Best PC Game Releases Thus Far
We're just about halfway through 2018. It's been an interesting year for gaming, and the menagerie of titles shown off at E3 and expected to debut this year will only make things more interesting. So now is a good time to look at the last 25-odd weeks of new releases to figure out which games are shaping up to be among the best released this year.
A quick note on methodology: this list is based off the best-of-2018 lists from Metacritic, OpenCritic and Steam Spy. We chose those sources because they offer aggregate data from publishers large (Metacritic) and small (OpenCritic), as well as an unbiased look at sales figures (Steam Spy). That means we don't have information from some storefronts, but these sources cover the majority of PC games released so far in 2018. Where a title appears on our ranking depends on how many lists it was present on and where it appeared on the lists.
Sound good? Let's begin.
20. 'Kingdom Come: Deliverance'
Kingdom Come: Deliverance seems like an unlikely success story. The game was marred by countless bugs on release, including one that erased your all-too-infrequent saves, and it features neither the jaw-dropping graphics of AAA titles nor the pixel art common to indie games. Despite all those problems and its $60 price tag, Kingdom Come: Deliverance quickly became one of the hottest games on Steam. Players just love the somewhat realistic combat, medieval setting and figure-it-out-yourself approach to quests that Warhorse Studios built into the game.
19. 'Unravel Two'
Devs love giving platformers unique mascots. Classics include Mario, Sonic the Hedgehog and Donkey Kong, while more recent titles have featured people made of meat (Super Meat Boy) and man-owl hybrids (Owlboy). Electronic Arts added to this pantheon of peculiar characters with the Yarnys from its Unravel series. As you might expect, Yarnys are creatures made of yarn, and they're connected to each other by a single string. Unravel Two runs with that concept with a "platforming adventure" you can play solo or with a friend. And critics love it.
18. 'Just Shapes & Beats'
Who needs blockbuster graphics when you can have simple and colorful line art instead? Just Shapes & Beats lives up to its namesake with a relatively simplistic art style and dubstep-inspired soundtrack. Just don't let that simple premise fool you--the game is described as a "chaotic co-op musical bullet-hell" that tasks you with avoiding neon-colored shapes while moving along to the rhythm. You're guaranteed to die a lot, but when each life feels like the gaming equivalent to a high octane hallucination, chances are good that you won't mind trying again and again.
17. 'Into the Breach'
Into the Breach comes from the studio behind the popular FTL: Faster Than Light. Rather than making another spaceship manager, however, the devs created a turn-based strategy game wherein you're tasked with defending Earth from aliens. The game uses the pixel art style that's become almost synonymous with indie games, but its real charm lies in a combat system that's easy to understand but hard to master, especially if you try to meet all the bonus objectives in a given conflict. Earth needs you, and if you like turn-based strategy, you need Into the Breach.
This seems to be the year for Early Access games to graduate to full releases. The first of those titles to appear on our list is Rust, a survival management game that debuted on Early Access in 2013 and officially came out in February. Rust is all about withstanding adversity, whether it's staving off hunger, seeking shelter from the elements, or simply besting other players in armed conflict. The game has had its fair share of problems-- (including people thinking it'd never leave Early Access--but that hasn't stopped it from dominating Steam.
Not every platformer needs a strange mascot. Rather than serving as a vehicle for a franchise-worthy character, some just stand on their own merit as individual games. That's exactly what Celeste does. You have a simple goal: guide the titular character up a mountain. Spend more than a few minutes with Celeste and you'll see why so many people have lauded the game since its January release. The platforming is tight, the presentation is stellar and the inclusions of optional challenges for adept players and assistive tools for the less-experienced make it approachable for everyone.
Another game that moved from Early Access to official release this year is H1Z1. This version of the game isn't the survival-focused title that debuted in 2015; it's a free-to-play battle royale game based on H1Z1: King of the Kill. The change was likely meant to help its developer, Daybreak Game Company, take advantage of the increasing popularity of games like Fortnite: Battle Royale and PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds. It seems to have worked, and the shift in focus has also given H1Z1 a shot at becoming at least a semi-popular esports title with support from several teams.
No, this game doesn't have anything to do with the Wreck-It Ralph movie sequel debuting later this year, though we sorta wish it did. Wreckfest is a racing game that draws inspiration from demolition derby. You have all the normal racing game trappings--vehicle customizations, multiple courses, etc.--but you're actually encouraged to crash into other players rather than swerve to avoid them. All this is married to a "true-to-life physics simulation" that's supposed to accurately emulate the effects of a collision.
12. 'Warhammer: Vermintide 2'
Sometimes you just want to stab, bludgeon and slash your way through hordes of enemies with a couple friends. (Please say that isn't just us.) Warhammer: Vermintide 2 promises to let you do exactly that with five different character classes, each outfitted with their own weapons and abilities, along with four-player co-op play. This sequel also boasts new maps, additional career paths and improved loot systems that make it a bigger and better version of its predecessor. Don't come here looking for a particularly strong story--this is just good, clean, violence-induced fun.
11. 'Yoku's Island Express'
Yoku's Island Express is what you get when you combine open-world exploration, platforming and a pinball machine in one game. You get to choose which quests you embark on, on the island of Mokumana. Once you've decided, you'll have to make your way through a series of platforming or pinball-inspired challenges. There aren't many games like Yoku's Island Express, so if you've ever found yourself wanting to play some virtual pinball with something other than 3D Pinball Space Cadet but aren't into real-world emulators, this is the game for you.
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Nathaniel Mott is a freelance news and features writer for Tom's Hardware US, covering breaking news, security, and the silliest aspects of the tech industry.