The year was 2018. Video games released. Some were good. Humans attempted to sort them by order of greatness. This is such an attempt.
Gris is a beautiful 2D platformer exploration game. There is no dialogue and yet it manages to tell an emotional story through puzzles, discovery, and color. It takes about 4 hours to play through the entire game so there is no reason to skip this gem.
9. Octopath Traveler
Finding the right attacks to break enemy defenses made sure combat in Octopath Traveler was always interesting. Experimenting with the dual class system introduced some fun combinations. Sadly every chapter for each character was an isolated story with the same structure so it was lacking some of the traditional JRPG character bonding I look for.
8. Red Dead Redemption 2
Despite the tedious systems and overly structured story missions I enjoyed my time with RDR 2. The game is very pretty, has excellent voice acting, and it’s always fun to do cowboy stuff. I liked finding out what’s next for the gang and it definitely filled in bits of story from the first game which was a nice touch. Exploring the games vast systems like hunting and bounties were some of the more interesting parts for me.
7. Ni No Kuni II
Ni No Kuni II is a charming JRPG that also manages to combine elements of strategy games and world building. The story is interesting while also being a little off beat. The real time combat is a bit simple but still fun and engaging. The graphics are gorgeous. All around it’s a game that tries to do a lot and somehow manages to accomplish most of it very well. I recommend increasing the difficulty as it can be way too easy otherwise. Plus the harder difficulty rewards you with even better loot.
Subnautica quickly became one of my favorite crafting survival games. It does such a great job managing the exploration, risk, and reward loop. The joy of exploration keeps you going and as soon as you craft that next impressive thing something bigger shows up and puts you back in your place. For a survival game it actually has an impressive story with plenty of mouth drop moments.
5. Far Cry 5
Far Cry 5 was not without its share of issues. However I had a huge amount of fun playing through the campaign, both solo and co-op. The setting felt unique and made for a crazy but still interesting story. The gun play feels great and you can get into some real shenanigans with all the vehicles. The aggressive animals never ceased to make me laugh each time they came out of nowhere to maul some poor civilian. The game even has a built in level editor and a lobby system to play through user generated content which was like a cherry on top of a delicious sundae.
4. Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey
I’m a sucker for Assassin’s Creed games even with the trend of the newer ones going heavy on the RPG elements. The Ancient Greek setting was interesting and it was fun to do quests for historical figures like Socrates and Aspasia. The mercenaries system felt like a cross between the wanted system in GTA games and Shadow of War’s nemesis system. I also enjoyed hunting down cultists by first unlocking clues about them. Overall I think Origins is a more cohesive game but Odyssey was still a blast to play.
3. Dead Cells
Dead Cells was a perfect blend of roguelike and metroidvania. It’s hard to explain why the game is so good without playing it yourself. Movement and combat feel amazing and it’s a joy to control the character. It was never the games fault if I took damage or died. There was always some queue I missed or some way I could have handled the situation better. So every death just felt like a lesson that I was excited to learn. The “one more run” urge was really strong with this game and the persistent item unlocks helped keep me coming back for more.
2. God of War
I went into God of War assuming it would be a decent action game where you mash buttons and kill stuff. It did manage to have the visceral battles from the previous games with an intelligent and emotionally deep story. Hearing tales of Norse mythology while traveling around the world was a great way to get backstory and keep things interesting between fights. Even when fast traveling you get to hear interesting dialogue which was a nice touch. The voice acting, characters, story, combat… every part of this game was flawless.
1. Marvel’s Spider-Man
Finally the Spider-Man game I’ve always wanted! Insomniac nailed the movement and feel of web slinging. Zipping around New York never got old and it even made collection quests like chasing pigeons super satisfying. It really felt like you were playing as Spider-Man to the point where I stopped to rescue every citizen locked in a truck or getting robbed. End game really ramped up the action and introduced more villains to get me really excited for the next game.
With the seriousness of “the list” out of the way let’s talk awards.
It’s impressive how much emotion a simple mobile game is able to achieve. They were able to do a lot with very little and packed a lot of feels into a 1 hour game.
Disappointment: Sea of Thieves
This game had so much potential. It seemed like the bare bones of something great but never then it was never fully realized. I kept waiting for more content but it was too little too late. I had some fun playing with friends but ultimately was left disappointed.
Funniest: Far Cry 5
So much over the top silly stuff happened in this game. Some of it was scripted and some was pure random. Like rescuing an npc just to watch them get mauled by a cougar seconds later. Co-op campaign and endless user generated content only added to the hilarity.
Gris is an incredibly beautiful game and easily makes the argument for games as art. The watercolor painting style and manipulation of color made the game very easy on the eyes.
Most addicting: Spider-Man
For some reason I couldn’t put this game down. Even the simple act of traveling somewhere as Spider-Man was super enjoyable. They really nailed the web swinging, general movement, and fighting of the friendly neighborhood hero.
Early access: Slay the Spire
Slay the Spire is the poster child for how early access games should work. They set realistic goals, listened to feedback from the community, and put out weekly updates. The game was already fantastic at the start of early access and it keeps getting better.
One that got away: Return of the Obra Dinn
I’ve seen so many great things about Return of the Obra Dinn and I was excited to play it. Sadly after about an hour in I got rather motion sick and never ended up going back to give it another try.
Rebuy: Katamari Damacy Reroll
I loved Katamari Damacy on the Playstation 2 so picking up the fancy HD remake was an easy decision for me. It feels right at home playing it on the Switch.
Shame: We Happy Few
I really wanted to like We Happy Few. The aesthetic, plot, and atmosphere were great but every other aspect of the game was mediocre at best. I played it a lot longer than it deserved while waiting for something that never came.
Music: Guacamelee 2
Touted as a Mexivania, Guacamelee! 2 had some amazing music. The unique blend of Mexican and 8 bit video game music made for some great tunes.
Multitask: Into the Breach
The turn based setup of Into the Breach made it well suited for multitasking. It was easy to half pay attention to a TV show or podcast while blasting away the Vek.
Best Ongoing: Path of Exile
I’ve been playing Path of Exile on and off for almost 7 years and I still get excited for each new league. The developers GGG are amazing and consistently introduce new and innovative content. A perfect example of what free to play should be.
Future: Metro Exodus
Metro Exodus was the game I was most looking forward to last year. Now will the release date so close it’s still the one I’m looking forward to with a healthy dose of skeptical optimism. I might be telling myself the game was delayed another year until it’s eventual release on Steam…