DualShockers’ Game of the Year 2018 Staff Lists — Chris's Top 10
In a year where everything is bad, some video games managed to be good—here is a list of games from Chris that they particularly loved.
As 2018 comes to a close, DualShockers and our staff are reflecting on this year’s batch of games and what were their personal highlights within the last year. Unlike the official Game of the Year 2018 awards for DualShockers, there are little-to-no-rules on our individual Top 10 posts. For instance, any game — not just 2018 releases — can be considered.
In a year that I characterize with existential fear and internal anxiety, 2018 is when I figured out that while video games may not save society, they can at least help the individual. “Escapism” is an overused and reductive term, with the games I dug into providing a variety of positive forces: inspiration, awe, contemplation, camaraderie, and so on and so forth. This was also a year where I tried my darndest to play video games just to try to make myself feel happy.
But enough of that sappy stuff. I got some games to talk about, and this might come across as an unusual bunch. Most of this year for me was spent catching up with games from previous years, mainly titles that I waited for Switch ports. Once I was informed that games from any release year were fair game, the list that I already had was suddenly in flux.
First off, let’s pour one out for the titles that made my shortlist, but not my final top ten, including Hollow Knight (Switch), Dead Cells, Sea of Thieves, Wolfenstein II (Switch), Heaven Will Be Mine, Marvel’s Spider-Man, and Red Dead Redemption 2: the latter three are games that I wrote pieces for on DualShockers, all which I linked to. Also, I never got a chance to play Florence, The Messenger, Gris, Return of the Obra Dinn, or Donut County as of this writing, and these were all titles I was looking forward to.
To be quite honest, this list, especially the tenth spot, kept changing every few hours. But I had a strict deadline for this, so let’s capture, in time, how I felt about games during this particular hour before I regret everything:
10. A Way Out
Okay, it’s here where I’ll straight up admit that this list is a weird one. I can’t particularly say that A Way Out is an exceptional game, but the experience of playing it was just fascinating. I played the main story with a close friend over two days, and while much of the core gameplay is standard or contrived, I couldn’t help but want to explore the environment and all of the activities that surrounded us. Well, at least after you break out of that prison.
A Way Out inspired the part of me that just wanted to break games. I wanted to see what my limits were, or if positioning our characters in a certain place together would prompt anything, or if there were activities that I can cheat in. While I was disappointed that some of the final missions of the game turned into an Uncharted ripoff with a Scarface vibe, the turn at the end of the game was peak “me trying to break this game.” Boy, was this fun—and the experience was so memorable to me that A Way Out just barely slipped into the list. Congrats, “f*** the Oscars” guy!
Check out the DualShockers review of A Way Out.
9. Call of Duty: Black Ops 4
The general narrative around the Call of Duty games seems to be that the series just hasn’t been the same since Modern Warfare 2. There’s a bit of truth to that, but I must admit that I’ve always had a soft spot for Treyarch’s Black Ops subseries. The stories are usually absurd fun, but in terms of new features and gameplay mechanics, Treyarch has been forward-thinking. While I loved Black Ops II, Black Ops III proved to be a massive disappointment. Against my expectations, Treyarch won me back the fourth time.
Obviously, there’s less story here this time around, but the multiplayer is what keeps us all going anyway. I have to admit my surprise about how manual healing subtly changed up the gameplay—it may seem like a small addition, but I felt that I had a bit more agency and control as a result, and it added a small new layer of strategy. Blackout is a blast, and as someone who missed out on the PUBG craze when it first debuted (though I made up for that on PS4), the Call of Duty interpretation of it quickly won me over. Exploring that map also made me realize how weirdly nostalgic I was for World at War and the Black Ops games—maybe a silly thing to have reverence over, but a reverence I hold, regardless.
That new-fangled video game with the floss dancing might be the most basic thing to like in 2018, but gosh darn it, I still fell victim to its charms. With cross-play finally making its way to Fortnite this year across all consoles, this battle royale game became the default multiplayer option amongst my circles. While I’ve never been wild about the gunplay, exploring the evolving map and learning how to utilize building to its fullest potential has been a truly unique and exciting experience.
And speaking of that evolution, I am just floored by how Fortnite’s battle royale mode just keeps adding elements and changing everything up. I was already thrilled when the golf carts were added, but last I saw, you can fly a freaking biplane now. The crazy map events inspire intrigue, and even though there is only one map, the fact that it changes regularly somehow keeps it all fresh. Do I think that it’s lousy that Epic is stealing dance moves? Oh yeah. But will my friends and I keep playing it? Probably. Ugh. Sorry, all.
Check out more of my thoughts in this editorial about Fortnite.
7. Tetris Effect
I’m often thrown the question of how Tetris is able to make me relax when the gameplay is inherently stressful. Still, to this day, I struggle to come up with words to describe that phenomenon. Luckily, Tetris Effect made that much easier to explain—I still don’t use words, but instead, I simply point someone towards some gameplay and ask them to use their eyes and ears. In case you don’t know by now, Tetris Effect is a gorgeous game, and it ended up as one of the most therapeutic experiences I’ve had with any piece of media this year.
It’s a game that just wants to inspire joy and inspiration, using historical and cultural imagery; sometimes its lifting and appropriating, but that’s an entirely different discussion for later. It wants you to admire the feats of humankind throughout millennia, but even if you couldn’t give a damn about humanism, it still sure looks pretty. I greatly appreciate how completing the Journey mode will allow players to simply enjoy the sensory experiences by themselves, because this game can get really difficult at times. Most of all, Tetris Effect affirms my love for adaptive soundtracks, something that you can only really find in games.
Check out the DualShockers review of Tetris Effect.
6. God of War
I can certainly see why the DualShockers staff picked God of War for the top prize this year. I had never touched any of the previous games in the series, and father-son stories are a bit played out at this time, but I rode the wave of PlayStation 4 first-party “prestige” titles, third-person character-focused action games like Uncharted, Horizon: Zero Dawn, and the like. While I completely fell off of Horizon last year, God of War surprisingly entranced me.
The single take camerawork in God of War is a gimmick for sure, but as a big fan of Alfonso Cuarón, I’m a sucker for it. I appreciated a new take on Norse mythology that wasn’t from the Marvel Cinematic Universe for once, and the world was large and interesting without being intimidating. Combat in God of War hasn’t won everyone over, but it was a system that I strived to get better at. Ultimately, I stayed on because of Christopher Judge and Sunny Suljic (who was excellent in Mid90s, by the way). And it doesn’t necessarily need repeating, but God of War looks real, real nice, even on my above average display.
To be real though, it’s all about recalling that Leviathan Axe. That’s a cool-ass feature.
Check out the DualShockers review of God of War.
Challenging platformers always scare me away. Why do you think I’ve never played Super Meat Boy? I couldn’t tell you how I got over the fence and ended up purchasing Celeste—maybe it was my love for Towerfall or the fact that I wouldn’t stop hearing about how good Lena Raine’s soundtrack was. Regardless, Celeste helped me get over my irrational fear of difficult games.
Here’s the thing about the game: it’s really easy to play! Well, not easy to finish, mind you, but Celeste was more intuitive and inviting than I made it out to be at first. Pretty quickly any frustration I expected was instead replaced with determination. The trial-and-error nature of the game made me think carefully rather than rage like games with consistent deaths usually do. It also helps that Madeline is just a fun protagonist.
Celeste is just a wonderful mix of gameplay, music, and writing, and anyone who doesn’t like it is just not a good person. Got it?
Check out the DualShockers review of Celeste.
4. Night in the Woods (Switch)
There are so few stories that accurately depict the aimlessness of the formative 20s age range, and Night in the Woods is really the only one that I can think of off the top of my head. I won’t get into any self-flagellation here in describing how miserable my own 20s are (I wrote about that elsewhere, if you’re curious), but I will say that the story and art style provided some healing during particularly difficult times in my life this year. The Switch port came just in time for me.
Mae, Gregg, Bea, and Angus are all wonderfully-realized characters; the dynamics and dialogue between them were a delight, and sometimes painfully realistic, from my own social experiences. There’s not too much gameplay to speak of, but I looked forward to each new in-game day to walk around the town and see what the folks I passed by had to say. The story took a real Stephen King-meets-Hot Fuzz turn, and I was down for it. It captures so much truth, and is one of the most authentic pieces of media I know of—and this is one where all the characters are animals.
3. Hitman 2
Agent 47, you are one weird dude, and I love you so. As I mentioned in my written review for this website, the “first” Hitman game in 2016 was one that I watched constantly, basically playing it vicariously. With this new game, I graduated to finally, uh, playing it, and almost every moment of it, whether it was a moment of success, failure, or absurdity, has been worth it. Hitman 2, more than any other game this year, is one where if I even think about it, I will have the visceral urge to play it immediately.
I know that I am encouraged to commit these assassinations as smoothly and quietly as possible, but nothing brings me more joy than a contrived plan gone awry. Hitman 2, while very similar to the previous game, added so many fun toys to play with inside its expansive sandboxes. Even with Mission Stories to somewhat guide me, I always found ways to come up with left-field solutions to seemingly simple problems. Stealthily murdering terrible people has never been so much more fun.
Check out the DualShockers review of Hitman 2.
I’ve spent the past several months annoying the hell out of everyone I know about this lovely piece of art from Greg Lobanov. Wandersong, in case this is the first time I’m annoying you about it, is a wholesome story-driven game that thematically deconstructs “the hero’s journey.” You play as the Bard, someone without the physical constitution to even pick up a sword, yet is able to use the power of song and vocals to their advantage. It’s a game about a person spreading happiness not only to the game’s world, but to whoever is playing it.
It isn’t too complicated to play, and the song wheel mechanics are a bit finicky at times, but playing through the entire game was such a profound experience for me. Not only did I appreciate its handling of familiar narrative tropes, but I also admired its depiction of mental health and depression. You can tell that Greg and his friends and colleagues put a lot of love into the game’s visuals, sound, writing, and design, and I’m eternally grateful for their work.
Check out the DualShockers review of Wandersong.
1. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
It’s a tad bit unfair to put Super Smash Bros. Ultimate at the top of my list. Not only did it release so late in the year, but it’s essentially the game of games. I’ve been obsessed with the series since its first iteration on the Nintendo 64, and Ultimate represents such a fantastic evolution of the franchise, and this evolution comes in surprising forms. More so than even its predecessors does it come across more like a celebration to basically every franchise that Nintendo has ever even touched.
I’m not just talking about the Spirits, though those are fun in their own way—the World of Light campaign is long and exhausting, but I remain gleeful every time I see a creative Spirit concept. I’m not just talking about the music, even though the option of creating playlists and basically using your Switch as a music player with its screen turned off is absolutely genius. I just appreciate recent Smash efforts to having characters play like they came out straight from their own games. The trend started with Mega Man in the previous Smash, I feel, but new additions like Simon Belmont and Inkling (from my beloved Splatoon) really take everything further.
I don’t think people talk about this enough, but Smash Bros. is just a great-looking game. It’s a happy medium between the darker look of Brawl and the cartoony colors of the fourth Smash Bros., and I am still in awe by how Ultimate is able to make all of these characters, with totally different designs, aesthetics, and body proportions, look like they all belong together in the same game.
Everyone is here, indeed.
0. Nickelodeon Kart Racers
Did you know that they misspelled “brake” as “break” in the controls menu? Jeez, what a mess.
Check out the other DualShockers’ staff Top 10 lists and our official Game of the Year Awards:
December 17: DualShockers Game of the Year Awards 2018
December 18: Lou Contaldi, Editor in Chief // Logan Moore, Reviews Editor
December 19: Ryan Meitzler, Features Editor // Tomas Franzese, News Editor
December 20: Reinhold Hoffmann, Community Manager
December 21: Scott Meaney, Community Director // Ben Bayliss, Staff Writer
December 22: Ben Walker, Staff Writer // Chris Compendio, Staff Writer
December 23: Grant Huff, Staff Writer
December 26: Jordan Boyd, Staff Writer
December 27: Max Roberts, Staff Writer // Michael Ruiz, Staff Writer
December 28: Rachael Fiddis, Staff Writer
December 29: Steven Santana, Staff Writer // Tanner Pierce, Staff Writer
December 30: Iyane Agossah, Staff Writer // Travis Verbil, Staff Writer // Zack Potter, Staff Writer