2018 was a great year for gamers what with God of War and Red Dead Redemption 2 launching spectacularly. But with all the hype around the big titles like Spider-Man, Celeste and Assassin’s Creed Odyssey it’s easy to have missed out on some smaller games. Here’s our list of games you might have missed this year. Or in my case thought about buying/downloading and then forgetting about it until I made this list.
Moss by Polyarc Inc.
In so many ways, playing Moss is like vacationing in a storybook. You take on the role of the Reader, a powerful force that the residents of Moss can sense but not see. Quill is on a quest to save her uncle after their kingdom was overthrown by a fire-breathing snake. As the Reader, your job is to solve puzzles and clear obstacles to aid Quill in her journey.
Magic radiates from every corner of the game: Pulling a handle from the ground renders a tower of stone steps. Pushing and pulling objects feels like an act of wizardry — wisps of light follow my path, as if from a magic wand. There are tiny libraries, mouse-sized pubs and rich forests, each worth the few minutes rest to pause and marvel at their details. Moss’ creators have built each scene like large dioramas. Like its central characters, Moss is a game of small things that make a big impact.
Platforms: PC, PSVR
Two Point Hospital by Two Point Studios
The team behind the classic Theme Hospital made a comeback with a bigger and better spiritual successor – one that transplants all the charm and mechanics of the original into a new body called Two Point Hospital. The diseases are different, the interface more advanced, but Two Point Hospital will feel familiar to any Theme Hospital veteran. It has the same wry sense of humour, one that’s consistently elicited laughs from me. If you’re a fan of dry sarcasm and bad puns (and I am) then Two Point Hospital is a joy.
Astro Bot Rescue Mission by SIE Japan Studio
Astro Bot Rescue Mission is one of the best games ever made for PlayStation VR. The way it combines comfy-cosy platforming mechanics for your remote control robot buddy with your physical presence in the world – turning your controller into a multitool for launching ziplines or shooting shurkin, and your cranium into both a target for enemy attacks and a headbutting blunt instrument – is sublime. The colourful environments you hop and hover through are just long enough to get their point across and the music, especially the underground theme, is endless bops. If you have a PSVR, put Astro Bot on your head ASAP.
Graveyard Keeper by Lazy Bear Studios
One minute you’re just trying out this ‘Stardew Valley with corpses’ out of morbid curiosity, the next it’s 3 am and you’re unhealthily obsessed with the alignment of your gravestones and the profits to be found in cannibalism. This is a game that’s hard to learn – there’s so much to do, very little direction, and even the simplest of tasks will send you on a wild goose chase of resource collecting and crafting. At its heart, there’s a strange story about a man transported through time and space and dark magic, but the real delight is to be found in discovering strange combinations of resources or ways to help the very odd characters – like a talking communist donkey – that inhabit the world.
Platforms: Xbox One, PC
Subnautica by Unknown Worlds Entertainment
An open world survival horror game set almost entirely under the sea, after your spaceship crash lands on an oceanic planet of aquatic wonder and terror. Forget what you know and hate about underwater levels. Subnautica takes video games’ most notoriously bastardised biome and turns it into an aquatic paradise of charm and horror. Resultantly, exploring, surviving, and building your ultimate sci-fi sea base is thoroughly captivating stuff in Subnautica. There’s just one problem: almost everything in this deep blue ocean wants to kill you. Don’t let this one float past you before 2018 is up.
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PC
Return Of The Obra Dinn by Lucas Pope
Return of the Obra Dinn is a detailed, unique and beautiful murder mystery from Lucas Pope, the maker of Papers, Please. Drawn in retro monochrome, it’s set aboard an abandoned ship in 1807. The player is an insurance agent tasked with investigating the ship, seeking clues to the deaths and disappearances of its crew. By a process of elimination, the agent pieces together the tale of a torrid voyage.
It’s a highly original cross between an old-fashioned novel and a narrative sudoku puzzle, in which facts and events are pieced together to present a satisfying whole. Pope’s game is a masterpiece in detail, style and story.
No Man’s Sky: Next by Hello Games
No Man’s Sky is not a new game by any shot and neither was it a very good game when it released. But this year No Man’s Sky released their fourth update to the game called Next, making the game playable and fun. Players have been given more freedom to explore the universe as they see fit, be it constructing an underwater base or assembling a massive fleet of frigates. Crafting systems are revamped, multiplayer added, the UI enhanced and new music updated. There’s a slew of things to do and it’s a closer rendition of what was promised when it first came out. So don’t be so quick to write out No Man’s Sky out of your ‘to play games’ list. For all the changes that have happened to No Man’s Sky since launch check it out here.
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PC
Déraciné by FromSoftware
We first saw this game at this year’s Tokyo Game Show and it’s definitely a step away from FromSoftware‘s regular genre. The kill you until you’re so frustrated with your life genre. Déraciné takes a step in a different direction, it’s a virtual reality adventure that puts you in the shoes of a faerie floating around a well-to-do boarding school haunting its residents and causing mischief. The gameplay itself is a sort of point and click but the atmosphere is a bewitching doll’s house of a school that is an uneasy delight to explore.
Frostpunk by 11 Bit Studios
A gritty survival sim from the creators of This War of Mine in which you are in charge of building the last city of a frozen Earth in an alternative 1886. Frostpunk is a thrilling view of dystopia at the end of the world. You must construct your city around one of the few remaining generators, stoking it for warmth and gathering resources from the surrounding tundra. From there, your city must expand to survive and you find yourself making some harrowing decisions for your populace; putting them to work, passing oppressive laws. After all, what is the life of one overworked, underfed child when compared to the greater good?
Forgotton Anne by ThroughLine Games
Released via the Square Enix Collective, Forgotton Anne is a gorgeous platformer/adventure that’s two parts Studio Ghibli film and one part the animated household objects from Beauty and the Beast. The Forgotten Lands is a magical world inhabited by Forgotlings; creatures composed of mislaid objects longing to be remembered again. As the titular Anne you play an Enforcer of the realm, able to banish ‘Forgotlings’ for good should they step out of line. Cue some tough choices as you make your way through this apparently unassuming 2D-platform puzzler, punctuated with smart narrative tricks and plenty of moral quandaries.
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PC