The go-to video games you need to be playing this Christmas

This year has been a landmark one in the world of video games, with major releases and two blockbuster new consoles ensuring nobody was short of ways to play.

The Nintendo Switch has sparked a stunning renaissance for the Japanese firm, with two of its flagship titles widely recognised as among the best games of the year – more on them both later.

Meanwhile, Microsoft officially launched the “world’s most powerful console”, the Xbox One X, offering a glimpse at what video games can look and play like in the coming years.

Combined with another strong year for PlayStation, it means gamers aren’t short of choice this Christmas.

Here’s what should be on your wish list.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild

The game with which Nintendo launched the Switch in March, and one that prompted debate in some quarters over where in the “best Zelda games ever” list it should be placed.

This debate has raged for good reason too, this Zelda is the best looking ever – a stunning open world on an unprecedented scale, filled with creatures and quests on a level that fans of the series have dreamed of for years.

Such is the appeal of Breath Of The Wild that even those not already fans of the series can enjoy the game fully without being experts on its mythology.

As the flagship title of the Switch, and therefore the flag bearer of playing at home and on the move, it also excels.

FIFA 18

The annual football feast has taken a big stride forward this year. Player dynamics and movement have been overhauled, with more realistic portrayals of weight shifting affecting movement.

Crossing the ball has been revamped too, and is such an improvement it’s hard to remember how players got by in previous years.

The excellent The Journey story mode is also back, with Alex Hunter at the centre of a transfer saga that sees players take in much more of the footballing world.

The most enjoyable FIFA in years.

Horizon Zero Dawn

If the thought of taking on increasingly terrifying robot animals with a bow and arrow in a lush 31st-century post-apocalyptic landscape isn’t enough to sell Horizon Zero Dawn, there’s plenty more to recommend it.

Horizon’s central character, an outcast named Aloy, is a depressingly rare thing in gaming – a strong, non-sexualised heroine who has captured the hearts of gamers of all genders.

And if the gameplay itself offers little you haven’t seen before in open-world titles like Far Cry or The Witcher, the rich detail of a world which is simultaneously futuristic and primitive, as well as the spellbinding central story, ensures it feels fresh and urgent.

Who is Aloy? Where have the machines come from? What has happened to the human race in the last thousand years? You’ll be stunned just how much you care about the answers to these questions as they unfold in unexpected and hugely satisfying ways.

Super Mario Odyssey

The other flagship Switch title of the year, but also so much more than that.

A 3D, open world triumph to rival Super Mario 64, Odyssey ticks all the nostalgia boxes for Mario fans, while also introducing bold new gameplay features.

The most notable of which is through Cappy, Mario’s animated hat companion, who can be used to take control of other characters and creatures you encounter.

This, combined with the “play anywhere” nature of the Switch, means this is one of the most fun and charming gaming experiences of the year, and one not to be missed.

Call Of Duty: WWII

After several years of near and far-future settings, Call Of Duty has returned to its roots with a Second World War setting.

The result is a rousing spectacle, full of intense battles and held together by an engaging narrative that draws the player in.

The epic cinematics of the game are on point – as they tend to be with Call Of Duty – but the intensity of World War II setting heightens the experience compared to other recent games in the series.

Now is the time to reintroduce yourself to the franchise.

Splatoon 2

The sequel to a surprise hit, Splatoon 2 is proof that team-based third person shooter games don’t have to be centralised in violence.

If you’re not familiar, Splatoon sees players take on the role of Inklings, who fire coloured ink at opponents and around arenas in a battle for territory.

The aim is to cover as much space in your ink as possible, with players also able to change to squid form to swim through ink of their team’s colour to move around.

Incredibly competitive and family friendly – few multiplayer games are as universally loved.

PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds

One of the surprise stars of 2017, PUBG has become many gamers’ new addiction as it drops players onto an island with one objective, be the last person left standing.

An online multiplayer battle royale, the openness of the game has drawn in millions of players, and is now making the jump to Xbox too.

For endless possibilities and immense fun, this is the game for you.

Prey

A brilliant game that seems to have flown under the radar this year, Prey is a suspense-laden first-person shooter that introduced some of the best villains of the year – the shape-shifting mimics.

Prey sees players take on the role of Morgan Yu, who finds himself on deep space research station overrun by mysterious alien lifeforms.

But so much of this game is not what it seems, with reality and simulation blurring together to add to the suspense and intrigue of what is actually going on around you.

It’s gripping and hugely fun to get lost in.

Resident Evil 7: Biohazard

Survival horror at its best – and by that we mean worst if you’re susceptible to jump scares or remotely squeamish.

Biohazard is less out-and-out zombie shooter and more a Silent Hill-type tale full of chilling suspense with flash points of extreme horror.

For the truly brave, try it in virtual reality with PlayStation VR. Just be prepared to not sleep for a few days afterwards.

Destiny 2

Bungie and Activision’s huge new universe is back with a bang, as Destiny 2 addresses some of the key issues of the original game to make the first full sequel a major step forward.

The single player story now feels a central component rather than an afterthought, and multiplayer is more balanced so newbies can enjoy the shared experience as much as hardened players, without feeling completely mismatched.

This is a franchise and universe now fully into its stride.

Cuphead

Something completely different, Cuphead is a 2D “run and gun” game based on cartoons of the 1930s.

Visually, it is striking – standing out from everything else on the market – and its devilishly difficult too.

A true break with the shooters and sports games that often dominate the gaming market, Cuphead is an indie game that deserves some of your time and attention.

Monument Valley 2

Not all the best games of the year come to prominence on console or PC, and Monument Valley is the perfect example of that.

The original is rightly heralded as one of the best mobile games ever made, and this year’s sequel follows faithfully in its footsteps.

The platform puzzle game is brilliant at toying with perception, twisting the meaning of what 2D and 3D are as concepts and how players must navigate each puzzle as a result, this is a game that also looks stunning.

If you download one game on your smartphone, make it this one.


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