Game developers are quickly proving themselves as indispensable as great filmmakers and authors. Every year, they produce excellence, with something that should appeal to everyone from casual to hardcore gamers. This year was no different, and anyone even remotely interested in gaming will find something to keep them entertained. And if you really, honestly don’t like video games, treat this like a gift suggestion for your gamer friends. Here are the 12 best video games of 2018.


Super Smash Bros. Ultimate

The Smash Bros. franchise is the favorite of college dorm rooms and casual hangouts everywhere for good reason. Gamers at every level can pick up a controller and fight using characters that shaped their childhood. Ultimate was a worthy entry into the series, upholding the core tenets of the game while also adding an absolutely insane number of characters. Basically every single Nintendo character you’ve ever interacted with in any capacity is in the game, even down to the Piranha Plant, who we guess we have to refer to with capital letters now. Not that the first game hasn’t aged well, but it’s good to see the series has plenty of life in it, guaranteeing our far flung descendants can beat each other up with Nintendo characters well into the 31st century. Switch



Red Dead Redemption 2

Red Dead Redemption 2 is a staple of these kinds of lists this year. Anyone who doesn’t consider it a great game runs a serious risk of sounding like a feckless contrarian, who only wants to disagree with people because they think it makes them interesting. Red Dead Redemption 2 is a great example of both the technical and narrative potential of modern gaming, where developers can create rich, enormous worlds full of compelling characters and narratives. We’ve been on this path for a while, but we’d say this is the game that finally proves it’s the interactivity of games that makes them a collaborative art form. The developer gives the gamer something like Red Dead Redemption 2 and the gamer adds their own unique contribution. Consoles



Marvel’s Spider-Man

This is the last time we’re going to talk about Spider-Man, we swear. But we keep bringing it up because it exceeded our expectations. We heard for so long this game was coming out, but the history of Spider-Man games tainted our hype. Almost every time one comes out, it’s middling at best. So we talked this game up as much as we could, but we always reserved a bit of doubt. Then it came out and it was amazing and we could finally stop worrying about whether or not people were even capable of making a great modern Spider-Man game. Insomnia, the developer, was and they did and the world got a little brighter. PS4



God of War

This year’s God of War marks an important shift in the discerning gamer’s sensibilities. Kratos started as a ridiculously jacked dude who hacked, slashed, and punched his way through Grecian theology, the quintessential moment of which was when he tore the head off the god of the sun with his bare hands. He’s now a caring, if gruff, father figure trying to provide guidance and security to a young boy, which, you’ll notice, is nearly a complete 180. He’s still hacking and slashing, this time through Norse mythology, so don’t think the series lost its soul. It’s just added something to it. PS4



A Way Out

It’s going to take a concerted effort to bring co-op gaming back, and we mean the kind of co-op where you’re in the same room as the person you’re playing with. The good news is A Way Out does more than its fair share of the work to aid the splitscreen revival. You and a friend can break out of prison and explore life outside the law while sitting on the same couch, exactly the way co-op games were meant to be played. Like we just mentioned, the game’s sold on its prison break cooperation, but there’s a hell of a lot more to do here than just that as well as an engrossing story to follow. If any of your friends are even remotely capable gamers, convince them to run through this with you. Consoles | PC



Kingdom Come: Deliverance

In recent years, there have been valid complaints leveled against the RPG genre. In an effort to appeal to a bigger audience, RPGs have been dumbing down their gameplay mechanics and turning players into demigods instead of challenging them to build their own unique character and play to their strengths. Kingdom Come: Deliverance flatly rejects those trends. Instead, it’s a complicated, ridiculously faithfully medieval RPG that forces you to check your god complex at the door. In other games, you can conduct a solo assault on a fortified castle and make mincemeat out of the people inside. If you attempt that in Kingdom Come: Deliverance, you’ll be laughed at and shot in the face before having your body quartered and tossed in a river. Consoles | PC



Return of the Obra Dinn

Gaming’s coolest niche right now is the niche where games help you relax. That doesn’t mean there’s no substance to them, it just means the pace is slower and story and atmosphere become more important than unveiling a massive open world with unlimited possibilities. In our opinion, Return of the Obra Dinn is the best example of that niche this year. Slowly working your way through the game’s immersive story is a great way to spend a few hours, like reading an engaging book. Plus, the game is beautiful. It’s all black and white with weird particle cloud effects, making everything look like it’s happening in an old newspaper. Getting lost in this world is easy. PC



Shadow of the Tomb Raider

The reboot/modernization of the Tomb Raider franchise is easily the best thing that could have happened to Lara Croft. The series went from a sexualize heroine plodding through increasingly stale and unimaginative plots to a trilogy about a realistic woman’s struggle to live up to her family history and survive inhuman difficulties. Shadow of the Tomb Raider completes that transformation, bringing Lara fully into her own as an adventurer. It’s the writing of the transformation in new games that’s been memorable as well, and this most recent release is no exception. Dialogue and characterization remains tight and focused in the face of more outlandish occurrences, bringing a good, believable balance to a great game. All Platforms



Boundless

Some of the best games come from someone’s love of two very different genres. In this case, No Man’s Sky and Minecraft. Obviously if you didn’t like either of those games, there isn’t going to be much in Boundless for you. But if you found the exploration and setting of No Man’s Sky engaging and the almost limitless crafting possibilities of Minecraft stimulating, then you’ll lose yourself in Boundless. There’s even PC/PS4 crossplay so you don’t have to buy a whole new platform to play with friends. PC | PS4



My Memory of Us

First off, Patrick Stewart narrates My Memory of Us. He puts on a bit of a different voice to make it so it doesn’t sound like Professor X or John Picard is telling the story, but it’s definitely him. Second off (as if you needed more reasons), the game tells a beautiful story. It’s about two friends growing up in a Jewish ghetto in Poland, though the game has a stylized take on it. The Nazis become Nazi-looking robots and Jews are referred to as red people instead. But that can also be understood through the youthful filter of the two main characters. We highly recommend this game to anyone who’s even remotely interested in atmospheric storytelling. PS4 | PC



Onrush

Team-based online battle racing is not a genre we ever thought we’d like, yet here we are talking about Onrush. It combines all the great things about online arcade shooters and battle racing, with break-neck speeds, team-based objectives, and insane powerups. It has the visceral collisions of Burnout, the team play of pretty much all online shooters, and the visuals of Team Fortress 2 or Overwatch. None of those seem like natural combinations to make, but that just proves how well Onrush pulls them off. Consoles | PC



Where the Water Tastes Like Wine

Where the Water Tastes Like Wine is easily the weirdest game to come out this year. It’s also the main one that directly challenges what we even mean by “game,” since it feels like a cross between a video game, comic book, choose-your-own-adventure book, American folktale, historical documentary, and text-based adventure, with a few more things we can’t think of right now thrown in. Figuring out exactly what this thing is will take a while, but what we can say for certain is anyone who enjoys video games with a story should pick this one up as soon as possible. PC

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