A Gamer's Odyssey: Unveiling the Epic Tapestry of 2024's Video Game Pantheon

And a year in which the games industry has had both a good dream and a good fight. 2024 offers a staggering variety of experiences, and every type of player has found something to love. From the cel-shaded boldness of the future to the shadowed serekhs of ancient myth, the games released in this year have reached a new level of quality and reach. But while we enjoy the goods, many of the people who make them have reason to worry. The stage is set, as gamers have had a year that has truly been flush with sense and sensibilia.

Playing with Work on Your Mind

By midyear 2024, it’s impossible to ignore the spectre hanging over an otherwise rosy picture: video games could be having their best year ever while a vibrant industry is also laying off thousands of workers. It’s a paradox: the artisans that have cultivated ‘the best year ever’ are the same artisans for whom the future is far from rosy.

The Magnificent Gaming Mélange of 2024

This year’s release schedule is like a page-turning novel, each book in the series as engaged, suspenseful and delightful as the last. Take a peek at some of those that have taken us by storm:

Metroidvania Mystique: The Allure of Animal Well

A shining example of why the Metroidvania genre remains relevant — a dreamy amalgamation of puzzle-solving and ambient exploration — Animal Well provides a subtly orchestrated sense of discovery through a lo-fi aesthetic and ingeniously conceived play space.

The Card Game Reimagined: Balatro's Brilliance

It’s a new game, yes, but it also a reimagining of card game mechanics, finding its perfect digital form, forcing you to reconsider your sense of strategy, and then luring you into chasing its high-score leaderboards. Balatro is out now.

Combat, Comedy, and Commentary: Helldivers II

Helldivers II is still a world away from first-person shooters such as Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 (2018). The US military subscribes to a doctrine of perception management and so the game can’t actually get very close to the idea of war. Therefore, Helldivers II manages to exist in that space where the frisson of combat and vicarious fighting intersects with the tropes of satire, which – like Call of Duty – are designed to help us cope. The game becomes a co-operative experience at once exciting and meditative, serving as a commentary that doesn’t shy away from making a statement. And though it furiously challenges your sense of working together, all the time shoring up your strategy, it never forgets to have fun.

The Open-World Odyssey: Final Fantasy VII Rebirth

In Final Fantasy VII: Rebirth, those narrow corridors of the original are opened up into an expansive open-world game, its massive scope and in-depth combat a gift to fans of the series and the larger pop-cultural legacy of Final Fantasy VII. Not only is it not a bad idea, some stories deserve – dare I say it? – to be repeated.

A Sequel Without Compromise: Dragon's Dogma 2

Dragon’s Dogma 2 will be unabashedly itself, refined and improved in the specific way its sublime blending of extreme difficulty and richly explorable story world did things before. Rare is the sequel that honours its predecessor.

Heart and Soul RPG: Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth

RGG Studio’s biggest bet yet on narrative depth is Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth. Both of the game’s protagonists are engaging, its turn-based combat has bite, and its heartfelt, wonderfully dry writing captures the spirit of an RPG like few others.

Sensing the Future of Gaming

Something I realised comparing the landscape of doomed games of 2024 with today’s rich mix and high quality offerings was that if a common theme emerges from the games we have had this year it is that video games can make us cry. From the haunting beauty of Hades 2 to the rich depths of turn-based combat sim Grandblue Fantasy: Relink (due for release in 2024) and the fisticuffs and raging mood-swings of Tekken 8, video games can move us.

Exploring the Essence of Sense in Gaming

Exploring the meaning of ‘sense’ further – because ‘sense’ is what we’re after when describing the feel of ‘greatness’ here – takes us deeper into what the best video games can offer: the profoundly personal connection to the world in play. Greatness in this regard finds games that fulfil the escapist fantasy most completely: not simply taking us elsewhere, but taking us to places that also change the way we think and feel about our own world.

In the year 2024 and the years beyond, video games are poised to evolve into something else, guided by the imagination of its makers and propelled by the passion of its players. I like to think that, by making us laugh, cry, and gasp with every sense at our disposal, video games sometimes pause in all the chaos of noise. I hope that spirit grows even stronger, from the hands that make them, as well as the hands that play them.

Jun 15, 2024
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