While Sony has the market cornered on console exclusives, Microsoft has the power game locked down. Whatever you play this year, if it plays on Xbox at all, it’s going to look better and play better on Xbox One X. If you’re rocking a 4K display in your living room, it’s the system to own. Each game listed here is also available on PC with the exception of a console-exclusive title further down the list, but that doesn’t mean these titles aren’t worth checking out on Xbox One.
A Way Out (PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One – March 23, 2018)
Back in 2012, movie director Josef Fares jumped over to video games and gave us the novel, haunting game Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons. I never expected that simply disabling part of my controller could leave me so empty inside.
And so I’m unreasonably excited for A Way Out, Fares next game. Aside from the name on the credits, the very concept of the game has me excited. This is a cooperative prison break game. The whole game has you and the other player working together to escape and stay free beyond the prison walls. This isn’t about boosting each other over walls, though that may happen. You can be doing completely different things, with one player watching a cutscene while the other works on a task.
It promises to be an interesting game at the very least, and it looks good, too.
Anthem (PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One – Q4 2018)
BioWare has been on the rocks for a while now. It’s kind of hard to watch. The once-great RPG developer has stumbled over and over in recent years. Mass Effect 3 ended with controversy, Dragon Age: Inquisition was a strictly-okay game from a studio known for great things. Mass Effect: Andromeda bombed hard for a thousand reasons. But there is hope. There is Anthem.
Anthem seems to be a riff on the Destiny idea of a few players teaming up for missions and raids. Multiplayer is a significant aspect of the game. You step into bigger-than-life robots that you can customize and roam the open world with. The game promises both single and multi-player elements, and the videos we’ve seen so far look eye-searingly good.
But we’re left worried. BioWare has had a tough time keeping promises lately, and publisher EA has been relying on microtransactions more and more. Between Mass Effect: Andromeda‘s troubled development and Star Wars Battlefront II‘s microtransation debacle, we’re not ready to dump all our faith into either party. But dang, Anthem looks good.
Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night – (PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch – 2018)
Konami went and made things weird a few years ago when they decided to dump all their awesome creators and instead repurpose their licenses for pachinko machines. Those displaced creators didn’t sit still for long, though. Hideo Kojima went off and started his own studio. Meanwhile, former Castlevania boss Koji Igarashi turned to Kickstarter with Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night, a game that looks to recreate what we love about classic PlayStation and Gameboy Advance-era Castlevania games but with a new coat of paint. The game has seen some delays and production issues, but the previews have undeniably looked good, so we’re eager to see if Igarashi can deliver when so many other Kickstarted games have failed.
Call of Cthulhu – (PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One – 2018)
I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t know for sure whether this game is going to be good or not. Most of the games on this list are probably going to be solid titles. This one, I don’t know. The studio has worked on games like Space Hulk: Deathwing and Styx: Shards of Darkness, so dark and gothic aren’t new for the studio, but games based on H.P. Lovecraft’s work are rare because they’re tough to do. The best parts of his stories are the most difficult to describe. All the same, Lovecraft managed to create some of the most vivid and horrifying monsters that don’t pull from cultural legend, so I’m hoping we’ll see his work done justice. It doesn’t happen often, so I pay attention when it does.
Crackdown 3 (PC, Xbox One – Spring 2018)
After an amazing first entry snuck its way onto Xbox 360, Crackdown fell into disrepair after a straight-up bad sequel. The series was long thought dead until Microsoft unveiled a version that would use its Azure servers to allow complete and total destruction of environments. Then we heard nothing forever.
Now, it looks like Crackdown might finally be coming this year. It was delayed out of fall 2017 into this spring, and Microsoft can’t push it out much further. When it hits, Microsoft is promising a full-featured single-player mode as well as a multiplayer mode with all that much-touted destruction. This is Crackdown‘s last chance at greatness, so Microsoft has to get it right. We have our fingers crossed.
Darksiders 3 (PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One – 2018)
Speaking of series thought dead, we were pretty sure Darksiders wasn’t coming back. After publisher THQ dissolved, the Darksiders license sat dormant for over four years. Now we’re actually getting one. This is one of the titles I wouldn’t be surprised to see delayed into 2019. The version showed in spring 2017 was in a pretty early state, and developer Gunfire Games and publisher THQ Nordic aren’t talking anything more specific than a 2018 release date.
But when it hits, whether this year or next, we can look forward to some fun, comic-booky battles against grotesque monsters like the one above.
Dragon Ball FighterZ (PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One – January 26, 2018)
The idea of an anime-themed game looking as good as Dragon Ball Fighter Z was a fantasy for a long time. Things got better and better with Dragon Ball and Naruto games over the years, as well as stuff like Valkyria Chronicles, but FighterZ seems to capture the look and pace of the show perfectly. Looking at the video above, I’d wager it actually looks better than the show. That’s bananas.
Far Cry 5 (PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One – March 27, 2018)
After sending us to the far reaches of Africa, Southeast Asia, and the Himalayan mountains, Far Cry is ready to take things home for the first time. Instead of dealing with a despot in a far-flung country, Far Cry 5 takes us to a rural community in Montana under the thumb of a cult. You’ll be doing all the usual Far Cry stuff – driving cars, shooting guns, getting attacked by dangerous animals – against a wholly different backdrop.
The biggest question right now is whether Far Cry 5 can actually do something interesting with its controversial subject matter. Taking the game to a religious cult is a daring move, but it also puts Ubisoft in a precarious position of having to show its game in the same country the game’s antagonists come from.
Jurassic World Evolution (PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One – June 2018)
Who among us hasn’t watched Jurassic Park/City/World/Continent/Planet/Galaxy/Local Cluster and not thought about all the little plot holes that let the park go off the rails? Like, who engineers a super T-Rex? Who employs one (extremely shady) cybersecurity guy that can be out-hacked by a 13-year-old? Who breeds flying and swimming dinosaurs when you’re trying to keep them contained on an island?
Well, now’s our chance. Jurassic World Evolution promises to let us run the park ourselves, dealing with all the emergencies that come up. Maybe we can find a way around all those plot holes and make a successful park that doesn’t get countless paying customers murdered.
Metro Exodus (PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One – Fall 2018)
Many of us missed out on Metro: 2033 and Metro: Last Light, but there’s no denying that the Metro: Exodus trailer above looks damn good.
The Metro games have always been good looking, and Exodus is no exception. Exodus takes the series above ground, and video we’ve seen so far suggests it might be somewhat of an open world game. With the game hitting this fall, we’re looking forward to hearing more at E3.
Monster Hunter World (PlayStation 4, Xbox One – January 26, 2018/ PC – Fall 2018)
Monster Hunter started its life on PlayStation, but it’s been a Nintendo handheld game for what seems like forever. Now, Capcom is bringing it back to consoles and hoping to make it a bit more accessible. The world of Monster Hunter World is one big open world rather than a series of zones separated by loading screens, and it’s set in a lush, living ecosystem made of interacting monsters. I sat down with the public beta and it looks like it’s going to be a riot to play and it might even call to mind the feel of Capcom’s 2013 game Dragon’s Dogma – just with the option for multiplayer.
Red Dead Redemption 2 (PlayStation 4, Xbox One – Spring 2018)
Let’s not pretend there’s any game we’re more excited about this year. Rockstar takes its time. Red Dead Redemption hit in 2010 and left an indelible mark on gaming. 8 years later, it’s still a great-looking game and offers one of the most compelling open worlds out there. But we’re in a post GTAV world.
We don’t know much about Red Dead Redemption 2, other than that it’s a prequel to the original, and we’re playing as someone other than John Marston, the original’s hero. Rockstar is playing close to the vest. The game was set to hit this fall, but the company delayed it into this spring.
And as great as Grand Theft Auto V is, that game was originally built with last-gen consoles in mind. Red Dead Redemption 2 is built for modern consoles (but not PC, so far), so it should be even more impressive an accomplishment than Rockstar’s last outing.
We don’t have a hard date for it yet, but we can expect it sometime this spring.
Sea of Thieves (PC, Xbox One – March 20, 2018)
Depending on who you ask, pirates are deadly serious or seriously funny. One of this year’s two big pirate games decided to go the seriously-funny route. Rare’s been working on a lot of weird projects the last few years, concentrating on Kinect games, but now the studio is back on its own project, and its own IP. That IP is Sea of Thieves, a game that can best be described as a pirate simulator.
This is a massively multiplayer game designed to simulate as many aspects of being a pirate as possible. You can follow treasure maps to find buried treasure. You can repair your ship and bail water. You can drink grog and sing sea shanties. But it’s all done in this multiplayer world with goofy-looking cartoonish pirates, and it’s tailored to help give players stories to tell of silly, wild adventures. If you have a group of friends you play games with, this could be a must-have game and a good palate cleanser after something intense like PUBG.
Skull & Bones (PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One – 2018)
Sea of Thieves isn’t the only pirate game coming this year, though. At E3 2017, Ubisoft showed off the game we’ve all been waiting for since Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag. Skull & Bones promises a game filled with everyone’s favorite part of Black Flag – the ship battles.
Ubisoft has had a good run with games like Rainbow 6: Siege and For Honor that focus on online play, and this looks to be more of that. I’m not complaining.
State of Decay 2 (PC, Xbox One – 2018)
We usually get one of two versions of a post-apocalyptic story. Either we play an action hero with zombies as the enemy, or we get more of that Walking Dead-style story where the Humans Are The Real Monster. I think State of Decay gets it right, though. Zombies are juts another part of the environment like cold, fire, and natural disasters. When you’re scraping to survive in an unstable environment, people die. That’s what State of Decay is all about. When you’re trying to survive, s*** happens, and your only choice is to deal with it and keep moving.
The original title hit Xbox 360 and quickly became one of the platform’s fastest selling downloads at the time, so we’re looking forward to seeing how Undead Labs twists the formula while keeping that core survival aspect intact. The game already looks better, and the team has shown off much more complex behavioral interactions between your fellow survivors. Perhaps best, though, is that you can fire a flare up into the air and get some help from a live player. State of Decay felt from the beginning like it was meant to be multiplayer, and now the team is making good on that. Surviving the apocalypse is going to be awesome.
System Shock (PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One – 2018)
This is another one that I’m not sure about. System Shock is the grand-daddy of the first-person thinky-brain shooter. From the original System Shock sprung the Deus Ex and BioShock games, and even more modern stuff like Prey. Games where, as producer Warren Spector put it, playstyle matters. Where the choices you make and the way you play the game influence what happens and what experiences you have. Where one set of skills and actions can lead you down one path and completely miss another, equally interesting path.
But this is a remake of that original game, intended to be accessible to the countless gamers who missed out on it the first time around. It’s also a Kickstarter game, which is reason enough on its own to be suspicious that a game is going to come out and that it’s going to come out as promised.
If it does, though, get ready to dive into one of the most important games out there.
Vampyr (PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One – Q1/Q2 2018)
While some studios like to find a niche and stick to it, French developer Dontnod seems to dig changing it up. The team came on the scene with the future-set action-thriller memory game Remember Me, moved to the episodic modern-day story game Life is Strange, and next up is Vampyr, a vampire-themed RPG set in 1918. You play as a doctor turned into a vampire, dealing with the moral quandary of feeding to live and harming people. You can feed on just about anyone, and who you go after can change the game and unlock different endings.
It’s rare to see a studio trying so many different styles of games these days, and that alone makes this one worth looking out for.