Thinking back to this time last year, I along with many others in the game industry wondered “how on earth is anything going to live up to what we got to play in 2017?” Well, 2018 came along and wiped 2017 off the map.
The 20 Best Video Games of 2018, Part 1: 11-20
The Year of the Gamer
2017 may have had major hits and the arrival of the Nintendo Switch, but 2018 delivered a really good game several times a month. It started at the end of January and went on until the middle of December. Every month in that span delivered something that became part of the conversation. Seriously, I don’t think it would take me too long to come up with a Top 50 Games list, that’s how many solid experiences were available to gamers this year.
This isn’t even including perhaps the most important game of 2018, Fortnite, which actually released in 2017, but did come to mobile and Switch in 2018. No game made a bigger impact on popular culture than Epic Games’ battle royale monster. It continuously kept breaking its own player records. Parents and teachers couldn’t keep it out of the hands of children. It forced Sony to break their own rules when it came to cross-play, making Fortnite the only game playable cross-platform between PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch at the same time.
Epic even made so much money off of Fortnite that it made the entertainment world take notice and start filing lawsuits against it for using certain dances as emotes without permission. Although perhaps Epic’s biggest money maker in the future may be its Epic Games Store (similar to Valve’s Steam store), which launched in December with an 88-12% profit share for developers, exclusive games, and cross-platform tools available to everyone who used their store in 2019.
Looking back at gaming in 2018, you’ll see Sony’s PlayStation 4 proving that AAA single-player games are anything but dead. The PlayStation VR finally had its breakout year with several hit games helping the headset reach more homes. Nintendo solidified their status as the console everyone wants everything to come to, while also showing what it means to make the Ultimate mash-up game. We can’t forget about Microsoft which firmly established the Xbox Gamepass and planned for their future with six studio acquisition announcements and the creation of another new one. With a new console generation clearly in the very near future, Microsoft may very well be on to something.
However, before we look ahead to 2019, let’s take a look back at a small slice of the best games 2018 had to offer. – Sean Garmer
Creating This List
This list was compiled by Sean Garmer and Tim Nutting. Tim and Sean each chose a certain number of games using different viewpoints. Three of them happened to wind up as in common and the other 17 were divided between them. Tim went more towards favorite games he enjoyed, while Sean used more of a critical eye that includes some favorites and some games that were just too important not to include. In the end, all of them made some kind of impact on one, if not both, of them.
20. Jurassic World Evolution
Release Date: June 12, 2018
Just like how the movie, Jurassic World, made the dream of a dinosaur theme park reality, you can achieve this as well. The chance of making a full-fledged Jurassic Park is at your very fingertips. From the raptors to the Indominus Rex, memorable movie characters helping you, this game has it all. Think of it like Zoo Tycoon on steroids. The best part is that anything can happen in this game. Crazy tropical storms? You got it. Velociraptors escape from their enclosure? Of course! Power outage? Hell yeah. You control the fate of your park, launching it into success or total chaos. –Tim
Read Tim’s full review of the game here.
Release Date: October 31, 2018
Believe it or not folks, but Undertale had a sequel. One of the most popular indie games of all time had a successful follow-up. Although it had similar visuals and themes to Undertale, the game had totally new characters and objectives, as well as a brand new story. Once again playing as a human character, you must travel through a dark environment and encounter scary monsters. Fans of Undertale were enamored with this game. And in short, Toby Fox is a genius. He can make a great game. –Tim
18. Dragon Quest XI
Platforms: PlayStation 4, PC, Nintendo 3DS (Japan Only)
Release Date: July 29, 2017 (Japan), September 4, 2018 (Worldwide)
If you enjoy old school RPGs, Dragon Quest XI is as old school as it gets. While Square-Enix iterates and changes what it means to play a Final Fantasy game with each release, they do none of that with Dragon Quest. In a year that was a bit thin for great traditional RPGs, Dragon Quest XI is a shining beacon.
If you excuse the torrid soundtrack selection, which is a huge letdown, the rest of the game is great. The story is your traditional fantasy fare where the main character is the next royal savior who’s hidden away in a small town, only for the wrong people to find out his lineage, destroy his hometown, and send him on a quest to rid the world of this evil. He’s joined by a vibrant and eclectic cast, which are well-voiced and given entertaining dialogue by the localization team. Although, if you hate British accents, this may not be the game for you.
Everything in Dragon Quest XI just feels good. The turn-based combat is satisfying and the Pep Power special attacks are both cool and amusing at once. Legendary animator Akira Toriyama not only did a great job with the main cast, but he also breathed life into all of the monsters. There’s a lot of care given to them, even in how they first appear on the battle screen. The biggest change is that the overworld is now populated with monsters, removing the random encounters of yesteryear. Something all old RPGs should do at this point. This gives the world a much more lived-in feeling, helping make the 80-100 hour experience much more tolerable as well. The only drawback is that the game is a bit on the easy side. Thankfully, DQXI does have options to make the battles go by faster. But if you enjoy those long JRPG’s, you won’t find a better one this year than in Dragon Quest XI. –Sean
17. Into the Breach
Platforms: PC & Nintendo Switch
Release Date: February 27, 2018
One of 2018’s biggest surprises is Into the Breach. The game combines Mechs, bugs, city protection, and chess into one strategy game. The concept of Into the Breach turns most strategy games on their heads. Instead of just brute forcing through a stage, you have to immediately think defensively because you already know what the enemy will do before each turn. Your job is to figure out how to stop anything bad from happening. In this process, you may destroy enemy units. Ultimately though, you are trying to save a city from destruction.
Into the Breach is not for everyone. It is at times brutally difficult and can confuse even the most hardened strategy game player. This is because although you know an opponent’s moves due to the city protection mechanic, you have to account for other variables. “Oh, I can kill the enemy on this turn, but if I do it with my unit that’s closest to it, I’ll also smash him into the building near him.” These type of decisions can affect you long after winning this one battle. So, literally, you could be sitting there for 20 minutes thinking about one move. But all that thought is totally worth it when you make the right call. Even when you make the wrong decision, you can learn from it. If you are a patient type of gamer that likes a challenge, give Into the Breach a shot. –Sean
16. Super Mario Party
Release Date: October 5, 2018
Ah yes, Mario Party. A game that stood the test of time. The latest entry for the Mario Party series, Super Mario Party, has become one of the best selling video games of all time for the Nintendo Switch. Featuring favorite characters from past games, the salt-inducing mini-games still give everyone much needed fun and anger as per usual. In addition to making online play available, board game-esque and destination games are popular features on this game. Duking it out on Thwomp Ruins and rafting down a river dodging piranha plants. The salt is too real. –Tim
15. Dragon Ball FighterZ
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, Nintendo Switch
Release Date: January 26, 2018
You could certainly argue there are drawbacks to Dragon Ball FighterZ if you are a hardcore fighting game fan. It is very cool that the story mode is one unique to the game, but inching your way through it is very taxing by the end. The fighting system is not difficult to understand and combos aren’t a sea of button presses either. However, for the casual audience and fans of the Dragon Ball Z or Dragon Ball Super animes just looking for a great game to play, this is the best Dragon Ball game ever made. There’s a lot of love given to the character animations, special attacks, and even in adding a special character for the story mode. Anyone can pick this up and compete with friends Marvel vs. Capcom style as well. Arc System Works has a ton of experience in the fighting game genre, and it shows in playing this game.
What stands out most about Dragon Ball FighterZ is the impact it had on gaming in 2018. It broke all sorts of records in being requested for fighting game tournaments to the point where tournaments that didn’t include it got a lot of backlash for it. Bandai Namco also supported it for the entire year with DLC. Not to mention, it completely overshadowed Bandai Namco’s more historic franchise Soul Calibur, which also released its sixth installment in 2018. DB FighterZ may not go down in the annals of time as a historic game, but it will certainly be a staple of fighting game tournaments for years to come. –Sean
14. Spyro: Reignited Trilogy
Release Date: November 13, 2018
Our fleet-footed, fiery and sassy purple dragon is back. Bigger and better than before. However, it’s not a totally new title within the Spyro franchise. Long speculated after the much loved remastered game of Crash Bandicoot, this game hit home for fans. It’s a remastered trilogy of the first three games: Spyro the Dragon, Spyro: Ripto’s Rage, and Spyro: Year of the Dragon. All remastered, clear graphics and beautiful animations. Different visuals, but all the same fun from before. Late ’90s Spyro looks even more handsome than before. Torching your foes with a slick comeback and blast of fire has never been this fun. –Tim
13. Astrobot: Rescue Mission
Platforms: PlayStation VR Only
Release Date: October 2, 2018
Astrobot: Rescue Mission uses a Sony mascot formerly of the free VR Playroom in an impressive and charming way. The setup is simple. You control one Astrobot and are charged with finding all the other Astrobots that are scattered across various worlds. There are usually eight or so in each level, and they could literally be anywhere in it. Sony Japan did a wonderful job making use of VR here. You’ll have to quickly learn to look around in all sorts of angles, including at times doing a total 180 to look behind you (which let me tell you isn’t great for your neck). Aside from the periodic minor inconvenience, Astrobot is a sweet and fun experience. Certainly one of my favorites of 2018.
There is light combat, but the purple enemy bots are merely there as window dressing. The actual difficulty is figuring out how to get each Astrobot. Some of them are up high or down low in secret areas and you can easily miss them. Thankfully, when you finish a level, the game lets you know how many Astrobots you nabbed., detailing clearly if you missed any or not. There are also coins to collect throughout levels. Not to mention, secret chameleons are hidden in each level as well. Collecting the chameleons opens up enjoyable bonus levels. Unless you just absolutely hate platformers, no game does a better job at selling the PSVR to someone like Astrobot does. –Sean
12. Forza Horizon 4
Platforms: Xbox One, PC, Also on Xbox Gamepass
Release Date: October 2, 2018
If having access to hundreds of games in one place doesn’t draw you into Xbox Gamepass, Forza Horizon 4 certainly will. This is much more than flashy cars and cool moments. Forza Horizon 4 nails the arcade racer in a variety of ways. Firstly, it has incredible scenery based mostly in Scotland. It is absolutely breathtaking to look at some of the famous buildings and compare them with their real-life counterparts. Playground Games did all of these big monuments justice for sure. The game also uses a slot machine mechanic to dole out cars in abundance. They could have easily filled this section with obtrusive microtransactions or even go the loot box route, but they didn’t. While you do earn money from completing challenges and races, you don’t necessarily have to spend it on new vehicles.
The changing seasons mechanic is not new in the series but is new for a base game. When you see it happen in front of you, it is certainly something to behold. But I mean, let’s be real, all of this is window dressing for many players. What you want to do is go racing.
Forza Horizon 4 just feels so good to play. Honestly, it is hard to describe in words. One minute you’ll be roaring through, a set piece happens, and then you keep on going and it all feels seamless. I’m not a racing game person, but it only took me a few races in Forza Horizon 4 to keep me glued for hours. Once it hooks you, you’ll want to keep coming back for more. Part of me still can’t believe that you can play such a great game for $10. –Sean
11. Dead Cells
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch
Release Date: August 7, 2018
Dead Cells, on the surface, looks like a game you have seen before. Here comes another indie Metroidvania. The distinct element put in by Motion Twin is that it’s a Roguelite., meaning if you die, you start all over and lose pretty much everything. However, Dead Cells doesn’t just want you to get better on each run. It wants to consistently change how you play it. The game has random generation so while it begins on one set path, it quickly changes causing you to be prepared or die. Trust me, you will die.
However, not all is lost; if you collect cells on your journey, you can use them to buy different weapons., meaning there’s a bigger chance they drop on your next run. Hopefully, inching you ever closer to the end.
Along that journey you encounter countless monsters you must slice and dice. While also making decisions as far as opening chests and taking divergent paths. If the hordes of enemies don’t kill you, one wrong choice just might. Dead Cells is punishing, perhaps a little too much. But each run keeps you on your toes and you learn a little more about what works, and what doesn’t work about your loadout. Similar to another game I discussed on this list, Dead Cells is for gamers that are patient and want to get better as they go. If you keep going, it rewards you with great combat, fun weapons, sweet music, and a truly special experience. –Sean
For Part 2 of the best video games of 2018, including games ten through one, click here.
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