As reviews editor, I spend a good deal of time thinking about all of the games that come out in a single year. We have a relatively small team, many of whom work remotely, so it's a logistical puzzle to figure out which games we're going to review and who's going to review them. The sheer number of games that come out in a year is staggering, and the truth is that there are many great ones, but we don't have time to play them all or even highlight all of the ones we've played. That's my personal struggle, one that likely won't change.
That said, I did play a large number of games this year. I frankly never stop playing games—I finish one, write the review, and move on to the next. I probably play the most games of anyone on staff, outside of guides writers Hirun Cryer and Jake Green, or perhaps features editor Caty McCarthy. Given that volume of games, I'm going to cheat and put 20 games on my list. To fit in with everyone else's list, I'll start with my Top 10, but I want to give shoutouts to the next ten as well.
So here's my personal list of the best games of 2018:
- Hitman 2
- Forza Horizon 4
- Assassin's Creed Odyssey
- God of War
- Red Dead Redemption 2
- Yakuza Kiwami 2
- Dead Cells
- Dragon Ball FighterZ
That's right. Hitman 2 takes my top spot. Caty reviewed it for the site, but I'm absolutely enamored with it. There's no other game like Hitman 2, a heady mix of stealth, action, and puzzle gameplay. IO Interactive drops you in a sandbox as an assassin whose disguises shouldn't work and gives you a series of targets to kill. How you do so is up to you, but the developer has been doing this Hitman thing for a long time, so Hitman 2 abounds with options. And for a game about murder, there's this wonderful thread of black humor through the entire thing. I don't think everyone will "get" Hitman 2, but if you do, it's a top class game and there's nothing else like it.
I love driving games, but I'm not that big of a simulation fan. Sadly, the last generation of consoles saw much of the arcade racing genre getting hollowed out. If you're a sim fan, there's choices like Gran Turismo, Forza Motorsport, Assetto Corsa, or Project Cars. If you're an arcade racing fan, the choices were limited. That's why I'm glad Playground Games is still out here with Forza Horizon 4. Releasing every two years, the Forza Horizon series doesn't drastically reinvent itself, but it's always great fun. You can pick a supercar, an off-road marvel, or a weird historical model, paint it in whatever garish color you want, and go tearing around the English countryside.
I was probably the person who fought the hardest to get Marvel's Spider-Man for PlayStation 4 on our overall Top 10. I think Insomniac Games did a fantastic job crafting its own Peter Parker. The swinging is on point, many of Spidey's best costumes are rendered in beautiful detail, and the story distills everything great about Spider-Man's long, long history into a clean 25 hours of play.
That's followed closely by Assassin's Creed Odyssey, which firms up the series shift towards the RPG genre. The world of ancient Greece in Odyssey is full of magnificent vistas and interesting characters; I love every minute of my time there. My Alexios accepts all into his bed, regardless of gender, age, or general sanity. Assassin's Creed Odyssey is one of the games I keep coming back to day after day because there's always more to explore, even 100-plus hours in.
Next up are the two games that I think will be dueling for the top spot in most Game of the Year discussions: God of War and Red Dead Redemption 2. I really loved both titles, but the four games above them just hit closer to home for me. God of War was an excellent reboot of a series that I had stopped playing back in 2007 with God of War 2. Red Dead Redemption 2 is an acquired taste: Rockstar's game wants you to soak in the ambiance of the Old West. But if you're willing to live in that world, it's an excellent experience, despite any faults it may have.
Sega's Yakuza series had a big year in 2018 with the release of Yakuza 6, Yakuza Kiwami 2, the spin-off Fist of the North Star: Lost Paradise, and Yakuza 0 bringing the series to PC for the first time. Of the new releases, I have to say that Yakuza Kiwami 2 was the high point. Yakuza 6 is a great end for Kiryu, but switching to the new Dragon Engine means a lot of the mini-games and features of past entries were cut. Kiwami 2 adds those back in, and having not played the original, it's a brand-new experience for me.
There is no other game that feels as good to play as Dead Cells. Motion Twin nailed that; I almost immediately drop into a flow state whenever I play it. The same is true of Dragon Ball FighterZ, bringing together Arc System Works' expertise with a comprehensive love letter to all things Dragon Ball. As a fan of the series, it's great to see all the little nods and connections, but more than that Dragon Ball FighterZ is just an excellent fighting game all around.
And if you're wondering how BattleTech snuck onto our overall Top 20 list… yeah, that was partially me. I've always been a big tactics strategy game fan, but I've never been into BattleTech as a franchise. This game was so good—selling me on the fantasy of being a crew of mech-piloting mercenaries in the far future—that I almost wanted to learn more about BattleTech as a whole. That's a good sign to me, so the game squeaks into my Top 10.
The best of rest includes:
- The Messenger
- Overcooked 2
- Two Point Hospital
- Far Cry 5
- Guacamelee 2
- Monster Hunter: World
- Frozen Synapse 2
- Soul Calibur 6
- Tetris Effect
- Mega Man X Legacy Collection
Some of these I played and didn't get to review, like Two Point Hospital or Frozen Synapse 2. Others I just quietly enjoyed in the background in-between other review titles, like The Messenger, Overcooked 2, or Tetris Effect. Many of these games aren't list-toppers, but they all filled my days with fun. I wanted to make sure they at least got some shout outs.
As always, there are a few titles that I'd probably like that I simply didn't get time to play, such as Celeste, Octopath Traveler, Dragon Quest XI, and Return of the Obra Dinn. I'd like to say I'll get to them soon, but I still haven't finished Persona 5 and Xenoblade Chronicles 2. C'est la vie.