Gamescom, the world’s largest video game event, has just taken place in Cologne, bringing 400,000 visitors – including Angela Merkel – to the vast Koelnmesse for a week of hype and hands-on action.
Here are the 11 games we most enjoyed amid the chaos.
Cuphead (Studio MDHR; PC, Xbox One)
This long-awaited platformer matches its astonishing 1930s cartoon art-style with manic gameplay inspired by classic console titles from the 1980s and 90s. The run-and-gun action is deceptively tricky, thanks to some seriously challenging bosses, but its meticulous detail will keep you in awe while you die over and over again. Gets extra points for its soundtrack, composed by a 10-piece ragtime jazz band (including the occasional tap shoe sound effects).
Monster Hunter World (Capcom; PC, PS4, Xbox One)
The slick new addition to the beast-bludgeoning fantasy series is full of gasp-out-loud moments. Huge detailed areas (split into seamlessly connected zones), giant monsters and satisfying combat are all promised, with a range of weapons that utilise different combos and strategies. Add the drop-in co-op gameplay and it’s far from the watered down experience some fans feared.
Deep Rock Galactic (Ghost Ship Games; Xbox One)
Published by Coffee Stain (developers of the absurdly popular Goat Simulator) this four player co-op shooter has space dwarves mining for precious minerals amid a huge underground cave system riddled with giant spiders and other monsters. The stylised visuals, procedurally generated environments and digging mechanic have drawn comparisons with Minecraft, but this is much more loot-and-shoot than click-and-create.
Bad North (Oskar Stålberg, Richard Meredith and Martin Kvale; console, PC and mobile)
Drawn in a cute isometric visuals, this complex real-time strategy game has you defending various islands against hordes of Vikings. As you play, the detritus of war starts to litter your realm, the bodies, burned buildings and crashed ships effect both the Vikings and your own warriors. Seeing enemy craft gradually appearing through the fog is as beautiful as it is eerie.
BioMutant (Experiment 101, PC, PS4, Xbox One)
Created by a new indie studio set up by ex-staff from the Just Cause and Mad Max titles, BioMutant is described as a “post-apocalyptic kung fu fable”. In practice, that seems to mean an open-world RPG with an idiosyncratic comic book art style, deep Wushu fighting system, and a racoon-like protagonist who can be augmented with mutations and prosthetics. Kung Fu Panda meets Fallout? OK then.
Anno 1800 (Ubisoft Blue Byte, PC)
The Anno series of real-time strategy city builders has gone back to what it does best: the past. Anno 1800 focuses on the industrial revolution of the 19th Century, dealing with issues of colonialism, empire and workforce exploitation, and allowing you to deal with them as you see fit. But be warned that a small strike in your city can lead to a protest, which leads to a riot, and then a revolution. This looks to be a game about systems rather than morals, but you have to deal with the consequences of your tyranny.
Assassin’s Creed Origins (Ubisoft Montreal; PC, PS4, Xbox One)
Ubisoft has refreshed its assassination adventure series in this latest instalment, adding a focus on narrative and a new hitbox-based combat system. The recreation of ancient Egypt looks stunning, with thorough historical research clearly on show. Judging by the Gamescom demo, however, unnecessary UI and markers on maps still have the potential to distract and disrupt the beautiful view.
Fe (Zoink Games; PC, PS4, Switch, Xbox One)
Inspired by the developers’ childhoods playing in the forests of Sweden, the focus here is on exploration and discovery. Playing as an adorable fox-type creature you sing to animals and plants in the woods, gradually gaining their trust and help as you rid the woodlands of a corrupting evil. Riding deer around, chucking lizards about, scampering up trees and gliding elegantly down; it’s a delightful natural playground in a blue and purple palette.
Super Mario Odyssey (Nintendo, Switch)
A hit at E3 and now a star at Gamecom, the latest Mario adventure has the plumber travelling through various worlds, possessing people and objects with his anthropomorphic hat, Cappy. While the implications of being able to inhabit the bodies of enemies is a little disturbing, the game’s intricately designed 3D platforming and feature-packed environments are sure diverting.
Far: Lone Sails (Okomotive; PC, PS4, Xbox One)
Set throughout a serene post-apocalyptic environment, the goal in Far is to pilot your vessel across the vast expanse of a dried-up sea, now baron and littered with the remains of a seafaring civilisation. Wonderfully eerie and atmospheric, with a painterly grey-hued palette, you discover the stark narrative via ruins and wrecks. Created by Zurich-based studio Okomotive, who began this striking game as students, there are no enemies, apart from the emptiness around you, making for a subtly moving experience.
The Almost Gone (Happy Volcano; smartphone)
The delicate and pretty look of this game masks a dark story: a young girl must understand her own death if she is to help guide others to the afterlife. The isometric point-and-click puzzle adventure is a collaboration with Dutch author Joost Vandecasteele, offering discreet, gently coloured interiors to explore. An award winner in its native Belgium, The Almost Gone looks set for further acclaim.