5. Subnautica – Metacritic Score: 87
After your character crashes their spaceship on an alien planet, you explore one of its oceans, doing everything you can to survive. You’ll be faced with caves, stunning coral reefs, submarines, and threatening sea creatures as your adventure evolves. Subnautica follows the same structure as many other open-world survival games, but its depth (pun not intended) and interesting world give you so much to see and do that it’s elevated above the competition.
Critics have praised it for being more than a simple survival game – its story being a consistent surprise. The monsters that inhabit the sea can be terrifying and the crafting loop is so engaging that the exploration always feels fresh. Even after tens of hours, there’s still secrets to find, and that is something that very few games in the genre offer.
4. Dragon Ball FighterZ – Average Metacritic Score: 87
The Dragon Ball Xenoverse games have been a success over the last few years, but January saw the current generation debut of the series’ 2D fighting games in the shape of Dragon Ball FighterZ. Boasting the franchise’s famous characters, stunningly authentic anime visuals, and mechanics that were promised to be easy to learn but difficult to master, it’s perfect for fighting game and Dragon Ball fans alike.
Ark System Works has been praised for creating a game that is a perfect marriage of meticulously accurate presentation and solid gameplay. It is also accessible enough for newcomers to both the fighting genre and Dragon Ball, yet deep enough for self-proclaimed veterans and long standing fans of the anime to feel catered to. It is a worthy challenger for the Street Fighters, Injustices, and Tekkens of this world.
3. Street Fighter V: Arcade Edition – Metacritic Score: 88
It wouldn’t be a Street Fighter game without a complete edition of sorts releasing. And so, Street Fighter V: Arcade Edition released earlier in January. It includes all the content from the base game, the Arcade Mode, and Character Passes 1 and 2, adding 12 playable characters and 12 premium costumes to the experience.
Since Street Fighter V was originally criticized for being quite bare bones upon its release, the Arcade Edition has seen a far better reception. It has turned its solid fighting game core to a fully fledged fighting experience that rivals everything else in the genre. The new modes breath live into the single-player, the roster is now extensive, and the excellent mechanics remain. This is the definitive version of Street Fighter V and is the game that the original should have been.
2. Monster Hunter: World – Average Metacritic Score: 91
Having sold five million copies in its first week, Monster Hunter: World has been a commercial hit as well as a critical one. As is the premise in the other games in the series, you take on the role of a hunter who travels to a new continent to hunt and slay monsters to upgrade your armor and gear. Each monster has a unique look and way of moving, and you must take them out with your variety of weapons.
With the story, gameplay, and tutorials improving dramatically over previous entries, Monster Hunter: World is the perfect place for series newcomers to jump in. Of course, the deep upgrade and gear systems may confuse at times, but the world in Capcom’s game is enticing enough that you strive to understand everything that is in front of you. You get a real sense of achievement from taking down the tougher monsters, and the upgrade system is rewarding.
1. Celeste – Average Metacritic Score: 92
Matt Makes Games Inc.’s last game, Towerfall Ascension, may be different in terms of genre to Celeste, but their new game has clearly borrowed some of what made Towerfall such a fun party title. Instead of being an arena combat game, Celeste is a platformer. The old-school style has made its way over and it looks more beautiful than it has ever done before, capturing the menace of Celeste mountain perfectly. The platforming is challenging, yet never unfair due to the excellent checkpoint system, each section is well designed, and the music is fantastic throughout.
The most pleasant surprise comes in the form of the game’s story, which is a touching tale of personal struggle, matching the struggle of completing the game’s puzzle-like levels. Celeste is a must-own for any platforming fan, as long as they’re prepared to die many many times, and it will surely be in the conversation when speaking about the best games of the year, come December.