Best of 2018

Alright, folks. It's the end of the year. Time to wrap up everything, bring out the champagne flutes, and watch the fireworks. Let's celebrate the beginning of a new year with a fresh start and a great outlook onto the year ahead!

...Oh wait, it's the middle of July. In the year 2019.

I was a busy dude the previous year, and I'm continuing that trend onto this year with a new career, and hopefully new beginnings. I told myself that I would finish my yearly tradition of posting my "Best Of" list on Giant Bomb, but I never did get around to it. It certainly doesn't help that as I've gotten older, my amount of free time begins to wane. And the big video game publishers like releasing their tent-pole titles around the end of the year, making it harder to play catch-up come list-making time.

There's an interesting side effect of releasing this list this late into the next year. Every year, I have a list with the games I've played and where I've ranked them. As I complete more games that I play, I add it to the list and shift around it's position on my list. Because I'm looking at a lot of those retroactively, instead of fresh in my mind, their position has changed over time. Some of these games have had some time to stew, and how I feel about them has changed. The previous years are sort of time capsules, but this list will be different because of the late entry.

Oh yeah, and in case you were wondering: 2018 was once again a nightmare year for reality. But hey, at least we weren't making Area 51 memes then.

CAUTION: Red Dead Redemption 2 Spoilers Below

List items

  • If you've read my previous entries, it's no surprise that I have a love for Rockstar Games. And they have once again altered the way we think about open-world action genre. Red Dead Redemption 2 is another culmination of the things that I loved about their previous games, and brought to the next generation. Great exploration opportunities, interactions with every entity in the world, fantastic gun-play, amazing dialog and motion capture, and breath-taking vistas.

    It's nowhere near perfect, and within an hour of holding the controller you can tell. The controls are a bit clunky and slow, the narrative pacing is not for everyone, and the mission structures are linear. But this is a game that much greater than the sum of it's parts. If you are fully involved with the story, the payoff is astronomical. For me, it did something that a game has never achieved before.

    I cried. I've had tears come during movies, games, and books. But never have I broken down from a piece of media. Arthur Morgan is an outstanding character who questions the morality of his actions, and the mortality of life in a dangerous world where people do not question these feelings. His interactions with his fellow gang members make for an unforgettable story. After what feels like a lifetime playing as him, his departure from the game makes it feel like you have lost a dear friend.

    Let me make it clear: Red Dead Redemption 2 is one of the best games of all times.

  • If you are a fan of racing games, both arcade and simulation, then you know that the Forza franchise is a necessary addition to your library. Forza Horizon 4 is no exception, with it's fluid driving dynamics, great range of vehicles and customization, and another banger soundtrack. The new locale of Great Britain is a welcome change of scenery, along with the new season system, making it necessary to change your driving style every week. And the best part is that unlike Forza Horizon 3, this game has ran flawlessly on my PC with no crashes.

  • Having not owned a Smash game since Melee for the GameCube, my main worry for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate was that the change would be overwhelming. With a whole new story system, a "spirit" system attached, an absolute plethora of new characters from dozens of franchises, I was worried that I would fall behind my friends who have kept up to date on the other Nintendo consoles. But Ultimate has been a treat, with a ton of exciting features, and a very approachable fight system. Smash Bros continues to be the fantastic party pleaser it was made to be. Oh, and they added Joker from Persona 5, so naturally it moves up the list.

  • Yes, it's just Tetris. And while Tetris is a great game, it's not one to write home about. But Tetris Effect enhances the game in a way that changes how you play. With an array of visualizations and game modes, combined with a head-bobbing soundtrack and fluid changes of paces, Tetris Effect pushes your flow-state to it's limit, creating for intense out-of-body moments while hyper-focused into a game. It's not too different from the base game of Tetris, but it has certainly increased my skill owning my friends in Puyo Puyo Tetris.

  • Back in 2016, Hitman was a game that came out of left field, with it's quirky do-anything approach to assassinations in very detailed environments. It's the only game where you could axe murder your way to the top floor of an art gallery as a Sheikh, or plant an explosive rubber ducky during a television interview. Hitman 2 is more of that, and then some. With great new environments such as Miami, Mumbai, and Vermont, I/O has doubled down on the off-the-wall ways to take out your enemies, and has made Hitman 2 another world of pure assassination.

  • Truth be told, I didn't finish Spider-Man. There's nothing wrong with it. The combat was smooth, the web-slinging was very on point, and the story was very engaging. Manhattan was expansive, and there was no shortage of things to do. But that was the problem. Spider-Man quickly turns into a collect-a-thon, similar to the older Assassin's Creed games. A lot of the fun skills were locked behind said collectibles, which lead to many hours played, with very little story progress. Oh yeah, and I had to return it to Redbox, too.

  • Donut County, conceptually, is pretty simple. Start with a small hole, suck down props and animals, the hole gets bigger, and you can suck down more props and animals. On paper, sounds like your average mobile game. But once you start reading the descriptions for everything you sucked into the abyss, you realize Donut County has heart. The game is short yet sweet, with a pleasant and cute art style, along with hilarious text and dialog, making it worth taking a spin.

  • I am definitely not the target audience for the 2D, indie, pixel-art, side-scroller. They all seem a dime of dozen, yet something with Celeste connected with me. Maybe it was the addicting chip tune music that got stuck in my head on repeat. Or fun air dash-controls through the desolate, dreary background of the mountain. I still haven't completed the game, but it's still a great time-killer. Jumping on my Switch, listening to the amazing soundtrack, and then getting angry at myself for being bad at SNES-style platformers.

  • When Josef Fares, creative director for A Way Out, came out onto the stage with Geoff Keighley and told the world "f*** the Oscars", I immediately knew I had to give the crazy man my money. A Way Out isn't perfect by any stretch of the imagination, with ho-hum dialog and acting, and sometime clunky controls. But it does provide for a fun time with another friend, with a story worth playing once over. The final sequence of the game, while a bit jarring, hasn't been done in a co-op game before, and is worthy of mention for trying something different. And in the end, that's what Fares wanted people to get from his game. So yeah, f*** the Oscars.

  • Giant Bomb's wiki system does not have a separate entry for the remastered game, but it's so damn close to the original Burnout Paradise, that I see why they did this. And that's not a knock on Burnout Paradise Remastered at all. It's the same intense, destructive, high-octane racing that you know and love, along with your favorites such as DJ Atomica, Avril Lavigne, that 11 minute LCD Soundsystem song, and of course Axel Rose screaming. All the mindless fun with all of your favorite music from the 2000s you could ever want. Now in high-definition... again.