From sprawling open world AAA epics, to introspective indies, from cowboys to superheroes, and of course, from Pikachu to Kratos, 2018 has been one hell of a year for video games.
We’ve seen long awaited releases finally delivered, old classics return, and established franchises in a whole new light. Whether you were enjoying the latest Pokemon on the train ride home or kicking it with Arthur Morgan and his crew, there’s been something for everyone this year.
The UNILAD Gaming team has, of course, compiled its own list, representing what we feel are the ten standout games of 2018.
We each put together our own top 10 lists before using a deeply complex algorithm to crunch the numbers and combine them into one definitive mega list – so let’s get right to it, shall we?
DRAGON QUEST XI
Dragon Quest XI does absolutely nothing to reinvent the JRPG genre, nor does it present any kind of massive innovation for Square Enix’s colourful franchise.
What Dragon Quest XI does do, is offer a masterfully executed take on a decades on old formula that reminds us that not every game needs to throw out the rule book to be worthy of our time and attention.
This is a game that gets by on its gorgeous presentation, charming characters, and airtight gameplay. Playing Dragon Quest XI is like coming home to eat your favourite meal. It’s not gonna surprise you, but it’s comforting and delicious all at once.
I’ll be honest, I really didn’t think there was anything more that could be done with Tetris. I mean, it’s Tetris – the deeply addictive puzzler kind of sells itself, and has done for decades now.
We were all surprised then, when Tetris Effect came out swinging as a clear Game Of The Year contender. That deeply rewarding core experience is still there, but it’s been mixed together with ethereal sounds, dreamy visuals, and intense music to create something that will genuinely take you away. Playing this one in VR is a legitimately otherworldly experience.
As a strong argument for just how crucial music and sound design is in video games, look no further than Tetris Effect – a title that took Tetris, and made it feel brand new again.
SUPER SMASH BROS ULTIMATE
Super Smash Bros Ultimate is literally the ultimate version of one of gaming’s most enduring, popular, and revered franchises.
With over 70 characters, 100 stages, eight player battles, and a single player mode that’s far larger than it has any right to be, this game is a lovingly crafted treasure trove of references and easter eggs – not just to Nintendo, but to video games as a whole.
If you ever wanted to watch Cloud Strife team up with Ryu from Street Fighter to fight Pac Man and Link in the middle of a Mario Kart track, Super Smash Bros Ultimate is the game for you. It’s an endlessly playable, unpredictable, joy ride with something for everyone.
SPYRO REIGNITED TRILOGY
Fans of the purple dragon have been waiting years for him to spread his wings and take flight once again. Luckily, The Spyro Reignited Trilogy did not disappoint.
Developer Toys For Bob did an astounding job of recreating Insomniac’s original trilogy, keeping the overall look and feel of the PlayStation classics, but still managing to create a visually stunning experience that plays well by modern standards.
It really is rare that a remaster is done with so much obvious love and care, especially when they tend to be such obvious quick cash grabs in the gaming industry. Hopefully the Reignited Trilogy did enough to reintroduce Spyro to the world, because I’m desperate to see him in a brand new adventure soon.
Celeste is a charming, challenging indie platformer in the vein of Super Meat Boy that’s all about facing your fears, overcoming your anxieties, and climbing mountains – literal and otherwise.
Developed by Matt Thorson and Noel Berry, Celeste is a pleasure from start to finish – an absolute treat for both the eyes and ears, despite the fact that it’s undeniably tough as nails. Seriously, you will die a lot playing this game.
What makes Celeste really stand out is the way in which it constantly encourages you to keep going in the face of this considerable adversity. Generous checkpoints help overcome obstacles one step at a time, getting a little better with each attempt – not because the game has made it easier, but because you’ve actually learned, improved, and gotten better.
ASSASSIN’S CREED ODYSSEY
Assassin’s Creed Odyssey might not be the Assassin’s Creed we remember, but if future instalments manage to be even half as epic, I am fully on board for this new era of the franchise.
AC Odyssey feels like a properly massive, sprawling adventure. It’s Ubisoft attempting to make The Witcher 3, basically, and it absolutely works. We’re given a truly vast world to explore, one that’s packed with strange and interesting characters – both fictional and real.
There are those who were put off by Assassin’s Creed going “full RPG”, but the fact Ubisoft embraced the genre with such passion really has resulted in something special – a game that combines a sense of sheer scale with deep moment to moment gameplay.
Oh, and seriously guys, Ubisoft put so many romance options in this game, I have no idea how anything ever got done in Ancient Greece.
POKEMON LET’S GO
Pokemon Let’s Go Pikachu/Eevee takes the series back to basics, offering a game that represents both a fresh jumping on point for newcomers, and a nostalgic trip down memory lane for us old school fans.
Make no mistake, this stripped back approach is not the big new game hardcore fans have been waiting for, and it never pretended to be anything more than that.
By making a number of really smart changes, Let’s Go manages to be simple to play, and is all the more addictive for it. Essentially a remake of Pokemon Yellow, revisiting a gorgeous Kanto and hanging out with the original 151 monsters is exactly what a Pokemon game should be: Accessible, colourful, and most of all, fun.
GOD OF WAR
The original God of War trilogy was great – if essentially mindless – button mashing fun that didn’t really amount to much more than “angry man kills gods” Get John Wick to the Greek, if you will.
What a surprise then, that the latest God of War turned out to be one of the richest, deepest, and most affecting story driven games – not just of the year, but of the PS4’s entire life.
The idea of making Kratos a single dad who has to actually live with the consequences of his mindless murder quest was an absolute masterstroke, turning one of gaming’s biggest one note protagonists into a genuinely fascinating character.
Oh, and that axe is easily one of the best video game weapons of the last decade. Yeah, I’m still not tired of throwing and catching that bad boy.
Speaking of great story driven PS4 games, Marvel’s Spider-Man ended up being one of the best titles of the year, thanks in no small part to the fact that Insomniac Games decided to put character first, and give us what I truly believe is the greatest version of Peter Parker outside of the comic books.
This is a Spider-Man game that just understands the character. His motivations, his mistakes, his friends – all of it is here, and wrapped up in a story that’s packed with twists, turns, classic villains, and genuinely emotional moments.
Of course it helps that this epic Spider-Man yarn is told in a stunning looking game that features outstanding web swinging, parkour, and combat mechanics that make the webhead an absolute dream to control… but this is, first and foremost, a story about Peter Parker trying to do the right thing- and that’s what makes it truly amazing.
RED DEAD REDEMPTION 2
It’s not just that it’s the best looking console game of all time that’s absolutely packed with things to see and do – Red Dead Redemption 2 also tells an unforgettable story. The unparalleled visuals and haunting music help to utterly and completely draw you in to a believable world full of complicated characters, heartbreak, betrayal, and laughs.
Anyone with even a passing knowledge of Red Dead Redemption will know that RDR2 can only end one way for your gang of misfits and thieves, and the bonds you develop with each and every one of them along the way – whether drinking with Lenny or fishing with Hosea and Dutch – makes the journey that much more affecting.
For everyone on the UNILAD Gaming team, Red Dead Redemption 2 is a game that’s made up of unique, memorable moments – Bizzarre interactions with strangers, accidents involving horses, or unfortunate run ins with the law, that kind of thing.
While the destination was the same for all of us, the paths we took to the end were different enough that we all had vastly different experiences in the Old West, and I’m sure that’s the case for everyone who’s played it. For that reason, and many others, it was easily our number one game of the year.
Ewan Moore is a journalist at UNILAD Gaming who still quite hasn’t gotten out of his mid 00’s emo phase. After graduating from the University of Portsmouth in 2015 with a BA in Journalism & Media Studies (thanks for asking), he went on to do some freelance words for various places, including Kotaku, Den of Geek, and TheSixthAxis, before landing a full time gig at UNILAD in 2016.