The countdown continues with the second and final part of our 2018 Games Of The Year list! If you missed the first instalment, taking in numbers 20 to 11, you can check it out here. If you're all caught up, read on to see what made it into the top 10!
10) GHOST 1.0
Chris Jackson: After spending a couple of years languishing in the depths of Steam's catalogue, Ghost 1.0 caught out attention straight away when it arrived on home consoles in 2018. A sci-fi Metroidvania that doesn't take itself too seriously, your mission is to infiltrate a labyrinthine facility and take down an evil corporation.
The game's eye-catching environments will stick in your memory long after the credits roll, as will the soundtrack that still hasn't left our brains since the game's release last summer. Combat is exceptional, with all manner of weapons and upgrades at your disposal and a large variety of enemy robots to blast to smithereens.
A heck of a lot of Metroidvanias were released in 2018, but Ghost 1.0 is up there with the absolute best of them. Featuring everything you could want from the genre, plus more besides, it's an exceptionally well-crafted adventure that packs more ideas into a single area than many others manage in an entire game.
CJ: Retro-inspired 2D platformers were all the rage in 2018, with countless games looking to recreate the gameplay and aesthetics of years gone by. None managed this as successfully as Celeste, from developers Matt Makes Games and released on all major platforms back in January.
This is a pure platformer, with no combat to speak of apart from the occasional bouncing on a boss's head. It's a challenging game, demanding pixel-perfect accuracy as players guide Madeline to the summit of Celeste Mountain. Each chapter introduces new gameplay elements so the game never gets a chance to feel stale, and tons of collectables and hidden areas add value for the most determined players. Well worth a look, and it's currently available free of charge through Microsoft's Games With Gold at the time of writing, so now's your chance to test yourself!
8) IN DEATH
CJ: In an afterlife overrun by demons, only one person can restore harmony to the heavens - and that person, as you might expect - is you. The sheer quality of this roguelite VR dungeon crawler / shooter was a huge surprise when it was released in October, with satisfying bow and arrow-based combat (or crossbow, if you want to give yourself a slightly easier time), stunning locations and addictive “just one more go” gameplay.
Only two levels are currently available (plus a couple of unlockable side areas known as “Pits”), but getting to the end simply takes players back to the beginning in a loop that keeps on going until you die. Each run through the game feels different to the last thanks to the procedurally generated level structure and an achievement-based progression system that adds new enemies and powerups to the mix as you meet certain objectives. Immensely playable, and another fantastic reason to invest in a VR unit if you haven't done so already.
7) DEAD CELLS
Sean Only: Developed by Motion Twin, Dead Cells was released to all major platforms in August and almost immediately made quite an impression on the gaming community. Combining the classic Metroidvania style of games like Cave Story and Symphony Of The Night with roguelike elements including permadeath as seen in games such as Binding Of Isaac, Dead Cells treads familiar territory whilst also creating something extremely fresh and innovative.
Animation, presentation, music, sound effects and art style are all incredible, but Dead Cells really stands out from the crowd with its tight controls. The main sprite handles so well and controls are so intuitive, pulling off incredibly complex manoeuvres whilst battling a seemingly insurmountable horde of enemies almost feels like second nature after a while. Although the game can be extremely punishing, those exceptional controls always make you feel like giving it just one more go!
Stephen J Boothroyd: When it first turned out that Insomniac Games were making a PlayStation exclusive Spider-Man game, we were surprised. After all, Sony are the parent company of Sucker Punch, whose Infamous series contains some of the best superhero games around, perfect for a Spider-Man coat of paint to be lathered on. Insomniac's Spider-Man instantly shows its differences to the likes of Infamous Second Son with its focus much more on action akin to the Arkham series.
The game ditches recent Spidey games' level-like structures for an open world setting. Swinging around the city is fun and there are plenty of collectables and Easter eggs to give you reason to do so. The story is well paced and feels like it's lifted straight from the comics. It makes you understand the balance of the Spider-Man/Peter Parker life management and tells a story that will keep you hooked.
5) RED DEAD REDEMPTION 2
SJB: There was so much hype and years of build up to Red Dead 2 that it just had to be amazing to be anything other than a disappointment, and boy did it deliver. There are few game worlds that feel as alive and immersive as this one. The lands are vast, with miles of beautiful American landscapes. Animals roam the open world as do other outlaw and towns folk just going about their business. It's easily the best-looking game to date, and features a high-quality story that Hollywood would be jealous of, full of twists and turns that will keep you hooked throughout its massive campaign. Even if you’re not interested in game narratives, there's so much to do here with the games many mechanics, it feels like a dozen games in one.
4) A ROBOT NAMED FIGHT!
CJ: The last of our "officially this didn't initially come out in 2018" games, ARNF!'s Switch release in April '18 - accompanied by several huge updates throughout the rest of the year - is enough for it to qualify. Entirely made by a single person (the obscenely talented Matt Bitner), ARNF! is a roguelite Metroidvania set in a distant future where the appearance of a monstrous being known as the Megabeast threatens to destroy the world.
It's very Metroid, right down to the pixel art style, but given a modern sheen with procedurally generated levels and plenty of current-gen mechanics. ARNF! was already fantastic when it was first released, but its new lease of life on the Switch has enabled the developer to continue adding even more content. New areas, items, powerups, bosses, and even a multiplayer deathmatch mode have been generously given to players free of charge over the last few months, truly making this a must-play for fans of the genre.
3) SUPER SMASH BROS. ULTIMATE
SJB: Nintendo have made an absolutely massive game with Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. Forget about the fact that there’s over seventy characters, over a thousand spirits to collect, and numerous modes and customisation options - there’s also a 25+ hour RPG-like single player campaign to dig your teeth into. Make no mistake though, there’s been no compromise here and the gameplay is as tight as ever. It’s slightly faster than the previous game, and tons of tweaks and improvements have been made along the way.
Ultimate is not just a name, it is truly that. Pro gamers will continue to debate which Smash is the best for years to come, but for everyone else, there’s no doubt that this is it. It’s unlikely we’ll ever see a fighting game as packed with content as this one again. It's a phenomenal achievement and yet another masterpiece on the Nintendo Switch.
CJ: Wandersong follows the adventures of a bard who sings his way through his quest to halt the end of the world. We're told that this is going to happen regardless of anybody's efforts, but the bard is determined to do whatever it takes to make a difference to the lives of everybody he encounters during the final days.
The premise might sound a little heavy and serious, but Wandersong is one of those rare games that manages to put across a positive message without being too in your face and overbearing. Quirky and eccentric, incredibly charming, warm and witty, a bright and colourful papercraft art style, and inventive gameplay combine to make this a true standout title. We really can't praise it highly enough, and urge you to seek it out as soon as possible!
1) ASTRO BOT: RESCUE MISSION
CJ: Astro Bot offers a glimpse into the future of VR games in much the same way as Super Mario 64 opened our eyes to the possibilities of 3D platforming all the way back in 1996. Both games certainly share the same sense of joy and wonder too, throwing players into some delightfully unexpected situations that never fail to raise a smile (and quite often an audible “wow”).
Superbly immersive use of the DualShock controller and the PSVR headset itself, flawless gameplay (which is quite an achievement considering this type of VR game hasn't even been attempted too often before), beautifully animated visuals and a killer soundtrack make this the undisputed highlight of 2018.
Collecting coins, rescuing robots, punching bad guys' lights out and grinning uncontrollably like an absolute maniac the entire way through, it's a genuinely magical game from beginning to end. All things considered, it's by far the most fun we had with any game in 2018, and fully deserving of the top spot on our list.
And there we have it! 2018 was an absolutely tremendous year for gaming, with plenty for genre fans to get to grips with. The coming year is shaping up to be just as exciting, so perhaps in twelve months' time we'll have to go for a top 30 instead of “just” 20... Join us again next January to see how great 2019 was!