perfected 3-D fighting games, and though the three games since then made various advancements, SoulCalibur hasn’t felt like a big deal in a while. That might change with SoulCalibur VI, which is coming on the heels of the well-received Tekken 7, Bandai Namco’s other big fighting series. Of course, as good as that was, Tekken lacks the specific fantasy flair of SoulCalibur’s samurai, vampires, pirates, undead knights possessed by swords, and whatever the hell Voldo is. At the very least, it’ll be nice to beat up dudes with crazy weapons again. [Sam Barsanti]


Sunless Skies
TBA—Linux, Mac, Windows

We’ve gushed about Failbetter Games’ darkly mysterious Sunless Sea before, praising its literary melancholy and air of unending nautical menace. The space-based follow-up promises much of the same, only more so, sending Victorian-era pilots into a cosmos that’s just as likely to be filled with Lovecraftian elder beasts or heartbroken stars as loot or astronomical discoveries. [William Hughes]


UFO 50
TBA—Windows

Five years ago, Derek Yu dropped one of the greatest games of all time—the revolutionary, randomly reconfiguring platformer Spelunky—and people have been clamoring to find out what’s next for him ever since. Yu came out of his hiatus in 2017 to announce that not only will a Spelunky 2 be released at some future date, but that he’s also spearheading a multi-developer compilation of 50 full single- and multiplayer games called UFO 50. From the sound to the limited color palettes, they’re all styled after NES-era releases, but given the lineup of exciting creators working on them, we can expect the design of these retro-inspired games to be thoroughly modern. [Matt Gerardi]

Advertisement

Advertisement


Unavowed
TBA—Windows

Indie adventure studio Wadjet Eye Games has been quietly pumping out top-notch throwbacks for years now, filling its roster with titles like Shardlight, Primordia, and the Blackwell series of supernatural mysteries. Unavowed is Dave Gilbert’s latest love letter to the old Sierra/LucasArts adventure formula, promising multiple characters to control and yet another host of delicious inventory- and dialogue-based puzzles for players to sink their teeth into. [William Hughes]


Wattam
TBA—Windows, unannounced consoles

Keita Takahashi, most famous for creating Katamari Damacy, is the rare video game auteur who works in nothing but shades of unadulterated, utterly charming whimsy. His next game, Wattam, is inspired by the beautiful, egalitarian bliss of his son’s playtime, those moments when all the random stuff in the toy box is thrown into one harmonious mess. Playing as The Mayor, a little cube dude with a bowler hat, you try to bring a devastated cartoon world back together by befriending all the wacky characters you meet, from drooling clouds to dancing poops to jetpack-equipped sushi. As far as we know, there’s really not much more to it than that, but come on, doesn’t that sound exactly like what the world needs right about now? [Matt Gerardi]


The Wolf Among Us: Season Two
TBA—Platforms TBA

The Fables-based The Wolf Among Us remains Telltale’s best offering to date, a lushly animated noir that never took the humanity of its fairy-tale heroes anything less than seriously. For a long time, it looked like fans of the series would never get their much-desired sequel, but its announcement last year promised a happily-ever-after for players—if not for grizzled protagonist Bigby Wolf. [William Hughes]


Purchasing via Amazon helps support The A.V. Club.