From cowboys to Tetris
If you’re reading this, then congratulations are in order. It would seem, against all the odds, we’ve made it to the very end of 2018. Overall, 2018 was yet another nightmarish hellscape, but we’re not here to talk about the world at large, we’re only here to discuss video games, and those were pretty damn good.
I managed to work this list down to the ten games that resonated with me the most this year — my curated collection of indie hits and massive open worlds I managed to find time for over the past 12 months.
10. Monster Hunter World
It’s actually pretty crazy to think that Monster Hunter World came out this year, January feels so long ago. This wasn’t my first outing with Monster Hunter, but it’s the first entry in the series that really clicked for me. I spent an insane amount of time hunting beasts across the sprawling maps with friends and strangers alike. Something about the loop of it all just finally made sense to me and don’t get me started on those cooking cats.
World isn’t without fault. It’s weird party formation system and structure of your base of operations made linking up with friends sort of a chore, but the loot mechanics and combat made it all worth it. I haven’t picked this one back up in a few months, but with a proper expansion on the way, I imagine I’ll be reforming my hunting party in 2019.
Into the Breach
This is one of the few titles on this list I convinced myself to double dip on, first on PC and more recently with the Switch release. A lot was riding on Subset to make a worthy follow-up to FTL, and they delivered in a big way.
Into the Breach sees you taking control of a team of mech pilots fighting off the alien Vek. Combat takes the form of a rogue-lite tactics game. You’re given enough subgoals in each encounter, like protecting buildings, to make even the small victories feel essential.
Each run is based in a different timeline. When the Vek overtakes a timeline, you jump to another one bringing one of your pilots with you and attempting to save another reality from the Vek. The loop is quick, and each run feels like just enough progress to keep you wanting to try again. The Switch version especially has me lying on the couch late at night muttering, “One more go.”
8. Warhammer: Vermintide II
Do you like Left for Dead? Do you feel it doesn’t have enough wizards? Then do I have the fucking game for you! Warhammer: Vermintide II has somehow made my list despite that fact that I know jack shit about Warhammer.
Set in the end times of the Warhammer universe, Vermintide II sees a party of four traversing multiple huge levels like stone cities and murky sewers fighting back hordes of Skaven, the ratfolk of Warhammer’s lore. It’s an insanely satisfying game, especially if you like loot and have three friends to play with.
Fatshark has been pretty good about support for the title, so it’s totally worth jumping into in 2019. I’d hope for some new levels or character classes going forward.
7. Tetris Effect
Everybody loves Tetris; it’s arguably the objectively perfect game. You would be hard pressed to find someone who hasn’t played Tetris in some form or another over the years, but Tetris Effect is a pretty unique and awesome version of the classic puzzle game.
The gameplay is about the same as you would remember it, but the boards are all set to an awesome spectacle of different lights and sounds. It’s like a Tetris-induced acid trip. Headphones are a must for this one, and if you happen to have PSVR, it only makes things even better. You might think $40 is a lot for Tetris, but it’s well worth the price of entry.
6. Astrobot Rescue Mission
This is the only PSVR required game on my list and not enough people seem to be talking about how awesome Astrobot is. It seems like the 3D VR platformer may be the way to go for solid VR experiences.
Astrobot is a pretty amazing 3D platformer full of charm, collectibles, and super creative boss encounter all with the bonus of it being in virtual reality. The player takes on the role of a larger robot controlling the tiny Astrobot via a device that looks suspiciously like a PS4 controller.
It’s hard to explain what exactly makes this game so damn memorable, but with the price of PSVR lower than ever, I hope more people get to experience it in 2019.
5. Red Dead Redemption II
Red Dead II was easily one of the biggest releases of the year. I’ve already rolled credits on the massive game, but I’m still discovering new mysteries in the furthest corners of its map everytime I fire it up.
I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed the narrative of Red Dead II, even if it does overstay its welcome. I was pretty checked out by the time the epilogue started. This is a game with a massive open world that’s at its best when it just slightly nudges the player in the direction of exciting things to see and just lets things happen naturally.
Whether that means tracking down a homicidal maniac or getting hit by a train, the world of Red Dead II never fails to keep things interesting.
4. Hitman 2
The reimagining of Hitman was my absolute favorite game of 2016. While IO’s separation from Square Enix was cause for concern, they still managed to deliver big time with Hitman’s follow up.
Agent 47 has a new series of murder playgrounds, each one full of dumb ways to dispatch foes, the legacy pack which is free to owners of the original game even gives you access to all of the original maps. Hitman 2 adds new mechanics like hiding in tall grass or crowds and still manages to keep that super serious yet super dumb vibe that makes it so great.
Watching 47 dish out hamburgers at a neighborhood cookout while noting that they’re “to die for” might be my highlight of the year.
3. God of War
God of War was a series that meant a lot to me back in the PS2 era, but I wasn’t quite sure more Kratos was something we needed in 2018. Despite that the more I saw of this new God of War the more interested I got.
Cory Barlog’s vision ended up delivering bigtime, a more mature and less angry journey for Kratos saw him evolve into more of character while trying to raise his son. Also, throwing that ax around is fucking sweet.
Insomniac making a Spider-Man game was sure to be a home run. We already knew Insomniac could handle a massive open-world game, so giving them one of the greatest superheroes of all-time to do it with made perfect sense.
They managed to get just about everything you would want in a Spider-Man game down. Web swinging feels better than ever; combat borrows from games like Arkham Asylum while still feeling distinct to how the wall-crawler would fight. The world is chock full of Spidey’s greatest villains, but not so much that you’re drowning in them. Most importantly, it tells a pretty great story that isn’t beholden to a movie tie-in.
1. The Messenger
Of all the games I played this year, none blew me away like The Messenger. I had been following the game for a while, but checking it out at PAX East was what made me realize how unique this game is. Lots of projects tug at our nostalgia, but The Messenger manages to pull you in with nostalgia and then present you with new and fantastic ideas.
A metroidvania disguising itself as a Ninja Gaiden tribute, The Messenger pulls together tight platforming mechanics, comedic writing, and easily the best original soundtrack of 2018. It’s one of the best indies on the Switch and even has some new content coming in 2019.
I can’t encourage fans of old-school platformers to check this one out enough. It was my game of 2018 hands down.