The science fiction setting puts a compelling new spin on Age of Wonders: Planetfall, with a lengthy single player campaign and half a dozen contrasting factions to see rise from the ashes of the Star Union. There's some niggles I have on console, but this is easy to recommend if you're hankering for a new 4X strategy game.
Super Mario Maker 2 is all that the original was and more. The Story Mode feels like a proper campaign, demoing all of the old and new feature and barmy possibilities found in the intuitive level creator. It's a shame that it features some typical Nintendo online stumbles, but it shouldn't be long before that's forgotten in the face of the boundless creativity of the Super Mario Maker community.
Cadence of Hyrule is much more than Crypt of the NecroDancer featuring a The Legend of Zelda skin. From the classic Zelda art style and staple items to the addictive, pulsating NecroDancer gameplay and soundtrack of delightful remixes, this mash-up takes the best of both worlds and combines them brilliantly.
Dark Future: Blood Red States is a quirky video game adaptation of this niche Games Workshop board game, and Auroch Digital have done a great job of preserving that feel in a real time form. Its bitesized campaigns keep the dystopian road warrior gameplay going, and there's a real charm that manages to shine through, even if there's probably a few too many rough edges and limits to the design.
BoxBoy! + BoxGirl! is another quirky, charming puzzle platformer from HAL. It might not have quite as outlandish box types as Bye-Bye BoxBoy!, but it makes up for that as a welcoming entry on Switch for newcomers, stacks and stacks of bitesized puzzles and a new co-op mode to boot.
Full of quirky characters and the convoluted cases to solve, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Trilogy is still a great visual novel adventure, and it's been thoroughly spruced up for modern consoles. It's not the most adventurous of remasters, but there's a real charm to these games that's great for newcomers as well as fans revisiting the series.
The Division 2 is closer to what I imagine the original vision was for the first game. Washington D.C is a sprawling, deep and detailed world filled with baddies to shoot and loot to collect that keeps you and any friends that join you engaged well after you finish the campaign. The story is a bit shallow, but missions are well written and exceptionally designed, leading to an endgame built around tons of content and a deep loot system. The Division 2 is well worth investing your time in.
Yoshi's Crafted World is simply lovely. The arts and crafts style is used in so many quirky little ways, the soundtrack lodges itself in your brain, and there's the same kind of laid back family friendly collectathon platforming that the series is now known for. Its one real new trick is its art style, sure, but that doesn't make it any less charming and wholesome.
Trials Rising takes us back to basics with the real world inspiring a long series of new and inventive trials, but losing none of the challenge or RedLynx's dark sense of humour. The menus are a bit messy, the loot boxes pointless, and it doesn't really advance the series, but when you get into it this is the series back to its addictive, infuriating, "one more go!" best.
Octahedron was easily one of the standout indie games of 2018 – that it wasn’t featured in our Game of the Year voting was a real shame. It’s not quite on the same level as the blend between sound, music and player actions as the work of Tetsuya Mizuguchi, but it’s easy to immerse yourself in the neon lights and trance.
New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe is a huge amount of great 2D Mario (and Luigi) platforming and it's at its easiest to pick up and play on Switch, but even with the sheer volume of content this doesn't really feel like a ‘Deluxe' game. Toadette's easier gameplay comes at the cost of a regular difficulty fourth character, and makes for a token appearance of Peach as a playable character, while the best all round multiplayer fun has been left behind with the Wii U's GamePad.
Shattered State is a short and sweet political thriller that lets you decide the fate of a nation. Supermassive's mastery of branching narratives and growing experience with VR come together nicely in an experience that's well worth playing, taking a short break, and then exploring one or two of the other possible outcomes.
Arca's Path subscribes to the ‘do one thing and do it well' school of video game design, making it simple and intuitive to guide your ball through the steadily more complex and maze-like levels. It might lack some of the charm or adventurousness of other VR games released this year, but Arca's Path is a wonderfully accessible VR game that's incredibly easy to pick up and play.
Building on the foundations of the 2016 game, Hitman 2 is full of the best Hitman stealth action yet. Yes, it's evolutionary in some ways, and you have to accept the series' idiosyncratic take on the genre, but there's space for it to keep growing with the return of Escalation missions and continuing Elusive Contracts. Whether you're a blackmailing pink flamingo he satisfaction of an expertly planned and executed hit is like nothing else.
Battlefield V scratches an itch that many will have had since Battlefield 4. DICE have found a great feel for the gunplay, the tweaks to classes and additions like fortifications largely work as intended, and the way that Grand Operations have evolved brings a refreshing variety to the game. Sure, it's around the edges at launch and with some largely forgettable single play War Stories, Battlefield V is a diamond in the rough.
Freeing Luigi's Mansion from the GameCube's back catalogue, Grezzo's remake of the game for 3DS is fantastic, going far beyond a simple port. That said, the 3DS isn't always the best home for the ghostbusting action and the controls feel a bit too slow and awkward when it counts.
Black Ops 4's Blackout is clearly the star of the show, with Treyarch making this Battle Royale business look easy, but it's standing on the shoulders of a great all round multiplayer experience and a Zombies mode that's bigger and more streamlined than ever. You might still miss having a single player campaign, and there's work to be done to ensure Blackout's longevity, but this could easily be the start of a new era of Call of Duty.