Many will remember 2018 for being the year of Epic: with explosive growth for Fortnite Battle Royale as it took over the world powering the company to launch it’s own PC store that went directly after Steam’s money.
It was also the year Microsoft bought so many studios as it prepares for the upcoming next gen console wars on the horizon. Telltale, Boss Key productions, Prima games and Capcom Vancouver closed down shop and governments still looked into regulating loot boxes. Also, a lot of good games came out, I played a whole lot of them (over 40 in fact) and I’m here to run you my top 15 games of the year.
15 – Simulacra
Simulacra is a narrative adventure game in which you take hold of a stranger’s phone and you use the information that’s on it to get to the bottom of what happened to it’s owner. I’m a big sucker for games that simulates desktops or phones like Orwell, Bury me my love, Her Story …etc as I do think they’re great at delivering narrative in a way a book or a movie just can’t. Kaigen games is a small Malaysian indie developer that managed to create a compelling story despite the obvious budget constraints, it was really hard to put down until I saw it all the way through.
14 – Red Dead Redemption 2
I had a tough time placing RDR2 on this list; on one side it’s impossible to dismiss the attention to detail and sheer production weight that this game carries. Everything is so meticulously crafted be it the world, the systems, the voice acting, the writing, the sand box, content or what they could make out of their online mode. However, when I’m actually playing the game I’m struggling with the controls, battling bugs, ridiculously sensitive townsfolk or just get bored of endlessly riding the horse back and forth as I’m doing missions. It’s a landmark achievement for sure, one that Rockstar will build on for years to come.
13 – Unavowed
It’s very unsual for me for to have a classic point and click adventure game on my game of the year list, yet here we are. This game took me by surprise, what started as “let’s have quick look at this” ended up being a 3 day marathon of a game i simply couldn’t stop playing, driven entirely by it’s narrative, Unavowed takes the world of the physical and the metaphysical and mixes them in a fascinating way. It’s the league of extraordinary gentlemen of adventure games, and it’s really really good.
12 – Dragonball FighterZ
Arc Systems works have been making incredible fighting games since the 90s. Following their Guilty Gear fame, they used unreal to build a 3D game engine that looked so 2D that everyone were in awe as the camera turned around the models for the first time. ASW gave Dragonball that magic treatment, with the looks being spot on and adding their landmark fighting game chops to the mix, they managed to create a fighting game that is accessible, fun, competitive and probably the best use of an IP i have seen in a long time in a video game.
11 – Florence
I often think about making a game about falling in love; while it’s not what I envisioned, Florence is a sweet game that perhaps handles the topic in the most fittingly delicate way that I’ve seen so far. The simple gestures and interactions made it a perfect mobile short experience, it’s a lot more mature as it initially gives the vibe to be. Short but sweet and I loved every second of it.
10 – Artifact
Richard Garfield famed designer of Magic The Gathering (probably the most successful and well known CCG in the world) has teamed up with Valve to create a collectible card game that utilizes common themes and mechanics from Dota 2. The result is a complex game with enough depth and interesting mechanics to keep you at the edge of your seat for the duration of the Match; anything could happen, even if your opponent appears to be dominating the match you can still pull an ace up your sleeve and turn things around. What makes this even more impressive is the usage of the steam virtual economy through the market place for players to actually trade, buy or sell cards. It’s super easy to get the cards you need, create a deck and share it, something that other card games should have a look at for sure. With matches lasting over 45 minutes sometimes and 3 different boards to keep track of, Artifact is an intimidating game, but it’s one that’ll be rewarding for those who stick to it.
9 – Super Smash Bros Ultimate
What started out as a Nintendo characters fighting/party game hybrid has evolved to be something much greater over the years. This iteration carries it in the namesake as perhaps the best love letter to video games in form of a video game. There are so many characters, music, small details that pay homage to gaming’s greatest franchises it’s impossible once you dive into it not to appreciate the passion behind bringing this title to life. This is coupled with more DLC characters to come, the most generous single player content in a fighting game ever and a vibrant competitive scene that will keep this game alive for years to come. This is one of the few games of 2018 that I see myself playing well into 2019 and beyond.
8 – Dead Cells
Finally getting it’s official release in 2018 after years in early access, Dead Cells’ controls are TIGHT! It’s brutal, unforgiving but always fair. Dead Cells is pure mechanics goodness, satisfying combat and a roguelike like no other.
7 – Tetris Effect
I have played enough Tetris games to know that you can actually make a bad Tetris game (here’s looking at you Tetris Ultimate), I’m also a huge Tetris fan, and this is not the first time one of those games make it to my top 10 list. Tetris effect is special though, not only doesn’t completely consume your senses in VR, it does that on a regular ass TV as well. Tetsuya Mizuguchi has built a career on creating wonderful experiences that perfectly combines music and gameplay, Tetris effect is him at his best, utilizing the addictive core mechanics of Tetris, building not only a solid iteration of the franchise, but a serenading art-piece that speaks to you as you play it.
6 – God of War
I never thought of Kratos to be an interesting character; I’ve often thought of how would he make a comeback in this day and age in which flat characters that just yell death all the time is not going to cut it any more. While 2018’s god of war managed to find a way to reinvent the franchise, i find myself conflicted about it. The world and production quality are pretty much unmatched this year. The combat flows in a solid way even though it’s mechanically broken (due the over the shoulder camera – different from all previous entries of the series – you can’t see behind you so when you’re being attacked from behind you have to rely on UI arrows that will alert when something is coming, then you have roll and wish for the best) the lack of deliberation in the combat compared to something like Dark Souls really bothered me, there were needless upgrade systems, confusing menus … etc. Yet, the game manages to pull through an incredible experience through these faults, and offers something truly memorable.
5 – Celeste
You like indie platformers? you like nice music? you like tight controls? do you like to retry immediately after failing? did you like super meat boy? do you like games that tell a surprisingly deep and interesting narrative that handles tough social issues? do you like games with a lot of heart? If your answer was yes to all the above then you’ll probably enjoy Celeste quite a bit.
4 – Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom
Studio Ghibli art meets Level-5’s craftsmanship again in this wonderful JRPG. I wasn’t a big fan of the first game of the series and I found it to be too grindy for my taste, it also felt like it was trying to do too many things at the same time. The sequel completely streamlines everything, removes the needless creature collection aspect and introduces a fun more action oriented combat that makes the game a joy to play. The world is vibrant, music otherworldly – pun intended – as you’d expect from Joe Hisaishi and the pacing feels about right (albeit too easy at times). If you like JRPGs this is not one to miss, you can safely skip the first one, there’s no story relation between the two.
Not a numbered entry but I have to give it a spot here – Pokemon Let’s Go Pikachu! & Pokemon Go
As I write these lists every year I have self imposed rules: the game must have a release within the year (so in this case has to be a 2018 release) and the game can’t be a remake or re-release (otherwise Burnout Paradise or Shadow of the Colossus would’ve easily been my game of the year this time around or that one year Ocarina of Time had a 3DS re-release). I couldn’t leave out out Pokemon Let’s Go Pikachu! as I couldn’t stop playing it, sure it’s a remake of Pokemon Yellow Technically, but it adds so many quality of life improvements as well as a full 3D rendition and the ability to play it on the big screen. Seeing the Pokemon in the grass before the encounter is a game changer! There’re simply too many good things about it to leave out it, however, given the rules, i can’t give it it’s rightful position (which would’ve been here) I can state however how good it is and why you should play it. It also brought me back to Pokemon GO on my phone which i’m playing obsessively! it’s gotten so much better over the past year that I’m willing to have it share this honor of this spot! it’s loads of fun aaand much nicer to your battery as well.
3 – Return of the Obra Dinn
I always say that “Papers please” is the game I wish I made, I’m a big fan, needless to say when I heard Lucas Pope is finally releasing his long awaited follow up I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it. This is a very original game, in it’s mechanics, in the way it tells a story and in the way it has you scratching your head trying to get to the bottom of the mystery. The best way that I can describe it as is that it’s basically murder Sudoku, I don’t want to tell you more about the game, I’d much rather you get into it blind like I did, not knowing what to expect. Return of the Obra Dinn is a landmark achievement in game design (UX issues aside) and a game with a lasting impact.
2 – MARVEL Spider-man
Insomniac just did everything right with this one, every single aspect of this game is carefully polished and tuned to be FUN! As you start swinging you think to yourself how stupid it is for spider-man to be collecting backpacks, 5 minutes later, you’re roaming New York trying to find every last one. This game doesn’t break the norm with mechanics, there’s nothing you haven’t seen before in some shape or form, what’s here though is world class polish, real reverence to the source material, amusing narrative and by far one of the hardest games to put down.
1 – Into the Breach
Creators of FTL Subset games return with a master class in elegant game design. So much that I respect about this game, the mechanics are so solid and easy to understand that each combat transforms from a tactical turn base encounter into a puzzle you have to solve. The mind bending ability to foresee what’s going to happen and utilize your units to clear the level is incredible as the game masterfully weaves so much depth out of simple mechanics. Each unit introduced almost changes the way the game plays. Hell, even failing in this game has an interesting way into looping into progression.
So many good games came out this year, I can’t just ignore them because I’m tied to a numbered list, I need to at least give these games a nod as games you should totally check out:
- Yakuza 6
- Lineage II revolution
- Dragon Quest XI (didn’t finish this one yet)
- Assassin’s Creed Odyssey (Didn’t finish this one either)
- Wario Ware Gold
- Nintendo Labo
- No man’s Sky NEXT
- Mario Tennis Aces
- Call of Duty Black ops 4
- The red strings club
- Forgotten Anne