Welcome to the final Geeky Brummie gaming roundup of 2018. This week, I’ll be picking out 40 of the best and most interesting titles from the last 12 months.
A lot of highly unscientific factors were considered for this, including sales, critical acclaim and online buzz (especially post-release). But ultimately here are the 40 most beloved, most talked-about and most interesting titles of the past year!
January kicked off the year with Monster Hunter World (PC, PS4, Xbox One), the latest edition of Capcom’s beast-baiting franchise. The first main series game to be released on non-Nintendo platforms since 2006, Monster Hunter World offers an even more expansive and seamless world than ever before, some brand new monsters and even more customisation options for your Felyne companions. It took full advantage of being on more-powerful hardware while retaining the core elements of the series fans love. Or, as my friend who’s a massive fan of the series told me:
“I ENJOY IT IT IS LARGE AND HAS LOTS OF MONSTERS AND POOGIE IS THE GOODEST BOY”
So if that doesn’t convince you then I don’t know what will.
January’s surprise hit was Celeste (PC, PS4, Xbox One, Switch), an indie twitch platformer that wowed all who played it. It brought together precise puzzle platforming with a deep storyline that touched on mental health struggles as a central theme. Worth a play for those looking for a challenge of both mind and reflexes.
February’s big release was the remake of Shadow of the Colossus (PS4). While I’ve generally avoided ports and remakes for this list, Shadow of the Colossus is special and deserves a mention. A vast world crossed with a poignant story that questions who the real monster is, the game is every bit as impressive as it was when released for the PS2 back in 2005.
If you prefer a bit of sword and sorcery, there was Kingdom Come: Deliverance (PC, PS4, Xbox One), which did away with the sorcery part entirely in favour of crushing realism. You’re not a mighty hero, you’re the son of a blacksmith trying to stay alive. It’s less medieval fantasy and more medieval simulator, and if that sounds like your kind of thing, this might be worth a go.
Elsewhere in the indie scene, Into the Breach (PC, Switch) began making waves at this time. Mainly because it was a turn-based strategy title from the makers of FTL, the beloved spaceship management game. Into the Breach sees you fight a series of tactical battles, protecting human settlements from a marauding alien force. By offering short, snappy battles that make you consider your environment as much as your troops, it’s a great new spin on an established genre.
VR also began to look like a more interesting prospect with the release of Moss (PC, PS4), a cute little game starring an adventurous mouse named Quill. Gameplay is fully tailored to the VR experience, placing the player in a gorgeous living storybook. Plus Quill is cute, so it has that going for it as well.
March’s big release was Far Cry 5 (PC, PS4, Xbox One), the latest in Ubisoft’s survival series. Taking the bold decision to set the game in rural America rather than another remote exotic location, it was hard not to notice the parallels between the game’s story and the complex political environment the game was released alongside. It didn’t do much different for the Far Cry series beyond its setting, but strong gameplay refinements and the doomsday cult making interesting antagonists, it was still a quality package.
Alongside this was Ni No Kuni 2: Revenant Kingdom (PC, PS4), the sequel to 2013’s collaboration between Professor Layton developers Level-5 and beloved anime producers Studio Ghibli. It continued with the same beautiful visuals and quirky cast of the original game but added tons of extra features. As well as being a traditional JRPG, Level-5 added real-time strategy missions and Pikmin-style unit management in battles. A strong follow-up to a fantastic game.
During 2017’s Game Awards, director Josef Fares made a meme of himself, drunkenly ranting some choice words about the Oscars. Not content with making himself known for that, he and his studio then released A Way Out (PC, PS4, Xbox One) to great acclaim. A co-op adventure, the players take on the roles of two escaped convicts working together to make their getaway. A great blend of fluid co-op mechanics and an excellent story that’s not afraid to throw some emotional gut punches.
In April, the PS4 got one of its year’s big hitters, God of War (PS4), which saw an older, wiser Kratos taking on his greatest challenge yet – fatherhood. Set against a beautiful backdrop of Norse winter wilderness, this latest game took the series in a more mature direction. Gone are the god-destroying rampages and questionable sex minigames, replaced with a father-son bonding exercise. And it’s all the better for it.
Not content with breaking hearts in This War of Mine, 11-bit Studios released another game about coping in extreme circumstances. Frostpunk (PC) is a post-apocalyptic city management game set in a harsh global winter. It forces the player to make tough decisions or risk deaths and the collapse of your society. Harrowing, brutal and far from easy, Frostpunk is a true test of character that you don’t see in SimCity.
The surprise of the month was Minit (PC, PS4, Xbox One, Switch), a quirky little indie RPG where your character can only adventure for 60 seconds at a time before respawning. It’s a game about managing your limited time, discovering shortcuts and staying one step ahead of the clock. A unique experience that took many by surprise this year.
May was a fantastic month for RPG fans, as Obsidian’s Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire (PC) landed to great fanfare. Building on the already excellent Pillars of Eternity, this sequel presented a vastly improved nautical adventure in place of the traditional fantasy settings. With deep mechanics, excellent writing and vast options to play around with, this is not one to miss.
Castlevania has seen a mild resurgence this year, with the second season of Netflix’s animated adaptation and representation for the series in Smash Bros. It was also the release of the loosely-related Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon (PC, PS4, Xbox One, Switch). Designed to tide people over for the upcoming Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night, this is a retro throwback to the early days of Castlevania. All the elements are here, except all the bits Konami own a trademark to, so if you’re looking for some demon-killing action, this is for you.
There were two games released in May that didn’t receive a lot of attention, but I feel are absolutely worth your time checking out, so I’m including them here. Yoku’s Island Express (PC, PS4, Xbox One, Switch) is an endearing 2D platformer with pinball mechanics, with the happiest dung beetle postman protagonist in gaming. And then there’s Forgotton Anne (PC, PS4, Xbox One, Switch), a beautifully-animated cinematic platformer set in a Ghibli-esque world of lost things. They both got a bit lost in the avalanche of games this year, but they deserve a little more attention.
June was a bit of a slow month, but there were a couple of notable titles. First of these was OnRush (PS4, Xbox One), an arcade racing title from Codemasters. It’s a fantastic blend of fast-paced racing and vehicular combat that demonstrates so much of what Codemasters do well. And with its takedown mechanics, it’s likely to please fans of the classic Burnout series itching to find something new.
While Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom seems to have been largely forgettable, the tie-in game was a much more interesting prospect. In the perfect move, Jurassic World Evolution (PC, PS4, Xbox One) is a game about managing a dino theme park. Even better, with veterans Frontier behind it, it’s basically just a good Rollercoaster Tycoon game with dinosaurs. Plus Jeff Goldblum reprises his role as Ian Malcolm, and has personally given the game his highest rating, so that’s enough to make it on this list.
If June was slow, July saw the releases grind to a halt. There was one major exception though – the excellent Octopath Traveller (Switch) from Square Enix. A throwback to SNES-era Squaresoft games, Octopath tells eight unique yet intertwining stories featuring disparate protagonists. Some clever mechanics and its striking pop-up book visuals make this an essential for fans of classic JRPGs.
August was the month of smaller success stories. This included Dead Cells (PC, PS4, Xbox One, Switch), a roguelike Metroidvania from French developers Motion Twin. Taking inspiration from The Binding of Isaac and the Dark Souls series, Dead Cells is a tough but addictive game of exploration and experimentation.
For those looking for a less solitary experience, Rebellion’s Strange Brigade (PC, PS4, Xbox One) is worth a whirl. A pulpy co-op shooter set in 1930s Africa, players hunt for treasure as they battle mythological creatures. Imagine Left 4 Dead crossed with Indiana Jones, and you’re there.
Bullfrog’s classic Theme Hospital never saw the same legacy as sister title Theme Park’s many rival amusement park sims. That changed this year when former Bullfrog devs got together to bring back the concept. Two Point Hospital (PC) is a goofy hospital management sim where you must keep your staff happy and your vending machines stocked while funding research for comedy diseases like the literally-named Light-Headedness. It’s every bit as charming as its predecessor and a welcome return.
In September, the games world was dominated by a web-slinging superhero. Insomniac’s Spider-Man (PS4) managed to become an instant classic and the natural follow-up to the beloved PS1 Spider-Man titles. As you’d expect a good Spidey game to do, you jump right into the shoes of Peter Parker and swing around a sprawling recreation of New York. Far from a Marvel Cinematic Universe cash-in, this is a title made by Spider-Man fans for Spider-Man fans.
Elsewhere, Shadow of the Tomb Raider (PC, PS4, Xbox One) attempted to realign the recent reboot titles with the classic Tomb Raider titles of the past, with much success. More ancient sites to explore and difficulty options that help bring 1996 back, this is Tomb Raider back on track.
Also from Square Enix was the first chapter for Life is Strange 2 (PC, PS4, Xbox One). There was a temptation to continue Max and Chloe’s story and bring a ton of issues to the table. Thankfully, this is instead a story with the same themes in the same universe, but with a completely different cast. And with its themes of brotherly love at the forefront, it works extremely well. Keep an eye out for the following episodes in the new year, as this is likely to be as exciting as the first title.
Less discussed but no less worthy of your attention, Valkyria Chronicles 4 (PC, PS4, Xbox One, Switch) is the first English release to follow to 2008’s excellent Valkyria Chronicles. Just like its predecessor, this is a tactical JRPG/third-person shooter hybrid set during a fantasy equivalent of World War II. You lead a plucky underdog squad trying to defend your homeland from an invading empire, and there’s now a dog. What more could you want?
On the quirkier end of things, Wandersong (PC, Switch) was a pleasant surprise. You play as a bard trying to bring happiness to a gloomy, nihilistic world. Gameplay is a unique blend of 2D platforming and rhythm action and is yet another beautifully unique title worth investigating.
It’s pretty hard to talk about the games of October and not mention Red Dead Redemption 2 (PS4, Xbox One). The eagerly-awaited prequel to John Marston’s great cowboy adventure, RDR2 has prompted debates on whether its attempts at hardcore realism dampen the experience. But what everyone does agree on is that it still tells a hell of a story. All your virtual cowboy needs will be met here, but I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you this.
But it wasn’t the only AAA title this month, as Assassin’s Creed Odyssey (PC, PS4, Xbox One) took the historical open-world behemoth to Ancient Greece. Offering a protagonist gender choice for the first time in the series history, Odyssey also sees the series veering closer to becoming a full-blown RPG, with deeper progression systems and dialogue options.
And yes, this includes romance options for the Bioware fans desperate for something to occupy them until Dragon Age 4. After a few years of stagnation, it’s fantastic to see the Assassin’s Creed series continue to evolve, and Odyssey is an excellent addition to the franchise.
While other annual releases were offering fairly standard, uninteresting fare this year, with Call of Duty and Battlefield largely doing nothing new, it was impressive to see Forza Horizon 4 (Xbox One) standing out so much. A free-roaming jaunt through the British countryside, taking full advantage of the temperamental climate to offer a range of terrains and weather conditions to race in. It’s a fascinating racer that all fans of the genre should pay attention to.
Fans of 2015’s Undertale got a huge shock at the end of October when Toby Fox released Deltarune (PC) for free online. Seemingly the first chapter for a larger project, Deltarune provides plenty of entertainment on its own merits. If you’re a fan of Undertale and want more of that experience, this is the ideal follow-up.
Other beloved indie devs released new titles this month too. Quirky Japanese developer SWERY65, best known for the cult classic Deadly Premonition, released The Missing: J.J. Macfield and the Island of Memories (PC, PS4, Xbox One, Switch), while Papers Please developer Lucas Pope dropped Return of the Obra Dinn (PC). The former is a dark and somewhat gruesome cinematic platformer centred on a girl with powers of regeneration. The latter casts you as an insurance agent trying to discover what happened to a ghost ship. Both weird and wonderful titles that offer something unexpected.
Finally, October’s monster haul of games yielded another VR success in Astro Bot: Rescue Mission (PS4). Taking the robots from the PS4’s Playroom app into a 3D platformer, Astro Bot has wowed players and critics alike. A fun and engaging 3D platformer that may be the game to finally sell VR to the general public.
While November was mostly dominated by the disasters surrounding the release of Fallout 76, other developers were doing much better. For instance, Nintendo saw better success with their revamp of the Pokémon formula in Pokémon Let’s Go! (Switch). Ostensibly a way to convince people playing Pokémon Go on their phones to upgrade to a Switch, Let’s Go is more fun than that cynical description would suggest. Gameplay is stripped back, and the more complex mechanics of the series are simplified for newcomers. But thankfully none of the joy has been removed. It’s the perfect way to introduce new gamers to the series or provide a good re-introduction for those who haven’t paid attention to Pokémon since the first generation.
For those looking for something less wholesome, there was also Hitman 2 (PC, PS4, Xbox One). The latest outing for Agent 47 is every bit as creative and ridiculous as the last game. Want to clobber someone into a cellar while dressed as a duck? You can do that! And it’s no longer episodic, so you can enjoy it all as a single experience now. Was overlooked in a busy release week despite being perhaps the most interesting thing released.
And I can’t believe I’m including this, but Tetris of all things was impressive this year. Tetris Effect (PS4) initially sounded like a pretentious repackaging of the famous puzzle title. However, seeing it in action is something else. It’s Tetris reimagined by Tetsuya Mizuguchi, and features many of the same rhythmic elements that made his game Rez such a trip back on the Dreamcast. It takes the ubiquitous puzzler and turns it into a bizarrely meditative experience. It’s the biggest thing to happen to Tetris since Nintendo made it portable in the 80s.
December was dominated by Nintendo, with Super Smash Bros Ultimate (Switch) taking all the glory. Both an excellent fighting game and an expansive love letter to Nintendo’s history, this is the best Smash yet. Bringing back every fighter from the series’ history, they also brought in newcomers as diverse as classic Metroid villain Ridley and Animal Crossing’s dog secretary Isabelle.
The fighting feels faster and weightier than ever before, with easier customisation to make the exact matches you want. And the Adventure mode, with its Spirits mechanic, manages to cram in even more video game history for good measure. A must for Switch owners.
Outside of that, the big indie hit of the month was Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden (PC, PS4, Xbox One), an XCOM-style strategy game that added stealth elements and a post-apocalyptic tale featuring anthropomorphic squad members. If you feel XCOM needed more human-sized ducks, then this is the game for you.
Finally, sneaking in at the last second, Gris (PC, Switch) is already getting people talking. A beautiful ode to grief, Gris sees the player restoring colour to an artful world through puzzles and platforming. Fans of Journey will love this one.
And that is everything. A big, varied selection of games that show off the range of experiences gaming can offer in 2018, from quirky indie weirdness to big AAA blockbusters, with some interesting VR titles and a few things to satisfy the PC hardcore. Let us know what you think of the list and let us know what some of your favourite games of the year were. We’ll see you again in 2019!
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