DualShockers' Game of the Year 2018 Staff Lists -- Ryan's Top 10
From Celeste and Hollow Knight, to God of War and Red Dead Redemption 2, 2018 was an incredible year for games of all kinds: here were my top 10.
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.
Contrary to the popular beliefs of some of the other DS staff, I felt that 2018 proved to be just as great a year as 2017 was for games. While games like Marvel’s Spider-Man, God of War, and Red Dead Redemption 2 took AAA titles to new heights in terms of storytelling, immersion, and technical achievements, numerous other games throughout the year brought new twists on familiar genres, like Dead Cells, or a captivating story alongside brutally challenging, but rewarding gameplay, like that with Celeste.
As much as I felt that I had a pretty good grasp this year on playing (most) of the games that were in the “GOTY” conversation, there are always a few games that either get left off the list (sorry to Into the Breach and Fortnite) or that I simply just didn’t get to put enough time into before the year’s end, and now’s the time to give those games a shoutout.
For the brief amount of time that I spent in Monster Hunter: World, I’m looking forward to hopping back into the game once I have some more time (and a guide) to help me through, while Gris, Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden, and Return of the Obra Dinn are all games that I hope to crack into over the holiday break. At some point, I’ll also make time for Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of An Elusive Age…hopefully when I have a spare 100 hours or so to give to it.
That being said, here are the games that ended up making my personal Top 10 of 2018:
As someone that tends to shy away from playing mobile games in general, Florence was one of those incredibly rare exceptions where I found myself wanting to come back to it long after it was over.
While Florence lasts only a mere hour or two, the game’s stunning and bittersweet tale of love, adulthood, and the difficult choices that we often have to make in life have been in the back of my head ever since I finished playing it earlier this year. The game’s story, as richly told and emotional as it is, is made all the more profound thanks to its incredibly clever use of a phone touchscreen to tie what you are doing on-screen to the narrative of Florence and Krish as they fall in (and eventually, out of) love.
As equally tragic as it is funny, as touching as it is heartbreaking, Florence doesn’t take a ton of time to play, but is certainly worth your attention.
Check out DualShockers‘ impressions of Florence.
9. The Banner Saga 3
Stoic Studio’s The Banner Saga series has always been on my radar to play for quite some time, and thanks to the series’ release on Nintendo Switch earlier this year, I had the benefit of catching up on the entire series just in time for its grand finale this summer. While I played all three games within a few months compared to the series’ fans that have waited four years for this conclusion, The Banner Saga 3 proved that it was easily worth the wait on all fronts.
As a direct continuation of the previous two titles, The Banner Saga 3 builds on everything that the series laid in its foundations — a rich and engrossing world and characters, difficult decision-making, and nuanced strategy-RPG gameplay — and enhanced it all with a sense of tension and unease as the series’ conclusion drew near.
Much in the way that Return of the King closed the book on The Lord of the Rings trilogy, or the final season of Game of Thrones will deliver on multiple seasons of an epic narrative, The Banner Saga 3 follows in their paths in concluding one of gaming’s greatest fantasies with a conclusion that is as dark as it is gripping.
Check out the DualShockers review of The Banner Saga 3.
8. Hollow Knight
Though Hollow Knight first released on PC in early 2017, the game’s release earlier this year on Nintendo Switch really helped a whole new audience discover Team Cherry’s incredible take on the Metroidvania genre with a dash of Dark Souls, myself included.
While I expected Hollow Knight to be great given the lavish praise that it got when it first debuted, what I didn’t expect was the fact that it might have just become one of my all-time Metroidvania games. In the several weeks or so that I spent playing the game and exploring Hallownest, I became deeply engrossed in the game’s challenging (but rewarding) sense of exploration and gameplay, enduring its brutal boss fights, and unlocking every secret that its world had to offer.
While the Switch has already had an incredible year of indie game releases thanks to the likes of Celeste and Dead Cells, Hollow Knight is just as deserving of a spot on your library — and a place in your heart — with its engrossing, buggy world and continually-rewarding challenges.
7. Tetris Effect
Having not played a Tetris game since the days of the original Game Boy, I never would have suspected that any form of Tetris would ever end up on my Game of the Year list. However, Tetris Effect proved me very, very wrong, but in the most delightful way possible.
By combining that many consider to be the perfect puzzle game with the euphoric visuals and heart-pounding music of games like Rez, Tetris Effect is among the most beautiful gaming experiences that I’ve encountered all year. Despite its deceptively simple display of a Tetris board and a sparse background, that all dissolves immediately once you get into the groove of stacking up Tetrominoes, clearing lines, and discovering a profound journey of connectedness and the human spirit.
Check out the DualShockers review of Tetris Effect.
6. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
Having played Smash Bros. since the very beginning, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is the kind of game I could have only dreamed of playing back when I was a kid, and as its name implies, it truly is the ultimate experience for not just fans of the series, but fans of gaming at large.
Though the timeframe from its announcement to release was unusually short for a Smash Bros., Ultimate very, very quickly proved that it wouldn’t be lacking in features by any means. As we learned more and more about the game, we saw that Ultimate would feature a staggering roster of over 70 characters, including the long-awaited inclusion of fan favorites like Ridley and King K. Rool, and saw that it would feature the richest catalog of maps, features, modes, and more than the series has ever had.
But most importantly, Ultimate wasn’t just an exhaustive catalog of the history of Nintendo, but proved to be another essential addition to any Nintendo Switch owners library, making this lifelong Smash Bros. fan more than happy to jump in for another match.
5. Dead Cells
As someone that normally shies away from the endless repetition of most roguelike games, Dead Cells got me out of my comfort zone for the genre, and I had a blast while playing it. By combining the best aspects of roguelikes, Metroidvanias, and Dark Souls — easily three of the buzziest words when it comes to describing most indie games — Dead Cells managed to craft an endlessly addictive experience while still carving out a name for itself.
While I still haven’t gotten much farther than the second boss in the best of my runs through the game, Dead Cells kept me going no matter how many times I died thanks to its addicting gameplay loop, some of the most satisfying 2D combat that I’ve ever experience, and a surprising sense of humor that kept me coming back for more again, and again, and again, and again. I still may not have “beat” Dead Cells (at least in the proper sense), but I’m not in any rush to do that yet.
Check out the DualShockers review of Dead Cells.
While there were several points in Celeste that I might have been ready to throw my Switch out the window onto the nearest hard surface, the game kept teaching me to persevere and never give up. Despite those challenging jumps I couldn’t make or those millisecond-long gaps that I had to dash in exactly the right way, Celeste proved to be both a challenge and joy to experience, and I wouldn’t have had it any other way.
Playing as Madeline and experiencing her journey while climbing the titular Celeste Mountain, no matter how many times I might have felt frustration at some of the game’s brutal challenges, its beautiful allegory for pushing back against hardships (and a deeper metaphor for mental illness) have stuck with me long after my climb up to Celeste‘s highest peaks.
Check out the DualShockers review of Celeste.
3. Marvel’s Spider-Man
While Marvel’s Spider-Man may not have cracked into the top spot on my list this year, I will easily say that Spider-Man proved to be the game that I had the most enjoyment from this year, by far. Proving this is the fact that on the night that I first got the game, I pretty much spent my first few hours just swinging around its strikingly well-realized recreation of New York City and simply feeling the rush of adrenaline and inertia that swinging around the city as Spider-Man offered.
Coming from the team at Insomniac Games and combined with their clear love and devotion to the character, Marvel’s Spider-Man isn’t just one of the best video game adaptations of a comic series yet — right up there with the Batman: Arkham series — but is unabashedly fun and a blockbuster movie come to life. Throughout my time swinging around the city as Spider-Man while stopping crimes or experiencing the everyday struggles of Peter Parker, I had a smile on my face knowing that I was playing a title that is a spectacular, amazing love letter to one of the most iconic characters of all time.
2. God of War
Heading into the reveal of God of War at E3 2016, I was all too ready to dismiss the idea of a new God of War game coming to PS4, if only for the fact that by that point, I had been pretty burnt out on the series. Having played every installment of the series prior to it (even the flip-phone mobile game), I couldn’t ever have thought that there would be more to draw from the well that was Kratos’ character, but thankfully, Santa Monica Studio’s exceptional title proved me very, very wrong.
Thanks to its stunning art direction and visuals, emotionally-commanding music, and impeccable storytelling driven by strong performances and its amazing single-camera presentation, God of War stands tall as one of the year’s best games, by far. I couldn’t help to be glad at the fact that I was so wrong about dismissing the series before, and now I’m on the edge of my seat to see what the next chapter for Kratos and Atreus has in store for them.
Check out the DualShockers review of God of War.
1. Red Dead Redemption 2
While it may have ended up being among the more divisive games at the end of the year, there is no denying that on a technical and artistic level, Red Dead Redemption 2 is easily one of the defining games of the year and my personal favorite of 2018.
Much like other fans of Red Dead Redemption, I had high hopes and even higher expectations for Rockstar Games’ follow-up to its grand Western epic, and yet somehow through it all, Red Dead Redemption 2 managed to exceed them on pretty much every level. While it’s unlikely we’ll ever get a game (at least any time soon) to match what Rockstar has brought as far as immersion and detail to its impeccably-made open-world, Red Dead Redemption 2 is bold and brilliant in ways that we haven’t seen from games before, and a window into how close (and in some cases, how far) games have come to a deeper level of interactivity.
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