Summer has arrived and with it comes the traditional drought of tentpole game releases. Sure, we could spend this free time doing something boring such as going to the beach, hosting a BBQ, or spending time with loved ones. But, why do that when summer presents the most ideal opportunity to catch up on games that have already arrived this year?
2018 has produced a fair amount of quality titles. Unfortunately, some of them either sit in our backlogs or has slipped past our radars entirely. Now is the perfect time to remedy this problem, especially with the deluge of fall releases on the horizon. So without further ado, here’s a round-up/reminder of some of the year’s most well-received titles worth spending the summer with.
(PlayStation 4, Vita, PC – Release Date: January 23rd, 2018)
Metroidvanias are a dime a dozen but Iconoclasts stands out for its surprisingly thought-provoking commentary on religion. The heroic mechanic Robin takes on an oppressive theocracy in a tale that highlights the pros and cons of deity worship and the dangers of religious zeal. Backing up the darker-than-expected story is the inventive level/puzzle design, genuinely creative boss encounters, and top-notch action-platforming. If that’s not enough, the fascinating world and lore make the experience all the more engaging. Iconoclasts manages to rise above the sea of similarly designed games and stands as one of 2018’s most pleasant surprises.
(PC – Release Date: January 23rd, 2018)
Subnautica takes the survival genre and plunges it into the depths of an alien ocean world. As a stranded explorer, swimming amongst the unfamiliar wildlife can be a mix of enchanting, relaxing, and terrifying. The powerful sense of discovery never wanes thanks to a plethora of unique biomes. Furthermore, a satisfying progression effectively fuels the inherent desire to explore. Players begin by scavenging resources to scrape together small but vital tools. Eventually, they’ll go on to construct high-tech underwater facilities. Regardless of whether you’re hunting for rare minerals or just gawking at whale-sized behemoths, Subnautica is a captivating experience. Although the game is also available on Xbox Game Preview, those who have the option should go with the completed, more polished PC version.
(PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC – Release date: January 25th, 2018)
Matt Makes Games’ follow-up to TowerFall Ascension trades multiplayer mayhem for single-player, hardcore platforming. With its tight controls and white-knuckle challenge, Celeste makes the act of leaping over spikes feel as blissful, and intense, as it did in Super Meat Boy. Dozens upon dozens of expertly designed levels offer of tons of thrills, but Celeste shines just as brightly in the story department. The game stars Madeline, a troubled young woman on a mission to scale Celeste Mountain. The narrative’s allegorical take on depression makes for a deeply affecting journey that hits big thanks to an endearing cast. For my money, Celeste sits at the top of the mountain as the year’s premier platformer.
Dragon Ball FighterZ
(PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, Nintendo Switch – Release Date: January 26th, 2018)
Arc System Works, the minds behind Guilty Gear and BlazBlue, takes the existing insanity of Akira Toriyama’s beloved anime and somehow dials it up to 11. The gorgeous art and flashy attacks make the sensory overloading clashes as much of a blast to watch as they are to play. Arc fighters can be intimidating for the less hardcore crowd. FighterZ, however, manages to be relatively approachable while retaining the technical intricacies that enthusiasts love. You don’t need to know a Kamehameha from a Spirit Bomb to appreciate Dragon Ball FighterZ. You just have to love great fighting games.
Monster Hunter: World
(PlayStation 4, Xbox One – Release Date: January 26th, 2018)
We live in a world where Monster Hunter has become widely beloved outside of Japan and small western circles. Whodathunkit? That’s not without reason. World irons out much of the series’ legacy drawbacks to create the most newcomer-friendly entry yet. The result: everyone gets to experience the thrill of taking down magnificent beasts alongside their friends. A triple-A presentation and a seemingly never-ending list of sidequests and loot make Monster Hunter: World an alarmingly effective way to burn a good hundred hours.
Shadow of the Colossus (Remake)
(PlayStation 4 – Release Date: February 6th, 2018)
One of the greatest games of all time received a stunning facelift that, unlike the average remaster, made the game look significantly better than you remember. A modernized control scheme improved its playability as well (though it retains the original controls for nostalgic purists). Scaling and toppling the 16 majestic colossi remains just as awe-inspiring, and deeply melancholy, as it did back 2005. 13 years later and Shadow of Colossus remains a must-play experience regardless if you’re a returning fan or a lucky first-timer.
(iOS, Android – Release date: February 14th, 2018)
Valentine’s Day got a lot sweeter thanks to this lovely mobile title. Florence Yeoh is a lonely young woman whose life takes a 180 thanks to a chance encounter with a musician named Krish. The pair forms a bond that takes an earnest look at the ups and downs of every relationship – striking several emotional cords as a result. Inventive interactions, wonderful illustrations, and one of the year’s best soundtracks bolster the charming, bittersweet narrative. Florence may take place on the small screen, but it packs the biggest heart of any game on this list.
Into the Breach
(PC – Release Date: February 27th, 2018)
The makers of FTL: Faster Than Light blessed strategy fans with another game as engrossing as it is challenging. Set in the far future, players protect Earth from invading bug monsters by commanding giant mechs. Into the Breach offers a deceptively simplified spin on turn-based strategy by allowing players to plan their turns based on telegraphed enemy attacks. Careful planning allows for the satisfying execution of combos. As enemy tactics grow more complex, encounters soon play out like a high-stakes chess match. If you love strategy, Into the Breach simply cannot be missed.
Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom
(PlayStation 4, PC – Release Date: March 23rd, 2018)
The first Ni No Kuni game captured Studio Ghibli’s signature charm but became a flat grind after a while. The sequel corrects course by adding a deep city-building feature on top of the fun, real-time combat. As players explore, they recruit citizens of varying skills to expand their kingdom. Building up the populace becomes a compelling hook thanks to how expertly it ties into just about everything they do. Variety in gameplay, including a light RTS feature, round out the game’s beautiful package. Furthermore, young King Evan’s quest to establish his new kingdom after being usurped from his throne manages to delight even without Studio Ghibli’s involvement. Top-tier JRPGs have been hard to come by this console generation, making Ni No Kuni II a welcomed treat.
Yakuza 6: The Song of Life
(PlayStation 4 – Release Date: April 17th, 2018)
Kiryu Kazama’s story had to wrap up eventually and thankfully it did so in grand fashion. A fresh engine gives the 13-year old franchise a modernized spit shine. Combat remains relatively the same in design but beating down goons in the streets feels more refined than it ever has. Despite a slow start, the compelling narrative, just as in all Yakuza games, winds up being the main attraction. In addition to churning out big surprises, the emotional tale culminates in a fantastic conclusion that raises the story above just being a typical crime drama. Though I have doubts that this spells the end of Yakuza as a series, few long-running sagas go out on such a high note.
God of War
(PlayStation 4 – Release date: April 20th, 2018)
Santa Monica’s sequel/reimagining of God of War boldly veers away from series hallmarks and presents ideas so good we didn’t know we wanted them. Kratos, alongside his son, Atreus, embark on an unforgettable journey that adds much-needed emotional depth to the always fuming Ghost of Sparta. The surprisingly vast world, steeped in Norse mythology, is dense with terrifying foes, fantastic characters, and a myriad of secrets. The more intimate combat system retains the brutality and flair that made slaughtering mythical foes such a thrill in the original series. Most importantly, Atreus doesn’t suck as an AI companion. Did I mention that everything looks obscenely gorgeous? God of War cleaves the adage “if it ain’t broke…” in half, demonstrating there’s always room to evolve no matter how lauded your series is. (our review)
(PC – Release Date: April 24th, 2018)
Set on an Earth blanketed in a global winter due to a volcanic event, survival is the name of the game in Frostpunk. Similar to 11 Bit Studios’ last title, This War of Mine, players must oversee the well-being of the entire city. Keeping citizens alive ranges from tense to borderline stressful thanks to gut-wrenching decision-making. Is it worth pushing citizens to work harder for needed resources at the risk of sowing discontent? Powerful storytelling provides an effective through line for city-building. If you’ve played This War of Mine, you know tackling a downer like Frostpunk doesn’t classify as “fun” in the traditional sense. But, as you grow increasingly attached to your band of survivors, you’ll find it difficult to abandon them in their time of need.
Far: Lone Sails
(PC – Release Date: May 17th, 2018)
Road trips rarely stick with you the way Far: Lone Sails’ does. Players pilot a Jules Verne-style airship across a dry seabed in search of, well, I’ll leave you to discover that. After all, the journey, with cryptic mysteries, matters most. Beautifully barren landscapes and an atmospheric soundtrack enhance the powerful sense of isolation. Players manage multiple aspects of the vessel to keep it chugging and must regularly upgrade it to traverse a myriad of obstacles. The bond that eventually forms between player and vehicle is not unlike car enthusiasts tinkering with that prized automobile. Don’t miss out on this incredible trip. (our review)
Yoku’s Island Express
(PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC – Release Date: May 29th, 2018)
What happens when you combine the thrill of pinball with the engrossing exploration of a Metroidvania? The best pinball-based platformer since Sonic Spinball. Actually, Yoku’s Island Express far surpasses Sonic’s take on the formula. Your ball is replaced with a dung beetle who’s tasked with delivering the island’s mail as well as stopping a mystical threat. Navigation involves using paddles to knock Yoku up and around the vibrant island. This adds a wonderful sense of purpose to the inherent fun of pinball. Tight controls, well-crafted levels, and a bevy of collectibles make this an extremely tough game to put down. Like mixing chocolate with peanut butter, Yoku’s Island Express combines two great ingredients to form an even stronger whole.
Splatoon 2 Octo Expansion
(Nintendo Switch – Release Date: June 13th, 2018)
Splatoon 2’s multiplayer alone provides enough reason to continually dive back into the ink. The single-player Octo Expansion ups the ante with a fresh (pun intended) story packed with 80 entertaining challenges. These missions, designed in the vein of Portal’s test chambers and Breath of the Wild’s shrines, tests players’ skills in just about every possible way. From puzzle-solving to platforming gauntlets to messy shoot-outs, Octo Expansion is a delightful beast of a campaign. Best of all, the expansion stars a less-jerky Octoling agent, and her kind becomes available for play in multiplayer upon completing the expansion. Good luck with that, though.
Mario Tennis Aces
(Nintendo Switch – Release Date: June 22nd, 2018)
What Mario Tennis: Ultra Smash for Wii U lacked in content, Aces makes up for with exciting new layers of strategy. Mechanics such as flashy Special Shots and destructible rackets add fighting-game levels of nuance and competitiveness to match-ups. If you’re not racking up victories online (likely with Bowser Jr.), a decent, albeit flawed, story mode offers a single-player diversion. Mario Tennis Aces hits all the right notes for a good Mario sports title and gives the starved tennis fandom a beacon of hope.
The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit
(PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC – Release Date: June 25th, 2018)
This endearing prequel episode lays the groundwork for Life is Strange 2 before it arrives in September. Chris is a 10-year old boy that uses his active imagination to cope with an alcoholic father and a deceased mother. Though it lacks the series’ morality system, Captain Spirit features deeper gameplay mechanics that wonderfully showcase Chris’ vivid fantasies. The best part about the game? It’s absolutely free. (our review)
(Nintendo Switch – Release Date: July 13th, 2018)
JRPG diehards pining for a new “classic” entry in the genre shouldn’t ignore Octopath Traveler. Players take on one of eight heroes sporting unique skills, backgrounds, and even NPC interactions based on where they’re from. Those skills play into the turn-based battles, which revolve around the unique Boost Point system. Players strategically accrue points to attack multiple times and fortify defenses, among other effects. While the gameplay rocks, Octopath’s strongest element is its striking “HD-2D” art direction that makes the adventure resemble a pixelated pop-up book. Even with these twists, Octopath Traveler plays, for better or worse, like a good old-fashioned JRPG which should satisfy genre veterans. If any of this raises your curiosity, a free prologue demo offers the game’s first three hours with progress carried over to the full version.
What games will you be playing this summer? Let us know in the comments!