GameCentral lists its favourite games of the last year, from big budget smashes like Red Dead Redemption II to indie hit Minit.
Another 12 months in gaming is over, and while 2018 may not have been the standout year that 2017 was theres still more than enough great games to make compiling a top 20 difficult. Especially when many of the best games are so completely different to each other. Its good to have such variety though and if you cant find something you like in this line-up then something has gone very wrong.
As usual well give you the chance to vote for your own favourites at the end of January, after everyone has had a chance to play what they got for Christmas and in the new year sales. Youll be able to vote for whatever you like, but our list purposefully does not include remakes, remasters, re-releases, DLC expansions, compilations, games not yet released in the UK, or versions of games previously released on other formats.
1. God Of War (PS4)
Our top two choices for the year do have something in common: theyre part of franchises that we previously had no real affection for, despite acknowledging their quality. The teenage angst and violence of Kratos was not something we were looking forward to seeing continue on the PlayStation 4 but this is not only the best game of the year but the most surprising. Although it has roughly the same mix of action and puzzle-solving almost everything else about the original games is turned upside down, with a completely new setting, new combat system, and an entirely more adult approach to storytelling.
Not only is it now possible to feel sympathy for Kratos but you can see him grow and change as a result of what he sees and does, and the influence of his son. Its some of the best storytelling video games has ever seen, not just in terms of the quality of the writing and the voice-acting but because there is a purpose and meaning to the story which is illustrated without the need for overlong cut scenes or non-interactive dialogue sequences. God Of War not only elevates the franchise but the whole action adventure genre.
2. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate (NS)
2018 has been extremely quiet for Nintendo but it was always known that their biggest game was waiting till the end of the year and it did not disappoint at all. The Ultimate tag refers to the fact that this contains every fighter and arena ever featured in the series, while adding more on top, but its so much more than that implies. The core combat has been refined and perfected, taking the best elements of all the previous games to make something that feels faster, more powerful, and more precise.
But its the single-player modes that are the biggest surprise – having previously been as pointless and unengaging as most other fighting games. World of Light and the spirits system is a revelation that makes the game just as much fun on your own as it is when playing with others. Add in a mountain of content that seems to go on forever and you have one of the best games of the year and of the generation.
3. Celeste (XO/PS4/NS/PC)
Although 2018 has not been a banner year for games in general, at least not compared to last year, it has been very good for indie titles. At first sight this seems to be just another neo-retro platformer, in the style of Super Meat Boy, but play it and youll realise it rivals God Of War in terms of meaningful storytelling. The portrayal of anxiety and depression is subtle and heartfelt and not at all what youd be expecting when you start the game. Its absolutely not a gimmick though and the actual platforming features some excellent level design and satisfyingly precise controls.
4. Return Of The Obra Dinn (PC)
The new game from the creator of Papers, Please manages to do something that video games have been trying to achieve for decades: make a detective game thats both fun and genuinely challenging. The game is still not at all what youd expect though, as you play the role of a shipping agent brought in to solve the mystery of a 19th century ship that has appeared in port with all its crew dead. The game provides plenty of aids to your detective work but never hands any solution to you on a plate, making for one of the most uniquely entertaining games of the year in terms of both gameplay and visuals.
5. Into The Breach (NS/PC)
If we were ranking these games purely in terms of how much time weve spent on them then Into The Breach would be number one by a long stretch. Its the new strategy game by the creators of FTL and one of the most tightly designed video games weve ever come across. The turn-based battles take place on simple 8×8 grids and that means that every single decision you make could be the difference between success and instant and permeant failure. The chess-like complexity is absolutely fascinating given how simple the controls are and how even the most hopeless situation can be reversed with the right tactics.
6. Astro Bot: Rescue Mission (PSVR)
There are three VR games in our top 20 this year and there could easily have been more. VR may no longer be the novelty it used to be but particularly on PlayStation VR its matured into a viable games platform with access to dozens of the very highest quality games. And none more so than this delightful Super Mario-esque adventure that is filled with invention and clever attention to detail, while also being a very solid 3D platformer. The boss battles are worth the price of admission on their own but the whole game is a joy from the second you put on the headset.
7. Monster Hunter: World (XO/PS4/PC)
If nothing else, Monster Hunter: World is proof that you should never give up, especially if you happen to be a games publisher with a huge hit in Japan that nobody in the West ever seems much interested in. In the end the trick to success was simply to transplant the series from portables to home console, although theres also some subtle changes to the gameplay and interface to make the game more accessible to new players without losing any of its depth. The end result is the best co-op game of the year and an online game with almost infinite replayability.
8. Red Dead Redemption II (XO/PS4)
Rockstars new western epic is an astonishing technical accomplishment, with the best-looking open world ever created and a seemingly impossible level of detail. But it also features some of Rockstars best storytelling, with a large and diverse range of characters that feel like real people with their own individual voices. Its true that the gameplay never quite lives up to the standards of the rest of the game but its still extremely solid. And as bare bones as Red Dead Online is at the moment, Rockstars work on GTA Online suggests itll still have people playing for years to come.
9. Tetris Effect (PS4)
It almost seemed as if there was no place for Tetris in a post-Candy Crush world but the veteran puzzler was brought vividly back to life by Rez creator Tetsuya Mizuguchi, in what is arguably the best version of the game ever made. The basics are the same as always but the visual presentation and interactive music elevates everything to another level, with the immersion increasing even further if youre able to take advantage of the optional VR mode. Some subtle changes to the usual rules keep things interesting for veterans while the campaign, split into separate stages, means theres more to the game than just blitzing marathon mode.
10. Monster Boy And The Cursed Kingdom (XO/PS4/NS/PC)
Wonder Boy III was already lucky enough to get a remake last year but while this new game – an official sequel in all but name – shares the same inspiration it manages to update the whole franchise into something that feels impressively modern and not just a pancea for nostalgia. Its still a 2D platformer with Metroidvania tendencies but one created with such passion and imagination its impossible to resist. The animation is gorgeous but the way all the different animal personas are used together, and integrated into the puzzles and actions sequences, is so consistently clever youll play the whole game with a permeant grin on your face.
11. Frostpunk (PC)
There are no smiles to be had in this grim city builder, from the makers of This War Of Mine. But its not the construction element thats the focus here, as you try to survive in a post-apocalyptic icy waste. Instead youre posed some of the most difficult moral decisions in gaming, from whether to allow child labour or enforce 24-hour work days. The fascinating thing is that even the most despicable policies can end up being for the greater good. The question the game poses at the end though is whether it was all worth it.
12. Forza Horizon 4 (XO/PC)
During a difficult generation for the Xbox the Forza franchise has been a rock for Microsoft, both the more serious Motorsport games and the more arcadey, open world Horizon series. You could make a good argument that Horizon is now the more accomplished of the two, especially this new sequel set in the UK. Variable weather has been the obvious inspiration from the new setting and the changes brought on by autumn in particular result in some of the best graphics ever seen on a console.
13. Overcooked! 2 (XO/PS4/NS/PC)
Couch co-op is always the best form of multiplayer, which is maddening given how few games encourage it nowadays. But this sequel to the worlds least authentic cooking sim knows exactly how to entertain four people all sat round the same TV. The sequel doesnt change the formula much, beyond adding a throw command, but the variety of recipes and stages is greatly increased – along with the capacity for riotous behaviour as you seek to blame everyone but yourself for letting the steak (and the restaurant) burn.
14. Dragon Ball FighterZ (XO/PS4/PC)
After years working in near anonymity, on hardcore franchises such as Guilty Gear and BlazBlue, fighting game experts Arc System Works finally hit the big time this year with this unexpectedly good anime tie-in. Even if youve never watched an episode in your life the stunning cel-shaded visuals and subtly unique combat is instantly appealing, along with a mountain of content and some enjoyable single-player options. If you dont count Smash Bros. this is the best traditional fighter of the year.
15. Yokus Island Express (XO/PS4/NS/PC)
A cross between a 2D platformer and a pinball game is certainly one of the more unusual ideas of this year, especially when you factor in the fact that youre playing as a dung beetle postman. As weird and silly as that all sounds the game that results is utterly charming and makes the mix of seemingly incompatible ideas work perfectly. The Metroidvania elements take precedence but even if you think yourself rubbish at pinball it never overwhelms in terms of difficulty and remains completely engrossing from beginning to end.
16. Moss (PSVR/PC)
Together with Astro Bot this makes a very good argument for the fact that third person games may actually work better in VR than first person. Here you control a little mouse called Quill who has to fight and jump her way through a fantasy world filled with mechanical bugs and some amazing human-sized scenery. You control Quill directly but can also interact with the backdrop as a ghost-like figure, manipulating the various satisfyingly tactile puzzles. The games only flaw is that even though its not that short youre still desperate for more by the end.
17. Minit (XO/PS4/NS/PC)
The least technically complex game on this list but this cleverly constructed homage to old school Zelda games is just as well designed as any of them. The gameplay revolves around the fact that your character has a 60 second lifespan and although youre constantly revived at the end of it most of your progress is reset. Most, but not all as the game creates a riff on Majoras Mask where you can make small, permeant changes – such as unlocking new respawn points – that allow you to inch closer and closer to victory.
18. Firewall Zero Hour (PSVR)
Our final VR pick of the year is the best online shooter the format has seen so far, and so much better than the earlier, but higher profile, Bravo Team. Firewall is a 4 vs. 4 multiplayer game with more than a touch of Counter-Strike about it, as one team has to attack an objective and the other defend. First person shooters do not lend themselves well to VR but this one has enough options that anyone should be able to play without a problem. Plus, it makes the best use of the PlayStation Aim Controller so far.
19. Call Of Duty: Black Ops 4 (XO/PS4/PC)
Last years WWII was meant to act as a soft reboot for the franchise but its this years Call Of Duty which offers the biggest break from the formula. Rumours suggest the lack of a story campaign was essentially a production mishap but replacing it with a Battle Royale mode has been just the boost the series needs, with a great map and much better action than any rival – including Fortnite. The other modes are more traditional but equally well-crafted, fully justifying the games success.
20. Dead Cells (XO/PS4/NS/PC)
The term Metroidvania has already come up a couple of times in this list but Dead Cells is the most traditional example of the genre, even if it is mixed with elements of roguelikes. That means whenever you die you lose all your progress, except, as with most modern examples of the concept, you can still unlock a few permanent changes that make every subsequent playthrough just that little bit easier. Add in some excellent 2D visuals and animation, and a wicked sense of humour, and youve got another indie game that, at half the price, offers twice the fun of many AAA titles.