Over the weekend, I shared a spreadsheet with the Polygon team and asked everyone to initial the games coming out between now and the end of the year that they’re most excited to play.
After counting up the votes, I ended up with a list of 20 games, ranked below by how highly they’re anticipated by the team. But what we really have is as good a way as any to demonstrate the roster of games coming out at this busiest time of year, ranging from multimillion-dollar blockbusters to franchise iterations, from returning classics to independent innovations. So, here goes …
Red Dead Redemption 2 — Oct. 26 — PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Big stories and massive worlds to explore are Rockstar’s forte. This Wild West story shines with environmental loveliness, offering a compendium of carefully crafted, late-19th century locations. We’re hoping that the story offers something additional to the usual violence-frenzy/grizzled anti-hero combo.
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate — Dec. 7 — Nintendo Switch
The Switch is a brilliant machine, graced by a small number of true classics and a lot of fluff. This one will surely fall into the former category, bringing a massive roster of characters and minutely detailed multiplayer fighting together once more. With so many characters and arenas, we’ll likely be playing for months, if not years.
Tetris Effect — “third-quarter 2018” — PlayStation 4, PlayStation VR
Tetris, set to music, inside virtual reality. Developed by the same people behind Rez Infinite and Lumines Remastered, Tetris Effect is the most significant iteration on the classic puzzle game in years. It’s fair to say that virtual reality games can often disappoint, wearing thin after a short time. We’re hoping for a special place to lose ourselves in this game’s riot of music and color. (Note: It’s playable without VR too.)
Fallout 76 — Nov. 17 — PlayStation 4, Windows PC, Xbox One
The latest iteration in a long-running and much-loved series takes us back to an alternate-history, post-nuclear America. Unlike previous games in the series, this is a multiplayer game, with players exploring a large world together online. They’ll either take on the full-force PvP gameplay or opt for a more traditional PvE system. Players can also launch nuclear weapons. It’s going to be fascinating to see how developer Bethesda Game Studios pulls this off.
Spider-Man — Sept. 7 — PlayStation 4
There’s only a couple of days to wait for this one. We’ve already reviewed the game and found a lot to like. It’s a feel-good action-adventure game with lots of popular appeal. We’re a bit disappointed with the lack of big surprises, and the slightly underwhelming Manhattan environment — but this is still a must-play for Marvel fans or anyone looking for light escapism.
Assassin’s Creed Odyssey — Oct. 5 — PlayStation 4, Windows PC, Xbox One
There was a great deal to enjoy about last year’s foray into ancient Egypt. Moving across the Mediterranean to Greece, we’re promised more dialogue options as the player woos, insults or otherwise bamboozles NPCs. Naval missions — one of our favorite aspects of this series — have been improved, while combat in general has been expanded. Assassin’s Creed games have varied wildly in terms of quality, but we think this one is going to be strong.
Wattam — “2018” — PlayStation 4, Windows PC
The fact that this is from Katamari Damacy and Noby Noby Boy creator Keita Takahashi makes it a prospect to relish. It’s a playpen about a green, cube-shaped character who goes about making friends. More to the point, it looks like a joyful, original and human exploration into how we interact with one another.
Pokémon: Let’s Go! — Nov. 16 — Nintendo Switch
There’s been speculation about Switch Pokémon titles for a long time. Ahead of E3 2018, we found out that Pokémon: Let’s Go, Pikachu! and Pokémon: Let’s Go, Eevee! will mark the franchise’s debut on the console. Both versions will take us back to the setting of the original Pokémon games. But unlike previous mainline entries, this one focuses on cooperative play. It will also allow players to trade Pokémon from their Let’s Go! games to Pokémon Go, with a unique Poké Ball peripheral hitting stores the same day to aid the process. For the many Pokémon fans on our team, this is just the ticket.
Shadow of the Tomb Raider — Sept. 14 — PlayStation 4, Windows PC, Xbox One
Lara Croft will be back to conclude the reboot trilogy of the adventure franchise, which began with 2013’s Tomb Raider. We’re looking forward to seeing how much this character has evolved over the three games. The adventure begins in a Mayan temple and a darker narrative than previous games is promised, as well as more opportunities to interact with NPCs.
Just Cause 4 — Dec. 4 — PlayStation 4, Windows PC, Xbox One
We love the way this series takes action gaming conventions and pumps them up to the point of absurdity. This new game from Avalanche features all the usual creative destructibility, with the welcome addition of extreme weather conditions and more opportunities to bind enemies together before mashing them to pieces. Such full-on mayhem manages to charm, because it refuses to take itself seriously.
Hitman 2 — Nov. 13 — PlayStation 4, Windows PC, Xbox One
Professional assassin Agent 47 is heading to new locations, including Miami and the jungles of South America, for Io Interactive’s next entry in the stealth series. Four other undisclosed places are also yet to be revealed. The last Hitman game did a great job of creating complex social and spatial scenarios, in which players were able to experiment, explore and extinguish. We expect more of the same, and that’s fine by us.
Life is Strange 2 — Sept. 27 — PlayStation 4, Windows PC, Xbox One
We found a lot to admire in 2015’s boldly innovative Life is Strange, which featured a normalized depiction of young, bisexual women for a mainstream gaming audience. It became an emblem of a shift toward a more inclusive stable of game protagonists. Life is Strange 2 turns to the issue of race and identity, as two Latino brothers flee their suburban lives following a run-in with the police.
Forza Horizon 4 — Oct. 2 — Windows PC, Xbox One
This is an outstanding open-world series that offers geographic diversity along with a wide range of vehicles and challenges. This time, we’re transported to a lush, fictionalized version of Great Britain. We’ve no doubt this latest Turn 10 game will be a beautiful, highly competent racing game (enhanced by the welcome exclusion of paid loot boxes), but we’re also hoping for a better story campaign than in previous outings.
Battlefield 5 — Oct. 19 — PlayStation 4, Windows PC, Xbox One
The shooting and combat series goes back to its World War II roots, tasking players to cooperate and coordinate using a wide variety of weapons and vehicles. Most will dive right into massive online battles, but the single-player also looks interesting, offering a diverse range of settings and characters.
The Gardens Between — Sept. 20 — Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
This gentle, pretty take on time manipulation is a puzzle game from the Voxel Agents in which two friends journey to a series of surreal islands, solving puzzles in order to ascend each one. Curiously, players do not control the players themselves, only the timeline, which can be moved back and forth. We’ve played a few demos of this little gem, and have high expectations.
Fist of the North Star: Lost Paradise — Oct. 2 — PlayStation 4
Already released in Japan (Hokuto ga Gotoku), this high-tempo martial arts action adventure was developed by Sega’s Yakuza team. Set in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, it’s packed with blood-curdling death barks and extreme violence. We’re curious to see if the game can find a decent audience in the West, where manga series Fist of the North Star is still mostly known as a meme.
Soulcalibur 6 — Oct. 19 — PlayStation 4, Windows PC, Xbox One
Our strong contingent of fighting fans all voted for Bandai Namco’s weapons-based arena-combat game. The sixth main game in the series revisits the events of the original Soulcalibur, but promises to reveal additional details about the lore. Players can also create their own custom fighter, which can be used in the game’s single-player story campaign
Valkyria Chronicles 4 — Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One — Oct. 16
Stylishly rendered in a water colors art motif, this tactical turn-based battle game takes place in an alternative 1930s. But fans of the series are likely most pleased about its design, which returns to its roots, following an unsuccessful foray into action gameplay.
Darksiders 3 — Nov. 27 — PlayStation 4, Windows PC, Xbox One
We’re looking forward to meeting this series’ new playable protagonist. Fury is the sister of Darksiders’ previous stars, War and Death, back when the game was published by now-defunct THQ. Fury wields magic as well as more traditional weapons in this third-person action-adventure with a heavy emphasis on set-piece combat.
Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 — Oct. 12 — PlayStation 4, Windows PC, Xbox One
Rounding out our top 20 is the latest game in Activision’s annual parade of military first-person shooters. Treyarch’s game is the 15th in the series, and is set in a near-future world. There’s no single-player campaign, but there are zombies, as well as a battle royale mode called Blackout.
You are invited and encouraged to add to the list in comments, or to argue why certain games ought to be higher or lower on the list. Keep an eye out for our reviews of the games mentioned here, coming out in the months ahead.