So much of Metal Gear Survive is repeating the same thing over and over again in single- and multiplayer. Defending the same points from the same zombies. Exploring the same zones for the same materials. Mining the same resources for the same small amounts of gear. But after learning the ropes and learning to set your own personal goals within that loop, there's an odd comfort in the formula, and I can see myself returning to expand my end-game base out of my own completionist urges. Survive might not compare well to the tactical espionage action that's defined the Metal Gear series we know and love, but its oddly hit-or-miss combo of some solid old ideas and some clumsy new ones has at least some appeal.
Gorogoa crafts its inventive, sliding-tile puzzles and magical world with a graceful simplicity across a compact but fulfilling adventure. The excitement of solving each puzzle may be lost on a repeat playthrough, but its hand-drawn art and clever payoffs are no less satisfying to watch unfold again and again. Gorogoa manages to say so much without uttering a single word, endowing it with a mystery that invites a more attentive, thoughtful revisit — and one that I was more than happy to accept.
PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds has taken the military-sim gameplay popularized by games like ARMA and DayZ, boiled it down to its most exciting parts, and streamlined it into quick and accessible rounds of pure, hassle-free, survival-based action. Even though each game starts the same way, its remarkable ability to feel like a new, tense adventure each and every round has kept me coming back for hours on end.
The amount of action that can transpire within a couple of seconds in Nidhogg 2 makes for two-player combat that's both intense and hilarious to play or watch with friends. Nidhogg 2's visual style might not be for everyone, but its sharp, minimalist duelling is still smart and chaotic enough to allow for endless couch competition.
Dark Souls 3: The Ringed City has found a way to revisit the past without a cheap reliance on nostalgia, wrapping up the story of Dark Souls in a way that will be satisfying for fans who enjoy digging into the rich lore the series has been building for the last few years. But you don’t need an encyclopedic knowledge of the Souls series to appreciate the satisfying twists and turns of this short, but exciting adventure, with its abundance of haunting, secret-filled locales and terrifying boss fights.
Night in the Woods captures the fears and anxieties of being a young adult with surprising clarity, but brings it into new and interesting territory thanks to its developers’ deep understanding of rural America’s economic hardships. Branching, well-written dialogue made me feel closer to Mae’s story as I helped build out her history and reignite friendships, encouraging a second playthrough to uncover the scenes (and even a few secrets) I know I missed.
Nioh could well take over 100 hours if you set out to master its many side missions on top of its tough campaign, but it’s a challenge well worth taking. The way it builds on its most obvious inspirations with a highly refined combat system and an unexpectedly charming, yet gritty style all its own allows it to boldly carve out its own identity, standing as a shining example of what action RPGs can be.
Resident Evil 7 grounds itself in elements that made the original great while still indulging in a risky new shift in style that both helps and hurts the beloved formula in equal measure. But it’s also the closest a numbered sequel has come to recapturing Resident Evil’s slow, but thrilling and atmospheric adventure game roots in a while — a welcome return that I truly hope to see more of in the future.
Owlboy shines thanks to surprisingly varied, Metroidvania-style gameplay and a charming cast of unlikely heroes whose bittersweet journey is among the best I’ve experienced in recent years. Its remarkably detailed pixel art makes every scene more breathtaking than the last, but it’s the relationships between characters in both story and gameplay that makes Owlboy something truly special.
Battlefield 1 does an amazing job of transplanting the fantastic chemistry of the series’ traditional multiplayer action into the weaponry and vehicles of World War I. The era brings with it not only a visually striking backdrop for classic game modes like Conquest and the compelling new Operations, but a distinct personality that touches everything from its rich lineup of archaic and distinctively designed weapons to the somber anthology of character-driven stories in its brief but surprisingly poignant single-player scenarios. While maps are not its strong point, Battlefield 1’s dynamically destructible environments and the minutely balanced mechanics of its classes and gadgets keep the moment-to-moment first-person shooting varied and engaging.