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The best games of 2019 so far

Our favourites thus far

Summer. The heat age. Scorch season. Spring’s hangover. It’s the mid-point of the year and you know what that means. No, not “mojito time”, Geoff, put those away. It’s time we told you what the best games of the year are so far. There are quite a lot of them. Just look how many videogames have escaped from their developers in the past six months and are now running amok through the blistering streets, getting stuck in the melting tarmac, like ants in jam. It’s unsanitary. So allow us to round up these unruly games and trap them in a handy list. Here are our favourite sword swingers and space ‘splorers so far this year (and a couple of DLCs for good measure).

Okay, Geoff, now bring the mojitos.

Hit the ‘next’ and ‘previous’ buttons below to start paging through, or press the right and left keys on your keyboard if you hate to click a mouse. Have fun.

Outer Wilds

What is it? Folksy spaceship sim with a solar system of planets to explore and a Groundhog Day time loop where the sun explodes every 20 minutes.

Brendan: It will take a lot to push Outer Wilds off the podium in my head come December. This is the friendly, Saturday morning space sim for everyone who loves exploring planets but is too intimidated by Kerbal Space Program. It’s about indulging your curiosity, hopping across low-gravity planetoids, and losing your ship to a column of vacuum-cleaner sand. It’s about dying – a lot. It’s about flying into a tornado just to see what happens, or getting lost in the icy passages of an asteroid, or falling out of your ship mid-flight and drifting helplessly into the void of space. “Oh well,” you think, as your oxygen supply beeps its last, “in my next life I’ll go see what’s up with that black hole.”

Alice Bee: I am still exploring the outer wilds of Outer Wilds, and the web of connected happenings that keep re-happening is very impressive. I can’t fathom how you would even begin to write this game. My two favourite things about it are (1) you can ask someone why the ship’s autopilot keeps firing you into the sun, and it will be patiently explained to you that if you lock on to a destination planet while the sun is between you and it, then yes, you will fly into the sun; (2) the alien species that you play as have four eyes, so when you open or close them the screen shows four eye slits.

Video Matthew Yes! I also love the way the first breath of a new life reflects the way you died in the last – a hearty gulp if you suffocated in space, or a softer hiccup if you politely accepted the exploding universe.

Matt: It’s not for the impatient. I adored Outer Wilds until I got stuck, and couldn’t be bothered with the trek once more through the [REDACTED] on the twin planets of [REDACTED] thanks to all the [REDACTED]. I could just look up what I need to do, but that would ruin the magic.

Buy it on: Epic Store

Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown

What is it? The latest dog-fighter in the long-running aerial ruckus series, featuring beautiful clouds and action movie silliness.

Brendan: Ace Combat games are basically a heavy-handed and ineffective advertisement for war planes, in the same way that Castaway is a long commercial for FedEx. The message is questionable, but the bottle is beautiful. Ace Combat 7: The Drone Wars brightened my February with its sleek fighter jets and unrepentant stupidity. Sometimes it’s nice when a game just lets you explode expensive war machines from 10,000 feet above sea level. But Ace Combat 7: Murder Most High doesn’t launch you from a massive boat and leave it at that. It fills its levels with outlandish gimmicks and set pieces.

There are lightning strikes, dust storms, electrical interference that messes up your targeting computer. There are cloudy canyons and crumbling city skylines and a full-blown Death Star moment. There is a giant drone mummy-plane which launches hundreds of smaller baby drones. At one point you get arrested for accidentally shooting down the president, and when they put you in plane-jail your warden gives you a rubbish plane and makes you fly around as a decoy. There is an ace pilot with 14 names. I do not know why, and I do not care to know. Play this dumb plane game.

Buy it on: Steam

Ape Out

What is it? Top down beat ‘em up where an angry gorilla smashes men into pieces. Jazz plays throughout.

Alice Bee: When I played this game it was love at first punch. My word. It’s so… so perfectly, completely what it is. It has all the clarity of purpose of a gorilla punching a man out of an office window. Which you can do. And then you can look at the little splat he makes on the pavement below.

Ape Out is largely the work of Gabe Cuzillo, with some art by Bennett “Getting Over It With Bennett Foddy” Foddy, but a special shout out should go to Matt Boch, who composed the music. The toe tapping, man-splatting drums that rise and fall in time with the frenzy of your attack. It’s some kinda masterpiece. From now on, I shall not suffer an ape to be in.

Nate: “Top-down action” is not really a format that I’m into, and I don’t really like jazz. But my goodness, this game is so deeply embedded in my aesthetic territory that I couldn’t fail to adore it. The whole concept is like something I’d tweet while deep in a manic fugue state, and the execution of premise into game is just superb. A lesser designer could have added so much to Ape Out that would have diluted and enfeebled it, but by sticking to such a restrained brief, the game has retained a properly primal charm.

Buy it on: GOG, Humble, Steam

Imagine - a world where we can add as many giant women as we want!

Assassin’s Creed Odyssey — the Fate Of Atlantis DLC

What is it? A hefty chunk of DLC for Ubi’s ruff, tuff, Ancient Greek entry into the AssCreed series, wherein you raise hell in the underworld.

Alice Bee: At least one person is going to tell me I am doing a big cheat by putting this as an entry, but honestly it’s one of the things I’ve enjoyed playing the most this year. I can’t pretend to understand the future-past framing device used as the in-game explanation for The Fate of Atlantis, but the result is that I get to take Kassandra (I do not acknowledge Alexios players) on high-level adventures in new areas.

It’s been a fun and silly ride in the best possible way, and that works literally as well because I now have a giant black murder horse with lizard skin as a mount. The difference between the smokey ruins of Tartarus (bad deadland) and golden flower fields of Elysium (good deadland) is really lovely. Mainly I like it because you get to pal around with the actual gods quite a bit, and they are whiny, bitching little babies, or perfect terrifying queens. Hades and Poseidon had a bet over my heroing. Top tier stuff, lads.

Buy it on: Steam, Humble (season pass), Uplay — but I’m recommending the DLC here. You need the base game first.

Mordhau

What is it? A 64-player medieval decapitate ’em up with melee combat that puts all others to shame.

Ollie: I’d thought Chivalry had sunk its claws into me back in 2012, but that was nothing compared to the iron grip with which Mordhau now holds me, refusing to let me get on with my life or, god forbid, play another game in my spare time. Once you’ve got past that initial bewildering stage of wild swings and panic-blocking as though the enemy’s sword is about to pass right through the monitor and behead your real life self, the true beauty of its combat opens up.

All these alien terms like chamber-morphing and thrust-dragging and riposte-kicking slowly become second nature, and after enough time you begin to feel like the hero of your own personal Game of Thrones, cutting through swathes of enemies single-handedly, moving from slice to stab to kick to counterattack to insults directed at your opponent’s wife, all with an effortlessness that can only ever be born out of hundreds of hours of brutal training and experience.

Matt: Mordhau is stupendously silly, captivatingly intricate and gloriously rewarding to get good at. One day I will beat Ollie and retire.

Brendan: I like to dress up as a peasant and throw petrol bombs at the big men.

Buy it on: Steam

It’s Winter

What is it? Winter.

Alice 0: What is one to do awake in the middle of the night in a Russian apartment complex? Listen to the radio, perhaps. Okay, so I can turn the radio on. Can I… eat something? Oh god, what, I can actually cook something. I can slice bread and cook an egg in the oven and make an egg sandwich and… then flush that sandwich down the toilet? Okay. Now are any of my neighbours in? And what happens if I clean up the broken glass someone left in our stairwell? And… and… how wonderful to drift through this snowy night, drunk on the mood with no plan.

It’s Winter is a game which explains nothing of what you can or can’t do, gives no indication of what it thinks you should do. It captures the feeling I’ve had on strange, dreamy nights where I’ve wandered, investigated, and committed secret acts. It’s winter. It’s night. You’re awake. You’re alone. Now what?

Buy it on: Steam

The Things We Lost In The Flood

What is it? Sail through a drowned and desolate world, gathering boat upgrades and communicating through messages in bottles.

Alice 0: I’ve revisited The Things We Lost In The Flood several times since I posted about. I’ve sailed under a ferris wheel and past a black monolith. I’ve found new boat upgrades. I’ve discovered cryptic hints and magic words. I’ve pulled many more bottles out of the water with messages from other players, hints, celebrations, and commiseration. I’ve trashed more robots and collected more data disks. I still have no idea what my goal is, or if I have one, or what will happen if I collect enough disks, or what these magic words do… I don’t know, and I don’t want to know. The more I return, the more I see and understand, the more the magic fades. I think today’s trip, to capture this wee GIF, was the last I’ll play so it can live on strong in the back of my head.

What is it? Dunno. You sail and see things and listen to the music and the rain and it’s nice. My favourite message I found from another player was “im a cool internet girl, but that doesn’t matter much now.”

Alice Bee: I played Things We Lost In The Flood at the weekend. I enjoyed paddling about reading messages, and then I started throwing my own messages out, and basically I spent an hour writing sad feelings about previous breakups and I am never playing this game again. It is very good.

Buy it on: Itch.io

Snakeybus

What is it? Snake, with a bus.

Alice 0: Snake with a bus is a good joke, Bus Simulator pushed in a ridiculous direction. It’s also a fun analogue take on a digital classic, the bus bumping and scraping against walls and leaping over itself as you try to figure out if you’ve kept a tight enough line to fit another coil down by the docks or around the Eiffel Tower while still reaching the next bus stop.

It reminds me, curiously, of games like Zen Bound. How better to know a city or weird abstract plane than by filling it with bus, covering every surface with coils of bus, stroking the walls with bus, stacking bus on bus, more bus and more bus until there is no more room for bus… until you realise you can fit another few carriages in behind that Starbucks.

Buy it on: Steam

QT

What is it? PT, Konami’s infamous Silent Hills teaser game, but cute af.

Alice 0: Despite being cancelled and delisted and deleted and wiped from the face of the digital earth by Konami, or likely because of it, PT has been hugely influential. You can’t walk down a hallway these days without one knock-off ghost or another popping up to give you a spooking. QT is so brazenly PT, straight copying the layout of that looping hallway, except it’s adorable.

No blood-dripping fridges, bloody animate bags, screamy faces, or owt. Here everyone and everything you meet while looping through the hallways is happy, from dogs to frogs to builders to families to parties. That’s a cute joke but! QT also has PT’s mysteries, the hidden areas and secret codes and puzzles and all that. Some of these also feel like references to the medium of weird Unity first-person wanderers made by fledgling solo developers, games of glitches and oddities and… ah, it’s grand.

Play it on: Itch.io

Hypnospace Outlaw

What is it? Her Story meets Papers Please, but you’re an online enforcement officer stamping out malware, trolls and more in the early days of the internet.

Katharine: If you’re a person of a certain age, Hypnospace Outlaw is a brilliantly observed investigative comedy about the weird corners of the internet you used to visit in the late 90s. From the blaring MIDI music pouring out of teenage fan sites to the experimental GIFs and garish ‘my first HTML’ pages, this is exactly how I remember the internet used to be before it got swallowed up in the tide of e-commerce and SEO nonsense. It was a place where communities flourished and banded together around every topic under the sun. It was a place of knowledge, sharing and gentle encouragement, where internet legends were just nerds in their bedrooms doing nice things and making cool stuff for people and everyone was okay with that. It’s a place I wish still existed, and thankfully it does in Hypnospace Outlaw.

This is a game that touches on all the ancient cornerstones of those early online days, from terrible fan art posts and virtual desktop pets to secret music sharing rings and weird ass conspiracy theories. And as one of Hypnospace’s online enforcers, you really get to root around in the nitty gritty of it all as you seek out various ne’er-do-wells and scrub their naughty misdemeanours from the world with your incredibly satisfying hammer stamp. I love that you get to see its wide cast of characters reacting to what you’re doing as well. As the story moves through the ages, it’s hilarious to see people getting angry about you removing all instances of a particular children’s cartoon character from their pages, and charting their movements and relationships with other users can sometimes be surprisingly heartbreaking. It’s an ode to the internet of yore, and one of the best detective games of recent years after Return of the Obra Dinn.

If you’re not a person of a certain age (i.e. if you’re a young ‘un under the age of 25), Hypnospace Outlaw will probably be as baffling to you as one of those ‘Teenagers React To…’ videos on YouTube. It’s still a stonking search ’em up, though, and at least you can laugh about how us oldies used to think this was peak internet.

Buy it on: Steam, Humble, Itch

Heaven’s Vault

What is it? An archaeological mystery game that sees you travel across an entire nebula of stars and planets in search of hidden truths and a strange language.

Katharine: I have often tried and failed to describe Heaven’s Vault to other people. I usually start by saying it’s the next game from the makers of the fab 80 Days. “Oh yes,” they nod, “I loved that game, tell me more.” Well, this one’s all about translating an alien language and fitting bits of words together to try to decipher their meaning. “Ooookay,” they say, “I’m still listening.” And there’s also this mystery at the heart of it that’s just wonderfully knotty and more-ish and has so much to say about history, myth, fact and fiction and how we create and propagate stories after we’re gone and…

And at that point they’re also gone, lost in the haze of words and too much enthusiasm. It’s not an instant, easy sell, but I’ll be damned if it isn’t the most intelligent, thought-provoking and ‘sweet-lord-I-must-play-more-of-this-every-waking-second-of-the-day’ game I’ve played this year. I just love the process of working out all of its alien phrases and how putting certain words or meanings together can then go on to form new expressions. I love that it lets you come to your own conclusion about its language as well, while also gently correcting you when you realise you’ve hit a dead-end. It never makes you feel stupid or inept – just clever and like you’re constantly learning and developing your own vocabulary. It’s an absolute treat, and definitely a contender for full Game of the Year status come December.

Brendan: Let’s open the painfully dweeby handwritten dictionary of words and phrases I made while playing this clever translate ‘em up. Here are some words I like and how they are literally translated in the game’s mysterious ancient language. To wound somebody, you “fire-cut” them. A door is a “thing-where-light-moves” (I think). Instead of flying, you “move-through-the-star-place”. A written word is a “thing-spoken-without-speaking”. I have 13 pages of verbs, adjectives, nouns, and all the other types of word for which I don’t know the technical term. Jon Ingold, one of the designers on the game, said it was not about teaching you a foreign language, but about teaching you to read. By the end of my first playthrough, it had managed both. Most games feel like grubby time wasters when I’m done with them. With Heaven’s Vault, I felt like an alien scholar. I started a new game straight away.

Alice Bee: The language in Heaven’s Vault is amazing, and I recently discovered that if you play it again you get a sort of New Game+ version where the translations you get are slightly harder and more complicated. Honestly I would love it if they made, like, a mini version of the game that just challenges you to become fluent. Also I think I translated some of the words Brendy describes above differently… hmm…

Matt: I liked the bit where you buy a gecko.

Buy it on: Steam

SteamWorld Quest: The Hand of Gilgamech

What is it? An RPG card battler with medieval robots from the makers of SteamWorld Dig.

Katharine: I love a bit of SteamWorld, me, and when I first saw that Quest was going to be an RPG card battler I could barely contain my excitement. In truth, I haven’t played a huge number of card games in the past, but developers Image & Form have a peculiar knack for turning complex genre pieces into something that’s fun, accessible and often downright brilliant. Just look at SteamWorld Heist and its ricocheting real-time gunplay. That’s much better than simply being given a chance of probability percentage like you get in XCOM, as it feels like there’s actually some skill involved rather than being at the mercy of an invisible dice roll.

As for Quest, not only is it one of the loveliest and most satisfying games I’ve played this year, but it’s also given me the confidence to dig deeper in this new and mysterious genre, which is arguably the best thing a game can ever do for you. I’ve always been put off by the ongoing meta gubbins of other card games, as I rarely play games regularly enough to keep up with all of their various rule changes. Self-contained card games like Quest, though? Sign me up. I’ve got a taste for them now, and I want more.

Buy it on: Steam

They Are Billions

What is it? A pauseable steampunk RTS with tower defence elements, where you try to survive against hordes of undead.

Ollie: It’s pretty weird to think of They Are Billions as a 2019 release seeing as I’ve been playing and adoring it for two and a half years now, and the central game itself hasn’t changed all that much in that time. But that’s a good thing, because they got it spot on to begin with. Placed in the centre of a desolate and unsettling post-apocalyptic world, you must attempt to build up your town, your economy, and your defences, all while pushing back the thousands upon thousands of undead that shuffle all around you.

It’s a truly punishing game where the slightest mistake or distraction can lead to the death of your entire colony in moments – and there are some horrifying moments that can arise, from the pale, sharp-clawed Harpies that can vault your walls and kill your rangers in a single swipe, to the moment when the oncoming horde of five thousand-or-so infected slowly emerges from the fog of war, and you realise just how utterly fucked you are. Of course, all this is just survival mode. With the full release they added a campaign with StarCraft-esque indoor missions, a tech tree, branching missions, and a whole load of other refreshing new features that have rekindled my love for this deliciously unsettling colony builder.

Buy it on: Steam, Humble, Official Site

Apex Legends

What is it? Only the best bloody battle royale in the biz.

Matt: Apex Legends was good enough to rip me out of my battle royale fatigue, shake me by my Plunk-addled shoulders and get me gunning after fellow murderers every day for a month. Bumslides, mantling and ziplines let me out-maneuver foes with better aim, while Overwatch-style abilities let me outsmart them. I’d call it the thinking man’s royale, but that would make me look silly.

Brendan: The only battle royale I played for more than a handful of hours. I’m not as fearless, ambitious or bloodthirsty as Matt, so I enjoy the shopping phase of Apelegs much more than the panicked shooting phase. I have more fun running around, collecting scopes and ammo, trying to avoid conflict than I do sniping at some punks in the valley below. And this is why I like Bangalore as a character. She’s the smoke-popping vanishing act of this shooter and she gets a little speed boost when she is fired-upon, which perfectly compliments my fearful scuttling into the nearest trench. Good game. I have won exactly once.

It’s free-to-play on: Origin

Surviving Mars: Green Planet

What is it? Giga-gardening DLC for Haemimont’s martian colony sim.

Nate: I’m a lifelong science fiction reader, and a science fiction author to boot, so of course I was going to like a game about terraforming, i.e, planetary-scale engineering to make other worlds more like Earth. I mean, I liked Surviving Mars to begin with, and it had only gotten better with the various improvements made since release, including its first DLC, Space Race. Green Planet, however, turns Surviving Mars into something far in excess of the sum of its parts.

The sheer, bone-warming satisfaction involved in painstakingly making Mars habitable has gripped me like nothing else has in months. In fact, it was such a deeply pleasing experience, I’m genuinely not sure I’ll replay it. It’s not that the game doesn’t build in enough variance to make new scenarios worth it, I just can’t imagine it feeling even better a second time round. Ach, who am I kidding: I’ll give it a go in the run up to Christmas.

Buy it on: Paradox store, Steam

Islanders

What is it? A city builder without the management.

Alice L: I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel about Islanders, but it turns out it’s super relaxing and lovely. It’s missing a lot of what you’d expect from a city builder, but the way you unlock new buildings through points is fantastic. I no longer have to worry about congestion, sewage, or healthcare. All I need are the most points possible. Do I need to think about paths? Or how my people will walk around their island? I do not! It’s refreshing, it’s relaxing, and it’s exactly the kind of game that can calm you down. That is until you hit a roadblock and can’t figure out how to get enough points for your next load of buildings and you just have to sigh and start all over again.

Buy it on: Steam

A Plague Tale: Innocence

What is it? An action-adventure game about light, dark, and misunderstood rats.

Alice L: I didn’t realise I’ve missed this kind of linear storytelling in games until I played Plague Tale. It was refreshing to play something that felt like it had a proper purpose and goal, and that was the only thing you could focus on. I mean, sure, there are collectibles and other goodies off the beaten track, but there’s no other stories other than that of Amicia and Hugo that you can explore. It was really nice. There were tonnes of things I liked about this game, but its use of light and dark, and how they affected different enemies, or helped one enemy turn on the other. That is, if we can really call the poor rattos enemies. Because they’re not really, just misunderstood.

I’m quite a fan of medieval history, but no other medieval game has really gotten my attention thus far (unless you count The Sims Medieval). And I think having a strong female lead really sold it to me. There were so many interesting characters to meet, and the rotation of their useful skills kept the game moving at a pace that was unexpected in places, especially when you had to move pretty slow through most environments. I’m also not a massive fan of children. In videogames. But Hugo is really quite something. So the writing must have been good for me to want to help a child.

Alice Bee: Recipient of my first annual Made A Video Game Child I Do Not Hate Award. I love Hugo and if any of you do anything, ever, to hurt him in any way, I will find you and I will murder you.

Video Matthew: One of the best rendered videogame pigs, too, which makes what you do to one poor porker in one of the game’s grimmer puzzles even worse.

Buy it on: Steam, Origin

Pion

What is it? A frantic and spectacular arcade shooter with hovercraft. Hovercrafts. Hovercraft.

Sin: Say “video games” now and civilians will picture GTA MCMXCVI, or Call Of Duty: Buy Guns, or other boring things. No longer do we think of the sheer innocent joy of big machines blasting each other for no real reason with a tonne of exciting weapons. But sometimes that’s games at their very best.

Pick a hovercar and pilot – maybe this time the speedy one with the bonuses to kinetic guns, so you can blazz around the big boys and slowly spray them to death with shrapnel. But what’s this? Someone dropped a new missile launcher and oh my god, oh wow, wow, YES. Now you’re a wasp with a howitzer. Now you’re a cluster mine-spewing beast with six rotating side cannons. Now you’re a laser hellmachine launching bombs around corners to surprise sneaky ambush fighters. Now you’re a struggling engine bolted onto the finger of god. I played this enough to get on the leaderboards, even with a tenth of the playtime of my rivals. I loved this enough to care.

Buy it on: Steam

The official RPS away uniform doesn't see a lot of playtime, but when it does....

Supraball

What is it? A 3-or-5-a-side first-person contest about who can hoover up and fire the ball into the other team’s net the most.

Sin: Online competitive sport, but good. Supraland captured John Walker’s heart, whoever he is, but Supraball is one of those games that should have always existed. You need only watch someone playing it for a minute or two to understand what’s going on, why it’s fun, and to start coming up with your own tactics.

The purity of any great sport crossed with the immediacy of first-person perspective, plus the loveably slapstick gingerbread men bringing a much-needed levity to a competition. It’s a tremendous mixture, and one that I played long enough to get an awkward queue of incoming friend invites on the shared RPS Steam account. Oops.

Play it for free on: Steam

I'm no structural engineer, but I think that building's showing signs of subsidence.

Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice

What is it? Ninja runabout from the Dark Souls people, with punishing katana-wielding combat and a very scary ape.

Brendan: Tough game, full of bastards. But let’s not celebrate the difficulty of this furious stab ‘em up, and instead remember a single friend you meet along the way. He is called Pot Noble Harunaga and he wants to be a carp. The story of Sekiro is a po-faced folk tale about a nasty General trying to slurp the blood of a wee lad and become god-king, or something. There are drunkards who want to be warlords, old men who want to be Emperor, warriors who want to be exalted, and monks who want to live forever. A bunch of over-reaching berks who won’t take “no” or a sword to the face for an answer.

Then there is the pot man. He wants to be a fish. Just a big ol’ fish. You can do a quest to make sure he gets his fish-wish, and his only complaint when he finally becomes a water-dwelling creature is that he is, perhaps, not as big a fish as he ought to be. The pot man from Sekiro is the very model of responsible ambition. You do not need to be the deathless leader of the Japanese nation, tyrannical to the point of summoning lightning to vanquish your foes. You can just be a carp, mate.

Video Matthew: I still can’t get past Genichiro. My Sekiro-loving friends say it’s the point where everything you’ve learned is put to the test and you see if you can step up to the challenges to follow. Even though I am found wanting, I still consider myself a Sekiro-lover. It’s the furthest I’ve got with a FromSoftware game: a world of towering pagodas and mountaintop monasteries ideal for pitter-pattering across roof tiles in your sneaky boots, and a great bit with a really heavy lad you push off a bridge.

Buy it on: Steam

Hearthstone: Rise of Shadows

What is it? Yet another expansion for Blizzard’s big silly card game, but with amazing single player content.

Nate: I love Hearthstone for being big and bright and silly and satisfying, which is why I barely ever play against other humans any more. I’m nowhere near the skill level where I can pilot my own decks to consistent victory, and I don’t really see the point in netdecking my way through endless struggles against a sea of pitiless Russian teenagers using the same three or four decks. When 2017’s Kobolds and Catacombs brought single player Slay The Spire-style deckbuilding adventures to the game, I was overjoyed. And after a couple of mild blunders, Blizzard now seem to have perfected the formula with the Dalaran Heist adventure connected with the Rise of Shadows expansion.

Yes it costs extra money, but I don’t care – it’s charming, it’s massively replayable, and it’s given me dozens of hours of fun. Plus it lets me play around with all the goofy, dramatic cards too unreliable or imperfectly optimised to be used in competitive play. As far as I’m concerned, Dalaran Heist was a perfect example of a developer acting on feedback from players, and it’s kept my interest strong during a time when I’d usually be twiddling my thumbs until the next expansion.

Buy it on: Battle.net

Metro Exodus

What is it? Post-apocalyptic tunnel-dwelling simulator steps out of the dark, into a semi-open-world adventure.

Video Matthew: My office is still reverberating with the sound of a sniper rifle I fired back in February, such is the mechanical heft of 4A Game’s latest tunnel ’em up. Only it’s not a tunnel ’em up any more, leaving the confines of the Moscow metro for a series of wider sandbox areas. It’s not quite an open-world shooter and that’s where the magic lies. The deserts of the Caspian Sea or the banks of the River Volga are big enough to give you a sense of discovery, but not so big that 4A lose control of their more Half-Life-y scripted story stuff. One minute you’re planning freeform stealth assaults on enemy camps and the next you’re trying to escape a giant, irradiated fish in a more choreographed adventure. It’s seamlessly done.

And there’s still all that traditional Metro-y stuff: hand-pumped gas rifles, the sudden cold sweat as a Geiger counter roars to life, the constant hunt for air filters and the risk of cracking a hole in your gas mask. This time Artyom carries his crafting tools in a backpack, so you’re not limited to NPC hubs for weapon customisation and ammo whittling. Clunking together gun parts to build a tool specific to the task at hand is a real pleasure, magicking a shotgun into a four-barrelled monstrosity or sticking a long barrel on the revolver to make the world’s noisiest sniper rifle. Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if I could still hear its echo next February, when the game’s Epic Game Store exclusivity is up and most people will actually play the damn thing.

Buy it on: Epic Store

That’s it. That’s your lot. There were no other good games this half-year. Goodbye.

Oh, okay. So maybe we missed a few. These are just our own favourites. Don’t worry, that’s what comments are for. Is there something that came out in the last six months that you’ve loved to iddy-biddy bits? Tell everyone about it, and say why you liked it so much.

If your endless hunger for the categorisation of all human entertainment products has not been sated by this list of games, you can check our other lists. We’ve rounded up the best games of 2018, and the best free PC games, for example. If for some godforsaken reason your thirst for lists remains unslaked (oh my god what ARE you?) you can find all our Bestest Bests right here. After that, I don’t know what to give you. You need to see a doctor.

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