The most bizarre games coming out in 2018

The most famous character in video games is a chubby former plumber. The next biggest is a bright blue hedgehog who wears sneakers. The industry's first major icon was a yellow blob who eats ghosts, while one of its biggest franchises is all about capturing wild animals and making them fight.

In other words, video games don't just tolerate weirdness, they thrive on it. That means there's nothing that's too crazy to show up in a game—and it also means that, if something truly stands out as strange, it must be very, very odd indeed. The following games may or may not be future Game of the Year candidates—nobody will know until they launch in 2018—but they are undeniably bizarre, even when compared to other upcoming titles. In a market that's defined by the unusual, that's saying quite a lot.

Biomutant

Biomutant, an upcoming open-world action title from Experiment 101 and THQ Nordic, came out of nowhere in August 2017 when a magazine ad leaked the game's existence to the world. It made its official debut a couple of days later at the Gamescom convention in Cologne, Germany. Experiment 101 co-founder Stefan Ljungqvist describes Biomutant as a "a post-apocalyptic kung fu fable," but that only scratches the surface of just how bizarre its premise is.

See, when Ljungqvist says "fable," he's specifically referring to stories like Aesop's Fables that star animals. Biomutant does too. When the game begins, players will be able to design their own fuzzy martial arts expert. That's an important process, because your character's appearance will affect the game. Bigger characters, for example, move slowly, but can take more damage. You'll also be able to outfit your critter with custom fur, teeth, claws, and other animal parts.

That's just the beginning. The whole game is filled with choices like that—your animal character isn't just a post-apocalyptic ninja warrior, he (or she) is also a cyborg, and different cybernetic body parts change your stats and give you different abilities. Biomutant's Gamescom demo included the power to summon mushrooms from the ground, graft mechanical wings to your character's spine, and various psychic powers. You can ride mechs and rent jet skis.

Ultimately, Ljungqvist says Biomutant is like "Kung Fu Panda, it has a touch of, you know, Mad Max in it… It's more like Zelda." That's absolute nonsense, of course, but we'd be lying if we said we weren't very, very intrigued just the same.

Morphies Law

In Morphies Law, you don't die. You just get small. Instead of simply asking players to mow each other down with various weapons, Morphies Law takes a brand new approach to competitive shooters: when you damage a foe, the limb you hit shrinks and all the mass your opponent lost transfers to the corresponding limb on your character, making your body part larger. More mass means that you're easier to shoot, but also paves the path to victory: at the end of the match, the team with the most mass wins.

It's very different, not to mention a great way to make a balanced shooter for players of different skillsets. You'll get different abilities based on your limbs' size, too—longer, thicker legs mean you can jump higher and farther, while small characters can sneak into hiding places where the bigger ones won't fit.

But reading about Morphies Law is one thing—seeing it in action is another. Morphies Law's robots look like odd mashups of Attack on Titan villains and homemade Day of the Dead decorations. As their body parts shrink and grow, they become increasingly deformed. You might end up with a tiny head and one gigantic leg, or run around with two loping gorilla-like arms, or be reduced to nothing but a giant butt on itty-bitty feet. It's all incredibly unsettling, going a long way toward making Morphies Law one of the strangest games scheduled for 2018.

Ooblets

If you like games like Harvest Moon and Stardew Valley, but wish that you could cuddle your crops, take them out for a job, and make them beat the fertilizer out of each other, then Ooblets is the game for you. Like the previously mentioned farming games, you'll need to carefully plant, water, and tend to your garden. Unlike those games, you don't get mere vegetables for your efforts—you get cute Pokémon-like creatures you can cart around town, which you can use to fight other wild animals. Winning battles earns seeds, which you can plant in your garden. And so, the cycle repeats.

Mix in a charming and completely unique art style, an Animal Crossing-style home decorating mode, a ton of cosmetic options for your virtual farmer-slash-animal trainer, and lots and lots of dancing (seriously, in both Ooblets trailers, everyone is dancing), and you end up with a quirky game that seems to revel in its oddity. Ooblets oozes style, and while the 2018 release date could slip—two people are responsible for the bulk of the game—you can keep track of what's going on in the Ooblets' weird little world by subscribing to the developers' Patreon campaign.

Wattam

No one should be surprised to see Wattam, the newest game from designer Keita Takahashi, on this list. More than almost any developer, Takahashi is known for creating flat-out bizarre games, most of which tone down the difficulty while cranking the fun way, way up. He burst onto the scene in 2004 with Katamari Damacy, a delightfully strange game that asks players to roll up everyday objects to create a giant, lopsided, ever-growing ball. He followed that up with Noby Noby Boy, in which players control the front and back of a wormlike creature and earn points by stretching as far as possible.

From the looks of things, Wattam is going to be Takahashi's strangest and most experimental game yet. It's been in development for years, but after a tumultuous development period (Sony backed the game originally but eventually pulled out, leaving publisher Annapurna Interactive to pick up the slack), it's finally set to arrive in 2018. And yet, even after all that time, it's still hard to say exactly what Wattam is about. We know you play as the mayor, a green cube with a mustache and a bowler hat. We know that your goal is to befriend everything—yes everything—you come across, including trees, clouds, and multicolored turds. We know that forging a successful friendship makes everything explode. Most importantly, we know that Takahashi makes games that are just as fun as they are thoroughly inexplicable. Wattam may not make much sense, but we're excited just the same.

Pig Eat Ball

When a game's marketing copy begins with "BARF-CENTRIC GAMEPLAY," you know you're in for a wild ride.

Picture Pac-Man. Now, imagine that Namco's plucky little ball has a very slow-moving metabolism, and that every time he eats a pellet, he gets a little fatter. That's the basic conceit behind Pig Eat Ball, an intentionally gaudy arcade action title that aims for the lowest common denominator in its mission to excite and delight. While Pig Eat Ball's hero, Princess Bow, navigates maze-like levels in order to win her own hand in marriage, she'll run across openings that she's grown too fat to fit through. Her solution? Barf up everything she ate, losing weight in the process until she's slim enough to cram herself through the gaps.

This isn't just regular barfing, either. We're talking giant green Linda Blair-style explosions of vomit. It's gross. Pig Eat Ball's developers promise that players will be able to "barf on anything that moves," but it's not clear exactly what that does. Throwing up isn't the only action at Princess Bow's disposal—as she transverses Pig Eat Ball's hundred-plus levels, she'll also avoid aliens, swallow and spit up bombs, and catch flying pies with her mouth—but the vomit is what developer Mommy's Best Games is focusing on. "Each level in every world has a unique hook or puzzle," Mommy's Best says, but "it starts with the barf." Until we can play more, we'll take them at their word.

Hot Lava

Somehow, "The Floor Is Lava" became one of the quintessential games of our youths, even though there aren't any official rules and the origin isn't exactly clear (a 1948 Roald Dahl story might be the game's starting point, but that's debatable). It doesn't have much of a point, either. "The Floor Is Lava" is basically just an excuse to jump around on the couch, or a way to add some tension to a regular playground visit.

That's not stopping Klei Entertainment from making the childhood favorite into a fully-fledged video game, complete with HD graphics and a cast ripped from a fictional 1980s cartoon. In Hot Lava, you'll leap from platform to platform as you traverse familiar settings including a suburban living room and a high school gym (as well as some other, more exotic locales), all while trying to beat the clock and keep your feet from hitting the ground.

Like most of Klei's products, Hot Lava looks like a solid game, but where does it stop? Are we a few years away from playing "Punch Buggy" on our smart phones, or strapping on a VR headset for a virtual game of "Butts Up"? What about playground games with actual equipment, like Tetherball or Hand Ball (American edition)? Frankly, after Hot Lava, the floodgates are open. If you played it as a kid, it's probably going to become a nostalgic video game sooner rather than later.

Super Sportmatchen

Super Sportmatchen doesn't look weird. Not at first, anyway. The pixel graphics recall games from the Nintendo and Super Nintendo era, but in the indie scene, that's par for the course. The game's first two events, the 100-meter dash and the 250-meter "plint sprint" (think hurdles) are regular track and field events. They'd be right at home in actual retro sports compilations like Track & Field. "Hoops" isn't exactly basketball, but it's pretty close.

Look a little closer, however, and things aren't quite as normal as they seem. "Hoops" is a free-for-all—no teamwork here—in which you can jump off your opponents' heads to dunk while a vulture perches on the edge of the basket, waiting to strike. In the 100-meter dash, you'll need to worry about tripping en route to the goal.  

Continue on, and it gets even stranger. "Boll" (misspelling intentional) is more like bocce ball than it is shot put, although a weasel is on hand as a second referee. Instead of wrestling, competitors duke it out in "Pillow Push," which is essentially an officially sanctioned pillow fight. "Capy throw" is like a hammer toss, but you're chucking capybaras, not inanimate objects. "Animal Feed" is about chucking treats to animals, while "175M Hopp-Boll" puts your athletes on bouncy round objects and sets them loose in an obstacle-filled dash to the finish line.

Even Super Sportmatchen's characters are weird. Don't let the cute graphics fool you—this is going to be one of the most bizarre sports games to come out in 2018. We guarantee it.

Transference

If you weren't around for FMV (full-motion video) games' early '90s heyday, trust us: you didn't miss much. Back when CD-ROM drives were brand new, offering developers a whopping 700 megabytes of storage space, designers started pumping out games that inserted live-action video to create interactive movies. Some, like Phantasmagoria, weren't so bad. Most, like Mad Dog McCree, Sewer Shark, and the infamous home invasion thriller Night Trap, were.

Eventually, FMV games fell out of favor and disappeared, but in recent years they've come back in a big way. Her Story used pre-recorded video of a single actress to weave a compelling murder mystery. Roundabout utilizes live-action cutscenes in order to ramp up the camp value. Guitar Hero Live used real-life footage of a band to show you how well you were—or, in many cases, weren't—playing your plastic instruments.  

And then there's whatever the hell Transference is. The cryptic announce trailer at E3 2017 raised many questions. The official website, which calls Transference "a psychological thriller" that asks players to "navigate a maze-like puzzle of an impossible home concealing a corrupted truth," doesn't answer any of them. Transference has something to do with exploring people's memories. The Lord of the Rings star Elijah Wood is involved somehow. It's going to require a virtual reality headset to play.

In short, all we really know about Transference is that it's a mix between a movie and a game, it's incredibly trippy, and it's due within the next year. Maybe we'll get more answers as the game's release date draws closer—but with this sort of thing, you never really know.  

The Artful Escape of Francis Vendetti

Stop us if you've heard this one before: the nephew of a legendary folk singer prepares to take the stage for the first time and realizes that the crowd expects him to follow in his uncle's footsteps. Instead, he decides to establish his onstage persona and embarks on an interdimensional journey in order to discover who he is—and who he isn't. Along the way, he'll use his guitar to float between platforms on music, and will record the noises that enemies make, allowing him to reuse those sounds in his own compositions.

Wait, that doesn't sound familiar? Then you're not paying close enough attention to The Artful Escape of Francis Vendetti, the first game from new development studio Beethoven & Dinosaur. The Artful Escape's lead designer, Galvatron (who has a music background of his own), describes the game's story as "David Bowie traveling off from London on an interstellar trip to create Ziggy Stardust," and promises it'll be full of "alchemists, wanderers, naked Space Gods, hallucinogens, horizonless wonder and incredible danger." So, y'know. Rock and roll stuff.

The Artful Escape looks just as crazy as its story, with an art style that's inspired by Bowie, Kubrick, Spielberg, and Wes Anderson with just a smidge of The Beatles' animated Yellow Submarine thrown in for good measure. The Artful Escape of Francis Vendetti may not make a whole lot of sense so far—and who knows if the final game will make things any clearer—but it's undeniably unique. In an industry filled with ripoffs and copycats, that's all a game needs to stand out.  

Untitled Goose Game

If you spend any time on gaming Twitter, you've probably seen this one. Developer House House, who made the combination sports game/body horror title Push Me Pull You, is back with a brand new project that looks just as weird as their big debut. Currently called Untitled Goose Game, the in-development project casts you as a goose, and lets you do two things: honk and grab things.

That's all the goose needs to create utter chaos. While Untitled Goose Game contains elements of both point-and-click adventure games and stealth titles, the real draw here is using your feathered avatar to be a complete and utter jerk. In the trailer, the goose drops a hard-working gardener's lunch in a pond, steals his radio, tools, and hat, soaks him with a sprinkler, and pilfers his crops. And this is just prototype footage. When it releases Untitled Goose Game should be an even bigger, sillier, and more sociopathic experience. It's all set to be the best animal-themed title since Goat Simulator, and we, for one, can't wait.