Game of the Year, USG Team Lists:
For me, this year was defined by Sony first-party exclusives and my first real foray into strategy games. Here are my favorite games of 2018.
After last year’s jam-packed offering, I was expecting to be a little let down this year. But due to landing a job as a full-time guides writer at USG, I’m certain that I played twice as many games this year. There never seemed to be a down period, with April and May—historically some of the quietest months—offering up meaty, engaging experiences like God of War and Dark Souls Remastered. It’s the Sony first-party games which stole the show for me, with Spider-Man serving as the perfect contrast to an otherwise very violent and shooty selection of games. Here are my top 10 games of 2018:
Celeste God of War
Red Dead Redemption 2
No Man's Sky Next
Pokemon Let's Go
Into the Breach
Celeste released in the first month of 2018, and still managed to fend off the stiff competition that followed to make it to the top of my list. What strikes me most about Celeste is its genuine respect for the player’s time and effort. Whereas games like Doom and Wolfenstein mock you for failing (the latter even adorning your character in a baby bonnet and dummy), Celeste reiterated time and time again that it’s okay to fail. This design philosophy is backed up by its robust accessibility options, allowing players of all skill levels to enjoy the experience. It’s fitting, then, that Celeste’s story tells the tale of a girl attempting to overcome her personal demons, and reach the summit of a mountain. The soundtrack is easily the best of the year, and the platforming itself is pixel-perfect. Celeste has raised the bar for every 2D platformer to follow.
The biggest surprise on my list, at least for me, is
No Man’s Sky Next. My experience with No Man’s Sky is likely similar to most people’s. I was excited in the run up to launch, but after playing the mediocre campaign that followed, I bounced off. Hello Games has been busy plugging away ever since, fighting an uphill battle which seemed all but unwinnable. Enter No Man’s Sky Next, a transformative, and most importantly free update to the base game. Systems were overhauled, a third-person view was added in, and players were finally given the game that they were promised all of those years ago.
Elsewhere on my list are a few games that are likely to feature in the majority of Game of the Year lists you’ll read.
God of War did the unthinkable and made Kratos likeable, while Red Dead Redemption 2 will surely be an open-world experience that other games pull from for years to come. I do think that God of War is a better game as a whole, with very little in the way of negatives. Red Dead is the tricky one, as there’s so much of the game that is just kind of a drag to play. It’s greater than the sum of its parts though, and I imagine that the longer I have to reflect on it, the higher it will climb in my favorite games of all time. Spider-Man, however, is the complete opposite of Red Dead 2. It’s fun, vibrant, slick, and manages to tell a genuinely great Spider-Man story.
I’m not usually one for strategy games, but this year’s one-two punch of
BattleTech and Into the Breach really sucked me in. I had to review the former, and after loathing BattleTech at first, did a full 180 in time for deadline day. Into the Breach is probably my most played Nintendo Switch game this year, and having meticulously-designed diorama battlefields ready to pull out on commutes was a real joy. Another Switch game, Pokemon Let's Go, offered up a stripped down and refined version of my favorite Pokemon game. It encompasses everything I love about Pokemon, and made intelligent tweaks to decades-old mechanics which I hope become the norm moving forward.
Finally, I’d like to shine a light on two games that may have flown under the radar for most. The more well-known is
Minit, a bite-sized adventure game which makes great use of a 1-minute death timer. You can clear Minit in a couple of hours, but its witty writing, intelligent puzzles, and charming art style really leave a lasting impression.
The other game I’d like to highlight is
Legendary Gary. It’s an adventure game (sort of) made by the programmer of What Remains of Edith Finch. Legendary Gary is quite possibly the strangest game I’ve ever played, focusing on a down and out slob called Gary. The game is split between Gary’s mundane daily routine, and a fantasy RPG that he plays in his bedroom. As the story progresses, the two worlds start to bleed into each other, and choices you make in the real world start to inform gameplay in the RPG-world. It has a twisted Saturday morning cartoon vibe to it, and the isometric turn-based combat is surprisingly deep. Both Legendary Gary and Minit were made by incredibly small teams, and managed to leave a bigger impression on me than some of the big budget triple-A offerings of 2018.