Every fall a new roster of gaming goliaths slugs it out for dominance in the pre-Christmas rush of major releases, and 2018 is no different. This year sees new entries of massive annualized shooters, an obligatory Assassin’s Creed, as well as long-awaited new additions to the Smash Bros. and Red Dead Redemption series. There are a handful of smaller titles still pinned to 2018 but floating without specific release dates—like Kentucky Route Zero, Wargroove, and Sunless Skies—but it’s also pretty likely those games will scamper to the safety of 2019, where they don’t have to tussle with the giants of fall. Here, then, are the games that we’re making time for in a crowded couple of months.


Marvel’s Spider-Man
September 7—PlayStation 4

Despite a few occasional dips and downturns, Spider-Man has always played well with games; his signature fighting style lends itself to fun, fleet combos, and there are few ways to get around an open-world city that feel better in your hands than web-slinging across New York. Sony’s latest big-budget outing with everyone’s favorite friendly neighborhood wall-crawler looks like it’ll keep that reputation alive, too, combining the classic web-swinging action with a fighting system that seems to be cribbing quite a few notes from Batman’s Arkham repertoire. (Never a bad thing, in our estimation.) Plus, we’re excited to face off with a bumper crop of the newer additions to Spidey’s comic book rogues’ gallery, including monochromatic arch-baddie Mr. Negative. [William Hughes]


Shadow Of The Tomb Raider
September 14—PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Windows

One of the most interesting things about Shadow Of The Tomb Raider, the third in Crystal Dynamics’ rebooted series, is the way it approaches difficulty, sorting it by puzzles, exploration, and—thank god—combat. Much of the last Tomb Raider game was too interested in inserting gunfights and one-on-one sparring matches when Lara Croft should be raiding tombs. So the ability to toggle combat to “easy,” while setting puzzles and exploration to “normal” or “hard,” is a brilliant update to the problem. Shadow Of The Tomb Raider also presents itself as a more nuanced, 21st-century look at the colonial underpinnings of a British person plundering artifacts from other cultures: The game opens with Lara’s pillaging ancient loot, which sets off a horrible chain reaction that she must fix, grappling hook in hand. [Caitlin PenzeyMoog]


Super Mario Party
October 5—Nintendo Switch

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There’s no shortage of great party games for the Switch—two Overcookeds, the definitive Mario Kart, 1-2 Switch, etc.—but it’s hard to imagine any of them being as definitive as Super Mario Party, the 11th entry in Nintendo’s gonzo series. As always, the company designs around form factor, using the console’s two included controllers in all sorts of weird, inventive ways, and building a whole separate mode of play around the possibilities of two Switches being used in the same room. The flagship mode, though, is the board-game-inspired mini-game gauntlet, here featuring 80 batshit new activities to fight your friends and family over. [Clayton Purdom]


The Occupation
October 9—PlayStation 4, Windows

Between the muddled messaging of dystopian anti-anti-depressant game We Happy Few, and the muddled, well… everything of Detroit: Become Human, 2018 hasn’t been a great year for overtly political games. Still, there’s something intriguing about White Paper Games’ sophomore offering, set in the U.K. in 1987, and in the wake of a terrorist attack that leads the government to impose harsh immigration controls and other liberty-encroaching measures. You play as a journalist, sneaking around London and trying to dig up dirt on the government’s plans, which play out in real-time, providing a unique timed framework for its interactions. [William Hughes]


Red Dead Redemption 2
October 26—PlayStation 4, Xbox One

Clear out your calendars, as well as those of everyone you know: Red Dead Redemption 2 is the 800-pound gorilla of the release calendar, sending lesser titles scuttling to the safer pastures of 2019. Coming a full eight years after its predecessor, and half a decade after Grand Theft Auto V, it promises to better the standard-setting beauty of the former and the long-playing dominance of the latter. With characteristic assuredness, Rockstar has slowly begun revealing aspects of how the damn thing will actually play, with a broader sense of interactivity with other characters and an enhanced focus on camping and survival. Also: horses! Lots of horses. It’ll be big and beautiful, and it will gobble up billions and billions of dollars instantly, as well as, probably, most of your fall. You’ve been warned, cowpoke. [Clayton Purdom]


Hitman 2
November 13—PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Windows

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Jetting around the world in a jet-black tuxedo, a license to kill in one pocket and a silenced pistol in the other, Agent 47 is basically the grim reaper by way of 007. He’s also a bald guy with a barcode on the back of his head—and his ability to blend into any crowd in spite of this rather conspicuous identifying mark counts as one of the better running gags of the darkly funny Hitman series. The sequel to 2016’s fiendishly entertaining franchise reboot adds new gadgets, new exotic locales, and a picture-in-picture system that allows you to remotely monitor areas of the map. But its fun will probably still come down to exploiting the patterns of NPCs whose suspicions are never aroused by, say, a jacked pizza delivery guy with a line of numbers branded onto his chrome dome. [A.A. Dowd]


Fallout 76
November 14—PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Windows

We’ll give it this: Bethesda Softworks’ second effort to take one of its beloved franchises into the online multiplayer space—after The Elder Scrolls Online—doesn’t lack for ambition. The company is promising to make post-apocalyptic West Virginia a suitably sparse and hostile space, building a massive map, filling it with robots, monsters, and player-activated nukes, and ensuring that the only other human beings populating it will be your fellow Fallout fans. Was this particular world crying out for an online-only version, festooned with real-life raiders anxious to pick over its (and your) corpse? Who can say? But, then, it’s Bethesda’s world; we’ve just got to live in it. [William Hughes]


Battlefield V
November 20—Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC

Battlefield used to be the World War II video game series, but around the same time that Call Of Duty took over the first-person shooter genre with Modern Warfare, Battlefield ditched the history lessons for more contemporary gunfights. In 2016, the developers at DICE sort of went back to their roots with Battlefield 1, a shooter set in the first World War, and now, they’re finally releasing the game everybody wanted them to make. Battlefield V takes all of the cool tricks DICE has picked up in the last decade (like destructibility and clever mission-based gameplay modes) and takes it back to the ’40s. [Sam Barsanti]


Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
December 7—Nintendo Switch

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Every character who has ever been in a Smash Bros. game is in this. Almost every level that has been in a Smash Bros. game is in this. If you’ve ever liked a Smash Bros. game—or even a Nintendo game—there should be something here for you. Hell, the same can be said for anyone who has ever liked a Mega Man game, a Castlevania game, or a Metal Gear game. Where else can you see Solid Snake and Super Mario fight Simon Belmont and Samus Aran at Dr. Wily’s Castle? Nowhere. This is pure, weaponized fan service from Nintendo. [Sam Barsanti]


Tetris Effect
2018—PlayStation 4, PSVR

Can you make a sequel to Tetris? If someone ever were going to, it’d be Tetsuya Mizuguchi. The visionary game designer behind Rez, Lumines, and Child Of Eden has devoted his career to the transcendent, psychedelic qualities of merging meditative games with blissed-out electronic music. The forthcoming Tetris Effect turns the puzzle classic into a field of luminous imagery and music, not so much building on Alexey Pajitnov’s iconic architectural design as throwing a rave in it after hours. Tetris never gets old, but blue whales made out of lasers while you play will sure as hell make it feel new. [Clayton Purdom]