2018 was a record-breaking year filled with a strong lineup of multi-platform juggernauts and system-sellers from both Nintendo and Sony. In many ways, this year was a reflection of the last, both in critical acclaim and the major players that dominated the awards season, but elevated to an even higher level in terms of commercial success. Though studio closures and industry controversies somewhat tainted the celebratory nature of this year’s greatest hits, the gaming community should nonetheless be excited for the bright future ahead if these past few years are any indication.
Like many of the other publications out there, we at mxdwn Games thought it appropriate to come up with our own version of the year’s greatest titles as a tribute to the end of the year. So, without further ado, this is mxdwn’s Top 10 Games of 2018:
10. Detroit: Become Human
Detroit: Become Human is a game with an extensive history. Having started off as a live demo back in 2012 titled Kara, fans of the short were begging the developers Quantic Dream to make it into a game. Then, six years later it was finally answered. And it came to be something much bigger than anyone anticipated it to be.
Detroit: Become Human captured fans with its memorable main characters, and the struggles they had to go through. The choice-based butterfly affect was extremely well executed in this game, surpassing the same systems of the previous two Quantic Dream games. With a well paced and intense story, Detroit: Become Human makes us ask the most important question: what makes us human? Each character goes through his or her own version of that question, allowing the players to connect emotionally with them. They even went as far as having the main menu character Chloe connect to and befriend us along the way.
Immersive gameplay, striking visuals, and an intense story make Detroit: Become Human our #10.
9. Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey
Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed franchise has been one of its longest running, and most iconic, franchises to date. But having had a yearly release schedule up until the last few years, series fatigue set in for a lot of its fans from the repetitive nature of the titles, as well as grievances regarding bugs and mechanics. Fortunately, Ubisoft had the foresight to take a break in order to revamp the series, and came up with a much more polished game in Assassin’s Creed Origins. This year, the sequel Assassin’s Creed Odyssey is continuing the successful streak of the “rebooted” franchise, with a shift to an Ancient Greek setting and an impressive attention to details.
First, the open world is something Ubisoft still does best in this franchise. The carefully crafted and painstakingly accurate depiction of Ancient Greece and its surrounding areas is good enough to have an educational Explore mode where players can learn the historical context of these beautifully constructed locations. On the mechanics side of things, Odyssey continues the polished combat of Origins and also interjects heavier RPG elements within the gameplay. Compelling side quests add a deeper level of engagement and immersion the overall plot, strengthened by the fantastic motion capture and voice acting performances of its two main leads.
The Assassin’s Creed franchise may not have redefined the open world as much as Rockstar’s Western epic or Nintendo’s Zelda masterpiece, but it’s a very solid foray into a new take on a well-established IP, executed with a level of polish deserving of such a historical series.
8. Dead Cells
Dead Cells, the indie rogue-like developed by Motion Twin, is as fun as it is frustrating. The game features a perma-death mechanic, which means in order to beat the game, players must reach the end in a single run, defeating all bosses that come along the way. When a player dies, they can say goodbye to all their carefully harvested currency called “cells,” punch a pillow, scream a bit, and get ready for another run.
Winning Best Indie Game at the Golden Joystick Awards this year, the game really shines in its surprising depth and replayability. While the cells disappear upon death, waypoints between each level allow players to purchase permanent upgrades such as more powerful weapons to start the run or more health potions, keeping the game fresh. The weapon choices are varied and exciting, giving players a choice in how they trek through the procedurally generated levels and no run is exactly the same as another. A lot of love was poured into the making of this game, and it shows tenfold.
7. Monster Hunter: World
Number seven on our list is Monster Hunter: World, which hit consoles at the beginning of the year and PCs in August. Just like each title in the Monster Hunter franchise, World allowed players to hunt monsters to craft powerful weapons and equipment in order to tackle the next challenge in the New World. Hunters were introduced to new monsters and were greeted by familiar faces like the Rathalos, Diablos, and the developers even brought back Deviljho in a free update.
What has made World stand apart, however, has been the extreme improvements made to the visuals and the outreach to gamers who had never touched another Monster Hunter game before. While some dedicated players to the series found a few of the tweaks to World a way to “over-casualize” the gameplay, like the time it takes to kill a monster or the ability to drink potions and move at the same time, it’s undeniable that a great community has formed with new and old players alike. Capcom isn’t finished with Monster Hunter: World though, as they regularly update the game with world events and has announced the first major expansion, Iceborne, which releases next Autumn.
6. Dragon Ball FighterZ
When Arc System Works was chosen as the developer for the next Dragon Ball fighting game, everyone in the community celebrated. With the Guilty Gear and Blazblue series under their belts, the company jumped headfirst into making this the definitive game of the Dragon Ball franchise, and they didn’t disappoint. With striking visuals, easy to learn button combinations, and an excellent soundtrack, Dragon Ball FighterZ is easily one of the best fighting games we have ever seen, arguably the best fighting game of this generation.
The addition of the Super Dash feature made it so that you can speed right over to your opponent, keeping the combat at a fast and frenetic pace. Another great addition was the ability to charge your Ki Gauge, an ingenious idea that kept players on their toes, as well as bringing up your Super and Ultimate Moves much faster.
The game brought Dragon Ball to the esports community, as it was the most entered game at EVO 2018. With all of this, Dragon Ball FighterZ belongs in the Top Games of 2018 list, the best competitive game of the year.
The second game from Matt Makes Games Inc. was originally a prototype game made in four days for a game jam. From there it grew into a full game featuring a memorable story that touches upon themes of mental health, silky smooth platforming, and a beautiful soundtrack by Lena Raine. Despite being a challenging platformer in the vein of games like Super Meat Boy, Celeste has a variety of tools that allow players to experience the game on their own terms.
Celeste is easily one of the breakout indie titles this year, having sold 500,000 copies this year over various platforms. It’s one of the few indie titles that managed to make it to this year’s Video Game Awards, even winning two categories. Players will be able to experience more of Celeste when creator Matt Thorson adds some free high-difficulty levels early next year.
4. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
As the banner and the name both imply, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is the definitive version of Nintendo’s cross-title fighting extravaganza. In the gaming world, there are very few that don’t know of Nintendo’s ultimate fighting game. After five iterations, acclaimed game director Masahiro Sakurai has finally perfected the formula, cramming a mind-blowing 74 characters in the game, with 6 more on the way. Alongside a long single-player mode is support for 8-players and a myriad of different customization options; this is truly the only way to play Super Smash Bros.
Despite its massive commercial success as the fastest-selling Switch game to date, the game isn’t without its caveats. The online functionalities, in true Nintendo fashion, is extremely limited at best. Aside from the obvious lag issues, the seemingly arbitrary matchmaking and inconsistent mode priority made it a hot-button issue from its launch date.
However, as a couch multiplayer game, there is perhaps no parallel in the modern era. Much like other Nintendo multiplay titles, the game truly shines when the experience is shared locally; the trademark chaos and simple-yet-complex mechanics accessible to both newcomers and veterans speak to the level of detail and polish Sakurai has lavished onto the game along with his team. With characters, music, spirits, and stages across the full spectrum of Nintendo’s decorated franchises, it is no wonder that this important and integral part of gaming history sits in its rightful place as our #4 game of the year.
3. Marvel’s Spider-Man
Coming in at third, Marvel’s Spider-Man has been highly anticipated ever since it was announced at E3 2016 and that excitement wasn’t uncalled for. If it isn’t evident by the numerous awards won and records broken by the PS4 exclusive, it’s good. Like really, really good. With incredibly fluid combat and movement options, the gameplay feels satisfying and allows for players to play how they’d like. There is more to this game than just fantastic gameplay however, as with a stellar story and great score, there’s a reason why many have called it the best superhero game of all time.
2. God of War
There are a number of reasons as to why God Of War is one of the best games of this year. From its drastic changes in design from the previous games to the way the game was masterfully presented, God Of War is a true narrative-driven experience in every way. However, perhaps the biggest departure from previous entries is its emphasis and focus on the characters. For many gamers, this game made them attached to Kratos as a character; there was a focus that Sony Santa Monica wanted to achieve in fleshing out Kratos as a character. Every character that you come across during God of War was detailed, and every event that occurred during the story was a by-product of a character’s actions. Some of the best stories are character-driven and God Of War has that in spades.
The other core tenet that makes God of War so special is how different it plays. Sony Santa Monica completely overhauled the mechanics of God of War. From the new camera perspective to the changes in combat, everything feels fresh. Obviously, the new weapon also helps. Like the Blades of Chaos, it has become an iconic video game weapon. Most importantly, God Of War did something that no one has ever done: the entire game is one shot. From the moment you start the game to the last scene, it never cuts. There has never been anything like it before, and it makes the game very special. If you haven’t tried God of War yet and would like to experience one of the most unique gaming experiences ever, go and get our #2 game of the year.
1. Red Dead Redemption 2
It’s difficult to make an open world video game. It’s even more difficult to make an open world feel like an actual living world. Rockstar completely blew the doors off open world design with Red Dead Redemption II. Rockstar Games put years of dedication into creating a world with no equal, where players feel like they’re actually a part of the world. Every inch of Rockstar’s Western epic is brimming with life that draws a true sense of exploration. Unlike every other game, every single character players encounter can be interacted with in numerous ways. Not only that, some will even remember things players have done that they themselves may have forgotten or not noticed as they complete their journey. Characters converse with one another and lead their own lives without player interference, making it truly feel like a real living world.
Red Dead Redemption II masters open world storytelling as well. Story beats are paced incredibly well across the game’s 60 hour campaign. Points of joy are met with equally impactful moments of depression as the game goes on with an incredible soundtrack that ties into the sentimental scenes perfectly. The story has amazing character moments, and Arthur Morgan is easily one of, if not, the best protagonist Rockstar has ever created. Every member of the infamous Van der Linde Gang is fleshed out and feel truly unique as their story is told. Players get a real sense of attachment to the entire gang.
Red Dead Redemption II is a masterpiece in open world design and storytelling. What Rockstar was able to accomplish is an incredible feat that many will take note of going forward. For those reasons, it is hands down our best game of 2018.
While 2018 is over in terms of major releases, the future looks all the brighter for 2019. With Kingdom Hearts III just over the horizon, it won’t take long before the triple A madness starts up again. With Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft offering stacked lineups for the upcoming year, we at mxdwn Games can’t wait for what’s in store.