The 10 Best Games of 2024 (So Far)

Games Lists Best of the Year
The 10 Best Games of 2024 (So Far)

You don’t have to follow the videogame industry that closely or for that long to realize that almost none of the major companies that run it have any idea what they’re doing. And it’s only gotten worse over the last few years. The wave of studio closures and layoffs that shook 2023 have continued at an even higher pace this year; 2024 has already seen as many game development jobs lost as all of 2023, and we’re not even halfway to 2025 yet. Pretty much every exec at every multibillion dollar game publisher is an out-of-touch, out-of-their-depth empty suit who has no idea what their customers want at this point and who cavalierly destroys livelihoods while collecting massive salaries. Nothing about that is unique, of course—that’s basically always been the job of the executive class—but it’s continued to get worse year after year. The people who run the gaming industry seem to really love destroying it. No wonder the best games of 2024 so far are overwhelmingly from small, self-owned studios or even individual developers, artists who had a clear vision and were able to pursue it without overbearing influence from remote dopes who’ve never made anything of substance. Sure, a couple of games with massive staffs and corporate backing made the list below, but the line between would-be blockbuster games and ones with far smaller budgets has never been as starkly drawn as it has been so far in 2024. Given how the industry is going, it’d be surprising if that gap didn’t continue to grow.

Sorry to be a bummer. When you click on a list called “the best whatever of whenever” you probably expect some positivity. We’re getting there, honest. But it’d be downright irresponsible to ignore the quagmire the captains of the gaming industry have sunk it into. Hopefully when they’re doing destroying what they’ve built something better, smarter, and more egalitarian will fully take its place.

But hey: Let’s talk about the best games of 2024 so far. There’ve been a lot of really good ones over the last five months, for real. Esoteric puzzles, psychedelic Metroid homages, prohibitively complex RPGs, retro survival horror tributes set in abandoned Atlanta theme parks, dude punchers: it’s been a year. And it’s only been five months! Wow. Whodathunkit. Some of the new games are good, and here are the 10 best.

10. Crow Country

Crow Country

Set in 1990 in an abandoned theme park in Paste‘s home town of Atlanta, Ga., Crow Country wears its OG PlayStation influences on the sleeves of its Charlotte Hornets Starter jacket. On the surface it ticks off all the classic survival horror boxes: limited ammo and health, an awkward aiming system, incentivizing head shots (or even just running) over any other attacks, and a claustrophobic atmosphere full of dread and jump scares. I generally hate survival horror, so I’m glad to report there’s so much more to Crow Country beyond those genre trappings. It’s really more about puzzles than action, almost like a Sierra point-and-click with a three-quarters view and the occasional need to shoot something. You explore the park’s various themed areas, looking for clues to a bewitching central mystery about the park’s creation and abrupt closure. The writing is compelling throughout, both creepy and funny, and its small cast of characters are concisely sketched with lifelike depth. It’s an engrossing enigma that’s clever from start to finish, and with buckets of retro warmth and charm. Plus it mentions the Atlanta Falcons. Obviously I’m going to dig it.—Garrett Martin

9. Little Kitty, Big City

Little Kitty, Big City

“Hang out games”—games without urgency, that explicitly try not to stress you out too much—cozy games, as many call them—can be tough to get right. They can feel too much like busy work, with a checklist of stuff it wants you to do every day (hey, Animal Crossing!) It’s also not easy to build a world players want to hang out in. You have to be really good at writing stories, creating characters, and putting them in an environment that, if not warm and inviting, is at least compelling enough to keep players checking in. That’s the greatest strength of Little Kitty, Big City. I love this little kitten. I love how it slinks, stalks, crawls, and runs through the city. I’ve tripped probably 100 very serious business people on their way to work and it’s never gotten old. I love all these characters—the brave ducklings who roamed the city for show and tell, the sleepy bodega cat who proclaims himself the mayor, the shiba inus who go out of their mind barking at the kitty unless you give them a bone, which they’ll manically gnaw and slobber on for the rest of the game. Charm coats this game like hair and dander on a cat lover’s couch. With Little Kitty, Big City, Double Dagger has given us an ideal “hang out” game that helps so much to alleviate stress and sadness that it might also be the first “hang in there” game.—Garrett Martin

8. Tekken 8

Tekken 8

Tekken 8 may not be a sea-change sequel, but it hones what came before, reducing pain points for newcomers without reducing the complexity that makes this series special. Although the dust needs to settle to determine if its Heat system’s boons outweigh its shortcomings, the massive character movesets, rewarding roster, and explosive combos ensure its battles are exciting and tactically deep. Improved teaching tools, like its Arcade Quest mode and training room adjustments, make it easier to experience these highs. Additionally, its revamped look and hard-hitting aesthetics elevate not only its matches but also its story, a high-octane anime-inspired romp that ties together three decades of history into a resounding haymaker. If you’ve ever wanted to learn how to beat a buddy mashing cheap moves in your dorm, been curious about what’s going on under the hood as Arslan Ash and Knee duked it out in impossibly hype EVO sets, or wondered why these buff dudes keep throwing each other off cliffs, there’s never been a better time to dive into the strange and wonderful world of Tekken and find out for yourself.—Elijah Gonzalez

7. Lorelei and the Laser Eyes

Lorelei and the Laser Eyes is a game with vision. It wraps intriguing puzzles in a digital gothic framework. It makes the most of its chosen medium as it forces us to navigate the tenuous details of this backdrop. Just about every layer of the experience is creatively risky, from its fragmented narrative to its uncompromising barrage of challenges, but these gambles largely pay off to deliver something with purpose and direction. Crafting this kind of maze isn’t easy; it takes a combination of subtle guidance and faith in your audience. But despite these challenges, Simogo never loses sight of how to stoke curiosity about what’s lurking around the next corner, whether it’s a treasure you’ve been seeking or, conversely, something horrible lurking in the dark.—Elijah Gonzalez

6. Llamasoft: The Jeff Minter Story

Llamasoft: The Jeff Minter Story

Just as earlier Gold Series entry The Making of Karateka and its precursor Atari 50 gave us an in-depth look at the background and creation of the games they focused on, Llamasoft is full of videos and archival footage about game designer Jeff Minter’s decades-long history and how his games were created, marketed, and received by the press and the public. Minter himself is beguiling, a shamanistic figure who indulges his love of computer games, psych and prog rock, and hoofed mammals in semi-seclusion in Wales, and who has been an outspoken proponent of independent game design for most of his career. The latest entry in Digital Eclipse’s series of playable documentaries collects dozens of Minter’s early games, from his earliest ZX81 rough drafts up to his 1994 masterpiece Tempest 2000, and the hallmarks of a true artist are unmistakable. Throughout his career Minter has continually iterated on similar themes, mechanics, and images, creating a unified body of games whose dreamlike logic and visuals are at odds with their strict difficulty and well-defined mechanics. Minter’s work exists in the contrast between form and function; he’s a visual iconoclast resolutely exploring the most traditional notions of “gameplay” through surreal arcade games that always bear his personal signature. His games look like abstract art and play like something you could’ve found in a bowling alley arcade in 1985, and that’s about the most bulletproof approach to game design I can think of. For over 40 years Minter has made some of the greatest, most inventive games ever, and this brilliant collection is one of the best games of 2024.—Garrett Martin

5. Dragon’s Dogma 2

Although its story centers on a monarch trying to reclaim their crown and all the power that comes with it, Dragon’s Dogma 2’s greatest delights come from accepting you can’t control everything. You can’t influence inclement weather or the sun disappearing over the horizon as unsettling monstrosities burst from subterranean layers. You can’t blink across the world without paying for it, and instead, must take long journeys where the only cure for dwindling strength is rest. Sometimes, you can’t even get up a particular cliffside, its steep terrain forcing a different path. And most of all, you can’t always control who lives and dies (although there is a hilariously arcane process to resurrect the dead, for a price, of course). It’s not challenging in quite the same way as FromSoftware’s output, like Dark Souls and Sekiro, although I can see why those comparisons are made. Here, the toughness is less about learning to dodge-roll at the right time and more related to preparation and countering weaknesses. Dragon’s Dogma 2 also isn’t some entirely avant-garde, player-hating thing that rejects “fun” outright. It feels really good when you shield bash a guy, weaponizing the same inertia that’s sent you slipping down slopes to make a foe do the same. After hitting an off-balance enemy with a follow-up attack (aptly named “Empale”), the immaculate thud of the ensuing audio cue is music to my ears. It’s damn satisfying whenever things line up perfectly, like cutting a bridge out from under a charging Cyclops or sending a boulder ripping through an army of Saurians. But what makes these moments truly pop is that you don’t have fine control over when they arrive.—Elijah Gonzalez

4. Animal Well

animal well

You’ve probably seen many of Animal Well’s components in isolation before. Its structure is at least partially inspired by games like Metroid, its style of puzzles bear a lot of resemblance to Fez, and its retro aesthetics call to mind a whole host of older games and contemporary works. But the way these parts come together is nothing short of uniquely enrapturing. Its smaller puzzles are rewarding, and its larger ones are so satisfying that things can quickly spiral into outright obsession, something made more captivating by this well-realized setting that is charming and disquieting in equal measure. At its core, Animal Well profoundly understands how to encourage and pay off curiosity, which is probably why, even after digging into and solving many of its mysteries, I still need to know just how much deeper this rabbit hole goes.—Elijah Gonzalez

3. Ultros


Playing Ultros is gaming in a cloud of color and confusion, a perpetually exciting state of being that evokes the earliest days of videogames while still feeling ahead of its time. Between your constantly shifting relationship with your surroundings, the cryptic goals and hallucinatory interactions, the structure and action of Ultros is as psychedelic as its music and art. And that’s genuinely shocking, as few games are as fiercely devoted to the psychedelic aesthetic as this one. The bright, brilliant artwork by El Huervo channels the twisty chaos of comics legend Brendan McCarthy (who might be better known today as the co-writer and designer of Mad Max: Fury Road), uniting the abstract and the visceral (literally—guts are an omnipresent symbol throughout Ultros) to create an art style unlike any other in games. Meanwhile Ratvader’s original score captures the yawning, dramatic stillness of Popol Vuh, the ambient German rock group who soundtracked several Herzog films. El Huervo’s art and Ratvader’s music are the most obvious psychedelic signifiers in Ultros, but the game itself lives up to their mind-altering ambitions. It’s one of the best games of 2024.—Garrett Martin

2. Balatro


As someone who would rather play virtually any board game than a hand of poker, I was pleasantly surprised by Balatro, a roguelike deckbuilder that transforms this card game into something else entirely. Some elements are what you’d expect; you begin with a standard 52-card deck and score by putting together traditional poker hands like pairs, flushes, and straights. However, where things get interesting is that over the course of a run, you can augment your deck by replacing certain cards with others, upgrading them, collecting passive upgrades that amplify your score, and more. Instead of playing against opponents like in Texas Hold ‘Em, your goal is to build hands that score enough chips to get you through an increasingly expensive series of antes. Like any successful deckbuilding game, decision-making matters in both assembling your deck and playing it. Instead of just going by traditional poker hand strength, points are calculated by multiplying the base amount of chips your hand is worth (chip count corresponds to the card rank, i.e., 9, 10, J, Q, etc.), with the particular multiplier associated with that hand (for instance, a two pair has a x2 multiplier while a three of a kind has a x3 multiplier). Where things get busted is that you can upgrade the multipliers associated with specific hands or cards, and passive abilities add to your multiplier, which can eventually dramatically boost the number of chips you earn. You can gear your deck around certain hands, suits, or passive abilities to increase the odds of hitting big. Outside of the deckbuilding, you’re given a wide array of options and information that makes it feel tactically deep. The game counts cards to let you know the odds, has the option to discard and redraw, allows you to change the order that passive abilities activate, and has consumable items. Good deckbuilders feel fair and like they offer meaningful decisions while constructing and playing your deck. Balatro does all that while also letting you blast apart the rules of poker.—Elijah Gonzalez

1. 1000xRESIST

1000xRESIST is many things, but it’s not a game that holds back any gut punches. It refuses to fit into any one box. It’s a walking simulator for a few hours before switching to a side-scroller. The third-person perspective suddenly shifts to a top-down view. It’s a visual novel but also you’re lunging between different nodes on a wide map. It’s a time puzzler and, at times, survival horror. It’s wholeheartedly committed to furiously surprising you again and again and again, and it undoubtedly excels in this mission from beginning to end. It’s the kind of game that can leave you feeling transformed. Few are the games as bold and brave and brilliant as this one; throughout its 15 hours, there’s a palpable eagerness to take the risks that many other teams would shy away from, especially considering this is Sunset Visitor’s debut game. 1000xRESIST is a dazzling testament to the stories this medium has yet to tell; an exemplification of the best that small yet ambitious teams can create; and a gateway to a future in which more videogame narratives have the courage and soul to tackle the ideas that it executes with equal precision and grace. It’s simply triumphant in everything it sets out to do.—Natalie Flores

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Share Tweet Submit Pin