Recognizing the very best games released across all platforms in 2018.
After the stellar lineup of games we got to enjoy throughout 2017, you might have been forgiven for thinking that 2018 would be a bit more subdued- we certainly did. We could not have been more wrong. 2018 started strong, delivering one excellent game after another right from the get go. In the first half of the year, we were treated to at least one amazing game each month, and as the year progressed, it gathered pace, until going absolutely berserk in the back half, which was littered with a string of stellar releases. From indies to AAA games, from new IPs to stunning sequels, across all genres, over the last twelve months, we’ve gotten to play numerous games that are nothing short of generation-defining.
Picking out any set number of games out of such an incredible lineup is always a tough task, and ranking them is even tougher. But that’s what we’re going to do here. We’ll be taking a look back at the entirety of 2018, and picking out 25 of our favourite games of the year, counting down from #25, right down to #1, our game of the year for 2018.
NOTE: All entries and rankings were decided by an internal vote held among the entire GamingBolt staff.
Available On: PS4, Xbox One, PC | Developer: Dontnod Entertainment | Read Our Review
In today’s day and age, we don’t often see developers willingly going out of their comfort zone to try things that are unlike anything they’ve done in the past, and when they do, so often the game they deliver ends up as a failed experiment. Vampyr, then, was a risky move for Dontnod Entertainment, and while it shows their inexperience with the kind of game it is in certain areas, as a whole it is undoubtedly a success story for the French studio. Vampyr is dark, brooding, atmospheric, and tense, set in a captivating setting populated by excellently developed characters. The fate of every major NPC in Vampyr lies in the hands of the player, and the way they shape every moment of the game is commendable. It’s an imperfect game, sure, but it’s highs are higher than its lows- it truly is a diamond in the rough.
#24. SPYRO REIGNITED TRILOGY
Available On: PS4, Xbox One | Developer: Toys For Bob | Read Our Review
Last year, Crash Bandicoot N.Sane Trilogy ranked in our top 25 games of the year, and this time, it’s the iconic purple dragon’s time to shine. The original PlayStation 1 trilogy of Insomniac’s platformers has held a special place in the hearts of many for years, and looking at the love and respect with which developers Toys for Bob have brought it into the modern age, it’s clear to see that they harbour that same burning love. Spyro Reignited Trilogy is a meticulously crafted and incredibly faithful recreation of the PS1 classics, where every level is exactly as you remember it, but looks and feels better and more polished than even most recent platformers.
#23. DETROIT: BECOME HUMAN
Available On: PS4 | Developer: Quantic Dream | Read Our Review
Detroit: Become Human might just be Quantic Dream’s most ambitious game to date. Heavy Rain purists would have balked at the very thought about a year ago, but Detroit feels like Quantic Dream at the peak of their powers. Set in a not too distant future that is realized excellently and sold to the player with admirable conviction, Detroit: Become Human uses high concept ideas to tell an incredible story where player choice matters more than it ever has in previous games by the studio, using characters as vessels that are likeable, well written, and well acted. Does it falter in the execution of its thematic storytelling at times? Sure it does- but it manages to overcome its issues thanks to strengths that far outweigh its weaknesses.
#22. TETRIS EFFECT
Available On: PS4 | Developer: Monstars Inc, Resonair | Read Our Review
Here’s a colossal understatement for you- Tetris is a known quantity in the video games industry. It’s the foundation that this industry is built on, the building blocks that the past thirty years of video games have been made out of- and we’re not trying to be cute with puns here. Tetris Effect tried to take on the challenge of not only recreating a game that is, by all means, mechanically perfect, but also doing so in a fresh and new way, while also making sure that the new things it attempted didn’t mess with perfection. It wasn’t an easy ask, but Tetris Effect passes the test with flying colours. It does, of course, enrapture players the way all Tetris games do, with the same addictive puzzle gameplay. On top of that, though, it takes players on an incredible visual and aural journey as well, which heightens the experience in unimaginable ways. Tetris Effect is the purest and simplest distillation of everything that video games are about, combined with modern ideas that strengthen it in unexpected ways.
#21. THE BANNER SAGA 3
Available On: PC, PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch | Developer: Stoic Studio| Read Our Review
Being comprised of former BioWare developers, Stoic Studio obviously know what they’re doing whenever they set out to make a narrative-heavy, choice-based RPG. They showed that with the first Banner Saga, and left no room for any doubters when they delivered an even better game with its sequel. As the conclusion to this epic and beloved series, though, The Banner Saga 3 had higher expectations than ever attached to it- that it managed to not only meet them, but exceed them, speaks volumes about the kind of game it is. It is the sort of sequel that builds on the strengths of its predecessors, and refines them to absolute perfection. The Banner Saga 3 tells a maturely written story that concludes an excellent tale in the most satisfactory way possible, while delivering amazing characters, memorable choices, and engaging tactical combat along the way.
#20. DEAD CELLS
Available On: PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC| Developer: Motion Twin | Read Our Review
A few years ago, it would have been impossible to imagine that the dying game design philosophy we all know as metroidvania would ever step back into the limelight, but after the explosion of excellent indie-developed metroidvanias we’ve seen over the last few years, that particular sect of the industry has almost become saturated. Dead Cells manages to do the impossible by not only making a splash in that dense crowd, but also standing head and shoulders above almost any other recent game of its ilk. That’s because it doesn’t let itself be just a metroidvania- it smartly combines the excellent level design and sense of progression of a metroidvania with the addictive and cyclical gameplay of roguelikes, peppering other strengths such as fast and slick combat and rewarding difficulty on top. It’s an experience unlike anything else we’ve played in a long time, and deserves to go down as one of the very best of its kind.
#19. NI NO KUNI 2: REVENANT KINGDOM
Available On: PS4, PC | Developer: Level-5 | Read Our Review
Ni no Kuni 2: Revenant Kingdom had almost impossibly high expectations to meet. Though not one of the most prominent or high-profile games of its time, the first Ni no Kuni on the PS3 is deeply and fiercely loved, and any game following in its footsteps would have had a tough time. Does Ni no Kuni 2 live up to the high standards set by its predecessor? That is debatable. What is unequivocally true is that viewed on its own merits and demerits, it’s a wonderful game. It’s charming cast of characters and vividly beautiful world have cemented themselves in our memory since we first played the game months ago, while its much improved combat system and the surprisingly deep and engaging kingdom building mechanic that it weaved into its larger loop ended up providing a level of enjoyment that we were not expecting. We’ve been witnessing a resurgence of JRPGs over the past few years, and Ni no Kuni 2 illustrates just how strongly this once floundering genre has made its comeback.
#18. VALKYRIA CHRONICLES 4
Available On: PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC | Developer: Sega | Read Our Review
Valkyria Chronicles 4 is the kind of game that you wouldn’t have to try too hard to find issues with. From its storytelling to its writing, there’s a great many things here that are far from good. But it’s also the sort of game where you’re really only in it for one thing, and one thing only, and that one thing is so unbelievably good, you don’t really care too much about anything else. That one thing is the tactical battles that form the majority of the experience. Turn based strategy games and RPGs aren’t exactly hard to find in today’s day and age, but it’s not easy to find one as good as Valkyria Chronicles 4. There’s a lot going on in every battle, each of which can take as much as two hours to finish, where a vast web of intricate mechanics are constantly interacting with each other. The result is that each battle feels thrilling and constantly engaging, where you’re always thinking about your next move, your enemy’s potential next moves, and way, way beyond. Valkyria Chronicles 4 is not only a return to form for the franchise, it is also the best game in the series yet.
#17. DRAGON QUEST 11: ECHOES OF AN ELUSIVE AGE
Available On: PS4, PC | Developer: Square Enix | Read Our Review
For devoted lovers of the JRPG genre, Dragon Quest 11 – more so even than most, if not all, of its predecessors – is a game made of dreams. It sticks very closely to tried and true mechanics, ideas, and design philosophies- but while lesser games doing the same thing would use that as a crutch to overcome creative or mechanical deficiencies, Dragon Quest 11 uses its love for conventions and traditions as its biggest strength. It delivers an addictive turn based combat system that is simplistic at first, but allows greater and greater room for experimentation as the game progresses; it’s set in a traditional fantasy setting that doesn’t break new ground, but continues to surprise and delight the player with a string of excellently designed locations that are brimming with memorable personality; it tells its simple yet engaging story through a cast of endearing and charming characters who instantly make you care about the narrative way more than you ordinarily would; and it has an absolutely gorgeous visual aesthetic that continues to throw scenes of visual splendour your way even when you’re dozens of hours into the game. Best of all, it’s excellent paced, never outstaying its welcome, and briskly moving from one place to the next. Dragon Quest 11 captures the essence of a perfect JRPG, and hones it to absolute perfection.
#16. SOULCALIBUR 6
Available On: PS4, Xbox One, PC | Developer: Bandai Namco | Read Our Review
Soulcalibur has always been counted as one of the behemoths of the fighting genre, but after a disappointing slump over the last few years, things were looking a bit grim from the series. There was a lot riding on Soulcalibur 6, but it’s fair to say that it delivered on fans’ expectations confidently. Soulcalibur 6 takes a back-to-the-basics approach, shedding the annoying elements its recent predecessors had picked up, to deliver a purist’s dream. There’s a lot to unpack in Soulcalibur 6, and nearly all of it excels thanks to the sheer strength of its mechanics. Libra of Souls and Souls Chronicle also collectively make for a huge amount of single player content, which actually ends up counting for a lot, because the story told in Soulcalibur 6 is an engaging and well-told one. The fact that the game looks and sounds excellent serves as the icing on top of a delicious cake.
#15. SHADOW OF THE COLOSSUS
Available On: PS4 | Developer: Bluepoint Games | Read Our Review
It is often said that masterpieces are best left untouched in all mediums of entertainment- you don’t want to taint their greatness by failing to live up their immense legacy, nor do you want to be crushed under the massive shadows cast by them. Shadow of the Colossus on the PS2 was definitely a masterpiece, and remaking it from the ground up for a modern audience was never going to be an easy task. But Bluepoint Games are masters of their craft, and Shadow of the Colossus on the PS4 turned out to be a masterpiece, just like the game it spawns from. The 2018 remake shows just why the PS2 original is so often cited as one of the greatest games ever created, but not only does it perfectly recreate its sombre, melancholic, and desolately beautiful world, it also takes an extra step forward. By polishing up things such as the original game’s finicky camera, and improving upon its controls, Shadow of the Colossus on the PS4 manages to, impossibly enough, outdo the PS2 classic. Bluepoint Games’ Shadow of the Colossus is not only one of the best games of 2018, it’s also one of the very best remakes ever made.
#14. OCTOPATH TRAVELER
Available On: Nintendo Switch | Developer: Square Enix | Read Our Review
A while ago, we spoke about the resurgence of JRPGs, and how in recent years, the genre has managed to shake off a horrible slump to return stronger than ever. But it did that by stepping out of the shadows of its past, and moving forward with new ideas, and in doing so, lost a lot of what made us fall in love with classics like Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy 6 all those years ago. For traditional JRPG lovers, Octopath Traveler is a treat unlike anything else. That said, rather than choosing to put all its eggs in the “pandering to a nostalgic crowd” basket, the Switch exclusive carves out an identity of its own. Its beautiful and unique visual style, backed up by strong art design and surprisingly impressive technical aspects, is one of its biggest strengths, but Octopath Traveler also features an inventive combat system that is immensely deep and incredibly tactical. Oh, and there’s also its soundtrack, which might just be one of the best musical scores we’ve heard in a game in years.
#13. DRAGON BALL FIGHTERZ
Available On: PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC | Developer: Arc System Works | Read Our Review
Arc System Works are one of the industry’s very best developers when it comes to fighting games, while Dragon Ball is a property that has always held immense potential to be turned into an excellent fighter. Dragon Ball FighterZ, then, was pretty much a match made in heaven, and upon release, it surprised no one with how astoundingly good it was. Combining the over-the-top and ridiculously epic action of the beloved and legendary property with the solid mechanics we’ve come to expect from any game developed by Arc System Works, FighterZ is a wet dream for all Dragon Ball fans. It’s also a game that encourages variation and experimentation with fighting styles heavily, so that finding that one character that suits your style best and then practicing with them to perfect your skills becomes a much more rewarding and gratifying experience than you would expect. The fact that it looks drop-dead gorgeous also helps, of course.
#12. YAKUZA KIWAMI 2
Available On: PS4 | Developer: Sega | Read Our Review
Yakuza may have broken into the mainstream with the seminal Yakuza 0 last year, but you know what they say- popularity isn’t always reflective of quality. Though the series hasn’t always been the most well-known in the west in the past, it has, regardless, been incredibly consistent, delivering a line of excellent games over the years. As such, for Yakuza Kiwami 2 to come along and deliver the best game in a franchise that has been so consistently strong is no small feat. It helps that it is a remake of Yakuza 2, which is probably the best story this series has ever told, but Yakuza Kiwami 2 doesn’t just rely on the PS2 game’s strengths. It adds things of its own, such as the improvements the series has made with recent entries to the combat, and both new and reworked scenes that add greater meaning to the story, and an incredible new soundtrack. Kiwami 2 is also aided by the strengths of the Dragon Engine, which helps bring Kamurocho and its glistening, packed streets to life, lending the setting even more character and depth. This may very well be the last we see of Kazuma Kiryu in a new Yakuza game – not counting remasters, of course – so we’re glad to say that it’s a fittingly excellent sendoff for the Dragon of Dojima.
#11. FAR CRY 5
Available On: PS4, Xbox One, PC | Developer: Ubisoft | Read Our Review
Far Cry 5 strikes an excellent balance between retaining the essence of Far Cry and what has made it click with so many people over the last five years or so, while also evolving the series in way that had become necessary. It eschews the highly regimented and structured open world design that Far Cry had come to be defined by, removing staples such as the infamous towers and the minimap, and instead puts players smack dab in the middle of an open world that is much more organic, and puts a greater emphasis on emergent systems. Messing about in the sandbox of Far Cry 5 is a blast, while engaging in the chaotic mayhem that is synonymous with the franchise is made even better thanks to its more open ended nature. In going for an experience that relies on player-made moments rather than scripted events, Far Cry 5 loses the narrative focus of its predecessors- but on the whole, all the changes it makes make it a much better and more compelling experience than ever before.
#10. POKEMON LET’S GO, PIKACHU! AND LET’S GO, EEVEE!
Available On: Nintendo Switch | Developer: Game Freak | Read Our Review
Pokemon Let’s Go had no shortage of doubters, critics, and skeptics in the weeks and months prior to its launch, but the series’ first outing on the Nintendo Switch turned out to be surprisingly good. Many of the changes Let’s Go makes to franchise staples look radically divergent on paper, and surely, not all of them work- but some of the biggest changes work surprisingly well, while at its core, Let’s Go remains a quintessential and traditional Pokemon experience. As a remake, and as the series’ first outing on a home console, Let’s Go is quite conservative, and we doubt it’s representative of what kind of an experience Pokemon 8 is going to be next year- but viewed on its own merits, its a solid Pokemon title- a breezy, enjoyable adventure, featuring a Kanto that is lovingly and faithfully recreated with simple yet charming visuals, with a remixed soundtrack that does justice to the excellent music of Pokemon Red/Blue/Yellow. It’s a shot of nostalgia right into the veins, and more than enough to tide us over until a true Pokemon sequel comes along next year.
#9. HITMAN 2
Available On: PS4, Xbox One, PC | Developer: IO Interactive | Read Our Review
2016’s Hitman revived a franchise that had been floundering, by taking the series back to what made it great. It also, however, displeased more than just a few people with its episodic nature. Hitman 2 takes the strengths of the reboot, but sheds its biggest weakness- as such, it’s really the ideal sequel. Those who’ve played the 2016 title know exactly what they’re getting into with Hitman 2- an excellent, sandbox stealth title with some of the best designed levels you will ever see, and an endless amount of ways to accomplish your objectives. Experimentation is the name of the game in Hitman 2, and the more inventive, patient, and cunning you are, the more rewarding the experience ends up being. In an era where the old guard of the stealth genre has fallen away one by one, it’s a huge relief to see Agent 47 still going strong.
Available On: PC, Nintendo Switch, PS4, Xbox One | Developer: Matt Makes Games | Read Our Review
Celeste took our breath away with just how excellent it was. Going into it, we were expecting a solid platformer, but what we got was so, so much more than what we thought it would be. It succeeds resoundingly on so many fronts. Thanks to solid level design and tight and responsive controls, it is an accomplished platformer, one that starts out simply but keeps on introducing new ideas and mechanics that are utilized with an unexpected level of ingenuity. But playing Celeste is as much about enjoying its story as it is about the platforming. The story it tells is surprisingly moving, emotional, and well-told, taking a simple premise but getting the most out of it thanks to incredible characterization and intelligent writing. Celeste is yet another proud flag-bearer for the argument that you don’t need a multi-million dollar budget and a team of hundreds of developers to make a masterpiece that will be remembered for years.
#7. MONSTER HUNTER WORLD
Monster Hunter has always been one of Capcom’s best and most successful franchises, but due to various eccentricities and a vast web of mechanics that can be daunting for many, it’s also been more than just a little inaccessible. Monster Hunter World, impossibly enough, not only retained everything that made its predecessors so widely beloved, it also tidied everything up in a manner that opened it up to a legion of new fans. Countless hours can be lost to Monster Hunter World, as you get stuck in the cycle of grinding for better loot, to craft better gear, to take on better monsters, and on and on it goes. Challenging boss fights, deep and layered combat, excellent map design, and a dangerously addictive gameplay loop are what has always made Monster Hunter so good, but they’re refined and polished masterfully in World, and work better than ever before.
#6. SUPER SMASH BROS. ULTIMATE
Available On: Nintendo Switch | Developer: Sora Ltd., Bandai Namco | Read Our Review
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate lives up to its name in every way possible. By bringing together every fighter that has ever been in a Smash Bros. game. By having nearly every stage in the history of the series. By delivering the kind of meaty single player experience that fans have been begging for for so long. By having a large selection of modes to sink dozens upon dozens of hours into. But it’s not just a collation of all of its predecessors- it is a culmination. Because Smash Ultimate also adds improvements of its own, with new fighters, a handful of new stages, the most comprehensive and impressive soundtrack the series has ever seen, fighting mechanics that are faster and slicker than ever before, and so, so much more. To be the most ambitious game in a series that is as famously ambitious as Smash Bros. is no easy task, but Ultimate miraculously manages to do just that.
#5. FORZA HORIZON 4
Available On: Xbox One, PC | Developer: Playground Games | Read Our Review
When Playground Games kicked off the Horizon offshoot of the Forza franchise, few people could have predicted that it would go on to become as popular as as the main Motorsport series, if not more- but it did. Forza Horizon improved with each successive entry, and though we didn’t think it was possible to improve upon the already stellar Horizon 3 in any meaningful way, Horizon 4 does just that. It’s a masterclass in open world racing, and delivers strongly on almost all fronts. Online play and solo play are equally compelling, the open world is excellently designed, the world itself is populated by varied and engaging events and activities, driving mechanics are predictably solid, while the seasons mechanics is, to put it simply, a stroke of genius. All of which is to say that Forza Horizon 4 is one of the best games to have ever come out of Microsoft, and a genre-defining standard that all future racers should aspire to.
#4. ASSASSIN’S CREED ODYSSEY
Available On: PS4, Xbox One, PC | Developer: Ubisoft | Read Our Review
Once a franchise settles into a groove, it’s dangerously easy for it to fall into a rut. That is exactly what happened with Assassin’s Creed, but when it was looking like it had hit a slump it couldn’t recover from, Origins came along as a breath of much-needed fresh air. Little did we know that that was only the beginning. Because Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, as it turns out, is what it was all leading up to- a revitalization of the franchise that redefines it at its very core, taking it completely into RPG territory, and doing it with surprising confidence. Assassin’s Creed Odyssey is a terrifyingly deep abyss- but in the best way possible. It pulls you in, and it refuses to let go, only going deeper, and deeper, and deeper. From its vast and beautiful world, to its abundance of quests and activities, to its meaningfully layered progression system, to the choice-and-consequence mechanics it introduces to the franchise’s formula, it is a game that just keeps on giving.
#3. MARVEL’S SPIDER-MAN
Available On: PS4 | Developer: Insomniac Games | Read Our Review
Insomniac Games had the impossible and unenviable task of taking one of the most legendary and beloved properties in the entire world across all mediums of entertainment, and translating it into a game that not only did justice to it, but could also stand on its own two legs as a solid production. Impossibly, Spider-Man delivers in all the ways that matter the most- from capturing the essence of Spider-Man, to being a game that is actually fun to play, from respecting the legacy of the property, to telling a unique and engaging story, from borrowing from the strengths of recent superhero games that have reached impossible highs, to somehow still carving out a strong identity of its own, and making sure it doesn’t just end up being a pale imitation. In light of those expectations, the fact that the Spider-Man that we got even exists is nothing short of a miracle, and Insomniac deserve all the praise in the world for that gargantuan accomplishment.
#2. GOD OF WAR
Available On: PS4 | Developer: SIE Santa Monica Studio | Read Our Review
Reimagining a beloved and established franchise, and revitalizing a once-popular series that has slowly faded away- even one of those tasks would prove to be a tall order for most games. God of War shoulders the responsibility of accomplishing both things, and comes out as a resounding success on both fronts. From huge, radical shifts like a change of setting, a change of camera perspective, and a change of tone, to relatively subtler divergences, like a change in the weapons you use in combat, God of War reimagines the series in bold ways. It delivers an experience that, at its core, feels exactly like a God of War game should, with a rich setting steeped in fascinating mythology, brutal and satisfying combat, and a staggering sense of scale. But it goes deeper with everything the series is about, delivering a more complex, more thoughtful, and more engaging experience. God of War has always been one of Sony’s premier franchises, but with its latest entry, it has flown above even those lofty heights, to flat-out become one of the most highly regarded franchises in the entire industry.
GAMINGBOLT’S 2018 GAME OF THE YEAR- RED DEAD REDEMPTION 2
Available On: PS4, Xbox One | Developer: Rockstar Studios | Read Our Review
Red Dead Redemption 2 is very different from the kind of games Rockstar usually makes- sure, it’s still an open world game rooted in violence and crime like all Rockstar games. But where the developer’s previous titles have been bombastic and gleefully over-the-top, Red Dead Redemption 2 is slow, methodical, and grounded. And it works overtime to get to that level- everything in the game exists in service to a single, collective whole, a whole that is unbelievably cohesive and immersive. But even in isolation, the individual moving parts in Red Dead Redemption 2 are astoundingly ambitious. Its open world setting is perhaps the most obsessively detailed we have ever seen, to the point where simply existing in the game is an experience unto itself, while excellently designed optional activities and side missions also add an excellent level of immersion and sense of place. There’s its story, which is confident enough in its own strengths to know that it can take all the time it needs- it’s methodically paced, deliberately gradual, starting out slow but constantly gathering pace to deliver a finale that is wrought with thrill and emotion, propped up by mature and intelligent writing, an excellent and memorable cast of characters, and one of the most well-developed video game protagonists of all time in Arthur Morgan, who may just be the best leading man ever in any Rockstar game. Like anything that is as vastly ambitious as Red Dead Redemption 2 is, this is not an experience that is completely lacking in flaws- but its stunning clarity of vision and its strong execution of some of its best and most important ideas make it one of the greatest games we’ve played in years. It’s a huge step forward for open world game design, for storytelling in video games, for Rockstar as a studio, and for the industry as a whole.