It is well into the first month of 2019 already, but before we get too far into the New Year, we here at Siliconera would like to take this opportunity to thank our readers while looking back at our favorite games of 2018.
Without further ado, here some of our favorite games of 2018:
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Happy New Year’s, Siliconera! This year marked one where I spent more time finishing off games rather than playing games actually out in 2018 (I beat Mii Plaza Slot Racers on 3DS and 7th Dragon 2020-II on PSV this year, that has to count for something!) but I do have my fair share of games to nominate for my top 5!
Runner-up: Kirby: Star Allies
This game wasn’t that good at the start, but HAL Labs’ continued support for the game made it into something special, driving up my respect for them as well as my love for the Kirby series. I haven’t touched the series since Kirby and the Amazing Mirror, but I really fell in love with the Kirby characters all over again. Bandana Dee supporter for life!
5. Disaster Report 4+
The fabled game of 2010 finally came out this year, and as a fan of the series, I couldn’t be more pleased. The series is one that is arguably hard to get into, with its inconsistent framerate and basic gameplay that isn’t really interesting system-wise, but Disaster Report 4+ does something different by focusing on the realistic side of disaster situations. I went from discovering Siliconera looking for news on this game to writing for Siliconera between its PS3 announcement to its release, so it feels like a chapter of my life ended with this game.
4. Rockman 11
Another return to form for a longstanding series, I can’t tell you how glad that Capcom’s devs decided to refresh the artstyle and gameplay of the series while keeping the classic aspects intact. I can’t imagine a Rockman game without the weapon wheel anymore. The game isn’t perfect but has an overall amazing gameplay and soundtrack, and builds a splendid platform to make new Rockman games on. Hope a game gets made using the Pachislot Rockman‘s universe next!
3. Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon
Yes, it’s another pick from Inti Creates from me, shocking. But this game gave great expectations for the main Bloodstained game by being an excellent platformer in the vein of classic Castlevania, while having great callbacks and fanservice as well. The soundtrack makes me bob my head, and there are plenty of secondary modes and secrets. At the very least, this and Smash made me pick up and play Castlevania and Super Castlevania 4 on 3DS VC, and that’s definitely a win.
2. Splatoon 2 – Octo Expansion
This isn’t a new game, but the Octo Expansion DLC may as well be one. This new singleplayer campaign blew my expectations out of the water with its variety of missions that were better-paced than Hero Mode, and an amazing final section. Oh, and don’t trust the sea cucumber. And the reward? The ability to use the cool and sassy Octolings. What more can I ask for?
1. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
It’s once a generation thing, but Super Smash Bros. Ultimate has blown my minds several times over in terms of how many options and characters it gives you. I really love the Spirit Battles that are basically event battles cranked up to 11, and while I do have some gripes with the game, like how there is no way to invite friends into online Smash in the game, the sheer content more than makes up for it. The best mode in my eyes? Squad Strike. It’s like KOF in Smash, and I love it.
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“2018 had me largely playing older titles but out of recent releases Iconoclasts in particular has been a niche highlight worth getting into. However, based on years of research, I have a platform fighting favourite as the best experience of the year.
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is a title which overwhelmed me and many others from the moment it was announced due to expecting a port (say Smash for 3DS and Wii U Deluxe) or even scaling back to a smaller character roster like many other series.
So having the whole roster from the N64 original to the upcoming Potted Plant, JoJoker and company to duke it out with has kept me, family, friends and strangers occupied. No shortcuts were taken in game balance and accessibility too as it came with plenty of clever adjustments, visual reworks and hundreds of accessible tips to help players learn even before unlocking content or getting into the game (complete with some filtering options).
Still the game does have notable casual and competitive shortcomings from battle menu selection inefficiency, buffering shenanigans and certain missing modes but it still manages to be a triumph which may recover elements with patches, DLC and other means.
My personal omission of choice is how we cannot jump on and/or chain grab hatless Goombas, a small portion of the fun of Adventure modes in the past but I could overlook this due to varied Classic and Spirit clashes and a fantastic soundtrack/stage range even if not Everything Is Here (see Board the Platforms and Coin Battle etc).
Masahiro Sakurai and the many many other contributors whose names I blasted in the credits forever have my kudos.”
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“I haven’t had a whole lot of time to play games in 2018 between work and moving homes (which is almost done, thankfully) but I did manage to make the time for a few throughout the year, one of which was Octopath Traveler.
Octopath is great in general, but in particular I enjoyed the fact that you could play as so many different characters, and they didn’t all have to tie in to each other’s stories. Keeping their stories separate made it feel as though they were only traveling together because it was convenient, and because they could resolve their individual stories with each others’ help. It felt… believable.
Of all the individual characters, Primrose was my favourite. She’s one of the best written Square Enix characters in years, and they give her story a very adult tone that very few Japanese games care to deal in, outside of a select few like Shin Megami Tensei and Persona.
Thankfully, there’s more to look forward to this year, with SaGa Scarlet Grace having been teased for release in the West, and our lord and saviour Kawazu already discussing the next SaGa game.”
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- Valkyria Chronicles 4
- Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
- Dragon Quest XI
- Tetris Effect
- Ni no Kuni II
2018 was a fantastic year for games! Especially for titles that people have been waiting for and wanting for a long time. Nothing really topped Valkyria Chronicles 4, primarily because it seemed like a game we might never get. After all, the third installment never left Japan. But here we are with a fantastic new game! It does everything right. It gives us a cast to care about. We have challenging maps, though beginners can go with an easier difficulty level. The Squad Stories give side characters more of a voice. Also, that Squad 7 DLC is pretty great.
The rest were the sorts of games where of course they were going to be good and memorable. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate and Dragon Quest XI are each these wonderful ensemble piece, though each one accomplished that in their own way. Tetris Effect is a visual and audio experience beyond compare that can give you either the most challenging or most relaxing Tetris experience of your life. As for Ni no Kuni II, well, it gave me the story, Suikoden-esque recruiting, and lovable cast I needed at exactly the right time.
These picks aren’t in any particular order – just five of my favourite games of 2018:
Yoku’s Island Express
The 2D adventure – or Metroidvania – genre of games has become tried and tested in recent years to the point where it is arguably easier than ever to write off new games for rigidly sticking to gameplay conventions of the past instead of breaking new ground.
This is part of the reason why Yoku’s Island Express is a delight – it’s a novel take on the genre, and with a strong sense of individuality to boot. You control a dung beetle rolling a ball of…probably dung. This ball is what you focus on when you move with the stick – think of it as a pinball – and its allows for a new style exploration by batting it around using pinball flippers.
This movement is augmented by a few abilities, such as a leash which lets you swing and change direction. This brings about a tangible tactile appeal to flipping a ball about a 2D space, where the speed and angle impact a multitude of nuances in control.
Combine these physics with the varied climate of its island setting, Yoku feels pretty unique most of the time. You’ll need both skill, patience, and spatial awareness to truly explore every nook and cranny of the island, and the animals inhabiting the place are a charming bunch. It’s a game that’s far from derivative – one to remember in five years.
Gal Metal may be the most interesting home rhythm/music game to be released in years. Its unconventional take on the genre requires a small learning curve – but the payoff is worth the small effort.
Unlike traditional rhythm action titles, where you have to rigidly follow a predetermined note chart for success, Gal Metal asks you to hammer out whichever drum rhythms you like. At first it’s awkward, like ad-lib: The game, but with a little practice it’s easy to uncover how the scoring system works, which encourages you to constantly try new rhythms – both those which are explicitly listed and those you think work well yourself.
This creates a dynamic whereby everything you need to succeed in a song is in *your* head, where no single performance necessarily has to be the same. S ranks can be attained in a potentially limitless number of ways – and are a great measure of how good a player you become.
Despite only playing the game on weekends I was surprised by how many rhythms I retained between play sessions. Mastering the scoring system requires a good feel for the music, allowing you to then apply new rhythms interchangeably with the ones you already know. The kooky and charming narrative is the icing on the cake. Games like this don’t come along often, and should be savoured.
TT Isle of Man: Ride on the Edge
Considering the decline in variety in racing games this console generation, 2018 was somewhat an unexpected breath of fresh air. TT Isle of Man beats OnRush for the vote, due to its rather immersive take on a relentless motorsport event.
With TT, Parisian developer Kylotonn captures the spirit of what makes this motorcycle event so enthralling in interactive form. The small island of the Isle of Man hosts fast paced motorcycle races spanning roads which probably weren’t designed for racing to begin with. Playing in first person helmet view transforms the game into an exciting, heart-in-your-mouth racing experience. The audiovisual presentation – where you hear the flapping of the wind at high speed – sits well with a hard to master handling model where your judgement of each corner and stretch of the 40 mile circuit can make the difference between staying on your bike or being flung off it.
It’s far from perfect of course – like Kylotonn’s other games the career mode is a rather predictable and grindy tour through predefined events, but TT makes up for it with plenty of racing character.
Labyrinth of Refrain: Coven of Dusk
Nippon Ichi Software has become one of my favourite publishers in recent years due to their willingness to continue experimenting in developing games for a variety of different genres. For every title with clumsy execution (Longest Five Minutes) there have been intriguing gems (Yomawari: Night Alone). Labyrinth of Refrain certainly falls into the latter category, offering many surprising twists on the established dungeon RPG genre.
Nothing in this game is as simple as it first appears – the developers constantly add new mechanics and story beats to keep things fresh and exciting. The exploration mechanics enable more complex dungeon layouts – I was particularly fond of the abilities to create a limited number of exit points and knock down walls(!). This creates the impression that the level designers expect more from you, the player.
Add to all of this a cast of main characters – and mysterious townspeople – who gradually become a lot more interesting than they first appear and I just couldn’t put the game down until after I unlocked the true ending.
SNK 40th Anniversary Collection
Including this feels a bit like cheating considering none of the games within it were originally released this year (well, Fantasy is now legally playable for the first time).
But to leave it out on those grounds would be to do a disservice to the work creative director Frank Cifaldi and the team at Digital Eclipse have done this year with this fantastic retro compilation. Not only is it highly intriguing compared with other titles of its ilk – the team chose to document SNK before the widely known NEOGEO era – but this collection is worth the price of entry for its Museum section alone.
The archived historical information, imagery and trivia is carefully and concisely presented alongside the games and greatly enriches what are relatively obscure titles – moreso considering a fair chunk of it has yet to be formally documented before. While some of the games stand up only as historical curios today, the conveniences built into the emulation – like the ability to watch an expert play and jump in whenever, a bit like watching an ace at the arcade – make it a lot easier to appreciate the work here. A must play for any enthusiast of video games, old or new.
Runner up: Alliance Alive
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Honorable Mention – For 2017 I picked Dragon Quest XI as my #1 after playing the Japanese version (/humblebrag), so I decided not to include it in my top-5 for my 2018 list, but I wanted to give it a much deserved shout out, just for its wonderful, top-notch localization.
5. Dead Cells – The roguelike-metroidvania was probably my biggest surprise of the year since I picked it up without knowing or expecting anything. What I found most pleasing was its smooth controls. You know when you pick up a game and it almost feels like you’ve played it years ago and everything just comes naturally? Yeah, kind of like that. I tend to judge action games based on how satisfying they feel, and Dead Cells hit the spot. It is exactly the kind of action game I would make if I were given the resources and had anywhere near the talent as the folks at Motion Twin.
4. Dragon Ball FighterZ – I’ve always loved Dragon Ball as a series and played each of its fighting games from the very beginning. I have fond memories of pulling off cross-ups and Meteor Attacks in Dragon Ball Z: Super Butoden which I played religiously on the Super Famicom. After being introduced to Guilty Gear I never really got into another Dragon Ball fighting game, so in a way I suppose the wheel of fate has come full circle. It’s always a [Sparking!] blast to pick up and play.
3. Octopath Traveler – I was struggling to think of where to start with Octopath Traveler, but here I am listening to its OST months after playing the game. I really enjoyed everything about its music, art style, and a story setting that took me back to the days of Final Fantasy VI. I do hope to see more titles like it from Square Enix. Heck, if they were to go with a similar direction and slap on a Final Fantasy XVI logo on it, I’d be perfectly fine with that, and I’m pretty sure I’m not alone on that.
2. Monster Hunter: World – Before getting into it, I just want to say that I love Monster Hunter and will basically eat up anything they make. For what feels like the first time in over a decade, Monster Hunter has finally taken that generational leap it’s been needing. It isn’t a perfect game by any means, but it showed a glimpse of what we can expect to see in future. Monster Hunter: World released in early 2018 for consoles, but after having played it on the PC version a few months ago it only reaffirmed my stance on the game, and I can’t wait to get reacquainted with my boy Nargacuga come this fall with the Iceborne expansion.
1. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate – I don’t know how they do it, but Masahiro Sakurai and the Smash Bros. team always find ways to go above and beyond expectations. I would’ve been fine with a simple port of Smash 4 but what we ended up getting was the most complete Super Smash Bros. game with an insane amount of content. I’m looking forward to seeing what’s next for Smash Ultimate with future updates and additional characters, but I’m also excited to see how much its competitive scene can grow thanks to a broader audience and better accessibility thanks to it being on the Switch.
Thomas “Zero Destiny”
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Dragon Quest XI
I’ll be honest with you: Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age. That’s it. That’s my favorite game the year. Anyone that has known me for any amount of time knows that Dragon Quest is one of my all time favorite game series, and after the almost 8 year gap between Dragon Quest IX on the Nintendo DS and Dragon Quest XI on the PS4 there was no way this wouldn’t be a special game to me personally. Sure we had some spin-offs in-between, and even a couple remakes and ports, but I just wanted a NEW Dragon Quest so bad, so you better believe I picked this one up as soon as I got out of work the day it was released and played this bad boy all through the night until it was time to go to work the next morning.
Dragon Quest XI is such a beautiful game that really shows the power of simplicity. In this modern gaming landscape with overly complicated crafting systems, branching dialogue trees, and intense action mechanics it’s such a nice change-of-pace to be treated to a game that at its core is still a Famicom style RPG. It also helps that the cast of characters were all so lovable, and the story just as memorable as it has always been. This was a fantastic game from start to finish, and that isn’t even going into the post-game content that will truly blow the minds of any long time fans.
Alliance Alive is a game I got at release and put right on my 3DS shelf with no real plan to ever get around to playing. Sadly I think I am not alone in that either; it’s tough out there for a 3DS game in a post-Nintendo Switch world, especially tough for Alliance Alive who had to compete with the much more heavily marketed Octopath Traveler. 2018 saw not one but two games inspired by Square Enix’s old SaGa series, and while I enjoyed what I got to play of Octopath I think Alliance Alive really edges it out for me as the better of the two.
Confession: I am a Bravely Default apologist, I think there is nothing wrong with that game at all, even the controversial padding at the end that nobody seems to like–so imagine my surprise seeing one last 3D RPG on the console in a similar vein to Bravely. I know that game play wise both are a very different beast, with Bravely being more an homage to Square’s older Final Fantasy and Alliance Alive more of FuRyu’s attempt to create their own SaGa, but despite this I find it hard not to compare the two. They both just satisfy some old school JRPG itch deep down in me in such similar ways, and it feels like as the life cycle of the 3DS was winding down this year that Alliance Alive was a swan song of all the great games before it that I got to play on the console. Picking this game up again before 2018 was over has been one of the best decisions I made.
Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana
I know what you’re thinking, Ys VIII came out last year, you doofus! Well you are correct, but the initial North American and European release of Ys VIII was a rocky one fraught with criticism and for a lack of a better word: controversies. Amidst all this drama NISA promised to retranslate the game as well as release a Nintendo Switch port which just so happened to finally come out this year, making it–sort of–a 2018 game too. But let’s put all that aside for now, because really I just want to talk about how much fun this game was! I kind of wish I played it back in 2017 instead of waiting this long to get around to it, but well, you know.
At first Ys VIII sort of threw me for a loop, as one of my favorite things in the Ys series has always been all the cool landscapes and ruins Adol can explore, and learning everything about the native culture and people there, so having a game set entirely on a deserted island felt like a misstep, but boy was I wrong. The Island of Seiren holds some of the best looking action set pieces in the series, and the village building mechanic was so much fun. Finding all the NPCs and getting to know them really gave Ys VIII a unique charm compared to other entries in the series and suffice to say all the characters were excellent. Uncovering the dark secret of the island and its now lost people had me engrossed pretty much the entire way through. There’s a lot more going on here than what you initially are lead to believe. By the end of the game I was sad to finally leave the Island of Seiren, but Adol Christian can never stay in one place for too long!
Also bonus points because there’s a scene where Dogi literally punches a dinosaur with his bare hands and wins the fight.
Pokémon: Let’s Go, Pikachu!
I never played Pokémon Go, the closest I ever got to the game was trying to see what all the hype was about, installing Go on my phone, using it once, and finding the whole process stupid then deleting the app. I did not have any real interest in Pokémon Let’s Go, and pretty much ignored everything about it after the initial reveal. And yet somehow here I was buying the game when it came out (I have my brother the Pokémon Go fanatic to thank for that). So I gave Let’s Go a whirl, and soon enough I was having… what’s that word again? Ah, yes, fun. Somehow I was having fun. It’s weird, but the Go mechanic of throwing Poké Balls is actually kind of addicting when it’s not tied to microtransactions. Catching Pokémon hasn’t been this fun for me in probably a decade, and I know I just lost the respect of some people for saying that but I dunno, I was having a blast chucking these balls. I haven’t tried to complete a Pokédex in ages, but that rush to catch ‘em all came back to me in Let’s Go.
And that has nothing on all the other quality of life improvements from previous games like getting rid of random encounters so you can finally see pick what Pokémon you want to catch instead of just engaging in a string of Pidgey random encounters for hours on end. I seriously hope Game Freak implements this into their next main Pokémon game.
Jake Hunter Detective Story: Ghost of the Dusk
Jake Hunter is back after not appearing on American shores for almost 9 years, and oh boy am I ever glad to see him. For the uninitiated, Jake Hunter, or Jinguji Saburo as it is known in Japanese, is one of the longest running Adventure game series that you have probably never heard of. The series started back in 1987 on the Famicom Disk System, and has gone through multiple publishers and even multiple developers since then, but has still managed to stay just as relevant as it ever was over its 30+ year run.
At the core of what makes Jake Hunter is how much it adheres to the classic hardboiled detective narrative. You won’t find the typical “anime” kind of story in the series, there are no psychic powers, no hidden conspiracies, nobody is being forced to play a death game–no this is just a noir style of story plain and simple. This down-to-earth aspect is what sets it apart from a lot of other games–it’s a series that works best with a glass of bourbon and some smooth jazz vinyl. I really miss games like these and whenever I play an entry in the Jake Hunter series it reminds me of a lot of old point-n-click Detective PC games that we really don’t see enough of anymore.
Here’s to a great 2019,
and glory to mankind!
Tell us about your favorite games of 2018 or about some of the 2019 games you’re looking forward to in the comments!