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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.
It feels like 2018 came and went, with nary a moment to pause and reflect on all that’s happened. Likewise, the 2018 game release schedule felt like a never-ending deluge of content to fill your metaphorical face with, a digital buffet that likely left you overstuffed and guilt-ridden. With such a barrage of gaming to deal with, picking a list of standouts certainly wasn’t easy. That said, here are some titles you should consider sinking your time and money into. You can trust me; I’m not a doctor, but I do know a good time when I see one. Monster Hunter: World They say there’s nothing like the thrill of the hunt, and Monster Hunter: World offers hunts like few others. Gamers have long salivated over the idea of an open-world, beast-hunting epic, and MHW does not disappoint. It offers a dizzying variety of gear, combat styles, and gigantic creatures to conquer, all within a gorgeous environment begging you to dig around. While MHW will take a while to learn, it’s also the most accessible entry in the franchise, and a welcome introduction for newcomers. Give this fine action-RPG a go, and see why it continues to inspire series loyalists globally. FIFA 19 The beautiful game is artful, cunning, and savagely cruel. I speak, of course, about football (Editor's note: Soccer to those of us in the USA), the planet’s most popular sport. Football is exceedingly simple, yet unfolds its complexities in the individual expressions of its top players. Whether it’s the world-class scoring touch of Cristiano Ronaldo, the prenatural attacking instincts of Jadon Sancho, or the stout positioning of defensive wunderkind Mattijs de Ligt, FIFA 19 captures every moment of glory and defeat in great detail. The underlying mechanics, ball physics, passing, and moment-to-moment action make this the best entry in the FIFA franchise to date. While the timed finishing opportunities are more of an annoyance, the addition of game modifiers to Face-Off means a whole new ballgame of hijinks are in-store. Some modes could greatly benefit from an update, but it’s hard to argue with the sheer volume of content FIFA 19 offers as-is. NHL 19 Like the FIFA franchise, NHL thundered into 2018 with the best game the series has offered in ages. For once, NHL 19 feels just right, with greatly improved player skating, checking, animations, and defensive positioning. The slightly improved presentation and addition of some needed mechanical tweaks to the management mode round out a much-improved package. Pond hockey modes offer some additional online entertainment, but most will likely bypass it for the Hockey Ultimate Team offerings. While few fundamental changes have been made to the core experience, the tweaks EA did make should be more than enough incentive for series fans to dive in once again. My Hero One’s Justice Bandai-Namco frequently caters to the more anime-inclined among its western audiences, and they could scarcely contain their excitement at the prospect of a My Hero Academia video game. My Hero One’s Justice, a fighting game instantly familiar to those who’ve played the Naruto franchise of games, is a love-letter to My Hero’s most ardent fans. The game isn’t exactly complicated and lacks the depth of other similar titles, but offers more than enough sights and sounds to keep fans of the franchise occupied for hours. It doesn’t hurt that the action is frequently explosive and visually-dazzling, echoing the art-style of the anime in full 3D. If you have any interest in the My Hero series, there’s no reason for you to pass this game up. Far Cry 5 The Far Cry franchise is fairly predictable. You get dropped into a hostile environment, have to spark a resistance of some sort, and go on an incalculable number of collect-a-thons. Ubisoft knew it needed to freshen the formula somehow and turned to some mild controversy to make Far Cry 5 feel new again. The resulting game really isn’t all that different (or offensive) from previous Far Cry entries, but the Montanan landscape provides a wonderful environment in which to dispatch hundreds of crazy cultists. The combat is still as tight and explosive as ever, so if you’re looking for another big-budget FPS, you could do much worse than Far Cry 5. Game of the Year Red Dead Redemption 2 When people refer to games as art, there’s often a bit of cynicism from observers. Red Dead Redemption 2, however, truly is artistic. Rockstar have crafted their most ambitious, emotionally-stirring release yet, a massive behemoth of grim beauty and vibrant violence. Surprisingly, RDR2’s best moments are found in the quiet horse-bound voyages along dusty roads, or the slow ambles through troubled frontier towns. The world of RDR2 feels genuinely lived-in, and your participation often exists as a microcosm of action within the grander scale. With unbelievable production values, stellar writing, and a jaw-dropping sense of scale, RDR2 is truly 2018’s greatest achievement in gaming.