The 25 games we can’t wait to play this holiday season

The video game industry loves to cram most of its tentpole releases into a short, three-month-long period just ahead of Christmas. And 2018 is no different — in fact, this is one of the busiest holiday seasons for games in recent memory. Over the next few months, you can expect to see the return of massive franchises like Red Dead Redemption, Assassin’s Creed, and Fallout, alongside exciting new titles including a new open-world take on Spider-Man and the gorgeous indie game Gris. Not to be outdone, Nintendo is pumping the Switch full of big games like Mario Party, Pokemon, and the biggest Smash Bros. to date.

It’s far too much for any one person to play, so we created this handy guide so you can keep track of the most exciting games and be ready for when they come out. The guide is in chronological order — aside from a few stragglers without specific release dates — to make things as easy as possible. The list also doesn’t include games that haven’t been confirmed for 2018, so there might actually be more to play this year. One other caveat: there’s a solid chance a few of these titles may slip and not hit their intended release dates, but we’ll update things accordingly if that happens.

Now here’s everything we can’t wait to play over the rest of 2018.


Dragon Quest XI

Dragon Quest XI – September 4th

Available on PS4 and PC

The eleventh Dragon Quest is the first single-player game in the series to come to a home console in 14 years. That’s not to say that much has changed — it’s the same classic JRPG blend of fighting monsters, exploring the world, and fighting some more, and it’s as charming and comfortable as ever. But Dragon Quest’s leap to the PlayStation 4, as well as its debut on PC, means that Akira Toriyama’s unmistakable art has never looked so gorgeous.—SB

Read our review


Spider-Man

Spider-Man – September 7th

Available on PS4

Insomniac Games takes on the costumed webslinger in what looks like a match made in heaven for the PlayStation 4. Spider-Man lets players step into the shoes of the eponymous arachnid hero as he swings and fights his way around an open-world New York. There’s an all-new story, too, offering its own spin on the Spider-Man lore with an older, more mature version of the character — but if we’re being honest, we’re pretty much just here for the webslinging.—CG

Read our review


Shadow of the Tomb Raider

Shadow of the Tomb Raider – September 14th

Available on PC, PS4, and Xbox One

Lara Croft returns for the third entry in Square Enix’s generally excellent Tomb Raider reboot. This time, however, there’s a new developer and writing team in charge — Deus Ex studio Eidos Montréal has taken the lead from Crystal Dynamics. Shadow sees Lara descend into the South American jungle in a bid to stop the Mayan apocalypse and, unlike the previous game, will be coming to the PlayStation 4 at the same time as the Xbox One and PC. Lara’s biggest foes so far have been clunky scripts and convoluted Dan Brown-style plotting — here’s hoping the switch in creative personnel can help her vanquish them.—SB


Photo by Dami Lee / The Verge

Nintendo Labo vehicle kit – September 14th

Available on the Nintendo Switch

When Nintendo released its first batch of kits for Labo — a line of DIY cardboard accessories and games for the Switch — it seemed inevitable that more were on the way. And the first new kit looks like it might be the most exciting so far. Called simply the “vehicle kit,” it lets you build your own cardboard controls to pilot a car, plane, and submarine. There’s even a cardboard key to get each engine started. While the initial Labo kits were fun to build, there was much to be desired from the games themselves, and this could be the first step toward rectifying that. It also has some added utility, as the cardboard contraptions are compatible with Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. Now to figure out if you have room in your house for more huge Labo creations.—AW


Life is Strange 2

Life is Strange 2 – September 27th

Available on PC, PS4, and Xbox One

Dontnod’s episodic, sci-fi adventure series Life is Strange was a critical darling when it launched in 2015, and its sequel is highly anticipated. Details have been scarce leading up to the first episode’s release, but the sequel — set three years later in the same universe, but only loosely connected — will follow two brothers on the run from the law after a tragic event. The new series will still include special powers for players to take advantage of, but it appears time travel won’t be in the cards this time.—MF


FIFA 19

FIFA 19 – September 28th

Available on PC, Nintendo Switch, PS4, and Xbox One

After one of the greatest World Cup tournaments in history, FIFA 19 will have a bigger audience of people in love with the beautiful game than ever before. And this year, EA has wrested UEFA licensing away from Konami, meaning the Champions League will feature in FIFA for the first time. The Switch version has received major graphical upgrades, too, but still won’t feature the Journey story mode from more powerful platforms; this year’s iteration will bring Alex Hunter’s saga to a close, replacing Cristiano Ronaldo as Real Madrid’s star player.—SB


Forza Horizon 4

Forza Horizon 4 – October 2nd

Available on PC and Xbox One

Microsoft’s open-world arcade racer gets better with each installment and for the latest entry, developer Playground Games is bringing the series to its home turf: Britain. That decision means Forza Horizon 4 has to support more, um, unpredictable weather conditions than was needed for the last game’s setting of Australia, and the team has delivered accordingly with a full-blown dynamic seasonal system that’ll see the game shift from winter to spring to summer to autumn on a weekly basis for all players. Even the sheep will have varying degrees of fluffiness.—SB


Mega Man 11

Mega Man 11 – October 2nd

Available on PC, Xbox One, PS4, and Nintendo Switch

Mega Man is back. On October 2nd, the blue robot kid returns on his eleventh appearance in his eponymous series, with Mega Man 11. This time around, Mega Man is facing off against eight of Dr. Wily’s Robot Masters and their new, upgraded technology — the Double Gear. Using it, Wily’s robots can either power up their attacks or increase their move speed. Luckily, Mega Man also has the Gear. Sounds like you’ll need it.—BS


Assassin’s Creed Odyssey

Assassin’s Creed Odyssey – October 5th

Available on PC, PS4, and Xbox One

Kratos may have moved on to the world of Norse mythology earlier this year, but Ubisoft is here with Assassin’s Creed Odyssey to help mend the murder-filled Grecian hole in your heart. Giving players the option to fully choose between a male or female character for the first time in the series, Odyssey looks to move the long-running historical murder simulation series into a more traditional role-playing vein, with interactive dialogue, unlockable skills, branching story paths, and romance options. It also brings back the popular naval combat system from Black Flag, complete with Grecian sea shanties. Better start practicing your “this is Sparta!” kicking now.—CG


Super Mario Party

Super Mario Party – October 5th

Available on the Nintendo Switch

Since the very first Mario Party release in 1998, this mini-game-filled competition has long been the best way to get into a fight with your friends. Nintendo is finally adding a Switch version to the series, which will allow players to pair two systems for multiplayer. The game includes 80 new mini-games, new modes, and new play styles. RIP your friendships.—MF

The World Ends With You: Final Remix – October 12th

Available on the Nintendo Switch

The World Ends With You was a cult classic action RPG for the original Nintendo DS, one that had a heavy emphasis on style. Sure, it had an innovative combat system that had you battling monsters on both screens simultaneously with different characters, but it’s most fondly remembered for its fashion-forward look courtesy of Kingdom Hearts director Tetsuya Nomura. Taking place in a fictionalized version of the Shibuya district of Tokyo, it follows the story of Neku, a boy who recently died, but has become involved in a strange seven-day-long game that could get him resurrected or his soul destroyed forever. Final Remix is the first home console release and promises updated HD graphics, controller and touchscreen controls, as well as reportedly hours of new story content.—MM


Call of Duty Black Ops 4

Call of Duty: Black Ops IIII – October 12th

Available on PC, PS4, and Xbox One

Activision’s first Call of Duty game to exclude a single-player campaign mode also happens to feature the most forward-thinking combat the franchise has seen in years. Containing the best elements of successful competing shooters, including the ultimate moves and team-based subclasses of Overwatch and Rainbow Six: Siege, Black Ops 4 offers a more dynamic and interesting twist on the same adrenaline-fueled, hyper-fast fighting we’ve seen before. The game will also have a more robust zombies mode to give players something to do outside the competitive multiplayer arena. Like Battlefield V, this year’s Call of Duty will also feature a new battle royale mode called Blackout, though we know close to nothing about it or how closely it will resemble Fortnite or PUBG. A beta is scheduled for September 10th to give players a chance to check it out before buying the full game.—NS


Starlink: Battle For Atlas

Starlink: Battle for Atlas – October 16th

Available on PS4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch

What if No Man’s Sky was designed with kids in mind? And what if it came with a series of seriously cool collectible toys? That’s the premise behind Starlink, a brand new property from Ubisoft that fuses open-world sci-fi exploration with the toys-to-life platform popularized by Skylanders. Starlink doesn’t feature the same impossible scale as No Man’s Sky, but it makes up for it with more structure, including plentiful missions to take on and a proper story to follow. And unlike most games designed for younger audiences, Starlink doesn’t hold your hand: it’s a huge, challenging universe filled with dangers.—AW


Soulcalibur 6

Soulcalibur VI – October 19th

Available on PC, PS4, and Xbox One

After a six-year absence, the tale of souls and swords that is the Soulcalibur series returns. Soulcalibur VI marks the first time the series is hitting modern platforms, including the Playstation 4, Xbox One, and Windows. This installment has the weapon-based fighting series revisiting the events of the original Soulcalibur game, apparently to uncover “hidden truths.” This means that fan favorite characters like Sophitia and Seong Mi-na are coming back, and the developers can ignore a lot of potentially confusing story canon that has built up over the years. The most notable additions to this entry are a new defensive mechanic called reversal edge, allowing you to counterattack while guarding. Meanwhile, The Witcher’s Geralt of Rivia has joined the cast as a playable character.—MM


Red Dead Redemption 2

Red Dead Redemption 2 – October 26th

Available on PS4 and Xbox One

John Marston returns as a part of Dutch’s Gang, the notorious band of outlaws that roamed the west around the early 20th century. And while Marston will feature prominently in the story, you’ll play as Arthur Morgan, an outlaw in the Van der Linde gang. Per Rockstar Games:

America, 1899.

The end of the wild west era has begun as lawmen hunt down the last remaining outlaw gangs. Those who will not surrender or succumb are killed.

After a robbery goes badly wrong in the western town of Blackwater, Arthur Morgan and the Van der Linde gang are forced to flee. With federal agents and the best bounty hunters in the nation massing on their heels, the gang must rob, steal and fight their way across the rugged heartland of America in order to survive. As deepening internal divisions threaten to tear the gang apart, Arthur must make a choice between his own ideals and loyalty to the gang who raised him.

Redemption 2 brings back the “honor” system of its predecessor, meaning that your actions will reverberate across the game, depending on how you treat people. Morgan will also help supply the gang between raids as they travel across what’s sure to be a gigantic open world. Expect a very good time in the Old West.—BS


Reigns: Game of Thrones

Reigns: Game of Thrones – October

Available on PC, iOS, and Android

The first two Reigns games offered something totally new: a chance to play as a ruling royal, using simple Tinder-style swipes to make important decisions. It was engrossing and exciting, and now it’s moving to Westeros. For Reigns: Game of Thrones, you’ll be able to play as some of the most iconic characters from the series, and see how well you manage on the Iron Throne. Things play out slightly differently whether you’re Tyrion or Sansa, but one thing remains true in each play through: you’re almost definitely going to die.—AW


Hitman 2

Hitman 2 – November 13th

Available on PC, PS4, and Xbox One

Danish studio IO Interactive’s episodic Hitman was hit-or-miss, and its strange narrative structure and distribution model meant a lot of players didn’t get to enjoy the whole six-episode saga or really dive deep into the franchise’s biggest-ever environments. But after publisher Square Enix split ways with IO, which purchased the rights to the Hitman franchise to develop it under Warner Bros., the series is returning to a standard, one-off $60 purchase containing all the game’s content in one package.

Even better: IO has taken everything it learned making its episodic Hitman and channeled it into a proper sequel, one that still features the expansive levels and staggeringly complex systems of its predecessor. Hitman 2 will pick up the storyline of the 2016 game, featuring six separate assassin missions with a narrative throughline tying each kill to a shadowy global crime syndicate. The sequel will also get a steady stream of free post-launch content like the incredible Elusive Target missions, while IO plans to turn each of the game’s six levels into ongoing vehicles for downloadable bonus missions, as it did with the original.—NS


Fallout 76

Fallout 76 – November 14th

Available on PC, PS4, and Xbox One

Fallout is finally going multiplayer with a spin-off set when the first vaults opened up in Virginia. Every single character in Fallout 76 is an actual person playing online, meaning that the tension lies in trying to figure out who is a friend or foe. High radiation levels means the wasteland is filled with new creatures, including never-before-seen mutations of fan favorite monsters. You’ll also be adding to the fray via nukes, which players can set off against one another to create high-end areas full of rare loot and tough baddies. Don’t worry, though: Bethesda is including some measures to make sure that Fallout 76 isn’t an endless parade of players trolling each other.—PH


Pokemon Let’s Go – November 16th

Available on the Nintendo Switch

Pocket monsters are revisiting Kanto, but this time, the Pokemon Go influence is everywhere. In addition to the new chibi-like graphics and co-op support, players will catch monsters much like they do in the mobile game — by flicking pokeballs. And instead of the usual starters from the first-generation games, you’ll have to pick between Eevee and Pikachu. But the thing everyone is most excited about? Your team can walk behind you as you navigate the map, a feature which is officially the cutest thing in the world.—PH


Battlefield V – November 20th

Available on PC, PS4, and Xbox One

Electronic Art’s Battlefield franchise is returning to WWII, but not without a fair amount of controversy. Since the game’s first trailer back in May revealed the presence of playable female soldiers and more character customization options, some members of the gaming community have criticized the choice over misguided claims of historical inaccuracy. EA settled the matter by telling detractors to “accept it, or don’t buy the game.” Controversy aside, Battlefield V will undoubtedly feature what we’ve come to expect from developer DICE: visceral and high-fidelity combat in increasingly realistic representations of 20th-century Europe. New game modes will focus more heavily on squad-based fighting and teamwork, with new scarcity features like depleting ammo aimed at amplifying realism. There’s also a Fortnite-style battle royale mode, but we know little about that.—NS


Just Cause 4

Just Cause 4 – December 4th

Available on PC, PS4, and Xbox One

Dust off your parachute and wingsuit, because Just Cause is back for its fourth outing. Developer Avalanche Studios is promising the biggest open world in the series, so far featuring distinct biomes each with different cataclysmic weather. Avalanche is also giving players more options than ever before, with a huge array of customizable tools and toys to play around (and devastate the local infrastructure in massive explosions) with.—CG


Persona 5: Dancing in Starlight

Persona 3: Dancing in Moonlight Persona 5: Dancing in Starlight – December 4th

Available on PS4 and PS Vita

Unlike the usual Persona games, Dancing in Moonlight and Dancing in Starlight ditch the RPG-heavy social sim aspect the series is known for in favor of rhythm. Both games take the most popular tracks from their respective titles and give their heroes a break from saving the world to breakdance in killer costumes.—MF


Super Smash Bros. Ultimate

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate – December 7th

Available on the Nintendo Switch

Nintendo is finally bringing its popular Super Smash Bros. brawler to the Switch, and it’s not kidding about the “Ultimate” part of the name. Ultimate features appearances by every single fighter to ever appear in any of the previous games, along with a few new faces and dozens of stages and tons of new modes and options. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate could be the definitive Smash Bros. experience. And most importantly: it’ll still support the GameCube controller.—CG


Gris

Gris – December

Available on PC and the Nintendo Switch

Gris might go down as the most beautiful game of 2018. The gorgeous side-scrolling adventure doesn’t feature any enemies or ways to die; instead, it’s about exploring a lush, magical world free of the stress typical of most games. Here’s how the developers describe it:

Gris is a hopeful young girl lost in her own world dealing with a painful experience in her life. Her journey through sorrow is manifested in her dress, which grants new abilities to better navigate her faded reality. As the story unfolds, Gris will grow emotionally and see her world in a different way, revealing new paths to explore using her new abilities.

—AW


Diablo 3 Switch

Diablo III – holiday 2018

Available on the Nintendo Switch

There’s a good chance you’ve already played far too much of Blizzard’s dark dungeon crawler, but you probably haven’t played it on an airplane. The belated debut of Diablo III on the Nintendo Switch means that this dream of hunting demons on the go will finally come true. The compulsive combat and loot system of the game feels like a perfect fit for Nintendo’s tablet, letting you play as much or as little as you have time for, while slowly working your way up to that legendary set of armor. It’s also the first Blizzard game to hit the console, which provides hope for yet another dream: Overwatch on a bus.—AW

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