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The 10 Best Video Games of 2024 So Far

From satirical nun stories to fist fighting grizzlies, and a little bit of cheesecake in between, these are the games that made an impact this year

Best video games of 2024 so far


Believe it or not, 2024 is already halfway over. And as disappointing as the unstoppable passage of time may be, it’s equally disappointing to realize that we’re already six months into a year that feels decidedly lackluster from a video game release standpoint.

At this point last year, gamers were spoiled by bold new takes on franchises like Final Fantasy, Street Fighter, and Diablo — all in the same month! And despite a few major swings and successes, the early months of 2024 have been something of an off year for AAA publishing. With games like Dragon’s Dogma 2 failing to live up to their yearslong hype, and absolute disasters like Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League imploding on arrival, it’d be fair to feel like this might be a good time to hit the backlog rather than try anything new.

But there have been bright spots. Sprawling action RPGs such as Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth have delivered sorely needed gonzo energy. Major expansions like Destiny 2: The Final Shape brought longform live service storytelling back to life in a meaningful way. Hell, Princess Peach got her first solo game in almost 20 years.

And where the big names left a void, a slew of incredible indie games stepped up to shine. Doom-like shooter Selaco brought vintage bloodletting back with a bang. Lorelei and the Laser Eyes presented a noirish vibe to addictive puzzle play with a Lynchian flair. Palworld became a viral sensation by answering the question, “What if Pokémon had guns?”

So, fret not, for there are plenty of things to play this year. From surprise hits to under the radar gems, these are the best games of 2024 so far.


‘Elden Ring: Shadow of the Erdtree’

At a time when all games get a slow drip IV of perpetual updates and tweaks, few developers take as ambitious an approach to “the big one” as FromSoftware has with Elden Ring’s first and only downloadable content expansion, Shadow of the Erdtree. Practically the size of a new release, Edrtree brings an entirely new open-world region to The Lands Between for seasoned players to explore.Seasoned is the keyword here, as the content in Shadow of the Erdtree isn’t even available to players unless they almost entirely beat the base game, itself one of the most harrowingly difficult experiences of the last few years. But the DLC goes a step further, fine tuning and reinventing many of the core systems from Elden Ring proper, with faster, more devastating boss battles that have drawn ire from gamers unable to “get good” enough to prevail.But with Elden Ring, the difficulty is the point — it always has been. FromSoftwork’s library is a legacy of pain, beginning with 2009’s Demon’s Souls all the way to now. Not every game is for every person, but for those who are enticed by the survivalist mentality and find gratification in overcoming seemingly insurmountable feats, Shadow of the Erdtree is the mountain you’ll want to climb all the way to its stunning peak.


‘Helldivers 2’

Speaking of the pleasure derived from insurmountable difficulty, Arrowhead Games Studios’ Helldivers 2 is the type of game that doesn’t just throw multiple players into the fray to be instantly annihilated — it’s one that actively mocks you along the way.Helldivers 2 is essentially a squad-based take on Starship Troopers. To say it’s inspired by Paul Verhoeven’s sci-fi satire film would be an understatement; in almost every way, it apes the scathing comedic tone and broad premise of the 1997 movie. As a third-person shooter, players are dropped on hostile planets to slaughter the overwhelming hoards of Bugs (and later Cyborgs and Illuminate), embodying faceless soldiers as cannon fodder sentenced to egregious death in service of spreading “managed democracy” in the name of Super Earth.The game itself plays tightly, if intentionally restrictive, to create a challenging and often frantic war time facsimile, where working together is essential even if it means sacrificing your buddy in a rain of orbital fire to make it back to the gunship. The heart of Helldivers 2, however, is more human. A constantly evolving live service game, the audience is expected to follow real-time directives and weekly challenges delivered by the developers in character as the totally non-fascist government issuing orders — sometimes even dropping in new features and gaslighting players who point them out. Behind the scenes, there’s even a dedicated game master who is watching player trends to make changes to the game to keep things unpredictable. It’s a novel concept that makes practically every round of Helldivers 2 a potential “you had to be there” moment.



These days, there’s no shortage of “roguelike” games. The most replicated trend of the last few years has been to incorporate randomly generated enemies and levels into otherwise basic platformer and action games. Balatro does things a little differently by using the subgenre tropes to ask, “What if poker could be even more soul crushing than at a Vegas casino?”At its core, Balatro isn’t even poker. It’s a strategy game where a bicycle deck and a suite of superpowered joker cards are the tools to attain a high score. Every round, you’re dealt a hand where the goal is to use basic poker hands to gain points. Over a run, players will get to choose upgraded cards to add to their decks, with chip bonuses or multipliers, and even the ability to add weight to the point totals of individual hands.To non-gamblers, this could sound arduous, but the elegance of Balatro is tricking users into thinking they’re playing a game of cards when they’re actually fighting their way out of an imaginary dungeon. Every raise of the blind is a boss battle, and only by investing early in personal stratagems can the luck of the draw be overcome.It helps that the game is visually presented as an eerie take on video screen poker by way of an acid trip from Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. With scan lines and the vignetted edges of a CRT monitor, and a pulsating ambient score to boot, Balatro becomes a hypnotic rabbit hole that will bleed you dry of dozens of hours rather than actual cash.


‘Animal Well’

If roguelikes are the bell of the ball these days, then “Metroidvanias” — 2D exploration games like Hollow Knight that borrow from the Metroid and Castlevania series — are yesterday’s news. Indie games like 2017’s Hollow Knight helped reinvigorate the subgenre, leaning on 2D side-scrolling gameplay with a heavy emphasis on deep exploration, breakneck action, and lots of backtracking to uncover previously locked off areas.But a good idea is a good idea, and Shared Memory’s Animal Well is full of enough of them to reignite the spark of a well-worn genre. Unlike other Metroidvanias, which often pit you as a super soldier or warrior, here players embody an egg-like… thing. With no major weapons or crazy moves to utilize, it leans more heavily into the perplexing puzzle mechanics of well-timed jumps over perilous terrain and mental ingenuity to read the room and figure out the next point of interest. It’s a game where the joy comes from discovery rather than conquest and is a refreshing contrast to other games of its ilk.With a minimalist story that eschews pretty much all need for context, players can set aside questions about what the world is about or why, instead allowing the games psychedelic vibes and haunting ambiance to wash over them in the pursuit of the next great treasure trove. In Animal Well, you’re just the egg. What comes next is up to you to find.


‘Hades II’

In our initial impressions of Hades II, Rolling Stone called the game the best of the year, despite not even being complete. That sentiment still stands, as Hades II continues its early access period for the foreseeable future. Developer Supergiant Games learned from the first Hades — which ran in early access for over a year beginning in 2018 before releasing in full to unanimous acclaim in 2020 — that the best way to fine tune its game was to give players almost everything up front and let them do the heavy lifting through playtest.Like its predecessor, Hades II is an action roguelike that stars a child of Hades, Lord of the Underworld, on a mission to break free from their subterranean home on a mission of personal importance. This time around, the story follows Melinoë, daughter of Hades and Persephone, and sister to the first game’s lead Zagreus, who is on a quest to save her captive family and all of Olympus from the subjugation of the titan Chronos. Along the way, she’ll garner support from the many gods and Chthonic figures that make up her extended family and supporters in the fight against her grandfather’s rule.Hades II is a roguelike in that the core loop of the gameplay centers on fighting your way through various randomized chambers and enemies, punctuated by big bosses, and choosing from an unpredictable list of upgrades as you progress. If you die, it’s back to the start to use what little progressive elements carry over for enhancing Melinoë’s abilities for another chance to apply what you’ve learned on the great escape.What makes Hades II stand apart from the many other stellar games from 2024 so far is its impeccable blend of illustrated art direction, deeply memorable music, and an ever-unfurling narrative that rewards players for engaging in conversations over many, many runs to learn the interpersonal dynamics between every character in its world — which themselves evolve heavily over the course of the journey. The narrative in Hades II shouldn’t work for a roguelike, but it does, addictively — giving us a masterpiece that’s still in the making.