What a year! is something I can say about a lot of different areas in my life. So many changes both personally and professionally that it seemed to go by in a flash. In fact, it’s almost a year ago as of this writing that some of those professional changes started taking place and where has the time gone amirite?!?!?!
But this is a site about video games and I played quite a few of those in 2018. Here is a list of my top ten for the year.
Top Ten Games of 2018
Florence is not something I’d be generally drawn to. First, it’s on mobile and I rarely play mobile games. I have enough video games in my life that I don’t also need them in my pocket at all times. However, when something comes along that I feel like I have to play, I’ll make the effort to do so. Florence is barely a game, more of an interactive story. It’s short. It might take little more than an hour to “finish.” But what it does during that time affected me in a way that games rarely do. If you’ve ever been in a relationship, especially one that goes south, you’ll get the feels with this one. At least I did. The art and music are both great and I’m definitely in on whatever Mountains does in the future.
9. Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age
The last time I seriously played a mainline Dragon Quest game was when it was called Dragon Warrior and on the NES. I owned DQVIII but couldn’t really get into it for whatever reason. That being said, the nostalgia kicks still resonated with me in a big way. It’s not just the sounds, music, or familiar enemies that got me there but the classic JRPG gameplay really made it feel like playing an old favorite. Sure there can be arguments made that DQXI is way too easy, but there’s something about the character design and the story that just pulled me in. Plus, there’s a character in the beginning of the game with my name and looks like I did when I was a child. So it probably should be number 1!
8. Forza Horizon 4
I haven’t played a racing game in a very long time. The last one I played with any regularity was probably Burnout Paradise. That is until I got an Xbox One and subscribe to Game Pass. First game I downloaded was Forza Horizon 4. I’ve always been intrigued by both sets of Forza games. I like cars, but I’m not really into sim racing so the Horizon series is right up my alley. From the ability to get deeper into customizing your ride as much as you want, to just taking the stock vehicles you get throughout the game, Forza is exactly what I want in a racing game. How many times have you raced a hovercraft with a car in a game?
CrossCode is a game I had an eye on for a long time. It was in early access for over a year and every so often I’d check in on the progress Radical Fish was making. I would read some reviews of people who had purchased the early access game and slowly built my hype over that period of time. It finally came out in September and I totally forgot about it. It wasn’t until December that I finally dove in and loved it from the start. Granted, if I had more MMO experience I would probably like it even more, but it’s still a great throwback to the classic SNES jrpgs with a lot of modern upgrades to keep me interested. The combat, puzzle design, and music really shine. I’ve found myself raising a fist after beating a difficult boss, smiling when figuring out a puzzle, and listening to the soundtrack outside of the game all the time. If anyone has the nostalgia of the great old Squaresoft SNES games, you won’t be disappointed by CrossCode.
6. Shadow of the Tomb Raider
This is one game that might not be on many lists this year and I totally understand why. It doesn’t do anything novel and the story isn’t something that will blow you away. But for some reason I am deeply connected to this franchise even though Square Enix is doing everything they can to not give a shit. I love this series and I love gritty Lara. I’ll never tire of headshotting Trinity Soldiers with my bow. The tomb raiding is even more prevalent than the first two games and it even throws into question the methods outsiders use in order to justify their archaeological findings. There’s a moment early in the game that resonated with me when you play as young Lara that I never got from the two previous entries. It does what it does well and that’s all I really need from this series.
I’m more than exhausted by all the superhero movies that have been coming out the past 10 years. I still watch them but at a certain point I stopped being that hyped about any of them. That feeling carried over to Marvel’s Spider-Man. Well, I also didn’t really care about Spider-Man as a character anymore. I understood why people were excited, I just couldn’t manifest any of that feeling inside. It wasn’t until around Christmas when I got a PS Store gift card and the game was on sale that I decided to take a leap. I’m so glad I did. I’m not a huge fan of the combat, but I’m also not very good at it. To me it’s just a means to an end and that is seeing the wonderful city and story that Insomniac has created. Web-slinging and web-swinging is something I’ll continue to go back to.
4. Tetris Effect
My name is Cole and I am a Tetris addict. Have been since it first came out on the Gameboy and NES. Every so often I’ll pick up a new version and become addicted for the next couple of months. This time was no different in terms of my addiction, but the rest of the package surrounding the Tetris part of it was multiple times greater than any Tetris product has ever had. And I’m saying this without having played any of it in VR, which is supposed to be amazing. The way everything works together, from the graphical choices to the music, is a sight to behold. Not to mention the leaderboard/challenge hooks that I haven’t even gotten into. This might be the year I buy PSVR. This game is a system seller.
3. Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey
I’ve had an up and down relationship with the Assassin’s Creed franchise, but the last two years have included some of my favorite moments from the series. I’m a sucker for ancient history and mythology and Odyssey has both in spades. Sure, it can be ridiculous and over the top, but I’m not looking for a serious story here. I’m looking for outstanding architecture, fun combat puzzles to solve and some of the gamiest video game gameshit ever created. Plus, this year I got to play as a horny Kassandra just banging everyone she meets. It was a fun ride for sure and something I’ll continue to go back to as long as I still have some cult members to assassinate.
Celeste came out early in the year and I’m glad I didn’t play it until the end of the year due to something I experienced during the middle part of the year. This summer was one of the most difficult periods I’ve had in my life, battling some crippling anxiety and panic attacks for the first time. I wasn’t exactly sure where it came from or why all the sudden it was happening to me, but it gave me an opportunity to learn more about myself and come away with a sense of gratitude for those lessons. I was also grateful that I didn’t play Celeste until after that experience. It made me appreciate the game on an extremely deep and personal level that a lot of video games never do for me. This year I had two with Florence and Celeste. What’s particularly amazing about Celeste is that it came from a pixel-based platformer. Those usually don’t have any stories worth writing about let alone tying the story together perfectly with the ultimate goal of the gameplay. Can’t wait to see what Matt Makes Games does next. Phenomenal work.
1. God of War
Going into this year, I could give a shit about Kratos or any of the God of War games. Yet, at times during this God of War, I became extremely nostalgic and appreciated those story beats as they made call backs to the previous games. I think it’s the genius of the storytelling done by Cory Barlog and team at Sony Santa Monica that got me so invested into Kratos and Atreus’ story. God of War hits every beat for me. It has an incredible story supplemented by fleshing out the mythology and the motivations of characters by a talking head. I’d be an idiot if I didn’t talk about the breathtaking visuals and eye popping colors everywhere you look. And the axe. My god the Leviathan Axe. I’m not sure it needs a sequel but I know we will probably get one. Cory has set the bar incredibly high on what a 3rd person action game can be. Can’t wait to see how the industry is inspired by this incredible work.