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The 30 Best Videogames of 2018

Games Lists Best of 2018
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You can say a lot a things about 2018, but you can’t say that it didn’t have a large and diverse batch of really good videogames. The constant churn of this job makes it hard for me to remember what I played last week, much less years ago, but I can’t recall a recent year with such a wide-ranging assortment of games worth playing and crowing over. Last year’s one-two punch of Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey is a titanic twofer that’ll be hard to ever surpass, but there’s more to love in 2018 than 2017, and I bet we’ll be revisiting an unusually large number of these games in the years to come.

The best games this year focused on relationships—a sad breakup, the murderous turmoil of a crew at sea, the codependent (and repetitive) nature between time, play and work. That’s not really that unusual—what game can’t be boiled down to how its characters, story and mechanics interact?—but 2018 has seen an uncommon number of games that smartly and confidently comment on life without getting treacly or having to resort to predictable videogame thrills. 2018 has been so full of fascinating games from all corners of the industry that some of the most successful and acclaimed big budget games weren’t able to crack our list. (Sadly one of the year’s last major games, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, didn’t arrive in time for us to consider it for this year’s list. Maybe we’ll grandfather it into 2019.)

These are the games that made the greatest impact on us in 2018—the best games of the year.—Garrett Martin

30. Vampyr
Platforms: Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC

Dontnod’s Vampyr has more in common with Remember Me, the studio’s first game, than Life Is Strange, its commercial and critical breakthrough. Like Remember Me, Vampyr is an ambitious, idiosyncratic oddity that doesn’t quite fit into any recognizable genre. It might not be as slick or smooth as the biggest action games or most popular franchises, but it has more personality and more spirit than most of them. It can feel faintly embarrassing one moment, and then do something unexpected and with surprising confidence just a few seconds later. There’s probably an equal chance that you’ll hate it or love it. In an industry that constantly obsesses on trends and often disrespects the taste and intelligence of its audience, Vampyr is another refreshing and anomalous cult game from Dontnod.—Garrett Martin


29. A Case of Distrust
Platforms: PC, Mac, Switch

Detective game A Case of Distrust is immensely charming. Designer Ben Wander did a superb job of coming up with an eclectic aesthetic on such limited resources. While the game is more or less like reading a book, the restrained use of a few slick animations keep the visuals interesting. Not a single page stagnates or feels stale. The music, a light noir-style jazz, supports the simple but stylish presentation, accentuating its minimalist appeal. In A Case of Distrust, the verdict is in: guilty of being an enjoyable game.—Holly Green


28. Where the Water Tastes Like Wine
Platforms: PC

Just sit back a spell and let these humble words suffice as Paste’s official opinion on this shaggy exploration of the power of folktales and storytelling: it’s good! The folklore game made by a Gone Home designer and co-written by just about every prominent videogame critic is good. Like the folktales that inspire it—hell, like America itself, the country that inspires it—it’s not perfect and it’s not great but it has moments of greatness within it. It’s a messy, awkward, poignant journey into the heart of America and the legends, jokes and horror stories that we’ve created about ourselves and our country. Whatever you think about it, you pretty much have to admit it’s a true original in the games world. Also the score, inspired by a variety of traditional musical idioms, is a beaut. (Disclosure: So many people who worked on this game are friends with Paste’s games editors and/or former contributors to Paste. Like, too many to list here.)—Garrett Martin


27. Fire Pro Wrestling World: Fighting Road
Platforms: PlayStation 4, PC

Fire Pro Wrestling World originally came out last year for the PC, but it finally hit the PlayStation 4 in August, with a whole new story mode centered around New Japan Pro-Wrestling in tow. (PC players can purchase Fighting Road as DLC.) Fighting Road doesn’t just add a few dozen top New Japan wrestlers—it’s basically a wrestling visual novel, complete with static screens of Hiroshi Tanahashi and Kazuchika Okada doing what can only be called a manly, wrestling-centric version of flirting with your character, but with Fire Pro wrestling matches largely deciding the story’s outcome. Fighting Road achieves something that most wrestling career modes don’t. Despite the lack of motion in its cut scenes, and its often unrealistic story beats (at one point I have to go to New Japan’s corporate offices for a meeting, and when I get there it’s led by wrestlers Yugi Nagata in a NJPW t-shirt and Super Strong Machine in his mask), the thorough text and first-person perspective make me feel closer to this character and more deeply embedded in this world than anything I’ve ever seen in a WWE game. Oh, and the actual in-game action remains the best videogame recreation of wrestling ever seen.—Garrett Martin


26. God of War
Platform:   PlayStation 4  

More than most action games, combat in God of War has the pacing of a rhythm game. You have to tap various buttons in the right sequence to strike and block at the right times, unleashing your extra-powerful attacks when needed. When you’re surrounded by enemies and dancing over the various attack buttons, calling in arrows from Atreus while blocking at the exact right moment to stun your enemy, you might find yourself entering a kind of trance where you’re locked so tightly into the rhythms of that combat that everything else momentarily fades away. From the pulse of that violence, to the feeling of that axe chopping through a monster as it flies back to you after a perfectly aimed strike, to the sweeping range of the weapon that’s unlocked later, the combat in God of War is about as satisfying as action games get.—Garrett Martin


25. Assassin’s Creed Odyssey
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC

There is too much of a good thing. Assassin’s Creed Odyssey proves that. As a game it has a strong core of enjoyable action built upon a reliable and slightly upgraded foundation. As a story it’s an intriguing personal journey with good ideas but lackluster storytelling set against the backdrop of war between Sparta and Athens, with a strong, charismatic pair of leads making up for a lot of dull dialogue and meandering conversations. As an Assassin’s Creed it turns Origins from an outlier into the start of the new status quo, sacrificing a bit of its identity in order to bring it more in line with Ubisoft’s other open world games. It still captures much of what makes these games special, though, from the historical setting, to the dynamic action, to one of the few stealth combat systems that isn’t too slow or frustrating to enjoy. Embark on this journey with confidence, but be prepared to lose a lot of your free time along the way.—Garrett Martin


24. Pokémon: Let’s Go Pikachu and Eevee
Platform: Switch

Pokémon: Let’s Go, Pikachu and Pokémon: Let’s Go, Eevee are the first core Pokémon games to grace a console and, in a sense, the first Pokémon games. Modeled closely after the original Pokémon Red, Blue and Yellow games from the ‘90s, much of what made up the originals is alive and present in this Nintendo Switch revival. It provides the perfect opportunity for novices to understand the full scope and balance of the Pokémon universe, both by offering a starting point for newcomers and by tapping into the mechanics of the lucrative mobile phenomenon in Pokémon Go. So how does a game built entirely on the sensibilities of one released in 1996 hold up in 2018? Pretty well, actually. The core premise of catching and batting Pokémon still holds a lot of tension, and the new refurbishing details are a nice little face lift to seal the deal.—Holly Green


23. Just Shapes & Beats
Platforms: Switch, PC

Just Shapes & Beats is not a rhythm game per se, but rather, its obstacles, how they move, and how the player responds to them are informed by the beat of the backing track. As the player hurtles through each level, they navigate a two dimensional, sidescrolling plane of polygons that explode and shift in a vibrant blur of hot pink, fuchsia and purple, using a dash move to speed around obstructions or blast through fading barriers. It’s cool in a way that is just unfair. It’s like being able to play my SoundCloud playlists as a videogame, or as I put it two years ago, like playing a music video as a videogame. For a game with such short levels and simple pretense, a perfect harmony between length, price and difficulty has been adequately achieved. Whether you’re a bullet hell aficionado who blasts through the main campaign in a few hours, or a fumbling novice preserving through each level by sheer luck, Just Shapes & Beats is the whole package.—Holly Green


22. Battletech
Platform: PC

Battletech presents combat as a cascading series of desperate choices. It is nearly impossible to escape a mission without taking damage in some form, and Battletech knows this, and plays on the cruel randomness of ‘Mech-on-‘Mech strategy. At its most gratifying, it is a struggle against impossible odds, with brave pilots constantly fighting for the slightest edge on one another. At its lowest, it feels like your squad is outmatched and outgunned at every turn.

But even when I found myself banging my head against a particularly hard mission, I never felt unsatisfied. Battletech shows a cruel and vast universe of empires and kings and queens, and narrows the lens of storytelling to a tight and contained thread of a queen regaining her throne with the help of a mercenary crew. You never feel like an army, and that’s to the game’s benefit. This isn’t a game about a war, even though it is set against the backdrop of one. Battletech is a game about battles, in all their sad and joyous desperation, and the machines that they so lovingly destroy.—Dante Douglas


21. Monster Hunter: World
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC (later in 2018)

The Monster Hunter series, as the title suggests, has primarily been about striking down massive beasts and using their remains to fashion new armor, weapons and food. While Monster Hunter: World certainly maintains that emphasis on killing giant beasts, the game also asks us to care about the monsters we slaughter, and understand our own hand in maintaining and destroying the ecological system.—Shonte Daniels


20. Astro Bot Rescue Mission
Platform: PlayStation VR

I don’t get a lot of use out of my virtual reality whatsit. It tends to make me motion sick, and there just aren’t a lot of games released in VR that feel like something I absolutely have to experience. Astro Bot Rescue Mission is one of the rare exceptions. Sony’s platformer expands on one of the best parts of the augmented reality mix tape The Playroom, turning it into a fully fleshed out game that capitalizes on the “you’re really there” thrill of VR. It’s also absolutely adorable, and if you’re at all familiar with the stuff I’ve written here at Paste over the last eight (!) years, you know cute means a lot to me.—Garrett Martin


19. Dragon Ball FighterZ
Platforms: Xbox One, PC, PlayStation 4 

Dragon Ball FighterZ is both the fighting game and Dragon Ball spin-off I never realized I always wanted. The production values are better, and the narrative tension is vastly improved. Given how Dragon Ball FighterZ amps up the drama on existing Dragon Ball storylines, increases engagement by allowing the player to take dialogue sequences at their own pace, and puts a polished, beautiful spin on the old cartoon, this isn’t just my favorite Dragon Ball game. It’s my favorite Dragon Ball anything.—Holly Green


18. Hitman 2
Platforms: Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC

Agent 47 returns with another round of multilayered and minutely detailed puzzle boxes for us to sneak and murder our way through, and as revelatory as 2016’s first go round for this reboot was, the sequel still comes out on top. Hitman 2 eschews the episodic nature of the first season, while still exploiting open world game concepts in a way that’s sprawling but still tightly compact and manageable. Solving its open-ended missions and variety of challenges can be a true test of your ingenuity, and one of the more satisfying times you’ll have with a game this year.—Garrett Martin


17. Wandersong
Platforms: Switch, PC, Mac

Given Wandersong’s focus on unity, it’s not surprising that the game always returns to ideas of harmony. It’s a game about music, after all, so the motif fits. And while playing Wandersong, I also felt like harmony was that much closer, that the greatest evils were defeatable if only we could rally together. And that’s a powerful thing for a game about a humble lil bard.—Dante Douglas


16. Life is Strange 2 Episode 1
Platforms: PC, Playstation 4, Xbox One, Mac, Linux

There’s a lot I like about Life is Strange that returns in Life is Strange 2, particularly the setting and character writing. The attention to detail is marvelous; it is impressive how well Dontnod have been able to recreate the feeling of key Pacific Northwest areas and scenery. One of the most notable things about the original game, outside of its beauty and its interesting rewind mechanic, was its lead characters, Max and Chloe. While I’m sad to see that Life is Strange 2 doesn’t have strong female leads, the story of Sean and Daniel feels equally compelling and important. The first chapter does a great job of establishing the momentum of the game’s narrative arc. The Diaz boys are very easy to root for, and the pain Sean feels as he must protect his younger brother from the truth of their father’s absence is palpable. The more you participate in the bonding experience of being an older brother, the closer the events seem to hit home. By the end of the chapter, I felt genuine fear for the boys and, while I usually don’t waste time speculating on how a piece of fiction will end, I found myself hoping for the best.—Holly Green


15. Yakuza 6
Platform:   PlayStation 4  

What makes Yakuza 6 so compelling is that it succeeds in making the insignificant seem significant. It focuses on the minutiae of the world, from the detailed shop interiors that serve no purpose other than to ground you in the setting, to the nearby citizens who go about their daily business as anarchy unfolds around them in your wake. But perhaps the greatest feat of all is that the game trusts you, the player, to find it all yourself. By refusing to hold your hand and lead you from A to B, it gives you room to explore, to procrastinate and breathe between story steps, and it’s in those moments of respite that you’ll find the best of what the Yakuza series has to offer.—Andy Moore


14. Donut County
Platforms: PlayStation 4, PC, iOS, Mac

Donut County is entirely about holes and the destruction they can wreak upon a southwestern community when deployed with malice by a clan of scheming raccoons. If you’ve ever wanted to swallow up a pastel desert town full of blocky, adorable animals with sass and quirks aplenty, Donut County is the game for you. Other than the art style and character designs, the best thing about Donut County is the writing. It’s snappy and succinct, quickly establishing the unique personalities of a dozen or so characters, and legitimately funny without trying too hard or being obviously impressed by itself. As cute and surprising as the levels are, I found myself sometimes rushing through them in order to get back underground for the next bit of dialogue and the next character introduction. Like donuts themselves, Donut County will give you a quick, buzzy high, and taste great as you’re chewing on it, but isn’t all that filling.—Garrett Martin


13. Tetris Effect
Platforms: PlayStation 4 

Tetris Effect is a brilliant and forward-thinking new take on an old and deeply familiar classic. It’s a curious combination of relaxation and extreme stress, often swerving abruptly from one right into the other, and surrounding myself in it through virtual reality and headphones makes it even more powerful and evocative. It could use some more variety in its music, and be a bit more esoteric and surreal with its imagery, but it’s still a gorgeous, sometimes glorious vision, and a true VR stand-out.—Garrett Martin


12. Graveyard Keeper
Platforms: PC, Xbox One 

Emerging this past summer as the macabre, campy and deliciously evil counterpart to Stardew Valley, Graveyard Keeper stole our hearts by combining dungeon crawling and crafting to deliver a medieval management sim that’s as fucked up as it is fun. Whether you’re wooing a corrupt priest, making candles from human fat, or just dumping bodies in the river, the busy work in Graveyard Keeper is truly ghastly business. But there are so many games that let you harvest food, and only one that lets you harvest cadavers. For its inventive and dark spin on the genre, this game is, you could say, a keeper, and definitely one of the year’s best.—Holly Green


11. Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom
Platforms:   PlayStation 4, PC

If you pay attention to what we write about here at Paste’s games section you probably realized this game would end up near the top of this list. This is the game, remember, that made me question my lifelong ambivalence towards anime. That’s a massive achievement. Ni no Kuni II is a big leap forward from the middling original for a few reasons, one of which is that it more elegantly unites its gameplay loop with the anime aesthetic of its cut scenes. The camera seamlessly transitions into action when the talking is done and it’s time to take control of your characters, and the new real-time combat scheme also breaks down the off-putting distance found in the first game’s fight scenes. On top of all of that is a surprisingly thoughtful political storyline and characters that are deeper and more human than you might expect from their extremely anime appearances. If you’re remotely interested in role-playing games or anime, you should play this one.—Garrett Martin


10. Deltarune
Platform: PC

Deltarune wants to complicate the messages of Undertale. Undertale is utopic, in that it believes strongly that all people have the capability to do good if they are given a chance. It’s the backbone of Undertale’s thematic conclusions with its Pacifist route, where the player eschews as much combat as possible and works to help all citizens of the Underground. Deltarune, in contrast, establishes that there are some evils that cannot be reasoned with. No matter what you (the player) wanted to do, sometimes there are evils that need to be confronted. Undertale almost always had a way out, a way to play that would end with everyone happy and holding hands. Deltarune does not, or at least does not so far.—Dante Douglas


9. Dead Cells
Platforms: Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, Mac

Not content with sheer novelty, Dead Cells importantly taps into the most significant aspect of both of the genres it fuses together. Few games are as addictive as those Metroid-style backtrackers, and perhaps the only thing that has come close this decade is the spate of roguelike platformers that flourished in Spelunky’s wake. Dead Cells beautifully captures what makes both of those genres impossible to put down, uniting the “just one more” drive of a roguelike with the “must keep going” compulsion of a Metroid. It’s a smart, confident piece of work, and anybody interested in either of the genres it builds on should consider checking it out.—Garrett Martin


8. Dandara
Platforms: Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, iOS, Android, Linux, Mac

Long Hat House’s first game might play fast and loose with history—its hero, Dandara, is a real-life figure from Brazilian history—but its Metroid-style design and unique approach to motion make it compulsively playable. It’s part myth, part dream, all wrapped up in an occasionally psychedelic sci-fi action game heavily indebted to the aesthetics of the ‘80s and early ‘90s, and one of the best new games of the year.—Garrett Martin


7. Spider-Man
Platform: PlayStation 4 

Spider-Man might return to too many wells too many times—it might be too stuffed full of fights and collectibles and typical open-world business—but its foundations are so strong that it never threatens to collapse on itself. This game understands why Spider-Man has been perhaps the most popular superhero of the last half-century, and does about as good of a job as the comics or movies at capturing the character’s essence. It blends more than fifty years of Spider history together, molds it around a thrilling recreation of Spider-Man’s trademark motion and fighting styles, and puts you in control of the whole thing. All together that makes this one of the most mechanically, narratively, and nostalgically satisfying big budget games of the year, and the best Spider-Man game yet.—Garrett Martin


6. Celeste
Platforms: Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, Mac

Matt Thorson’s follow-up to Towerfall employs a familiar aesthetic and language from videogames past to tell a story about mental health and self-actualization, using the mountain the game is named after as a representation of a young woman’s struggles with depression and self-doubt. Celeste is an inspired triumph, with art that recalls the early ‘90s, and requiring a precision to navigate its levels that comes straight out of the heyday of platforming. The vibrant use of color and warm, stylistically varied score elevate the retro aesthetic beyond mere homage. It’s a touching and occasionally insightful depiction of what it’s like to live with anxiety and depression.—Garrett Martin


5. Minit
Platforms:   PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, Mac, Linux

Minit is an adventure with a twist and also a critique of capital split up into tiny bite-sized chunks and told through adorable animals in a sparsely drawn fantasy land. After enough stop and start minutes you’ll realize a factory is running roughshod over this place, polluting the land and working some of its employees to the bone while firing others whose jobs can now be done by machines. Behind it all is a maniacal manager prioritizing productivity over all else. After all these minutes and all these lives the true story reveals itself, and to reach the end you have to collect item after item, life after life, to eventually have the skills necessary to grind the factory to a halt. Even after realizing this it’ll take many minutes and many lives to finish everything you know you need to do, tiny bits of incremental progress in-between passages of rote, mundane, repetitive busy work. If it starts to feel like a job, well, maybe that’s the game’s point. The factory is Minit itself, its employees all of us who play the game, and its dictatorial boss the developers who put us through these paces again and again and again in hopes of the smallest iota of progress. Like the unending and uncaring work shifts that eat up our days until we die, we expend most of our vital energy redoing the same soul-killing nonsense over and over. It is one of the most effective metaphors for the exploitation of the working class seen in videogames. The minutes pass, we experience multiple tiny deaths every day doing the job we’re expected to do. And we press a button, and we do it again.—Garrett Martin


4. Into the Breach
Platforms: Switch, PC, Mac

Into The Breach is interested in you, as a player, gaining skills and developing new ways of thinking about the puzzle-like battles it puts in front of you. The island regions threatened by the Vek are small tactical boards, and you control a small cohort of giant, Pacific Rim-style robots who are there to smash and push their enemies around. Critically, these giant robots have mass, and Breach is very much committed to showing that big stuff smacking into other things has real effects. The idea is to prevent the Vek from attacking civilian buildings, prevent them from killing your mechs, and to kill them. Importantly, the game’s concerns are in that order.

That’s the puzzle-y part of the game. Each map has a turn counter that’s slowly ticking down, and at the end of it the remaining Vek will disappear. Into The Breach’s most interesting qualities come from the fact that you do not have to kill your enemies to win the game. You don’t have to annihilate each and every Vek on a time limit, and you don’t ever have to put your mechs in too much danger. You just need to be able to use your punching, shooting, artillery-firing robots to keep scooching enemy Vek around until the game is over.—Cameron Kunzelman


3. Gris
Platforms: Switch, PC

Similar to last year’s Gorogoa, Gris is a latecomer in terms of 2018 releases, but also too smart and beautiful to ignore for our year end round-up. Written as a metaphor for grief and loss, the game is a basic puzzle platformer, but designed with an intuitiveness that is immensely gratifying in its smoothness and fluidity. Channeling a deep sense of isolation and melancholy, the game’s stunning environments are awash with the rich and warm textured tones of a watercolor painting, with the finer pen and ink details of a storybook illustration, bringing to mind games like Machinarium in its style and artistry. At the risk of sounding hyperbolic, I’m not sure I deserve a game like Gris. It’s one of the loveliest things I’ve ever played. —Holly Green


2. Return of the Obra Dinn
Platform: PC, Mac

Lucas Pope’s Return of the Obra Dinn is a game about violence cleansed of meaning. In that way, it feels like a tonal companion to his previous game, Papers, Please, a game about meaning cleansed of violence. On the Obra Dinn, you will see every death intimately, and as a person, an investigator, you will naturally thread the storylines and see the ways that each death led to another. But that’s not really what insurance agents need. They just need the facts.

Those facts were the backbone of the East India Company, after all. If they could cleanse their own history of the people and the context, the profits would stand alone. And so, just like in Papers, Please, at the end of the day you are left with numbers and figures. Instead of salary, it is deaths, payouts and fines. Human lives reduced to another method for the Company to profit, even in death. Layers of greed cascading down the entire colonial system, encased in one dingy, storm-bitten boat.—Dante Douglas


1. Florence
Platforms: iOS, Android

Florence is refreshing in that it frames a past relationship not as a failure, but rather, an event that can be cherished even if it doesn’t end on ideal terms. Its redemption narrative is based not on trying to salvage what might not be worth saving, but of growing and moving on. It’s an empowering message amid so much romantic fiction that encourages women to self doubt, self neglect, and suffer for love. And it reminds me that I can make the decision to be okay.—Holly Green

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