Animal crossing: new horizons
Animal Crossing is the game of alternative life on the desert island, from which a thousand memes have emerged. It offers a cute, stress-free and highly controllable little world that you can escape to. Convincing and full of character there are many reasons to come back every day.
What we said: “Animal Crossing is everything I crave: it̵
The demon-killing godfather of the first-person shooter returns with another furious adrenaline rush of blood and bullets. The monsters are bigger than ever, the worlds are richer, but that’s thoroughly Doom.
What we said: “Every design detail is designed to drive the player forward as smoothly as possible, with enough surprises and twists to prevent the formula from getting stuck.”
Streets of Rage 4
Sega’s legendary scrolling brawler gets an unexpected repeat 25 years after its predecessor. Our vigilante heroes return to the shady alleys of Wood Oak City and must use a range of new weapons and combos to make waves of criminal thugs.
What we said: “As a joyous celebration of a style of play whose thrill is visceral and not cerebral, it’s a triumph.”
Fans waited for Half-Life 3 for over a decade, but instead they got this exclusive virtual reality prequel that resistance leader Alyx Vance followed at the start of their fight against the alien combine. Tense, dark and exciting, it’s the killer app VR games have been looking for.
What we said: “Valve is a master at delivering games to players they didn’t know they wanted – Half-Life: Alyx is another example of this ability to surprise, delight, and innovate.”
Ori and the will of the wisp lights
The sequel to the indie platform adventure Ori and the Blind Forest is another enchanting quest through a rich Sylvan landscape full of myths and magic. A gentle, melancholic alternative to the big shooters and thugs of the year.
What we said: “There is extraordinary attention to detail – the whole world feels alive with excitement and danger. A bold and ambitious sequel. “
Guildford-based developer Media Molecule turned us into developers of platform games in 2008 with its beautiful DIY puzzler LittleBigPlanet. Now the same studio wants us all to create our own video game, film, or music universe with this powerful and accessible creative package.
What we said: “As appealing as Dreams as a toolkit, it may be as important as it teaches, and Dreams is everything a good teacher should be: generous, forgiving, thorough.”
Final Fantasy VII remake
One of the defining games of a generation is coming back and looks much better than in 1997. This remake proves that the history of Final Fantasy VII has stood the test of time. An epic immersive story.
What we said: “Redesigning a widely recognized classic has always been a daunting task, but like his own heroes with swords, Square Enix has taken up the challenge in a spectacular way.”
Kentucky Route Zero
After six years, the final chapter of this minimalist, magically-realistic adventure game appeared in January, consolidating its place as one of the defining games of the past decade. It’s a subtle, rather deserted americana that lets you overhear the ordinary and unusual life of its strange characters.
What we said: “It combines the everyday and the mystical to create an atmosphere somewhere along the wispy continuum between a Samuel Beckett play and a David Lynch mini-series.”
One could describe this as “Dark Souls but Samurai”, but Nioh 2 is not a hollow tribute. Experience your way through a vast world of demons and ghosts inspired by Japanese folklore with a fun selection of powerful weapons and mystical abilities. However, it’s difficult – if you want to throw things around the room due to a mistake, multiple PlayStation 4 controllers can be sent over the TV.
You are a barista who works the night shift in a small café in an alternative Seattle where your customers are elves, vampires and werewolves who want to share all their problems. A peaceful, fun, and human adventure game that’s all about listening and serving.
Hiding place of the clockwork god
Friends Ben and Dan must avoid the apocalypse in this retro comedy adventure, where classic platform and point-and-click play styles are combined to create a clever and really fun effect.
What we said: “Lair of the Clockwork God creates an impressive balance between his two mashup genres, mechanical and tonal. It’s a post-ironic version of point-and-click adventures. “
Resident Evil 3 remake
After last year’s brilliant Resident Evil 2 remake, Capcom followed the same recipe for the third episode, keeping the narrative and setting of the original Resi 3, but tweaking the controls and adding new components, including an entertaining multiplayer side quest. A fascinating transition title that will be great again.
What we said: “A well thought out and beautifully executed modern refresher of a survival horror classic – and a welcome record (almost) of escape to enliven our current home-based life.”
It sounds like the most boring game in the world: drive huge trucks through mud and snow to make deliveries. But it is unexpectedly hypnotic: Navigating slowly and steadily through these huge vehicles through unshakably unattractive places requires patience and methodical thinking rather than good reflexes and daring.
The Gears of War series sci-fi shooters have always been known for the muscles (and machine guns with chainsaws) of their muscle-bound characters. In this spin-off, the same warriors fight alien Locust invaders, but this time in a series of tactical turn-based encounters. Somehow the tone change works perfectly.
What we said: “A triumphant turn against an old favorite that captures the fury and spectacle of his brothers-based shooters while offering a more cerebral experience.”
In other waters
This is an exploration game about deep sea diving on another planet – but instead of seeing it with human eyes, you are the AI in the discoverer’s suit and rely on her text descriptions and sketches of extraterrestrial life to perceive the sparse topography of your computer sensors . Unique and peaceful.
Become the least competent moving company in the world while working with friends to wring furniture out of houses on your truck – or just throw it out the window and hope for the best. Messy multiplayer fun that becomes less frustrating with options that allow you to adjust the difficulty level at will.
Lonely mountains: down
This mountain bike game, newly released on Nintendo Switch, is ridiculously convincing. It’s just you, a bike and four majestic mountains, the trails of which range from slightly dangerous to downright fatal. Come for the landscape, stay for the irresistible compulsion to shave seconds from your best times.
Strange geometric creatures, Dalí-like landscapes and an unnatural-looking view of nature make this an unforgettable surreal piece of VR ecotourism. It is difficult to describe this game, but its effects are easier to put into words: miracles.
Dystopian cyberpunk tends to lose its appeal when you go through a real dystopia, but cloudpunk isn’t the usual Blade Runner-inspired violence festival. You play an immigration driver who transports packages through a 3D pixel world that is fascinating to look at and eavesdrop on.
What we said: “Excessive familiarity with aesthetics does little to diminish the appeal of the cloudpunk game world.
XCOM: Chimera Squad
A scaled-down sequel to XCOM 2 that maintains the turn-based design of the Strategy Sim series, but introduces heroic characters with special abilities and an unpleasant new alliance between human and alien warriors. Fans called it XCOM-lite, which is neither inaccurate nor critical.
What we said: “Essentially the agents of the shield for the Avengers of XCOM 2. It plays gently with the formula and tells the peripheral stories of a much larger world on a much tighter budget and with much smaller stakes. It’s XCOM, but cool.”