2018: Ranking the Rest

I recently posted my top 10 list for 2018, which is one of my favorite community exercises every year here on Giant Bomb. But like most years, I also played well more than those 10 games. What about the rest? Where do they stand? Because as nice as it to distill it all down to a set of 10, there are always many more than 10 games that color my year. This, then, is my chance to speak to those as well. This list is a “rough” ranking of every game I played from 2018. Don’t put too much stock in the exact order, but it’s in the ballpark. I also can’t play everything of course, but I did a pretty good job of prioritizing this year. I can’t think of many games I really missed out on (save maybe a couple giant RPGs like Dragon Quest XI and Pillars of Eternity II that I simply don’t have time for). At any rate, I enjoy doing this. Thanks for reading, and have a great day!

As a side note, if you read my top 10 list, I expressed sentiments there about not getting into a lot of “big” games this year. I think you’ll see what I mean here, with a lot of big budget games listed, and some repeated sentiments from me in their descriptions; I was mixed on a lot of games in general this year. I guess that’s where I was at mentally, or maybe it was the games themselves. Who knows. And it ultimately doesn’t really matter, just a trend I noticed. And with that, away we go!

1-10. See my GOTY 2018 list.

#boi
#boi

11. God of War. The popular pick for 2018 is a very mixed bag for me. I primarily like the narrative trappings: the characters, tone, and story are engaging (despite some rough spots), I think the new setting is the perfect direction for the series, and the game looks and sounds incredible. But while I think throwing the Leviathan Axe is rad as hell, most of my time spent playing the game is mixed at best. The combat is serviceable but not amazing, the armor leveling system is broken and meaningless, and the game is paced too slowly and is too long for the ground it covers, both mechanically and narratively; I legitimately almost stopped halfway through out of boredom. I’m glad I finally did see it through, and I do really like some things about it. But God of War has one too many issues to crack my top 10.

12. Marvel's Spider-Man. Not too dissimilar from my thoughts on God of War above, Spider-Man is a mixed bag for me. Once again, my favorite parts are narrative related. I think the story arc is solid, with strong acting and writing sustained the whole way; it’s surprisingly good at portraying the relationships between its characters. The game also looks and sounds like money. What I don’t like about it is that, design-wise, it feels like an extremely generic, and sometimes dated open world game. Yes, the swinging is very fun. But everything else is standard and serviceable without being great. It’s a straightforward checklist style open world game, a style which has worn out its welcome with me. I got bored with it halfway through, before powering through the story out of a need to see the end. Also, those stealth missions, huh?

13. Valkyria Chronicles 4. A number of games on this list will be sequels I like, but also ones that don’t do enough different or new to stand out to me in a meaningful way. Valkyria Chronicles 4 is that in a nutshell; this seems like a very well-executed, but very similar version of the original Valkyria Chronicles. I liked that game a lot, and it has been nearly a decade since I played it. I also like this game so far, and while I’m still in the middle of it (meaning it could move up or down as I play more), my main takeaway right now is that it needs something more to differentiate and elevate itself for 2018. Still, if that’s what you’re looking for (and you could do much worse), this seems really solid.

14. Forza Horizon 4. Another straightforward sequel, this game is extremely well-made, but also extremely similar to the previous game(s) in the series. I had fun with the 15 or so hours I put into it, but don’t know that I came away with much that I didn’t get from the previous game. Other than I think it’s the right direction for this to become more of a live game. So Forza Horizon 4 is a still good time. And still one of the best driving series we have today. But it’s one too familiar for me to place any higher than this.

So close, and yet so far.
So close, and yet so far.

15. Dead Cells. This is a game I would like a lot more if it wasn’t run-based. I don’t think it controls as perfectly as most seem to think; it’s a bit too loose and slippery to me, and close combat in the late game is so punishing that traps feel overly incentivised. But the combat is still generally fun, and I like a lot of the upgrades. I mainly got really tired of playing through 30 minutes of early levels I had mastered just to have a chance at later levels I hadn’t. That always wears on me, and I don’t think any level in Dead Cells remains interesting after a handful of runs. That led to me inevitably feeling like it was a waste of my time, and I put it down before I finished. Which is the fate of most otherwise good run-based games for me.

16. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. Oh hey, another sequel that doesn’t change much. As someone who has played every iteration of Smash, this feels very similar to previous games (especially the Wii U version). That said, this probably is the “best” version of Smash yet, and to people deep down that rabbit hole, the minor changes it does make are probably meaningful. But to me this is just more Smash. And while I’ve loved Smash before, and I do still enjoy a good round of Smash here and there, it’s been diminishing returns for a long time. This series has been around almost 20 years, and Smash Ultimate doesn’t do nearly enough to reignite that flame. Also, the process to unlock and play with all the characters is abysmal.

17. Onrush. This is a really cool idea, and a great take on multiplayer driving games that deviates from pure racing; it’s nice to play a game where you can do well in different ways. I also like the focus and reward for driving fast and recklessly, and the team dynamic is a lot of fun. It controls well too, and is enjoyable to play. All that said, this is a very slight game, which is a pretty large drawback and exactly what holds it back. There’s just not a lot here. But what is here is a good time while it lasts.

The theme of this list: a mixed bag.
The theme of this list: a mixed bag.

18. Frostpunk. I want to like Frostpunk a lot more than I do, because it has some great ideas. I just don’t think it’s a very balanced game. It’s one of extreme positive feedback loops: if you are doing well, things become easier, and if you are doing poorly, things become harder. My first game, where I didn’t know what I was doing, went bad real fast. Then I started over with what I learned from my mistakes, and cruised through the game without a single hiccup. That 12 hour victorious playthrough ended up being real boring down the stretch as a result, as I simply fast-forwarded with excess stockpiled resources. This game would be great if it could find a better balance to make the choices meaningful throughout its lengthy scenarios, and my experience was far from that.

19. The Messenger. This is another game I really want to like more than I do, and is one that I should theoretically love. But that’s why execution is so important; a good idea isn’t worth much if it’s not done well. And The Messenger does have its good parts: the music is incredible, and it controls super well. It falls apart for me in its larger structure, pacing, and level/enemy design. It’s primarily too big and repetitive, with the same handful of enemies populating every level in the entire game. You also eventually have to re-traverse all the levels in a less than interesting way, and it all goes on way too long for the mechanics on offer. I also don’t like the story and writing at all. Your mileage may vary on all of this, but for me I became less enamored with it the more it dragged on. I ended up not finishing it as a result.

20. Minit. This is one I enjoyed for the most part, but it’s simultaneously very short and often tedious. There’s a cool puzzle nature to figuring out how to progress that is usually fun, and it often rewards smart, efficient exploration. Except for when it doesn’t, and becomes less intuitive than it needs to be. I spent a good chunk of my time with Minit kind of ramming my head at various walls until I found one that broke down, which wasn’t as satisfying in the long run. It has great style though, and I enjoyed it just fine for what it was.

21. Florence. This does a surprisingly good job at translating the feelings portrayed in its story to simple touch-based actions on a phone. It’s extremely short, and extremely simple, but Florence finds a way to be effective within its limitations. One moment in particular was among the most powerful I encountered all year. It’s a good story overall too. If only there was more to it, it would be higher.

22. Persona 3: Dancing in Moonlight / Persona 5: Dancing in Starlight. These games are basically overpriced song packs for Persona 4: Dancing All Night. They just have music from, well, Persona 3 and Persona 5 instead. It turns out all of these games have truly great music, and that by itself makes these pretty enjoyable for me. I wish the core rhythm mechanics had been improved, and that they didn’t cost so much for how many songs they come with. But if you’re like me and have an appreciation for Persona music and rhythm games, you could do worse.

I do really like this game's look.
I do really like this game's look.

23. FAR: Lone Sails. This is a short game with wonderful atmosphere, and I think some really interesting themes to consider. I just didn’t enjoy the act of playing it. Managing your vehicle is a fun loop for a bit, but once I realized the game never evolves from there it got old. I also think the “puzzles” are rote and repetitive. But as a short game with a good aesthetic wrapper, it’s kind of neat.

24. The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit. A short and sweet story that’s executed pretty well. It’s a bit of a cliched story though, and I think I’m getting a bit tired of this style of, um, “gameplay.” A couple sections in particular were not intuitive at all. But a good story is still worth celebrating here. One moment in particular got me real good, and the way the kid’s imagination plays into things is endearing.

25. Yoku's Island Express. This game made me realize that I simply don’t like pinball. At all. I enjoyed things about Yoku’s Island Express: I like the tone and atmosphere, especially the art and music. I also think it’s a generally well-designed world that is fun to explore. But I only got more and more exasperated every time a “pinball” section appeared. After a couple hours I didn’t want to do any more pinball. I did finish this one, but by the end it was almost begrudgingly so.

26. Overcooked! 2. Back to more sequels that don’t change much: this is more or less a level pack for the original Overcooked. Which isn’t terrible, as Overcooked is still fun, and I enjoyed my time playing this with a friend. I just wish it had done something new, or at the very least improved the feel and preciseness of the controls. Maybe it’s meant to feel like a sloppy mess though, who knows.

27. Guacamelee! 2. More straightforward sequels! I really enjoyed the first Guacamelee, but this sequel was really disappointing to me. It’s hard to place exactly why too, because in some ways it’s a tighter, more confident Guacamelee. It’s not a bad game by any stretch, but it’s also very similar to Guacamelee, and perhaps games have evolved too much (especially in the space where this game lives) over the past 5 years for this to cut it without doing something new for 2018. Guacamelee! 2 feels like it’s gotten left in the dust by the many more exciting games around it.

Do NOT order donuts from BK.
Do NOT order donuts from BK.

28. Donut County. This one gets by on its charm and style. The actual game of moving a hole around to have everyone’s crap fall into it is very straightforward, and pretty uninteresting. For all its comparisons to Katamari Damacy, these levels are too small and too simple to measure up; I didn't enjoy playing it. And while the writing and characters are funny in spots, it didn’t stick with me for long. It’s a short game that I got tired of before I even finished it.

29. We Were Here Too. Asymmetrical co-op games don’t get made that often, so it’s noteworthy when they do come around. Which makes it a shame when the ones that do come out aren’t all that polished. This one has some clever ideas, and I enjoyed solving some of these puzzles with a friend. It’s all about communicating what you see to your partner, and that’s a generally solid idea. But I think the game could do better with it. Despite its short length, it uses a lot of the same tricks as the previous game, has some puzzles I think are pretty bad, and is also surprisingly buggy. There’s a lot of room for improvement.

30. Mario Tennis Aces. Mario Tennis has been a pretty consistently unrewarding series to me since the Game Boy Color one, and nothing about Aces changes that trajectory. To be fair, they tried to spice it up with all the power meter stuff, which almost makes it more of a fighting game than a tennis game. But I personally don’t think that mode works well, and the classic way is still too bare bones to be interesting. There have always been better tennis games than Mario Tennis. Just because they stopped making those other games doesn’t make this one any better. It just makes me sad.

31. A Way Out. Man. I don’t feel like I often play games that I consider outright bad. Yet here we are: I think A Way Out is a bad video game. But kind of hilariously bad? I honestly did not hate playing through this, as my brother and I got some laughs from it. But it’s impossible for me to look at it and say it does anything well. Everything here is either extremely rote or poorly executed (or boring), the writing is completely terrible (hence the laughs), and the ideas it’s going for, both narratively and mechanically, are too basic to be interesting in the first place. I routinely could not believe what I was seeing as we played this, and it’s been a long time since I’ve personally played a game this bad. The world desperately needs more good co-op games, and unfortunately A Way Out doesn’t help that in the slightest.

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