Best Games of 2018
Trying to objectively determine and agree on a list of ‘best games’ in a year with even one other person seems to me to be an exercise in learning what the word ‘subjectivity’ means. As such, I’m not a huge proponent of institutional ‘game of the year’ lists. I do, however, love seeing what critics, friends, and the like find to be their best video game experiences in a given year. In that spirit I’d like to share my own. So instead of trying to objectively calculate the game of the year, I took some time over my holiday break to look back at some of my favorite experiences of 2018. Note that these are games I played this year, not necessarily games released this year. Enjoy!
Super Smash Brothers: Ultimate (Switch): The original Smash Bros. for N64 holds so many good memories for me that it's impossible to separate them from the feelings I’m getting from battling randoms online in Ultimate. I am also fresh off a holiday Christmas Eve with family where this game was played in a 7-man free-for-all so that is probably coloring my perception. That said, I think this is the most refined the series has ever been and it's a joy to experience the relentless torrent of fan service.
Into the Breach (Switch): The second outing from the team behind FTL is really something special. It is a tactics game that gives you perfect information and just asks you to make the best decision in any given moment. The art direction and UI make the entire experience feel clean and hassle free and the catchy, understated score brings the atmosphere up to another level. Meditative, yet tense, this game has provided some of the most satisfying gaming moments of the year from my perspective.
Bloodborne (PS4): Fromsoft games always get their hooks in me pretty good, and Bloodborne was no different. I’m an avid fan of Dark Souls 1-3 and finally getting a chance to play Bloodborne unsurprisingly put it high on my list for 2018. Speeding up the Dark Souls mechanical formula and giving it a gothic/Lovecraftian paint job was just what the series needed to spice things up.
Celeste (Switch): It’s rare that in this day and age a 2D pixel platformer can bring enough of note to the table to land on a Game of the Year list (let alone most of the industry’s). Celeste’s story, writing, music, and extremely high polish did just that. I don’t think there is a game with more personality than this on the entire list.
Subnautica (PC): While it was still in early access when I played it, this survival game stuck out to me for a variety of reasons. One: no weapons. This game forces you to play as a pacifist. That really changes the idea of what a ‘power curve’ looks like. Two: it's gorgeous, and underwater environments are an underutilized playspace in games.
Octopath: Traveller (Switch): I’m not usually a JRPG guy these days. The characters are generally a bit flat, and the writing a bit weak. Octopath was guilty of both of these, but the mechanics of the battle system kept me coming back. It does not hurt that the hybrid Pixel/Isometric 3D aesthetic is striking and beautiful.
Tacoma (PC): The environmental storytelling masters at Fullbright delivered again with a space station detective story that prioritizes smart characterization and world-building. It doesn’t overstay its welcome and, looking back, it's very impressive how well-paced the story is and how efficient they are at giving players new information.
Meteorfall: Journeys (iOS): The generic name belies an incredibly tightly designed deckbuilder/roguelite. This was my go-to time-killing game when I only had access to a phone.
Hitman 2 (PC): Agent 47 is back with more slapstick subterfuge and I am HERE for it! Improves in almost every way on the last Hitman from 2017, and adds that content back in at a steal for newcomers.
Hollow Knight (Switch): I love a good metroidvania. This is a great metroidvania. Moody and atmospheric, while focused on building out a world that you get invested in and curious about. Getting the ‘true’ ending was a bit of a stretch difficulty-wise, but the overall experience is top-notch.
Honorable Mentions (no particular order):
Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus (PC)
Rebel Inc. (iOS)
Resident Evil 7 (PC)
Donut County (iOS)
Dead Cells (Switch)
Assassin's Creed Origins (PC)
Yoku's Island Express (Switch)
Repeat Plays That Would Have Been On My List
Dark Souls: Remastered (Switch/PC)
5 Games I Really Want To Play In 2019:
Return of the Obra Dinn (PC)
God of War (PS4)
Gris (PC, Switch, Etc.)
Divinity: Original Sin 2 (PC)
Kingdom Come: Deliverance (PC)