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My Top Ten Games of 2018

Last year was a great year for things that were unexpected and/or pushed boundaries by doing things other games hadn't done before. This year, most of the games I played were safer bets that didn't stray too far outside the norm. But there were a lot of great sequels and different takes on an older formula that I really enjoyed. There's a lot of good old comfort food on my list, things that just scratched an itch or made me happy for a while.

This year I also delved into some older gems. For example, this was the year I got sucked into WoW and realized that it actually does suck. But I'm still playing it regularly despite that for some reason. Really though, I want to shout out Planescape: Torment as my "Old Game of the Year". It had one of the best stories I've ever seen in a game, and really had the feeling of an epic journey that the player is an active part of. But for this year, lets get into my personal top ten. This was hard to narrow down!

List items

  • 10) Specifically, this is the Switch version of WO4. Earlier this year, they released Dynasty Warriors 9. Like many others I was disappointed with that entry, and wanted a game that was a return to the basics of the series. Lots of characters, great weapon variety, and an addictive loop of mindless killing. These are the things that make a good Musou game for me. Warriors Orochi 4 checks all the boxes (barely, the endgame is nonexistent), and has portability going for it.

    I've wanted a portable Musou game since the days of the Game Boy Advance, but nothing has scratched that itch until this game. Hyrule and Fire Emblem Warriors did little for me, but I'll be playing this for a long time if they add to it like they did with WO3.

    They played it safe with this one, but it paid off. Sometimes you just want a mindless game that feels good to while away the time with.

  • 9) My history with these games is tied to my cousin, who adored the series. She would play these games obsessively over and over, collecting every gem and doo dad. I never really saw the appeal, as every time I picked up the controller it was only for a few levels. It seemed like just another 3D platformer, and it still kind of is.

    The thing with this remaster/remake is that it made me appreciate the games for what they are. The redone graphics are gorgeous and the controls are very tight, it feels exactly how it did on the PS1. This time the level design sucked me in, and I had a blast going through the first game and parts of the other two. One day I'll sit down and finish 2 and 3, but I want to savor them and not just plough through for the sake of it.

    Spyro has aged fantastically, and they really should make a modern sequel. I'd love to see this genre make a comeback.

  • 8) Everyone hates this game because of the Kojima debacle and the multiplayer focus, but it's actually a great game that I had a ton of fun with. The gameplay is not just poking zombies through fences with a stick, that is only one strategy you can use early in the game. There are shitloads of weapons, traps, and defense items you can craft to use against the hordes.

    There is also a robust single player campaign that has you exploring the world and gradually building up a base. The story itself isn't great, which might turn off a lot of people. But everything around it was very satisfying to me. I had a lot of fun building my character and working towards better items and skills. It isn't for everybody, but the notion that this game is terrible because of the actions of the suits at Konami (fuck those guys) is ignoring a game that has a lot going for it.

    The parts of the team that stayed at Konami when Kojima left were able to make a compelling game on a shoestring budget, and I'm glad they were able to make it work. It just sucks that the player base dried up so fast.

  • 7) This game made me cry, and I don't say that lightly. The last game to move me like this was probably Edith Finch last year. It is very hard to talk about The Missing without getting into spoilers, but I will say that the message it leaves you with is very uplifting and empowering. It manages to be inclusive in a way that is so genuine and well executed, without being preachy or relying on cliche.

    So the game has a great message, and the story is like reading a good book in a lot of ways. But it also plays very well, and the puzzles are well designed. Swery hasn't worked on a 2D game before (to my knowledge), but he's adapted really well to the genre. A lot of puzzles had me scratching my head, but I never got so frustrated that I had to go to YouTube or anything. In comparison, playing the similar game Limbo got me so frustrated that I stopped playing.

    The combination of these weird puzzles that involve dismemberment and physics with the story of an outsider trying to find her place makes this an experience I'll never forget (unless I suffer a Major Hemorrhage of the brain).

  • 6) Dark Souls Remastered

    Another remaster of an old game? And one where they charged you $20 for upgrading the PC version to the new one? What am I thinking!!?? Okay calm down, because for me this package was worth the overall $60 I've spent on it between the PC and Switch versions. See, I got into the series late since Bloodborne was my first Souls type of game. I tried playing DS1 after finishing BB and DS2: Scholar. The PC version sucked ass, and I know there was a fix for it. But for some reason I could never get it running to my satisfaction, and eventually gave up and played the 360 version through Backwards Compatibility.

    Then this year we get to pay twenty measly bucks for a version that upscales nicely to 4K and runs at a steady 60 FPS, with a few graphical improvements. Sign me up! Blighttown was no problem at all this time, even on the Switch version. I played through the game two more times this year, and have multiple other characters going in both versions for whenever the mood strikes.

    These releases have made DS1 my go to Souls game for when I need my fix, usurping DS3. They are both fantastic ways to play the game, and I'll keep coming back every so often to Lordran for more fun.

  • 5) 47 is back, and he's better than ever. I was never a huge Hitman fan, but like many others jumped in when the 2016 reboot took Giant Bomb by storm. It looked like a lot of dumb fun, and I enjoyed playing it for a while. But the sequel takes things to a whole new level. It brings back the maps from 2016 along with five very good new ones. Every map is full of great things to explore and ways to murder your targets, its a blast to run around trying to see everything they packed into these spaces.

    All the goofy fun of the first reboot is still intact, with tons of smart changes that keep me wanting to come back and just play around with the systems. This is one of the most purely fun games of the year, there is not a grand vision or message to the story. Just some good old fashioned assassination, they even borrowed the tall grass from that other series.

    Love this game and it'll stay installed on my machine as long as they support it.

  • 4) So, this is technically a 2017 release. But then again, so was Hollow Knight and yet I'm seeing that on lots of people's 2018 list (it was number 4 on my list last year!). What this tells me is that the Switch release date makes a game eligible for a game of the year list, and I played West of Loathing on Switch this year.

    And I'm glad I did! This game is charming as Hell. Whereas that other western game is all serious business and open world systems, WoL is farcical fun that doesn't take itself seriously AT ALL. It's a WRPG drawn entirely in stick figures with very basic art, but the stats and character building aspects are surprisingly deep.

    You can use a number of different classes from the start, and then apply skill points wherever you want in order to create your build. As you are doing this, you explore different areas that are packed to the brim with great jokes and writing, trying to make your way in this weird version of the wild west.

    I fell in love with this game and will sing its praises from the highest rooftops. More people should give this a shot, because it is one of the most delightful experiences I've had in gaming in recent years.

  • 3) This is the Spider-Man game I've wanted since the original movie came out. Actually, make that since I first read the original Ultimate Spider-Man comic by Bendis and Bagley. That was the real good shit that made me fall in love with Spidey as a character, and this game has all that real good shit in spades.

    The writing is great, though it does play things a little safe. A lot of the story beats are predictable, but they do a good job throwing in some surprises for established fans as well. The real star of the game though is the gameplay and open world aspects. I've been getting some open world fatigue these past few years, a lot of games don't put in the work to justify having such a large map.

    Insomniac nailed every aspect of the gameplay. It feels great to swing around, as you unlock different upgrades to make traversal faster and more fun/engaging. You don't just hold down a button while Spidey does his swingin', you have different moves and tricks that can propel you through the city. It adds a whole new layer to exploring open worlds in a game, and makes going back to more traditional methods of exploration tiresome and boring. The combat is also well done and I had fun with all the different encounters and bosses.

    God of War might've gotten a lot of folks riled up, but this was the main PS4 exclusive of the year for me. Let's hope they make more of these! (Spoiler: they will. It sold really well).

  • 2) Firstly, I gotta say that a lack of a PC version this year is painful! The game looks so well made but playing on a launch Xbox One was a huge bummer. Also hearing about Rockstar's shitty labor practices is leaving a weird taste in my mouth, they should treat their employees more like actual humans and not robots.

    But man, this game fucking rules! Yes, it is slow and clunky at times. The thing is, I don't care. I don't care that the animations take forever, or that the controls can be finicky. I don't care that the missions railroad you on a set path, and that you fail if the slightest thing goes wrong. Because what they've built here is such a fun world to explore, with interesting things to see and people to talk to all over the map.

    Mainlining this game and trying to finish the story as quickly as possible is going to make a lot of people hate it, but it deserves all the praise. Arthur Morgan rules, the story rules, and the open world is one of the best I've ever seen. If Spider-Man justifies its open world through the traversal mechanics, RDR2 justifies it by packing the world with COOL SHIT.

    It also helps that this is the best set of characters and plot that Rockstar has ever produces in my opinion. Usually I don't really care about their stories that much, but this one gripped me and followed through on all of its early promise. Would've been my GOTY if not for...

  • 1) Yeah, I'm that guy who puts Smash as his number one game of the year. I went back and forth with it, but I know that I'll be playing this game for years until the next one. It is so damn good and makes me feel like a kid again, thinking back to the first time I played Smash 64 at a friends house and came back telling my mom "YOU NEED TO BUY ME THIS".

    It is such a delightful celebration of the history of all these characters and series, with tons of references and callbacks to great games. They added Richter and Dark Samus for god's sake, they shot a laser guided missile straight to my heart.

    All the modes they've added are welcome, but at the end of the day this is just the core Smash Bros. experience inching even closer to perfection. There is no other game I play that has so few barriers between thought and action. Playing smash feels elemental in a way, like it has always existed in some form. I still get such a thrill just learning a character's moveset and figuring out how to use them effectively.

    There's still some kinks to work out, they need to fix their online shit. It sucks, and I hate that this is still an issue with Nintendo. But I have faith that they'll get there in time.

    This year is a lot like 2016 when I had to decide between Overwatch and Dark Souls 3. I ended up picking Overwatch because of its longevity and the amount of undiluted fun I had with it, and still stand by that choice. Smash Ultimate is getting my top spot for the same reason, this is why I play games.