Earlier this week, you saw our enormous team list of our 30 most anticipated widely known games that are supposed to release in 2018. (Of course, delays are inevitable.) Today, your friendly neighborhood indie game connoisseur Caty McCarthy (hey, that's me!) waded through her expansive list of games she tries to keep her millions of eyes on to select the most notable in the coming year.
You may notice that there are some omissions, like Spelunky 2, which probably won't be out in 2018. There are also a couple mysterious games that were left out, such as Capybara Games' long in-development Below, which at this point we're assuming may never come out, as well as the delightful stop motion adventure of Harold Halibut, which Caty was told by one of the developers at Day of the Devs last year was actually aiming for a 2019 release, suggesting it's still a ways off.
In the meantime though, the following are the ones Caty (with a little bit of help from news editor Matt Kim) is most excited for in the upcoming year. (Don't worry: I'll stop writing in third person from this point onward too.)
Platforms: PS4, XBO, NS, PC; Release Date: January 2018
There was a time where I was really, really good at the archery-laden Towerfall: Ascension, one of the most exhilarating games of the couch co-op indie revival of the past few years. Originally, the Towerfall name launched on the Ouya. (Bet it's been awhile since you heard that word.) The game's creator, Matt Thorson, has been hard at work in the many years since then on another game though; one that shares its beautifully pixelated details, but not much else. It's a platformer called Celeste, and with a stellar team also consisting of developer Noel Berry, composer Lena Raine, and more, it should not slip by unnoticed in these early weeks of 2018. And who knows; maybe I'm destined to become a pro at Celeste too, just without the satisfaction of beating my friends.
Platforms: PS4, PSVita, PC, Mac, Linux; Release Date: February 13, 2018
Netflix's Stranger Things proved there is an untapped love of all things 80s, and Crossing Souls is finally tapping into that well through video games. A throwback to 80s friendship adventure films like The Goonies, Crossing Souls stars five teens molded from various 80s archetypes. Each character, like the geek gadgeteer or tough girl, have their own unique powers that you mix-and-match to progress in the game. With gorgeous pixel graphics and amazing animated cutscenes that look identical to 80s Saturday Morning Cartoons, Crossing Souls is a must-watch for nostalgia junkies. —Matt Kim
Dead Static Drive
Platforms: PS4, XBO, PC, Mac, Linux
In the world of Dead Static Drive, there's nothing but chainsaws, gas stations, and the great open road. Pegged by its creators as an "existential cosmic horror," Dead Static Drive has been igniting the likes of Twitter and beyond aflame with the game's entrancing gifs. Trucks spitting out dirt beneath its wheels as it makes a quick escape. Wildflowers blowing pedals across an abandoned vehicle. Visually, Dead Static Drive looks striking. As for its release, it's just waiting for that green light to reflect from the pavement.
Platforms: PC, Mac, Linux
There are a lot of anime-looking games, but oddly, so little that feel inspired by the field of Japanese animation in a purely spiritual sense. Desert Child is looking to change that. Sharing a sorta-likeness to Akira and Redline and an attitude in common with Cowboy Bebop, Desert Child is a "hoverbike racing RPG" from developer Oscar Brittain that had a successful Kickstarter campaign last year. It bears a lo-fi style that veers similar to classic adventure games like Another World, only Desert Child stretches the visual design with high speeds and chaotic hoverbike battles. Whether it's the clouds of dust you leave behind or the quiet of the town you visit to slurp some ramen, it's all marvelous looking.
Platforms: PS4, PC, Mac, iOS
Coincidentally, Donut County originally felt like a game inspired by Katamari Damacy, with players controlling a hole that grows bigger as it swallows up more everyday objects. But Donut Country proves to be much more than its hole gameplay as developer Ben Esposito creates a compelling cast of characters who all live in a charming desert town. All of them are connected by the fact that all their hole-related problems have been caused by a single, donut loving racoon. —Matt Kim
11 Bit Studios' Frostpunk, at its core, imagines a steampunk society if it were covered in snow. In the new game from the creators of This War of Mine, the world is bitter and freezing. Steam is the only means of opposing the harshness of nature. In the city-building simulation, you build steam-powered machinery and buildings, hoping the society you help foster will survive. Frostpunk goes beyond just city-building though, it's also a survival and strategy game: the decisions you make can spell doom for your micro-frozen society.
The Gardens Between
Platforms: PS4, PC, Mac
The Gardens Between is one of those independently developed titles where the first time you see it, you remember it. Kinda like how Cuphead blew everyone's minds with just a short teaser all those years ago. The Voxel Agents' The Gardens Between is an adventure game about two best friends traveling across islands, rewinding time to solve puzzles and make their way across them. Over the years its demos and prototypes have won many awards along the indie circuit, which only spells good luck when the game releases sometime in 2018.
Klei Entertainment are the sort of developers that can't be nailed down. They've created simulations, survival games, and now with Griftlands, they can check off sci-fi RPGs too. Griftlands retains Klei's signature illustrated style, bringing it into a new genre for the team. And in Griftlands, negotiation is its middle name—everything is negotiable, from money earned to morality to creating your personal character.
Platforms: PS4, PSVita, PC; Release Date: January 23, 2018
I can already sense your eyeroll at another Metroidvania game doubling back across storefronts. Yet Iconoclasts spells the recipe for potential success with its endearing art style that sometimes turns away from its pixelated landscapes, and bears a strong premise of a young mechanic who wants to help the world with her handy-dandy wrench. It's also been in development for seven long years by developer Joakim Sandberg, previously known for his work on some games of the Shantae series.
Kentucky Route Zero: TV Edition
Platforms: PS4, XBO, NS, PC, Mac, Linux
I slept on the episodic adventure game Kentucky Route Zero from Cardboard Computer for a long time. "I'll wait until all the episodes are out," I told myself. Then years passed. Nearly five years later and still one episode left, I decided last year to play through them all. In 2018, Kentucky Route Zero will finally have its conclusion, and it'll make its way to other platforms besides PC too. It'll be worth it too, to see how its magical realist world in the guise of the point-and-click adventure pans out.
Platforms: PC, Mac
Before I was officially writing about games, back when I was still just a lowly intern, one of the first news stories I remember writing was about a new teaser trailer for Knuckle Sandwich, the fanciful RPG from game developer Andrew Brophy. While some may compare it fondly to the likes of Earthbound, Knuckle Sandwich takes the cutesy pixelated RPG formula to, uh, low-poly Pokemon battles against Garfield-type critters, exploring the woes of living in a new city, and it's somehow laced with even more eccentricities. With a guaranteed release window of this year, I suspect Knuckle Sandwich will be the game to take players by surprise.
Platforms: PS4, PC
One of the reasons why I love the genre of science fiction is its realizations of impossible architecture. Buildings, structures, things that feel like they're impossible to realize; yet there they are erected in all their glory. Manifold Garden feels like that concept again: impossible architecture made real and interactive. It's the first game from William Chyr, a Chicago-based artist known for his installation art. In Manifold Garden, the player navigates M.C. Escher-inspired cityscapes, which fold onto itself. Navigation itself is a puzzle in this physics-defying game.
Mineko's Night Market
Platforms: PC, Mac
If you were a Neko Atsume fan, Mineko's Night Market might by the cat-related game you were fiending for next. Meowza Games' Mineko's Night Market is a game about crafting, eating, and well, "catting" (should that be allowed as a word for this lone description). You're tasked as a shopkeeper in a cat-overrun town. In the day, you craft things and collect trinkets and essentially get all set up to run your shop for the weekly market. Or, you can just befriend all the townspeople and felines that join you. Just as with real life, in Mineko's Night Market, you live life as you see fit. Crazy cat lady, here I come.
Platforms: PC, Mac
We all wish we could play with our food. It's why food fights were such a staple in cartoons and kids shows growing up. As adults, playing with our food is unacceptable. Luckily, developer Tj Hughes has just the fix. Nour had a successful Kickstarter last year, and it's planned for release this spring. The game has you hitting keys on your keyboard or random buttons across a Midi Fighter 3D (a sampler tool used often for electronic music, the Midi sampler itself was built with former arcade buttons for game fans) to make food fly through the air. Hughes wants to bring the Midi Fighter 3D back to its sorta-roots by amplifying it back as a controller in his experimental food game.
Platforms: XBO, PC
Ooblets has been described as a lot of things, probably the most common though is that it's an Animal Crossing-Pokemon-Harvest Moon hybrid, but somehow even cuter. That's how Ooblets has set social media on fire with its screencaps and gifs: it's too saccharine in its art direction to ignore. Even with so many concepts at play—gardening, monster battling, town life, dress-up, and so on—early impressions of the game have been strong almost across all media. We're just as enamored craving its eventual release as we were the first time we laid eyes on its gifs.
Platforms: PC, Mac, Linux
X-COM is a force to be reckoned with in the land of turn-based strategy games. Perhaps the only thing that can overcome it is something else entirely from the same brain behind the series. Phoenix Point is designer and original creator of X-COM Julian Gollop's upcoming turn-based tactical combat game, which happens to be a spiritual successor to X-COM. One big difference between the two series is that Phoenix Point looks a bit darker in its art direction, with the upcoming game taking notes from H.P. Lovecraft.
Return of Obra Dinn
Platforms: PC, Mac, Linux
Papers, Please is an unsettling game about working as a border control official who approves those trying to enter a fictional country. You're tasked with going over all their documents, making sure they're all accurate and correct, and either approving or rejecting them. Sometimes it ends monotonously. Sometimes it ends tragically. Most of the time though, it feels uncomfortable, judging whether people were fit to enter the country or not from a slip of paper. Return of Obra Dinn, the next game from Papers, Please creator Lucas Pope, has a much wider scope. The game follows a mysterious ship that washes up to port five years after it went missing in 1802. You're tasked with discovering what happened to its 60 crew members. If Papers, Please was grim, Return of Obra Dinn will surely also be.
Super Meat Boy Forever
Platforms: PS4, XBO, NS, PC, Linux, iOS, Android
I'm actually shocked that a randomly generated Super Meat Boy sequel didn't exist before. Team Meat's Super Meat Boy is the fast-paced side-scrolling platformer that made a huge splash in 2010, beyond its flash game origins. Since its Xbox 360 once-exclusivity, Super Meat Boy is available on nearly every platform you can imagine. Its sequel was originally concepted as a mobile-only game, before it ballooned into a Super Meat Boy game that only gets harder as you get better at the game: levels are generated by random chunks designed by its creators according to your skill level. The sequel also has a new control scheme, and is missing half of the original crew (Kyle Pulver replaces the original's Edmund McMillen).
Platforms: PC, Mac, Linux, unconfirmed consoles
Sometimes I peruse the #screenshotsaturday hashtag on Twitter to find out about in-development gems. Long ago, I happened across Totem Teller, a glitchy chaotic adventure game from studio Grinning Pickle, who are based in Shanghai, China. The developers call the game itself as a form of "story archaeology," as you travel across its corrupted world to uncover the tales it has buried.
Platforms: PC, Mac, unconfirmed consoles
If Link were a fox, he might look like the cute fella at the center of Tunic, formerly known as Secret Legend. Tunic is an upcoming action-adventure game from developer Andrew Shouldice. It's a Zelda-like, but not akin to the 3D games. If anything, it has the most in common with the early days of Zelda, like A Link to the Past. Tunic upgrades the visuals though, with its lush low-poly world to explore.
Platforms: PC, other unconfirmed platforms
Before Spelunky 2 was announced, UFO 50 was unveiled. It's not solely a Derek Yu effort; it's a collaboration featuring some of the most exciting independent developers in the industry today. UFO 50 is a collection of 50 games made by five developers, and they're not just minigames. When I spoke to Yu at Day of the Devs in 2017, he noted that the team was inspired by growing up with shareware and pirated games collections. UFO 50 is a team's earnest attempt at capturing the spirit of the long lost way of sharing games with friends.
Untitled Goose Game
Platforms: Unconfirmed platforms
I kinda hope that Untitled Goose Game never gets a real name. Untitled Goose Game says all that I need to know. But for the sake of this description, I'll let you in on the secret of the game. Untitled Goose Game is a new title from the creators of the also-hilarious Push Me Pull You. Leaning once again on physical humor, Untitled Goose Game pins the player as a mischievous goose, who wreaks havoc on a quaint little town. Havoc comes in the form of stealing things, like a radio, or just orchestrating ludicrous situations for your victim, like getting them in the prime position to get soaked by a sprinkler.
Platforms: Unconfirmed platforms
Her Story signaled a change in the genre of FMV games. On the surface, it was a game about watching video interrogations with a suspect, but beneath that, it was a game about finding your own path to the truth through simple functionality: using a search bar. The game's designer, Sam Barlow, hasn't given up on the FMV genre yet. Barlow's next game #WarGames is an upcoming series loosely based on the 1983 thriller WarGames. #WarGames bills itself as an "interactive film" rather than a game, but hell, we're excited nonetheless.
Platforms: XBO, NS, PC
If you listen closely, you can hear me and dozens of others quietly wishing for an Advance Wars revival. Wargroove is probably the closest we'll get to that. Developed by Chucklefish (the publishers of Stardew Valley), Wargroove is a turn-based strategy game that definitely leans more on Advance Wars in inspiration than Fire Emblem. It's also playable with other people, hosting up to four players at a time.
At last year's IndieCade awards I saw Wattam and Katamari Damacy designer Keita Takahashi offer an impassioned speech about loving each other in these charged times. His latest game feels like that speech made digital. Wattam is a game about a lonely cube as it makes more and more friends. Some new friends can be gained by solving a cute puzzle, while others are merely content with being blown up (it's fun, I swear). Either way, Wattam is another madcap game about feeling good from the Japanese auteur. —Matt Kim
Where the Water Tastes Like Wine
Platforms: PC, Mac
When I first heard about Where the Water Tastes Like Wine years ago, I was engrossed in its art style. It looked like nothing I had ever seen before in video games. Years later, the folktale-inspired Where the Water Tastes like Wine from Dim Bulb Games is finally planning a release in 2018. The game's helmed by Johnnemann Nordhagen, one of the co-founders of Fullbright Company (of Gone Home fame). Like Gone Home, Nordhagen has said in the past that he wants to talk about real world issues that games wouldn't normally tackle in Where the Water Tastes Like Wine, just as Gone Home once did.