Top 10 Games of 2018 (Game of the Year)

At last, our journey takes us here, to the end of all things.

And by that, I mean it’s time to wrap up my long-delayed 2019 video game awards (celebrating the best of 2018 video games) with the big “Game of the Year” award.

While 2018 wasn’t quite on par with 2017 in regards to video games (which would be no small feat), it still produced some truly memorable gaming experiences. Enough that I could once again compile a full top 10 list, as opposed to my usual top 5. And also, with my gaming purchases beginning to slow down, who knows if I’ll be doing a full top 10 again any time soon. Best to take advantage of what I’m given when I can.

So, what were the best games of 2018? Well, according to me, anyway, they were these following ten titles.

Continue reading “Top 10 Games of 2018 (Game of the Year)”

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Video Game Awards 2019: Best Platform

With all the awards I’ve been giving to the video games of 2018, it’s time to give one to the platforms we play them on.

I’m not one for console wars. Sure, I have my favorite gaming consoles (two of which are currently the biggest sellers on the market), but I feel it’s immature to claim one brand superior to another just because. The people who shame Nintendo for being “kiddy” warrant that very pejorative more so than anything Nintendo has ever made. And those who make similar claims against Playstation or Xbox aren’t any better.

But this isn’t about console wars, it’s just awarding the console I feel was the most consistent over the calendar year that was 2018. So without further ado… here’s that!

Winner: Playstation 4

 

While the Nintendo Switch definitely had a great sophomore year in 2018, it did admittedly not quite reach the heights it did in its unparalleled debut year of 2017. Playstation 4, meanwhile, may have had its best year yet.

Between God of War and Marvel’s Spider-Man, the Playstation 4 received two of its best exclusives to date. Ni No Kuni 2 and Tetris Effect also proved to be memorable exclusives. Not to mention the absolutely beautiful Shadow of the Colossus remake. On top of that, the PS4 also saw great Multiplatform releases like Red Dead Redemption 2.

For all the murmurs we keep hearing about a Playstation 5, I find it kind of hard to care too much about that at the moment. The Playstation 4 clearly has plenty of life left in it. No need to rush the next generation when the current one is still thriving so strongly.

 

Runner-up: Nintendo Switch

 

Past Winners

2014: Wii U

2015: Playstation 4

2016: Playstation 4

2017: Nintendo Switch

Video Game Awards 2019: Best Handheld Game

Handheld gaming is in quite an interesting place these days. Mobile gaming has of course taken most of the handheld market over the last decade. But perhaps more interestingly, the Nintendo Switch has essentially bridged the gap between handheld and home console gaming.

There was once a clear cut difference in terms of what kind of games you’d see on handhelds. In the Game Boy days, it meant the compromise of quality for the convenience of portable gaming. In the Game Boy Advance days, handheld titles were smaller, shorter experiences, but no less great than their console counterparts. But now with the Nintendo Switch, there’s really no difference.

This is, of course, making this particular award a little tricky. Do I stick with what is traditionally considered a ‘handheld’ game (3DS, etc.)? Or do I include Switch titles?

Well, I suppose since the 3DS is (unfortunately) on its last leg, I guess now is as good a time as ever to allow Switch games into the mix. However, I will only consider Switch exclusives eligible for this award. I don’t want to dilute the idea handheld gaming too much. Therefor, if I only make the exclusive Switch titles eligible for this award – as opposed to multiplatform games and ports/re-releases that also happen to be on Switch – then I feel this award’s continued existence is justified.

So without further explanation, here is my favorite handheld game of 2018.

 

Winner: Super Smash Bros. Ultimate

First, let me give credit where it’s due: If I were going with the “traditional” handheld route, this award would go to WarioWare Gold. So let’s award that as the “Runner-up” in this category, and give it some additional brownie points as well. Because WarioWare is an awesome series, and Gold was just so much fun.

With that said, I can’t deny the sheer joy of playing Super Smash Bros. on the go. Sure, Super Smash Bros. on 3DS did it first, but it also felt like it made some compromises in the transition, and was kind of the ‘lesser’ version of its Wii U counterpart. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, on the other hand, is Super Smash Bros. at its best whether your playing on your TV or on the go.

Ultimate is one of the best examples of the appeal of the Switch itself. It’s top tier gaming no matter how you choose to play it. And Ultimate gives you one of the best multiplayer series of all time, whether you choose to go the home console or the handheld route.

 

Runner-up: WarioWare Gold

 

Past Winners

2014: Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS

2015: The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D

2016: Kirby Planet Robobot

2017: Super Mario Odyssey*

 

*Retroactively awarded now that I’m qualifying Switch titles for this award.

Video Game Awards 2019: Best Gameplay

Gameplay is the heart and soul of any game. No matter how good your story is, no matter how big your budget and production values, no matter how much hype you have, if the gameplay doesn’t deliver, your game has failed.

There were plenty of games that provided excellent gameplay in 2018. Whether it was refinements of tested mechanics, innovative concepts, or immersive interactivity, 2018 gave us some gameplay greats. But one in particular stood out for me…

 

Winner: Marvel’s Spider-Man

There were admittedly a few top contenders for this award. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate represents one of the greatest multiplayer franchises at its very best. Red Dead Redemption 2 gave us a world with an unrivaled amount of ways to play. God of War delivered the series’ trademark action, while delving further into exploration elements. And Celeste was a testament to how simple gameplay can create deep games.

But in the end, I had to go with Marvel’s Spider-Man. Why? For the very simple reason that Spider-Man controls just as you’d always hoped he would. From running up walls to swinging across buildings, Marvel’s Spider-Man really made you feel like the friendly neighborhood web-slinger.

Granted, some of the combat sections drag on a bit, but they’re still fun. Spider-Man’s constantly expanding moveset, repertoire of gadgets, and unique costumes all add to the experience, making for quite the varied combat variety.

Yes, Spider-Man walks away with this award because it made me feel like Spider-Man as much as I think a game could at this point. The simple act of controlling a character has rarely been so satisfying.

 

Runner-up: Super Smash Bros. Ultimate

 

Past Winners

2014: Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze

2015: Bloodborne*

2016: Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End

2017: Super Mario Odyssey

 

*Retroactively awarded after further consideration

Video Game Awards 2019: Best Indie Game

Remember like a decade ago, when it seemed like indie games weren’t indie games unless they were self-indulgent tripe “unique experiences” that employed shallow “minimalistic” gameplay and shoehorned pretentious cliches into their freshmen-level storylines “expressed the artistic visions of their auteur creators in their groundbreaking narratives?”

Thank merciful heavens those days are (mostly) behind us. It seems as of the last couple of years, indie games have realized the novel concept that video games should have some sense of fun about them. Lo and behold, indie games have been all the better for it. Shocker, I know.

Yes, it seems like once indie games removed that giant stick out of their collective ass and stopped looking down their nose at other games, they actually started to deserve the praise that was thrown their way. The pompous self-insistence of the likes of Jonathan Blow and Phil Fish are now but a bad memory. Long live the Shovel Knights of the world.

In short, indie games are pretty great these days. 2018 was no exception, and saw some excellent indie titles. Which one was best?

 

Winner: Celeste

I struggled between choosing Celeste or Deltarune: Chapter 1 as my best indie game of 2018. Deltarune is certainly shaping up to be a great follow-up to Undertale, but seeing as what we have of the game so far is just the first part of a game that may or may not be finished in the next few years, I decided to go with Celeste.

Celeste is a truly clever puzzle-platoformer that makes use of a few simple key mechanics: jump, dash, wall jump. It sounds simple, but like the best platformers, Celeste has so many creative ideas up its sleeve that these simplistic elements end up being the only tools it needs to build a great game.

Much like a certain plumber’s classic adventures, Celeste features some remarkably clever level design, with new ideas, twists and gimmicks added into the mix at every turn, which showcases the true depth of its seemingly simple design.

True, the storyline – though emotional – does feel a little disconnected from the game itself, both Celeste’s gameplay and narrative halves prove memorable. And the things this game has to say (mainly focused on anxiety disorders) are certainly more meaningful than the forced commentaries of the indie scene of yesteryear.

In a time when indie gaming has produced some all-time greats, Celeste proves to be one of the best of the lot.

 

Runner-up: Deltarune: Chapter 1

 

Past Winners

2014: Shovel Knight

2015: Undertale

2016: Stardew Valley

2017: Cuphead

Video Game Awards 2019: Best Content

To say that video games try to give you some extra bang for your buck these days is an understatement. Games now go out of their way to make sure players will spend countless hours with them. While this can sometimes be to the detriment of a game (tedious padding, pointless extra modes, and worst of all, post-release content that should have been there from the start), it has also given a number of modern titles an unparalleled longevity.

2018 had plenty of big games, but only one could take the cake.

 

Winner: Red Dead Redemption 2

 

What else was it going to be? There is literally something to do in every nook and cranny of Red Dead Redemption 2’s meticulous world. Want to do the main story? Go straight to it! Want to take a break from said story and do side quests? Be my guest! Want to rob a train? Take your time to plan the heist and hop to it! Want to play poker with some random socialites? You are more than welcome to do so! Want to track down rare beasts to hunt for a new pelt? You do you, my friend!

Okay, you get the idea.

Red Dead Redemption 2 is simply a game that doesn’t let up when it comes to things to do. It’s take on the Wild West presents one of the most immersive and interactive game worlds to date. No matter where you go in Red Dead Redemption 2, there is always something that can be done, whether it’s a necessary mechanic or not. Red Dead Redemption 2 may have its technical issues, but they are all too easy to ignore when you remember this is a game that presents a deep narrative about loyalty and betrayal, but can turn into one giant fishing simulator if you so desire.

Now if only Rockstar could add all these features to the online mode…

 

Runner-up: Marvel’s Spider-Man

 

Past Winners

2014: Super Smash Bros. for Wii U

2015: Super Mario Maker

2016: Overwatch

2017: Super Mario Odyssey

Video Game Awards 2019: Best Multiplayer

Alright, so my Best Multiplayer award has seen two different iterations over the last couple of years. Some years, it’s separated into two different categories, differentiated by ‘local’ and ‘online’ multiplayer. Other years, when I don’t think I played a game that best showcases those individual categories, I just lump them together as an overall “Best Multiplayer.” 2018 falls into the latter category.

That’s not to say that 2018 was lacking in quality multiplayer experiences or anything, just that I don’t think it was a year that justified both the local and online multiplayer categories.

So what was the best multiplayer game of 2018? Well, it’s not really too hard to figure out.

 

Winner: Super Smash Bros. Ultimate

An obvious selection, yes. But obvious with reason. Few series have provided such great multiplayer experiences so consistently as Super Smash Bros. And Ultimate is the best entry yet.

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate lives up to its lofty title by refining the gameplay of the series, bringing back every past playable character, and introducing some new mechanics and fighters as well (which can be a little bit of a mixed bag. For every K. Rool there is an Incineroar). It may not reinvent the franchise, but Ultimate – true to its name – is Super Smash Bros. done better than ever.

Whether you’re sitting next to some friends, brawling each other in some local competition, or taking your skills online to face players from around the world, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate provides endless multiplayer fun (yes, there are still lag issues on occasion, but not nearly to the extent of the past few entries. And now players can make their own lobbies! Progress!).

While Super Smash Bros. Ultimate’s single player campaign may be a hot mess, it’s bottomless bag of multiplayer features are a true work of art.

Can we get Geno now?

 

Runner-up: Super Mario Party

 

Past Winners

2014: Mario Kart 8 (Online), Super Smash Bros. for Wii U (Local)

2015: Splatoon

2016: Overwatch

2017: For Honor (Online)*, ARMS (Local)

 

*Retroactively awarded after further consideration.