10: Titanfall 2
To some people, Titanfall 2 is a multiplayer game. So I’d just like to point out that I didn’t touch the multipalyer at all. This game is here purely based on the singleplayer.
You control a soldier who ends up with a “Titan” – a mech with its own AI system. You play the game both inside and outside the mech, and both are fun to do. Inside the mech, you feel very powerful, with strong weapons and melee attacks. Outside of the Titan and you get to experiences’ the games movement mechanics – with lots of fluid wall jumping and double jumping that makes Mirror’s Edge feel stiff and rigid.
The main story itself is fairly bare bones, the biggest part is the relationship between you and the Titan, who has a great personality and feels like a great friend. Level design is also amazing, with each level having a varied look and managing to use you and the Titan in interesting ways – some levels are Mech focused, some are pilot focuses, others use both in different ways. It means that the game always feels fresh throughout the campaign.
The levels are fun at the worst. Two levels are beyond outstanding – one played along an assembly line and one introducing an amazing mechanic which is best left for people to discover on their own.
9: Marvel’s Spider-Man
Movement can make or break an open world game. If navigating the world is not fun, it’s hard to get into the game. Spider-Man delivers massively on that front. Web slinging across New York is easy, but there are still ways to master it to be more efficient. There are small moves that Peter Parker can use to go faster, and using these with the right “rhythm” to go with the upcoming rooftops and buildings makes the web slinging not only fun, but also keeps it interesting. The “fast travel 5 times” achievement was my last one because moving around is just so much fun.
Combat can be stealthy or all out brawling, with some fights being massive. That said, it rarely feel overwhelming, getting good combos will let you use a special ability, good for taking out multiple people at once. Using the area around you is vital as you need to control the battlefield – just rushing to the middle will get yourself killed.
The various special abilities are linked to the many different suits that you can unlock, all from various forms of Spider-man media like comics and films. Once unlocked, these abilities can be paired with any other suit, so you never have to use a suit you don’t like just for an ability. The cel-shaded suits also look phenomenal.
8: Mass Effect: Andromeda
Leaving the Milky Way behind, Mass Effect Andromeda revolves around massive arks filled with people who have decided to make a fresh start in a new home, going into cryo for hundreds of years.
The arrival in the Andromeda galaxy is not smooth. The viable planet the human ark was heading towards is cracked into pieces and the region is full of vast areas of an unknown dangerous energy source. Furthermore, the other arks are missing and the forward base had a civil war. Your mission is to solve all this while finding new suitable homeworlds.
The combat in Andromeda is extremely satisfying. Biotic Charge, Push and Pull are some of my favourites, hurtling across the battlefield and throwing enemies at other enemies. It’s fast paced and so much fun. Missions are entertaining and the mystery of what has happened, and an ancient race that has vanished, is engaging.
The crew all feels like a crew – even the ones that stay on the ship. Everyone talks to each other, they move into different rooms at certain points and there’s extra chat logs to inspect. You ship – the Tempest – can be explored with no loading screens and feels like a home. Adding to that, as you select planets/asteroids/other objects from the map, the ship will fly to them and you will see many breath-taking views from the ships windows – it really makes it feel like you’re moving around the galaxy in a ship.
7: Horizon: Zero Dawn
Post-apocalyptic robot dinosaurs. It sounds fun but incredibly silly…yet Horizon: Zero Dawn not only takes it seriously, but actually pulls it off in a way that makes complete sense, too.
You play as Aloy, who was made an outcast from her tribe as a baby, raised by another outside. She doesn’t know why, but wants to improve herself, so sets her task on completing the Nora Brave trials before embarking on a quest, looking into why the mechanical creatures seem to be getting more powerful and agressive.
You will fight plenty of humans, but the main joy is with the creatures. They come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, some are instantly aggressive while others are docile…until you attack. As you fight them, you’ll learn more about their weak spots, enabling you to aim for specific weak points with specific arrows/weapons. Most of the time you’ll want to use the bow – because bows are just a ton of fun to use – but there are a variety of weapons, including one for setting rope traps.
Some of the larger robot creatures will seem daunting at first and you’ll definitely want to run away, but once you have better equipment and learn how all the different creatures act, you’ll be able to take on multiple at once.
6: God of War
I have not played previous God of War games, but they do sound like hack and slash games. This new one, however, is definitely more of a story focused action/adventure game, although there is still plenty of combat.
Kratos, after killing all the Greek gods, has settled down in Midgard with a family. The game starts after his wife has passed away, leaving him and his BOY. While Kratos is waiting for BOY to be ready, they are attacked by a powerful stranger at their home. This forces them to undertake their quests of scatting BOY’s mother’s ashes from the highest peak in all the realms.
This being Midgard and all, this is heavily based on Norse gods and mythology. You will travel through multiple realms, to dwarven ruins, across high mountains and a large lake. Everywhere looks outstanding and has a light “Metroidvania” aspect were some areas are explored again later, with you being able to discover new paths due to abilities unlocked throughout the game.
The dialogue between Kratos and his BOY portrays a realistic father/BOY relationship, and there are some fun characters you meet along the way. Combat is great fun, the main weapon being the Leviathan Axe. It has frost powers and can return to its owner (a bit like Mjölnir), and is the closest you’ll get to an amazing Thor game. BOY helps out over time with his bow, becoming more adept as the game goes on.
The camera also deserves a mention. It’s kind of a “one shot” style – throughout the entire game (of you don’t die), the camera makes zero “cuts”, it follows you throughout the game but moves on its own during cutscenes. It means the entire game is one long “flow” and all loading screens are “hidden” behind tunnels, with a “tree of life” hiding fast travel loading times. The music from Bear McCreary is also one of the greatest soundtracks in a video game.
5: Splatoon 2
While I got this game a bit late to enjoy most of the Splatfests, I still massively enjoyed Splatoon 2. A lot of that due to the Octo Expansion.
The core gameplay is just as fantastically crazy as the first game, with extra additions in the form of weapons, more interactive/moving arenas and extra mode. The best of which is Salmon Run, a co-op mode where you encounter waves of creatures with a wide range of “boss creatures” which all require different tactics – it’s a brilliant mode and somehow the co-op works great even with virtually no communication.
The regular single-player is similar to the first game, going through a bunch of challenges. There’s some good variety and a great final boss (again). The Splatoon 2: Octo Expansion steps things up big time.
You play as an Octoling – typically an enemy of the Inklings – who is woken up from brainwashing by music (or is it the Inklings who are causing the brainwashing? – it’s not really clear who the good guys are) and has to get out of the testing grounds you find yourself in. These tests take the form of 80 challenges, more difficult than the regular singleplayer but very rarely feeling unfair.
These challenges also feel very varied, lots focusing on single aspects of the game, particular weapons, grinding, special weapons, some platform, some puzzle, some combat focused. The levels also look strange but in a stunning way, some wonderfully bizarre (like a level with loads of GameCubes floating in the background).
This then ends with some spectacular levels as you escape the lab, and a stunning final level. All of this matched by some wonderful funky music. You’ll also find out more about the lore behind Splatoon, which is actually set in the future, after humans have messed up the world and become extinct.
The first Splatoon was a great multiplayer game. Splatoon 2 with the Octo Expansion expands on that and delivers an amazing singleplayer experience alongside it.
4: Gravity Rush 2
A sequel to the amazing Vita classic, Gravity Rush 2 continues the story of Kat and her cat, Dusty, who grants her gravity-controlling powers.
Instead of the classic sequel trend of depowering the main character, Kat starts off feeling strong. Kat’s main power is that she can alter the shift of gravity for herself, so she can fall in any direction. This may sound disorientating, but it feels very natural – I think the gyro enhanced camera causes the natural shake of your hands to make the camera movements easier to understand. Even the new first person mode isn’t too mind-bending.
So as you have the unlocked through the first game, the main focus on this is two new sets of powers: Lunar and Jupiter. Lunar focuses on lighter attacks, but much faster movement, while Juper is slow but hard-hitting. You can swap between these forms extremely quickly with a swipe of the touch pad, making it easy to mix things up in the heat of battle. Some enemies are more suited to certain styles.
The world in Gravity Rush is stunning, gorgeous floating cities (even the lower slums look great) in a sort of semi-comic style. Lots of nooks and crannies to explore as you hunt for gems to increase your powers. Not only are there multiple new vast locations, but the entirety of the map from the first game also makes an appearance.
With a charming story and a wonderful atmosphere, Gravity Rush 2 is a complete joy to play.
3: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
This was a very big change for Zelda. Instead of the structure of doing dungeons (mostly) in order, Breath of the Wild delivers a vast open world and once you finish the tutorial, you can go anywhere you want to. You can even go straight to Ganon. You’ll probably die, but players much better than me have completed the game in this manner.
BotW gives you a lot of tools to work with, mainly the glider and runes. You have access to unlimited bombs, but the main instruments are Magnesis, which lets you move metal objects around (to make platforms, hurl at enemies or solve electric puzzles), Stasis which pauses an object in time and any force you put onto it (by hitting it) will be released in on burst, sending it flying, and Cryonis, which lets you create ice pillars in water.
Using all of these together in different ways takes experimentation, alongside discovering other ways to interact with the environment (burning grass creates an updraft you can use for gliding, for example). Some people (again, who are much better than me) can do crazy things with this.
This also makes a lot of the shines – miniature dungeons, most with puzzles – feel a lot more fun. Sure, you could try to finish puzzles in the “proper” way. Or you can cheat them. On one puzzle I was supposed to use ice blocks to guide a ball onto a switch, but I instead used Stasis and a well placed bomb arrow to sent it flying spectacularly to the switch. This never feels like you’re breaking the game, but rather just feels like you’re discovering different ways to reach your goal. Being able to do stuff in your own way without a game going “no, try again” feels quite fresh.
BotW does have some odd limitations. Weapons break after usage and your horse has to be nearby to be able to call it, however I feel like both of these encourage players to experiment with the other stuff – finding new ways to fight and navigate the beautiful world.
Breath of the Wild isn’t just an open world game – it’s a playground filled with amazing toys.
2: Super Mario Odyssey
Since Super Mario 64, other Mario platformers haven’t quite tickled the same itch. Super Mario Odyssey brought back that feeling of joy while also adding so much more.
The levels are the main point of this. Not only are they varied themes, but each one has its own visual style. This could have come across terribly if not done properly (especially as elements from these worlds appear in others), but there’s something about how Odyssey handles it that just works.
Mario’s movements feel as fluid as ever, with his new hat, Cappy, providing even more ways to move and jump around. On top of this, Cappy also allows Mario to possess any non-hatted creature, all with unique abilities and ways to move. This makes the 880 moons in Odyssey all fun to collect (apart from two), with location hints available for tracking down the last few without needing a guide.
It’s a wonderful game that immensely pleasing to play from start to finish.
This kind of came out of nowhere for me. I adored Alan Wake but didn’t really follow the developer due to Quantum Break not catching my interest. Control seem to come out with little fanfare, it was only after accidentally buying PlayStation Now instead of PlayStation Plus that I discovered it.
What awaited me was the mysteriousness of Alan Wake on overdrive. It turns out that the events of Bright Falls was just one supernatural incident out of a great many, and there’s a secret government division dedicated to investigate them all.
You play as Jessie, who has been searching for the Federal Bureau of Control after her brother was taken after an “Altered World Event” she was part of. Upon finally arriving at their headquarters, it in itself a very mysterious building in the middle of New York (that nobody notices unless they know about it), something has gone terribly wrong:, nobody is around other than a strange janitor. You discover the director’s office only to find him dead, and the gun he was holding chooses Jessie as the new director – or more specifically The Board, a group of entities living in the Astral Plane (a white world with floating structures and a large upside-down pyramid you can see from any spot).
Throughout Control, you will encounter many mysteries both large and small. Some can be figured out, some will remain unsolved, with only some clues. Some brilliant moments involve dealing with “Objects of Power” or “Altered Items” (random, everyday objects with supernatural properties – objects of power can be controlled, altered items can just be contained. You can end up chasing a rubber duck, or playing traffic light against an actual traffic light. One of my favourite moments is the Ashtray maze, a section that feels like you’re in a music video, with amazing music from Poets of the Fall.
Your main ways of fighting is with your special gun (which can turn into different forms based on your preference) and psychic powers. Gliding around and throwing objects is always immense fun, and even though the challenge grows, it feels like you’re getting more powerful throughout the game.
There are a ton of secrets to find, often with extra background information, which I found interesting enough to try and hunt down everything (even returning to all previous locations after getting a new power/keycard). From memos between staff to a creepy puppet TV show, each document adds to the eerie lore.
Add in lots of frantic action, some fun but strange characters, a nice visual style and Control is a magnificent experience.