Following up 2017 was a tall ask with games such as The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Super Mario Odyssey and Persona 5. However, 2018 was pretty darn good in its own right with the usual smattering of indie darlings and AAA juggernauts. For me, this was a down year when it comes to how many games I actually sunk significant time into, but I would like to throw out some honorable mentions:
- Dead Cells
- When this released for the Switch, I was incredibly high on this title. Not one to enjoy roguelikes, this one drew me in completely. Eventually I just hit the mid-game where it feels like you’re dumping points into upgrades without actually progressing, and I burned out. However, I did make it to the final area before the final boss, and I’ve been getting that itch again.
- Into the Breach
- I just beat this game within the last several days and absolutely loved it. The different mech squads that can be used totally change up how you approach missions in exciting ways. Yes, I did beat it on easy but liked it enough to want to go back on a higher difficulty which rarely happens for me.
- Quarantine Circular
- The spiritual successor to Subsurface Circular which I loved. This is an improvement over the original with some more interesting world-building and some genuinely funny dialogue options with enough pathos to emotionally draw you in during its brief run time.
While those were great, here were my ten favorite for 2018:
This was a big surprise for me. After years of people calling Paladins an Overwatch rip-off, I found myself falling in love with the game for its key differences which you can learn more about in my article from last year, Paladins: Let’s Put This Overwatch Thing To Bed. The added strategic depth and options compared to Overwatch are fantastic and allow all heroes to likely have some sort of playstyle for most players. Sure the polish isn’t comparable (it is a free-to-play game) but Paladins is a game that I will continue to put time into come 2019.
9) Pokemon: Let’s Go Pikachu/Eevee
I’ve loved the Pokemon franchise since I first played Pokemon Yellow way back when it was released. Fast forward to 2018 and a remake of the game was released and has so much to offer for new and old fans alike. Granted, I’m not a fan of all of the changes (no wild Pokemon battling) but enough quality of life changes were made to make this a great package. You can see wild Pokemon on the map to initiate a battle, change nicknames for your team whenever you want from the party screen as well as accessing your box from that same menu so no more running to Pokemon Centers to change out your party. The aforementioned lack of non-trainer battles as well as additional requirements needed before you can even attempt to take on a gym are frustrating, but the groundwork for a gorgeous mainline Pokemon game has been set for us to see next year.
Probably the most unexpected game for me on this list, Florence is a brief yet touching tale about a woman internally battling between her dreams and her day job, her family and her freedom, and a boy. The minimalist gameplay is oddly immersive and even touching in some parts. The game only takes 45 minutes to an hour to finish, and is well worth the price.
7) Octopath Traveler
The big JRPG that Switch fans had been waiting for was a fun ride. Kudos to developer Acquire on the couple of demos that they put out beforehand and changed the game for the better from fan feedback. The final product was a mechanically addicting game with an unfortunately lackluster story. But that combat and the way the class system worked was satisfying and had me actively seeking out battles. Not to mention the signature pop-up book artstyle that has now become synonymous with the game. Some of the eight character stories were interesting, but the lack of any meaningful interaction between party members and an overarching story that apparently only came together in a postgame dungeon hold this back from being higher on the list.
6) Destiny 2: Forsaken
Contrary to Chris’ perspective, I don’t hate Destiny 2! Playing through Forsaken’s campaign was a lot of fun and the additional new content that I experienced was well-made. Couple those with some great quality of life improvements add up to the best Destiny has ever been. While I get bored after short play sessions now, I don’t regret the time I have put into the game.
If I would have played this before our award podcasts, I would have died on a hill for this game for best visuals. It is honestly the most beautiful game I’ve ever seen coupled with a serene soundtrack and fun, if simple, platforming gameplay. I’ve seen people compare this to Journey and, from a tonal perspective, I can see it. However, it is mechanically more involved and about twice the length with some challenges and extras to unlock after the end credits. Congratulations to Nomada Studios for this being their first game, and I can’t wait to see what they do next.
4) Battle Chasers: Nightwar
While this was released for everything else in 2017, it was released in 2018 on Switch where I thoroughly enjoyed and devoured it. It is based on a nine issue comic series from the 1990s from artist Joe Madureira, (also Creative Director on Darksiders 1 and 2) but you don’t need to have read the comic to enjoy the game. I hadn’t and it had the reverse effect with me buying all of the comics afterward. It’s a smart, beautiful and mechanically entertaining homage to the JRPGs of old with likable characters. I don’t know about you, but that’s all I need in life. While I’ve heard that developer Airship Syndicate is working on something new, I hope that a sequel to this game is in the pipeline at some point, because I want to get lost in that world again.
3) Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
If this would have been released earlier and I had more time with it, this may have been higher on the list. However, what we have is yet another system-seller for the Switch. With a ludicrous amount of content, this truly is the pinnacle of the series. The gameplay just feels better than Smash 4 (which I thought played well) and the amount of characters stages and sheer options of how you want to play have me going back again and again and again. Also, I haven’t had any issues with online performance so that King DeDeDe may indeed reign supreme above the rest of the lowly Smash roster. PS I’m absolutely psyched for Joker from Persona 5.
2) Marvel’s Spider-Man
This game may not have clicked for everyone, but this was my biggest question-mark game of the year. From the E3 demos I had seen, I wasn’t hopeful about how the game would turn out. It just looked off, but all of that melted away once I started swinging around New York City. The opening cutscene to the game may also be one of my favorites of all time showing that this is not an origin story, but that Peter has been Spider-Man for awhile now. And wow does the swinging and combat feel great. The combat itself initially feels like it will be a carbon copy of the Batman Arkham games from Rocksteady but the crucial difference of the spider-sense being a dodge and not a counter makes a big difference lending itself to Spider-Man’s more agile and aerial style. I’m also happy that Insomniac brought in Peter’s intelligence incorporating gadgets into the gameplay (that web bomb is incredibly satisfying). The story goes places and has some genuinely emotional beats to it. What I’m trying to say is I’m ready for the sequel.
1) God of War
While I have enjoyed the God of War franchise in the past, it’s not integral to my personal gaming history. But it had made enough of an impact that I genuinely cared about seeing Kratos’ journey to the end with his son. Atreus was a surprisingly great character as well (I generally don’t like children) and the relationship between him and his father was both frustrating and touching to watch at different points throughout the story. The perspective change to an over-the-shoulder camera angle added an intimacy and more direct connection to the man himself coupled with the most satisfying weapon of the year, the Leviathan Axe. Overhead tossing it into an enemy, calling it back to your hand, throwing out a few quick swipes and then charging up a heavy attack that gets embedded into an enemy . . . I actually just got chills thinking back on how awesome it is. Santa Monica Studios leaves the ending open with such a tease that I sincerely hope the next installment will not take as long to get into the hands of players. Also, Mimir must be a part of every game in the franchise from now on. It’s non-negotiable.