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Our top Linux picks released in 2018, the GamingOnLinux editor awards

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Now that 2018 is coming to a close, let's have a little look over some of what we think are the top Linux games released this year.

Unlike previous years, we're making our own views known to the world rather than just doing user votes (that may come later for a reader award, usually January).

Liam's picks

Truthfully, this is the single hardest thing I’ve had to do all year. Narrowing down all the amazing games that have released, into a small list that well and truly deserve the top spots. I’ve added some and written about them, then remembered another great game to replace it and…you get the idea. However, these are the five I personally picked as a shining light in the darkness.

1. EVERSPACE - Humble Store - GOG - Steam

I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to give a shout out to EVERSPACE again. I’m a huge sci-fi space-nerd at heart and it it’s such a damn beautiful game it’s a pleasure to play. Okay, a little bit of a lie there, pleasure isn’t exactly the right word to use. It’s frustrating, I die all the time but the gameplay loop is just so good it rewards you for pushing through and the combat is exceptionally fun.

I absolutely adore the backdrops in the game, the visuals constantly mesmerise me! The freeze-frame feature to quickly stop the action, to allow you to look around is fantastic too.

2. Surviving Mars - Humble Store - GOG - Steam

I absolutely love city building games but I always have the same problem with them since I’m not an overly creative person. I’m not going to make a masterpiece of a city, that when you zoom out it looks like a work of art. With that in mind, I end up getting a little bored. Until Surviving Mars came along, with less of a focus on being creative and more on surviving the harsh Martian landscape. You can still be as creative as you like of course, for me though the sci-fi element with the added challenges makes it worth my time.

3. Overload - Humble Store - GOG - Steam

Easily the best six-degree-of-freedom shooter available right now. With tight corridors, excellent lighting and lush graphics mixed in with fast-paced action it’s a fantastic experience. A first-person shooter is one thing, being able to quickly boost in any direction is another. I’ve played a few over the last few years, but nothing has come close to just how good the gameplay mechanics are in Overload.

4. Life is Strange: Before the Storm - Humble Store - Steam

I’ll be honest, I’ve never seen someone cry about a game before. However, that all changed when our livestreamer Sin took on Before the Storm, what an emotional roller coaster that was. Graphically not particularly impressive but the story itself is fantastic and the sublime music just tops it all off.

Hats off to Feral Interactive for the Linux port, not a single bug found in our playthrough and not a single crash. With Life is Strange 2 on the way for Linux next year—gimme, gimme, gimme.

5. Parkitect - Humble Store - GOG - Steam

I spent more hours in my youth playing games like Theme Park than my parents should have ever let me, to the point that it left a lasting impression and a void in my gaming life. Parkitect smashed into life and it’s firmly replacing my old love.

Since I struggle to make super cool looking creations, the Blueprint feature and easy to use game mechanics to design roller coasters has made it such a rewarding experience. Having the ability to pop down ready-made ridiculous creations is awesome. The developers hit such a sweet spot between accessibility and complexity that you don’t often see.

Scaine's picks

1. Neverwinter Nights: Enhanced Edition - GOG - Steam

I played, I suspect, hundreds of hours of Neverwinter Nights when it first appeared in the early 2000’s, using the 3rd edition D&D toolset. I bought it out of faith when it re-appeared, re-mastered, but didn’t expect to really get into it again. But no, there’s no resisting this masterpiece. It's now based on the 3.5 edition D&D ruleset, so I can’t re-create my wonderful multi-class Lvl4 monk, Lvl16 mage character, but I can still adventure through the Sword Coast of Faerûn all over again regardless. And the remaster means a slicker interface and better textures. The few issues it had at launch have been rectified too, which is nice to see and they’ve (naturally) thrown in the main two DLCs as part of the purchase. A classic.

2. Dead Cells - Humble Store - GOG - Steam

I wasn’t expecting much after such a long wait for Linux support, but cynical me was proven completely wrong about this absolute gem of a platformer, after a 16 month wait, 2 months before it left early access. Its combination of beautiful movement, RPG upgrades and weapon variety makes every run in this roguelite a treasure. Incredible depth too, through the “preserved between games” upgrade system.

3. Kingdom Rush: Origins - Steam

This is the third instalment in the series which I consider to be the best tower defence games in existence. It’s a step up in difficulty, however, so be warned that despite how much I rave about these games, you might want to start with the first and build up, instead of leaping straight into this challenging prequel.

4. State of Mind - Humble Store - GOG - Steam

It’s hard to put my finger on what made State of Mind so compelling. I think it’s because it just had the right mix of ingredients. The graphics were beautiful, albeit not particularly taxing. The voice acting was excellent and consistent. The story was set in a future which I found believable. Mix it all together and I found it to be an experience that I still think of occasionally, months later.

5. Tower of Time - Humble Store - GOG - Steam

Reminded of how good a party-based RPG can be by Neverwinter Nights, I bought Tower of Time a couple of months after release. Intriguing story, stylish presentation, interesting characters with lots of interaction between them, detailed, beautiful graphics and smooth, realistic animations. It’s awesome. But the strategy that you can exercise in the battles is where it really shines. Tactics that matter. Skills that make a difference. Varied weapons which you can adapt to your tactics. It was criticised for its wave-based approach to fights, but I think it should be celebrated for doing something new and fun.

Samsai's picks

1. BATTLETECH - Humble Store - GOG - Steam

It’s very hard to argue against giant death machines the size of houses, and when BATTLETECH arrived to Linux I definitely had to pick it up. And it turns out, it is indeed a lot of fun to send your mechs stomping down buildings and tanks and equipping them with a myriad of destructive weapons arrays to knock out your opponents. Definitely a good pick for people who are into turn-based tactics games like XCOM or people who just like death robots in general.

2. Warhammer 40k: Gladius - Relics of War - Humble Store - GOG - Steam

W40k: Gladius was one of the bigger timesinks for me this year and fairly quickly after its release I had managed to put in 35 hours into it. It’s a very solid turn-based strategy game with a heavy emphasis on combat and warfare. The different factions in the game are quite varied and suit different kinds of playstyles and the combat offers enough tactical considerations to not make it a purely resource based game. It looks good, plays nice and is quite a lot of fun, particularly if you play it in multiplayer with some friends.

3. RimWorld - Humble Store - Steam

RimWorld has been a fantastic game for a good while but it exited Early Access just fairly recently. It’s a game that seems to always jump up by a dozen hours every time I fire it up and is the perfect blend of enough gameplay systems to keep the game interesting and easy to pick up simplicity. It’s certainly a ton of fun to build a colony around questionably legal organ harvesting and cannibalism and then have all of that be ruined by a sudden nuclear winter as your colonists freeze to death. So, if you’ve considered games like Dwarf Fortress but the complex UI turned you off, RimWorld is a very good candidate to consider.

4. STRAFE: Millennium Edition - Humble Store - Steam

Old-school FPS games are absolutely great and STRAFE is that in a roguelite packaging. It’s basically just a game that lets you turn off your brain and just run and gun like a maniac, and the procedurally generated levels give it an additional degree of replayability, which is to be expected of a roguelite game. It’s a fun game to pick up for a level or two, find some cool guns and bash some mutant zombie monster things’ heads in.

5. DELTARUNE - Official Site

You might be surprised by this addition to my list and it wouldn’t even be here unless some clever person hadn’t figured out how to get it running unofficially on Linux. And it still feels a bit like cheating to include it. Regardless, if you liked Undertale you have basically zero reasons not to play Deltarune, and I happened to quite like both. So, go pick it up, apply the quick Linux patch and make some friends.

Cheese's picks

It's been a mighty big challenge to pick five games, and an even greater challenge to try to distil what I like about them down to a few short paragraphs. It's been a big and bumpy year for Linux gaming, and here are five of my favourite titles that had Linux releases in 2018 in reverse alphabetical order!

1. Overload - Humble Store - GOG - Steam

I have a huge soft spot for Descent, and while there was a period when they were light on the ground, it feels like we've been in a bit of a 6DOF shooter renaissance for the past couple of years. While I've found a bunch of enjoyment in this, none ever quite gave me the same feel that I got from the original Descent games. Until Overload.

This shouldn't be a surprise since Revival Productions is headed up by Descent creators Mike Kulas and Matt Toschlog, joined by writers, artists, designers, programmers, and composers with histories in the Descent franchise and community. The result is a rock solid 6DOF tunnel runner focused on blowing up reactor cores, rescuing hostages, and shooting down utility robots gone mad that manages to feel both modern and classic at once.

2. Hero-U: Rogue to Redemption - GOG - Steam

Another example of beloved franchise creators coming back to create something new that captures elements of their old worlds is Hero-U, a new adventure RPG by Quest for Glory creators Lori and Corey Cole. Instead of directly trying to re-create QfG, Hero-U strikes out on its own with new stat management, turn based combat, and relationship mechanics, using these to make the game's world and characters feel alive and responsive.

Hero-U can often give a sense of missing out as you rush from class to class and struggle to find a balance between classes, extracurricular activities, friendships, exploring the university's mysteries, and most importantly, rest. To some players, this might be offputting, while to others, it might be the exact prompt needed to make replaying feel worthwhile. Regardless of how you slice it, it does a wonderful and sometimes harrowing job of reflecting the pressures of full time study and being in just a little over your head. Mechanically, this also drives rhythms and routines, as well as prompting planning for expeditions and other activities that require a significant time investment - something that I enjoyed doing in Quest for Glory.

Hero-U isn't quite the QfG I style experience I was secretly hoping for, but it's been charming and engaging regardless, and I'll definitely be keeping an eye out for Hero-U: Wizard's Way when it's ready.

3. Everspace - Humble Store - GOG - Steam

It's hard to pin down what I like most about Rockfish Games' space shooter Everspace. It's got the responsiveness and tactility of a 6DOF shooter while still carrying the sense of a light space combat sim. It manages to convey a feel of the desolate loneliness and silent beauty of space while also making the post-war tension of the demilitarised zone palpable and threatening. The game's narrative nicely contextualises the replay-oriented gameplay in a way that extends beyond a first successful run. Progression during runs manifests through resource gathering and crafting system, and between runs through ship and pilot upgrade systems.

One thing that has stood out to me from the beginning is that in spite of offering and being optimised for less-conventional third person mouse steering piloting controls (think Freelancer), Everspace gives a range of options, allowing me to play with a cockpit view and with the targeting reticle locked to the centre of the screen (think Freespace) without feeling like I'm missing out. There's also gamepad and VR support (though the latter has rough edges and is considered unsupported - SteamVR for Linux is still in beta). Looking for new ways to play, I started doing pacifist runs earlier this year and was pleasantly surprised to find that even though a huge amount of care has gone into the game's rock solid combat system, zero kill wins are possible and a bunch of fun.

My first hundred hours with Everspace have been a blast, and I expect to come back for many more.

4. Distance - Humble Store - Steam

There's something uniquely enjoyable about an arcade racer that can deliver the fast, reactive racing that occurs when playing on a new track for the first time, and the methodical optimisation oriented racing when replaying a familiar track for the best completion times. Distance effortlessly manages to provide both of these, and thanks an in-game track editor and a track generator, is in a position to provide these indefinitely.

With Distance, Refract Studios takes this kind of game just a little farther by having a short narrative campaign called Adventure Mode, which takes the game's moody neon aesthetics and rolls it into an evocative example of minimalist storytelling, as you drive into the heart of the Array to pursue a deadly, mysterious threat. For any players who might find Adventure Mode a little too abstract or obscure, there are Sprint, Challenge and Stunt modes without narrative components as well as online and local multiplayer. Even though it makes up a small portion of the game's content, the kind of storytelling seen in Adventure Mode is comparatively rare and I love it to pieces.

Oh, and also, the car can fly.

5. Battle Chef Brigade - Humble Store - GOG - Steam

The first time I heard of Trinket Studios’ Battle Chef Brigade, it was pitched to me as a game that had the look and feel of a Studio Ghibli animated fantasy dramatisation of Iron Chef that put players in cook-offs where instead of having pre-prepared pantries, ingredients must be gathered from wild plants and monsters while the match timer ticks down. In spite of a couple of rough edges on animations here and there or a few voice recordings that don't quite feel consistent, it's executed surprisingly well.

Both parts of the cook-off gameplay are fairly simple on their own, with ingredients gathered during the sidescrolling brawler sequences providing the "taste gems" that need to be matched in the puzzle sequences order to cook more elaborate dishes. That said, things get technical pretty quickly, and there's a high skill ceiling for experienced players to expand into when either replaying the campaign or tackling the game’s challenge and local multiplayer modes.

Between cook-offs, the campaign follows a story that begins with young chef running away from her rural home to participate in the Proving Tournament to become a brigadier, and culminates in events that threaten the entire land of Victusia.

Everything about Battle Chef Brigade exudes charm, and I found myself getting swept away by the adventures of Mina and her friends.

BTRE's picks

It’s really hard to pick just five titles this year. I’ve spent dozens of hours playing every kind of game imaginable this year. As far as I’m concerned, there’s never been a better time to be a Linux gamer than now. We’re spoiled rotten for choice. My picks are in no particular order because it was that difficult to narrow them down.

1. Slay the Spire - Humble Store - Steam

I normally shy away from games in Early Access but I picked this one up earlier in the year after a recommendation from a friend. About 200 or so hours later, I don’t regret it for a moment. The mix of card-based play with strategy and the randomness of each game makes for a very compelling and addictive formula. It’s not for everyone but it’ll grab you firmly if you let it.

2. BATTLETECH - Humble Store - GOG - Steam

It was a close call between this and WARHAMMER II for my favorite strategy title of the year (and favorite ALL-CAPS TITLE). BATTLETECH edges out the competition because of its setting and somewhat distinct combat system. Seeing giant robots piloted by your hand-picked crew has never been so satisfying. The recent patches have also really polished up and improved the game and the content of the first expansion, Flashpoint, adds a lot more to do in the endgame. I don’t see myself putting this one down anytime soon.

3. Dead Cells - Humble Store - GOG - Steam

I’m a sucker for good platformers, especially those with a strong art direction and tight controls. Dead Cells uses randomness intelligently while still providing well-focused areas to explore and plenty of weapons and powerups to discover. It’s also rather challenging at times and rewards skill appropriately, making it feel all the more satisfying to learn. There’s more content slated to come out sometime soon and I can’t wait to dive into the game again then.

4. The Gardens Between - Humble Store - Steam

The Gardens Between is a touching story about friendship that won me over when I reviewed it earlier this year. It’s an accessible adventure with clever puzzles and mechanics that were very fun to interact with. There’s so many little details in the character’s body language and the backgrounds that the game transmits its message clearly without the need for any dialog. The plot might be a little obvious but it’s well executed nonetheless. It’s not really a game that’s very replayable or, indeed, long but it’s stuck in thoughts as one of the most charming gaming experiences in 2018.

5. Pillars of Eternity II - Humble Store - GOG - Steam

For me, the sequel was overall better than the original. I enjoyed my time sailing around in the Deadfire, exploring where I wanted at my own pace. I certainly appreciated the world building and the interactions with the various deities of the setting throughout different quests. It’s also a game that’s gotten better with patches and the DLC. It saddens me to know that Obsidian has been acquired by Microsoft as it might mean that any future entries in the franchise may be exclusive to their own platforms. I hope that 2019 can fill that thoughtful role-playing-game-sized hole in my heart with something else.

Flesk's picks

I haven't played many games from start to finish this year, but I've dipped my thumbs in many, and it was no easy task picking just five to highlight. I did manage to pick a handful of games that I enjoyed a lot though, and want to give a bit of extra attention.

1. Iconoclasts - Humble Store - GOG - Steam

My most anticipated game this year was the stunning action platformer made by the developer and artist of the popular noitu love games, Joakim "konjak" Sandberg. The game is about a girl mechanic, who practices without a licence in a world controlled by an evil agency. Equipped with a huge wrench and a side arm, you solve puzzles and fight the bad One Concern agents, and occasionally scrap together the materials to upgrade your weapons. There are also plenty of mid and end bosses in every level that I occasionally struggled a bit with on the normal difficulty setting, but there is also relaxed and harder mode, so it can be enjoyed regardless of skill and patience.

2. Unforeseen Incidents - Humble Store - GOG - Steam

A classic point and click adventure set during an epidemic with mysterious origins. I found the story engaging throughout, but what made me put this one on the list was the puzzles. There's enough of the old school item on item and dialogue puzzles to go around, but there are also plenty of puzzles that break out from that mold and breathes a bit of fresh air into the formula. There's a puzzle early on where you have to repair an old car engine, that I think set the tone of what to expect in terms of puzzles from this game.

3. Overcooked! 2 - Humble Store - Steam

I only picked this up a few days ago, but it's fast becoming one of my favourites of this year. It's an excellent couch co-op game and it's easy enough to pick up that my kids also play and love it. I've played cooking games before that I never really enjoyed, but Overcooked! 2 does a great job of streamlining the various prepping stages and instead spices things up by throwing in a bunch of environmental challenges that makes up all the fun. Often these challenges involves separating parts of the kitchens physically, meaning you might have to toss ingredients back and forth, to go from raw ingredients to a fully prepared meal. The game can also be played solo, which is a bit frustrating since you have to switch back and forth between cooks, but with fewer players less points are required to proceed, so it's perfectly possible.

4. Lamplight City - Humble Store - GOG - Steam

The first game from developer and artist Francisco Gonzalez after his break with Wadjet Eye Games. As we know, Shardlight was unfortunately never released for Linux, so I was anxious to see whether we'd get this game. Like his earlier game A Golden Wake, this game is a bit light on traditional puzzles, but there's a lot of "figuring stuff out" and if you don't figure enough stuff out by the end of a particular case, you will fail to solve that case. I'm not sure if that actually has any consequences beyond the newspaper headlines and minor story tweaks, but I got invested enough in the story that I felt bad about it, and decided to redo a chapter when I didn't manage to catch a kidnapper the first time around.

5. I might have gone with The Gardens Between as my fifth pick for the same reasons BTRE mentioned, but I would be remiss not to mention any of the great programming games we got this year. Two that especially stood out to me, and that both introduced parallel computing into the genre, were EXAPUNKS and 7 Billion Humans. They're both great though, and I really cannot choose between them. If you enjoy the depth and world building of the Zachtronic games, you will not be disappointed by EXAPUNKS, and if you like the smooth interface and comedy of Human Resource Machine, you should buy 7 Billion Humans.


Back to Liam for a moment…

While we have you here, just to point out that the excellent YouTube star, Hex DSL, gathered a few Linux names together (thanks for the invite, Hex!) to create a video to show off some of our favourites, take a look:

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Just ignore the fact that I'm noted as "Your uncle.", I didn't quite realise everyone else was so serious in the private document noting who they were…woops.

That's all from us! While there's many more great games those are what we each thought deserved the top spots this year. 2019 is almost ready to crash into us and no doubt the choices will be tough this time next year too! 

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I am the owner of GamingOnLinux. After discovering Linux back in the days of Mandrake in 2003, I constantly came back to check on the progress of Linux until Ubuntu appeared on the scene and it helped me to really love it. You can reach me easily by emailing GamingOnLinux directly.
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WorMzy 30 Dec, 2018
I don't really do top X lists, but I certainly enjoyed Two Point Hospital, Graveyard Keeper, Surviving Mars, Oxygen Not Included, Streets of Rogue, and Rise to Ruins.
scaine 30 Dec, 2018
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I purposely kept Early Access games out of my list. Otherwise, Oxygen Not Included might have it, and both Slay the Spire and Streets of Rogue would definitely have made it.

In particular, Slay the Spire is absolutely epic. I love it. I'm hooked. Hundreds of hours.
Brisse 30 Dec, 2018
Games I've enjoyed this year, in no particular order, regardless of release year, and including things I used Proton for:

  • The Long Dark

  • NieR: Automata

  • Dark Souls

  • Dark Souls II: SotFS

  • Dark Souls III

  • Doki Doki Literature Club

  • Tacoma

  • Borderlands 2

  • The Red Strings Club

  • Rise of the Tomb Raider

  • Life is Strange: Before the Storm

  • Hollow Knight
tmtvl 30 Dec, 2018
Pathfinder: Kingmaker. It's everything I had hoped PoE to be which it wasn't (who knew doing away with trying to keep everything balanced, which failed anyway, would make things fun again?). Still sucks that Unity ruins everything ever, though.
Janne 30 Dec, 2018
By time played, XCOM2 WotC and the latest DLC (tactical legacy pack) wins by a mile for me. Especially the Tactical Legacy Pack is just a blast if you've played through XCOM and XCOM2 previously. All the fun of really well-crafted missions without any soldier management or strategic layer. And the final reveal is well worth the wait.

Into The Breach plays flawlessly through Proton and is a worthy spiritual successor to FTL. I only got it recently but it's a lot of fun, and has the same quality of really fun bit-sized play time fun that FTL does.

Also got Slay The Spire, and while I haven't spent more than an hour or two on it so far, it certainly seems to be a blast. Just wish the devels could spend just a little more time/money on the graphics to kick that up a notch; but that's just a minor nitpick of course.
oldrocker99 30 Dec, 2018
Neverwinter Nights EE
Tower of Time
Book of Demons
Slay the Spire
Dominions 5 (2017, but...)
Melty's Quest
Fell Seal: Arbiter's Mark

Good year for Linux gamers, especially since Steam Proton.

Last edited by oldrocker99 on 30 December 2018 at 4:00 pm UTC
mylka 30 Dec, 2018
biggest surprise for me was desperados for linux after 17 years
if you dont have it already, buy it now for 1 buck
and show THQ you want desperados 3 for linux too

btw. why are there no DLCs for Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun?

Last edited by mylka on 30 December 2018 at 4:52 pm UTC
Beamboom 30 Dec, 2018
Regarding Pillars, should I play the first before starting the second? I got both in my library but haven't started on either yet. And your comment about the sequel being better made me wonder if I should just jump straight onto that one?
x_wing 30 Dec, 2018
And Rise of the Tomb Raider??? C'mmon!
tuubi 30 Dec, 2018
Quoting: GuestNice picks!
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