The 30 Best Videogames of 2018

Games Lists Best of 2018
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10. Deltarune
Platform: PC

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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

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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

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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 

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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

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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, Switch, PC, Mac, Linux

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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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