2018 has been a stellar year for gamers, from open worlds that pushed the medium further forward to remakes that proved they’re just as much fun in 2018 as when they first came out.
Whittling down the field to just 10 of the games that stood out this year was harder than trying to play Dark Souls on a packed commute, but this only proved how excellent this year has been for gaming. So, without further ado, here are the experiences that helped define gaming in 2018*.
*These are in alphabetical order, because we loved them all equally.
Assassin’s Creed Odyssey
A sprawling adventure across Greek islands that constantly wowed us with its scope, this is arguably the biggest Assassin’s Creed game ever made. More importantly, it’s also one of the most diverse entries in the series, with the ability to choose your character, make decisions that change the story, and find singletons to woo.
The result was an Assassin’s Creed world that was well worth losing hundreds of hours to.
The sheer amount of content in Battlefield V is staggering. There are eight multiplayer modes as well as three new single player War Stories, so it’s got something for everyone. And with the ability to explore eight different maps across the globe, there’s enough to do to make sure that you’ll never get bored.
Call of Duty: Black Ops 4
The decision to focus on battle royale for this year’s Call of Duty was inspired, giving the series a fresh direction that made its moreish shooting work in an entirely different context. Instead of sprinting through tight maps, you treaded carefully across the largest battlefield in the series’ history. Instead of spraying-and-praying, every shot had to hit its mark, unless you like the enemy knowing where you are.
The fact that the returning multiplayer and zombies modes were just as brilliant made this one of the most engaging shooters of the year.
Dragon Ball FighterZ
With epic battles worthy of the most dramatic anime episode, Dragon Ball FighterZ is a visually stunning spectacle, and it’s immensely fun to play too. It’s a faithful addition to a much-loved series (in fact, it often looks more like an excerpt from the actual anime than a game) and it’s intuitive enough to appeal to both expert fighting game fans and newcomers to the genre.
Functioning as a prequel to the rest of the Fallout series, Fallout 76 gives us the opportunity to explore a huge and undeniably beautiful, if irradiated, open world. With the freedom to explore at your own pace, customise your character stats and form your own narrative, Fallout 76 offers a lot of potential to make your experience truly unique. The ability to team up with other players can be a huge bonus when the really big monsters show up, but watch out — not everyone wants to be your friend.
Forza Horizon 4
Forza Horizon 4 did the near-impossible and made us excited to drive around Britain. The gorgeous open-world racer recreated the United Kingdom across all four seasons, seeing us skid across snow and race through the rain. The promise of seeing a location transformed by the weather made returning to this lush world a real treat, while Horizon’s signature racing style, which scratches the itch for both committed petrolheads and arcade speed-demons, remained as satisfying as ever.
God of War
Before God of War’s release, we were excited to carve our way through a Norse rogue’s gallery of corrupt gods and mythical creatures. When we finally got to play Kratos’s return, we were left pleasantly surprised by its deftly emotional story and extraordinary cinematography, which kept you in the thick of the action whether you were taking on a lowly Draugr or in the middle of a heart-wrenching cutscene.
We loved the original Hitman, so Hitman 2 had a lot to live up to. Fortunately, it pulls it off in spectacular fashion, with just the right blend of ingenuity, creativity and occasionally wacky humour that made the first game such a classic. Right from the first Elusive Target mission starring Sean Bean as the target (one of the few roles he’s had where his survival is a possibility), we knew this was going to be a winner. And being able to dress the stoic Agent 47 up in a giant flamingo suit is also a major plus.
Peter Parker’s amazing PlayStation blockbuster put us right in the middle of a Marvel movie, with all the wit and warmth that has made Spider-Man such a beloved comicbook icon. Whether exploring a glistening Manhattan by gleefully swinging for hours on end or roughing up the crims that are trying to destroy Spidey’s home, this perfectly captured the spirit of Marvel’s most famous hero.
Monster Hunter: World
What’s better than slaying giant creatures that are trying to turn you into their dinner? Doing it with buddies. Co-operation is at the heart of Capcom’s wonderful multiplayer adventure, whether it’s teaming up with pals to take on the massive creatures that roam the continent you’ve crashed on, or working with the adorable Palicos (cats who talk almost exclusively in puns) to help best the titular monsters.
Forget building cardboard box forts — Nintendo’s Labo series makes building things out of cardboard a hundred times more fun. There’s something incredibly cool about building something yourself and then bringing it to life onscreen, and the Labo Kits have gone above and beyond our expectations, with a whole range of awesome gadgets to try and the freedom to get creative with our own inventions too. Can’t ask for much more than that.
Octopath Traveller is something of a visual treat, with 2D sprites on a 3D world that somehow still looks 2D and just works. With the stories of eight main characters to work through, there’s plenty of content to sink your teeth into, and the battles have some honestly surprising mechanics that require some pretty hefty strategising. The soundtrack is also just as beautiful as the environments, which is just the icing on the cake.
Red Dead Redemption 2
Simply put, it’s hard to think of an open-world as reactive and tactile as Rockstar Games’s western masterpiece. From the thousands of background characters who remember how protagonist Arthur Morgan has treated them, to the way you’ll help out around the camp which Arthur calls home, this world is immersive in a way that pushes the medium forward.
The fact that it’s a thrilling western epic that packs in all the shoot-outs, duels, and melancholic moments you could want makes this a worthy follow-up to their 2010 classic.
Pokémon: Let’s Go
This semi-remake from Nintendo is more than mere nostalgia. By mixing the return to Kanto with a fully-fleshed 3D engine and a new way of catching Pokémon with the Pokéball Plus, this is both accessible for younger audiences who might be off on their first adventure, and fans who’ve utterly rinsed every game in the series. Plus, if you can’t find joy in dressing up Pikachu or Eevee, then what can you find joy in?
Sea of Thieves
Let’s face it, everyone dreams of being a pirate /at least/ fifty times in their childhood. Sea of Thieves is a dream come true then, with its mix of exploration, treasure-hunting and good old-fashioned pirate swashbuckling. Add in the ability to team up with friends (when you’re not firing them out of cannons, making them carry the Chest of a Thousand Grogs, or locking them in the brig, of course) and you’ve got easily one of the best pirate games in existence.
Spyro Reignited Trilogy
Everyone’s favourite purple dragon swooped in, looking sharper than ever. But it wasn’t just the immaculately recreated graphics and attention-to-detail that made Spyro’s return so enjoyable, it was the fact that it reminded us how far ahead of the time his original adventures were. This felt just as rewarding to play in 2018 as it did back in 1998.
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
Let’s face it, it’s been far too long since we got to crush our friends as Kirby, Pikachu, or Luigi in Smash. And if the title didn’t give it away, this really is the Ultimate version of the brilliant brawler. From the sheer volume of fighters and stages on offer to a compelling single player campaign, this is fan service of the highest order.