2018 has been a solid year for videogames, including some great ports (looking at you Diablo III, Gone Home, Hollow Knight and more), strong sequels to old franchises, and exciting new indies. However, although many of these titles pushed to the limits of the industry (Red Dead Redemption 2 with its attention to detail and the incredible mechanics of Marvel’s Spider-Man) none of them were as well-made the best games of last year — things like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Super Mario Odyssey, Persona 5 and Doki Doki Literature Club, which all were fierce in their own way. So, even though 2018 has been a softer year, there have still been great titles.
Although nothing I played this year was worthy of a perfect ’10’ score, here are my winners of 2018.
Florence is the only mobile game on this list — I haven’t taken a liking to the habits of the mobile market, but Florence doesn’t follow those trends and delivers a full product without any microtransactions. It takes little more than 30 minutes to complete, but the emotional impact it had on me still lives on. This mini-puzzle-driven narrative critiques on slice-of-life and romance stories in general, and on the way people approach their deepest desires. In a certain way, Florence makes a unique point by showing nothing out of the ordinary.
9>Shadow of the Colossus
This Shadow of the Colossus remake might still feel mechanically stuck in the PS2-era, but the story is subtly told and it’s wonderful to ride through a world filled with titans as a character who seems so tiny and powerless — yet still so triumphant. But what stands out most of all in this installment of Shadow of the Colossus is its presentation. The graphics and soundtrack leave nothing to be desired in this department.
8>Sonic Mania Plus
To anyone doubting Sonic’s acclaim in the ’90s, there’s Sonic Mania Plus to prove them wrong. The best Sonic game ever made — this one — consists of components reminiscent of its heyday, but shines most of all in new stages which suggest that Sonic might not have reached his climax in the ‘90s. The Sonic the Hedgehog franchise may have run its course, but at least Mania reminds us of the good times we’ve had.
Spider-Man is too short (32 hours of gameplay for a 100%) and too repetitive to compete with others this year, but it does make the superhero genre, which always felt generic and awfully-executed to me, much more exciting. It offers an amazing feel, a beautiful setting and an inspired personal story. The most interesting aspect of every superhero is the dual nature of the hero, and Spider-Man delivers on that regard. The best aspect of Spider-Man, however, is the fact that I could climb any beautifully constructed building of Manhattan, reach the top, and look over the whole city, truly feeling like a ‘super’ man.
6>Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
Smash is the ultimate crossover of all media. The thought of pitting our favorite franchise characters against each other in a winner-takes-it-all is enthralling, and Ultimate expands on its strengths by bringing in all of the franchise’s past characters while also adding some new heroes. Ultimate did leave some of my desires unfulfilled (Incineroar over Waluigi, seriously?), but whether I tackled it solo or in a group, I genuinely enjoyed the masterful premise of teaming up with my favorites to overcome all opposition. The extraordinary effort put in the record-breaking soundtrack only strengthened my satisfaction.
5>Sid Meier’s Civilization VI: Rise and Fall
Civilization VI: Rise and Fall is an ode to humanity and a remarkable achievement for approachable-yet-deep strategy games offering history-based content that’s often hard to truly nail. This latest addition to the franchise is the best Civ experience to date, and with expansion Gathering Storm already being announced for early 2019, the best is yet to come. Who needs history lessons when there’s a history simulator this good?
Celeste offers both an incredibly difficult challenge and a message for anyone struggling with mental health issues, and it’s supported by a memorable soundtrack. The work here is of immense quality and special props go to the developers for offering features that make the difficulty bearable.
I’m not a fan of Metroidvanias, but this is the best example of the potential of indie games — they’re generally cheaper than triple-A titles, and usually made by a small group of developers who put their heart and soul into their project. Hollow Knight is just sheer artistry, and the fact that I can pick up my Switch and lose myself in the darkness of its mysterious world still amazes me to this day, despite not being a fan of its genre. Hollow Knight is one of the few titles magical enough to be enjoyed without progressing through the game at all — just interacting with the beautiful aesthetics and cutting down the nearest thing, be it monster or otherwise, just feels satisfying.
2>Red Dead Redemption 2
Red Dead Redemption 2 isn’t a particularly good game when judged by its at-times horrific combat segments and controls that make the player feel as though they’re not quite in control of their character. So what makes RDR2 still number 2? It’s genius and inventive in many other ways. The sound editing and music are phenomenal, and the level of voice acting, story, graphics, attention to detail and character work are masterpieces. Its pros outweigh its cons considerably.
1>God of War
God of War is the best game of 2018. Instead of focusing on sheer size and content, it has a compelling story, an explorable world inspired by Norse mythology, a memorable orchestral soundtrack, sublime performances by its cast, and exciting combat. Its tale is told efficiently and intellectually, its world is gorgeous, and the end product lives up to its proposed scale. Many story-driven games struggle to find the perfect size and rapidly conclude via unsatisfying sequences or prolong things well past the point of tedium. None of these issues are present in God of War, and the pacing is absolutely perfect.