Now that we've left behind the triumphs and disappointments of 2017, it's time to look forward to the year ahead. On we look past the customary video game dry spell (which used to last well into the year but now extends only to late January), it's clear we have another absolutely packed year ahead of us. Here are 18 of the best.
Of course before 2018's end there will be many games that come out of nowhere to become huge surprise hits, and there's every chance a big publisher or two has a secret title in the works being prepped for a reveal in the coming months. But from our vantage point at the beginning of the year, these are the already-slated releases to look out for.
A social, online, role-playing shooter from the team behind the original Mass Effect trilogy, Anthem looks like a melding of Destiny, Titanfall and Knights of the Old Republic. This will be a games-as-a-service type deal, hoping to hook regular players for years to come with a constant roll of new content and features. Publisher EA doesn't have the best recent history here, but if done well this could help atone for the disappointing Mass Effect: Andromeda that Bioware had to leave to a new, untested team in 2017.
A Way Out
An entirely different kind of co-operative adventure, A Way Out is a cinematic, two-player affair that follows a pair of prisoners as they make an escape and attempt to return to their old lives. Standing out as a focused, emotional, splitscreen experience in an era of online exploration and loot, it comes from the director of the brilliant and beautiful Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons — who also happens to be an established filmmaker — so you can expect innovative co-operative mechanics and a unique bonding experience for you and a friend.
A heavy metal Joe Mad Legend of Zelda with an over-the-top mid-apocalypse setting, the original Darksiders is a cult classic. It's been a long road for the series in the eight years since, with the property changing hands after publisher THQ went under, but eventually a team including many of the original devs came together for this sequel under a new label. Telling a third concurrent tale and following the new horseman Fury, Darksiders III shifts focus to open-world exploration but keeps the puzzles and hack-and-slash combat.
Detroit: Become Human
Quantic Dream's games have all been flawed attempts to blend the agency of video games with the manifest nature of cinema, with only Heavy Rain so far managing wide praise for its dilemmas and interesting story despite rough edges. It remains to be seen if the long-awaited Detroit — a story of synthetic humans becoming self aware and rejecting their place as second class citizens — will be ultimately successful, but you can't deny its intriguing premise and outstanding presentation.
God of War
Though each game in this series has increased the fidelity of the gore, the gruffness of Kratos' angry screams and the gratuity of the juvenile sex scenes, its inability to mature has seen it become less and less relevant. This new game, set hundreds of years after our hero killed the Greek gods and disappeared, features a very different Kratos in a land of Norse myth. A little more restrained and with a young son in tow, he seems keen to atone for the sins of his rageful past, and perhaps for those of the series as well.
Kingdom Hearts III
The chronology and lore of Kingdom Hearts, which began as a Disney-meets-Final-Fantasy crossover, has become indecipherable. This long-awaited "third" instalment is actually, by my count, the eighth full game (not counting the collections, revisions, re-releases and non-game media) and I have no idea what's happening in it. Still, the idea of a Japanese RPG where Donald, Goofy and spikey-haired Square Enix kids visit Disney worlds like Toy Story and Hercules remains very appealing, even if you disregard the baffling narrative.
Kirby: Star Allies
With 2017's release of Mario, Zelda and Mario Kart games on Switch, Nintendo's running low on tent-pole franchises for 2018, and has been quiet about its plans. One game we do know about is a delightful-looking Kirby adventure which can be played alone or with friends. In addition to the puffball's talent for copying enemies' skills, bad guys can now be turned into friends and their abilities used to augment Kirby's own attacks. Nintendo's also promised Yoshi and Fire Emblem games for Switch in 2018, but details remain scarce.
Mega Man 11
Retro revivals are risky, whether they come from creators of the originals who are now out on their own (as with the crushingly disappointing Mighty No. 9) or they come officially from the big brands themselves (as with the excellent Sonic Mania). This year we'll get a dose of the former in the Castlevania-style Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night, but perhaps more interesting is Capcom's own resurrectionof the recently-neglected Blue Bomber. It looks promising, but do we dare to dream after all this time?
Based on the novels by Dmitry Glukhovsky, this horror-tinged first-person survival series just keeps getting better. Set twenty years after the world is ravaged by nuclear war, Metro sees humans escape a hazardous environment and mutated creatures by living underground in old rail tunnels. In Exodus, the third entry in the series, protagonist Artyom leaves the Russian Metro and goes aboveground on an expedition across Europe, with the game promising more open sandbox-style levels than the series has previously seen.
Monster Hunter: World
Since 2009, all main entries in this phenomonally popular series of tactical fantasy hunting simulators have been exclusive to Nintendo platforms, leaving fans thirsty for a version of the sprawling, difficult RPG they can play at home on their expensive home consoles. World aims to slake that thirst, with more massive beasts and mind-blowing environments than we've seen before, and at a much higher fidelity than the 3DS or Wii U could ever have mustered. Throw in online co-operative play, and you just might have the ultimate MonHun.
Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom
A role-playing game from famed Japanese developer Level 5 and animation house Studio Ghibli, Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch was a dream game for many. Ghibli may not be involved in this sequel, set one hundred years after the original, but the art on display indicates this will be another captivating, beautiful experience. The plot once again involves a human visiting from another world, this time to assist the child king of cat people Evan as he hopes to rebuild his usurped kingdom.
Project Octopath Traveler
Like a Super Nintendo RPG dragged into the third dimension, this is a stunning-looking game about eight individual adventurers and their intertwining paths. Both nostalgic and innovative, the extensive demo already available suggests this will be something very special. Square Enix keeps promising that the horrific title is just a placeholder, but since it's getting so close to release (and since it sounds like a perfectly ridiculous Square title) we fully expect the game to release as Octopath Traveler.
Red Dead Redemption 2
When the makers of GTA released their atmospheric story set amid the decline of the American frontier, it became one of 2010's most impressive and well-received games. Now that we've been able to glean some story and character details from trailers of its successor — a prequel that follows Arthur Morgan and the deadly Van der Linde gang at the height of its powers — it looks like Red Redemption 2 is set to blend the detailed western storytelling of the original with the scale and beauty of GTA V. Sounds like a winner if ever there was one.
Sea of Thieves
Though initially revealed as an online multiplayer sailing and naval combat simulator with optional alcoholism and shanties, the full Sea of Thieves vision is gradually coming into focus as new features are shown off. From iconic British developer Rare, the game sees groups of players working together in a colourful, playful, pirate-infested world to navigate, find booty and fight off rival pirate groups. Or they can go it alone in a smaller boat, and hope to ingratiate themselves to (or take advantage of) other players.
The original 2016 reveal trailer for Spider-Man didn't give us much to go on, but love for the character and respect for developer Insomniac's history (Ratchet & Clank, Sunset Overdrive) kept fans optimistic. Now we've seen more details and witnessed how much stock Sony is putting in this game as a PS4 exclusive, it seems increasingly likely this could be for Marvel what Batman: Arkham Asylum was for DC: a fully-realised, completely original story taking full advantage of the video game medium.
The Last of Us Part II
In terms of cinematic games, it doesn't get more nuanced, restrained or emotional than Naughty Dog's masterpiece about the horrors of humanity in the post-apocalypse. One of the game's advantages, though, was just how little the player knew going in. There were multiple points in the first game where I had to put the controller down to cover my mouth with my hands, but it will be harder to hit that hard a second time around. On the other hand this team is quite possibly the best in the world at what they do, so they just might pull it off.
Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes
Suda51 is a weird dude and he's made a lot of weird games, though in recent years he's taken more of a managerial role as CEO of his studio Grasshopper Manufacture. He's returning to the director's chair for this latest insane adventure, which sees erstwhile assassin Travis Touchdown and his revenge-fuelled nemesis Badman sucked into a game console where they'll need to complete retro-style challenges to survive. How any of this actually works remains a mystery, but Suda's close involvement guarantees it will at the very least be interesting.
We Happy Few
This one has been kicking around since early 2015, and while the game has shifted in scope and changed markedly during development, the pitch remains as enticing as ever: Britain is on the brink of collapse in 1964, and the shell-shocked citizens of Wellington Wells keep themselves doped on a drug called Joy to transform their dystopia into a psychedelic dream. A paranoid, complex survival game with great potential, We Happy Few has been a long time coming but the wait hasn't diminished its technicolour lustre.