With 2018 coming to a close and Christmas just around the corner, most game companies have taken the next few weeks off, well, except people releasing games for the Switch. There are something like 40 games coming out in the eShop between now and the first week of January, but I won’t be covering those, sorry.
Instead, I will be giving you a buyer’s guide for each month, with my top picks for each month in BOLD. What were the best games to come out; which ones sucked, and which ones flew under the radar and deserve your attention? I had originally planned for this to be the entire year, but I realized rather quickly that this was going to be a long one, so in the interest of keeping your attention I will be splitting this into two parts, January-June and July-December. Get your pencils ready folks, the games are coming and you better take notes.
Best – Celeste (PC/PS4/Switch/Xbox One), Dragon Ball FighterZ (PC/PS4/Switch/Xbox One), Monster Hunter World (PC/PS4/XboxOne)
Avoid – Dissidia Final Fantasy NT (PS4)
Hidden Gem – Lost Sphear (PC/PS4/Switch)
January started off strong with one of my top games of the year, the retro platforming game Celeste. The game took the formula of Super Meat Boy and added an engaging story about coping with mental health and overcoming your insecurities by climbing an impossible mountain. The game also receives high points for its stellar soundtrack, with some of the most beautiful chiptune music since Fez.
If brutally hard indie platformers aren’t your thing then we also have a couple of great AAA titles for you. Dragon Ball FighterZ is the best game in the series, probably ever, with a large cast of characters, beautiful graphics and an engaging fighting system. Monster Hunter World was an evolution for the long running series, giving it a more solid open-world setting than previous entries, and adding tons of quality of life improvements to the game, making it not just the best-selling Monster Hunter games of all time, but the best-selling game that Capcom has ever released.
The biggest dud this month was the frustratingly bad Dissidia Final Fantasy NT. Despite having some of the best looking graphics of the year (fight me), the game is all flash and no substance. The single player mode is locked behind a challenge wall, requiring you to continually play the game in various online modes just to gain currency to unlock the next event, and with a major focus on eSports, the game matches no longer feel personal, but more like a spectator sport, giving the whole thing a bad vibe in my opinion. On the other side, if you want a deep single player experience from Square Enix, one that actually feels rich and personal, then check out Lost Sphear, Tokyo RPG Factory’s follow up to their debut title I Am Setsuna.
Best – Bayonetta 1 & 2 (Switch), Into The Breach (PC/Switch), Shadow of the Colossus (PS4)
Avoid – Dynasty Warriors 9 (PC/PS4/Xbox One)
Hidden Gem – Under Night In-Birth Exe: Late[St] (PC/PS3/PS4/PS Vita)
February brought us the start of many great ports/re-makes for 2018, with the release of the masterpiece Shadow of the Colossus. This was my first time playing the game and I have to say, I missed out the first time around. This was one of the most chillingly brutal and haunting games I’ve ever played; with tragedy and despair being given out as equally as triumph and hope. The scale of the ancient beasts that you must kill are enormous, and a true testament to your characters desire to see his love be brought back to life. I don’t think I’ve had a more harrowing experience playing a game this year than I did with Shadow of the Colossus, and if it wasn’t a re-make I would have easily placed this game at the very top of my list of best games of the year.
That isn’t to say nothing else great came out this month, another fantastic port arrived on the Switch in Bayonetta 1 & 2, bringing the Wii U versions to Nintendo’s latest money printing machine, and we also got another one of my favorite games of the year, Into The Breach. This alien smashing, tactics game is from the creators of FTL, and if you’re familiar with that game then you know that Into The Breach is not going to be a walk in the park. You must use your giant robot army to keep a planet safe as you move through procedurally generated islands, killing aliens and collecting items. If you lose, you travel back in time and start all over again, trying to get just a little bit farther each time. A Switch port came out a few months ago in a surprise announcement, a true treat for all you Nintendo fans out there.
This month saw a big turd get dropped on us. After the initial hype of an open-world game, Dynasty Warriors 9 was one of my more anticipated games of the year. I paid $60 bucks for it, got it on launch day, fired it up, and after an hour I turned it off and never played it again. It was a buggy, horrible mess with none of the charm or fun of any of the previous games. Do yourself a big favor and AVOID THIS AT ALL COSTS (in fact, just get the superior Spirit of Sanada that came out in 2017). To cleanse our palate, let’s check out yet ANOTHER re-make/port with the wonderful Under Night In-Birth Exe: Late[St], a game that has seen its third (forth?) release, making this the definitive version (for now). Tons of characters, great pixel anime graphics, and a surprisingly engaging story mode, this is a game I will happily turn on and play anytime someone asks for it.
Best – Detective Pikachu (3DS), Kirby: Star Allies (Switch), Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom (PC/PS4)
Avoid – Far Cry 5 (PC/PS4/Xbox One)
Hidden Gem – A Way Out (PC/PS4/Xbox One)
Nintendo’s first big (new) Switch release for 2018 came in March with the release of Kirby: Star Allies. As with most Kirby games, this starts out incredibly easy to play, and then ramps up the difficult tenfold by the end. That isn’t to say it’s boring in the beginning, quite the opposite in fact. While you can easily just get to the end of every stage, there are side routes you can take to try and find puzzle pieces that you use to unlock artwork (yeah, it sounds lame when I write it down, but trust me, it’s awesome). This game has been supported all year with new characters added to your roster of friends, and well as new levels and challenges.
Another big Nintendo game, Detective Pikachu, came out this month for the somehow still relevant 3DS. As a spin-off of Pokemon, the game steps away from the RPG elements of the main games and goes into adventure game territory, with you and Pikachu working together to uncover clues to about your missing father. They are making this into a movie starring Ryan Reynolds, so that’s cool. In other Japanese game news, Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom came out and looked pretty, but was ultimately a bit hollow. It’s still better than another game that came out this month.
Far Cry 5 sucks. Yeah, it’s kind of fun shooting cultists and hunting animals, but the game has little to no substance. In true Ubisoft fashion, you are given a massive open-world to play in, with the same 4 things to do. Don’t worry though, you can unlock more of the map, and do the same 4 things there too, but like, the enemies looks slightly different. A sequel comes out in 2019, because people like terrible things. Still, if you’re an action fan you gotta play something, right? Well how about EA’s wonderful little prison escape game A Way Out. Using a split screen, two players must work together to stay alive and try to escape from prison. Much more intimate and story driven, this is a game that is probably 100 times smaller in size than Far Cry 5, but it’s 100 times bigger in heart.
Best – Frostpunk (PC), God of War (PS4), Yakuza 6 (PS4)
Avoid – Penny-Punching Princess (PS Vita/Switch)
Hidden Gem – Earth Defense Force 4.1: Wingdiver The Shooter (PC)
Kazuma Kiryu’s last adventure was a poignant, tear-filled send off; plus it has tons of wacky shit to do. Yakuza 6 found our man Kiryu trying to find out why his adopted niece Haruka was run down in the street, holding a…BABY?! That’s right, our little Haruka is all grown up and has a son, Haruto, whom she shielded from an oncoming car, putting her in critical condition. The game is full of all the stuff that makes a Yakuza story a Yakuza story, from crazy plot twists, hidden identities/roles, and maybe the biggest (literally) secret to ever appear in the series. Plus you can still sing karaoke.
Another PS4 exclusive came out this month, one that I have sadly not had much time to spend with, God of War. This won Game of the Year at the 2018 Game Awards, upsetting favorite Red Dead Redemption 2, and from what I’ve heard from many is that, while it’s an upset, it’s still worthy of the award (Shakespeare In Love this is not). Cory Barlog and his team put together a stunning game that re-invented Kratos and gave the normally blood & guts bro-down series a much needed kick in the pants to make it more mature and grown-up. What was I playing instead? Well, aside from Yakuza 6, I was also playing the fantastic strategy game Frostpunk, one of this year’s best PC exclusive games. Mixing elements of SimCity and Civilization, this game tasks you with being the leader of a group of survivors in a completely snow covered England, as you try and build a colony for your people. To survive you must make hard choices about who lives and who dies, who works and who rests, all leading to in-fighting, bickering, and eventually mutiny if you aren’t careful.
I had a hard time finding a game to avoid, but if there’s one that I thought was disappointing, it was Penny-Punching Princess. A game with a novel concept, using money to pay off monsters if you didn’t feel like fighting them, that just got too grind-y and way, WAY, too repetitive. Couple that with bland graphics and textures and you have a bit of a dud. Pick this up as cheap as possible. If you want something that flew under the radar, then I suggest the Earth Defense Force spin-off Wingdiver The Shooter. Taking place during the events of EDF 4.1, you pilot a ship through several stages, killing massive hordes of giant bugs. Huge boss fights and ridiculous voice acting make this shoot-em up a must have for SHMUP fans.
Best – Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon (3DS/PC/PS4/PS Vita/Switch/Xbox One), Dark Souls Remastered (PC/PS4/Switch/Xbox One), Detroit: Become Human (PS4), Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze (Switch), Hyrule Warriors: Definitive Edition (Switch)
Avoid – Agony (PC)
Hidden Gem – Space Hulk: Deathwing – Enhanced Edition (PC/PS4)
Koji Igarashi, better known as Iga, is most well-known for working on the Castlevania series, starting with the masterpiece Symphony of the Night, all the way to Harmony of Despair. His latest title, Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night, is slated for a 2019 release, but as an appetizer he released a smaller title called Curse of the Moon. A brilliant homage to the NES Castlevania games, you play as multiple protagonists, fighting your way through brutally tough levels to fight even more brutal bosses.
May also saw the release of another auteur’s game, David Cage’s Detroit: Become Human, a futuristic sci-fi parable about robots as they learn to adapt to society and perhaps overtake it. I haven’t played it, but the game looks gorgeous and is one of the best-selling PS4 games of 2018. The re-make/port train continued, with two more Wii U transplants (DKC: Tropical Freeze and Hyrule Warriors) coming to the Switch, and of course we can’t forget Dark Souls Remastered. You probably put in 100 hours on the Xbox 360 version, but what’s another 100 hours on the PS4?
What should you stay away from? How about the terrible, edge lord bullshit Agony. Taking place in Hell, you must make your way through the darkest mazes of a teenage Marilyn Manson fan’s imagination, killing demons and shit. Bro, you can also check out hot naked chicks who you’ll want to fuck, but, like, they’ll kill you. It’s a terrible game folks, just pass on it. If you want gritty bullshit then stick to Space Hulk: Deathwing – Enhanced Edition, yet ANOTHER re-make/port. You control a squad of Space Marines, a Librarian and two Terminators if you’re familiar with the 40K universe, as you travel through a Space Hulk (a giant ship) looking for ancient artifacts and killing Genestealers, a race of mutant aliens that make the Xenomorph’s look like kitty cats. While the game can be brutal and unforgiving, the rewards are going to be a tremendous experience that you’ll be thinking about long after you’ve gone to sleep.
Best – BlazBlue Cross Tag Battle (PC/PS4/Switch), Hollow Knight (PC/PS4/Switch/Xbox One), Mario Tennis Aces (Switch), Nier: Automata Become as Gods Edition (PC/PS4/Xbox One), Vampyr (PC/PS4/Xbox One)
Avoid – Super Bomberman R (PC/PS4/Switch/Xbox One)
Hidden Gem – Sushi Striker: The Way of Sushido (3DS/Switch)
The next big new release from Nintendo in 2018 came in June with the “sports” title Mario Tennis Aces. What looked like a deceptively simple tennis game turned out to be something much more intense; focusing more on crazy special attacks rather than pure tennis skill alone. The game also came with a single player mode that I found to be incredibly challenging, and frustrating, leading to many afternoons of me screaming “FUCK YOU!!” at my television set. I’m sure my neighbors think I’m a swell guy. Like Kirby: Star Allies, Nintendo has supported this game for several months with new characters for you to use.
In June we also got two great new titles, and two fantastic ports. BlazBlue Cross Tag Battle was a crossover fighting game featuring characters from Under Night In-Birth, BlazBlue, Persona 4, and RWBY, with a totally convoluted anime story to go along with it. Great fun and a robust online battle system kept this one in my Switch for several weeks. Vampyr was a story driven adventure game about a vampire from the creators of Life is Strange. I didn’t get to play this title, but I’ve heard mostly good things about it, expect it to be one of those free titles they give out every month on Xbox Live Gold or PS+. The two ports, Hollow Knight and Nier: Automata, both dropped around the same time, but it was Hollow Knight that seemed to be the cultural phenomenon. There wasn’t a Weekly Games Thread that went by for at least 3 or 4 months where someone wasn’t talking about playing this game. It may have originally released in 2017, but that Switch port felt like its true debut, catapulting the game into video game history.
I feel bad telling people to avoid a Bomberman game, but Super Bomberman R was a total let down. Originally released as a launch title for the Switch, it was ported to the PC, PS4 and Xbox One in June to let down a whole bunch of other people. A bland single player mode and uninspired multiplayer arenas made this one to skip. What you should be playing instead is the excellent puzzle game Sushi Striker: The Way of Sushido, a Nintendo exclusive that pulled double duty by coming out on both the 3DS and the Switch. A surprisingly deep and exhilarating experience, I would recommend this to anyone who loves puzzle games.
All right folks, six months down, another six to go. I’ll see you here tomorrow for part 2!