2018 was a truly great year for games and gamers thanks to amazing exclusives, ever-growing online titles and increased accessibility. As I’ve explored in my “Gaming Best Bets” throughout the year, there are a number of noteworthy games that made console and PC owners happy and constantly coming back for more.
Game(s) of the Year
Some of the biggest games of 2018 were console exclusives, meaning they could only be found on the specific platform they were built for. The Game Awards gave their Game of the Year award to action-adventure reboot/sequel God of War, released early this year for the PlayStation 4 and easily one of the best games of the year alongside fellow exclusive superhero game Marvel’s Spider-Man. While I don’t award a Game of the Year, I agree with the selection of God of War and also consider western action adventure game Red Dead Redemption 2 and mountain-climbing platformer Celeste some of the best games of the year. These two masterpieces couldn’t be more different, with Red Dead a big-studio game taking nearly a decade of development and Celeste an indie game by a small Canadian development team. What makes these two games special, along with God of War and Spider-Man are the more human traits found in the playable characters, which you’ll have to discover for yourself.
Other great games from this year include action-adventure history simulator Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, Super Nintendo-inspired turn-based JRPG Octopath Traveler, zany co-op kitchen simulator Overcooked 2 and recently released brawl-em-up Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. While many of these games are available on more than one console and PC, more exclusives ruled the roost in 2018, causing gamers to choose one (or more) gaming setups to get access to their favourite series. In 2019, look for this trend to continue with new Xbox and PC-exclusive games thanks to Microsoft game studio purchases, along with upcoming PlayStation 4 exclusive The Last of Us II and a wealth of Switch-only Nintendo series Fire Emblem, Animal Crossing, Yoshi and more.
Small Studios, Big Games
Some of my favourite games of 2018 were made by indie developers, sometimes a small group or even one person! While some of these games will catch the attention of the wider gaming public (like Celeste), many indies succeed by simply being great games. As a big fan of tactical strategy games, Into the Breach was a definite favourite in 2018, bringing turn-based gameplay to a tiny grid with lots of strategy and giant robots. Although released at the end of 2017, Nine Parchments was another indie favourite in 2018, combining co-op action with multiple magical skills in a colourful environment. Other standouts include the visually striking puzzle game Return of the Obra Dinn (reminiscent of classic Macintosh adventure games) and micro-action-RPG The Swords of Ditto (a randomly-generated Legend of Zelda homage). In 2019, indie games will continue to take centre stage alongside the bigger “AAA” titles from major studios, backed by a desire by gamers to try every experience imaginable.
Games that Keep Growing
Depending on who you ask, Fortnite is this year’s Game of the Year, just like it was last year and will be until people stop playing. The free battle royale game continues to evolve thanks to its “Season” structure, and joins other titles in what The Game Awards calls the “Ongoing Game” category. Standouts this year include Destiny 2: Forsaken, which takes the base Destiny 2 online shooter to new heights with continuous refinements; Overwatch, which offers players new heroes, weapons and tweaks to improve the team-based shooter; and personal favourite Warframe, a co-operative third-person shooter that continues to improve and grow with each new console and game mode. In 2019, expect these games to continue their dominance through eSports (Canadian teams Toronto Defiant and Vancouver Titans join the Overwatch League for the 2019 season), free-to-play access and even new contenders for the battle royale crown.
Innovation in Games
As game development becomes more complex, more developers and studios continuously strive to make their games innovative. While some attempts haven’t been so successful (see Fallout 76 and its buggy post-apocalyptic online wasteland), there have been some interesting ideas to bring in new gamers. Nintendo’s series of Labo cardboard accessories bring in a new level of tactical play, from turning a Switch into a piano to driving around a virtual world with a cardboard steering wheel. Microsoft released the Xbox Adaptive Controller, designed for gamers with disabilities, that not only allows for significant customization in the way people play, but also opens up Nintendo and Sony’s consoles to gamers with disabilities. Other innovations include Ubisoft’s Starlink: Battle for Atlas, the first new “toys-to-life” game in years, and narrative-driven mobile puzzler Florence. In 2019, more developers and hardware makers will be looking for new ways to encourage and empower people to play, and the Adaptive Controller is just the beginning.
A lot of really fantastic games came out in 2018 and I wasn’t able to mention all of them! If you’re new to gaming, then this is a great year to see what’s out there across many different genres. If you’re a lifelong gamer like me, then you can appreciate the incredible adventures offered this year and the new worlds still to come. Look for more “Gaming Best Bets” and hot takes on gaming through 2019!