For Part 1 of the best video games of 2018, click here.
The 20 Best Video Games of 2018, Part 2: 1-10
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.
Platforms: Mobile Only
Release Date: February 14, 2018
Florence is a game that takes literally 45 minutes or so to play from beginning to end. It’s a mobile game by a new developer named Mountains. I played it in one sitting while I was waiting for my shift to end at work. Thankfully, I was by myself because the waterworks I had to wipe away as I was hitting the “End Shift” button was rather hefty. Not because I’m ashamed of someone seeing me crying, but because I’d have to explain I was crying because of a video game. I already get enough flak for playing games and writing about them; my co-workers would probably think I’d sunk to a new low if they witnessed my sad emotional state.
Florence stars a 25-year-old Chinese-English girl named Florence Yeoh. You are taken through a year of her life in which you experience various moments. Some mundane things like brushing teeth and eating meals are paired together with conversations with her mother and the tale of meeting her first love, Krish. The developers use simple touchscreen controls to help you express all of these actions. For example, the conversations with Florence’s mother are painted as if her mother is a total bother and the dialogue options are presented as such, while the conversations with Krish show pictures of the two together, as you combine puzzle pieces to help further their interactions.
The two eventually hit it off and you see various facets of their relationship over a year’s time. Both find their dream careers, they move-in together, share a bed and develop a routine as you do in any relationship. Eventually, though, things hit a sour patch and you feel that in how the puzzle piece interactions change, or in seeing them arguing. Suffice to say, Florence being young, you can probably imagine what happens. Things don’t end all to well for Florence and Krish.
Honestly, though, this isn’t the type of game that I could really spoil. How it impacts you is totally dependent on your own life experiences. You’ll either wind up like me just feeling all sorts of emotions once it ends, or it will do nothing for you, you’ll hit the uninstall button, and be on your merry way. But the core of Florence is about relationships and what those connections mean to us. Florence’s life that you play through is something many of us have experienced and it is a totally relatable story. I’ve been on both sides of the divide and I started feeling pains flashing back to those same moments that I went through. Not to mention, it also made me reflect on the relationship I have with my own mother. Not every game has to be this huge AAA experience to stick with you. Florence shows how powerful video game stories can be, even if its one that you play with the simplest of touches. –Sean
Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Release Date: January 25, 2018
One could easily mistake Celeste for just a platformer. It is much more than that. Celeste tells the story of Madeline, who is climbing a mountain. The journey across said mountain is a treacherous one, filled with all kinds of perils and challenges along the way. This is another game in a long line that came out in 2018 that seeks to test your will to power through. Unlike the others though, developer Matt Makes Games uses Madeline and her other half to tell a much larger story.
You see Madeline experience anxiety and depression throughout her journey. Every success or failure, triumph or death helps symbolize our own struggles with those two things. Madeline also has a separate part of her that is constantly telling her “you aren’t good enough” and “you can’t do it.” Something I’ve dealt with in the past and I probably get anxiety to this day about my father or someone else in my life telling me I chose the wrong career path.
Aside from its message, Celeste is an excellent platformer that certainly pushes you to the limit, but it is never unfair. It teaches you exactly what you have to do to get through it, but it is up to you to face the odds and rise to the challenge. Don’t fret though, Celeste features a highly programmable Assist Mode that lets you make the game as easy as you want. Matching its message, the game never makes you feel bad for using it and just goes on as if nothing changed. If a challenge is right up your alley, the game also features some wicked B-Side bonus levels that will test your mettle even more.
Before moving on, I would be remiss if I didn’t discuss the wonderful soundtrack by Lena Raine. It matches the game’s message and tone extremely well, moseying along with some upbeat notes and then falling into more downtrodden fair when things get difficult. The soundtrack is so good that you can feel emotions even when listening to it without playing the game. But of course, it is even better while taking Madeline up Celeste Mountain, something I hope anyone reading gets to experience very soon. –Sean
8. Tetris Effect
Platforms: PlayStation 4, PlayStation VR
Release Date: November 9, 2018
Tetsuya Miziguchi is a developer that tries to craft not just games, but full-on experiences. He did that with his previous works in Rez and Lumines. In fact, Lumines Remastered actually also came out in 2018, and it is a great game all on its own.
But Miziguchi created his magnum opus by taking a well-established game and adding his vision for gaming to it. Enter Tetris Effect. Yes, you could say “but that’s just Tetris.” You aren’t wrong in a sense, but that’s not giving Miziguchi credit for what he put around Tetris that makes it completely worthwhile. This would be the “Effect.”
The tetrominoes are cued to the music. Each level starts out the same where you just clear-out lines. Slowly, as the lines clear, you begin hearing more and more sound emanating from the blocks until you clear about 10 or so lines and the music fully kicks in and a full song plays along with the tetrominoes clashing against each other.
Tetris Effect is also another game that benefits greatly from its VR mode. Put on the PSVR headset, and you’ll see the level become a being all of its own with manta rays or dolphins flying across the screen. Lights flash and other crazy things happen as you keep clearing lines. Each level has a theme, special tetrominoes, and a song that goes with it. There’s great variety in all of that, and if you don’t want the flashy stuff, you can also just turn on the traditional Tetris blocks and still have the effects happen around you. Include a full suite of extra modes and ways to play Tetris, and you have something that sets Tetris Effect into its own stratosphere. The only negative is that it doesn’t feature multiplayer, as Miziguchi designed it as an immersive experience that’s meant for one player to play and others to enjoy watching. Although it is a much better game in VR, it is still a great game outside of it as well. –Sean
7. Pokémon Let’s Go: Pikachu and Eevee
Platforms: Nintendo Switch Only
Release Date: November 16, 2018
Combine Pokémon Go, Generation One of Pokémon, put it all on the Nintendo Switch, and voila, you got Pokémon Let’s Go: Pikachu and Eevee. One of the best selling games of 2018, it features an almost remastered version of Pokémon Red and Blue, with some added twists in it. However, instead of the usual Bulbasaur, Charmander and Squirtle, you get a chance at two new partners. Pikachu and Eevee are your best buddies. Ability to catch Pokémon with the console, Alolan forms, Mega Evolution, shiny forms galore! The list goes on and on detailing how great both games are. –Tim
Pokemon will always have a special place in my heart. It was the series that introduced me to and at the same time cemented my life-long love of JRPGs. I’ll never forget my grandparents getting me the last copies available of both Pokemon Red and Blue at our local Toys’R’Us. I played both games for hours, even hiding in my closet on school nights to play it. So anytime I can go back to Kanto and relive those days is fine by me.
I’ll admit I’m also the target audience Nintendo was aiming at with Pokemon Let’s Go Pikachu & Eevee, an old Pokemon fan who also has a child and is ready to go on a nostalgia-filled trip down Pocket Monster memory lane. Having my daughter with me to high-five and jump and down with as we experienced the sheer joy and absolute sadness that is catching Pokemon is priceless. It is a testament to Game Freak that they figured out the perfect way to incorporate the Pokemon Go catching mechanic into a core Pokemon game. I honestly hope we are given this as an option with the Generation eight Pokemon title releasing at some point in 2019.
However, what makes this Pokemon title special is that it is the first time a core Pokemon game has the creatures on screen for everyone to see. The previous games relied on random encounters where you just walk through the grass and they suddenly attack you. Pokemon Let’s Go changes that, making it where you choose which Pokemon to catch and which ones you’d rather leave alone. Although, you are rewarded for catching multiples of the same Pokemon if you so wish. Each Pokemon is animated amazingly well and even given their very own walking animation if you choose to have one walk behind you during the journey.
There’s just so much love given to the recreation of Pokemon Yellow that it is so hard to not get engulfed in it. Everything from the towns to the trainers, gym leaders, and battles all have a different life to them you just don’t get in the previous Pokemon games.
I also have to mention how special the developers made Pikachu and Eevee feel. They truly are like having a pet that is with you every step of the way. Pikachu and Eevee are totally adorable, and the way they animate so many special scenes and moments with them is very touching. Sure, this game is much easier than previous Pokemon titles. The grind isn’t as heavy. But sometimes it is ok to step back and appreciate all of the little things. Whether this is your first Pokemon game, or you’ve played them all, Pokemon Let’s Go is worth playing on its own. –Sean
6. Return of the Obra Dinn
Platforms: PC Only
Release Date: October 18, 2018
The term “unique” gets thrown around a lot, many times concentrating on something you won’t find in another piece of work or a specific thing in art that is different from another. Then there’s Return of the Obra Dinn.
Welcome to the most unique gaming experience of 2018. Developer Lucas Pope is no stranger to this nomenclature, as he also made another darling game called Papers Please. There’s just something special about Obra Dinn. The way it takes such a mundane premise and makes it both thought-provoking and head-scratching at the same time. The way it blends old-timey visuals with just the right amount of sound. It all works together in a special blend that churns out a deduction game for the ages.
Seriously, Lucas Pope may have just started a genre all his own here. In Return of the Obra Dinn, you play as an insurance adjuster for the East India Trade Company. Set in the 1800s, you are hurriedly thrust onto a ship called the Obra Dinn. Here, you must find out what happened to each crew member so that your employer can know how much to give each of the affected families. You do this by using a special watch that sends you back in time and lets you hear and see the moments just before a crew member’s untimely death. It is up to you to piece all of this together.
The beauty of Return of the Obra Dinn is in the subtle ways it lets you know causes of death, certain events, and other important information. Details are very important, so get ready to pull out a journal and do some writing. Some moments are even connected to other separate ones that you may find in other chapters. Sure, you could use a FAQ or Youtube walkthrough and figure this all out quickly, but where’s the fun in that?
Not everyone likes detective games, but even if you don’t, there’s just something enrapturing about piecing together a big story bit by bit. A certain sound plays anytime you’ve figured something out keeping you motivated to continue trudging through. This is one of my favorite experiences of 2018. The only sad thing is that Obra Dinn is PC only at the moment. So console primary gamers may not be able to give it a chance, but, hopefully, it comes to Switch or another console soon, so more gamers can try it out in 2019. –Sean
5. Marvel’s Spider-Man
Platforms: PlayStation 4 Only
Release Date: September 7, 2018
Insomniac Games has a rich history of great games under its belt. Although, perhaps none were quite as daunting as trying to hit the right notes and create a Spider-Man game that stands above the rest. They had so many decisions to make it was quite the unenviable task, to say the least. The best decision they made was to start Peter Parker’s story well into his career as the web-slinger instead of making yet another origin story that we’ve seen way too many times over the years.
Marvel’s Spider-Man plays much like other games in the lineage before it. Sling around New York City, and defend it from the crime happening inside it. Various super-villains, such as the Sinister Six and Mr. Negative, try to make this difficult. Thankfully, Spidey has upgradeable gear, gadgets, and his fists to make mincemeat out of his foes. If fighting the big bads isn’t quite your deal, there are plenty of things to collect around NYC. The best part is that none of it feels arduous or stupid. Insomniac did a tremendous job in always keeping the game enjoyable no matter what you are doing.
When you aren’t enjoying the sights or fighting the baddies, there’s a wonderful story in Marvel’s Spider-Man. The game features a terrific voice cast led by Yuri Lowenthal as Peter Parker and Laura Bailey as Mary Jane Watson. Peter and Mary Jane are the two central characters, as Spider-Man has to deal with real-life issues that plague him just as much as Mr. Negative does. The story is one of the best parts about Spider-Man, so I won’t delve too much into it, but as icing on the cake, they also do a great job of telling Doctor Octavius’ story as well. The thing I’ll remember most about Marvel’s Spider-Man though is how much fun I had in playing it for about 30 hours. It’s without a doubt my favorite game of 2018 and probably the best Spider-Man game ever. –Sean
4. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
Platforms: Nintendo Switch Only
Release Date: December 7, 2018
This game was the final culmination that is 2018, the end-all video game that would end all others, put the rest to shame. For the Smash Bros. community, it has been a long time since their last game. But now, bigger and better, and even more characters. Sakurai has created one of the nest video games yet. Critical acclaim, one of the fastest selling games of all time, over 50 characters (74 to be exact). And even more characters will be added in the coming year. Sakurai might as well just raise the character count to 100 just for the hell of it. Visually stunning, awesome characters and excellent gameplay. It’s fun for all ages and demographics. –Tim
It is still amazing to me that Nintendo managed to get every single character ever in a previous Smash game back for this one. Then, they went and added in more characters and are doing DLC as well. 74 playable characters is a ton for fighting games, let alone Smash Bros. Thankfully, Nintendo lets you unlock characters by playing the game in any mode, or even by turning off the system and restarting the 10-minute clock. However you want to do it, have fun. You’ll certainly have plenty of that with friends or family, locally anyway. The online mode is still a mess.
Nintendo even added in the ambitious singleplayer mode called World of Light, which is incredibly long for a fighting game. You can easily clock-in around 25 hours to get everything it has to offer. My heart goes out to anyone that had to review the game. Playing World of Light straight through had to be mind-numbing. This is because there are a ridiculous amount of spirits from almost any game you can imagine that have previously been on a Nintendo console. Honestly, spirit mode is a little too obtuse for its own good.
Most players will probably just hit the optimize button and not think about it all that much. The best part of World of Light is the fights to unlock spirits. Nintendo tried their best to mirror what it would be like to fight that specific character and some of them are downright hilarious. Thankfully, the Nintendo Switch is portable and you can go through World of Light at your own pace, making it a much better experience that way.
And if you don’t want to play the game, you can listen to some incredible music instead. Trust me, you should do that at least once, as Smash Bros. probably has the greatest non-licensed song soundtrack of all-time. Nintendo was not kidding when they decided to give this game the subtitle of “Ultimate.” They certainly delivered on their promise. –Sean
3. Monster Hunter: World
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC
Release Date: January 26, 2018
One of the crown jewels of the Capcom franchise, Monster Hunter: World ushered in a new age of video games. Stunning visuals, an excellent storyline, a brand new way to tackle RPG style games. You play the typical role of a hunter, but this time, it’s taken to a whole new level. Announced at E3 in 2017, the previews alone took the world by storm. New monsters, new quests and new environments. This game even saw the return of fan favorites such as Rathalos. Being a monster slayer has never been more fun. –Tim
Capcom finally did it. They took one of their biggest series, streamlined it, and made it mainstream. However, don’t be fooled, this doesn’t mean the challenges aren’t there. They certainly are, and there are still many quality of life changes Capcom could make for the better including its ridiculous cutscene and password system during multiplayer.
All that said, Monster Hunter: World is the most accessible Monster Hunter title ever. It takes things that used to be completely obtrusive and makes them much less so. Due to these changes, this became my first Monster Hunter game. I still feel like I have a ton of things to learn, but through trial and error, some reading, and death I’ve slowly gotten better.
More so than Into the Breach, Dead Cells, and Celeste, Monster Hunter: World will test your patience like nothing else you’ll play from 2018. It only takes a few bad choices and you’ll find yourself wiped out by a monster. However, if you take the time to study attack patterns, find a weapon that fits your playstyle, and learn a monster’s weaknesses, the next time you face it, you’ll be better prepared for what lies ahead. To be fair, this is still a daunting undertaking for a newcomer. However, what sets Monster Hunter: World apart is that the story mode actually teaches you some of these mechanics. So it is not just left on you to read a bunch of FAQs or Reddit posts.
Although, I’d still recommend not playing Monster Hunter: World alone. Coordinating with a friend or another online player is still the best way to defeat some of these gigantic beasts. There may not be a more satisfying multiplayer experience out there than when you and some friends take down a Kirin or a Rathalos. It is a very awesome moment to see all the hard work pay off.
Outside of the gameplay, Monster Hunter: World‘s environment and atmosphere are special. The monsters survive off each other in a very realistic way. Seeing a huge beast come and just devour a smaller one is not uncommon. Although, it never ceases to be unsightly.
The music also stands out, especially in heated moments when a battle is ratcheting up to a climax. Capcom also supported Monster Hunter: World with free DLC drops and cool crossovers like the Final Fantasy XIV Behemoth hunt. All of these things together help make Monster Hunter: World one of this year’s best. And with the Monster Hunter World: Iceborne expansion coming in Fall 2019, now is a good time try it out. –Sean
2. Red Dead Redemption 2
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Release Date: October 26, 2018
No game released in 2018 has attracted such a divisive reaction from players like Red Dead Redemption 2. Even some of the same game critics that started out saying RDR2 was a 10 out of 10 have backtracked and hit some type of wall with the game, while others have spent countless hours in RDR2‘s realistic western world and enjoyed every single second.
Unfortunately, I fall into the former camp. Red Dead 2 just wasn’t for me. I’ve never been a fan of westerns. The first Red Dead Redemption was rather slow, and its prequel, RDR2, is even slower paced than that. There is a fast travel system, but the game certainly encourages you to use the slow method instead.
Removing myself from the equation, RDR2 has a huge, mostly highly realistic, sprawling open world. There’s constantly something to do, bordering on way too much. Although the economy is sort of broken, if you want to, you can hunt for pelts, fish, feed and groom your horse, get involved in numerous sidequests, help or hurt pretty much any soul that wanders into your path, or just do nothing at all.
When you want to progress the story, go to your camp and talk to Dutch, who’s one of the many well-voiced characters in the game. Roger Clark does a fantastic job voicing the main character Arthur Morgan. The best part of Red Dead 2 is its story, which features big-time set pieces, touching tender moments, and fleshed out characters through its long journey.
If you are totally fine with RDR2‘s languishing pace and want to learn more about Arthur Morgan’s trials and tribulations, get ready for a ton of systems to learn. None of them are hard or anything, but it just feels overly complicated for no reason. That aside, I look at Red Dead 2 from a viewpoint of appreciation.
Rockstar put a lot of effort into RDR2 and it plainly shows. I should also mention that the music in RDR2 is some of the best in any game released in 2018 especially once you get to the spoken word songs. Even the instrumental tracks set the mood well and are key parts of the somber and intense moments in the story. So, whether you’ve always wanted to live out your cowboy fantasy, or you just want to go find a vampire, you can do both in Red Dead Redemption 2, and that’s pretty cool. –Sean
1. God of War
Platforms: PlayStation 4 Only
Release Date: April 20, 2018
I‘m probably one of the few people that never got tired of God of War. I loved that I could just have a video game that let me kick some ass, get stronger, and solve some puzzles. But much like Kratos, I grew up in that time between the first few God of War adventures and the current one. I went to college, had a daughter, got married, then divorced, but in all of that, I quickly had to change gears and understand what it was like to care for others. I didn’t get to finish college, so I had to find any job I could to keep us from being homeless, and living paycheck to paycheck working at a grocery store brought challenges, hardships, and certainly its own share of problems.
The God of War series and Kratos were in need of a change too. Cory Barlog and his team at Sony Santa Monica brought about that change by taking Kratos out of Greece and moving him into a different mythology altogether. One of the Nordic variety. However, this was not all that’s happened since God of War 3.
The rebooted God of War features an older Kratos who has lived through his rough past, witnessed the death of his second wife, and suddenly found himself as a Dad to a young boy named Atreus. A far cry from the days when Kratos was an asshole just killing anything that got in his way. While the setup for this new God of War is that Kratos and Atreus agree to spread Faye’s ashes on a certain mountain, the story goes deep beyond that basic premise and finds numerous feelings hidden beneath Kratos’ hardened exterior. God of War tells one of the best tales of redemption gaming has ever seen.
I don’t want to spoil anything, so let’s just say the story is totally worth playing through. And there are numerous callbacks, hints, and other things for GoW veterans, although you don’t really need to understand the series at all to enjoy this game by itself.
If that didn’t entice you, perhaps the combat might. Kratos now carries an ax instead of the Blades of Chaos. I mean, he’s in Viking territory now, it kinda makes sense. Seriously, nothing in gaming this year is more satisfying than the sound that ax makes when it comes back into Kratos’ hands.
Atreus is also handy with a bow, and he makes quite the helpful party member when you are in a tough spot too. Aside from his important part in the story, Atreus is never annoying from a gameplay perspective (like all children, even your own, he does get bratty at certain points narrative-wise). This could have easily gone all sorts of wrong, but I found myself relying heavily on Atreus at times, and there are even certain battles where you absolutely need him.
All of the main weapons are upgradeable and have skill trees so you certainly make progress through combat. The world around Kratos has plenty to do once it opens up, and there are sidequests that can lead you through all sorts of corridors, caverns, and into optional big boss fights too. Also, don’t be afraid to let people talk, including the severed head that accompanies Kratos and Atreus. You’ll catch tiny morsels of narrative or just interesting stories about the Nordic mythology or the world Kratos inhabits this way.
However, this isn’t everything that makes God of War stand out above the rest. All of God of War is shot with a single camera that sits behind Kratos the entire time. Seamlessly moving from one big moment, with them still in the frame, into a fight, into a story moment, and back again. It is absolutely nuts how they could do this for an entire game but it works flawlessly.
The score in the game is top notch too. When you combine all of this together in one game that isn’t ridiculously bloated or way too long, it shows that Sony Santa Monica knew “ok that’s enough.” But if you want to explore more, there are optional things to do and also New Game Plus as well.
Between Kratos’ redemption story, the satisfying combat, the technical achievements, it all comes together to create one fantastic game that now sets a new bar for singleplayer sequels. I just hope we don’t have to wait five years for the next God of War game. –Sean
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