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Much of 2018 has been a blur for me. It could be because of some bizarre shifts in my personal life but in a gaming context, I keep forgetting which titles even came out this year. If anything, I have been attempting to catch up on some leftover standouts like Horizon: Zero Dawn or even Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle despite how proud I am of my 2017 GOTY list choices otherwise. But to focus on that would certainly do a disservice to the many great video games that dropped in 2018, and while the overall lineup is not quite as impressive as 2017's there are absolutely more than a few releases that I am honored to have had the chance to check out amid a somewhat hectic personal schedule. So, without further ado, here are my personal favorite games of 2018. 10) TimeSpinner With such an influx of 2D Metroidvania titles lately it is easy for me to shrug off the act of playing even the best of them due to sheer quantity (sorry Hollow Knight, but you did get my money at least.). However, of the games that released in 2018, TimeSpinner was one that gathered a bit of a cult following among my Twitter feed. So, sure enough, I eventually picked it up to finally learn why. For as unapologetic as its Castlevania: Symphony of the Night influences may be there is something that is indeed special about its finely tuned mechanics, nifty time control ability, and progressive story themes that has it not only ooze charm but kept having me come back for more. 9) DJMax Respect I have always held the DJMax series on a pedestal amongst rhythm games. From burying many hours into PSP imports like DJMax: Black Square/Clazziquai to a port of the touchscreen-focused arcade game, DJMax: Technika Tune (which I reviewed), there is a finesse the series has always had, from slick menus to intrinsic rhythmic gameplay feedback that very few rival in the genre. Even the creator's own Superbeat: Xonic did not quite succeed in recapturing DJMax's former appeal after a long (mobile-centric) hiatus. Still, as a last hurrah for lingering fans, they decided to make one final entry called DJMax Respect. And frankly, the game is fantastic and is pretty much all I wanted from the series. I may not be nearly as good at playing DJMax as I used to be but I eagerly look forward to slowly closing the skill gap, or at least trying, with the many, many songs at disposal. 8) Octopath Traveler Octopath Traveler is a vivid example in my mind of just how being in the right mood for a game could radically change your opinion of it. Honestly speaking, I did not think that time would arise at all after feeling indifferent about both the demo(s) and thinking it was only more Bravely Default. Turns out, I just needed to wait a couple months for the hype to die down and be in a different head space. It is hardly the second coming of Japanese RPGs, but Octopath is still a great example nonetheless if you like your SaGa styled gameplay quick and Final Fantasy job systems, which I do. With a nostalgic art direction, likable characters, stellar musical score, and rewarding combat system help make Octopath Traveler stand out despite the unreasonably lofty initial expectations placed upon it. 7) Muv-Luv Alternative 2018 was a strange year for me and visual novels. Comparatively, I did not play as many of them as I did last year, but the ones I did play were exhaustive in terms barrier of entry, like the three-part Muv-Luv trilogy. I may have some mixed thoughts on the original two games, but there is a clear reason why the final entry called Muv-Luv Alternative is so beloved aside from obvious signs made by the incredibly successful 2015 kickstarter. To immensely grim (seriously, I can't stress this enough) but very compelling sci-fi storytelling to really impressive character development Muv-Luv Alternative is a worthy finale that answers many burning questions just as much as it tugs at (/brutally destroy) heartstrings. 6) Super Smash Bros Ultimate Cute Zelda Redesign. Uh, I mean, 2018 had no shortage of noteworthy fighters from Dragon Ball FighterZ, Soul Calibur VI or Blazblue Cross Tag Battle and yet the one I have been most charmed by was Super Smash Bros Ultimate. Featuring a far more appetizing single-player approach than its predecessor, it is easy to get lost in modes such as World of Light, Spirits, or even Classic to the very fun additions to the cast like Richter Belmont, Inkling, Incineroar, King K Rool that are overflowing with reverence towards the source material (and some not, like Ridley.). It is clear this game has a long life ahead of it (if the Persona 5 Joker tease is any indicator). Plus, with the smart changes it has made for the competitive scene, in particular, I am just as eager to see the thoughtfully crafted video game fanservice during singleplayer as much as I will be taking on would-be challengers in multiplayer both online/locally with my adorable (and more competitively viable) Zelda. 5) Divinity Original Sin 2: Definitive Edition The ONLY reason why this game isn’t higher on my list is because I played so much of its predecessor just before it (yet another reason why 2018 is a blur for me). And because of that, I could easily guess how much time would be required for me to do a complete playthrough... A ton. Still, for the twenty or so hours that I've already played, I am quite impressed by how much it improved upon its predecessor from highly nuanced world-building, sharp writing, immensely robust character customization, general voice acting, strategic combat system and so on and so forth. It is an amazing game and it is a shame it does not get nearly as much love as it deserves from fellow console players. 4) Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age It has been such a long wait for not only another console mainline Dragon Quest title, but also the English release of Dragon Quest XI. And it has absolutely been worth the wait. Dragon Quest XI may be one of the most traditional Japanese RPGs around but it is truly a showcase example of it from the grand main adventure, lovable primary cast of characters, gorgeous aesthetic, spirited voice work, and rock solid turn-based gameplay fundamentals. 3) Monster Hunter World I never would have I thought that I’d get into a Monster Hunter game. Ever. And I have attempted to play many of them and easily bounced off of each and every one of them -- except Monster Hunter World. They did it. They made a Monster Hunter game that humans can finally enjoy and also not destroy their hands with a claw grip. Monster Hunter World streamlines a lot of the series longstanding issues from controls, interface, progression and pretty much all for the better. I may have thoroughly burned myself out on the endgame content (or lack thereof), but I'd be lying if I didn't say that the hundreds of hours I spent helping friends or bettering my own character/hunting skills were a mostly wonderful time. I look forward to eventually playing that much more when the IceBorne expansion releases, and to party up once again with a team of capable and charismatic hunters. Also, GUNLANCE4LIFE. 2) Dead Cells Click here to read GP's official review I am sometimes a very simple individual when it comes to my enjoyment of games. For as many story-heavy titles as I tend to prefer sometimes, all I need in a game is something that just feels good to play. That is pretty much what Dead Cells is all about -- impeccable control, challenging gameplay, and deeply satisfying combat. After many runs and sleepless nights due to sheer addiction, and even a few very narrowly earned completions on higher difficulties, Dead Cells is simply an excellent game that has somewhat ruined me for both Roguelikes and Metroidvanias that do not play nearly as well as it ...which is pretty much all of them. 1) Valkyria Chronicles 4 Click here to read GP's official review Plainly speaking, the first Valkyria Chronicles on PS3 was more or less my favorite game of last generation. I already have a strong thing for turn-based tactical games and to see such an inspired, beautiful take on the subgenre absolutely blew my mind at the time. But, after poor sales, the series just kind of died out beyond some admirable but not nearly as good handheld entries (and a recent spin-off best left unmentioned...). To finally get my hands on a truly faithful console sequel in Valkyria Chronicles 4 was downright emotional for me from start to finish. Not only because the game itself is stellar, but because after replaying the original title earlier this year, the fourth main entry somehow managed to surpass it in my eyes as a game. Everything from the more mature storytelling/dynamic lead cast, wildly varied objective design, smart tweaks to the combat system, endearing squad stories missions, and, of course, rewarding tactical gameplay did more than enough to win me over as my favorite game of 2018. Heck, I recently bought the Switch version just so I can have an excuse to play the game from scratch once more.
2018 has been a rather wonderful year for gamers, with some of the most highly anticipated titles of recent years releasing to stellar reception. We got a sequel to Red Dead Redemption, the latest and perhaps greatest Super Smash Bros., and even a very large sample of an Undertale sequel (which I’m also counting as a game, even if it’s technically a demo). We even got a nice handful of critically acclaimed indie titles this year. How ‘bout that? Unfortunately for me, I haven’t exactly been able to play about 95% of all the games that have released for one reason or another. Bummer. Oh well, at least I’ve played enough to make a list of some sort, however small it may be. And I greatly enjoyed the five games I’ve managed to play from this year. So, at the very least, I’m more than happy to share with you what I enjoyed about the only five games of 2018 that I’ve played. It’s still ranked, though. 5) Sonic Mania Plus Kicking off this list is... not entirely a 2018 release. I mean, it is, but at its core, it’s merely Sonic Mania with DLC included. This is why it’s last on my list. I still loved it immensely, of course. I placed the original Sonic Mania in my Game of the Year 2017 list and even gave it a fantastic score in my review of the game. Sonic Mania Plus basically improves that amazing game, not just with some nice tweaks, but with two new characters, a new zone, and more. If you haven’t played Sonic Mania at all yet, I highly suggest you pick up this version. Or, you know, buy DLC for the original version if you’ve played it already. 4) Deltarune Here’s a game nobody expected. While it was teased the day before, Toby Fox released a surprise demo on Halloween for Undertale’s sequel, a game known as Deltarune (an anagram of Undertale, but that’s Unrelated). And yes, I did say demo. Why did I place it on this list? Well, because it’s a pretty damn good demo. It’s about three hours long if you play it quickly, but take your time to see and do everything and you’ll easily double that time, which makes it roughly the same length as a Neutral run in Undertale, and even a Pacifist run if you’re quick enough. And keep in mind that this is merely the first chapter of the game, which means Deltarune will be quite long when the full release is upon us. But it’s still a demo nonetheless, which is why it’s not higher on this list, even though it was insanely amazing. Toby Fox has yet another gem on his hands. 3) Detective Pikachu Many of you may have seen a trailer for a movie of the same name recently. Well, if you didn’t already know, the film is actually based on this fun little 3DS game. Basically, you play as a guy whose detective dad went missing and you’re now trying to figure out what happened to him while you solve various other cases. Also, your partner is a talking Pikachu wearing a little deerstalker hat like Sherlock Holmes. Well, only the main character can actually hear what he says. Look, it may sound like a crazy premise, but trust me, Detective Pikachu is a fun game and I would recommend it to any Pokémon fan or at least anyone looking forward to the upcoming film. Assuming you have a 3DS, that is. 2) Pokémon: Let’s Go Pikachu/Let’s Go Eevee Yes, two of the five games I played this year were Pokémon games. What can I say? I like Pokémon. Sue me. Actually, please don’t sue me. To be honest, I wasn’t sure how to feel when Pokémon Let’s Go Pikachu and Let’s Go Eevee was announced. On the one hand, it’s a remake of Pokémon Yellow. On the other hand, the game took the catching mechanic from Pokémon GO, only without the finger-swiping. Now you just have to swing your wrist. Well, unless you’re playing in handheld mode. I’m sure a lot of people were concerned when they found out you couldn’t fight wild Pokémon, much like I was. But you know, it’s really not that bad. They give you plenty of trainers to battle to make up for it. It’s also pretty nice to see Pokémon on the map for once. Overall, Let’s Go Pikachu and Let’s Go Eevee are great games for any Pokémon fan and I highly recommend picking one of them up. If anything, you can consider it an appetizer to hold you over until the new generation finally comes out. 1) Super Smash Bros. Ultimate My favorite game of 2018 (out of the five I’ve played) is also my new favorite Super Smash Bros. ever. Seriously. It basically takes the best of all the other games and combines them to make the “ultimate” Super Smash Bros. experience. And that includes combining every roster to bring together literally every single fighter who ever appeared in the series. Not only that, but they included every single stage as well, in their normal, battlefield, and omega forms. The game is also balanced amazingly well, and the AI is… well, the CPUs are actually impressively smart, I tell you what. I’ve nearly pulled my hair out trying to max the intensity. I’ll get there one of these days. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate also has a highly addicting adventure mode to boot. It’s called World of Light, and while it’s not as story-heavy as Subspace Emissary back in Brawl, it’s a lot of fun and will last you a good while if you try to 100% everything. Its main focus is another feature exclusive to Ultimate known as spirits, which are basically a combination of trophies and stickers from past games. And while it’s a shame that we no longer have trophies to look at, collecting the seemingly endless number of spirits really adds to the game’s replay value, which is delightful. I could go on and on about how much I enjoy Super Smash Bros. Ultimate and why it deserves the top spot on my list out of the whopping five 2018 releases I’ve played, but I don’t want to bore you. I bet you’d rather be playing it yourself, eh? EH????