The Best & Worst Games of 2018


The Best & Worst of 2017 / 2016 / 2015 / 2014 / 2013 / 2012 / 2011 / 2010

And that's another year done.

Another year closer to PS5, Xbox One Two, and Nintendo 2witch.

Another year closer to new TimeSplitters.

Another year closer to the Final Fantasy VII reboot being another year away.

Another year closer to death.

We learnt a great deal in 2018. We learnt that there will probably be next-gen reveals in the next 12 months, that Lady Gaga digs Bayonetta and that Battle Royale isn't just a Japanese movie about a bunch of juvenile delinquents being forced to murder each other with kitchen utensils but is also the genre of a cultural phenomenon, where juvenile delinquents murder each other online and also dance. Most important of all, we learnt that shoddy canvas bags are unacceptable.

I really enjoyed video games in 2018, as I do most years. I liked the games I thought I was going to like, and was also pleasantly surprised by a handful that I wasn't expecting. I spent the vast majority of my gaming time on the PS4, but I also played far more Switch than expected and found an outstanding reason to dust off my Xbox One. This was the first year since launch that I didn’t play anything on my Vita or 3DS.

These are the games I played in 2018, to completion or for a significant chunk of time:

Played: Assassin's Creed Origins, Burnout Paradise Remastered, Call of Duty: Black Ops III, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Remastered, Captain Toad Treasure Tracker, Far Cry 5, FIFA 18, Forza Horizon 4, God of War, Gorogoa, Ikaruga, Lumines Remastered, Mario Odyssey, Marvel's Spider-Man, Monster Hunter World, Nintendo Labo, No Man's Sky, Onrush, Persona 5 (20 hours), Red Dead Redemption 2, Tetris Effect, The Legend of Zelda: A Breath of the Wild, Trackmania Turbo

Currently playing: Hollow Knight, Octopath Traveller

Bought but have yet to play: Assassin's Creed Odyssey, Diablo III, Into the Breach, Nier Automata, Red Faction Guerrilla Remarstered, Skyrim (Switch), Yakuza Kiwami 2

These are the best and worst games of 2018, according to me.

Enjoy your games and have a Happy New Year. 

Sadie Arthur

1. Game of the Year: Red Dead Redemption 2

With all due respect to my third-place finisher, Forza Horizon 4, this was a two-horse race.

Monster Hunter World dominated the first few months of the year. I put a hundred hours into slaying, split between single and multiplayer. Alone, I hunted mental dinosaurs into near-extinction as I committed to complete sets of beautiful armour. But I had the most fun playing with friends, felling high-level beasts in the most disorganised ways imaginable.

World is the most refined Monster Hunter yet. It improved on almost every aspect of its predecessors and its mainstream success is well deserved. However, Red Dead Redemption 2 left a greater impression.

RDR2 is slow and antiquated. It leans on mechanics and conventions that were already dated back in 2010, when the first RDR came out. Yet it captivated me in a way that few, if any, narrative-driven open worlds ever have.

Our protagonist, Arthur, begins as a relatively blank canvas - blank in back story and in personality. However, in time I became fully invested in his story. Red Dead Redemption (2010) told us nothing about its prequel’s lead, despite the key role he had played in the lives of its central characters. Its silence on the matter told us more than we really wanted to know. The inevitability of certain events did not lessen their impact, but instead added to the overwhelming sense of melancholy that also permeated the last game. It is a game of inevitability – in the fate of these characters, the lives they lead, and the demise of the Old West. For the most part, you know exactly what’s coming, but everything plays out in such a way that I never really cared.

Dutch and his band of outlaws form an outstanding ensemble. Some of them are likable, others are despicable, but they come together perfectly to drive a story that maintained momentum for almost all of its sixty-hour run time. The world is sparsely populated but it consistently beckons with promises of new stories and discoveries. The larger towns are interesting, but I was always pining for adventure in wide open spaces. It was a world that I greatly enjoyed visiting.

I haven’t even touched RDR Online, and I might not. I don’t need to experience the full package to know that Red Dead Redemption 2 is my favourite game of 2018.

Honourable Mentions: Monster Hunter World, Forza Horizon 4

2. Best 2017-2018 Split Play-through: Zelda: Breath of the Wild

This is quite the category that I have made up just now. I played thirty hours of Zelda: Breath of the Wild this year, the final two thirds of Mario Odyssey and the second half of Assassin's Creed Origins. Zelda was my 2017 GOTY and Mario and AC both received honourable mentions, in spite of the limited time I spent with all three. As it turns out, my early enthusiasm was spot on, and Zelda ended up being the best of the bunch.

Honourable Mentions: Mario Odyssey, Assassin’s Creed Origins

3. Best pre-2018 Game I Played This Year (for the umpteenth time): Burnout Paradise Remastered

I played Burnout Paradise for the second year in a row. Last year it was the 360 backwards compatible version; this year it was the slightly prettier remaster. Honestly, it didn't look all that different and there were no major additions to the original. However, it didn't matter, because it's Burnout Paradise and Burnout Paradise is pure gaming joy. If only all games could age as gracefully.

Honourable Mention: Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Remastered

Nergigante

4. My Daughter's Game of the Year: Monster Hunter World

Mario Odyssey could have won two years in a row, but I'd prefer to give it to a 2018 game. My daughter enjoyed watching me put "naughty dinosaurs" to sleep over and over again. She'd encourage me to make tails fall off with my sharp stick; she loved helping to dress up my Palico, and she never tired of watching the canteen cats cook our dinner. Occasionally she would protest that a monster was too scary, so we'd switch to something a little less intimidating and put that to sleep instead. She'll be hunting Rathian in no time.

Honourable Mentions: Mario Odyssey, Captain Toad's Treasure Tracker

5. Standout Moment: Red Dead Redemption 2 - "Thank you, girl"

Red Dead Redemption 2 has lots of memorable, scripted moments that punctuate the relative quiet and occasional tedium of life in 1899. Notable moments include the mid-game bank job, defending a coastal fort from unwanted visitors, busting a psychopathic cohort from a local jail, or the first time the posse rides out as a crew. These events had my heart pumping and my trigger finger itching, but it was a far quieter moment that stayed with me the longest. I won't spoil the scene, but Arthur whispering "thank you, girl" to his horse, my horse, had the intended effect.

Honourable Mention: God of War - the first and final fights with Baldur

6. Best Partial Playthrough: Persona 5

I decided that playing a bit of Persona 5 was better than playing none of Persona 5. I knew that I couldn't invest over one hundred hours into a single JRPG, as it'd take me at least two months and would push my tolerance for JRPG nonsense to the absolute limit. So instead of giving it a pass, I opted to play just one or two dungeons and maybe come back to it at a later date. So that's what I did, playing around 20 hours, all of which I thoroughly enjoyed. It scratches all the same itches as P4, the crew of outcasts are thoroughly likable and combat is nuanced and satisfying. Next time I find myself languishing between new releases, I'll return to Person 5 for another dungeon or two.

Honourable Mentions: Hollow Knight, Octopath Traveller

7. Worst Opening Hours of an Otherwise Outstanding Game: Red Dead Redemption 2

I was very down on RDR2 at first. I appreciate that Rockstar wants to set the scene and retain full control of your introduction to these characters, but the first ten hours move at a glacial pace. They are boring and unnecessarily plodding. Player agency is non-existent and we are expected to immediately care about the lives of characters we know next to nothing about. Fortunately, it picks up after around ten hours and the linearity of delivery becomes far less of an issue, as you start to care about your band of outlaws.

Dishonourable Mention: Monster Hunter World - more accessible than ever, yet also needlessly dense and overwhelming

8. Most Addictive (Sponsored by Resogun): Tetris Effect

I've never been a huge Tetris guy, but there's definitely something hypnotic about cascading blocks and angular puzzle pieces. Add the sounds and visuals of Mizuguchi and his team and you've got something special and a little bit trippy. It's one of those "just one more go before bed" games that eats into my beauty sleep, has me yawning at work and forgetting how to spell my name. Good stuff but more than a little dangerous.

Honourable Mention: Lumines Remastered (Enhance Games are good at this!)


9. Best Gameplay Mechanic: The rewind function in Forza Horizon 4

I could happily throw Kratos' axe all day, burying it deep inside horrific creatures and having it return like a hideous boomerang. Swinging from skyscraper to skyscraper as Spider-Man was effortless yet always entertaining, but neither can best the simplicity and usefulness of the rewind function in Forza Horizon 4. It's nothing new, but it makes races so much more fun and removes the annoyance of having to restart an event all because of one misjudged turn or spat of over-breaking. It's given to you in just the right helping: enough to give you an advantage without ruining the competitiveness of the race. Of course, I'm an excellent driver and never resort to such shameless cheating.

Honourable Mentions: Kratos' boomerang axe, Spider-man's web-slinging

10. Best Character: The Red Dead Redemption 2 ensemble

There was no shortage of excellent options in 2018. This was the year that Kratos finally opened up, a bit any way, and the outstanding writing in Spider-Man made the entire cast shine. However, I've gone the ensemble route and given it to Red Dead Redemption 2.

Arthur alone isn't deserving. He spent the first 10-20 hours as an empty vessel, a vehicle for getting you from point A to B and introducing you to everyone else. However, that does change as the story starts to ramp up, as we learn more about him and the gang begins to fracture. By the end I was very attached to Arthur, but it was a slow start.

I was pleasantly surprised to discover that John Marston, our lead in waiting, has such a substantial role to play. I enjoyed Dutch as the charismatic but troubled leader, though some of his choices later in the game left me scratching my head. I appreciated Micah as the unpredictable, untrustworthy and bloodthirsty killer in the group; Hosea filled his role perfectly, the yin to Dutch's yang, and Charles was an increasingly interesting ally. Sadie's growth in prominence was believable and fun. But more than the individuals, I appreciated Arthur's developing relationships with each of them and how, as the game progressed, you started to learn who he truly cared about and how far his sense of loyalty could carry broken relationships.

Honourable mentions: Kratos (God of War), Peter Parker (Spider-Man),

11. Biggest Disappointment: Gorogoa

I'm usually pretty good at knowing what I will or won't enjoy. Gorogoa seemed like something I'd appreciate - a challenging puzzle game with a unique style and look. I was wrong. While I liked the presentation, the puzzles are beyond obtuse and the solutions were often reached through trial and error, not some wonderful eureka-moment. I stuck with it for far too long, hoping that the mechanics would click and I'd start enjoying it. That was a poor decision.

Dishonourable Mention: Nintendo Labo - fun to make, far less fun to play.

12. Best Multiplayer: Monster Hunter World

Monster Hunter is fun on your own, but it's best played with others. More specifically, it's best played with a crew of regulars. My friends and I burned many an evening in cooperative slaughter. The more we played, the more efficient our hunts became, as we came to understand our roles within the team and the optimal way of achieving victory and farming vital resources. We'd still fuck up regularly, of course, but that was half the fun.

Honourable Mention: Burnout Paradise Remastered

Marvel

13. Best Game I Had no Interest in Until the Last Minute: Spider-Man

I had no interest in Spider-Man, but then I started to put the pieces together. I took note of the developer, the sparkling reviews, and the gameplay videos that reminded me of the Arkham series and the best parts of InFamous. Recommendations from friends were the final straw. It's weird how some games can sneak up on you, even when they are in plain view. I'm glad I saw the light, as Spider-Man was hugely entertaining from start to finish.

14. Biggest Surprise: D'Angelo in Red Dead Redemption 2

I do enjoy a bit of D'Angelo. Unfortunately he's not the most prolific of artists, having released only three studio albums since his debut in 1995. We've heard barely a peep out of him since 2014, so you can appreciate my surprise when a distinctly D'Angelo groove turned up mid-game in RDR2. His track, "Unshaken", plays from start-to-finish as Arthur heads back to the gang's old hideout, following his time as a castaway. I was very happy.

Honourable Mention: My enjoyment of Spider-Man

15. Best Value: Forza Horizon 4

I redeemed my Game Pass free trial and spent two weeks indulging my UK boy-racer fantasies in Forza Horizon 4. And I enjoyed every last minute of it. Zero monies for one of the best games of 2018 and what may be one of my favourite-ever racing games. I enjoyed it so much that I fully intend to buy a physical copy next year and play the DLC.

Honourable Mention: Monster Hunter World

16. Most Likely to Have me Checking Wikis at Work: Monster Hunter World

How many Nergigante's do I have to kill before I can make Nergigante stockings? Why can't Kelbi die? Why am I constantly being interrupted by fucking Bazelgeuse? What's the point of the Gathering Hub? Why do my friends always forget to bring bombs? Why is this weird cat following me? Monster Hunter is dense, mysterious, yet also strangely inviting. Thank Zorah for FAQs.

Honourable Mention: No Man's Sky

17. Best Upgrade: No Man's Sky

I wanted to like No Man's Sky when it first came out, but it was boring. It had big ideas and plenty of style, but it was a bad game. Two years later, and following a succession of patches and a soft-reboot, I decided to give it another try. It still has some issues, but overall I really enjoyed the beautiful monotony of it all. I had to tear myself away after about thirty hours, because all I was doing was hunting resources to fix a wrecked ship I'd found on some long forgotten planet, which didn't seem like the best use of my time. I have to admit, I was having a pretty good time doing it though.

Kratos

18. Biggest 360: God of War

I was bored. The setting wasn't doing much for me, the boy was doing my head in, and if there was a tender side to this journey and the bonding between father and son, then it was lost on me. All I could see was a muscular man with anger issues getting annoyed at his very annoying son. Then something clicked. I started enjoying myself far more. The characters seemed more interesting, the combat more fun, the setting more appealing and the conversations more stimulating. The switch coincided with a third party being added to our group, a chatty severed head, which changed the dynamic. I'm not sure if he was really the cause, but I found myself enjoying the game far more. Come the end, I didn't want it to finish.

19. Emptiest Calories: Far Cry 5

I enjoyed Far Cry 5. It was mindless entertainment that quenched my thirst for storming bases and unlocking maps, just like every other Far Cry I've ever played. It was a new skin on a very familiar formula. The beginning and the end were memorable, but I can't remember much of anything in between. I think I had a good time though.

20. Longest Suffering Enemy: Nergigante - Monster Hunter World

That poor bastard died a lot, and all in the name of fashion. I hunted him alone and I hunted him with friends, so I could wear his skin and make a weapon out of his bones. To be fair, he killed me a lot too. At first, he was a hugely challenging adversary, but by the end we'd perfected the art of Nergigante killing and could bring him down in a little over five minutes. RIP Nerg.

21. Late-in-the-year Contender That I Need to Acknowledge: Hollow Knight

I picked this up in a Switch sale earlier in the year, but I only started playing it properly this week. It has definitely made an impression in that time. It's one of those games that I either love or hate, depending on the day you ask me. At it's best, or more accurately when I'm at my best, I can't put it down. When things aren't going right, however, it's hugely frustrating. Sounds just like some of my favourite games of the last few years (Dark Souls, Bloodborne, Resogun etc.). Oh, and the soundtrack is outstanding.

22. Wish I'd Made Time For: Thronebreaker: The Witcher Tales

I knew nothing of this game until a few weeks ago, when I learnt of its impending release on consoles. I was about ready to dismiss it as another card game, a new way of selling Gwent, a Witcher 3 mini game that I never really cared for. However, there seems to be more than enough of an RPG there to make it something that I'd enjoy. The art style is very appealing and I'm up for any excuse to revisit that world. I expect to play this sometime very soon.

Honourable Mention: Assassin's Creed Odyssey

23. Most Looking Forward to in 2019: Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice

There's lots of good stuff on the horizon, though nothing I'm anticipating as much as I did RDR2 and MHW this year. I'm looking forward to revisiting Resident Evil 2 next month, for the first time in twenty years. Ghost of Tsushima looks beautiful, but we still don't know if it'll be out next year, Devil May Cry 5 will be a blast, and Fire Emblem Switch will be a good time. However, my number one has to be Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice. I expect that it will be difficult to get into but hard to put down. It will be the Dark Souls of games developed by the Dark Souls developer that isn't Dark Souls, which is good.

Honourable Mentions: Resident Evil 2 Remake, Ghost of Tsushima

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