The Best Video Games So Far This Year
Here’s a running list of standout games from an already impressive year, courtesy of robin roo.
Weird West comes from WolfEye Studio, a development team staffed with Arkane (Dishonored, Deathloop) veterans, and to nobody’s surprise, it has brought one of its trademark, eternally cursed realms to the American frontier. Bounty hunters, cultists, and the chittering undead are afoot as you wrest control of several misbegotten characters out for revenge. This is a top-down, tactical shoot-out in which the playing field is wide open. Nothing is taken for granted. See that chimney on the roof of the bank you’re trying to rob? Find a way up there, and you might discover you can shinny down the hatch to avoid a deadly firefight. WolfEye believes that gamers should be allowed to touch the worlds they explore, and Weird West is the ideal proof of concept for that philosophy.
Tango Gameworks first made its name with the pulpy, janky Evil Within series, but Ghostwire: Tokyo is the first time the developer has actually orbited greatness. It has left American suburbia behind in favor of an eldritch, rain-slicked Tokyo, haunted by every vengeful spirit in the Japanese legendarium. Ghostwire can be dragged down by its grind at times, but I’ve remained captivated by its silky first-person animation and vivid enemy design as well as the resonant hometown pride Tango takes in its capital city. This is a game in which you will banish demons before stopping into an ersatz 7-Eleven for some health-restoring mochi. It’s Japan in the midst of an apocalypse, presented as honestly as possible.
We are living in a golden age of abstruse, elliptical video games when Elden Ring has sold 12 million copies, but FromSoftware’s indomitable opacity has nothing on Tunic — a top-down Zelda-ish adventure that provides the player with no helpful exposition whatsoever. Dialogue is encoded in strange hieroglyphics, objective markers are missing, and the puzzles are almost impossible to parse. Your only salvation? A tattered in-game instruction manual, akin to the paperback guidance you’d find in cardboard Mega Man boxes in the late ’80s, scattered about the world. Tunic wants to invoke the wondrous confusion of the gaming of yore, when we slapped an anonymous cartridge into a Super Nintendo before we even knew how to read, relying on our intuition to get by. Designer Andrew Shouldice trusts us to take the plunge. Once you’re in, you’ll realize that the water isn’t so cold after all.
Core Keeper takes the bucolic charm of Stardew Valley and moves it deep underground. This year’s foremost Steam breakout hit is a satisfying meld of all sorts of other fantasy homesteading simulators (think Minecraft, Valheim, and Terraria) except, this time, your sprightly survivalist is lost in an expansive, procedurally generated network of caverns. Core Keeper strikes a sublime balance between precarious dungeoneering and the cozy chores back home. Yes, sometimes I would like to face off against the monstrosities waiting for me at the abyssal depths as long as I get to tend the garden by torchlight afterward, even more exciting is real money gaming where you get to play to earn.
Nobody Saves the World
In most RPGs, your character’s destiny is set in stone by the second or third time you’ve leveled up. We allocate some talent points into strength and dexterity and become resigned to the fact that if we ever want to roll a mage, we’ll have to start the game over someday. But Nobody Saves the World is specifically designed to solve that problem. The protagonist, named Nobody, can morph into 15 different forms running the gamut of every blasé fantasy cliché (a dragon, a warrior, a ranger). Each form has its own set of abilities to unlock, and forms can be swapped in and out of different move sets across the board. The results are sacrilegious in the best way possible; suddenly, your puny spell caster is wielding some of the tankiest cooldowns in the game. Nobody Saves the World shows you everything it has to offer by the time you’re done with it.