2018 is a year I walk away fond of. A lot of great stories were told in many different mediums. I got to become a more prominent member of The Gaming Outsider, and even go to E3 because of it. Also, some rad video games came out. Here are some of my favorites.
Honorable Mention – Lego DC Super-Villains
This game gets an honorable mention based on the merit that I haven’t played enough of it to feel comfortable with a placement. Based on the few short hours I’ve had with it, I have a feeling it would find an easy spot in the Top 5. Regardless, this game is just fun. It produces smiles galore, and had me laughing every couple of minutes. Unlike Lego Batman 3 that went too far with the humor and came across as making fun of the DC Universe, Super-Villains shows a complete adoration for the property. It’s an absolute celebration of the greatest universe in fiction.
Honorable Mention #2 – Spyro: Reignited Edition
Another case of simply not having played enough, Spyro is a beautiful and carefully woven package through gaming’s simpler days. I’m the right age to have quite a bit of fondness for the sharp polygons of early 3D. Even still, I admit seeing the old worlds recreated 1:1 in high-res HD was breathtaking. Passing the controller back and forth with my wife has been a blast, and a great way to remember how it used to be playing games with siblings using one controller. I can’t wait to dive into more.
Honorable Mention #3 (or 2018’s 2017 Game of the Year) – Injustice 2
Every year I love to give a little shout out to a game from the previous year that I missed out on for whatever reason. And I never got around to this Netherrealm fighting game last year, mostly due to my distaste for the genre. I’m glad I gave Injustice 2 a shot, because I can’t put it down. I haven’t played a fighting game since Skullgirls, but this game has its hooks in me. Everything just feels so smooth, and it’s another case of a developer simply getting the DC Universe. I have no doubt I’ll be playing this one for a long while, even if I will stay far away from those crazy people online.
Now with that nonsense out of the way, let’s celebrate how great a year it was for video games.
#10 – Quarantine Circular
Mike Bithell is an absolute lunatic. Every game he’s made so far has been a part of a larger tapestry creating this fascinating universe. You wouldn’t think this game about talking to an alien would have much connection to the jumping rectangles of Thomas Was Alone, but it absolutely does. It’s a game entirely about conversation, and it’s utterly engrossing. By forcing you through multiple perspectives, it really has you considering what makes one man’s terrorist another man’s freedom fighter.
#9 – Omensight
Many video games involve solving a mystery, but few make the player feel so integral to the experience. In Omensight, it never feels like you’re watching characters solve the central murder, but that you yourself are doing so. It’s an accomplishment few games can claim to have achieved, and it stuck with me for it. The combat isn’t half-bad, either.
#8 – Call of Cthulhu
Another game about solving a mystery. Lovecraft is a thing very, very few games get right. All too often, games just rip the monsters straight out of the public domain and have no idea what they’re doing with them. Call of Cthulhu is different. It takes the lore very seriously, and treats these cosmic horrors with the gravitas they deserve. The story is made all the more compelling by how wildly your choices vary the narrative. Many games purport player decisions to be a big deal; few do it this well.
#7 – Shadow of the Tomb Raider
This one breaks my absolute heart. Don’t get me wrong, Shadow of the Tomb Raider is still one of the best-playing games out there. But after Tomb Raider was my 2013 GOTY and Rise of the Tomb Raider was my 2015 GOTY, I expected more. I hate to say it, but it seems head writer Rhianna Pratchett leaving for the final entry in this trilogy had quite the impact. There are tremendous moments that showcase how unsettling Lara Croft can be, but the finale is rushed and forces a character arc that’s nowhere near earned. On the plus side, Camilla Luddington still does the very best Lara Croft. Period. And, again, this game plays immaculately.
#6 – Beat Saber
I do not like rhythm games. Outside of Guitar Hero, I’ve never really played them. I’m not one for music, so color me absolutely shocked that I could not put Beat Saber down. It single-handedly makes the case for VR, and is quite simply mesmerizing. I don’t have much else to say here. Swinging a virtual lightsaber to musical beats simply has to be played to be understood.
#5 – Detroit: Become Human
David Cage gets a lot of undeserved criticism. There’s no question his dialogue can be a little iffy, but quite frankly nobody is doing what Quantic Dream is doing. At this level of fidelity, at this budget, nobody is making interactive movies quite like he is. The branches go far and wide in this game, and will often take you in unexpected directions. Sure, the story here is well-trodden ground, but not every story needs to be revolutionary. Sometimes seeing familiar tropes executed to perfection is gift enough. Quantic Dream has yet to make a game that I don’t like, and I hope to be playing their games for many years to come.
#4 – God of War
If you had asked me after playing this game where I would place it, I might’ve said #8 or #9. Something about God of War stuck with me, though. Its somber story of fatherhood and unique take on Norse mythology wouldn’t get out of my head. The game is longer than it needs to be, and is a little poorly paced in the middle, but the challenging combat and compelling world made up for it. The fast travel system is bunk, and the loot system and skill tree are completely throwaway. There’s no getting around that, but the destination is more than worth the journey. This title is also home to one of my favorite moments of the year, and if you’ve played you know exactly the one. God of War 2 is poised to be one the greatest sequels ever.
#3 – Batman: The Enemy Within
Only one game this year inspired me to write an editorial outside of it. The Enemy Within is one of the best takes on the Joker in years. The dynamic of Batman and The Joker has been done to absolute death, so it was refreshing to see a unique take after all these years. The ending I got has stuck with me all year. Even outside of that classic pairing, every take on a character from the mythos is a breath of fresh air. Harley Quinn may be at her absolute best here, and Riddler even manages to make an impression. As one of Telltale’s final games, I implore anyone to give it a chance. I also beg of you, DC Comics, please continue this universe in a comic book!
#2 – Iconoclasts
With the wealth of information available to all of us at any time, it’s a wonder that Iconoclasts managed to take me by such surprise. What looked to be yet another indie metroidvania in the Year of the Metroidvania, completely blew me away by its wonderful world and story. Every character big and small is written with depth often reserved only for primary characters. Everybody is on a journey, and everybody thinks they’re on the right side. Black, in particular, is the best new character of the year. Rarely has a sprite made such an impact on me. The tale is beautiful, but the gameplay is exceptional. The exploration and puzzles are tricky, but never frustrating. Every boss battle feels completely different and wholly unique. The fact that one man, one beautiful man, poured his heart and soul into this for several years is one the most inspiring stories in game development. I adore this game to death, and it almost hurts that I can’t put it at #1.
#1 – Spider-Man
Here it is. You’ve heard me talk nonstop about this game all year long, so it’s little surprise that it lands at #1. This take on Peter Parker ranks amongst the best adaptations ever. Sure, the combat may not be quite as perfect as Arkham, but the story soars it above the competition. The attention-to-detail on display here is remarkable. This take on the wall-crawler’s lore is full of deep cuts and clever nods. More than that, though, it’s a story of human beings. These characters have flaws, go through pain, and it doesn’t always work out. Unlike the past few years of Spider-Man content, this game doesn’t get too jokey or flippant. It’s a story clearly written by longtime fans of the character, and it speaks to both new fans and old-timers. I’ve put over 120 hours into this 20 hour game this year simply because I can not get enough of this world. It is the pinnacle of the superhero genre, and until someone miraculously makes a Justice League or Green Lantern game, I suspect it will be for years to come. Oh, and the webswinging is pretty great or whatever.
2018 was one hell of a year for fiction. Video games stand out as some of the best. I wish I had time to play even more, but that clock is always ticking down. I hope you had a great year as well, and I think 2019 could be even better. There are a lot of unknowns from major studios, and that’s always exciting. I don’t know what the future for The Gaming Outsider is, but I plan to be there for it. I hope you will be too. Always remember, there’s no such thing as a bad game. Just games that aren’t for you.