2018 has been pretty phenomenal when it comes to games. Whether you were after AAA titles from the likes of Sony and Microsoft, or yearning for something on the indie front, there’s no question that there were several games to scratch that itch. And we also got several surprises that came out of left field and shook us to our very core, with experiences that brought out the best in our gaming skills.
Sure, there were bad games too, as well as some unquestionably bad design decisions that we’ll hopefully do without in 2019. But for the time being, let’s take a look back at the good stuff that made 2018 stand out. Here now are my personal top 20 games for the year!
20. Road Redemption
I seriously doubt that we’re going to get a Road Rash game from EA at this point, so I’ll take the next best thing- Tripwire’s ode to high-speed carnage. Road Redemption is exactly what you’d expect from a modern Road Rash game, complete with a rockin’ soundtrack, fast-paced moves to execute and a variety of tracks, including some where you whizz along rooftops. I could use more revivals like this, even if they’re made by a completely unexpected team. Sequel, please.
19. SoulCalibur VI
Does the soul still burn with this series? Uh, yeah. SoulCalibur VI triumphantly ups the ante for the series with a number of new moves to keep things interesting, along with smooth-flowing combat and eye-popping visuals that represent the best of the series. Plus, Project Soul once again nails it when it comes to introducing guest characters that matter, like 2B from NieR: Automata and Geralt from The Witcher. Here’s hoping the series continues to keep on burning brightly.
18. Guacamelee! 2
I give credit where credit is due to Drinkbox Studios. The team could’ve easily taken the lazy way out with its sequel to Guacamelee!, opting to give us more of the Metroidvania formula that worked so well there. Instead, it dug deep and gave us a sequel that outshines the original, with stronger co-op support, hilarious chicken combat (no, really, this is how you add an animal character to a game) and a style that’s all its own. Viva la Guacamelee!
17. Lego DC Super-Villains
Just when we think we’ve grown tired of the Lego formula and its overuse in video games, along comes Lego DC Super-Villains to remind us that there’s still fuel in this tank. The game is wonderfully designed, giving you plenty to do either on your own or with a friend; and the presentation is the most polished for a Lego game yet. Plus, the voice acting is superb, featuring the likes of Mark Hamill as the Joker and more. It never felt so good to be this bad.
16. Astro Bot: Rescue Mission
There are an impeccable amount of reasons to own a PlayStation VR right now, but Astro Bot: Rescue Mission is easily at the top of the list. This inspired platformer makes proper use of VR technology, while going with a simple, fun-loving presentation instead of something that could easily overwhelm the player. It’s a joy to watch, and just as exciting to play as you discover new levels and fun little tricks. I hope this team returns with a conventional platformer in the future, so everyone can enjoy their work.
15. Starlink: Battle For Atlas
Just when everyone was getting sick and tired of open-world space exploration games, along comes Ubisoft to remind us that they can still be fantastic. Starlink offers a wide array of missions to keep you intrigued for hours at a time, along with visuals that pop across the screen like fireworks. Also, Starlink may be the best Star Fox game that isn’t a Star Fox game, mainly because of how well they use the game’s characters. Get it for Switch if you can.
14. Hollow Knight
A huge indie favorite on the PC front last year, Hollow Knight made a surprise debut on the Nintendo Switch during E3 and blew us away, giving us a console Metroidvania that was worth being proud of. For good measure, Team Cherry upped the ante with a “director’s cut” for PS4 and Xbox One, giving us even more adventure to savor. Sure, it’s a little dark, but that makes exploring that much more exciting, now don’t it? This game is anything but empty.
13. Shadow of the Colossus
When a game is remade- or reimagined, if you will- there’s the concern that somehow something will be missed in the translation, and it won’t be fun. But Bluepoint Games did the unthinkable with Team Ico’s masterpiece, making it even better with incredible visuals and sharper gameplay that really enable the player to grasp what the game is all about. We’ll always love Team Ico’s work, but this is an improvement that, like the Colossi, is immense.
12. The Messenger
Considering we don’t have a new Ninja Gaiden game coming our way soon, we should take what we can get when it comes to ninja action. Luckily, Sabotage Studios gives us something to keep our skills sharpened with The Messenger, which pays loving tribute to the 8 and 16-bit platformers of old. It’s challenging and requires razor-sharp skills in some places, but Messenger is a real treat to play. We can’t wait for that 2019 expansion to roll around.
What is it about Codemasters that made it doom OnRush before it had a chance to gain traction? The team has already been scuttled to the wind, even though a few are sticking around to provide updates. Shame, because this is the most enjoyable arcade racing experience you’ll find this year, loaded with wild vehicular carnage and engaging multiplayer that has you fighting in team-based fashion. Don’t let this ride pass you by, because it’s a blast.
Matt Makes Games knows its way around the indie scene with its Towerfall games; but little did we expect that it would create one of this year’s best platforming experiences. Celeste excels on every level, from its awesome 8-bit visuals and chiptune soundtrack to its ridiculous level of challenge. But it has built-in assists so that you can see your way to the top of the mountain with ease. Also, the story is surprisingly deep and engaging. Xbox One fans, you can actually download this for free right now on Xbox Live Gold- and I highly suggest doing so.
9. Dragon Ball FighterZ
Before the arrival of DBFZ, we were questioning whether 2D fighting games still had value on the market. But now? Oh, we want everything to be 2D fighting games. Aksys Games does a splendid job capturing the raw energy and power of the anime into FighterZ, while implementing a control scheme that benefits the pros and newcomers alike. Plus, this is one of those rare games that’s just as much fun to watch as it play. Kamehameha!
8. Tetris Effect
Talk about a new twist on an old favorite. Tetsuya Mizuguchi and company take Alexei Pajitnov’s classic and turn it on its head with a luscious presentation that’s the best thing we’ve seen this side of Rez Infinite. But it’s still Tetris through and through, with classic gameplay tricks combined with new abilities that make each round fun to play. And if you own a PlayStation VR, you are in for a treat.
7. Forza Horizon 4
With each new racing experience they introduce, Playground Games makes Forza that much more their own. With Horizon 4, they reach a new peak, with an open world that continues to ooze quality from every pore. The racing still feels as wonderful as ever; the soundtrack is perfectly balanced; and the online interaction is off the charts. And the new expansions promise to be just as much fun as what Forza Horizon 3 offered. Let’s get a fifth game in 2020!
6. Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom
Wow. Just wow. We thought that Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap would be enough of a commitment to hand-drawn 2D platforming adventure. But then comes FDG Entertainment and this sharp, beautiful journey, which continues the WB series in spiritual fashion. With compelling gameplay, fun hidden secrets and helpful animal transformation abilities, Cursed Kingdom wows at every turn. Don’t let this trip to nostalgia-ville pass you by.
5. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
The work of Masahiro Sakurai and his team is unparalleled when it comes to fighting games. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is so loaded with content, we’re practically stunned that it could all fit into one cartridge. Featuring hundreds of music tracks, dozens of unlockable fighters, a huge World of Light story mode and fun mechanics that players of all skill sets can get into, Ultimate is a tour-de-force in brawling. And the party’s not over yet, as DLC will add on next year.
4. Dead Cells
Motion Twin’s insanely good Metroidvania experience is easily the best one to be offered this year- and that wasn’t an easy decision to make. Still, there’s something about this game’s punishing (yet rewarding) design that keeps us coming back for more, as we make our way through dungeons and carve up enemies into mincemeat. The presentation is remarkable and the gameplay is insanely good. This game’s vibe is definitely alive and well.
3. Red Dead Redemption 2
I was chomping at the bit to talk about this game when I first played it, and I still have a lot to discuss with folks today. Rockstar Games once again masters the open-world with a vivid sequel (prequel?) that hits all the right notes, from the small conversations to the fun shootouts to the ridiculously good presentation and voice acting. This is a sequel (prequel?) done right, and I hope we journey back to this land soon.
2. God of War
Cory Barlog and his team at Sony Santa Monica have given us a gift that we can’t even come close to repaying with God of War. An epic action/adventure in every sense of the word, this PS4 exclusive nails the aesthetic on every level. The visuals are unbelievably good; the voice acting equally so (“BOY!)”; and the gameplay takes the God of War series up a notch, even if it didn’t necessarily need it. Take a bow, boys, you deserved it.
1. Marvel’s Spider-Man
Just…wow. Right when I think we’ve seen the peak of Insomniac Games’ brilliance, along comes a game that truly defines what the studio is about. Spider-Man is the most entertaining gameplay experience featuring the wall-crawler yet, with a packed open world filled with danger, along with fun little surprises, unlockable suits (yes, including the Raimi one) and a sense of fun that’s always fulfilled. If this is Marvel’s launch into the video game realm, I can’t wait to see what comes next.