To conclude our annual award ceremony, which recognizes the year’s biggest winners across dozens of different categories, we’ve finally arrived at the best of the best. Voted on by our editors, these six titles are the best games of 2018, our games of the year. Starting with a few honorable mentions and runner-ups, we eventually arrive at our overall Game of the Year for 2018.
Note: This article does not contain any explicit spoilers, but in some entries, they do mention some elements of the plot when relevant that someone that wanted a completely blind experience may want to avoid. We suggest skimming over any section that you want to remain totally blind on.
Game of the Year 2018
Honorable Mention: Celeste
Reviews Editor Zhiqing Wan: Amidst the heavy hitters like Red Dead Redemption 2 and Spider-Man that released this year, Celeste has snuck its way into the GOTY conversation as an indie gem that manages to be just as emotionally powerful and provocative as those major AAA titles.
Developed by Matt Makes Games, Celeste’s simple story about young Madeline attempting to conquer a mountain is one that will likely resonate with the vast majority of players. Coupled with the hellish precision platforming gameplay, Celeste feels like an absolute struggle every step of the way.
You’ll die thousands of times over, and each time, the game loads you straight back into the action instantaneously, tempting you, urging you forward. You’ll keep beating your head against the wall, slowly adjusting your jumps bit by bit each time, until you finally hit that air dash button just right and clear the obstacles.
Celeste is a game about perseverance and believing that you have it in you to do the impossible. As cheesy as that might sound, Celeste is so beautifully earnest in the way it strives to get that message across.
This is a game that deals with everyday issues like anxiety and panic attacks in a way that’s both tasteful and encouraging.
I don’t particularly enjoy platformers myself, but I found myself wanting to push through to the end anyway. Through sheer force of will, I finally brought Madeline to the top of the mountain and reaching that ending was probably one of the most rewarding moments I’d ever experienced in a video game.
Much like the mystical mountain itself, Celeste is a very special game where every element, from its music to gameplay and writing, just come together in the best way possible.
Game of the Year 2018
Honorable Mention: Octopath Traveler
Editor-in-Chief Ed McGlone: Octopath Traveler did so many things right. It featured gorgeous “HD” SNES-like sprites that made it stand out perhaps more than any big-budget game this year. It had a soundtrack that was the best this year in a crowded field, and although it wasn’t its strongest quality, it did have an enjoyable enough story with fascinating lore. Without a doubt too it was among the best Nintendo exclusives, which is saying something considering the quality of the Switch’s line-up year after year so far.
What I will remember most about Octopath Traveler this year, though, is how Square Enix and Acquire took what was arguably the most tired and to some, least-enjoyable aspect of JRPGs –combat– and turned it into the game’s strength. By far the best part of playing Octopath Traveler is battling.
Octopath Traveler is the only JRPG I have ever played where I actually enjoyed getting into random battles. I can just turn the game on and do some meaningless battles against trash enemies and can say with a straight face that I’m having a good time.
The combat is fast-paced, strategic and rewards efficiency. Once you’re comfortable with each character’s strengths and weaknesses, you’ll feel like a genius as you discover new and creative ways for rapidly demolishing monsters.
You also have so much freedom for customizing and micro-managing your party, mixing together different class abilities to your liking. For random battles, it’s another fun way to slam dunk on everything in your path. For the boss battles though, it’s a necessity.
The game lets you have your fun until the boss battles come around, and then the script is flipped on you. You’ll be fighting for your life in epic 10-20 minute long struggles that will test all of your knowledge of the game’s BP system and strategies.
I could go on and on raving about everything Octopath Traveler gets so right, and while others might have looked towards some other strong contenders in the JRPG genre in 2018, the general consensus here at Twinfinite is that Octopath Traveler reigned supreme. More than just standing tall amongst its rivals, though, it was one of the best games of any genre this year.
Game of the Year 2018
Honorable Mention: God of War
Features Editor Alex Gibson: God of War returned to PlayStation in spectacular fashion this year. After a trilogy of games spanning two consoles, the series’ big debut on PS4 marked a completely different approach to both gameplay and narrative.
From its new setting and mythology to the more intimate camera perspective and the addition of RPG mechanics, Kratos’ latest adventure was a big change of pace, and one we’re glad of.
It’s God of War made modern, throwing away dated features for something that feels contemporary and slick. The new, weighty combat is, of course, the most obvious revision, switching out the arcade-like hack-and-slash action for something akin to a pacey Souls-like experience. But it’s actually the new emphasis on story and characters that really make this God of War game stand apart.
The Kratos of old never had much of a personality beyond shouting maniacally. He had one volume, loud; he had one mood, apoplectic. But that’s all been changed. Kratos is a more mature and reserved this time around, and he’s actually got something to say other than the names of the people he’s about to decapitate.
The bond between Kratos and his son Atreus forms the crux of the entire story, which is a heartfelt and often poignant narrative that showcases a different side to our bearded demi-God protagonist. It’s nothing groundbreaking or particularly special if you ask me, but it’s certainly the most compelling tales in the series and pushes God of War in a direction that I’m excited to see more of.
Overall, God of War is an outstanding AAA video game experience that manages to do everything very well. The production value, gameplay, and story are everything you’d want from one of Sony’s premier studios, and it paves the way for a bright future for the franchise moving forward.
Game of the Year 2018
Second Runner-up: Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
Senior Editor Hayes Madsen: When you think of party games one of the first things that spring to mind is Super Smash Bros. The series has long been the centerpiece of Nintendo’s multiplayer catalog, and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate feels like a fitting homage to all that’s come before.
Every character ever featured in Smash returns for Ultimate, along with some phenomenally fun new characters like Ridley from Metroid, Simon from Castlevania, and the Inkling from Splatoon. On top of this, however, small meaningful changes have been made across the board to the general combat system and nearly every character’s moveset.
This ambitious scope applies to every facet of the game, from the lengthy Adventure Mode to the myriad of different options you have for basic Smash battles. One of the bigger additions to Ultimate comes with Spirits, sprite-like characters that can be equipped on fighters to add special effects and boost stats.
There are over 1000 Spirits in the game, and the majority of these bring a unique Spirit Battle into the mix that really mixes up rulesets and gameplay. This adds a staggering amount of playtime and variety into the single player game, which is already bursting at the seams.
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is one of the most ambitious games Nintendo has ever made, and it succeeds on almost every level. It’s a nostalgic nod to the history of video games, and the perfect way to send off the Switch’s second year.
Game of the Year 2018
First Runner-up: Marvel’s Spider-Man
Guides Editor Chris Jecks: Looking back at 2018’s releases, there are few games that I enjoyed quite as much as I did Marvel’s Spider-Man. Truth be told, we haven’t had a truly exceptional AAA superhero title for quite some time, but Insomniac Games’ expertise in making world traversal just as enjoyable as the combat and action itself has helped cement Spider-Man as not just one of 2018’s best games, but one of the PS4’s finest games to-date.
Marvel’s Spider-Man looks at not just the friendly neighborhood superhero we all know and love, but it puts Peter Parker himself under the magnifying glass, giving players a glimpse at what makes him tick; what drives him to be the hero that Manhattan so desperately needs to tackle its crime. Though these tended not to be quite as enthralling as swinging around the city in the suit itself, it provided some additional depth to the characters and gave the story that ‘blockbuster superhero movie’ feel.
Spider-Man shines its brightest when you’re in the suit, swinging from building to building with the bustling streets below you. Suddenly, a radio call comes through that a robbery is taking place in a nearby neighborhood. So off you fly, effortlessly gliding through the air before plummeting down into the chaos below, the world blurring into a mix of colors as you descend.
The combat certainly feels similar to that found in the Batman Arkham series, albeit with a slight twist to help distinguish itself as Spidey’s set of web attacks and acrobatic, off-the-wall moves. Toss in a veritable feast of gadgets and unlockable skills to help tailor Spidey to your playstyle and you’ve got an arsenal that provides a plethora of ways to take on any single fight.
Top all of this off with a story that actually feels like it could belong on the big screen, a generous smattering of side activities and collectibles, and references left, right, and center that fans are sure to give a knowing smile at and you’ve got a recipe for greatness.
But it’s the aforementioned perfect traversal that manages to permeate its way into every facet of Spider-Man’s design. Combat feels fluid and fast-paced. Taking on the multitude of challenges and side missions? A veritable treat, even the fetch quests!
Hell, even hunting collectibles doesn’t feel like a chore, because is there really a more enjoyable way of hunting these trinkets down than doing backflips 100ft in the air over a busy Manhattan street or vaulting yourself halfway across a neighborhood with a well-timed Point Launch? We rest our case.
I had a feeling that Insomniac Games would knock a Spidey game out the park, and they didn’t just do that, they knocked it out the stratosphere. I can only hope that there’s a sequel on the way, because it’d be a crying shame if that’s all there was to this new story on a classic comic book character.
Twinfinite’s Game of the Year 2018
Winner: Red Dead Redemption 2
Editor-in-Chief Ed McGlone: Sometimes the year’s best game is one that just plays exceptionally well, other times it’s because they do something truly special that pushes the medium forward beyond just the way they play.
Last year’s Game of the Year for Twinfinite, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, for example, was an absolutely magnificent gameplay experience, but not one that likely made waves outside the video game industry. 2018’s Game of the Year, however, is a different story.
The things that it did do well though set new benchmarks that might not be surpassed until the next Red Dead game.
For starters, Red Dead Redemption 2’s campaign is one of the best westerns I’ve experienced across any medium. I found Dutch’s demise heartbreaking. I knew how the story would end, as anyone who played the first game would, but I still wanted so badly for Arthur, Dutch, and the gang to end up as mango farmers somewhere in the Pacific.
Although Dutch turned out to be cowardly, murderous villain, his desperate struggle to cling onto any sliver of free land he could find struck a nerve with me.
The United States was founded on principles centered around liberty and minimal government intervention, to allow citizens to harmoniously with the land and all of its vast riches. That was the idea anyway. It was a hopelessly romantic and idealistic one, perhaps, but it sounds really nice on paper, especially to me, an 80s kid born in New York that has never experienced a life anything even close to that.
As it transpired, it wasn’t a notion that worked in practice. Slowly but surely, laws have encroached on our freedoms, both to protect the land and protect people from each other.
Arthur and the Dutch van der Linde gang are living at the apex of this transition, a time that marked the end of romantic ideals and the start of governmental control. They’re somewhat in denial of these changes and they become increasingly desperate and resentful of them.
What’s especially compelling is how their anguish created conflict within me as a player. I know perfectly well that law and society can’t exist with marauding gangs such as Dutches roaming around the west, but I’m also invested in their happiness and their dream of freedom, even if it is misguided.
As their fantasy begins to crumble around them, things get very dark, and then suddenly implode spectacularly. We get to see the various personalities of the gang shine through at this all unfolds. In these moments, Red Dead Redemption 2’s characters are so frightening relatable; their plight suddenly mirrors the downfall of situations we see even in our own modern society.
When the going gets tough, some people are like Arthur and rise to the occasion — they do the right thing. Others are like Dutch, unable to cope with stresses that trigger their true qualities, selfishness, and narcissism. And then there are people like Micah, plain old scumbags that motivated by nothing by personal gain and greed.
It’s easy to get carried away recapping Red Dead Redemption 2’s narrative qualities. It’s just an absolute triumph of storytelling and writing. Clearly, though, I wasn’t the only one wrapped up by it. The writing, level of immersion, voice-acting, and setting all come together in Red Dead Redemption 2 in a way that puts it in rarefied air. Among the best of this generation, and of all-time.
Sure, there are other games this year that perhaps are more balanced in their strengths. But the fact that Red Dead Redemption 2 is able to elevate itself above the pack in spite of its glaring deficiencies speaks volumes to just how impactful its most impressive qualities are.
The Twinfinite editorial crew is confident that when we look back at 2018 years from now, we’ll still remember Red Dead Redemption 2 as the most important and best game of 2018 and entirely worthy of our 2018 Game of the Year award.
Congratulations to Red Dead Redemption 2 team for winning Twinfinite’s 2018 Game of the Year!