The Best Games Of 2024 (So Far)

The Best Games Of 2024 (So Far)

This year has carried over two significant trends for the video game industry from 2023 into 2024: a lot of excellent games are coming out, and, unfortunately, the people who make them are suffering. It’s still early, but we’ve gotten some fantastic new games like Final Fantasy VII Rebirth and the surprise hit Balatro to keep us playing for hours upon end. On the flip side, developers are still struggling as mass layoffs have affected thousands of jobs in the first three months of 2024 alone. At the very least, we can pay tribute to some of the great games these talented developers have put out. We’ll continue to update this list accordingly, just like we did our best games of 2023 collection.

Here are some of the best games of 2024 so far.

Dragon’s Dogma 2

Screenshot: Capcom / Kotaku

After over a decade of waiting, Capcom finally released a sequel to Dragon’s Dogma. The second game almost feels plucked out of the original’s PS360 era, but that’s a good thing. For all of Dragon’s Dogma 2’s occasional clunkiness and jank, it embodies a style of friction-driven RPGs that we don’t get as often as we should. Capcom’s dark fantasy tale is full of mystery, intrigue, danger, and depth. Dragon’s Dogma 2 invites you into its world while also punching you square in the jaw. It requires patience, caution, and mastery to navigate. That’s why, even though I wholeheartedly recommend it to you, I’m still slowly progressing through it myself. I would love to devour Dragon’s Dogma 2 and all its glory, but it pushes back at every spell I cast and every swing of my pawn’s sword. There are so many secrets I’ve yet to unravel, but even when its challenges discourage me, I pick up my staff and head into Dragon’s Dogma 2’s dangerous world once more. — Kenneth Shepard

Rise of the Ronin

Image: Team Ninja

Team Ninja’s latest action-adventure samurai epic has political intrigue, compelling characters, and crunchy combat—but none of that is what makes the game so cool. No, instead, it’s the setting—and the way the game uses it—that gives Rise of the Ronin its cool factor. Taking place during Japan’s Bakumatsu period, the game is something of a playable history lesson. You get to meet important figures of the time while playing through pivotal events that shaped Japan into the country it is today. It also contextualizes the tumult of 19th-century Japan as you slash and stab your way through three iconic cities: Edo (modern-day Tokyo), Kyoto, and Yokohama. The game oozes history in the best way possible, pulling one of the country’s most important eras into the limelight. That’s what makes Rise of the Ronin so terrific. If you loved Ghost of Tsushima or are enamored with the miniseries Shōgun, you don’t want to miss this. — Levi Winslow

Unicorn Overlord

Image: Vanillaware

Developer Vanillaware’s take on the strategy RPG is nothing short of mechanical perfection. That’s the selling point of Unicorn Overlord: deep systems and challenging large-scale battles. What’s surprising is just how many systems there are and how well they all work together to create a complex web for you to unravel and master.

Unicorn Overlord combines the best parts of turn-based and real-time strategy games to create a unique blend of its own that keeps you engaged. Organizing characters into units and setting their Final Fantasy XII gambit-style tactics is all about planning and understanding the rock-paper-scissors relationship between classes. But once battles start, it’s a frantic rush to direct units and outmaneuver your opponent. Every battle is bigger and better than the last, adding new twists and variations on what you think you know about how the game works. It’s like extra-complicated chess. The only downside is that this all takes place in a pretty basic medieval fantasy world, and features a story that,while not outright bad, is terribly forgettable. But the excellent combat more than makes up for that. — Willa Rowe

Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown

Image: Ubisoft

Prince of Persia is so back, kind of. It’s not The Sands of Time remake that we’ve been eagerly waiting for, but The Lost Crown is a solid entry in the storied platform-jumping and time-manipulating franchise. Released on January 18, Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown is a 2.5D side-scrolling action-adventure Metroidvania about using time to change the past, and it rules. There are interesting characters to interact with, a vibrant world rich with environmental storytelling and perplexing puzzles, and tense fights that will leave your palms sweaty and your heart racing. More than all of this, though, The Lost Crown shows that the notoriously punishing Metroidvania genre can be accessible while still maintaining its ethos. It’s the kind of game that’s both a great intro for folks who’ve never played a Metroidvania before and one that’s deep enough for genre aficionados who want something to fill the Hollow Knight: Silksong-shaped void that’s only growing larger. — Levi Winslow

Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth

Image: Sega

The boys are back, baby. Gaming’s most meme-worthy gangster Kazuma Kiryu teams up with Ichiban Kasuga—the protagonist of 2020’s Like A Dragon—for a sprawling, hilarious island adventure. Infinite Wealth sees Kiryu and Ichiban unraveling the mystery surrounding a Hawaiian cult backed by corrupt politicians and the last vestiges of the criminal underworld. But it’s not all weighty drama: Infinite Wealth is stacked with all the loveable weirdos and bizarre sidequests Ryu Ga Gotoku’s series is known for. There’s dozens of hours of gameplay in this meaty turn-based RPG, but you’ll be sorely tempted to wile away your time building your own Animal Crossing-style resort or just photographing dudes in speedos instead. Better still, the game’s job system and a never-ending supply of batshit baddies make each and every brawl a strategic—and comedic—delight. — Jen Glennon

Tekken 8

Image: Bandai Namco

Tekken can be quite the impenetrable franchise, what with its intricate mechanics, deep lore spanning the series, and extensive jargon. It’s no wonder newcomers think the decades-old series is “anti-beginner.” But Tekken 8 completely shakes this idea up by making an entry that’s complex in its systems yet simple in its approach. Tekken 8, the latest 3D fighter from duo developers Arika and Bandai Namco Studios, introduces a lot of character tweaks and new features to create a game that’s welcoming to newbies and oldheads alike. The story is a roaring rollercoaster of a ride, the soundtrack bangs, the fighting mechanics are easy to understand but difficult to master in an approachable way (with the help of an abridged and easily toggleable control scheme called “Special Style”), and the roster is eclectic with richly detailed stages to match. Yeah, this is some good-ass Tekken. And with the game selling over 2 million copies in just one short month, folks seem to agree. — Levi Winslow

Persona 3 Reload

Screenshot: Atlus / Kotaku

Persona 3 Reload knows not to mess too much with a good thing. The from-the-ground-up remake of Atlus’ 2006 RPG maintains Persona 3’s identity while coating it in modern paint. Persona 3 still has the most memorable cast, most concise and thematically rewarding story, and some elaborate enemy encounter design that the series has lost along the way, and this remake is a stark reminder of that.

On top of making the most of what was always the best game in the series, Persona 3 Reload improves upon the source material in some substantial ways, from making the game more queer-friendly to no longer restricting its social mechanics. Sometimes, you can go home again and remember it’s better than the places you’ve visited since. — Kenneth Shepard

Balatro

Image: LocalThunk

One day in February, I was living my life unaware of Balatro. A few days later, I already know it’ll have an entry on my personal game of the year list. I love a good surprise and Balatro is exactly that. The way this roguelike deckbuilder mixes poker with weird powerups and magic is pure bliss. It’s the kind of game that just lodges itself inside your brain and starts to appear in your dreams. I have to force myself to not play it as I work. It’s challenging.

What helps make this card game so great is how good it feels and looks to play. Every click is matched with a bit of screenshake. The aesthetics, old VHS-like artifacts, and CRT screen effects make it feel like you are playing the game on some old computer haunted by a virus from the Devil himself. So not only is Balatro fun, inventive, and hard to put down, but it also is just a joy to look at and play. It’s a dangerous combo and one that I foresee putting many, many hours into in 2024. — Zack Zwiezen

Helldivers 2

Image: Arrowhead Game Studios / Sony

Man, Helldivers 2 is a damn fine game. PlayStation and Arrowhead Games’ new tough-as-nails, third-person, co-op, sci-fi shooter is truly something special. It feels wonderful, looks great, and provides an experience that not many (if any) other online shooters offer right now. It’s a game where you will die, a lot—often from friendly fire or some random accident that was out of your control. And yet, it rarely feels unfair or frustrating. Helldivers 2 always gives you just enough options and tools to scrape by and complete your mission. Not everyone in your squad might make it off whatever alien hell world you find yourselves on, but you can always finish the mission.

It’s this balance, along with some top-notch satirical elements, that elevates Helldivers 2 beyond so many other co-op shooters. Every victory in Helldivers 2 feels earned. Each mission provides new war stories that you and your friends will be swapping for weeks. And all of this is contained in a game that feels entirely focused and not overstuffed with bloat. It’s a streamlined, perfectly paced torture machine fueled by bullets, bombs, and democracy, and it’s one of the best games I’ve played in years. And now, the servers actually work . — Zack Zwiezen

Final Fantasy VII Rebirth

Image: Square Enix

When Final Fantasy VII Rebirth, the second game in Square Enix’s remake trilogy, hits, it is incredible. Because Rebirth tells a drawn-out version (30 to 80 hours) of the middle of the original FF7 story, you spend so much time with Cloud and his friends just bonding. That means it’s home to the most well-realized version of these beloved characters. The action-oriented take on the crew’s journey to stop Sephiroth is one of the best battle systems Square has ever put to a disc, and Rebirth’s additions fill out its team-based combat into something with momentum, style, and strategy without ever compromising on any of those ideas.

But it’s also divisive. Its mini-game-heavy padding and thin plot means it sits in an awkward space for the Remake project as a whole. By the time it reaches its conclusion, it feels like Rebirth has to quickly pivot into something that will lead to a finale, and it doesn’t stick the landing as it takes us into (allegedly) new waters. Maybe when the third game is out, those shortcomings will feel less egregious in context. But even with them,Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth makes the most of its extended run time with some truly memorable and heartfelt moments. It’s a Final Fantasy 7 fan’s dream, and for those of us just passing through, it’s a fascinating project to watch unfold. — Kenneth Shepard

Ultros

Image: Hadoque

Sometimes it is when we are in the deepest depths of despair that a light shines through to give us renewed hope. This may be how fans of the Metroidvania genre are feeling as five years have come and gone since we first heard about Hollow Knight: Silksong, Team Cherry’s highly-anticipated insectoid side-scroller. With nary a release date in sight, the faithful have resorted to clown memes in an attempt to dull the pain this long wait has inflicted on them. Ah but what’s this? Ultros, from Swedish developer Hadoque, has arrived, acting as Metroidvania manna from heaven. The game begins with your amnesiac character waking up on The Sarcophagus, a giant space station that doubles as a cosmic uterus holding an ancient demonic being, the titular Ultros.

“What?” You may be asking. Don’t sweat the story too much, because Ultros nails its gameplay loop, unlocking abilities and exploring new areas while smartly interweaving roguelite elements that jive with its time-twisting narrative. A unique element of Ultros is its robust gardening mechanics. There are a slew of seeds to be planted across its psychedelic stages that all fill a role, whether for traversal or feeding to enemies and making them pals. Planting fruit in Ultros is so satisfying that this is the first title of its ilk where I sought out playing the pacifist path, but fret not—traditional combat is slick in its own right. Should Silksong slip out of this year, 2024 has already been a banner year for the Metroidvania genre. — Eric Schulkin

Momodora: Moonlit Farewell

Image: Bombservice

Not long after the start of January, a Metroidvania with tight controls, gorgeous art, and an enthralling story sucked me in. I am, of course, talking about Momodora: Moonlit Farewell. Not to be confused with the other Metroidvania that released this January also on this list.

As the fifth and final entry in the Momodora series, Moonlit Farewell feels like the culmination of years of fine-tuning. Watching leaves float through the wind or your reflection in a pool of water shows off just how good the game’s pixel art is. Dodging away from an enemy and retaliating with a perfectly timed hit feels more responsive than ever. And while it may seem intimidating to try out a game that ties up all the narrative beats from four titles that came before it, Moonlit Farewell is a perfect entry to the series that somehow manages to equally succeed at being a fond farewell sure to satisfy longtime fans. Put simply, it might just be the best indie Metroidvania since Hollow Knight. — Willa Rowe


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