My Top Ten Games of 2018: Full List and Awards

My ultimate year-end gaming post of lists and accolades.

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Every year is a great year for gaming, but 2018 in particular was full of big payoffs for blockbuster games like Marvel’s Spider-Man, God of War, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, and Red Dead Redemption II.

Despite working as a freelance writer who covers games, I definitely didn’t play all the games I wanted to this year. But I still came away with a list of 10 fantastic games that I absolutely loved.

This was the year I finally acquired a Switch, though not until November. As everyone already knows it’s a great system and the gaming world feels better with Nintendo succeeding. You definitely saw some Switch games on my Top Ten list!

On the flip side, the Nintendo 3DS has been all but retired, and this is the first time in years at least one 3DS game isn’t on my game of the year list.

This year I hit 1,000 subscribers on my YouTube channel and started a Patreon to help expand my video content. It’s been a blast and I want to personally thank all my Patreons for allowing me to spend more time doing DMs Guild Reviews, Let’s Play live streams, and of course our star attraction: the weekly live play D&D campaign.

As of December 2018 my channel has now grown to 1,300 subscribers, and for the first time this year, I did my Top Ten Games of 2018 countdown list via videos.

To recap, I’ve compiled my complete list of top ten games of 2018 below.

My Top Ten Games of 2018

10) Dead Cells

Metroidvanias and roguelikes are two of the most overused genres, and buzzwords, in indie gaming, but it’s still a genre I tend to love. Dead Cells is anything but a tiresome retread, pulling the best elements of both genres into an instantly likable neon art style of colorful death.

9) Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden

I’m an easy target for any game that features tactical, XCOM-like turn-based combat. Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden had the dubious potential to become a budget XCOM – which I probably still would have enjoyed. But by combining solid tactical gameplay with rewarding stealth mechanics and shockingly good voice acting Road to Eden carves its own space in the genre.

8) Pokémon Let’s Go, Pikachu! and Let’s Go, Eevee!

Pokémon Let’s Go, Pikachu! and Let’s Go, Eevee! are charming and delightful recreations of the original Pokémon Red/Blue/Yellow games. Adventuring through a fully 3D Kanto is a delicious nostalgia fest but it’s the little improvements that really kept me hooked, like being able to swap your party out on field, drop-in co-op, and not having to teach the critical Hidden Machine skills just to get around.

7) Frostpunk

frostpunk

Thanks to its incredibly immersive atmosphere, haunting string soundtrack and compelling writing. Frostpunk is more than just a thematic city builder. It’s one of the best games of the year.

6) Jurassic World Evolution

I admit that 2016’s Planet Coaster is ostensibly a better, and more robust theme park game, but I’m a huge sucker for dinosaurs and Jurassic World Evolution is the closest thing to a Jurassic Park dream game I’ve been waiting over a decade for.

5) Into the Breach

Out of all the games on this list Into the Breach is the one I plan on returning to the most.  Its delicate tactical balance splashed with just the right amount of RPG elements make it more than a worthy follow-up to Subset Games’ previous hit, FTL.

4) Super Smash Bros. Ultimate

smash bros.

It may be too early to tell if Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is the best of the series, but it’s certainly one of the best games of the year. With over 70 fighters, 100 stages and hundreds and hundreds of music tracks it’s well-deserving of its ‘Ultimate’ designation.

3) Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age

If you’ve ever sighed wistfully and declared that they don’t make them like they used to in regards to traditional RPGs, Dragon Quest 11 is here to grab you by the arm and usher you into a gloriously sincere world of monsters and charm.

2) Red Dead Redemption II

If I had to choose one single game from the last console generation as my absolute favorite, there’s an excellent chance I would settle on Red Dead Redemption. Rockstar Game’s sequel is bigger and deeper than anyone could have imagined.

1) Monster Hunter: World

I never expected to like this game, let alone fall in love with it. After my first week of playing I feverishly told my friends they had to pick it up, and what followed was dozens of hours of both solo and cooperative greatness as we mastered our favorite weapons, familiarized ourselves with the colorful hunting grounds, and studied the deadly dance of each monster so we could craft better gear and do it all again.

 

Every year in January I publish my top ten most anticipated games of the year. Now it’s payoff time as we get to remark on how close – or embarrassingly far off, my predictions were!

Here’s a quick rundown of Most Anticipated Games of 2018, published last January.

  1. Red Dead Redemption II
  2. Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire
  3. State of Decay 2
  4. Jurassic Wold Evolution
  5. Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night
  6. Spelunky 2
  7. Into the Breach
  8. Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age
  9. The Bard’s Tale IV
  10. Griftlands

Four out of ten made my Game of the Year list – same as last year! Three of these games didn’t come out this year: Bloodstained, Spelunky, and Griftlands.

That leaves us with three games: Pillars of Eternity 2, State of Decay 2, and The Bard’s Tale 4.

Out of those three I only played one of them. Despite the first Pillars of Eternity being my #1 Game of the Year in 2015, the sequel shockingly failed to grab me in a meaningful way. I actually replayed part of Pillars 1, along with The White March DLC (part 1 anyway) to prep for the sequel.

But when I finally got around to playing Pillars 2, I just didn’t get sucked in like I was expecting, and the whole pirate/ship theme is a bit jarring. Thus, Pillars 2 wins the rather dubious honor of being my most disappointing game of the year. It’s not a bad game, but I was expecting it to be one my favorites of the year.

As for the other two, I didn’t play them. I read mixed things about State of Decay 2, a game that has been on my most anticipated lists for years (I LOVED the first one). But I also don’t have a modern Xbox console and I’m not super keen to use the Windows 10 store.

As for Bard’s Tale 4, I just didn’t have time for you (winning another dubious award). So many games, so little time! I’m still very interested in how this one plays and really want to try it next year.

I also publish a Mid-Year list in June, celebrating my top five games, as well as my five most anticipated games for the latter half.

My Top Five Games of the Mid-Year:

  1. Monster Hunter: World
  2. Into the Breach
  3. Jurassic World Evolution
  4. Frostpunk
  5. Jurassic World Alive

The mobile game Jurassic World Alive fell off for me as I actually got back into Pokémon GO thanks to Pokémon: Let’s Go. The rest remained strong going into the finals, with no game able to dethrone the greatness of Monster Hunter: World.

Here were my top five most anticipated games for the second half of 2018 (alphabetical):

  • The Bard’s Tale IV
  • Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night
  • Fallout 76
  • Red Dead Redemption II
  • Super Smash Bros. Ultimate

Red Dead and Smash are obvious inclusions. Bard’s Tale and Bloodstained  were Kickstarter games I’d been looking forward to, and both I already mentioned above.

As for Fallout, well, I’m a big Fallout fan but Fallout 76 appears to have some major issues as Bethesda stumbles a bit with its first multiplayer game. Given all the very excellent multiplayer games and modes that released this year, I’m okay with skipping it.

2018 End of Year Awards

Most Played: Monster Hunter: World (102 hrs)

Best Multiplayer: Super Smash Bros. Ultimate

Best Cooperative Game: Monster Hunter: World

Biggest Surprise: Monster Hunter: World

Most Disappointing: Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire

Best Early Access/Beta Game: N/A this year!

Best Original Music: Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age

Best Soundtrack: Super Smash Bros. Ultimate

Best Art Design: Dead Cells

Best World Building/Atmosphere: Red Dead Redemption II

Best Writing: Red Dead Redemption II

Best Game Nobody Else Played: Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden

Most Improved Sequel: Monster Hunter: World

Favorite New Game Mechanic: Swapping out Pokémon on the fly in Pokémon: Let’s Go

Most Innovative: Into the Breach

Best New Character: Sylvando (Dragon Quest 11)

Favorite Moment: Drinking with Lenny in Valentine (Red Dead Redemption 2)

Best Industry Trend: Fantastic AAA single player games

Worst Industry Trend: Nintendo’s disappointing online functionality

Didn’t Have Time to Play: The Bard’s Tale IV

Too Long; Didn’t Finish: Red Dead Redemption II

Favorite 2017 Game of 2018: Uncharted: The Lost Legacy

Backlogged Games Finished in 2018

A new section I’m adding to my already lengthy year end post – the backlogged games I played (and hopefully finished) this year. I never have enough time to play through my backlog, but this year I made a better effort than the last few years.

My biggest accomplishment was playing through every single Uncharted game, having never before played a single game in the series. Hit the link for my Final Thoughts on each game.

Have a wonderful holiday and I’ll see you next year with my most anticipated games list of 2019!

My Top Ten Games of 2018: #7

My top ten favorite games of the year, presented in ascending order each day leading into the holidays. Look for my full Top Ten list with categories and awards on December 24!

#10 Dead Cells
#9 Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden
#8 Pokémon: Let’s Go, Pikachu/Eevee!

#7 Frostpunk

frostpunk

Developer: 11 bit Studios
Publisher: 11 bit Studios
Platforms: PC

I was a bit late to the party with This War of Mine, a unique sim-survival game that played out like a strategic board game with a harrowing real-world theme about the horrors of war upon civilians. This War of Mine put 11 bit Studios on my personal radar, and I was very much looking forward to Frostpunk when it released earlier this year.

Frostpunk did not disappoint. Like This War of Mine it takes some very heavy survival themes and treats them with the cold-hearted seriousness that befits surviving during an apocalypse.

Your haggard survivors have found a geothermic reactor and established a city amid a world blanketed in sub-freezing temperatures.

The real-time strategy game forces you to manage precious resources like coal, wood, and food, but also regulate the happiness and morale of your people. Stuffing food with sawdust will help ration meek food stores but your people won’t be happy. A 24-hour shift could be just enough to make it through the night, but injury and exhaustion will spread like a plague.

Little story events force you to make tough decisions, like giving leniency to a mother stealing food for her children. Ultimately you’ll need to choose either a zealous or totalitarian path to unlock new laws and edicts and keep everyone in line, a sobering look at how humanity survives extreme conditions.

Thanks to its incredibly immersive atmosphere, haunting string soundtrack and compelling writing. Frostpunk is more than just a thematic city builder. It’s one of the best games of the year.

My Top Five Games of the Mid-Year 2018

My top five games of the first half of 2018, and my most anticipated games of the second half.

This year lacked the explosive start of Spring 2017, when Nintendo gave us Breath of the Wild and the Nintendo Switch (and BioWare released Mass Effect: Andromeda, which made my top five but fell off real quick after that).

Comparing to my Most Anticipated Games of 2018 list, I’ve already fallen behind. As a Fig backer, I own Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire, yet opted to replay the first game again, this time with The White March DLC. I’ll definitely get to Deadfire this year, but it’ll be awhile.

As for State of Decay 2, I find myself lacking a modern Xbox console, and not terribly keen on purchasing it through the Microsoft Store on PC. I may have to bite the bullet at some point because I do love that franchise, but I wish I could just play it on Steam.

This summer I’m back on getting through my backlog. I finally got a PlayStation 4 last year, and my wife (and I) went nuts getting me games last Christmas.

I spent a good chunk of the first half of the year finishing Horizon Zero Dawn. Now I’m currently making my way through the entire Uncharted series.

My Top Five Games of the Mid-Year 2018

5) Jurassic World Alive

jurassic world alive

It’s Pokémon GO with dinosaurs, of course I love it! It’s actually a better designed game as well. Instead of flinging PokéBalls, you send out a drone to hit the dinosaurs with tranq darts.

You don’t capture dinosaurs, you collect DNA. Reaching certain thresholds let you acquire them and level them up, letting you make progress every time you see one, instead of all-or-nothing.

The battles are a lot more fun as well. You don’t have to travel to a Gym to fight, you can queue up anywhere and engage in fun turn-based battles, with each dinosaur having a few abilities to choose from.

The Supply Drops are also more plentiful, making Jurassic World Alive a much easier game to play for folks who live outside of major cities. I don’t know if I’ll still be playing by the end of the year but so far it’s completely replaced Pokémon GO as my AR game of choice.

4) Frostpunk

frostpunk

Frostpunk didn’t enter my radar until I played a bit of it at PAX South earlier this year. It looked like a fun little city builder that attempted to tackle real social issues within a harrowing weather-apocalyptic scenario.

It does that and more. Frostpunk is easily the most emotional and dramatic sim builder I’ve ever played, with haunting violins, bleak art, and scenarios that force you to take extreme measures to keep your people fed, warm, and content. The balance of surviving each day is razor thin but incredibly satisfying, creating an overarching story rarely seen in the genre.

3) Jurassic World Evolution

jurassic world evolution

Every once in awhile I reach a halfway point in the game where I decide, yep I’m going to do it all. It happened earlier this year with Horizon Zero Dawn, and it’s currently happening with Jurassic World Evolution.

Jurassic World Evolution is Frontier’s spiritual successor to Jurassic Park: Operation Genesis, one of my all-time favorite theme park sim games. Frontier did a phenomenal job with Planet Coaster in 2016, and JWE continues the trend.

As a console release, it’s not nearly as deep or moddable as the PC-only Planet Coaster, but the focus on dinosaur care and AI and the way the campaign is structured over multiple challenging islands has kept me engaged far longer than Planet Coaster did.

2) Into the Breach

We finally get to a game that will be on most game critics’ end of year lists. From the makers of FTL comes another equally compelling strategy rogue-like. Into the Breach sheds much of the randomized frustrations from FTL, instead offering a Chess-like experience that rewards strategic planning and a deep knowledge of the game’s units and systems.

Into the Breach is shockingly easy to beat (unlike FTL). The replay factor comes from unlocking different teams of mechs and earning the rich variety of achievements. I fell off after about 10 hours but of all the games on this list it’s the one I most plan on returning to.

1) Monster Hunter World

Even after playing the demos late last year I still wasn’t completely sold on Monster Hunter World. Then I received a surprise review code, played a few hours, and immediately convinced my friends to get it.

We had a freaking blast.

With Monster Hunter World I finally understand all those Dark Souls fans. MHW demands intricate knowledge of poorly explained mechanics, yet it’s incredibly rewarding to master a weapon and fell a new monster for the first time.

There are only a handful of zones but they’re all very large, varied, and fun to explore. Hunting the same monsters with the same weapons rarely becomes repetitive thanks to the rich monster AI, interactive zones, and weapon attacks. I’ll never forget the first time the T-Rex I was fighting fled to a different area – only to run straight into a dragon. The ensuing chaos was the moment I fell in love with the game.

I spent over 100 hours with Monster Hunter World. While the post-game continues nearly indefinitely, I put the controller down after defeating Xeno’jiva with my buddies. I’d more than gotten my fill. Now I have an all new appreciation for that series, as well as any series that get its arcane, maddening, yet intriguing hooks into you.

 

My Top Five Most Anticipated Games of the Second Half of 2018

Bard’s Tale IV

Release: 2018

Despite being a sequel to one of the oldest RPGs in video games, Bard’s Tale IV looks like on of the most unique RPGs I’ve ever seen. The combat system alone looks delightfully old school: first-person yet turn-based and tactical. Right up my alley, which is why I backed it several years ago.

Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night

Release: 2018

I still need to play the 8-bit teaser game that Castlevania creator Koji Igarashi recently released, but I’m super excited for this Kickstarter spiritual successor. Fans have definitely been burned on these kinds of projects before (see Mighty Number 9) but everything I’ve seen of Bloodstained looks like they’r eon the right track to making an all new, yet classic 2D Castlevania.

Fallout 76

Release: November 14

Multiplayer Fallout? Seems pretty weird, particularly from one of the most prominent single-player AAA developers in the industry. I wasn’t terribly keen on the building aspects of Fallout 4, but the RPG-shooter mechanics were still solid. Exploring a limited population server with friends could be a lot of fun.

Red Dead Redemption II

Release: October 26

My #1 Most Anticipated Game of 2018 is still, well, highly anticipated. So much so that many of the new E3 release date announcements were for early 2019. Nobody wants to compete with a Rockstar release. The original RDR was one of those holy grail games that I loved for both single player and multiplayer, and I can’t wait to dig into both this fall.

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate

smash bros.

Release: December 7

I’ve never not owned a Nintendo console, but I also don’t get them on release. Traditionally it’s been the release of a Super Smash Bros. game that spurs me into the purchase, and it’s looking like that’ll be the case here. In other words: I’ll definitely be getting a Nintendo Switch this year!

Frostpunk Review [Pixelkin]

A unique post-apocalyptic city-builder that forces you to maintain hope as much as heat and wood.

Read the full review at Pixelkin

Things were going well, or least as well as can be expected against an apocalyptic snowstorm, until the temperature plummeted another 40 degrees. “Snowmaggeddon” is a joke during brutal winters. But nobody’s laughing in the world of Frostpunk when temperatures approach -90 degrees, rendering most of the world uninhabitable.

In the last city my supply of coal dwindled to nothing as my geothermic reactor began shutting down. I watched a cascade of Bad News as my workforce grew sick, homes grew cold, and people began dying.

I was forced to pass a law to enable emergency 24 hour shifts. Brave men and women operated frozen coal mines in the dead of night to give us the juice we needed. Some grew sick, and some were so frostbitten they had to have limbs amputated.

But the city survived. These harrowing moments solidify Frostpunk as one of the most memorable and emotional city building sims I’ve ever played.

Read the full review at Pixelkin