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2018 always had an uphill battle going for it. After all, how do you compete with an amazing year in video games like 2017 had? And yet, even though it predictably did not reach those lofty heights, 2018 still had its share of good video games. Especially indie games, which really seemed to get more of the spotlight thanks to a lesser amount of super high profile AAA games out on average. A few of the titles that didn’t quite make my list but deserve shoutouts include No Man’s Sky, which had a great update that added a lot of content and made the story way more meaningful. Surviving Mars is an excellent simulation game where you attempt to build and sustain your own colony on Mars. Swords of Ditto is a neat little game with a creative twist in that you play as a new hero in a changed world (100 years in the future) each time you die. Runner 3 is great fun and much improved from its predecessor. Miles & Kilo is a neat, 8-bit-esque runner that could almost be summed up as “Uncharted action setpieces if they were attempted on the NES.” And The Gardens Between is one of the most creative games I played this year that I didn’t get to spend quite as much time with as I wanted. But I digress. Here are my top 10 games of 2018. 10) Sushi Striker: The Way of Sushido If I’m being completely honest, Sushi Striker almost didn’t make my list. I didn’t fully understand the nuances behind the gameplay until maybe about halfway through, meaning I was coasting on my knowledge of the basics until that point. That said, developer Indieszero did an admirable job creating something entirely new and fresh. Amidst the fast-paced (and admittedly stressful at times) puzzle gameplay there is a full-blown anime that has a completely ridiculous yet fun and self-aware story about sushi and a resistance that is fighting against an empire trying to control it. Sadly, Sushi Striker is likely a one-and-done deal since it didn’t sell well, but I’ll cherish my time with it as one of the more interesting chances taken in gaming lately. 9) Kirby Star Allies Star Allies is the first game since Kirby’s Return to Dreamland to really make me feel like a kid again. Having three allies fight alongside you seems like an unnecessary gimmick at first since Kirby titles aren’t usually known for their difficulty (at least not upfront). But HAL really found a way to make having four characters on-screen at once compelling, and it’s just plain cool to see Meta Knight or other series stalwarts fighting alongside Kirby (especially in boss battles). This might also be the most beautiful game in the series to date (Epic Yarn and Rainbow Curse aside), thanks to the increased capabilities of the Switch. Also, this particular entry has the most Dragon Ball Z-like ending ever and it’s something you need to see to believe. 8) Mini Metro Mini Metro is a great example of a game that’s simple to play, yet difficult to master. I love how simple it is; you literally drag your finger across the screen to create lines for trains. And... that's pretty much it. At first, you’ll have only a few trains to work with, but as both the city and your infrastructure grow, you’ll need to allocate your resources in such a way that you can meet the needs of all the people needing to get to their respective stops. I do wish the game had more achievements and was more goal-oriented, but the basic score attack mode is so addictive that I lose hours at a time just trying over and over to create the best train system I can. If you love strategy games, you can’t pass up Mini Metro. 7) Overcooked! 2 Somehow I didn’t play the first Overcooked! until shortly before 2 came out. I think it’s because I always viewed it as a multiplayer-only title and since I don’t have many other people to play with locally, well, you get the picture. However, the critical acclaim of the first original spoke to me and I was determined to play the sequel when it launched. And I couldn’t have been more wrong about it. Even as a single-player experience, Overcooked! 2 is a blast to play. You’ll need patience to master controlling two characters by yourself; just imagine it as a sort of relay race that goes on for a few minutes each time. Preparing each meal and keeping up with each order is fast and frantic fun, especially when combined with the way each level throws different curveballs at you and tries to impede your progress in different ways. Overcooked! 2 is easily a strong contender for the best co-op multiplayer game of the year; it’s that good. 6) Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom I grew up in a Nintendo household so I really had no experience with the Wonder Boy/Monster Boy series until last year’s excellent Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap. Playing through it made me feel like I had pretty much experienced all I needed to from that series, but boy was I wrong. Although Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom still feels like a SEGA Master System/Genesis game at its heart, it’s also a much more in-depth experience. It’s a happy marriage between Metroidvania and Zelda 2 with so much exploration, new skills and abilities, and puzzles to solve that it’s impossible for me not to love every moment of it. Cursed Kingdom is also gorgeous; I can now see why it took some 5+ years for this game to finally come out. All of the callbacks to previous games in the series, whether through new musical arrangements of older themes, visual nods, and cues also help make this one of the most memorable and charming games of 2018, if not a bit difficult in spots. 5) Octopath Traveler Going into 2018, I thought Octopath Traveler had real potential to be my favorite game of the year. Upon playing it, there are a few things that unfortunately prevent this, but I really can’t complain too much since most of the characters have compelling stories to tell and the game features one of the best battle systems and possibly the best soundtrack of the year. Octopath Traveler is that rare game I couldn’t put down because I just had to see what was next; hopefully its success means it won’t be too long before we see another entry. 4) Super Smash Bros. Ultimate Super Smash Bros. Ultimate absolutely lives up to its name as the best Smash game to date. An insane 74-character roster (at least starting out) with great new additions (shoutout to King K. Rool in particular) gives this game tremendous replay value. It also offers some of the most entertaining, challenging, and creative fights I’ve played thanks to the new Spirits mode and World of Light, which acts as the game’s single-player campaign. We might not get another Smash for a long while now, but that’s okay because Smash Ultimate will be played for a long time to come. 3) Splatoon 2: Octo Expansion + Season 2 content With over 750 hours of game time and counting, Splatoon 2 is still my most played Switch title by far, and it’s gotten even better in its second year. The free updates that have been provided for the main game have added everything from new levels to new weapons and gear, great Splatfests, and even new Salmon Run stages. But let’s talk about Octo Expansion for a sec. To date, it’s the single best piece of DLC I’ve ever played. It’s what Super Mario Galaxy 2 was to its predecessor. Forget the main campaign -- the creative scope of Octo Expansion’s 80 levels is nothing short of incredible. Not every level is a winner, mind you, but most are thoroughly enjoyable. Octo Expansion also adds a great new piece of lore to the Splatoon universe with the Deep Sea Metro and all its weird inhabitants. If you thought Splatoon had a weirdly cool, urban vibe to it before, the DLC dials it up to 11. And the story and final boss make up one of the most memorable and unique moments in the series so far. If you’ve ever been a fan of Splatoon 2, Octo Expansion is a must-play. 2) Yoku’s Island Express Every year there is at least one game that resonates with me in a deep way, usually because it has a great atmosphere that I connect with. Yoku’s Island Express is that game in 2018. I can’t fully express to you why, but it hits all the right notes for me. The art style is superb, the characters are charming as heck, the gameplay is a wonderful marriage between Metroidvania adventure and pinball, and the plot is like something out of a Pixar film (even if it’s a bit anticlimactic in the finale). Even the soundtrack is possibly my favorite from the whole year, borrowing from more lighthearted Polynesian/Hawaiian fare to trip-hop and more; it’s wonderful. Heck, I even platinumed the game, which is only my second time ever. Yoku’s Island Express is an incredible debut for developer Villa Gorilla and I can’t wait to see what they do next. 1) Marvel’s Spider-Man I knew Marvel's Spider-Man was going to be a good game. Heck, I even imagined it’d be great. How could it not be after those incredible E3 demos, two years in the running? What I didn’t expect, however, was for it to completely shatter my expectations and give us the best cinematic Spider-Man story to date (save for Into the Spider-Verse, which just recently released at the time of this writing and is amazing, no pun intended). Spider-Man really is the complete package. It offers a fully-explorable New York, tons of sidequests and enemies to fight (too many, some would even say), lots of collectibles, and a combat system that is extremely fluid and well done. But at the end of the day, it’s the story that really makes the game special for me. To explain why would delve into spoilers, but there’s an emotional narrative that’s pulled off extremely well, and the climax and final battle are a huge payoff for the story arc that slowly builds throughout the game. This is the single best representation of Peter Parker as Spider-Man and, without a doubt, the best superhero game to date. Bravo, Insomniac Games.
As far as video games go, 2017 was one that was special in a way that’s next to impossible to replicate. The Switch launched with The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and was followed throughout the year with a slew of high-quality releases ranging from Splatoon 2 to Super Mario Odyssey. The Yakuza series was reintroduced to the west with a bang in the form of Yakuza 0 and a high-quality remake of the original in Yakuza Kiwami. And there was plenty of RPG goodness across the board, from Xenoblade Chronicles 2 and Persona 5 to my personal Game of the Year of 2017, Nier: Automata. The sheer quantity of incredible releases last year that may be remembered as generation-defining, if not some of the greatest video games ever made, would be hard for 2018 to top. And truthfully, this year never did hit the absolute highs of 2017 for me. That’s not to say that there weren’t plenty of great games this year, but none hit me with the impact of last year’s incredible slate. However, there were still a couple of incredible Yakuza games released this year, as well as a Fist of the North Star-themed Yakuza spin-off that’s still sitting in my backlog. So maybe some of last year’s magic still managed to rub off! Regardless of how quiet or not 2018’s march of releases was, I still had plenty to play, had plenty of fun, and on that subject, that’s all that really matters. 10) Fortnite Though Fortnite was released last year, I’m including it here at the tenth spot on my list because, like so many other people, there was a period of about two and a half months where it was literally the only game I played. Both on the PS4, and later the Switch, the Battle Royale game was one I just couldn’t put down, often ending late nights after just “one more game.” For the record, I was terrible. I only ever came in first place once, but it was through the semi-tactical fluke of managing to win a round without ever firing shot and letting the only remaining opponent get claimed by the encroaching storm. Truth be told, any experience I had with Fortnite after that oddity was a bonus. 9) Attack on Titan 2 Click here to read GP's official review The first of three Koei Tecmo games on this year’s list, Attack on Titan 2 really captured the feel of the anime, but with the twist of inserting the player into an original character slotted into the narrative’s existing events. In a year with an actual Spider-Man game (that I haven’t played yet), Attack on Titan 2 still satisfied that urge to swing through cities and forests with grace and ease. Now if Koei Tecmo would just consider localizing the Ruby Party Attack on Titan game. 8) Warriors Orochi 4 Warriors Orochi 4 was seen by a lot of Musou fans as something of a mea culpa from Koei Tecmo after the generally negative response to Dynasty Warriors 9. While it does introduce new mechanics involving magic and gave powered-up divine forms to select characters, the game doesn’t do much to rock the boat. And if you’re a Musou fan like I am, that’s fine, and it’s comforting, but it also left me with some mixed feelings for reasons that will become clear later down the list. That said, it’s a solid, fun continuation of one of the best Warriors series out there, even if it doesn’t feature the crazier crossover characters from last year’s Warriors All-Stars. 7) BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle Click here to read GP's official review Calling BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle a BlazBlue game is something of a misnomer. It is a BlazBlue game, but it’s also Persona 4 Arena, Under Night In-Birth, and… the Rooster Teeth animated series RWBY?! As crazy a mash-up as the game is in concept, it’s a frenetic fighting game of intense, fast-paced tag battle-style matches that can end in the blink of an eye. The game also holds a special place in my heart for serving as my introduction to competing at EVO. (I didn’t advance very far, but I didn’t go 0-2, either!) 6) Octopath Traveler Octopath Traveler is one of the more unique RPGs to come out of Square Enix in years. On the surface, it might strike people as a cousin to the divisive SaGa series, as it features eight playable characters, each with their own story and path through the game. Unlike the typical SaGa title, however, the gameplay is much easier to learn and understand, and all eight characters become part of the player’s party through natural play (but by no means is the game a cakewalk). Combine its gameplay and engaging characters with a visual style that feels like a pop-up book version of SNES-era RPGs, and it’s the sort of experience that’s right up my alley. 5) Soulcalibur VI Soulcalibur VI feels as much like a return to form as it does something new. After having so much fun and spending so many hours in Soulcalibur II, the third, fourth, and fifth games all had significant issues or gaps that left me wanting. It didn’t help that the guest characters the series brought in could never match the fun feeling of playing as Link from The Legend of Zelda, or even the goofy inclusion of Heihachi from the Tekken series. Soulcalibur VI in some ways takes a back to basics approach with its story, returning to the storyline of the first two titles and exploring it in depth with not one but two different story modes. The game mechanics feel sharp and polished, and the cast of classic characters has never looked better. Even the guest character, Geralt from the Witcher series, fits right in. And hey, 2B from Nier: Automata is joining the fray around the time that I’m writing this list up, so it’s only looking better as time goes on! 4) Dynasty Warriors 9 Click here to read GP's official review There’s no question that, to many, Dynasty Warriors 9 was a disappointment. The mechanical and systemic changes brought about by setting the game in an open world were bold experiments by Omega Force; the boldest shift taken by the series in many, many years. And the game launched with some technical flaws that required several patches to address, many of which were no doubt due to the game not getting enough time in the oven before it launched. And so I can understand where the disappointment comes from. But… I was never truly disappointed. While Dynasty Warriors 9 is flawed, I loved my time with it. I played it for over a hundred hours, and currently sit one trophy short of earning my first platinum trophy for any title I’ve played on a PlayStation console. I’m generally not a completionist by nature, but when I have more time, I’d like to go back and get that last one, because really and truly, I think Dynasty Warriors 9 is a lot of fun. In particular, the new combat system it introduces is a major step forward from the tried-and-true charge system that has existed in most Dynasty Warriors titles since the earliest entries. If anything, I would love to see more of this type of gameplay in a more refined entry, whether that be Dynasty Warriors 10, Samurai Warriors 5, or something else. But given the general response Dynasty Warriors 9 received, I won’t be surprised if Omega Force backtracks and makes more titles of the old form, like Warriors Orochi 4, for example. I’ll be disappointed, but not surprised. 3) Yakuza Kiwami 2 Click here to read GP's official review Like last year’s Yakuza Kiwami, Yakuza Kiwami 2 is another remake, this time of the second and last entry to grace the PlayStation 2. Built on the Dragon Engine originally developed for Yakuza 6, Kiwami 2 takes an already wild adventure and makes it even better. Punching man-eating tigers in the face has never looked so beautiful! While Yakuza 2 is often credited as the game where the series truly found its voice, Kiwami 2 refines the experience, adding more of what works, taking away a few things that don’t really work anymore, and as a bonus, tying in new sidestory elements to act as a direct sequel to Yakuza 0. Fans of the 80s-era prequel will absolutely love the callbacks, both goofy and heartfelt. 2) Yakuza 6: The Song of Life Click here to read GP's official review Billed as the game that ends the long and melodramatic tale of Kazuma Kiryu, Yakuza 6 contains everything that Yakuza fans love, from the action and drama to the more absurdist and comedic set pieces. If it truly lacks anything, such as meatier or more meaningful appearances from several fan-favorite characters, it’s only because the game’s plot is written with Kazuma and the now grown Haruka front and center. As the series has progressed, both star characters have grown older, and their arcs have taken them in some unexpected directions. But good things deserve to come to a proper end, and the Yakuza team elected to do just that. The game tells a story that ties a fitting bow around what has been a long journey for Haruka, and particularly for the lead character Kiryu. And that’s something that very, very few game series that have gone on for as long as Yakuza has can claim to have done as well. 1) Super Smash Bros. Ultimate Super Smash Bros. Ultimate really does feel in many ways like the ultimate Smash Bros. title. With a roster featuring every playable character that ever appeared across the previous entries, including third-parties, in addition to a few brand-new characters, the roster has something for most everyone. And though the size of that roster is the likely reason for why some traditional features aren’t present in Ultimate, like Home Run Contest or trophy collecting, the game has a host of deep, quality features that doesn’t make it feel slimmed down in any way. As someone that’s played Smash Bros. since the original N64 title, it’s fair for me to say that Ultimate may end up being my favorite entry. Not just due to the breadth of its gigantic roster that’s due to grow even further with coming DLC, but with the dev team’s reverence for the source materials that the roster comes from. Even the Spirit Battles, challenges themed after hundreds of characters from Nintendo’s past, as well as some special guests, are as creative and humorous as they are challenging. One battle I found particularly amusing cast three female Corrins with jetpacks as the Elite Beat Divas from Elite Beat Agents. The surprise in how these depictions are crafted, and how they translate specific references, make the battles as enticing as the actual challenge of fighting them. That the game’s Adventure Mode, World of Light, is entirely based around these Spirit Battles, makes for some of the best single-player content in any Smash Bros. game. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate has everything it needs to keep me playing it well into the foreseeable future, both alone and with friends and strangers. And being packed with such quantity and quality, it’s easily my personal Game of the Year.