Alright, let’s get a few things out of the way: Monster Hunter World, Read Dead Redemption 2, and Smash Bros Ultimate won’t be on this list. Not because they’re undeserving, but rather it’s because I didn’t have as much spare time for a bunch of new games this year, at least for ones that are somewhat out of my usual wheelhouse. Hell, I’m putting money down right now that one of those is going to make it onto the Best Missed 2018 article I’ll write next year. For now though I’m dealing with the slim list of what I got through this year, and even though I’m not working with a whole lot, there is just enough for my usual ten entries of five honorable mentions, and the ultimate top five. Even so, this list wasn’t easy to figure out; just figuring out where to place everything was tricky, and I’m still unsure of two choices in particular. But in any event...
Yeah, this came out in 2018; that’s how long this year has been. However, I don’t want to think though that this placed here because of how long it’s been since it came out, but rather its placing demonstrates A Way Out’s weaker points, and how I’ve always said that co-op is to gaming is what a manual transmission is to a car: it probably will make the experience of it feel better, but it doesn’t necessarily make the thing itself better. A Way Out, while filled with emotional moments and glimpses of cool gameplay, just doesn’t quite have the same lasting impact as its predecessor Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons. It didn’t stay with me as much as I wish it did, and it wasn’t the “achievement in narrative” as some critics were calling it, but that one night I spent with an absolute stranger did make it one of my better gaming experiences this year, and A Way Out did at least make me see the appeal of co-op, even if the game itself was just alright.
Best multiplayer of the year, I swear. I know Destiny 2 was my most played game of the year, but the online experience of Battlefield V alone is so damn enjoyable and addictive that I’m actually still hesitant placing it here in the honorable mentions. Honestly, if the single player was just a little bit better and if it launched with more content, it’d place in the proper top 5. But even so, we’re going to get loads of new maps and content down the road, and the climax to Tirailleur is one of the hardest gut punches I’ve ever experienced in a game. In just one scene, Battlefield V almost perfectly showed what real erasure of history looked liked, not only making its worst critics look like the petulant idiots they always were, but also possibly cementing it a place as an all time great war game.
Dammit, I wish this was better than it was. I was hoping for a no holds barred look at rural American culture, even if it was just an action-satire. I was hoping for something akin to the catharsis I felt in Wolfenstein: The New Colossus from last year, but Far Cry 5 somehow found the weakest middle ground possible. Sure it looks great, the fishing mini game is so much better than any of us were expecting, and the Far Cry formula of using any and all forms of firearms to take over bases is still as enjoyable as ever, but maybe this is when I’ve finally hit my limit with this series. Yeah, I can’t take a game that has a pet cougar named Peaches too seriously... but this still feels like a missed opportunity to bring Far Cry to a greater height than it has become all too comfortable with.
I know there’s a great racing game in here, but for now Onrush gets to claim the honor of best racing game that doesn’t have “Forza” in the title. I’ll admit, it is a lot better when it’s played in performance mode where it’s 60 fps instead of the standard 30, and at various times when I thought it was getting stale, a new game mode would open up to get my interest back. It’s easily one of most fresh arcade racers I’ve played in years... but it’s still not the best. But Codemasters, if you’re reading this: I cannot wait for the follow up to this. And to the rest of you, if you’re in the mood for an absolute blast of a racing game where you don’t have to worry about pole positions, and just want to smash everything in your path, Onrush is right here for you.
I know everyone treated this as an ending to a trilogy that started with the 2013 reboot of Tomb Raider, but personally I’ve come to look at it as something more akin to Batman: Arkham Origins; less of a next step in the series, and more of a detour made by an outside team. I know it’s not as good as Rise of the Tomb Raider for several good reasons (the narrative’s still on the weaker side, there isn’t much innovation in the gameplay, the Amazon rainforest somehow just isn’t as cool or engaging a setting as Siberia was), but replaying it just now, Shadow is still an oddly likable game. I’ve maintained the Tomb Raider reboot games were what the Uncharted series wanted to be during the PS3 era, and even though that’s no longer true thanks to A Thief’s End, Shadow is still a damn fine action adventure title filled with cool setpieces, and the tombs are as fantastic environmental puzzles as they ever were. Sure, Shadow is something of a step down, but it’s still on the level, so to speak.
And with those out of the way:
Finally, a superhero game that surpassed Batman: Arkham City, almost entirely by having so more heart than Arkham City ever did. People might’ve said that its free-flow combat felt outdated, but I found it to be a merciful breath of fresh air when surrounded by the goddamn Souls hack and slash that’s finally starting to wane in popularity. And even with a tried-and-true combat system, Spider-Man excelled in just about every other area possible: the traversal is superb, the characters and narrative all get your attention and make you invested in the battle to keep New York safe, there are enough nods to the source material to make fans happy, and along with enough new twists and turns on said material to make what’s been done before feel new again, it all made Insomniac’s take on Spider-man something that can stand tall and proud with the webslinger’s other adventures outside the comics. The only weak point is its DLC honestly, but even that isn’t much of a detractor since you can simply avoid playing it, and the game as is feels like a complete experience. In other years a game like this might be edged out by other titles, but when a take on superheroes is as fresh, uncynical, and full of heart and respect for the characters as this is, I simply cannot object to putting it here.
I’m taking a bit of a chance on this one. I’m nowhere near finished with it, but just from what I’ve gotten out of it, Odyssey is absolutely the best surprise I had in gaming all year. I wasn’t looking forward to this title due to being a prequel to Origins (a game that was supposed to be where the Assassin’s Creed saga truly began, only to undercut it for god knows what reason), and I’m also not a fan of its Greek aesthetic. And while Origins is still a good game, it had gameplay I’m still not the biggest fan of. But in Odyssey ... somehow, all those problems were almost completely ironed out, and it’s actually, possibly, the first Assassin’s Creed game to overtake both AC2 and Black Flag as the best game in the series.
I’d like to think it’s due to it being a simplified Witcher 3, which I mean as a complement since Witcher 3's sheer scope scared me off from finishing it. Odyssey has a lot in it, but it presents its seemingly endless possibilities without overwhelming you. Everything’s laid out so that it can be tackled in a straightforward manner, but it’s never linear in away that suffocates you, all while taking noticeable cues from the Mass Effect series. Maybe this is what a good version of Andromeda would’ve looked like? And along with perfecting the systems introduced in Origins, it brings back sorely missed features like the ship combat from Black Flag, which I didn’t realize I missed as much as I did. It plays great, it looks great, it... just is great. Welcome back Assassin’s Creed. Now, if I can just get the crossover between AC3, Rogue, and Unity I’ve always wanted...
I’m more predictable than the Grammys, aren’t I? Actually, no, screw that; I have no shame about this. The Forza Horizon series has earned its place as one of the best series of this entire console generation, and saying Forza Horizon 4 is great is no more pandering or controversial than saying a Zelda game is a GotY contender at this point. You get four breathtaking versions of Great Britain, each defined by their respective season. It’s a game that changes and evolves on a weekly basis. It has the best kind of car physics, that strike a great balance between realism and arcade-style fun. There’s a depth that you don’t realize until you start really exploring and getting into the game, like a proper RPG. The soundtrack is as great as ever, and even though you can’t play your own stuff through a Groove radio station, this game has an entire soundtrack made just for it (and it’s available through spotify and itunes no less). The car list is as great a love letter to the British car industry as Horizon 3's was a swansong for Australia’s car industry. And with the Fortune Island expansion, the series has come to a point where it can deservedly call back to previous entries, being a wonderful mix of the nail-biting rallying from Forza Horizon’s Rally Expansion, the hazardous environments of Horizon 2's Storm Island, and the spectacular vertical challenges that were in Horizon 3's Blizzard Mountain. Putting a Forza Horizon game in my top 5 might be cliched as this point... but you know what? Some things are cliches for good reasons. And Forza Horizon 4 is full of good reasons.
Best game on the Switch, I swear. All this year, I was waiting for the game that could capture my attention on my newest console, and amazingly it wasn’t a Nintendo title that did just that. No, it was a little indie game called GRIS; one of the most beautiful, affecting games I have ever played. Whenever I talk about this game, I feel like I’m just gushing about it, and when I think about it I nearly come to tears. As it should, since buried within the beauty is a game about going through grief, and overcoming darkness that wants to consume you. Learning to regain your abilities, your voice, your light, to not let your worst feelings define you. Talking about the gameplay actually feels wrong somehow, because GRIS’s presentation is what it’s all about (not that the damn fine platforming full of good ideas and cool mechanics that never overstay their welcome). No, it’s the art design, the environments, and the outstanding musical score. GRIS is a game that stands up there with Journey, and it’s one of the best games I’ve ever played, indie or otherwise.
I feel... so much when I think about this game. Various levels of hesitation putting it as my number one game given that it’s a PS4 exclusive, and that I’ve always tried to maintained a level of restraint towards PS4 exclusives since they seem to get just a bit more praise than they usually deserve. Also, part of my feelings came from it being a God of War game, from a series that I came to despise after playing God of War 3 HD, a game that represents too much of what the last generation of consoles did wrong in terms of narrative and game design. And finally, its gameplay took notable inspiration from Souls’s hack and slash combat, which by now you should all know how I feel about. But what I feel about God of War now, months after playing it and reflecting on it... is a level of respect. Because this is a game that feels something I almost never seen in a AAA title: shame.
Shame towards what it was, the series it comes from of, who the main character was as a person and what he did. God of War is a game about feeling shame, but more importantly, it’s about letting yourself feel at all. From Kratos grieving for the loss of his wife and coming to terms with what he was, to Baldur not being able to feel any pain and the self-destruction he puts himself through, to Atreus having to deal with the emotions of losing a parent and realizing all the implications of godhood; God of War is a game about past and present emotions, and all the pain that comes with it. But as it shows throughout its story and through its characters, shame is one of the best things you can feel, because shame is you realizing you did wrong... and thus, you’re better now than you once were. And this sense of “I was terrible then, but I know I can do better now” is reflected in nearly every aspect of this game.
Instead of a detached Devil May Cry style gore fest, the combat in God of War is a much closer, more personal affair, making every fight feel like it matters and that it can actually end you if you’re not careful. All the characters feel like they’re acutal people with their own issues and backstories, not obstacles in your path that at best are to be used to get you from point A to B. There’s real lore here, with Norse mythology told (and more importantly, presented) in a manner that made me interested in the source material (by the way, I strongly recommend Neil Gaiman’s Norse Mythology if you want a great way to learn more about this stuff). The Nine Realms are all beautifully represented and interpreted, from the fantastical familiarity of Midgard, to the icy hell of Helheim, to the dazzling but uneasy sense of the never-ending conflict that’s come to define Alfheim. Every part of God of War makes it unrecognizable compared to the series it follows up, which is the exact point of it. This is a game that realized “it must be better”, and my god it really is. One of the best games of this decade, and my 2018 Game of the Year: God of War.
TGRIP is a film student studying in Portland, OR. TAY’s resident Xbox and racing game fan, he also (part time) reviews and does opinion pieces on games, movies, television, comics, and anime. He also runs his kinja sub blog Work(ing Title) In Progress. You can follow this third person narrating weirdo on Twitter @Dennis_wglasses, and his Gamertag on Xbox Live is “Aventador SVJ”.