It's that time again, and for once, I'm actually getting my best games of 2018 list out IN 2018. But enough talk, have at thee!
1) TIE: Marvel's Spider-Man and God of War (Both Playstation 4 Exclusive)
Once again I'm copping out and slapping two games in the number one spot. But look, I could NOT choose between these two games. Both are an absolute masterclass in their respective genres.
God of War is an absolute masterpiece, everything about the game is perfect. The gameplay is tight, the graphics are gorgeous, the story is engaging, and the move from fixed camera angled mass slaughter to a tighter, focused action RPG sort of gameplay style was a breath of fresh air for the series. God of War is an enormous departure from the previous games in the series, but despite being so wildly different, it stays incredibly true to the series' roots, while progressing a story that we've all been following since 2005 in ways that make perfect sense. Everything that happens is earned, and beautiful. It's also an enormous game, loaded with secrets hidden in various nooks and crannies that will keep you busy for hours and hours. I honestly can't find anything wrong with it. It's a perfect game.
Spider-Man, on the other hand, is a blast. Spidey's been a popular choice for licensed superhero games, and for good reason. His power set lends itself well to gameplay. There have been tons of great Spider-Man games over the years (and some...less than great ones). But this one ramped it up to a whole other level. The webslinging (a difficult mechanic to work out) is perfect, the combat borrows from and refines on the formula put forth by the Batman Arkham games in a way that makes sense for the character, the story draws upon both decades upon decades of rich comic book history and original ideas to craft a wonderful narrative, and the world design is something else. I've seen people posting that they've found their actual real life apartment buildings in the game's version of Manhattan. That's craziness. It's a wild ride from start to finish, and even beyond the finish as the City That Never Sleeps DLC expansions are a must-play addition to the game, picking up where the main story left off. Another perfect game, and one that will make you laugh and cry in equal measure. This is how superhero video games should be done, with love and care for the property, married to masterful game design.
2) Super Smash Bros. Ultimate (Nintendo Switch Exclusive)
If there's one word that can be used to describe Smash Ultimate, it's STUFFED. There is SO much content in this game. Every single fighter in Smash history is back (though admittedly some of the older ones weren't updated much, David Hayter wasn't asked back in to record new codecs for Snake for example, so he only has codec calls for characters that were in Brawl), all of the stages are back, you're basically spoiled for choice for characters and stages. That would have been enough to make it a big seller, but nope, Sakurai kept right on going. The new Spirit system opened up a whole new level of customization and there are literally HUNDREDS of them, opening up whole new options to buff your characters. Think that's all though? Fuck no. A single player adventure mode also makes a return, in the return of a single player adventure mode, the World of Light campaign, in a similar vein to the much-beloved Subspace Emissary mode from Brawl. The one complaint there is there is little in the way of additional voice acting or cutscenes, and the battles can get a bit repetitive, but it's still a huge and awesome content addition. Smash Ultimate is stuffed full of content, and more is being added all the time in the form of additional spirits, and the forthcoming DLC characters, including Piranha Plant (free to download if you register your copy with Club Nintendo, register now and you'll get him when he releases in February), and perhaps the most exciting addition to the franchise for me since Cloud and Bayonetta in Smash 4, the protagonist of one of my games of the year last year: Joker from Persona 5. With the recent rumours swirling about that Persona 5 is getting an updated P4Golden style re-release that will be coming to Switch, this is super exciting stuff. What I'm getting at here is Smash Ultimate is an AMAZING value proposition, and a worthy addition to anyone's Switch library. Also seriously Persona 5 on Switch now please.
3) Dragon Ball FighterZ (PS4, Xbox One, PC, Nintendo Switch)
Never in a thousand years did I think I'd find myself putting a Dragon Ball game on my best of list for 2018. Dragon Ball has always had kind of a shaky relationship with video games. There are certainly some pretty great games (Tenkaichi 3 is forever my favourite, and the Xenoverse games are great fun), but best of the year? They're never in the conversation. So imagine my delight when FighterZ came out, and not only was it an EXCELLENT title, but it was easily the best fighting game of the year, only edged out by Smash on this list due to Smash having an insane amount of content included in it. Smash is the better game, but FighterZ is by far the better fighter. DB FighterZ plays like a cross between Marvel vs. Capcom 3, BlazBlue, and Guilty Gear, with a Dragon Ball coat of paint, and a roster that draws from Z, Super, and even non-canon characters like Cooler (and I guess non-canon but now-canon characters like Broly). If you have a favourite Dragon Ball character, they're probably in here, and they're probably good. Amazingly, dark horse candidate Android 16 came out of nowhere to be one of the top characters in the game, which is awesome, 'cause he's a character that despite being a pretty big part of the Cell Saga never really had much to do except die at the right point to motivate Gohan, so seeing him be a total Goku-killing beast is great stuff. If you like fast paced 3v3 tag fighters, this is the game for you. This is a must-own for both fighting game fans and Dragon Ball fans alike. Even the (original, fully-voice acted) story is good, if a bit repetitive. Also Android 21 is one of the best recent additions to Dragon Ball lore, and I'm not just saying that because she's a super cute redhead with glasses. Game rocks, Arc System Works slayed it, buy this game.
4) Fist of the North Star: Lost Paradise (Playstation 4 Exclusive)
I had a hard time trying to figure out where to place this on my list. It's such a strange game. Fist of the North Star is such a strange property all on its own, with its post-apocalyptic 80s hair metal aesthetic and RIDICULOUS fight scenes, and then the Yakuza games are...well, the Yakuza games. Lots of weird offbeat side stories and minigames. They're niche as fuck, but have their audience. So the prospect of combining the two is like....okay this is either going to be a really strange game, or a really awesome game. Turns out, it's a really strange AND awesome game. Turns out the Fist of the North Star franchise lends itself really, really well to Yakuza's over-the-top campy gameplay style and sensibilities. The end result is a sight to behold, that successfully condenses a LOT of the Fist of the North Star story into an original setting, with satisfying gameplay, and a whole lot of strangeness. There's a lot to be said for a game where you can beat someone so badly their death cry manifests as a physical object, that you can then pick up and beat other people with. Oh, and exploding body parts EVERYWHERE. It's weird, it's fun, and it's well worth a spot on this list. Also there's a hair metal version of the Yakuza theme Receive You that is incredible. You'll find yourself skipping back to it on the car radio a lot. There's even a Kiryu skin for Ken that, since they share a voice actor, basically means you're playing as Kiryu in the world of Fist of the North Star. That's cool shit.
5) Detroit: Become Human (Playstation 4 Exclusive)
I have to admit, I almost didn't buy this game. Stories of Quantic Dream's corporate culture completely soured me on buying any more of their games. But when I happened to run across it used on eBay for the lowest price I'd ever seen, I decided to bite, and I'm glad I did. The game plays considerably better than Quantic Dream's previous titles (Heavy Rain and Beyond: Two Souls), and the story, dealing with themes of what it means to be human and alive, is both interesting and thought-provoking. Ultimately, I'm glad I didn't skip it, even though David Cage is something of a piece of shit. The gameplay is...pretty much what you'd expect from a Quantic Dream game, more of an interactive movie with exploration elements and branching story options, but the story is really good (easily the best David Cage has ever written), and the game is PRETTY. Considering Quantic Dream's corporate culture and subsequent mishandling of the backlash I cannot condone supporting them by buying it new until they finally admit there's something inherently wrong with how they handle their biz and the complaints of their employees, but if you can pick it up used at a good price, absolutely bite, as it's well worth the experience.
HONOURABLE MENTION: Hollow Knight (Windows, Mac, Linux, Switch, PS4, Xbox One)
Okay so technically Hollow Knight came out on PC, Mac, and Linux in 2017, but the console ports didn't hit until mid-late 2018, so it's making the list as an honourable mention, as I didn't get around to playing it until then. Hollow Knight is a 2D Metroidvania style platformer, which uses the Dark Souls formula of "if you die you have to get back to where you died and defeat a shade of your prior character to get your shit back", which is becoming somewhat overused in gaming, but here it works. There's the usual upgrades, like additional attacks and items that open up new traversal and combat possibilities. All this sounds like dozens of indie games that came out over the past X years, but Hollow Knight does it all to a very, very high standard, with an incredible and unique art style. Regardless of your platform, this is one to pick up.
MOST ANTICIPATED 2019 GAME: Death Stranding (Playstation 4, PC at a later date)
I can't imagine Death Stranding won't be occupying this spot on a lot of people's lists. Compared to most games set for 2019 we know very, very little about it. What kind of game is it? What's the story about? NOBODY FUCKING KNOWS. But it's the first game from Hideo Kojima and his team since splitting with Konami, and that's more than enough to sell me on it all on its own. And featuring a cast including the likes of Norman Reedus (The Walking Dead, Boondock Saints), Lea Seydoux (Inglorious Basterds), Mads Mikkelsen (Hannibal, Dr. Strange), and a cameo from Guillermo Del Toro (director of the Hellboy series, Pan's Labrynth, etc), there's a lot of star power behind this. Married to Kojima's penchant for interesting gameplay and outright batshit insanity, this stands to be one of the most unique, interesting games of 2019 (assuming it makes the 2019 window, but Kojima has been pretty adamant about that being the case). I'm not sure if the game itself could ever live up to the level of speculation surrounding it, but even if it only gets halfway there, it'll be an easy contender for GOTY 2019, and expect to see it on this list again next year.
Note that I excluded Kingdom Hearts III from most anticipated this year deliberately, as all we're going to know about the game prior to launch has been revealed due to it being out in a few short weeks. I'm past the point of anticipating it, at this point I'm just counting down the days 'til I can get my hands on it.
So that's my list for 2018. What were your favourites? What games are you looking forward to in 2019? Hit the comments below with your picks!