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10 Awesome 2018 Video Games You Probably Missed (So Far)

Though the first half of 2018 hasn’t been quite as replete with masterful video games as last year, it’s still been an inarguable banner year for the medium, serving up an insane number of quality titles both AAA and indie.

However, there’s only so much time in a day and so much money in a wallet, so often many of the year’s best games end up falling by the wayside, no matter the effusively positive reviews they’ve received.

While it would be absurd to call these 10 games underrated given their generally high esteem with critics and those gamers who’ve bothered to play them, they’re would certainly qualify as under-appreciated.

For the most part these games are unexpectedly subversive and creative entries into well-worn, over-saturated genres, so it’s perhaps not too surprising they’ve struggled to find a huge audience to date.

However, they represent some of the very best gaming that 2018 has had to offer, so you’d only be doing yourself a disservice if you didn’t at least give them a try…

10. Subnautica

Unknown Worlds Entertainment

This outstanding open-world survival game is a beautiful mixture of wondrous deap-sea adventure and anxiety-inducing battle against the elements.

After crash-landing on an alien planet, the player is largely left to their own devices to explore this gorgeous yet eerily vast expanse. Even so, Subnautica doesn’t merely rely on the player creating their own “emergent” experiences, and you’re never too far away from the next story development if that’s your prerogative.

Even so, the game heavily promotes exploration, and it’s easy to pour literally dozens of hours into visiting even just a small chunk of what Subnautica has to offer.

The water effects are absolutely sublime – though sadly not everything is quite as splendid-looking – while the art direction, tone, abundance of survival mechanics and consistently intriguing narrative make this an immersive experience quite like nothing else.

9. Celeste

Matt Makes Games

A first impression might suggest that Celeste is simply the latest in a long line of hard-as-nails retro platformer homages, but that’s a rather reductive disservice to what’s easily one of the most meticulously-crafted and unexpectedly affecting games of the year.

Though Celeste demands tack-sharp precision from the player, it also never feels torturous or egregiously unfair, aided by extremely tight controls and a snappy respawn system.

The game’s mechanical flair combined with its appealing visuals and neat musical score would be enough to make it a great platformer, but what takes it to the next level is its surprising level of emotional maturity.

Effectively a meditation on the punishing power of anxiety, self-doubt and crippling depression, Celeste tells a highly relatable story and cleverly transforms Madeline’s adventure into both a physical and spiritual journey of perseverance.

If all this isn’t enough, the game also features heaps of extra content – collectable strawberries and unlockable, obscenely difficult “B-side” remixes of levels – to keep you coming back for at least a good 20 hours.

8. Unravel Two

ColdWood Intractive

Unravel Two was given a surprise reveal and immediate release during EA’s E3 press conference last month, yet despite getting such a high-profile unveiling, the game’s pretty much fallen through the cracks where coverage is concerned.

A nimble improvement upon its 2016 predecessor, Unravel Two ditches most of the frustrating elements from the original game and elevates itself with the introduction of optional co-op play.

Simply, playing this game with a friend is an absolute blast, with the puzzles requiring strong team communication and synchronisation.

At the same time, though, the challenges never feel frustratingly difficult or take more than a few minutes to figure out, and at just a few hours in length, Unravel Two doesn’t even begin to outstay its welcome.

The narrative may not be up to much, but if you’re craving visually stunning, insanely adorable platforming fun, this is a must-buy.

7. Onrush

Codemasters

Onrush is without question one of 2018’s most pleasant surprises, a “racing” game where the focus is less on actual racing and more on both speed and vehicular destruction.

That’s right: none of Onrush’s levels have finish lines or conventional racing systems, but instead, teams compete against one another in a series of unconventional game modes where boosting, maintaining control of zones, passing checkpoints and totalling your opponents are the order of the day.

More than anything, Onrush is just flat-out fun: it doesn’t take itself remotely seriously, and is terrific for those craving a pick-up-and-play racer with a low-skill entry level. Though it could arguably use a few more modes and maps, the content currently available is ferociously addictive whether you’re playing online or against the CPU.

Considering how few truly unique racers there are out there, Onrush demands your attention, and deserves a committed player-base moving forward.

6. Minit

Vlambeer

Without question the most innovative and imaginative adventure game of the year so far, Minit’s deliciously devious hook sees the player having just 60 seconds to make progress before their avatar drops dead and the process starts again.

As such, Minit naturally requires a certain degree of repetition, but the fast-paced gameplay and constant sense of discovery stop your time from ever feeling wasted (and if you want to respawn before the minute’s up, there is a suicide button).

Traversing the land will inevitably bring you into contact with items and safe-houses which will make forward-progress easier, while a brisk two-hour length ensures ennui never really has time to set in.

The visuals may be ultra-minimalist, but with a premise this deliriously clever, who needs flashy graphics?

5. Moss

Polyarc

Moss is definitely the most eye-catching and adorable new IP released for PSVR this year (and it’s now also available for PC VR platforms), focusing on a mouse, Quill, attempting to rescue her uncle from a gigantic fire-breathing snake.

Though it runs just a few hours long and doesn’t pose much in the way of difficulty, Moss is nevertheless an insanely charming VR offering and a textbook example of the calibre of title Sony desperately needs more of on their headset.

The visual fidelity is terrific, creating a wondrous storybook world for the player to poke their head around, while the puzzles and combat make for a breezily enjoyable, cutesy little romp.

And even though Sony’s investment in AAA VR titles feels like it’s falling off a cliff right now, developer Polyarc has insisted that they’re already hard at work on a second adventure.

4. Laser League

Roll7

If you can overlook its unfortunately generic title and inevitable comparisons to Rocket League, Laser League is one of the most addictive and thrilling sports titles of the year to date.

A team-based game focused on players activating laser nodes which can disintegrate their opponents, Laser League combines chaotic, reflex-testing gameplay with a clearly TRON-inspired aesthetic to deliver an experience that feels uncharacteristically unique in a crowded genre.

The game can be a tad overwhelming from the get-go, but after a few rounds it emerges as a dizzyingly strategic test of mettle and on-the-fly thinking, where split-second decisions can mean the difference between uproarious victory and crushing defeat.

While it won’t be dethroning Rocket League as the de facto champion of bite-sized multiplayer sports game any time soon, it’s a damn fine addition to the field all the same.

3. Forgotton Anne

Throughline Games

Save perhaps for Ni No Kuni, it’s hard to remember another video game replicating Studio Ghibli’s gorgeous art-style as faithfully and lovingly as Forgotton Anne, a spectacularly charming and thoroughly engrossing adventure-platformer.

Though not particularly difficult and rather on the linear side, Forgotton Anne’s endearing cast of characters and offbeat fantastical narrative – which you’re best going in blind about, honestly – ensure this eyeball-meltingly handsome quest is a joy to behold for all of its 8-10 hours.

Releasing mere weeks after Ni no Kuni II turned out to be a low-effort disappointment, it might be just the tonic for those craving some beautifully stylised and undemanding yet meticulously crafted entertainment. Just make sure to bring tissues.

2. Iconoclasts

Joakim Sandberg

An absurdly addictive puzzle-action-platformer boasting a level of inconceivable ingenuity that only comes along a few times a generation, Iconoclasts is a masterful Metroidvania title that doesn’t merely use its pixel-art style as a lazily nostalgic crutch.

Endlessly inventive, generously peppered with intensely challenging boss fights and even boasting a surprising devotion to character and story, it’s impressive that the game manages to maintain this level of craftsmanship and intrigue for 12-ish hours.

In a busy genre, Iconoclasts soars thanks to the rich detail in every aspect of its conception, a feat all the more impressive as its creator, Joakim Sandberg, created and executed the game almost entirely himself over the course of eight (!) years.

But if you haven’t played the game yet, you may as well hang on a little longer, because a Nintendo Switch port is due out later in the year, complete with a new Boss Rush mode.

1. Sprint Vector

Survios

If you’re in the market for a video game to well and truly get the blood pumping, look no further than Sprint Vector, the latest VR title determined to leave you soaked in sweat and aching all over the next morning.

This utterly frantic racer-platformer requires considerable physical movement from players, swinging their arms in order to pick up speed, with the natural goal being to traverse the multi-tiered levels as fast as possible.

Though it does come with a few caveats – the learning curve is a bugger and like most multiplayer VR games the community is already a ghost town – but once the game clicks with you, it’ll become one of the most rewarding cardiovascular workouts you’ll have all year.

If you’ve got the patience and the “VR legs”, this is an absolute blast and certainly one of the best-crafted PSVR titles to date.

 

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