Game of the Year 2018

The issue of time has been one that has diminished my capability to play and, in some cases enjoy, games to an increasing extent. A lack of free time to dedicate to gaming has not been helped by the release of many long and expansive games this year. Some of my favorite and most memorable gaming experiences of 2018 ended up being old games or remasters of old games like Bayonetta, Katamari Damacy or Lumines. There are also plenty of games from last year I’ve still not finished like Red Dead 2, or even managed to start playing like Battlefield V.

While 2018 yielded some truly impressive and enjoyable games, I’m not sure if any of these experiences are ones which I will remember for years to come. My list below features games which awed me in their presentation, story, style or gameplay, but none really matched all the materials needed to craft something like the gems we were able to play in 2017.

But let’s give making this list a try at least. Or actually, wait, here are some special mentions first.

Best Music: God of War

Runners-up: Donut County, Red Dead Redemption 2

Best Looking Game: Red Dead Redemption 2

Runners-up: God of War, Forza Horizon 4, Sea of Thieves

Best Audio Design: Red Dead Redemption 2

Runners-up: Into the Breach, Far Cry 5

Most Relaxing Game: Forza Horizon 4

Runners-up: Donut County, Sea of Thieves, Far Cry 5

Best Value: Xbox Game Pass

Runners-up: Red Dead Redemption 2, Forza Horizon 4

Best Multiplayer: Sea of Thieves

Runners-up: Call of Duty: Black Ops 4

Game My Girlfriend Found Most Interesting To Watch: Red Dead Redemption 2

Runners-up: The Banner Saga 3, Forza Horizon 4, Hitman 2, Donut County

Best Old Game: Bayonetta

Runners-up: Lumines, Katamari Damacy, Money Puzzle Exchanger

Game I want to spend more time with: Shadow of the Colossus

F1 2018, Red Dead Redemption 2, Pokémon Let’s Go Pikachu, Forza Horizon 4, Call of Duty: Black Ops 4

List items

  • I certainly did not see this one coming. The only God of War game I’d played previously was the remake of the first game and some bits of the third. Neither experience left me with a high opinion of God of War. The new game seemed to offer something drastically different though. A teenage angst replaced by a more somber tone, a new less flaily combat structure and a more tempered story.

    The one thing that God of War did retain from the previous iterations in the franchise is fantastic graphical quality and visual design. Even on a launch PS4, the game runs and looks a charm. The combat does indeed prove to be engaging, as does the story. Everything moves forward at a good pace and I constantly felt like my upgrades made me feel more powerful and that the same time the combat was becoming more challenging. The music is beautiful and memorable and the sound design is faultless.

    It really is hard to think of any faults at all with this game. Hearing that the PS4 Pro version does not run at a nice 60 fps is a bit disappointing and some character motivations in the game don’t always seem logical. But apart from those little nitpicks, God of War really was my most complete and memorable gaming experience for 2018. I can’t wait to see where this new revitalized God of War goes next.

  • Well this game is a touch pickle. RDR2 was pretty much my most anticipated game for 2018, and the fervor around it even made me upgrade to an Xbox One X in order to experience “the best version” of what was looking to be one of the tent-pole releases of the whole generation.

    My first hours with the game were ones of pure awe. I’d never seen a game look this good or realize its open world so completely. The amount of detail in the environments and character interactions was staggering. Even the story was drawing me in and I was praising the game with hyperbole all around.

    After the first hours turned into tens of hours, some cracks began to show. The nauseatingly slow speed of the animations that had impressed me at first started to feel laborious upon repetition. The story began to take unnecessary detours when I was already eager to see the end of it. Playing the game had become a chore.

    With a more assertive editor, this game could have been a fantastic 20 or so hour experience with a tight story and the possibility to explore further side stories on the side and after the main story had drawn to a close. I might have felt differently about the length of the game if my life situation had been different and I’d had the time to plow through the more than 60 hours of content in a couple of weeks. As it stands now however, we’re mostly through February already and I’ve still not made it to the multiple epilogues of Red Dead 2. Returning to the game feels daunting, since a game like this demands you to sit down for at least a couple of hours at a time to make any meaningful progress.

    I do hope to see the story to its end one day. As it stands now however, I cannot raise the game to my number one since I’ve spent almost as much time being frustrated and bored by Red Dead Redemption 2 as I have been entertained by it.

  • Finding a Forza game on my list is never a surprise, but what is surprising is that Playground Studios managed to make enough tweaks and additions to the Horizon formula for me to raise Forza Horizon 4 this far up my list. I’m pretty sure that two years ago I said something in the vain that the Horizon 3 was a high point and that the formula should really be revamped before the same release. Well, I feel exactly the same now.

    Playground managed to improve every aspect of the game like graphics, physics, online play, environmental design and even the menus just enough to make it all exciting again. Seasons don’t change everything, but do offer a nice incentive to return to the game every now and then.

    The game just feels like a much more whole experience than any other Horizon game and the open world structure is now quite well realized. However, I once again don’t see how the series could be improved much further without a large revamp.

  • I liked the idea and aesthetic of FTL a whole lot, but found the game too stressful and the run-based structure too repetitive for me to fully enjoy. The turn-based combat of Into the Breach made it a much more relaxing puzzle-type game, which I found easy to delve into for hours on end during the summer.

    I never felt like the game was trying to add unnecessary or unfair difficulty to the equation, instead letting my own mistakes punish me. Dying on the last enemy of the last level made me turn my back on the game for a long while, but maybe once those warm summer months roll back around, I’ll again find myself laying in a hammock and protecting cities with my pixelated mechs.

  • There’s been much Far Cry in recent year. I really like Far Cry, but the pace of these releases has gotten to be a bit excessive. I still managed to find the environment of Far Cry 5 somewhat refreshing and while the combat got rather easy and boring after just a few hours, shooting up fanatics in beautiful natural vistas was the sort of simple and mindless fun I had found myself missing.

    That being said, Ubisoft really need to pull together a more comprehensive overhaul of the franchise for the next release (not New Dawn, but the next big one) for Far Cry to be able to stay afloat on my annual lists much longer.

  • “It’s like reverse Katamari Damacy”. That pitch was enough for me to pick the game up. I ended up having grin on my face through the entire few hours that it took for me to suck up benches, houses, balls and policemen into my beautiful deep hole.

  • This is a game I definitely would not have played if it were not for an interesting Quick Look and a gap in my calendar for some Switch playing in a hammock. The mix of pinball and platforming blends together much better than I’d have anticipated and the world of Yoku’s Island is interesting enough explore for hours.

    The game did not hold my interest all the way to the end, because the game play did not end up evolving that much as the hours passed. However, Yoku’s Island has definitely laid out a solid foundation for a sequel, which I hope to bring a little more variation to the formula and a more varied world to explore.

  • The Hitman game from a few years ago was very good indeed. Hitman 2 continues to be very good, but doesn’t surpass its predecessor in enough ways to make it feel fresh or invigorating. Throwing those cans of sauce at dumb guards and pulling bodies into wood chippers continues to be great fun. I just hope that IO will be able to find a slightly new angle for the likely sequel to stop this promising upswing for the franchise from stagnating.

  • The lack of content in Sea of Thieves requires the player to stretch their imagination in order to create narratives and objectives where the game provides none. When everything works right and you’ve got the right group of people together to share a ship with, the experience can almost be reminiscent of those joyful moments of playing outside with your friends as a child.

    Those few afternoons and evenings when everything did work just right were some of the most memorable gaming moments of my 2018. The dearth of content makes the game very hard to recommend for a full purchase, but as a part of the Xbox Game Pass subscription, I think it will find a space to live in my active game catalog well into 2019.

  • Curling up on a couch during the holiday season with a very nostalgic Pokémon release was one of the most soothing game experiences I’ve had all year. While I'm still not totally on board with the simplified catching mechanics and easier combat, it was a lot of fun to return to the old characters, environments and mechanics of the older more focused Pokémon games. I’m still not even half way through to finishing the game, and will surely return to it once the laid-back summer months roll around.