2018 has been a year! We’ve been bombarded by sad stuff in most aspects of life; political, social, personal, economical, etc. While reality may not have been so great lately, games have always helped us escape that reality and deal with it a little bit better. This year, games thankfully have kept the great precedent from last year with some standout AAA releases, some unexpected indie hits, and everything in between. As is tradition, this time of year people compose their ‘top 10’ lists and I’ve decided to do the same, but I’ve made things easier and harder for myself; without further delay here’s my list of 10 games I’ve enjoyed this year in no particular order (besides the top 2).
- Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey
AC has had a shaky road during its long and ongoing run, and last year’s Origins seemed to sent the franchise on a new direction that would breathe new life into AC. So when Ubisoft announced that Odyssey would come only a year after Origins, I was worried but excited at the same time as Odyssey was going to be set in my most requested destination: Ancient Greece. While Ubi’s vision of Greece is not flawless nor without its controversies, AC gave me dozens of hours of entertainment that has pushed the game onto my list; long story short, if you liked Origins, this is more of that, this is better than that, but this is not Brotherhood either so this is not the version of AC that will sell everyone on the new direction. Regardless, AC Odyssey is a great game and I had a ton of fun with it.
- Dead Cells
After a year in early access, roguelike-metroidvania sensation Dead Cells released its 1.0 and absolutely nothing changed; I still played the crap out of this game and consider it one of the best games of the year! To be fair though, there were plenty of changes, additions, and fixes throughout the early access period, but Dead Cells was throughout that period a very impressive, addictive, inventive, and entertaining game which thankfully has not changed.
- Donut County
It’s rare that games can make you laugh; Donut County is a rare game. It’s artistically brilliant–with its beautiful art style, simple yet effective controls and mechanics, and great music–but what stands out is its ability to gain consistently genuine laughs out of you. Raccoons controlling holes and wrecking havoc on cities have never been as fun–and as funny–as in Donut County and there have been plenty examples of that to make that feat very impressive!
- Forza Horizon 4
I’ve always liked the Forza franchise, but I think Horizon 4 is the first time I’ve loved a game in the legendary franchise. It’s not the improved online functionalities or the shared world experience (although that helps), it’s the way the driving feels, the songs on the radio, the look of the game, the design of the world, the new race types, the cars; it’s everything adding up to a game that is amazing to play, even for a guy like me that doesn’t really care about cars, but loves driving an Abarth cabrio with SquareBob SquarePants and Patrick painted on it, through the English country side.
Although GRIS is a relatively new experience, it is certainly an impactful and poignant one, that I’m sure even with the advantage of hindsight will certainly deserve its place on this list. A puzzle-platformer at first glance, but look longer and a bit harder, it transforms into a poignant and remarkable perspective into depression, grief, and dealing with those emotions, amongst others. It is certainly worth a try, even just to hear the best music of the year in regards to video games!
- Picross S2
This may seem as a surprise inclusion alongside some of the other games on this list, but I’ve spent 80+ hours with this game and it’s one of my favorite games of the year. Yes, it’s still Picross for Switch, and yes it has some very small changes from the first that don’t really excuse the need for a new game, but Picross S2 is as addictive, challenging, and fun as any casual-puzzle game released this year or the last few!
- The Gardens Between
I like puzzle games, but what I enjoy more is a greatly designed and mechanically sound game that marries a great atmosphere through narrative, visuals, music, etc. The Gardens Between is that kind of game; it’s not a deep narrative or a head-scratching difficult experience, but a serene and a bittersweet trip through nostalgic moments and inventive puzzles that make the 2 hours spent with this game worthwhile and memorable.
- Return of the Obra Dinn
This was by far the hardest decision I’ve made for this list, and the one I’m 100% sure that with hindsight, I will regret! ROTOD is an important game, a game that has shown the world what games can be, a game that answers hard design dilemmas with unique, interesting, and insightful suggestions; the reasons why it is not number 1 or two are that I wish to savour every moment of this game and not rush through it, and because enjoying this game has to do a lot with appreciating its unique art style, which I found interesting but not pleasant. Regardless, ROTOD is an incredible game (as is any game that “makes” me get paper and pen to write down details and timelines for my own entertainment) that will remain as one of the greats and the only positive thing is that I can still experience and enjoy parts of ROTOD and solve mysteries for the first time next year as well
Wandersong is a game that stole my heart; it has a great art style, amazing music, inventive and varied gameplay, a surprisingly deep and charming story with colorful characters. That’s it; there’s nothing inherently unique or amazing about Wandersong, but as I kept thinking about which experiences earned their place on my list and started marking the ones that were certain, 3 games kept coming on my mind: ROTOD, my number one (keep reading), and Wandersong. Every time I think about that cheerful and charming bard, the world he lives in, the character he meets, and the songs we sang together, I smile and I long to have a similar experience. That’s why Wandersong is number two and that’s why you should definitely give it a shot!
- Red Dead Redemption 2
RDR 2 is a game like no other, that could not be made by any other, and will be studied and chased after for the years to come. It’s a vast open world, with side activities and main missions, which feels deeply personal and completely driven by a single ambitions; it has something new around every corner, which is sometimes sad and poignant, sometimes it’s challenging, sometimes it’s funny, but all of the times it’s exciting, fun, and interesting. I’m not gonna get super deep into why this game is so good, because this is a game that NEEDS to be played, discovered, and experienced on its own merits. It’s a game that took multiple years to complete, worked on by hundreds if not thousands of extremely talented people, and it still feels like a miracle. It’s a game that people can spent dozens of hours and get nowhere–in terms of progression–but still have an experience that is rivaled by none; Rockstar has done it, they have created one of the best games I’ve played yet again!