The best video games of 2024 so far

Games are weird again!

Don’t get us wrong, 2023 was an all-timer. We got new Zelda and Mario. Armored Core and Baldur’s Gate woke up from cryogenic sleep. Alan Wake rose from its plot in the Video Game IP Cemetery, while Street Fighter 6 acted like Street Fighter 5 had never happened. But while 2023 was an unforgettable year for iconic franchises, it wasn’t a surprising one. Nobody was underestimating Nintendo, FromSoftware, and Capcom.

2024, on the other hand, has been unpredictable! Our favorite games include a gun-wielding Pokémon parody, a surprisingly popular sequel in a totally different genre than its little-played predecessor, and a massive RPG where a reformed yakuza recreates Animal Crossing with perverts and garbage dumps.

This is a year for the real sickos (it’s us, we’re sickos) — the ones who feel their skin tingle and their pupils widen when they see “7/10” at the bottom of a review. This is the person who doesn’t want a pitch-perfect remake of Final Fantasy 7; they want Final Fantasy 7 tossed into a cosmic blender and funneled down their gullet.

It may be a decade before we see another year like 2023, but that’s OK by us. Without a classic entry in a beloved franchise released every month, there’s room for the new, the weird, and the unexpected.

The games on this list will be sorted in reverse chronological order, so the newest releases will always show up first. We also have a short section at the end devoted to late 2023 releases we didn’t have the time to consider for last year’s best-of list. Our latest update added Dragon’s Dogma 2.


The best games of 2024 so far

Dragon’s Dogma 2

Image: Capcom

Where to play: PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X, Windows PC

Dragon’s Dogma 2 is a sequel released a full 12 years after its predecessor. It builds on and expands the original’s world and concepts, and offers a fascinating combination of action-RPG and party-based MMO without the rigidity that usually comes with those games. As a player, you can swap your vocation (class) as often as you like, and then you can fill out your party with pawns — NPCs to fight by your side that you can change out on a whim. Together, you and your pawns go explore the vast world of Dragon’s Dogma 2 — a world made even bigger by the lack of readily available fast travel. A quick trip to the next town over becomes a journey. You learn the roads between the big cities as you traverse them over and over. It makes the world familiar.

It’s a world populated by a mix of low-level enemies, like wolves, goblins, and lizardfolk, but also peppered with towering cyclopes, minotaurs, and griffins. This creates a really satisfying mix of hack-and-slash combat that you flavor with whatever class and tactics you want and large-scale, Shadow of the Colossus– or Monster Hunter-style not-quite boss fights. And through it all, you’re tackling quests for the characters that populate the cities, with a grand conspiracy in the main story supported by smaller, more human conflicts. It’s intricate without being complicated, and one of the most genuinely engaging games of the year. —Jeffrey Parkin

Pacific Drive

A cockpit view from behind the wheel of Pacific Drive’s station wagon, with several extra readouts visible. Through the windscreen we see pine forests and a lightning strike Image: Ironwood Studios/Kepler Interactive

Where to play: PlayStation 5, Windows PC

The most beautifully maddening game of 2024 so far might be this striking combination of roguelike, survival game, and station wagon driving simulator. Pacific Drive is all about making repeated, randomized forays into the irradiated, glitching reality of the Olympic Exclusion Zone in the Pacific Northwest, where some kind of massive science experiment went wrong decades before. You do so behind the wheel of an old car, and the core gameplay loop is all about scavenging the resources you need to fortify this old heap against the unpredictable hazards of the Zone.

It’s a tough game, and runs can go very wrong, seemingly costing you hours of progress. But throughout it all, the deepening bond you have with the heap of junk that becomes your mobile base and extension of yourself is what keeps you going. This is one of the best games around about the love affair between man and machine. —Oli Welsh

Balatro

A screenshot of Balatro, depicting a top-down view of cards on a table, with a series of special Joker cards splayed out at the top of the screen and the player’s hand, containing regular cards as well as two special Stone cards, at the bottom. Image: LocalThunk/Playstack via Polygon

Where to play: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Windows PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X

There have been a lot of games that have drawn my eye (and my time) this year. The pure delight of Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth. The nonstop hilarity of Helldivers 2. The haunting landscape of Pacific Drive. But no game has truly grabbed me in 2024 like Balatro. There’s just nothing quite like the alluring pull of a roguelite that keeps you coming back for just one more run.

Balatro takes the bones of poker and adds roguelite mechanics and a healthy dash of math to create an irresistible experience in the “number go up” genre of games. It’s the most fun you’ll ever have with PEMDAS, especially as you unlock more mechanics that encourage you to break the game.

The end result is a simple concept with a lot of strategic depth and endless replayability. Solo developer LocalThunk has created an absolute winner in Balatro, no matter how you pronounce it. —Pete Volk

Lysfanga: The Time Shift Warrior

In Lysfanga: The Time Shift Warrior, the player talks to Cobrunnos, who says “Days without explosion ... Zero.” Image: Sand Door Studio/Quantic Dream

Where to play: Windows PC

Lysfanga is a single-player game for people who wish they were better about scheduling time for multi-player games. Set in an ancient kingdom, a squad of heroes must work together to obliterate baddies and solve puzzles. The twist: One player controls all the characters by layering one run through an arena atop of another. And another. And another, another, and…

Each fight takes place in an arena crowded with too many enemies to squish within the fight’s limited amount of time. When the clock strikes zero, the battle doesn’t end; it restarts. Now, the player is supported by an AI partner recreating their previous run. Over and over, the player repeats this process, amassing a mob of clones that help them get through the level. The real fun isn’t the combat, but solving little puzzles that require multiple copies of yourself to flip switches and release powerful attacks at precisely the same time. In these moments, you feel less like a hero and more like the world’s finest choreographer. —Chris Plante

Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden

Red, a living bearded man, and Antea, a ghostly woman, hold hands and incline their heads together in Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden Image: Don’t Nod/Focus Entertainment

Where to play: PlayStation 5, Windows PC, Xbox Series X

Australian author Christina Stead once wrote that every love story is a ghost story, a phrase that perfectly encapsulates the gothic romance tradition so richly explored in literature but rarely in games.

Banishers throws itself at this notion, casting players as Red and Antea, a pair of exorcists sent to colonial New England to deal with a haunting that quickly goes awry. Antea is killed, and over the course of the game, Red must decide to follow love or duty, either banishing her ghost to the afterlife or using his occult knowledge to resurrect her.

Banishers is a slow, considered RPG that contemplates the many ways a place can be haunted, with a terrible question providing its emotional throughline: Are you working towards a reunion, or a long goodbye? —Joshua Rivera

Helldivers 2

A Helldiver is covered in neon alien bug blood in Helldiver 2 on a jungle planet Image: Arrowhead Game Studios/Sony Interactive Entertainment

Where to play: PlayStation 5, Windows PC

Helldivers 2 is one of the year’s best surprises, completely reinventing the approach of the original game to create a hilarious and addictively fun squad shooter that feels like the best Starship Troopers game you could possibly ask for.

Much of the game’s humor comes from its over-the-top satire of Super Earth and its goal to spread democracy through bullets and hellfire. But Helldivers 2 also uses ragdoll physics and friendly fire to create hilarious moments during playtime, not just in the narrative dressings.

And it’s just rewarding to play. With interlocking gameplay loops, satisfying shooting mechanics, and depth from the stratagem system and the game’s varied enemies, it’s one of the best shooters of the year. Don’t miss it. –PV

Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth

A screenshot from Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth showing four of the main characters Image: Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio/Sega

Where to play: PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Windows PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X

A sprawling RPG with a heart of gold, Infinite Wealth continues the Like a Dragon (née Yakuza) franchise’s commitment to earnest narratives about the power of friendship, variety in play, and ridiculously silly fun.

Infinite Wealth’s story stretches across Hawaii and multiple cities in Japan, with a seemingly endless array of activities. There’s the usual buffet of bite-sized minigames: sports games, card games, dating games, collectible games, and so on. But the trio of the Animal Crossing-inspired Dondoko Island, the Crazy Taxi-inspired Crazy Eats, and the hilarious returning Pokémon parody Sujimon are fun, engaging, and deep enough to justify their own spots on this list. And they’re all just a part of the Infinite Wealth experience.

At the heart of it all is sweet Ichiban Kasuga, always relentlessly optimistic and supportive of just about everyone, to the point that he’s repeatedly making his enemies into life-long friends. And while Infinite Wealth isn’t technically an anthology story, it has something in common with them: If you don’t like what you’re currently doing, just wait a bit. You’ll be doing something completely different soon. —PV

Tekken 8

King points to an enemy fighter in the middle of an octagon in Tekken 8 Image: Bandai Namco

Where to play: PlayStation 5, Windows PC, Xbox Series X

Tekken 8 is a smorgasbord of acquired tastes crammed into a blender and set to overdrive. with a clown car roster packed with edgelord OCs, babes, and bears. There’s a limb-based button layout and move lists that seem to scroll forever, with an entrancing backing track of pulsing, aggressive rave beats. And bears! Did I mention the bears? There are two of them.

While the recent Street Fighter 6 seems to have been thoughtfully designed to be the most broadly appealing fighting game ever, Tekken 8 has set its sights on being the most Tekken fighting game ever. And boy, did it succeed! —Patrick Gill

Palworld

A Palworld hero stands in front of a Palbox while trying to move a base in Palworld. Image: Pocketpair via Polygon

Where to play: Windows PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X

It’s hard to find the words to talk about Palworld. In one single month, the game became a viral hit, selling over 8,000,000 copies in six days and becoming the subject of mass criticism online. Still, behind the negativity and the hype is the actual game.

Palworld is a hybrid monster of a video game. Players will likely recognize the influence of several games, like Fortnite or The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Despite all the different genres it pulls from, Palworld is a survival game at heart. You’ll build sprawling camps, explore a wide world, and do it alongside Pokémon-like creatures you catch called Pals. It’s still in early access and it’s not the most polished game in the world, but its rough edges make for funny moments with friends. If you’re looking for a light-hearted survival game to play with others, I’d recommend it. —Ana Diaz

Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown

Sargon, with his blades drawn, faces away from the camera and towards a hulking beast emerging from the swirling desert sands. The monster’s name is Jahandar, and he admonishes Sargon by saying, “Your life ends here.” Image: Ubisoft Montpellier/Ubisoft via Polygon

Where to play: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Windows PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X

Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown is so good at what it does, we might need a new name for “Metroidvania.” A Persiavania? A Metroid…prince…ia? Look, the wordsmiths can quibble over the exact phrasing, but the point remains: It’s a rare sight to witness a game instantly establish itself as totemic.

The Lost Crown is initially just a competent platformer, where you navigate a byzantine maze-like palace with routes that unfold as you improve. Then the meticulousness of its assembly dawns on you. Utterly devoid of bloat, not a single pixel out of place, The Lost Crown isn’t just one of the best games of the year — it’s one of the best of the generation. —Ari Notis

The best late 2023 games we couldn’t consider last year

(the) Gnorp Apologue

A seemingly endless array of tiny figures against a black screen in (the) Gnorp Apologue. Image: Myco

Where to play: Windows PC

Hit the boulder. Collect the shards. Research upgrades so you can hit the boulder harder, collect the shards faster, and research upgrades smarter, so you can… well, you get the point.

(the) Gnorp Apologue is an idle game that looks like the games I played on my school’s DOC computer in first grade. But (the) Gnorp Apologue’s capacity to devour my day owes more to modern idle gems, like Cookie Clicker, Universal Paperclips, and Candy Box 2. If you haven’t heard of those games, please forgive me for what I’ve unleashed upon your limited time in this universe.

And if you have played those games, you know the drill. Wish your friends and family well. You won’t be seeing them until you’ve hit the boulder, collected the shards, researched the upgrades, and decided to delete this file from your computer as an act of self-preservation. —CP

Lethal Company

An image from the video game Lethal Company with a rudimentary avatar of a space explorer typing at a computer console in an orange suit with other similarly adorned avatars nearby. Image: Zeekerss

Where to play: Windows PC

Horror games are a tough sell for me, mainly because I’m a big scaredy cat. However, I have a full-hearted appreciation for Lethal Company, developed by a solo dev who goes by Zeekerss. In the game, you and up to three friends mobilize as beleaguered workers who scrounge up resources from alien planets to sell back to their employer and make quota. As you explore these alien locales, it’s up to you and your group to evade the scourge of each biome’s many horrifying monsters.

Lethal Company is an absolute riot. The game might contain jump scares, but it also really leans into slapstick antics. Accidental deaths are a dime a dozen in its twisting metal corridors, and so are the laughs. For me, these comedic elements helped make it more approachable as a horror game. The one drawback is that you pretty much need a group of four to play and even then, the game can be pretty tough. Seek employment there at your own risk! —AD

Via

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