This is the part of the piece where I say it’s been a heck of a year for video games.Yep, I said this last year, but I also said last year was arguably the best year in the history of video games. While I’m not going to say that much this year, it was still a damn good year.
Last year saw the Switch take the world by storm, and while it hasn’t had as strong of a year as far as critical releases go, Nintendo still had a big one. Meanwhile, while we talk about Sony being complacent having the #1 console this generation, the reason why they’re on top is because of a continuous onslaught of releases headed by God of War, which took the Game of the Year crown at The Game Awards this year, edging out Marvel’s Spider-Man (another fantastic title), and even ultra hyped Red Dead Redemption 2. Microsoft is still chillin’ watching Sony and Nintendo have fruitful years, but that isn’t to say the Xbox One hasn’t had success. They still lack exclusive firepower, but with the introduction of Xbox Game Pass, there’s plenty of reasons to keep your Xbox One (X) on.
Independent studios also have had a heck of a year. The Messenger and Dead Cells both have drawn critical praise, whereas Celeste got a bunch of perfect scores from a slew of big publications and was even nominated for Game of the Year at The Game Awards. I’d be remiss to not mention these games. The main reason they didn’t make my Top 10 is because I simply haven’t gotten to them, and that’s a credit to how far our industry has gone–especially with us at SmashPad. Remember, none of us do this full-time, so we obviously have to pick and choose what games get our time and attention.
Before I go off on my Top 10 Games of the Year, I just wanted to quickly give some love to these three games:
Honorable Mention: A Way Out – PS4, Xbox One, PC
My brother and I really enjoy walking simulations, so as soon as they announced this game at last year’s Game Awards, I was in–not just because Josuf Fares seemed crazy, but because the game looked crazy, and indeed it was. It didn’t make my overall list because I thought it was just too short, some of the story was beyond stupid, and the cover shooting was ass, but it was still a fun experience and I hope Fares’ studio does a follow-up or another take on this because he definitely has something here.
Honorable Mention: Donut County – Multiplatform
This game was more fun than it had any business being. You use a raccoon with a tablet to move a hole around the world for things to fall in (kinda like Katamari Damacy in the sense that you just roll around sucking stuff up), and in the process, you ruin everyone’s homes and lives in the process. It’s absolutely hilarious, and to be honest, I only played this game because it was an easy Platinum. I didn’t think I’d have this much fun doing it.
Honorable Mention: Astro Bot Rescue Mission – PSVR
This game is all sorts of awesome. There are two reasons why it didn’t make my Top 10. One; I’m tired of people shitting on Shadow of the Tomb Raider. The game is great. More on that later. And two; I literally just played it on Christmas and didn’t think it’d be that great, but it’s totally awesome. It’s quite literally a Mario-style platformer done right in VR made even more enjoyable when you have family making fun of you for almost sitting on your dog in the real world while you’re standing and walking around looking for hidden coins robots in the virtual world. This has been a heck of a year for PSVR, and this, Tetris Effect, and Beat Saber all have collectively made me care about hooking mine up more.
All right, enough talking about games that almost made it. Time to talk about the games that actually were my Top 10 Games of 2018:
10. Shadow of the Tomb Raider – PS4, Xbox One, PC
The rebooted Tomb Raider trilogy has been a favorite of mine over the last few years. It takes a lot of things that made the often compared Uncharted series great and gives it a more gritty tone with semi-open world exploration. Shadow of the Tomb Raider was a fantastic medium of the two and brings closure to a game that was every bit as good as the superb Rise of the Tomb Raider was, and it’s a shame that it’ll be overlooked because it came out the week after Spider-Man did… which was also pretty damn close to both Assassin’s Creed Odyssey and Red Dead Redemption 2.
9. Tetris Effect – PS4/VR, PC
If you give Tetsuya Mizuguchi the opportunity to make a Tetris game, it’s going to be on many of our Top 10 lists. The literal only problem with Tetris Effect is that there isn’t a multiplayer mode. But when it comes to taking a classic game like Tetris–a game that’s arguably the greatest game in all of the medium–and make it the experience that it is, especially enhanced in VR, there’s no way to not think about it. Yes, it’s still Tetris, just prettier and more mesmerizing, but this is simply the stuff of dreams, and it’s just too easy to get lost in this haven of shapes and sound. It’s just so damn cool…
8. Red Dead Redemption 2 – PS4, Xbox One
The biggest game of the year. It has its problems–particularly in how slow of a grind it is affecting how enjoyable it is as a video game. But like a lot of the other gaming choices I made this year, it’s about the experience. Perhaps the main thing it did better than the previous game was it really made it feel like you were an estranged cowboy in a world that was slowly no longer yours. If you played the previous game, then you already know what’s going to happen to Arthur Morgan, but the journey to get there is far beyond what you’d see in a traditional western experience, and it makes Red Dead Redemption 2 an even better ride because of it. The only reason why it isn’t any higher is because I just didn’t find it all that fun. I almost put Tetris Effect over this. Heck, I wanna do that now, but I already submitted my list for final voting. Dammit.
7. Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age – PS4, PC
It’s been 13 years since the main Dragon Quest series graced a console, also making it the first flagship experience in HD (ignoring the Builders and Heroes games). It does a lot of things that the series has been known for that you don’t really see in RPGs nowadays because they’re almost anachronisms, but it all just works. And while it feels like a classic Dragon Quest, the storytelling and typical aesthetics do enough to make it a charming title for anybody who’s looking for a classical yet modern experience. Honestly, too many games are punished for being “more of the same.” But if it’s good, who cares? Sometimes it’s great playing a game knowing what to expect, and with Dragon Quest, I expect Dragon Quest. Thank you, Horii-sama!
6. Dragon Ball FighterZ – Multiplatform
Dragon Ball FighterZ was hands down the most fun game I played at E3 2017. When it released earlier this year, there was nothing else I messed with. I would’ve probably gotten the Platinum on the PS4 version if it weren’t for one of the trophies actually requiring you to fare well in the game online. The game is single-handedly responsible for this year’s Evo shattering records in participation for a non-Street Fighter tournament, and it more than did its deed with expanding the reach of the FGC. Whether the game is actually great or just hype is another argument, but I’m on the side that thinks the game is absolutely fantastic for what it seeks to achieve — being as fun to play as it is to watch. It’s too bad Shueisha doesn’t care.
5. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate – Switch
A lot of us at SmashPad are hoping that Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is the Smash game to make Evo finally decide which entry of the series is the definitive one to play at the big gathering. That argument aside, as Nintendo did with Smash 4 (our Game of the Year for 2014), there is way too much content in Smash Bros. Ultimate for it to not make my list here. With unprecedented numbers in the roster, arenas, and selections of music, this really is the ultimate Super Smash Bros., and it’s an absolute must-have for owners of the Switch. This game will dominate conversations and parties, and it definitely deserves to… for Masahiro Sakurai’s sake.
4. God of War – PS4
In a year where narrative single player experiences are so generation-defining, you’d be hard pressed to find one as involved in its lore and story as God of War, which is just strange to say after all that series has been known for. Fatherhood and the estranged relationship Kratos has with his son Atreus is front and center here with enough exploration and action to make this game a supremely enjoyable grind. This flagship entry in what used to be a tired series is now a highlight and testament to how fantastic the PS4 library is, and it also should be a prime example to show how you can breathe new life into a tired franchise and genre. Cory Barlog has shown that he and the series has grown a lot, and they deserve all the recognition they’re getting.
3. Monster Hunter: World – PS4, Xbox One, PC
Widely regarded as one of the most unapproachable franchises in all of gaming, Monster Hunter: World came out of nowhere to be one of the biggest surprises of the year, boasting exponentially better sales numbers than it’s ever enjoyed as the game made its first foray into this second HD generation. It still maintains pretty much everything the series is known for, but the quality of life changes were just enough to put it over as a game that people will continue to play with many more new members in its community, and it’s certainly made me a fan.
2. Marvel’s Spider-Man – PS4
This was about as tough as it was last year. I had more fun with Super Mario Odyssey, but The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild was the stronger push forward for the series and the genre. Spider-Man is without a shadow of a doubt the most fun I had with a video game this year, and it features arguably one of the best Spider-Man stories in all of entertainment media (yes, I’m including both the comic books and movies). Everything from the exploration, to the combat, to the true-to-life MCU-style story really made Marvel’s Spider-Man an absolute joy and I can’t wait to dive into the DLC–even if Alex says it sucks.
1. Octopath Traveler – Switch
Games like Octopath Traveler make it all the more head-scratching that Tokyo RPG Factory hasn’t made a great experience a completely puzzling situation. Octopath Traveler is enjoying all the success that I Am Setsuna and Lost Sphear should be getting, but they’re just not as good. For what JRPGs used to be and what they are becoming, Octopath Traveler is as close to perfect as it’s going to get. Never have I ever seen the amount of depth in 2D and sprite animation that Octopath Traveler boasts, and on top of that, it features eight individual stories that includes lighthearted tales and deep thought-provoking moments of darkness. Mix in a turn-based battle system that’s both easy-to-understand for those that don’t like that style yet has enough depth to keep a veteran invested, and you have what easily could be a genre changer. We don’t know what’s going on with Square Enix, but the team that worked on Octopath Traveler should be praised, paid, and put to work right away, because this is simply special, and that’s why it’s my game of the year (and three of my peers here). More from this studio please!
There you have it, my favorite games of 2018, and for the second consecutive year, it was a Switch game. An RPG at that! We all know I love RPG’s, but I don’t think I’ve ever given my GOTY to an RPG ever since I started doing these. Now that I think about it, I played a hell of a lot of RPGs this year–Ni no Kuni II, Dragon Quest XI, Pokémon Let’s Go, and of course Octopath. Damn, that’s over 200 hours! How did I find all that time? That’s time I could’ve used playing more VR or indie titles, or enjoying fighting games, or exercising, or dating, or right-swiping, but yeah. I’m rambling. Sorry.
Stay tuned for our overall Top 10 coming out tomorrow. And then look forward to seeing our Most Anticipated Games of 2019 a week after that. I can’t wait to be done with all these damn lists!