The PlayStation 4 had yet another excellent year in 2018.
It’s hard to believe in light of the already amazing life the PS4 has had that 2018 is probably the console’s best year yet. Over the last few months, we’ve seen a steady stream of excellent games coming from a large number of developers. Third parties continued to put out one memorable title after another, numerous indie games came along and took our breath away, while Sony’s first party exclusive lineup in 2018 was probably the strongest it’s ever been in any single year. And though in a year as populated with excellent games as 2018 has been for the PS4, highlighting just a few of them was an extremely difficult task, there were fifteen PS4 games that we felt displayed a level of quality that was unmatched in all others.
Without further ado, let’s take a look at the fifteen nominees for GamingBolt’s best PS4 games of 2018.
NOTE: The nominees and winner were decided by an internal vote held among the entire GamingBolt staff.
THE NOMINEES ARE…
The Meroidvania genre has seen a massive, much-welcome resurgence over the last couple years or so, thanks mostly to the booming indie scene, and picking out any one of the many excellent Metroidvania titles we’ve played in that time is an impossible task. So while we can’t conclusively say that Guacamelee! 2 is the best of the lot, we can still say with complete confidence that it is, at the very least, very, very close to the top. It takes what made its predecessor so good, and doubles down on those strengths. With excellent combat, colourful visuals, solid level design, and memorable boss fights, Guacamelee! 2 is an essential experience for any fan of the Metroidvania genre.
VALKYRIA CHRONICLES 4
Valkyria Chronicles 4 knows exactly what it needs to be – more Valkyria Chronicles, which is something that fans of the series have been craving for for years – and thankfully enough, it never tries to be anything else. There are very few tactical RPGs out there that do “tactics” as well as this game does. Every battle feels like a game of chess, long and immaculately designed, where every single move you make can have major consequences and turn the tide of the battle. Thinking ahead and strategizing on the fly are crucial in Valkyria Chronicles 4, and victory feels like something that needs to be earned, rather than something that’s guaranteed. It may not stand out in writing or storytelling or a number of other areas, but thanks to its strength in combat and tactics, it really doesn’t need to.
DETROIT: BECOME HUMAN
David Cage and his team at Quantic Dreams have proven themselves to be masters of storytelling over and over again, and with Detroit: Become Human, they did so yet again. The hallmark characteristics of all Quantic Dreams games – the beautiful visuals, the imaginative narrative themes and concepts, the memorable characters – are all here, and are propped up by decisions that feel truly weighty, and impact the story in numerous and unpredictable ways. On top of that, the outstanding visuals in Detroit: Become Human simply cannot be praised enough either. Though the game takes it sweet time to gather pace, once it gets going, it refuses to let up right until the very end.
YAKUZA 6: THE SONG OF LIFE
Kamuza Kiryu bid farewell to millions of his fans with his last outing in Yakuza 6: The Song of Life this year, and fittingly enough, it was exactly the kind of sendoff he deserved. Core strengths that have defined the series for as long as it has existed, such as a strong, well-told narrative, bombastic and flashy combat, and an excellently realized world, are all very much present in Yakuza 6 as well, but feel more alive and impactful than they ever have. That’s thanks not only to the satisfying way in which Kiryu’s story is wrapped up, but also the fact that the new Dragon Engine does wonders for the series.
How do you take a game like Tetris, a game that is mechanically and structurally flawless, and turn it into something that is even better? The easy way out of that question would be to say- you can’t. But Tetris Effect does not take the easy way out- it shows that even perfection can be improved upon. It combines the timeless and ridiculously addictive Tetris gameplay that helped build the very foundations of our industry with a memorable aural and visual journey. As a whole, it’s a memorable, meditative experience that is much, much better than it logically could or should be. Tetris Effect is one of the very best renditions of the classic puzzle game we’ve ever played- we can think of no praise higher than that.
Not many games can make the sort of astounding first impression that Celeste does, but what makes this a proper masterpiece is the fact that it continues to delight and surprise players in the same way for the entirety of its runtime. There’s just so much to love about Celeste- its smart writing, its attractive visual design, its surprisingly emotional story, its inch-perfect platforming, its ingenious level design, the way it promotes almost infinite playthroughs and replays. Celeste shows that a game doesn’t need multi-million dollar budgets and development teams of hundreds of people to deliver an experience that will undoubtedly go down as one of the greatest games ever made.
NI NO KUNI 2: REVENANT KINGDOM
Ni no Kuni 2, just like its predecessor, is a game that is brimming with personality. From the very first second, it sucks you in with its beautiful visual design, and then keeps you hooked thanks not only to its charming characters, but also a number of distinct systems that all work together surprisingly well, from its much improved combat to its surprisingly deep and addictive kingdom building and management mechanics. It is a leisurely, deeply enjoyable journey through a magical land, and though that journey isn’t quite as impactful as the one its predecessor took us on, it’s one that is absolutely worth taking nonetheless.
YAKUZA KIWAMI 2
Yakuza 6 may have been the conclusion to Kazuma Kiryu’s story, but thanks to Sega’s drive to modernize all of their older Yakuza titles and give Yakuza 2 the same Kiwami treatment that the first game in the series got, it wasn’t the last we saw of the Dragon of Dojima. Yakuza Kiwami 2 is probably the best Yakuza game ever made. The original Yakuza 2 told what is probably the series’ best story, which is made even better with Kiwami 2, while the additions the remake makes to the game all land perfectly as well. As icing on top of the cake, just like Yakuza 6, Kiwami 2, thanks to being built on the Dragon Engine, is a visually stunning game. If this is indeed the last time we see Kiryu in a new Yakuza game, it’s a worthy sendoff indeed.
MONSTER HUNTER WORLD
Until very recently, it was a commonly held belief that Monster Hunter could either cater to its dedicated fanbase by retaining its complex and deep mechanics, or appeal to newcomers by simplifying those systems and alienating its existing fans in the process. Monster Hunter World proves that notion wrong- it keeps the depth and complexity of Monster Hunter’s addictive loot grind intact, but it cleans up and polishes it all significantly, so that it’s not as intimidating or hard to get into as past Monster Hunter games have been. It strikes an excellent balance between nuance and accessibility, and though it’s still not for everyone thanks to its very nature, once you do get into it, it’s hard to find a way back out.
SHADOW OF THE COLOSSUS
2005’s Shadow of the Colossus was a generation defining title that was not only one of the best games on the PlayStation 2, but one of the best games ever made, period. The fact that its remake is just as breathtakingly beautiful as the original game was should tell you all you need to know about its sheer quality. All the strengths that immortalized the PS2 classic back in the day shine just as bright on the PS4- if not brighter. Combining one of the all-time greats in Shadow of the Colossus with the talents of masterful video game modernizers Bluepoint Games is a sureshot recipe for success, so it’s no surprise that Shadow of the Colossus on the PS4 ranks as one of the best games of the year.
ASSASSIN’S CREED ODYSSEY
The Assassin’s Creed franchise has had a few forgettable instalments since its inception, but over the years, it has also delivered a lot of excellent ones. So when we call Odyssey one of the very best Assassin’s Creed games ever made, you know we don’t say that lightly. Taking the series’ well established identity and turning that into a full fledged RPG was a bold new direction for Odyssey to take, but it was one that paid off in spades. The combat is the best it has ever been in an Assassin’s Creed game, the dialogue choices feel meaningful, while the progression mechanics afford excellent control over how you want to shape your character. The star of the show, however, is the setting of Ancient Greece, which is mind-bogglingly massive, and throws exciting new things to see and do at the player constantly, whether that’s in the form of quests and side quests, or beautiful sights to behold, or thrilling naval battles to take part in, or engaging in any one of the plethora of side activities that litter the map.
GOD OF WAR
God of War as a franchise had built up a very clear and distinct identity for itself since over the course of six instalments, on the basis of which it amassed a massive following- taking a franchise like that and completely turning everything we have known about it on its head was a risky move, but the people at Sony Santa Monica proved themselves to be masters of their art yet again. God of War on the PS4 is an astounding game, with visceral and brutally satisfying combat, some of the best visuals we’ve ever seen in any video game, and storytelling that constantly takes your breath away with its sheer conviction and ingenuity. The ambition and audacity of some of the things God of War attempts are stunning, and the fact that it is able to do justice to those ambitions just makes the entire experience that much more admirable. Best of all, though, is the fact that in spite of taking the series in a completely different direction, God of War has a great amount of respect for its predecessors in both gameplay and narrative, and even though this is unlike anything we’ve ever seen from the series, it still feels very much like God of War.
RED DEAD REDEMPTION 2
Seeing Rockstar’s name attached to any product almost feels like a guarantee of sorts, that the game you’re about to receive is going to match the industry’s very best standards. With Red Dead Redemption 2, the venerated developer demonstrated just why it commands that sort of respect from one and all- because not only does Red Dead Redemption 2 go toe to toe with the standards that other games and developers have set in the last few years, it rides through them at breakneck speed and sets entirely new standards of its own. Storytelling and cinematography in video games have been growing more and more each year, but in Red Dead Redemption 2, they reach entirely new heights, aided by mature writing, and strong, honest characterization. What’s also impressive is that in a vast, dense open world setting, Red Dead Redemption 2 displays a level of polish and visual splendour that even games of much narrower scope struggle to achieve, while the world itself is unbelievably captivating and immersive. Red Dead Redemption 2 is not a game without flaws, but its highs are so high that the few shortcomings that it does have seem positively minuscule in comparison.
DRAGON QUEST 11: ECHOES OF AN ELUSIVE AGE
Dragon Quest 11 is the sort of game that doesn’t try to impress players with the vastness of its scope or with its grand ambitions, but with the confidence with which it executes tried and tested ideas- ideas that, it would be fair to say, were pioneered by this very franchise decades ago to begin with. It isn’t set in a vast, open world, but its world is varied, beautiful, and a joy to traverse. Its combat isn’t littered with hijinks and gimmicks, but its simplicity is engaging and addictive in and of itself. Its story isn’t going to take your breath away, but the characters that are with you every step of the way are endearing and wonderfully developed. Dragon Quest 11 is a pure distillation of its genre, and a game that has an incredible understanding of what makes for a truly great JRPG.
There is no amount of superlatives that can do justice to just how incredible Insomniac’s Spider-Man is. It is a game that has a very clear understanding of what makes not only for a good Spider-Man game, but also a good Spider-Man story, and it puts all that knowledge to use to deliver an experience that is a dream come true for all fans of the property- and even for people who may not be so attached to the famous wallcrawler. Swinging around the island of Manhattan is blissful experience, so much so that the simple act of getting from point A to point B feels heavenly. And though the swinging is obviously the game’s biggest strength, its combat reaches similar heights, and at times even surpasses them, with a pace and fluidity that is simply out of this world. On top of all that, an excellent narrative, great acting performances, and witty and heartfelt writing all come together to make Spider-Man truly amazing.
AND THE WINNER IS…
GOD OF WAR
After 2013’s disappointing God of War: Ascension, the series went into hibernation for a long time, and soon it became clear that if the series was ever going to return to the limelight, it would have to make some serious changes. As such, there was an immense burden of expectations on the shoulders of Sony Santa Monica with God of War (2018)– the fact that they delivered on those lofty expectations, and then some, speaks volumes about the kind of game God of War is. In so many ways, it truly does the impossible; it takes a character that had been painfully one-dimensional and widely disliked for six games, and turns him into a deep, complex protagonist; it boldly moves the series into a new direction in both setting and narrative, but it does so by building on the foundations of what had already come before, rather than wiping it all clean; it goes for a completely new gameplay structure and combat system, but somehow manages to retain the visceral essence of what makes a God of War game tick; it stubbornly decides to tell its entire story in a single, uninterrupted shot without any cuts, even in the face of a mountain of evidence to suggest that that might prove to be a disaster, but somehow, it makes it work. Sony Santa Monica’s towering ambitions for God of War’s reinvention deserve all the credit that they get, and the fact that they managed to do right by those ambitions with such masterful execution truly makes God of War one of the greats.