With the industry being what it is, there simply isn’t enough room at the top of table for every new release. That’s been evidenced this year already with plenty of brilliant titles simply not receiving the attention they deserve, whether that’s because of the release schedule, some ineffective marketing (or barely any at all), or a mix of both.
Luckily for you, we’re in a bit of a lull for new releases as we’re in that weird patch between everyone struggling to not burn to death and Ra being appeased. With only a few games of note hitting the shelves until September, it’s time to look forward to the most underrated games of 2018 so far.
A couple of quick qualifiers: this list is in no order and neither is it completely exhaustive — there are just the games we’ve loved that the majority haven’t. Without further ado, here are the year’s most underrated games that should be added to your backlog whenever you can.
1. Unravel Two
The “and it’s available right now” shtick has never worked when a newly announced product has also gone immediately to shelves, most notably when Sega rushed the Saturn out to compete with Sony. Releasing a game in the middle of E3 is also not that wise with all the attention being dragged towards games that won’t release for another three years. Unravel Two was an unfortunate casualty of E3 2018.
It’s a shame, because it’s bloody lovely breath of fresh air for the tumultuous world we live in. Sincere and serene by its very nature, Unravel Two deserves to be played by anyone loves platformers, cute protagonists, and working with friends to solve weird puzzles.
“It’s a genuine step-up from its predecessor with smoother controls and more gameplay styles while also retaining the irrefutable charm that won the first game so many fans. With any luck, Unravel Two will win many more.”
It’s really tough to pinpoint exactly where it went wrong for ONRUSH with its lack of success costing many people their jobs. Maybe it was because of its unusual identity as a racing game without racing or its price tag, but ONRUSH didn’t have many people rushing to buy it.
It’s a damn shame, too, because it’s a lot of fun once you grasp the aim of the game. It’s not about being the first to cross the finishing line, rather it’s more about smashing other cars and looking good while doing so. All hope isn’t lost for ONRUSH, but without a gigantic marketing campaign behind it and it falling in an inopportune patch in the release schedule, it’s going to be an uphill climb.
“ONRUSH is a lot of things. It’s brash, bold, experimental, but most importantly, really good fun to play. Its success will be determined by how well the team based concept catches on with gamers at large, but we’ve got high hopes for it.”
Another casualty of the Twilight Zone known as E3, Vampyr was released as a AA game with big aspirations. Featuring dense mechanics that you don’t often see in single-player RPGs these day, it allowed players to sink their teeth into a plagued London and make many tough calls. Unfortunately for DONTNOD and Focus Home, it never received the audience it deserved.
With it now dropping down in price and the release lull to contend with, now’s a great time to pick up this innovative (if admittedly flawed) guilt simulator. Vampyr asks plenty of difficult questions with your actions directly affecting the world around you. No pressure, yeah?
“Filled with moral dilemmas and an unexpected strategic depth to its city system, Vampyr is a vampire RPG that isn’t afraid to bite back. Although some characters are quite stiff in dialogue, it’s still a great game overall with intense confrontations, fast-paced combat and a thrilling story.”
Nobody who’s played Moonlighter would say it’s underrated: it’s a bloody gem. However, unless Square Enix has your back, your 2D RPG might not receive the attention it deserves. If you have any love at all for RPGs of old but want to see one with a fresh twist, Moonlighter should be your next port of call.
Shopkeepers are a staple of almost every classic RPG, but what do they do when the hero isn’t there? They go off on their own adventures, of course. Moonlighter tasks you with slaying big bads and bringing back the loot to sell on to help grow your shop and also the village around you. If that’s sound like something interesting and worth playing, that’s because it totally is.
“A true labour of love that you can’t help but adore, Moonlighter is the perfect addition to any game library. Endearing, involving, addictive, and challenging all in equal measure, this lovely little rogue-lite will have you hooked in no time.”
The smallest game on this list also has the biggest stakes. STAY is a narrative-focused puzzler that not many people may have heard of, but it’s a watercooler game full of unique mechanics and a heart that cannot be denied. When Quinn finds himself locked in a room, you must work with him through a computer screen and find a way to help him escape.
A simple premise that takes on many layers as the game progresses, how you deal with Quinn impacts how the game plays out, as well as the mood of your conversations. If you encourage Quinn, expect a more positive ending, but if you don’t, well, don’t expect sunshine and rainbows. If you’re thinking of picking up STAY, beware the wall puzzle. It’s infamous.
“Even if its puzzles border on the bewildering, STAY is a game that you really need to stay around for. Boasting deep, innovative mechanics and a protagonist worth investing your heart into, STAY is a game that you shouldn’t leave off of your wishlist.”
Apart from The Sexy Brutale, few games have captured the spirit of Groundhog Day by allowing you to change the past. Sure, movies like Source Code, Happy Death Day, and Triangle have paid a (very heavy) debt of inspiration to the Harold Ramis classic, but few games have tried it. Odd, especially considering what unique mechanics that could introduce.
Enter Omensight: a game where you have to prevent the end of the world by living through the same day over and over again. You play as The Harbinger, whose mission is to prevent the Urrali’s armageddon by searching for clues and unlocking mysteries so that you can stop the end of days from ever happening. With some tight action to boot, Omensight is easily one of the most underrated games of 2018.
“Cumbersome camera aside, there’s a lot to love about Omensight. The story is engaging and keeps you interested until the credits start rolling, and the gameplay is entertaining, rewarding creativity over repetitive button bashing. The combat might not be as deep as other action games on the market, but it’s the narrative that’ll have you coming back for more.”
At first glance, Minit doesn’t really look like much. Its simple visuals may be a deterrent for those who want more “pizzazz” from their games, but it shouldn’t be. Beyond its basic veneer, Minit is a challenging and enterprising adventure that’s far more than what its minimalist aesthetic may suggest.
When you’re cursed by a sword to die every sixty seconds, you must rid yourself of it by, basically, beating loads of puzzles and taking on some nefarious sprites. Once a minute is up, your run is up, meaning that time is of the essence if you want to progress. It’s a short but sweet game that’s worth checking out for roughly the same price as a slightly fancy beer in London.
“For the cheap asking price, you can’t really go wrong. Minit’s time-sensitive mechanics allow for some tense dashes towards victory, and every slow-talking grandpa could quite literally bore you to death.”
8. Where The Water Tastes Like Wine
It’s actually plain as day why Where The Water Tastes Like Wine underperformed so dramatically. As well as having a name that’s difficult to market (Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket-Powered Battle-Cars, anyone?), it’s not what you would call an “immediate” game, or one that could be streamed and maintain an audience.
It’s a crying shame, because WTWTLW is a deeply intimate, often profound affair that tasks you with crossing across the US and discovering stories. There’s not much to it: just the open road, your skeletal self, and some beautiful writing to delve into while you pore over its gorgeous illustrations. It won’t be for everyone, but WTWTLW deserves a far larger audience than the one it received.
“Despite some gripes, Where The Water Tastes Like Wine is still easy to recommend to any budding writer or those who want to get lost in the bazaar of an unconventional narrative. It seems destined to go down as a cult favourite, to be as vaunted as the stories it presents.”
9. Kingdom Come: Deliverance
Too many people overlooked Warhorse’s expansive RPG when it dropped early in the year. Maybe it was down to its well-publicised jankiness or everyone suffering from a hangover from all of the big hitters in January, but an expansive single-player game in this day and age not receiving much of the spotlight is a shame.
Move past its many rough edges and you’ll find KCD to be a charming and deep RPG with one foot in the door of realism. There aren’t any dragons in this tale, you’re just a regular bloke called Henry with a sword that he takes a long time to become comfortable with. It’s slow going at points, but once Kingdom Come has ensnared you in its stat-crunching and attention to detail, you’ll struggle to break free.
“Its problems may deter many players and arguably should until it’s in a better state, but it’s hard to deny that with some more polish and a couple of tweaked systems, Kingdom Come: Deliverance could be one the year’s best.”
The only thing holding Moss back from being prescribed by doctors as an anti-depressant is that it’s a VR game. The unconverted are unlikely to change their minds over just the one game, but if there was ever one game that could, it’s Moss. It’s like a shot of sugar straight to the heart, but in a good way.
A fairytale come vibrantly to life, you play as the omnipotent guardian to the adventurous Quill and also the tiny mouse herself as she seeks to rescue a loved one. Third-person VR games shouldn’t really work as well as this, which is a testament to how good a job Polyarc have done. If you have a headset and have yet to pick up this delight, make sure you check out one of the best PSVR games soon.
“Brief as it may be, it’s hard to deny that Moss might be the new standard for VR platformers. It’s a fantastic and fantastical adventure that will bring out your inner child and, considering the cynical world we live in now, you couldn’t ask for a better respite.”