Matt's Fav Games of 2018

Another year, another year packed full of great games. Another paragraph of me being sad that I limit this to my favourite ten because I could've easily done thirty. I can't let 2018's list go by without stating that this list has a potentially huge black hole in it with the lack of Return of the Obra Dinn. I only started playing it recently (due to it's inclusion in loads of other GOTY lists) and, a couple of hours in, I'm in love with it. If I'd played more it would probably be on this list but also, who knows. It might turn to shit five hours in. I don't think it will. But anyone, get that game.

Honourable mentions this year go to games like Forza Horizon 4, one of the best open world racers ever made. It's crazy fun to drive through more familiar territory now that the series has come to the UK. And PS4's Insomniac's Marvel's Spider-man. Utterly fun. It's not all brilliant but the pure joy of how the damn game feels to play is wonderful. I'm probably gonna platinum it because I can't stop swinging around. And Red Dead Redemption 2! A game I'm savouring and slowly working my way through and one that almost snuck into my ten but I'm just not quite there with it yet. And Astro Bot Rescue Mission. Again, I'm too early. But it's the Mario 64 style platformer that PlayStation wishes it always had. Well now it's got it. If you've got PSVR. Anyway, enough cheating sneaking other games in last minute... On to the list! My favourite ten games of 2018.

List items

  • No other game this year was gonna be my number one. Sea of Thieves is a game that I've played for well over 500 hours since it came out in March(!) It's a game that has given me some of my favourite gaming moments ever, shared with friends from all over the world; friendships that have been made while playing this game. I keep saying to people that Sea of Thieves is my World of Warcraft and I think it's a fairly good analogy. It's a game that is unlike any other I play. There's no story to speak of and no real mission structure beyond a simple 'here are some factions with reputation meters that you can fill'. But the emergent stories that it creates between real people that happen while you're off doing whatever pirates do are stronger moments than any other moments in gaming for me this year. Whether it's a four pirates trying to cling to their ship to stop it from sinking with treasure that has taken us three hours to earn while a kraken wraps us with it's tentacles (and, by the way, there's another fleet of player ships on the horizon coming over to take advantage) or whether it's befriending other ships on the oceans so we can own the seas together, collaborating to take down a wave of AI controlled skeleton ships armed with cursed cannonballs that make you drunk or that drop your anchor when they hit. One of our fleet sinks to the bottom of the ocean but it doesn't matter because they can swim over to us and help in exchange for a cut of the loot. Or whether it's the constantly revolving biweekly events and content expansions, all free, that Rare have been adding since launch. There's always something new to be doing and a new objective for your crew. Sea of Thieves creates stories in it's sandbox. It's only as strong as the crew you're playing with but, when the stars align, it's a magical experience and one that I can't speak highly enough. It's probably my favourite gaming experience of the generation. Y'arrrrrr.

  • Celeste is the kind of game that you'll see cropping up in 'Games For Change' awards and it probably gives off the impression that it's some arty indie game that puts it's message and a cute story before everything else and, I'm happy to scream from the rooftops, that you'd be dead wrong. It totally has a nice plot and a cute message but, damn, this is the best *playing* game I've played in 2018. It spent a good amount of the year sitting as the highest reviewed game of 2018 on Metacritic (until RDR2 came along to spoil it!) and there's good reason. Celeste plays like a game that a Mario Maker obsessive made after playing too many user created death traps and thinking 'I can make this more fun'. Which I think might also be true? You spend the game racing through some of the tightest, more ingenious level design you've ever seen while learning new, super fun movement abilities and then, if you manage to find some secret stuff, you'll eventually unlike 'b-sides' versions of the levels that are remixed and harder. It's a genius game where the pure feeling of moving and jumping is honed to absolute perfection. It's pure fun and I can't recommend it highly enough. If you're reading this in January you should know that it's free RIGHT NOW on Xbox One if you're a Gold subscriber. But it's on everything. I played it on Switch and it felt perfect for that platform.

    One final thing to celebrate with Celeste. The game features a whole ton of 'assist mode' settings to bring down the difficulty if you just wanna get through a section that you can't master. And it doesn't lock anything away or make any attempt to shame you if you use it. You can turn it straight back off again afterwards. I didn't use it (not a humble brag) and I think you'll get the most from the game if you *don't* use it but, honestly, it's good to see great, positive difficulty options in a game like this that aren't just something you have to choose before even trying one stage. I will always celebrate that.

    Please play Celeste.

  • Tetris is the best game ever made and Tetris Effect is one of the finest distillations of the formula yet. Conceived from the mind of Tetsuya Mizuguchi (Rez, Lumines, Child of Eden), Tetris Effect is a beautiful audio/visual rollercoaster through a synesthetes' version of the worlds greatest puzzle game. That is to say it's a game that melds music and colour and visuals into some great mega orgasmic explosion of emotion and tight brain bending puzzle gameplay. That is to say, this is the best thing ever.

    Tetris Effect supports VR but, honestly, it's utterly wonderful on your traditional TV screen too. I spent a good month playing it that way before I tried it in VR. It seems silly to say that a game like Tetris can give you an emotional experience but I truly feel that strongly about Tetris Effect. Everything about the product comes together to create a wonderful whole. The soundtrack, the visuals, the Journey mode campaign in bite-sized chunks of increasing difficulty. The unlockable Gameboy inspired stage! Hopefully Tetris Effect will launch on more platforms in 2019 because everyone should experience this game.

  • Hitman was my second favourite game of 2016 and, quite simply, Hitman 2 is better. It is more consistent in level quality across the game. It gives Agent 47 more personality which is something I NEVER thought I'd want. It has the best final level. Seriously, GET TO THE FINAL LEVEL. It's so good.

    If I had to hold anything against Hitman 2, honestly, it would be that I absolutely loved the episodic, monthly release schedule of the first game where a new stage would drop each month until the whole game was complete. It encouraged me to explore those stages absolutely fully each month and give each stage my absolute attention. Of course, this is all psychological as there's nothing to stop you playing Hitman 2 in this way, it just throws the whole game at you in one go like any traditional game release would. I'm sure many prefer that but I didn't. But *shrug*, whatever. Worth saying.

    But, wow, everything else about Hitman 2 is a treat. The new cover system in grass (hardly revolutionary but still...). The absolute SIZE of some of the stages in the game. It still wows me when I start a Hitman level and realise the multitude of ways you can go through the stage. So many intricate ways you can eliminate your targets in ways the developers designed. Special, hand crafter stories where you'll don a disguise and drown/stab/poison your way to victory. But Hitman 2 also massively encourages going off piste and just killing those targets any damn way you can. I can play these stages forever, finding new and exciting ways to win. And, last thing, Hitman 2 imports absolutely everything from the first Hitman (if you own it) so you can play the whole of Hitman 1 inside the new Hitman 2 engine with the Hitman 2 mechanics. It's an absolutely wonderful addition that's had me replaying all of THOSE stages as well. What a game.

  • Yes Meow-nster Hunter! You've finally made it! The West finally gives a shit!

    When i first tried Monster Hunter World at trade shows and via the early beta demo they released I was, of course, instantly in love. But also completely shit scared that they've might've ruined Monster Hunter. Monster Hunter is unforgiving and it's archaic in so many ways. But it's a series that I love and I was terrified of some of the new quality of life improvements they'd made to the game, seemingly to streamline it for a new audience (I know, bear with me). But I'm ecstatic to say that they nailed (pretty much) all of it. It's the best playing Monster Hunter. That's undeniable. The monsters are wonderful, the new stages are MASSIVE and unbelievably fun to explore. You can play the WHOLE GAME muliplayer which is honestly huge. I couldn't even begin to start listing the incredible QoL improvements and how great they are without making your eyes glaze over if you're not a long time, long suffering MH fan. I have some minor gripes with the amount of content (despite putting in over a hundred hours before Summer even hit) but, you know. We have a new expansion on the horizon in 2019 and I'm excited to see where they take the game. I've enjoyed every minute of it so far and I feel like it's just getting started.

  • Yes, God of War. That game that you'll see on EVERYONE'S game of the year lists this year. And it's true, it's a masterpiece.

    The Sony Santa Monica team has taken a long in the tooth franchise that badly needed a restart and absolutely smashed it out of the park. God of War *feels* amazing. You'll read a lot about the story and the relationship between Kratos and the boy and all of that but, really, if God of War had none of that and was just 35 hours of knocking monsters heads off it'd probably still be in my top ten. It just feels.. so damn good. The way they've given Kratos new weapons, tons of new combat mechanics, new abilities, a whole new perspective and yet, somehow, it still kinda feels like how a God of War should feel. It's just a triumph. I spent a ton of time with the game and loved all the side content in it pretty much as much as I loved the main story. There's so much in this game and almost the whole thing is just wonderfully realised. It's a gem. We'll be talking about God of War for a long time and rightfully so. Great work, boy(s).

  • My most played VR game of the year and the game in my top ten that I most don't want someone walking in while I'm playing it. Beat Saver is the best reason to own a VR headset in 2018. It's Rock Band with lighsabers. Enough said. Blocks rush towards you in rhythm to the soundtrack and you swipe them up, down or across with your two handheld light swords and you feel like the most bad ass dancer in the whole universe despite probably looking like Star Wars Kid with a Roomba strapped to his face.

    But, damn. Beat Saber. Seriously. Go and watch some videos of high level Beat Saber play and then listen to the soundtrack for the whole of 2019. It's oozes high quality in every way. A wonderful song selection. Flawless motion controls and just the coolest vibe of the year. Find some way to experience Beat Saber and experience one of most fun games that the VR medium has seen. Thanks Beat Saber.

  • We've been fairly spoiled for JRPGs in 2018. We saw Octopath Traveller on the Switch which is a beautiful game full of fresh mechanics in a genre that can be fairly stale. But, while you could say stale, you could also say 'traditional'. And no game does 'wow, this game feels like a fucking fantastic traditional JRPG from my childhood' better than DQXI this year. No gimmicks, no flashy new graphics style. DQXI actually released in Japan in Summer 2017 but has taken a little time to reach us over in the West but, crikey, it was worth the wait. It's just a really fucking good 'one of them'. It's got a wonderful cast of characters. It gives you a singularly solid reason to be out doing what you're doing and saving the world (a classic JRPG thing but, honestly, something Octopath suffered from by not really having). Every new location and town feels amazing to explore and they're packed with fun characters and little side missions for the townsfolk. It's a bright, colourful, fun throwback to a simpler time and it's an absolute monster of a game. Well done Dragon Quest for not 'doing a Final Fantasy' and trying to revolutionise JRPG gameplay with every new entry. Sometimes traditional is good. Not always, but DQ dives into the deep end of traditional design and gets a big fat 10 sign from me. I love being in this game. Don't take so long next time!

  • I've kinda surprised myself this year with how much I've fallen for the new Call of Duty game. It's not a series that has really bothered my top ten lists since the early entries really but Black Ops 4 has sunk it's teeth into me and, you know, it's a fantastic game. It's an undeniable package. No single player campaign but three series high multiplayers components. One, a traditional multiplayer PvP mode. Maybe the strongest set of multiplayer options the series has ever had. It's an incredible selection of maps, wonderful carrot-on-a-stick upgrades as you level through the ranks and none of the jetpacking, wall running stuff that made Black Ops 3 feel so weird to me. Two, a new Battle Royale mode that comes hot on the heels of PUBG and Fortnite and firmly sits right between them as the third pillar of 2018 BR. Blackout is thrilling and has taken far too many hours from me this year. And thirdly, the least interesting part for me, Zombies. Zombies mode has it's fans but I can honestly say it's not for me. But it speaks highly to how damn strong the other two parts are that those alone firmly put BO4 in my top ten of the year. It's a phenomenally refined package and easily the best Call of Duty has been for years.

  • Frostpunk is probably my top 'out of nowhere' game of 2018. A strategy game where you have to build a town around a giant generator in a cold, unforgiving post apocolyptic future scenario where every decision is horrible. Frostpunk is the definition of the world 'bleak' and it's utterly wonderful. The game throws lovely scenarios at you constantly like 'we're fucked, we need child labour, is that ok?' and, at some point, you definitely will be fucked enough to say yes. Anyone who's played the studios previous game, This War of Mine, won't be surprised at the tone. Frostpunk is super intense but it's a wonderful intensity. I find myself totally drawn into the world they've created and they've continued to add new scenarios and missions to the game throughout the year. I love the Christmas Carol themed Xmas mission! More people need to talk about Frostpunk. Play it. Get dark.