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Sky pirates, preachers and prison breaks: the best video games of 2018

Ni no Kuni 2: Revenant Kingdom

Ni no Kuni 2: Revenant Kingdom

The Studio Ghibli collaboration Ni no Kuni 2: Revenant Kingdom

A Japanese fantasy that looks like an interactive Studio Ghibli film – indeed, the first Ni no Kuni game was made in collaboration with the giant of Japanese animation. Imaginative and beautiful, Ni no Kuni 2 transports players to a world of sky pirates, cat princes, anthropomorphic mice and elemental creatures to bring into battle. Its story, though family-friendly, has a shadow of menace – just like all the best animation.
19 January (Level-5); PlayStation 4, PC.

Monster Hunter: World

Monster Hunter: World.

Best enjoyed with friends … Monster Hunter: World.

Monster Hunter has been confined to small screens on handheld consoles for years, but the PlayStation 4 will make its trademark faceoffs against gigantic dino-beasts look rather more impressive. A game of heart-in-mouth action, unusual weapons and unlikely triumphs, Monster Hunter: World presents a whole ecosystem in which to track, hunt and (often) flee from intimidating creatures. It’s best enjoyed with friends; there’s nothing quite like watching someone pelt comically through a forest, pursued by a furious dragon.
26 January (Capcom); PlayStation 4, Xbox One.

Shadow of the Colossus

Emotional power … Shadow of the Colossus.

Emotional power … Shadow of the Colossus.

In 2005, when it first appeared on the PlayStation 2, Shadow of the Colossus was a game of unparalleled scale, straining against the restraints of the technology that powered it. Now on PlayStation 4, the tech has caught up to its ambition, and it looks as stunning as it always should have. Trapping you in a beautiful but desolate place with nobody but your horse for company, commanding you to fell gigantic creatures a thousand times your size in an effort to revive a loved one, Shadow of the Colossus is beautiful, nuanced and has real emotional power.
6 February (Sony Japan Studio/Bigpoint); PlayStation 4.

Kingdom Come: Deliverance

A realistic medieval role-playing game that threatens to consume the lives of anyone with a weakness for this era of history. Rather than outlandish magical powers, Kingdom Come: Deliverance is grounded in realistic swordsmanship and a true-to-life 15th-century landscape and story. It’s been in the works for some years now, and development hasn’t been exactly smooth. Even if it’s still rather rough around the edges when it arrives in February, it will definitely be interesting.
13 February (Warhorse Studios); PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, Mac.

Crossing Souls

Cultural catnip for kids of the 80s … Crossing Souls

Yet more cultural catnip for children of the 1980s, who are absolutely spoilt at the moment. Crossing Souls is an adventure game about five friends in 1986 small-town California, who stumble upon a government conspiracy and can visit a parallel world of the dead. The Stranger Things comparisons end there, however. Pairing a detailed pixel-art world with 80s animation-style cutscenes, Crossing Souls is more about life in a small town than supernatural creepiness.
13 February (Fourattic); PlayStation 4, PC, Mac.

Sea of Thieves

Sea of Thieves

In search of plunder … Sea of Thieves.

Form a pirate crew, find yourselves a ship, and head out in search of plunder and infamy: Sea of Thieves is the stuff of a five-year-old’s dreams. It’s whimsical rather than historical, all chests full of gold, barrels of grog and sword fights with skeletons rather than scurvy and weevil-infested tack. Ship battles at sea, treasure hunts on deserted islands and sword-scuffles with other hapless pirates provide ample opportunity for comedy.
20 March (Rare/Microsoft); Xbox One, PC.

A Way Out

Intriguing narrative twist … A Way Out

Intriguing narrative twist … A Way Out

A cooperative experience that needs two players to work, A Way Out begins with a prison escape. You play through the story from two perspectives simultaneously: in one scene, one player watches from a balcony as the other is booked into jail; in another, one of you distracts a guard while the other smuggles things into a laundry cart. It’s an intriguing narrative twist, and something that’s never really been done before.
23 March (Hazelight Studios); PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One.

Far Cry 5

Far Cry 5.

Some kind of apocalypse … Far Cry 5.

Set in a fictional southern state of the US that has fallen into the thrall of a lying, charismatic preacher, Far Cry 5 pits the player against militaristic American cultists who believe the end days are upon us – so there’s no ethical dilemma in hastening the demise of non-believers. Running around in an extremist America that feels on the brink of some kind of apocalypse barely qualifies as escapism in 2018, but at least in this version you have the power to fix it.
27 March (Ubisoft); PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC.

Jenny LeClue

Jenny LeClue.

Family friendly adventure … Jenny LeClue.

A coming-of-age mystery story starring a red-headed child detective, Jenny LeClue has a hand-drawn look and an energetic spirit – anyone who ever obsessed over Harriet the Spy or Nancy Drew stories will appreciate the vibe. A family friendly adventure game that promises themes of loss and self-determination alongside mystery-solving hijinks.
Spring (Mografi); PC, PlayStation 4, Android, iOS.

Red Dead Redemption 2

Watch a trailer for Red Dead Redemption 2 on YouTube

The Grand Theft Auto developer’s other big game series might not grab as many headlines, but it stokes just as much anticipation. This long-awaited follow-up to 2010’s western epic, which brought the wild west to life as never seen before on-screen (replete with references and homages to practically every movie in the genre), Red Dead Redemption 2 puts you in the spur-adorned boots of an outlaw around the turn of the 20th century.
Spring/summer 2018 (Rockstar Games); PlayStation 4, Xbox One.

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