Features | Written by Chris Jackson, Stephen J Boothroyd, Sean Only 02/01/2019

STARBURST’S TOP 20 GAMES OF 2018 – PART 1

2018 was an incredible year for videogames - possibly one of the best of the decade so far. While a fair few AAA games fell a little short, some of the big names did manage to live up to expectations, and there were even a couple of surprise hits from some unexpected corners of the gaming world. An amazing amount of high quality indie games proved that you don't need a multi-million dollar budget to create something fun and exciting, and a welcome price drop for Virtual Reality headsets lead to the realisation for many players that VR is much more than just a gimmick... So here's the first part of our top 20 games of 2018, featuring numbers 20 to 11. Part 2 follows shortly!

20) NINE PARCHMENTS

Sean Only: Nine Parchments is an action RPG released in late 2017/early 2018 (so it counts!) for all platforms by Frozenbyte. Taking cues from classic team-based top-down RPGs such as the Diablo series and Marvel Ultimate Alliance, Nine Parchments focuses predominantly on the magic side of combat, largely eschewing the hack and slash style often associated with these games.

Set in a rich fantasy world with extremely colourful and lush environments, Nine Parchments offers an awful lot of eye candy. Most of the characters are somewhat cartoonish, and comedy is often the order of the day as there is a lot of humour in the story and the whole presentation in general.

We feel there has been a distinct lack of quality action RPGs in recent times, and Nine Parchments more than fills the gap in the market while we eagerly anticipate Diablo 4. Easily some of the best couch co-op action of the year.

19) OVERCOOKED 2

Stephen J. Boothroyd: Overcooked put relationships and friendships to the test more than Monopoly ever dreamed of, and the sequel does it all again but even better.

Not much has changed since the original - the gameplay has just been tweaked slightly, with the addition of being able to throw uncooked items to other players. This small difference allows for completely new concepts in the level design, which is as tricky as ever but now forces you to overcome challenges such as a complete level redesign halfway through a level as the hot air balloon you’ve been working on crashes to the ground.

It’s a simple game, and a simple concept. You make orders for customers. However, Overcooked's use of cooperation between players makes for absolute chaos that will leave you screaming at each other, saying thing you’ll regret, and no longer on speaking term with one another. What more could you want?

18) SHIKHONDO: SOUL EATER

SO: Released in August on Switch, Xbox One, PS4 and PC by Digerati, Shikhondo: Soul Eater is a “bullet hell” style vertically scrolling shmup in a similar vein to Cave / Psikyo’s classic arcade shooters. What makes Shikhondo stand out is its striking art style (reminiscent of hand drawn oil paintings) and shocking, Korean horror-inspired boss battles - some of which are borderline terrifying!

Of course, all of this wouldn’t amount to very much if the gameplay wasn’t there, but thankfully S:SE delivers in that department too. In order to rake up mass amounts of points and also despatch the multitude of enemies a bit easier, players must fill up their soul gauge for a variety of special attacks. The best way to do this is to guide your ship as close to the obscene amount of bullets as possible without getting hit.

All in all, Shikhondo delivers all the adrenalised thrills that you could want from a shmup, and then some.

17) TETRIS EFFECT

Chris Jackson: Spending six long years in development, Rez and Lumines producer Tetsuya Mizuguchi's music-based version of Tetris finally saw the light of day in November 2018.

It's still very much “just Tetris”, but each stage has its own unique background animations and music, both of which combine to elevate the game way beyond any preconceptions. The soundtrack is especially stunning, with notes being added to the music each time Tetrominoes are rotated or dropped into place and lines are cleared. You'll definitely want headphones for this one.

A few different game modes are included, all of which are worth trying out, and VR compatibility places you right in front of a skyscraper-sized Tetris grid that - with the aforementioned visuals and soundtrack caressing your eyes and ears - needs to be experienced by as many people as possible.

Tetris Effect review

16) INTO THE BREACH

SJB: A roguelike turn-based strategy game seems like something that shouldn’t work, but Subset Games (the creators of FTL) pulled it off marvellously with Into The Breach. Labelled as “X-Com meets chess”, it’s a game that relies on you staying two steps ahead of the AI, and its roguelike nature means that the slightest loss can be crippling going forward and defeat feels astonishingly punishing.

Upgrades, challenges and new units keep the game interesting, and its difficult later levels kept us coming back for more. Even months later, it’s a great game to come back to, to give your brain a bit of stimulation.

Initially released on PC, it plays brilliantly into the strengths of the Switch’s handheld capabilities with its short levels and pick up and play nature. It’s a simplistic game with a lot of depth and a truly addictive personality that makes it a welcome addition to the Switch's library.

Into The Breach review

15) THE PERSISTENCE

CJ: A close runner-up to Resident Evil 7 in the spooky virtual reality stakes, The Persistence is a PSVR-exclusive sci-fi survival horror from Liverpool's Firesprite Studios.

Set on board an abandoned spaceship where something terrible has happened (no spoilers), your first few hours are likely to be spent getting the hang of the game's mechanics and upgrading your character, but when you reach a point where you finally feel strong enough to take on anything the game throws at you, The Persistence really comes into its own. Roguelike elements mean that each playthrough is different to the last, but permanent upgrades ensure you're always getting stronger every time you die.

The VR integration is pretty much as good as it gets, almost making you feel like you're living on a spaceship rather than playing a game. Quite simply, The Persistence is one of 2018's very best VR games.

14) MEGATON RAINFALL

CJ: We're slightly cheating with this one, as it was first released for PS4/PSVR and PC back in 2017... but we reckon its arrival on the Switch and Xbox One in 2018 - along with Oculus and PCVR support - is enough to justify its inclusion!

Playing as a character known as The Offspring, it's your job to save the world from an army of alien invaders. Equipped with an array of powerful attacks that would make even the greatest superhero envious, soaring up through the clouds to zip across to the either side of the world in a matter of seconds before swooping back down to confront the bad guys is always an absolute blast.

It might not be the best looking game on the list, but it's one of the most fun non-superhero superhero games we've ever played. Completely playable on regular consoles, the addition of VR takes it to a whole other level - as long as your stomach is strong enough to cope with the insanity...

Megaton Rainfall review

13) THE MESSENGER

CJ: Released in August for PC and Nintendo Switch, The Messenger is an action platformer that takes many of its cues from the original Ninja Gaiden games. Tight and addictive gameplay propel the player through a fairly linear adventure, until you beat what you assume is the final boss and you realise you're not even halfway done... The game then turns into a mind-bending Metroidvania spanning two 8 and 16-bit timelines, with more abilities, upgrades and challenges than you can chuck a throwing star at.

Less serious than the games that inspired it, The Messenger contains tons of humour in its excellent writing, and its jaunty soundtrack adds to the feeling that - despite its difficulty - this is a game to be enjoyed rather than endured. A real highlight of the indie library and well deserving of the praise that it's been getting, here's hoping for a wider release on other home consoles in 2019.

12) POKEMON: LET'S GO PIKACHU / LET'S GO EEVEE

SJB: A modern remake of a classic - the game where it all began - Let’s Go recreates Pokemon Red/Blue with beautiful 3D HD visuals and an awesome modernised soundtrack, and with the Pokémon finally roaming the world, Kanto has never felt so alive.

It’s not just the aesthetics that have been changed in the game however, the gameplay has been given a big overhaul. Redesigned to be more accessible, to encapsulate the technology of the Switch, and to remove some of the grindier parts of the series, these changes for the most part are for the better, though not without their shortcomings. It’s more about catching than ever before.

Overall, Let’s Go is an excellent remake. The aesthetics are better than they’ve ever been, and the gameplay changes make it less grindy and keep catching Pokémon as addictive as ever. There’s never been a better reason to go catch ‘em all.

Pokemon Let's Go review

11) MEGA MAN 11

SO: The long-awaited return of Capcom’s iconic Blue Bomber to a full release main title game had some awfully lofty expectations to meet, but we feel it lives up to its highly regarded predecessors more than adequately.

Released onto all main platforms in October, Mega Man 11 looked to erase the sour taste left in a lot of people’s mouths by the (almost) universally panned Mighty Number 9. Slick platforming, tight controls, awesome run and gunning and genius level design are the order of the day here, and in terms of gameplay, the Bomber’s eleventh offering holds up against any of his classic earlier titles.

It’s not exactly like Capcom are trying to reinvent the wheel here, but there are enough new play mechanics and developments to keep things fresh, and let’s face it - if it ain't broke, why fix it?

Mega  Man 11 review

Find out which games made it into the Top 10 when Part Two of our list arrives in the next day or two!