This is never a fun list to make, because these are all games I wanted to like. Without exception, they are games I was looking forward to playing. What went wrong? My expectations, the games themselves, or — most likely — some combination of the two? This year’s list actually goes up to twelve because it includes two games I never even played.
12. Fallout ’76
I haven’t played this, but I can say about it something I have never said about a Fallout game: I have no interest in playing it. At this point, I wouldn’t even want a fancy canvas Fallout bag.
11. Underworld: Ascendant
Unlike Fallout ’76, where some of the complaints were briefly and mildly intriguing, nothing I heard about this made me the least bit curious to try it. Seems I didn’t have to play it to know I didn’t have to play it.
10. Pit People
I love the idea of this game! Streamlined tactical combat with a focus on setting everything up and letting it play out rather than clicking attack and then clicking the target over and over again. And brimming with Behemoth’s trademark exuberance. But it’s just so darn…wriggly. When it’s not being stingy with information, it’s a cacophony of multicolored numbers and obtuse icons sticking to my cursor like sidewalk gum on a hot summer day. Random nonsense works wonderfully in an action game like Castle Crashers. It doesn’t work so wonderfully in a tactical combat game.
9. We Happy Few
More an art style than a game.
8. Warhammer 40,000: Inquisitor – Martyr
The developer who spent year after year working on the same King Arthur game, and then year after year working on the same Van Helsing game, needs to spend a few more years working on this Warhammer action RPG.
7. Jurassic World: Evolution
Who would have thought dinosaurs escaping from their cages and eating guests would ever get so rote? Speaking of, this game perfectly captures that element of the Jurassic Park movies.
6. Shadow of the Tomb Raider
If there’s one thing Lara didn’t need, it was long stretches of walking around quest hubs and blathering to NPCs. Shadow of the Tomb Raider is the game design equivalent of that guy in Red Dead Redemption running around town shouting, “Has anyone seen Gavin?”
Read the review here.
All these years later and Magic is still the dominant model for competitive card games? The twist here is that you’re playing three rounds of Magic at once, using characters only DOTA 2 players will recognize, with a special guest appearance by a couple of Spyro the Dragons fluttering alongside the decks of cards. Psst, hey Artifact players. Want to see an online collectible card game with unique gameplay, gratifying progression, and a totally fair business model? Here you go!
4. Just Cause 4
In Just Cause 3, the progression was locked behind a bunch of tedious challenges. I didn’t care to do the tedious challenges and therefore didn’t do much progressing, and therefore stopped playing. Just Cause 4 has a novel solution to the problem. Make progression irrelevant! If I do a bunch of racing challenges, I can unlock the ability for my grappling hook to pull gradually instead of yank. If I wingsuit through a bunch of floating rings, I can determine the height at which my Metal Gear Kidnapping Balloon pops. If I ramp certain kinds of cars off certain ramps, I can attach jet thrusters that fire at a 90-degree angle to the point of impact. Why does Just Cause 4, a game mostly about shooting dudes and blowing stuff up, think adjustments to pull speed, altitude, and angle are the stuff of progression?
3. Star Control: Origins
Fantastic ship combat and clever writing adrift in a universe comprised of busywork where the exploration should be.
2. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
It’s called Super Smash Bros. Ultimate because Super Smash Bros. How Do I Unlock More Characters Because I’m Sick of Playing Kirby, Which Is Something I Never Thought I’d Say was too long to fit on the Nintendo store page.
1. The Crew 2
I have some good news and some bad news. The bad news is The Crew 2. The good news is The Crew 1 is still the best driving game out there.
Read the review here.