Microsoft’s console may not have had the most stellar exclusive lineup this year, but there was still a whole lot of great stuff to play on the Xbox One in 2018.
As far as exclusive content is concerned, the Xbox One has lagged behind Nintendo and Sony since the beginning of the generation, and though it’s true that Microsoft’s recent string of studio acquisitions spells excellent things for their future, the fact of the matter remains that for now, exclusive content on their console is a little scant. That said, in spite of the fact that exclusives on the Xbox One were typically few and far between in 2018, the collective library of games released on the system this year was very impressive, propped up by some excellent indies, and multiplatform titles that, thanks to the power of the One X, ran best on Microsoft’s system. Here, we’ll be listing out ten of our favourite Xbox One games of the year, before picking out the one we felt added the most value to the system’s library in 2018.
NOTE: The nominees and winner were decided by an internal vote held among the entire GamingBolt staff.
THE NOMINEES ARE…
Dead Cells is an incredible game. It’s a mixing pot of a host of ideas that would stand tall even by themselves, but Dead Cells brings them all together in an unforgettable experience. The excellent level design of metrdoivanias and the inherently addictive design of roguelikes combine with slick combat, a rewarding and inventive progression system, and challenging difficulty to deliver one of the best games of the year.
MONSTER HUNTER WORLD
Monster Hunter World was the franchise’s debut on the Xbox One, and Xbox owners could not have asked for a better introduction to this extremely popular franchise. It struck almost the perfect balance between retaining the core complexities and intricacies that have always defined Monster Hunter games, and also streamlining it and making it more accessible for those who are not too familiar with the series. Boasting of excellent maps, an addictive lootgrind, and an amazing combat system that encourages ridiculous levels of experimentation and variation, Monster Hunter World is a game that you can sink dozens upon dozens of hours into.
“More of the same” can often be a bad thing, but in the case of Hitman 2, it turned out to be its biggest strength. The 2016 reboot was a return to form for the franchise, and as a game that expands and improves upon those strengths, it’s hard for any fan of the series or the stealth genre not to fall in love with Hitman 2. Not only does it boast excellent emergent gameplay and open-ended level design that lets players loose in sandboxes of endless opportunities, it also eschews the episodic structure that what, perhaps, the gravest sin committed by its predecessor, making for a package that you can’t help but be immensely satisfied with.
ASSASSIN’S CREED ODYSSEY
You never quite know just what level of quality to expect from a series as inconsistent as Assassin’s Creed, but one look at Odyssey was enough to clue us into just how incredible it was going to be. Thankfully, not only did it meet those expectations, it surpassed them. Assassin’s Creed Odyssey is a staggeringly huge open world game with one of the best maps we’ve ever seen, and almost an infinite amount of content that can keep you engaged and hooked for over a hundred hours. It also improves upon its predecessors in some key areas, such as combat, while adding excellent new progression mechanics and choice and consequence systems. All in all, not only is it an amazing game, it might even be the best Assassin’s Creed game ever.
Well, it’s at least in the top 3.
Every year we get new, amazing titles that stand as proud flag bearers of what the indie side of our industry is capable of, and in 2018, Celeste was one of those gems. To call it a masterpiece would be an understatement. Playing Celeste is as much of a joy as experiencing its story is, and it’s not very often that a game can make such a bold claim- especially when both those aspects are as immensely strong as they are in Celeste.
RED DEAD REDEMPTION 2
Rockstar have often been cited as the kings of open world game design, and with Red Dead Redemption 2, they cemented their claim to that throne. But while Red Dead Redemption 2 is an incredible open world title, full of details and interlinked systems that make its vast, beautiful map a pleasure to simply exist in (not that there isn’t an abundance of meaningfully enjoyable activities to otherwise engage in), its accomplishments go far, far beyond just that. Because Red Dead Redemption 2 is also a storytelling masterpiece, ingeniously paced, maturely written, and told through some of the most well-developed and compelling characters we’ve ever seen in a game. The single-minded manner in which Red Dead Redemption 2 strives to achieve its ambitious vision in every single aspect of the experience is nothing short of stunning.
FORZA HORIZON 4
Forza Horizon 4 pretty much did the impossible- it delivered on all fronts, giving us exactly the kind of experience we wanted, accomplishing lofty goals in all the key areas, and then going above and beyond to add on stuff that made the entire experience even better. Forza Horizon 4 belongs to that rare breed of games that you can play endlessly, for dozens upon dozens – if not hundreds – of hours without ever really getting bored of it. A lot of that is down to its structure as an open world racer, sure, which inherently encourages replay value, but Horizon 4 displays a mastery over open world design – as well as the content that world should be populated with – the likes of which has rarely been seen in similar games in the past.
Capybara Games first announced their roguelike action adventure Below back in 2013, but after multiple delays and five years of anticipation, we finally got our hands on it at the tail end of this year. Was it worth the wait? We definitely think so. Below isn’t the kind of game that can be picked up and enjoyed by anybody, and certainly targets a very specific kind of audience, but if you do get into it, it’s an absolute treat. From its gruellingly challenging difficulty to its beautiful visuals and immersive atmosphere, Below is an entrancing game that you can’t help but love. Repetition and occasionally frustrating difficulty are flaws, but not nearly bad enough to bring down the experience in any meaningful way.
SEA OF THIEVES
The video games industry is in a place where a game’s launch is by no means the end of the road for developers- in many cases, it’s merely the beginning. Sea of Thieves, for example, was universally criticized for not having enough content, and basically having launched as an incomplete title, but since then, with constant content updates and expansions, Rare have completely turned the ship around. It is now a pirate utopia, where exploring the high seas is a blast, engaging in battles is as exciting as you’d want it to be, and going out on hunts for treasure and booty with your pirate crew makes for one of the most engaging activities in all games on the Xbox One this year.
The Soulslike subgenre has seen a massive surge in popularity over this past decade, but Ashen is perhaps one of the best takes on it that we’ve seen in years outside of FromSoftware’s own work. Ashen is a beautiful, desolate game set in a stunning and open environment that isn’t too large, but always a joy to explore, which combines with the typical strengths of the genre – such as solid, meticulous combat and rewarding difficulty – to deliver an unforgettable experience. A44’s game also manages to set itself apart from the games it takes inspirations from by implementing some unique co-op mechanics, as well as a metagame of sorts that revolves around your ever-growing home base. As such, Ashen is unique, yet very familiar, and all around one of the best games to have launched on the Xbox One this year.
AND THE WINNER IS…
FORZA HORIZON 4
It’s very hard to improve upon a game that was already as excellent as Forza Horizon 3 was, but time and time again, Playground Games have proven themselves to be masters of their craft. Building on the core strengths of previous Horizon titles – from their expert driving mechanics to strong open world design and a slew of varied and interesting activities to take part in – Horizon 4 adds a whole new twist of changing seasons to the mix, which completely changes the game in so many and absolutely stellar ways. Forza Horizon 4 is not only better than its predecessor, it’s flat out one of the greatest racing games of all time, and definitely among the very, very best first party games Microsoft has ever produced- and quite possibly the best Xbox One exclusive to date as well.