Like last year, I had a chance to play only a few of the many promising games that came out this year. I like last year, a large number of them were massive open world games. As a result the number of the games I had to pick from 2018 games was shorter than usual. This made things a little more difficult this year. I didn’t have a large pool to pull from and the lost below includes games that likely wouldn’t have made the cut versus the strong games from previous year. To reflect this fact, I have divided my list into two half’s. The first five clearly fit on my top games of 2018 list. The second five are iffy titles that were enjoyable but flawed enough that they might have only made an honourable mentions list if I had played more games this year. For example, I am currently playing Celeste and without a doubt it would knock one or more of the second five off the list if completed this year. The games are not listed in any particular order within each half. Here we go:
Games released and played in 2018:
The first Top 5
Florence: a beautiful game that does interesting things with interactivity and story. It contains a story that has been told before but it’s done here with a joy that is highly affecting. I did harbour some concerned about the message contained within the game at first, thinking it would conform to a conventional relationship narrative and I was very pleased when it didn’t. Florence was one of the first games I wanted to play this year but one of the very last that I actually played and I’m very glad I was able to get to it before the year was up.
Monster Hunter World: I bought this game and God of War at the same time this year. I started Monster Hunter World first and quit after the tutorial mission, choosing to switch over to God of War. God of War felt more immediately accessible. I returned to Monster Hunter World later after finishing both God of War and Spider-Man. And this time it clicked. And boy did it click. I regretting not pushing further into the game originally. I regretted switching to the safe choice in God of War and not sticking with the more interesting game. Monster Hunter World has grown to be what I might even call my favourite game of the year. Is it a game full of grinding? Yes, oh boy yes but I really enjoy that grind. Killing a monster in minutes when it used to take half an hour feels fantastic. Grinding for more gear is fun as hell and the Insect Glaive more so. I had no idea how much I’d fall in love with the weapon. I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed a single weapon in a game as much as the Insect Glaive. The freedom of movement is unparalleled. I loved every minute of this game and I can’t wait to continuing playing in future.
Donut County: I think I played this about four times in quick succession. It’s a simple game but the tongue-in-cheek humour is enjoyable and the hole mechanic is surprisingly very satisfying. It a silly concept for a game but a damn enjoyable one.
Marvel’s Spider-Man: Spider-Man doesn’t really bring anything new to the open world game that isn’t in other games. But somehow Insomniac found a way to make fairly established concepts a hell of a lot of fun. A lot more fun that I think I’ve had in an open world game in quite some time. I’ve struggled with a bit of open world burn out during the last couple of years, but Spider-Man is one a couple games that made me enthusiastic about exploring an open world again. Simply swinging around New York, doing nothing but traveling from building to building was endlessly entertaining. I don’t usually 100% games but Insomniac made it an inviting thing to do in this game. Here’s to some of the best fun I had this year.
Gris: beautiful, melancholic and meditative is what I think of when Gris comes to mind. The game is an artistic tour de force. It’s likely the prettiest thing I played all year and I relished every moment. It was on my list of reasons to get a Switch and was the first game I bought when I did get that Switch (all credit goes to my partner on that one )
God of War: combat in this game feels amazing. The fluidity of movement is probably only matched by 2016’s Doom. Santa Monica Studio made an absolutely masterful job with this game. It is undeniably beautiful, plays wonderfully and contains fantastic mythology. That said God of War just squeaks into the top ten simply because I didn’t play more games from 2018 this year. Although it tells its story well, it’s a deeply clichéd one that doesn’t bring a great deal that is either new or compelling to the table. It is fairly conventional in its father-son narrative and presents a fairly one-dimensional portrayal of fatherhood and masculinity. Yet what it lacks in this sense is made up for through the superb combat and the ever so pleasing axe mechanics.
Fe: an absolutely stunning game with a strange little environmental tale. It is a lovely game that occasionally suffers from sloppy controls and mechanics. Despite these minor failings Fe is a pleasant and enjoyable game to play.
The Swords of Ditto: another game with a wonderful aesthetic that suffered from a poor initial impression due to game breaking bugs. I endured those bugs because The Swords of Ditto is an endearing game despite them and thoroughly enjoyable to play. It would figure higher in my mind if only it had slightly more story depth.
My Child Lebensborn: a somber game about raising a child in post WWII Norway. It is a poignant look at the effects of War and prejudice on the lives of affected children. All you will want to do is bake your poor child some cake and read them to bed, but that is not always possible when you also need to protect them from hate and anger surrounding them outside your modest home.
Red Dead Redemption 2: the open world of RDR2 is a joy. The level of detail and breadth of variety packed into the world is astounding. I nearly sank a hundred hours exploring the world before I even hit chapter three. Yet, as astounding the world is, it is always at odds with the story. While the narrative is interesting enough, filled with every Western genre cliché you can think of, it just doesn’t play nice with the open world. The discontinuity between free roaming and following the story creates a disjointed game overall. No matter how you play your version of Arthur Morgan, the story always leads to character contradictions and dissonance. I don’t know how many times I’ve sat down with a gang member and confessed to sins I strangely hadn’t committed in my play through. Or the number of times the narrative drastically changed my Arthur from the honourable outsider as I play him to a bloodthirsty outlaw. Or the number times that one narrative sequence presented an Arthur Morgan completely at odds with the Arthur Morgan in the following sequence. RDR2 has a grand scope and vibrant nearly living open world that helps it make it into this top ten list, but it frequently stumbles through a disjointed narrative, frustrating bugs (and features) and a narrative that tries and fails to reign in the grandiosity of the larger world around it.
Now for the best games I played in 2018, released in any year (except 2018, as with last year I will leave out games last year to avoid crossover with my previous list). This list was a bit easier this year, mostly because I played less games. Nonetheless I played more than ten really enjoyable games so there was some deliberation.
Games released prior to and played in 2018 (in no particular order):
Horizon Zero Dawn: a great open world game that always felt fresh and exciting to explore. I spent hours upon hours just hunting Thunderjaws, or making Thunderjaws fight other Thunderjaws. It was some of the most fun I had all year.
Prey: I don’t want to admit how far I made it into the game before it was that I finally stopped frantically hitting every inanimate object in my path with my wrench for fear that it was a Typhon mimic. That’s the mark of a great game. I loved the stealth no-powers run which was dangerous and exhilarating. And it gave me a greater appreciation for my powers run where I became a force of destruction. Prey is a fantastic game, and maybe my favourite Arkane game to date.
Hellblade: Sensua’s Sacrifice: I don’t know if Hellblade is always successful in its attempt to convey what suffering from mental illness is like but it makes an earnest attempt. I found the disorientation mechanics effective, if not to fully convey mental illness, at least to give a slight idea of what it must be like to be unable to trust your own perception. I appreciate what Ninja Theory attempted to do and they made an excellent game experience in the process.
Assassin’s Creed Origins: I thought I burnt myself out on AC games in 2017 playing Unity. I wasn’t in a rush to pick up Origins when it came out at the end of 2017 as a result. But it made a number of end of year best of lists and I received it as Christmas gift so I decided to give it a go. Even though it is a massive game Ubisoft dialled down the excessive and useless fetch quests and item collecting, reducing the game to activities that not only made sense in relation to the main quests but that were actually quite fun. Exploration was a joy once again in an AC game, likely the first time since ACIII (while I liked Syndicate well enough and liked the setting in London, exploring London felt familiar rather than fresh and I don’t count Blackflag because the enjoyable exploration was exclusively through sailing and the sailing portions are so distinct from the AC formula that they might as well be another game). The sight of the massive pyramids of Giza on the horizon from almost anywhere was breathtaking. Bayek is a thoroughly enjoyable protagonist. His motivation is admittedly cliché but he has boatloads off charm to make up for it. Origins was a fun game to play and reinvigorated my perspective on open world games.
Nier: Automata: what can be said that hasn’t been said already. Nier Automata is a genuine attempt at a multilayered examination of core existential ideas. I think the game sometimes stumbles, isn’t always as critical nor as deep as it could be and has an ending that’s a little too neat and perfect. However everything it does is done earnestly. It strives to match the structure of the game and gameplay to the ideological and philosophical questions posed which is ambitious and admirable. I hope everyone has a chance to play this game at one point in their lives.
FFXV: I didn’t know what to expect, I didn’t think I’d like the main characters and I had only heard negative things about this game. Yet despite all that it was one of my favourite experiences last year. I loved every minute of the game including the controversial chapters that people seemed to hate. I liked the direction of the game, the intentionality of the closed segments and the way the game fully unfurled. I also enjoyed all of the DLC. As I grow older the idea of which FF was the “best” grows hazier and all I can do is focus on whether or not I’m enjoying the current one I am playing. So I have no idea if FFXV is the best FF I’ve played. I just know I loved the crap out of it.
Titanfall 2: this was a game I didn’t expect to like. I figured it would have a short and forgetful campaign. How wrong I was. Other than Doom I don’t think I’ve played an FPS that feels this fluid. It’s fast but has tight controls. It is an exceptionally fun game to play, and one that has a surprisingly engaging story. I miss you BT!
CatBird: I ragged on CatBird in my review on Grouvee because it is a great platformer saddled with unfortunate touch screen controls. I felt this way all the way until completion and felt that a speedrun was pointless with the existing controls. And then I speed ran it, and my comfort with the controls grew, and I damn well loved playing it. I still think that pairing a physical controller with CatBird would be ideal, but I fell in love with it regardless.
Nidhogg 2: no game saw more multiplayer time in my house than this. The laughter, the tears, the smack talk uttered, the many oaths of revenge sworn as a result of this game are too numerous to count. We had a damn good time playing this. A damn good time.
Runbow: second only to Nidhogg 2, Runbow is the perfect party game. It requires a group of people for its max potential, but when you have that group together it is a blast.
Nice picks! Florence and Hellblade are both games I’ve been particularly interested in trying out, though whether I’ll get around to them in 2019 remains to be determined lol.
Smash Ultimate is definitely my game of the year. Even though it’s only been out for a month, the hype cycle throughout the year was an absolute blast to be a part of, and the game has so much content I can tell that I’ll be enjoying it for year’s to come. But, if we’re only counting games completed in 2018, then only 3 really stood out as defining this year for me (mainly since I started focusing more on actually making games this year):
3. Alan Wake
Picked this up merely because it was being discontinued, but I ended up really enjoying it. The gameplay was pretty meh, but the characters, setting, and overall plot were all great. I always enjoy seeing how developers use games to tell stories in ways that could not be achieved by other forms of media, and the concept of revealing the past, present, and future through collectable pages definitely felt unique.
I love unorthodox RPGs, and Miitopia is a bout as unorthodox as it gets. Everything about this game has so much charm; the wide range of customization options, the humorous writing, the colorful environments, the kooky enemy designs, the absolutely stellar soundtrack, I could go on and on. This game is definitely a must-play for fans of the genre.
1. South Park: The Fractured But Whole
Did I mention I love unorthodox RPGs? This game was absolutely incredible. It took the immersive world and genius comedy I loved about its predecessor and expanded on them while adding in a much more strategic combat system. I had fun with every aspect of this game; I wanted to explore every nook and cranny, collect every object, talk to every NPC, battle every enemy. Definitely the highlight completed experience of 2018 for me.
Top 5 Games Released and Played in 2018
5. Xenoblade Chronicles 2: Torna ~ The Golden Country
Actually improved on certain mechanics of the core title.
Simple but incredibly addictive little smartphone game. The first that’s hooked me in a long while.
3. Shadow of the Colossus (2018 remake)
Finally beat it, finally understood why it was so beloved.
2. Yakuza 6: The Song of Life or Yakuza Kiwami 2
It felt weird giving these each their own entry, because I enjoyed them both a lot. I’ve fallen head over heels for this series.
1. Marvel’s Spider-Man
Met my expectations, which were very high. This game owned my brain while I was playing it.
Top 5 Games I Played This Year That Came Out Earlier
5. Hollow Knight
Painful but somehow more meaningful for it.
4. Xenoblade Chronicles 2
As a game designer, I see this flaws all over this experience. Yet none of them seemed to matter, I had a blast. There’s probably a lesson there somewhere.
3. Lumines Remastered
For a time this became my go-to game to play on the train, and for that I am very greatful.
2. Night in the Woods
I adore pretty much everything about this game.
1. Yakuza 0 or Yakuza Kiwami
Again, this franchise is just amazing, and these two games are my favorites I’ve played so far. Don’t make me choose!!
Severed, Minit, 2064: Read Only Memories
Return of the Obra-Dinn (finally released in 2018)
Into the breach (released 2018)
Stuff older than 2018:
Garou Mark of the Wolves (played in 2018, re-released in 2018)
Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney
Ninja Gaiden II
Nuclear Throne (Finally beat it!)
Doki Doki Literature Club
Cho Ren Sha 68K
Thunder Force III
My fav was DDLC
Unlike most of you gamers here, I don’t have the luxury of buying and playing all the known contenders of last year. But I did get to clear just over a hundred games, not counting the DLC’s. Out of the bunch, here is the top 10 cleared games I have played over the last year. Here’s to another productive year!
Doki Doki Literature Club - I’m shy with visual novels but there is a justified novelty (har har) that makes this elusive gem stick out from the bunch we see nowadays.
Super Win The Game - This 8-bit adventure platformer was made in a faithful fashion and hits all the marks, which makes it an addictive and fun nostalgia trip with a charm. Love the soundtracks, too.
The Albino Hunter - It’s an RPGMaker with some borrowed assets but with clever writing, funny cast of characters and free roaming to take on a wide variety of challenges and quests, I couldn’t help but admit that great ideas can be well implemented in cheaper tools to achieve satisfying results.
SteamWorld Dig 2 - I loved the earlier SteamWorld games, even where the prequel’s strengths lie in combination of explorable (under)world, intuitive combat and fun RPG elements. This one still holds the candle and shows improvement on the formula.
The Red Strings Club - Quite original, story-driven, cyberpunk game. Besides being rich with dialogues and the essential choices being provided, there are many different, imaginative challenges that add to the game’s freshness as I progressed through.
Euro Truck Simulator 2 - I used to dream about working as a deliveryman, so why not try out this game that allows me drive through Europe, handle the load properly and manage my company? A big plus for the fan multiplayer mod, whenever I want to feel less lonely doing my things or be a part of convoys.
Wolfenstein: The New Order - A great reboot for the classic FPS franchise. The depth of the story is delivered surprisingly well, memorable characters and satisfying ways to clear the levels (I’m typically the stealth/cover type).
Kero Blaster - Very well-made 8-bit inspired platformer, with what seems like a simple plot has a depth to dig into and plenty of characters to adore.
Dark Souls III - This was actually the first Dark Souls title I got into playing, thanks to a friend inviting me. The subtle plot and the obviously challenging enemies gave me often hard times but came significantly rewarding in this immersive world of the undead. I thought I’d have a tough time sticking to it but this simple player grew stronger and more methodical with persistence and jolly cooperation. (Praise the sun!)
Changed - It’s an RPGMaker game that yet breaks off the norm for its MS Paint-ish anime style and presenting latex creatures as common threats. It surely appeals to a niched crowd but the lore that unfolds along the game is engaging and well-written. The character Puro is certain to win many players hearts for his innocent personality and the relationship that forms on this dangerous journey.