2018 was a standout year for gaming. AAA games are in an incredible place right now (for the most part, Todd Howard is still on time out), there was a surplus of phenomenal indies like Celeste and The Messenger, and the industry is holding its breath waiting to see what new hardware awaits us in the coming years.
But now it’s 2019, so naturally, none of that matters anymore. What does matter are the games, and there sure are a lot of them, so without further ado, here are the most noteworthy titles releasing in the next 12 months.
Life is Strange 2
Dontnod’s Life is Strange is widely regarded as one of the best episodic games ever, and its sequel is already off to a strong start, arguably a stronger start than its predecessor. Life is Strange 2 is, at least for now, unrelated to the first, so feel free to jump right in. The first episode is already available, and and the next four will be released over the year. It’s a touching story about two young Hispanic brothers on the run, and it doesn’t stray from political themes. It’s a complex story that we don’t often see in video games, and this is sure to be one people will be talking about more and more as the story progresses.
Resident Evil 2
Originally announced back in 2015, the remake of survival horror masterpiece Resident Evil 2 is long overdue. Capcom has undergone a resurgence over the last two years, revitalizing and reinventing each of its key franchises. Resident Evil 7 brought the series back to its roots after the questionable 5 and 6, Monster Hunter World brought the niche series to consoles and it exploded in popularity, Mega Man 11 was a return to form for the Blue Bomber, and Devil May Cry is finally back. Capcom has proven to the world that it knows what it’s doing again, and everything they’ve shown of Resident Evil 2 looks amazing. The aesthetics, gameplay, and sound are all top notch, and that, on top of the already phenomenal source material, makes this one a surefire hit.
Kingdom Hearts 3
Kingdom Hearts 2 was released in 2006. Now, 13 years later, Kingdom Hearts 3 is finally upon us. There have been Kingdom Hearts game since 2, but they’ve seemed to cover every number but 3. 358/2, 1.5, 2.5, 1.5+2.5, 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue, and even 0.2 Birth by Sleep – A Fragmentary Passage, whatever that means. All jokes aside, Kingdom Hearts 3 is real, and it feels good to have a Kingdom Hearts game that doesn’t feel like studying for a calculus exam.
Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown
Ace Combat games have a small but extremely devoted fanbase. They’re fun arcade air combat games with surprisingly interesting stories and great soundtracks. Essentially, they’re Metal Gear Solid with planes. If that doesn’t sell you on Ace Combat, nothing will. Pre-ordering Ace Combat 7 gets you a digital copy of Ace Combat 5 on PS4 or Ace Combat 6 on Xbox One. There’s also a VR mode for all you PSVR owners out there.
The poster child of development hell is finally releasing in February. Announced in 2014 and originally set to release in 2016, Crackdown 3 will finally be in the hands of Xbox gamers on February 15. This entry focuses on destruction on such a large scale that it uses Microsoft Azure cloud computing to make sure everything is destructible. It’s also got Terry Crews, if that’s your thing.
Far Cry New Dawn
Every Far Cry since 3 has come with a spin-off following it the next year that reuses assets and the general layout of the map but with a drastically different theme. Blood Dragon followed Far Cry 3, Primal followed Far Cry 4, and now New Dawn is following Far Cry 5. New Dawn is different in that it is a direct sequel to Far Cry 5, and the game’s existence itself is also a massive spoiler, not that Far Cry 5’s narrative was anything to write home about. New Dawn probably won’t have an award winning plot either, but the shooting will be solid, the setting is gorgeous, and there are moss covered bison and deer with scarlet red antlers. It’s dumb fun, but it’s good fun.
After two linear entries, the incredibly atmospheric post-apocalyptic Metro franchise is going open world. Metro games have a way of pulling you into their world, making you use a compass and lighter to navigate and having your gas mask crack and get dirty. Bullets are scarce, and mutants roam the outside world, so people spend most of their time underground in the metro. Venturing outside was always a tense moment in previous Metro games, but more open environments will require planning and vigilance even more so than before.
Bioware’s Iron Man Meets Destiny Looting Extravaganza, more commonly known as Anthem, was initially brushed off by many upon its initial reveal as a shameless cash grab orchestrated by EA to get a slice of the Destiny pie, but the more they show of the game, the more unique and inspired it looks. Bioware’s narrative prowess began to show itself more and more, especially in later trailers and the showing at The Game Awards, and now Anthem is shaping up to be not as big a disappointment as people thought it’d be. Of course, nothing is certain until launch, but Anthem went from Destiny clone to its own thing that could actually hold its own against today’s multiplayer offerings.
A Square Enix mech game wouldn’t garner that much attention under normal circumstances, but this is part survival shooter, part mech game, and the team behind it is incredibly talented. Toshifumi Nabeshima, director of Armored Core, Takayuki Yanase, designer of mechs featured in Mobile Suit Gundam and Xenoblade Chronicles X, and Yoji Shinkawa, character designer of the Metal Gear series are all working together on Left Alive. An all star team working with a completely original IP, there’s definitely a lot of potential here.
Devil May Cry 5
After the solid but bland reboot, Devil May Cry is finally back with a new mainline entry. It’s been a full decade since Devil May Cry 4, and it feels good to be racking up stylish combos again. The Devil Breaker system’s disposable arms spice up the gameplay and add a layer of strategy to the combat in which arms you bring with you and which you destroy. A fluid combat system, awesome music, and charming characters make Devil May Cry 5 a must play in 2019. There’s a demo out on Xbox One right now, so be sure to take a break from Forza Horizon 4 and go check that out.
The Division 2
While The Division wasn’t the tactical team-based experience many wanted it to be, it was a solid RPG shooter with interesting ideas like the dark zone that ultimately didn’t pan out in quite the way the developers intended. However, like Ubisoft’s other titles, The Division wasn’t abandoned, and it was elevated to a truly great co-op RPG shooter with an interesting story and a remarkably detailed world that was a joy to explore. The Division 2 looks to be starting off right at the level of quality The Division 1 ended on, and numerous quality of life changes like reducing the sponginess of certain enemies makes The Division 2 a joy to play, and a game you definitely shouldn’t skip.
Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice
From Software, creators of the Dark Souls franchise and Bloodborne, is one of the most talented studios in the industry. Now that Souls is over, From has the freedom to pursue a new IP and free themselves from the formula they’ve used since 2009. The result is Sekiro, a game that looks faster and more fluid than Souls with a focus on stealth, aerial combat, and free-flowing fighting. There’s also a grappling hook, which is a huge plus.
Mortal Kombat 11
There’s not much that needs to be said about this one. Mortal Kombat X was almost four years ago now, and people are hungry for a new Mortal Kombat. A surprise reveal at The Game Awards showed that Mortal Kombat 11 was happening, and very soon. The game is scheduled for April, launching day and date on the Switch, too. It appears classic characters will be a focus for this entry, and character customization will be included as well. More Mortal Kombat 11 news will come at the game’s full reveal event, but as it stands right now, Mortal Kombat 11 is shaping up to be a solid new entry in the series.
There’s not a lot of buzz around Days Gone. Since its reveal, it’s been written off as generic, forgettable zombie stuff by pretty much everyone, but as more and more people have been getting their hands on it, public perception is starting to change, but just barely. The gameplay is where this game shines. Maintaining the bike, scrounging for gas and supplies, and circumventing the truly massive crowds of freakers (the developers are very adamant about not calling them zombies) are the bread and butter of Days Gone, and while there is no shortage of open world zombie games, there hasn’t really been a high budget, quality, AAA open world zombie survival game other than maybe Dying Light, but Days Gone and Dying Light are aiming for completely different experiences. People love to be critical of Days Gone, and the marketing and demos of this game really haven’t helped its case, but just give Days Gone a chance. There are zombie bears, man. Sorry, freaker bears.
Nobody asked for Rage 2. Nobody wanted Rage 2. Rage was good, but forgettable, and it seemed like the only color that game knew existed was brown. It also came out 7 years ago, so the sequel window passed a while ago. However, Rage 2 looks awesome. It’s almost unrecognizable when compared to its predecessor. Much like Far Cry New Dawn, there’s color everywhere, and the game is practically bleeding character. The shooting looks wonderfully satisfying and the new movement amplifying abilities look to complement that perfectly. The development team is also perfect for this kind of game. The minds behind Mad Max and Just Cause teaming up with the creators of Doom to create an open world shooter with lots of driving and destruction? How did someone not think of this sooner?
Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled
After the success of the Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy, this was inevitable. Crash Team Racing is one of the few kart racing games that can stand shoulder to shoulder with Mario Kart and even top it in some aspects. Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled also features tracks from the PS2 games, Nitro Kart and Tag Team Racing. Nitro-Fueled looks like it’ll be the definitive Crash racing experience and the best way to play CTR, just as the N. Sane Trilogy was for Crash 1-3.
Shenmue 3 is similar to Kingdom Hearts 3 in that the last Shenmue came out forever ago. Shenmue 2 came out in 2002, making it a whopping 17 years between 2 and 3. Today, Yakuza has filled the void Shenmue left open, but Shenmue 2 ended on a huge cliffhanger, so that story needs to be finished. Shenmue was famous for its level of detail in its world, but nowadays video game worlds are filled with a mind-boggling amount of details and secrets to uncover. Just look at Red Dead Redemption 2, for example. Hopefully Shenmue 3 will be able to capture the magic the original games had back in the very early 2000’s. It’ll be difficult, but not impossible.
Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night
Castlevania: Symphony of the Night is a masterpiece. Ask anyone who has had the pleasure of playing it and they’ll tell you the same thing. Now that Castlevania has been long forgotten by Konami, Castlevania producer Koji Igarashi has taken matters into his own hands, turning to Kickstarter to fund what he considers to be a spiritual successor to the franchise. Originally planned to release in 2017, Bloodstained was been pushed back to 2018 and now 2019. Ritual of the Night is a spiritual successor to Symphony of the Night, but there was a bonus Bloodstained game called Curse of the Moon that released last year inspired by Castlevania III, and it’s great. A lot of people are wary of Kickstarter games, and they have every right to be after disasters like Mighty No. 9, but Bloodstained is shaping up to be everything that was promised, and Curse of the Moon helps prove the developers love the franchise and know what they are doing.
It’s been five years since Animal Crossing: New Leaf released on 3DS, and it’ll probably be six when this new Animal Crossing comes out on Switch. Animal Crossing on Switch was an inevitability, it was just a matter of when. And when Isabelle got announced for Smash, Animal Crossing fans thought that was all Nintendo had to say, but it was a fake out. Animal Crossing for Switch was happening, and so soon, too. The world needs a new Animal Crossing, and everyone will be able to partake in bug catching, fishing, and home decorating sometime this year.
This is another game a long time coming. Revealed alongside the PlayStation 4 and officially announced at E3 2015, Dreams is finally coming out sometime this year (hopefully). A beta was scheduled for 2016, and then 2017, and then 2018, and Media Molecule just barely met that 2018 deadline with the beta starting for a select few on December 19 and everyone on January 8. Dreams is the follow up to LittleBigPlanet, letting players create more than just platformer levels, but entire games. Media Molecule also claims Dreams can be used to make films and comes with a complete music creation suite. There’s VR support too, but there hasn’t been much said about it. It’s strange that this game was unveiled at the PS4 reveal event and still isn’t available despite the PS4 being on its last legs, but Dreams should be out in 2019.
Gears of War 4 was a solid entry in the series, but nothing truly spectacular. This was expected, though, as it was the first game in the franchise developed by The Coalition and not Epic Games. Gears 5 seems to be taking the franchise in a different direction, giving Gears of War a much needed change of pace. It looks like it will offer a wider variety of gameplay through vehicles and different locales instead of being a standard cover based shooter.
Fire Emblem: Three Houses
Fire Emblem is back on a console for the first time since 2007. Three Houses retains the same grid based tactical gameplay as the other games but features fully 3D maps and arenas, an upgrade from the 2D backgrounds of the 3DS games. The game’s world is also fully rendered and able to be explored outside of battle, similar to Fire Emblem Echoes’s dungeons but on a larger scale.
Ori and the Will of the Wisps
Ori and the Blind Forest took the world by surprise not only with its tight platforming gameplay and metroidvania elements, but also its gorgeous presentation and graphical style. Ori and the Will of the Wisps is the sequel to the Blind Forest and looks to be more of what people loved about the first Ori. It’s breathtaking, the orchestral score is sweeping and beautiful, and the gameplay looks solid.
Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order
Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 took everyone by surprise. A sequel to a Marvel series that has been dormant for a decade, and it’s published by Nintendo and developed by Team Ninja? While it may sound like someone drew those names out of a hat, Ultimate Alliance 3 is real, and it looks like it’ll deliver the same Diablo-esque combat and cooperative gameplay that is right at home on the Switch.
A fully fledged mainline Pokemon game is scheduled to come to the Switch sometime this year. While the Switch already has a Pokemon game in the form of Let’s Go Pikachu and Eevee, those aren’t the mainline games that were promised. The new games will likely be the eighth generation of Pokemon and feature a more traditional experience instead of the more beginner friendly approach of Let’s Go.
Skull and Bones
When Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag was released back in 2013, a lot of people liked the pirate parts of that game and didn’t really care for the assassin parts of that game. Skull and Bones is just the pirate part of Black Flag, but fleshed out into its own game. Unfortunately, players cannot leave their ships and explore islands like in Black Flag, but the naval combat and gameplay have been expanded upon and improved. The game is primarily a cooperative or single player experience but there are “uncharted waters” where PvP is available, similar to The Division’s dark zone.
Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order
Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order is a Star Wars game being developed by Respawn, the studio behind the phenomenal Titanfall 2. Not much is known about this game other than that it is slated for late 2019.
Untitled Goose Game
Untitled Goose Game is the actual name of the game, not a working title. Untitled Goose Game is a stealth game, believe it or not. You play as a goose, and you are let loose to cause mischief in a small town. It sounds wonderful, and it’s out this year.
Doom 2016 is such a fantastic shooter. Nobody expected it to turn out as good as it did. It was the first game to follow Bethesda’s anti review copy policy, and people thought it was indicative of the game’s quality. It turns out the game was extraordinary and the review copy thing was unrelated. Doom Eternal is the sequel, and this one is set on Earth, just like the original Doom 2: Hell on Earth. This one has an energy sword and a grappling hook. It’s also coming to the Switch. It’ll be good.
The Outer Worlds
Obsidian Entertainment are the go to guys when it comes to RPGs. They made the incredible Fallout: New Vegas, the wonderful Star Wars KOTOR 2, and the Pillars of Eternity series. The Outer Worlds is their newest creation, a first person shooter RPG that looks like Fallout meets Borderlands. The reveal at The Game Awards was awesome and it was pretty much all everyone was talking about afterward (besides Joker being in Smash). Obsidian knows how to make a good RPG, and the Outer Worlds is one of the safest bets for 2019.
All of these great games in pretty much the first half of the year. There isn’t really anything dated for Q3 or Q4 yet, so there are still many more surprises to come. Did we miss anything big this year? Any indies we should keep on our radar? Let us know down below, and be sure to stay tuned to Circle Square games.
When he's not playing video games, Diego's talking about video games, and he does both a lot.