The best upcoming games of 2019 (and beyond)

Skull and Bones

Platform(s): PS4, Xbox One, PC
Release date: TBC 2019

Sea of Thieves isn't the only open-world pirate game out there - Ubisoft's Skull and Bones is also setting sail this year, with a much more realistic take on pirate battles on the high seas. Skull and Bones is basically Assassin’s Creed Black Flag without the Assassins, as it's being developed by much of the same team behind Black Flag, and promises a sweeping solo campaign as you vie for control over the 18th-century waters in the Indian Ocean. But the real focus looks to be player-versus-player ship skirmishes online, where each player controls their very own warship in team-based fleet battles. There will also be supernatural elements amidst all the cannon-fire, like the colossal tentacles of a terrifying kraken lurking in the deep. 

Ooblets

Platform(s): Xbox One, PC
Release date: Early 2019

Nothing can prepare you for the unbridled cuteness of Ooblets. It's got a little bit of everything from your favorite adorable game obsessions: the cuddly creatures and turn-based battles of Pokemon, the rich farming simulation of Stardew Valley, and the interior decorations and vibrant color scheme of Animal Crossing. Developed by a core team of just two people, Ooblets looks to be the kind of relaxing, endlessly charming town sim that makes hours feel like minutes as you maintain your farm, raise and train a herd of the titular ooblets, or meticulously perfect the feng shui of your virtual bedroom. You just know it's going to take over some players' lives in the best way possible.  

In The Valley of Gods 

Platform(s): PC
Release date: TBC 2019

Developer Campo Santo (now owned by Valve!) made quite a name for itself with its debut game Firewatch, a beautiful tale of bonding in the lonely, picturesque Wyoming wilderness. The studio's sophomore game takes that same first-person framework but transports us to a totally different time and place: ancient ruins in Egypt circa the 1920s. You play as Rashida, documenting an adventurous excavation alongside your travel companion Zora by capturing the whole thing on black-and-white, 35mm film. We've only seen a sliver of what's in store - though it seems like the less you know about Campo Santo's games before going into them, the better - but what's there already looks enchanting. If you've got a thing for pyramids and towering sphinx statues (perhaps off the back of Assassin's Creed Origins) In The Valley of Gods promises a gripping narrative and one hell of a historical setting.  

Bloodstained 

Platform(s): PS4, Xbox One, Switch, PC
Release date: TBC 2019  

We were so accustomed to a steady stream of excellent 2D Castlevania games for so long that we didn't realize what we had until they were gone. No more! The mastermind behind Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, Aria of Sorrow, and many others is bringing us the crowdfunded Bloodstained. Koji Igarashi's first major post-Konami project is Castlevania in all but name, with the same smooth action, gothic atmosphere, and haunted locale spelunking we loved for so long. It's been delayed to spruce up the quality after some middling feedback on an early demo, so hopefully the extra time in the oven helps it meet the big expectations for a Kickstarter game of this caliber.

A Plague Tale: Innocence

Platform(s): PS4, Xbox One, PC
Release date: TBC 2019

Amicia and Hugo are in a living nightmare. A Plague Tale: Innocence follows these orphan siblings and their struggles in a Dark Age not unlike the first Dishonored, where swarms of supernatural rats have started to nibble at society and citizens' sanity bit by bit. Said rats are the size of footballs, and can devour humans in no time flat; fortunately, you can ward them off with sources of light. As Amicia, you'll have to watch after your little brother while the two of you flee from the fanatical Inquisition, sneaking around danger for some tense stealth gameplay. You'll grow up real fast the first time you take out an Inquisition guard's lamp with a carefully aimed sling shot and watch as he's eaten alive by vermin, screaming all the while.  

Dying Light 2

Platform(s): PS4, Xbox One, PC
Release date: TBC

No calendar is complete without a zombie game or two on the horizon, and Dying Light 2 has a good chance of being the only zombie game you'll need for the foreseeable future. Techland got off to fantastic start with the original Dying Light in 2015, and its sequel intends to healthily expand those parameters in every regard. With its reactive world, branching narrative, finessed combat, and radically upgraded visuals, Dying Light 2 is everything you could hope for in one, beautifully apocalyptic package, and then some. There's no release information as of yet, but our barbed wire baseball bats are already prepared and eager for zombie blood.

Ghost of Tsushima 

Platform(s): PS4
Release date: TBC

Sucker Punch hit us with quite the surprise when it revealed Ghost of Tsushima out of the blue: a samurai-led tale of ancient Japan from the studio that brought you the Infamous and Sly Cooper series. You play an as-yet-unnamed swordsman fighting for his life against the invading forces of the Mongol Empire, living out real historical events that kicked off in the year 1274. Prepare yourself for plenty of intense melee combat in a large, open-world take on feudal Japan. 

Knights and Bikes

Platform(s): PS4, PC
Release date: TBC

This charming top-down adventure game, developed by two Media Molecule alums and published by Double Fine, strives to recapture the sense of wonderment and improvised fun inherent to childhood expeditions. Our two young heroines, Nessa and Demelza, explore their quaint island town brought to life by charming picture-book visuals, battling imaginary creatures with frisbees, water balloons, and all manner of improvised weaponry. Though it's playable solo, the ideal way to enjoy Knights and Bikes is in two-player co-op, where Nessa and Demelza will often devise spur-of-the-moment competitions - like racing their bikes to the next point of interest - that create fleeting moments of giddy rivalry with your co-op pal to see who can lay claim to those sweet bragging rights.

GTFO

Platform(s): PC
Release date: Spring 2019

If you often reminisce about the horrific hordes and harrowing escapes of the Left 4 Dead series, GTFO looks to be your next fix of four-player, co-op FPS. There's a heavy emphasis on suspense, as you and your squad of operatives (in employ of the mysterious Warden) explore mutant-filled catacombs. An AI director ensures that your party gets to enjoy the chills of creepy exploration and the thrills of staving off swarms of attackers in equal measure. And unlike the standard zombies of L4D, these ghoulish creatures can terrorize you from a distance with their grotesque extending necks.

Gears 5

Platform(s): Xbox One, PC
Release date: TBC 

If you thought Gears of War 4 played it a little too safe with its Stars Wars: The Force Awakens-style torch-passing story, Gears 5 wants to remind you that the series is never one to adhere to expectations. The Coalition's new protagonist is no longer walking dude-bro JD Phoenix, but former sidekick Kait, who decides to abandon her post as a Gear and discover her identity, now that we know she's related to the Locust Queen Myrrah in some form or another. Everything we've seen so far looks unexpectedly brilliant, but here's hoping Gears 5 has a few more surprises up its armoured sleeve than 2016's so-so reboot.

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