Game of the Year
This is it, the cream of the crop. These are the 10 best games I played in 2018, with a few honorable mentions because there were just so many damn great games that came out last year.
Assassin’s Creed Odyssey
Despite being disappointed overall, there’s still a lot to like about Assassin’s Creed Odyssey. Kassandra is a great character, the world is beautiful and well-realized, and the ship and on-foot combat are the best they’ve ever been.
There weren’t really any categories where Moonlighter excelled, but it’s still a great dungeon crawler. It has a cool pixelated vibe and I love the additional gameplay system of running a shop where you sell the loot you find.
Octopath Traveler was a near miss for the top 10, and that primarily comes down the story and characters having inconsistent quality. But the game’s style is memorable and I like the nostalgic combat and writing.
10. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate really feels like the culmination of every Smash game to come before it. It wasn’t really fair to consider Ultimate for categories like Best Characters or Best Setting given the breadth of inclusions, which is mainly why the game didn’t pop up more in the categories. While World of Light mode isn’t quite as good as Subspace Emissary form Melee, there’s still a ton of fun to be had with all the Nintendo callbacks and Easter eggs.
9. The Banner Saga 3
The Banner Saga 3 may climb on this list once I finish it, but for now, this feels right. My qualms about the over-complicated story and over-abundance of characters have been mentioned in other categories, but the game still overcomes those to offer a strategy RPG with far more depth and challenge than either of the previous entries. I just wish I wouldn’t have lost my old save files so that the story was truly my own.
The story of Florence has truly stayed with me for months after playing through it. The middle section of the game feels slightly rushed, which hampers the emotional impact of the breakup just a bit, but it’s still a beautiful, sad, hopeful little game. The way Florence uses the mobile platform and the obvious ways we’re used to interacting with our phones in order to build the story is nothing short of brilliant.
Gris was my biggest surprise of the year. I didn’t really hear many people talking about it, and that’s a shame. But that’s also part of the fun of Game of the Year, to highlight some games people may not have played — but that they should. Gris doesn’t have exceptionally challenging platforming or puzzles to solve, but the way its story is conveyed is unique, effective, and emotionally touching.
6. Donut County
If you’re looking for simple fun, look no further than Donut County. The puzzles aren’t hard, but each one feels different than the rest and they all build upon one another to create a final level that really feels like the culmination of everything you’ve learned up to that point. The game also has a killer soundtrack and style to spare. I do wish there was a side mode that had actual challenging puzzles, primarily just because the hole mechanic is super fun.
I’m not a “hardcore platformer” kind of person, but there were two big exceptions this year. Celeste earns its spot with pixel-precise jumping that feels great, and a surprisingly personal story that I wanted to see through to the end. I’ll never be a pro Celeste player going for all of the strawberries and b-sides, but I’m satisfied with the challenge I did experience.
4. Spyro Reignited Trilogy
I remembered the Spyro games very differently than the reality of what they were, which probably says a lot about other nostalgic gaming experiences. But truly, more work was put into the Spyro Reignited Trilogy than was necessary, and that’s worth lauding. The game looks gorgeous, has a ton of personality, and the gameplay — while simple — surprisingly holds up pretty well. I still hate the flying levels, though.
3. Guacamelee 2
The first Guacamelee was one of my favorite games going back to 2013, but I never thought we’d see a sequel because so much time had passed. Well, I’m glad that I was wrong on that one. Where the first game was famous for its punishing boss battles, Guacamelee 2 actually tones those down a bit and instead ramps up the platforming difficulty. Man some of those sections were frustrating, but that’s part of what makes beating the game satisfying.
2. Marvel’s Spider-Man
Game of the Year was a two-horse race for me this year, and as someone invested in the PlayStation ecosystem, I’m pretty excited that it came down to two exclusives. Marvel’s Spider-Man is just a solid video game. I wouldn’t say anything about it is particularly new, but when everything is done with well, that’s still enough. I was pretty bummed by some of the new enemy types in the DLC, but I still want to play it just to get more story and have an excuse to swing around the city.
1. God of War
It shouldn’t come as a surprise to see God of War top the list, given how it won Best Looking, Best Setting, Best Characters, and Best Story — despite merely finishing 4th in Best Music. That’s a pretty dominant performance. There are certainly pieces of the game that aren’t exceptional, but it truly is the whole package. I absolutely cannot wait to see where the franchise goes from here.
And there you have it, my ever so slightly late 2018 Game of the Year categories.
Let me know your favorite games from 2018 in the comments below, and be sure to check out all of my Game of the Year content from previous years!