The best video games of 2024 so far | Games

Helldivers 2

Channelling the sci-fi military satire and extreme gloopy gore of Starship Troopers, Helldivers 2 was a surprise mega hit on its launch in February. Looking back we shouldn’t have been shocked: it delivers engrossing, hilarious co-op action in a range of desolate landscapes against horrible insects and crazed robots, and it makes each fight feel like part of a much wider story – a factor heightened by Arrowhead Game Studios’ excellent use of social media channels.

What we said: “Everything about this game is ridiculous, including how good it is at what it sets out to do.” Read the full review

Animal Well

Ethereal delight … Animal Well. Photograph: Shared Memory

The set-up is not wildly promising: you play as a blob, stuck down a well. But this winding puzzle platformer is an ethereal delight, dense in atmosphere, with visuals that look like a lost 1980s arcade game glimpsed through a window. You explore, you learn new skills, you see lovely creatures. It’s an extraordinary experience.

What we said: “At a time when the big video game companies are focused on building video games designed to function like sport, what a joy to be presented with a game that is so intricate and contained.” Read the full review

Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown

Skilled warrior … Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown. Photograph: Ubisoft

Representing a glorious return to the origins of Ubisoft’s defining adventure series, The Lost Crown abandons modern 3D world exploration in favour of precise 2D platforming. You play as skilled warrior Sargon out to rescue the kidnapped Prince Ghassan, exploring labyrinthine fortresses and mastering the jumps and dodges required to defeat perilous boss battles. A new classic of the “metroidvania” genre.

What we said: “It’s been 13 years since the last wholly new Prince of Persia game; if this is its new direction, it is exciting to see where it will land.” Read the full review

Dragon’s Dogma 2

Capcom’s gargantuan role-playing adventure sounds like standard genre fare: a young hero discovers they are destined to rule the kingdom, but first they must slay a mighty dragon. Yet this weird, sometimes janky game manages to be both interesting and hilarious, filled with odd characters and idiosyncratic lore. Like starring in your own straight-to-video 1980s fantasy film.

What we said: “If I could summarise this game in a few words, it would be fun over function. The thing that you must understand is that Dragon’s Dogma 2 is very silly.” Read the full review

Crow Country

Horror ride … Crow Country. Photograph: SFB Games

Something evil is lurking in an abandoned theme park on the rural edge of Atlanta, Georgia, and young explorer Mara Forest is determined to discover what it is. Thus begins this spooky survival horror adventure which takes its cues from the mid-90s classics of the genre, such as Resident Evil and Survival Hill. If this is what the PlayStation 1 revival is going to look like, we’re here for it.

What we said: “Crow Country is far more than a pastiche of the giants of the PS1 era – it is a real triumph in and of itself.” Read the full review

Lorelei and the Laser Eyes

A woman arrives at an abandoned hotel and finds herself conscripted into a bizarre time-spanning mystery involving art, cinema and possibly murder. Every room is a puzzle box, every object part of an interlocking mystery that will take players hours to decode. A cerebral and stylish delight.

What we said: “A riveting puzzle game, which uses its eerie visuals and elusive story as an intrinsic element of the experience rather than a mere design affectation.” Read the full review

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Senua’s Saga: Hellblade 2

Cinematic … Senua’s Saga: Hellblade II. Photograph: Xbox Game Studios

Troubled warrior Senua returns from her Bafta-winning debut to take players on another dark, punishing journey into Viking lore, this time wandering the freezing dread-plains of ancient Iceland. An extraordinarily cinematic meditation on torment and determination.

What we said: “Hellblade II deserves to be cherished. Who knows how many more such cerebral epics this risk-averse industry will produce.” Read the full review

Balatro

Compelling card game … Balatro. Photograph: LocalThunk/Playstack

Sometimes skilled indie developers take two or three classic game ideas and juggle them into something incredible. Balatro is a case in point, a combination of poker, solitaire and a rogue-like deck-building game, in which the cards in your hands can be gradually enhanced with a range of special powers. Unforgiving, frustrating but oh so compelling, it’s what would have happened if Gen Z had invented Texas hold ’em.

What we said: “It’s poker, but mildly trippy. And you’re supposed to bend the rules.” Read the full review

Final Fantasy VII Rebirth

Effectively the Empire Strikes Back of Square Enix’s planned trilogy remaking Final Fantasy VII, Rebirth has eco-hero Cloud recovering from a climactic battle with the evil Shinra corporation and setting off to defeat his evil nemesis Sephiroth. Richly detailed with compelling character arcs and excellent strategic combat, it’s a luscious reminder of the role-playing genre’s golden era.

What we said: “Longtime fans will hungrily slurp up every morsel of sugary fan service here, savouring every extra moment spent with this hugely beloved cast.” Read the full review

Tekken 8

Monitor-shaking moves … Tekken 8. Photograph: Bandai Namco Entertainment

It’s a resurgent era for the fighting game with Street Fighter 6 and Mortal Kombat 1 flexing their intimidating muscles, but Tekken 8 is the hardest kid in school. With a roster of beautifully designed characters, some truly monitor-shaking moves and a range of innovative fighting systems, it truly builds on its PlayStation 1 forefathers. A pulverising champion.

What we said: “It is both familiar and new, eccentric and intuitive, and it does what all great fighting games do: it makes you feel incredible when you pull off an elusive series of moves to almost balletic effect.” Read the full review

Honorable Mentions

Hauntii, Sea of Thieves (PS5 edition), Botany Manor, Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth, Supermarket Times.

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