Welp, 2018 is almost over. As far as how 2018 was when compared to 2017, it certainly doesn’t seem to have as many significant titles as the past year. Certainly this year we got games with amazing receptions such as God of War, Red Dead Redemption 2, Marvel’s Spider-Man, Monster Hunter World and so on. But it feels like the grand sum of 2018’s catalogue of games won’t be a memorable as 2017 where we had Breath of the Wild, Super Mario Odyssey, Nier Automata, Horizon Zero Dawn, PUBG, Cuphead, Persona 5, Resident Evil 7 and many more games that garnished amazing receptions and changed the landscape of the video game market to this day. Weirdly enough, it’s a bit telling the most popular game in 2018 is a game that started in Early Access from 2017 (Fortnite).
Of course I don’t want come off too harsh on 2018 as I think on its own its a very strong year for the industry. Certainly PS4 and XBOX 1 owners got to enjoy some amazing 1st and 3rd party titles. Coming from a Switch owner, it was a let down year from Nintendo as their first party output had loads of enhanced Wii U ports and there weren’t that many entirely new Switch games from Nintendo this year. Thankfully the indie scene for the Switch (and overall this year) was amazing as most of my time was spent playing great indie games. Not too mention third party support is also getting better for the Switch and there were a few solid 3rd party games that I really enjoyed. Sure if I had a PS4, it would be great to get a chance to play games like God of War, Hitman 2, Spider-Man and Tetris Effect and those titles would greatly affect the list I currently have. However, I’m still very happy with the list I got and can say from experience these are my 10 favorite games from 2018!
Though quickly before I get into the top 10, I want to make some quick shoutouts to some old games I played this year. Last year I had my own write-ups on these old games and why I enjoyed them so much. This time to save energy, I’m going to just have a bullet list of old games I’ve played and a little note about each. So here we go:
- Steamworld Heist: Secretly one of the best Turn Based Strategy games out there. Its like a 2D XCOM but you are in control of your aim, not a random %.
- Gorogoa: A beautiful and innovation puzzler. Would have been in my top 2017 games.
- Sonic Mania: A good Sonic game finally. Also would have been on my 2017 list.
- Breath of the Wild: Need to play this more, but I respect the heck out of its design and the freedom it gives the player.
- Hollow Knight: 5 hours in and would have played more of it had it not been for one of 2018’s games.
- DOOM: Early, but seems good on Switch
- Mario + Rabbids: Also super early but it seems solid.
- Lumines Remastered: I may not have Tetris Effect, but I have the precursor to it and Lumines is dope.
I’ll also bullet note 2018 games are basically honorable mentions:
- Wizard of Legend
- Jackbox Party Pack 5
- Crossing Souls (This one I got super late and still playing)
- Mario Tennis Aces
- Donut County
- Bloodstained Curse of the Moon
- Shapeshifting Detective: OK, this one I want to talk about a bit because its technically #11. The ability to transform into different suspects to squeeze out essential info to solve a murder is novel. However compared to another FMV game Contradiction, getting info by pretending to be the suspects is just not as satisfying as spotting a lie where it feels good to call out the suspects’ fallacies. Though the performances from mutual Contradiction actors Rupert Booth and Anarosa De Elizaguirre Butler are great as well as the rest of the cast. Its certainly worth a shot or two (there are different murderers in every playthrough) just to see the story and the cast's endearing performances. Though a special shout out goes to Esmonde Cole for his portrayal of the smooth but creepy Zak Weston.
And without further ado, here is my top 10 games of 2018 which consist of games I played on the Switch except for one.
10. Dragon Ball FighterZ:
Weirdly enough I was never much of a Dragon Ball fan and I’ve casually enjoyed the Marvel 2-3 style of tag fighters. Wasn’t expecting this game to make it onto my list (or even come to Switch before E3) but here we are. I have the game that stars 4 Gokus and 3 Vegetas in my top 10. Arc System Works certainly know how to make some lookers as they applied their graphics engine from the Guilty Gear Xrd games for Dragon Ball. The iconic anime transitioned perfectly from 2D to 3D while still maintaining the Toriyama art style. Not to mention the game feels very accessible for a tag fighter as you can land auto combos at ease and be able to land supers frequently. This was all done on Joy cons too, which work surprisingly well. Certainly the best way to play this game is online multiplayer as you bring your best team and see if you can best your opponent. I’m not good at this game. I’ve lost almost every single fight I’ve fought in yet I still had a blast playing. I’ve only won 2 online games total. One was on a nail biter where I chipped away at a win by Dragon Rushing a Goku with Vegeta. I used a light combo to earn the KO with a sliver of health left with everyone else knocked out and it felt amazing!
DBFZ would be higher if its story mode was much better. I don’t mind the actual story as I enjoyed watching the cutscenes and found myself enamored by Dragon Ball’s English voice cast. But man, the gameplay part is a drag. Having to constantly beat up fodder clones gets tiresome and the fact that the game will have you do tutorials at the start of some matches over and over made it worse. Despite my qualms with Story mode, Dragon Ball FighterZ is still a great fighter and hopefully licensing won’t kill it in the pro scene.
9. Mega Man 11:
Remember Mega Man? A classic Capcom franchise that got its birth on the NES that many people had been clamoring for a modern entry for years now? Well Mighty No. 9 was supposed to fill in the gap back in 2016 and MAN…that is one of biggest PR and gaming fiascos ever. 2 years later, Capcom decided F it, you Mega Man fans will finally get a modern game. It won’t have 8 bit graphics like 9 and 10 but rather a new visual style where its 3D graphics on a 2D plane. Guess What? Capcom did the Blue Bomber justice. All 8 stages for the robot masters are memorable as they have strong level design that’s perfectly themed to the masters’ gimmicks. Each also have some classic Mega Man challenge that will get some people stirred up, but will remind long time MM fans of the classics. It even changes things up with the Gear system, which while some claimed it was unnecessary; I actually found the system effective. Speed Gear is a God Send for having to speed past obstacles (Torch Man’s creeping fire wall NEEDED that Speed Gear) and the Power Gear complements Mega’s weapon arsenal if used smartly. Speaking of which, while the Metal Blade from Mega Man 2 remains the best Mega Man weapon, almost every weapon in this game (excluding that crappy Acid Barrier) has a strong case being on a list of top 10 Mega Man weapons. The Block Drop was my favorite as it can take out enemies far away within the screen and even decimate mini bosses or Spiner Joe Walkers swiftly. The Tundra Storm is also great as with the Power Gear it can clear a room of enemies but it eats lots of juice. I even managed to beat the game 2 times with the first being on Casual difficulty and then Normal to get more of a challenge. Mega Man 11 is a nice return to form for the super-fighting robot and hopefully Capcom can build on 11’s pros for an improved sequel.
8. Dead Cells:
It’s weird with my connection with Dead Cells. I haven’t been able to beat it nor I’m not sure if I’ll get good enough to beat the game in any run at all. Yet I find myself revisiting the game over and over mainly because of how much fun it is running around as some animate corpse killing undead armies. Dead Cells is definitely one of the best feeling games I’ve played, as the combat feels so fluid. It always feels satisfying when you get a speed boost after garnishing a streak of kills on any poor zombie or archer that got crushed by either a back stab from an Assassin’s Dagger or from a stomp attack. Plus all the weapons and traps are so much fun to toy around with. You might do ok using a Blood Sword with a Cross Bow-O-Matic that causes bleeding or an Oiled Sword with a Wolf Trap and Fire Grenades to scorch foes at higher temperatures. You progress through each level by collecting money from your victims and use whatever weapons you buy or find on your way to the next stage. You’ll also get cells, which serve as the most important source of economy as they can unlock perks such as improved healing flasks, new weapons and mutations that you use to alter your approach of clearing a run. Plus the daily challenge is certainly a frustrating but a nice addition to the game as you can really test yourself to see how far you can go before some stupid Slashers spot you and slice you to death. Plus replay value is high as you can explore new levels in new runs to find Runes that also enhance Dead Cells Guy in the current and future runs. Dead Cells is not an easy game and you will die a lot. However the way it handles progression is very satisfying as you maintain any runes from past runs and gain access to the weapons and mutations you unlocked. Even if I haven’t perfected a run, I’ve occasionally came back for more just to unlock new stuff and see how far I can go.
7. Yoku’s Island Express:
Perhaps a game that couldn’t be more of a stark contrast to Dead Cells. One is an action roguelike (some call it a metroidvania but I disagree) where you have to kill hordes or enemies on a 2D plane to slay an evil leader or you die. The other merges pinball and metroidvanias into a colorful and adorable marriage of genres and you can’t die. Yoku’s Island Express is one of the most unique games I’ve played, as you are a chipper Dung Beetle named Yoku who becomes a mailman for this tropical island. Problem is that there is a demon called the God Eater whose consuming the souls of the Gods that power the island. While the job situation appears to be stressful, this is actually quite a chill game. As you try to save the island, you explore the island in a metroidvania manner but much of the time you’ll find yourself inside a pinball table that the island has a rich supply of that is smartly interwoven with how you traverse the land. There’s also little penalty in failing a table as you’ll lose some fruit (the game’s economy) and then you try again. You need to find the 3 cheiftains of the island who can help save the remaining god, but you are also doing your job delivering mail to the locals in the meantime. Yoku travels the island with a white sphere that’s attached to him and flippers will fling around the ball to collect more fruit or help Yoku explore the map. It’s been awhile since I played pinball, but the pinball physics in Yoku feel spot on. Also the game has some fun upgrades ranging from a party whistle that can break objects that hold fruit (best upgrade of 2018) to a slug vaccum that sucks in explosive slugs and you can use their explosions to launch Yoku onto a higher platform. It’s certainly not a long game to beat, but I was at 50% when I beat the main story and did plenty of side quests and activities afterwards. Yoku’s Island Express is a charming game with lovely artwork, characters and music. But it shows how talented a studio like Villa Gorilla is by creating such a strange combination of genres and excels at mixing those 2 into an outstanding gem!
Going further on charming, colorful indie games that are very lax in design but somewhat intense on story, we have Wandersong. This is an adventure and music game hybrid where you are a bard and have a dream where you’re told the world is ending, and he is not the chosen hero to fulfill a prophecy to end the current universe and start a new one from scratch. Even if you’re not the chosen one, you are still determined to save the universe not through strength or guts, but through the power of song in a joyous but fairly easy adventure. Its very much an adventure game on a 2D plane as you will talk to numerous NPC’s to learn about them and do quests that will feel reminiscent of Point and Click adventures (minus the pointing and clicking). But the singing mechanic is crucial and it gets lots of mileage throughout the game as you use the right joy con stick to move in 8 directions with different pitches. You can sing in a pattern to scare off ghosts that are haunting a town. You can create songs on you own to help shopkeepers sing a marketable jingle. You can even sing out responses in conversations or just sing to someone as they are talking to you. The singing itself can be crucial for platforming-ish puzzles such as using singing to get a plant to grow and help you reach a far away ledge. It’s astonishing that there’s such a variety of ways the singing mechanic is utilized throughout the game. Not to mention the game has a colorful Paper Mario atheistic with adorable characters and witty writing throughout your journey. Combining all of these elements together made me feel like I was actually playing a musical or moreso a play. You are enjoying the music and the singing of the bard but you actually get quite invested in a game where its message is to stay positive to fix problems, even if things are looking grim in the grand scheme of things. Its truly one of the most criminally underrated games of 2018 and I say if you like adventure games as well as music games, Wandersong is worth a look.
Oh and two more things. One, for a game that specializes in song, the soundtrack is quite good. Secondly, it has a dedicated dance button for the bard to perform various dances at any time. More games need this feature.
5. Octopath Traveler:
I’m someone who has little to no experience with JRPG’s. I’ve certainly played a lot of Pokémon when I was young and got into turn based strategy games and Tactical RPGs on the GBA such as Advance Wars and FF Tactics Advanced. But I can’t say I’ve dived deep into many JRPG’s until I played Octopath Traveler. This is a gorgeous game for the Switch where it evokes a classic SNES JRPG look with sprites walking around in a 3D plane that makes this game look like a pop up book. Not to mention this has an incredible soundtrack that really puts OST’s from other SE RPG’s (DQ 11) to shame. Man, Decisive Battle 2 w/ Tressa and Grandport are so good. But thankfully the gameplay was what got me hooked due to the job system and the combat. I started with H’iaant the Huntress as her initial job has her do special bow based attacks and provide team perks such as increased aim (and she alone can attack enemies with captured animals). She and the other party members can get a second job and I gave her the Cleric job for her to heal a battered team. The combat itself is plenty of fun as each enemy and boss has their own weaknesses. You need to test out which weapons and magic are strong against those enemies to break their shield and stun them and then decide to buff your team or finish off the foe. The path actions are also really fun ways. They can give you advantages such as having Theiron the Thief take a chance to steal a strong weapon or have Tressa the Merchant buy that weapon in a noble manner. Sometimes they can be used to learn about the NPC’s such as Alfyn’s Inquire action. Also each character has talents that can make the experience more enjoyable. Cyrus’ “Study Foe” talent determines one weakness of a group of enemies before the battle begins, making things a little easier. Now I heard people were disappointed with the lack of interaction and the individual stories not being all that memorable. I agree there should have been more party member communication besides the optional banters, but other than certain chapters (Tressa’s chapter 4 was a wet fart of a plot conclusion) I rather enjoyed my time playing through many of these individual stories. It made for optimal short play sessions from 30 to 90 minutes. Weirdly enough this is also my most played game of 2018 as I’ve clocked in 60 hours and beat 3 individual stories. Some JRPG experts will scoff at my playtime but I don’t care. I think that despite its flaws, Octopath Traveler is a fantastic RPG for newcomers and veterans of the genre.
4. Super Smash Bros Ultimate:
What can I say? I love Smash Bros. I’ve enjoyed playing this series with family and friends since it started on the N64. While this Smash Bros might be missing modes from past games (No breaks the targets? AND NO BOARD THE PLATFORMS STILL!?!?) I’d say this still lives up to the Ultimate title. This game brought back EVERY. SINGLE. SMASH. CHARACTER. FROM. EVERY. ENTRY. Those madmen brought back freaking Pichu from Melee! They got Snake to return from Brawl! Everyone is actually here! Plus the game offers its own new characters ranging from the tricky but powerful King K Rool to the whip and ax wielding range of Simon and Richter Belmont. It also has 103 stages from Smash’s history and countless amounts of music from different game franchises. It even has a surprisingly fun single player mode with World of Light. This mode has you fight a series of puppet fighters that each has a spirit of non-playable characters with specific references to that NPC. One of these fights could be against a Ken fighter with a Dan spirit and Ken will constantly taunt at you. You can even unlock these spirits and use them in your favor when fighting. I can finally have Kirby, Rabbids and MGS together at last by having Kirby as my fighter but attacked with a Rabbid Kong spirit and a Hal Emmerich support spirit just to get a beam sword.
But Smash Bros shines as always with Multiplayer. Smash has always been a game my brother and I have played since its start in 1999 and this interaction has some fantastic options. You can still play local Smash fights with Stock, Time or Stamina modes (but c’mon, Stock is THE MODE) but the new multiplayer modes add so much more to the multiplayer. Smashdown is awesome to play as a specific character once and then move on to a new person so you aren’t force to stick with your main. But Squad Strike is my favorite as you pick a team of 3-5 characters and take out your opponents King of Fighters style and force your foe to fight as someone else after one character is KO’d until one team wins. It’s a great reminder on why I’ve loved the Smash Bros series since I was young. While some modes are missing, this game lives up to the “Ultimate” moniker and its certainly been a game my brother and I have played nonstop once again.
3. Return of the Obra Dinn:
Here it is! The one NOT-Switch game that cracked my top 10. But for real this is one of the most unique and meticulously crafted games I’ve ever played. Return of the Obra Dinn is a game where you are an insurance adjuster and you see that a lost East India Trading Company ship named the Obra Dinn has been sighted near England. You are tasked to find out what fines need to be determined on the 60 man crew of the Obra DInn. However, some worse stuff had happened to that crew 5 years after it left England and you have a compass that lets you time travel to a victim’s exact moment of their death. Here you have to study the cause of that person’s death, who that person was by name and job title and who or what killed them. From the first corpse you see, this turns into a very intricate puzzle game where you need to study almost every detail of the scene of the death to find out who died at that moment and how. You need to study the area of where they died. You need to examine the lines of speech before you get to the scene of death to see if you get the name of the victim or a witness of the death. It’s also highly recommended to listen to the voices of these people as this ship had many different people from numerous countries and sometimes they could speak their native language or speak in an accent. There are so many details to analyze while you are figuring out the fates of all 60 people on this ship that has gone thru literal Hell. Plus the way it tells its story is very unconventional, but effective as it shows you one of the major climaxes of the tale very early on. Heck, you’re given a book where you determine the fates of the 60 people and the first body you find dies in the final chapter of the book. Plus this game has an incredible sense of style as it’s a 3D game using 1-bit graphics that is meant to evoke classic 1980’s Macintosh gaming. The Music definitely doesn’t sound like a 1980’s Macintosh game, but the score has a nautical and haunting sound to it that it soon becomes music that won’t leave your head. Though don’t come into this thinking it’s a horror game because you will witness plenty of gruesome deaths, but you are never in danger of being killed yourself. Still, Return of the Obra Dinn is one of the smartest and masterfully designed games I’ve ever played and highly recommend it to anyone who loves detective or puzzle titles.
2. Into the Breach:
The best roguelite game I’ve ever played and also one of the best strategy games ever. It’s also a really good puzzle game if you treat the layout of the 8 by 8 tile grid like a tile puzzle game. Anyways, Into the Breach freaking rules. Its got such an addictive gameplay loop where you have to use a set of 3 mechs specialized in different forms of combat and defense, clear a set of islands and see if you can destroy the hive of the building hungry Vek to save what’s left of civilization. Unlike most other strategy games where the objective is to kill all the enemies, you need to prioritize saving the buildings to keep the power grid up. You’ll need to figure out how to keep the buildings safe by not only killing any Vek, but pushing them away from their target since the Vek always choreograph their attacks for the next turn after their initial attacks. There area also Bonus objectives that aren’t mandatory, but you’ll get rewards that will help you in a run you’re trying to compelte. Plus your mechs are extremely versatile in doing this job depending on what you use. The Electric Mech was my favorite as that with the building chain core can chain all the Vek (and allies if in the chain) near buildings and can decimate the Vek while the buildings are unharmed. The Jet Mech is also good for just dropping a bomb on an enemy and smoke dispenses to cancel attacks. There are plenty of different Mechs and teams to choose from and are worth the experimentation on which teams you like the most or even customize your ideal squad of 3 mechs. Plus the pilots play an important role of leveling up as they could give mechs more health or increase grid defense (which is uselessly incredibly low). Pilots also have their own skills that can change up the strategy and approach to the missions you undertake, such as Camila Vera’s immunity to the Vek’s webbing and she can attack in smoke. Vera and the Electric Mech are like Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup and so is Archimedes in the Spartan Mech. The gameplay loop is so engrossing you’ll never get sick of common missions like defending trains or island specific ones such as the RST Corp.’s Terraformer mission where you use a Terraformer to turn grass into desert that kills any nearby Vek. Many playthroughs can really tense and you might have to leave it to chance to see if you have one last chance. One playthrough of mine had 2 turns left on the final mission and I cleared or pushed away all the Vek except for one alpha scorpion. I had to end my turn and hope the pylon would resist the scorpion’s attack or the Vek win and in that rare moment it resisted! I managed to take care of business on the last turn and saved the world in such a lucky but earned victory. I haven’t been this enamored by a strategy game since XCOM Enemy Unknown and I certainly think Into the Breach is worth your time!
Where to start with this one. The funny thing is I’m not that well versed in Splatformers and tend to play less intense platforming games like Super Mario and Ratchet and Clank, but I latched onto this one throughout the year. Celeste is a game about a girl named Madeline who wants to climb the real world mountain in British Columbia, Celeste. The mountain is more than just actually climbing it, as it’s also a journey of Madeline trying to overcome her anxiety issues that have plagued her for most of her life. Totally not something that can happen on the actual Celeste Mountain, Madeline has a dream where she explores this eerily Castle and her self-doubtful and pessimistic side manifests into a real being and does whatever she can to convince Madeline that she's not a mountain climber. That sounds ridiculous, but it makes the story work as a tale of someone who’s fighting herself over accomplishing lofty goals and Madeline’s tale is never delivered in a ham fisted way. But what makes this tell of overcoming anxiety effective is the gameplay is designed to accommodate the story. Celeste is a hard game, and there’s an old lady who warns Madeline of how she’s not ready to see things on Celeste Mountain. She’s right as the levels are filled with death traps that are going to require a good number of experimentation for you to pass. Deaths will tally quickly. You might get stuck in one room and you might start doubting yourself if you don’t have the patience. But the game is such a joy to play despite its difficulty as the controls are very tight but your moveset is simply just running, jumping, climbing and air dashing. You’ll also find lots of level specific gimmicks that make the levels fresh such as the space blocks you dash into in order to fly over a pool of spikes. Later on there are thwomp looking blocks that you dash at one side and they go against the direction of your dash for you to reach a different area. Not to mention this game’s presentation is top notch. You get cute artwork of Madeline and the small cast of characters in this game such as selfies of Madeline and her photographer friend Theo. The music is just phenomenal as it fits the tone of what’s going on in the story but also its an OST that I can't keep count of how many times I've listened to in 2018. Go listen to Confronting Myself and the Good Karma Mix of Celestial Resort and thank me later.
As much as I enjoyed my play through of the base game, me completing the B-Sides and C-Sides made me love this game on a whole new level. These are far harder levels as they throw in more difficult ways of you to navigate through. I spent my time with the B-Sides from April to September while bouncing off different games. But throughout the year I wanted to beat these levels as a goal for me to achieve a difficult task. It’s certainly not as daunting as climbing an actual mountain, but I mostly never get into “Hard” portions of games and yet I wanted to beat the B-Sides. I got stuck in certain rooms more often than in the main game's levels which all felt easy after playing these. Sometimes I put assist mode on B-Sides to get through some brutal rooms, but I still got the thrill of clearing these levels after so much trial and error.
Than there are the C-Sides, which are much shorter than B Sides but have very hard levels nonetheless. I decided to take on chapter 1, 2, and 4’s C-Sides and yes I died over hundred times on those levels, but I shocked myself by beating all of those in one day. I kept going and managed to actually beat all of the C Sides (without assist mode mind you), but chapter 7 is the toughest. In fact, chapter 7’s C-Side is the hardest video game level I’ve beaten. The last room is where you are going to fail plenty as you have double dashes but you have to dash through a sea of blue spikes with either jump boards or dash diamonds scattered around the level to replenish your dashes. You also need to time your dashes impeccably because the spike canals are narrow and one off timed dash is a death. It took me a total of 3 days to beat that level as I’ve tried to figure out how to conquer it. First day I got as far as the middle of the room and then stopped. Next day I got farther but still didn’t beat it. After dying 1521 times from those 3 days, I took a brief break. Afterwards I got back and I managed to beat the final room of that C-Side in one run (and I didn’t fall for the falling ledge part too). The old lady shows up and she sums up the efforts of beating the game and this level perfectly saying we get attached to our struggles. Funny thing is I almost failed at the very end. I accidentally dashed off the cliff but dashed back up to the cliff. Then I tried doing 2 upward right dashes to the heart but only got my dashes replenished by touching it. Then I dashed up and right missing it again, got the dashes replenished and then finally got the heart. Interestingly enough, my struggle with that level is symbolic to Celeste’s message in general. When you are trying to achieve a tough task, it won’t be a cakewalk and you’ll likely make mistakes. You’ll probably get anxious too and you might doubt yourself on whether you’re actually capable of achieving the goal. But as long as you keep going and reassure your frustrations with yourself, you are capable of being victorious.
Celeste was already one of my favorite games of this year at that point, but not many games had me compelled to complete its hardest levels like this game did. Beating these C-Sides really elevated Celeste as one of my favorite games of all time. Alongside the beautiful music, lovely artwork and a touching story, Celeste is a platformer masterpiece and I don’t regret all the hours I spent on it!