2018 has, in many ways, been an unusual year for video games. Following on from 2017, Fortnite became a phenomenon that has well and truly broken out of the insular sphere of video games and into the public consciousness, with perhaps Red Dead Redemption 2 the only game to really challenge it in that regard.
Rockstar’s games have become fewer and further between, but grown in scope and ambition for how they tell their stories, yet on the other side of things, Sony and their first party studios have championed more concise single player adventures, from God of War to Marvel’s Spider-Man and the branching narratives of Detroit: Become Human.
Putting Fortnite to one side, there’s been the continued bandwagon jumping of Black Ops 4 and others pushing out Battle Royale modes, while Capcom finally saw the light (and success) of bringing Monster Hunter to a wider Western audience of home console players. And though it might have felt like the Nintendo Switch was suffering a second year hangover of ports and middle-of-the-road sports and party games, Nintendo were really just biding their time, waiting for the end of the year before releasing a new Pokémon game with mass appeal for the Go generation, and an all encompassing and record setting Super Smash Bros. game.
Yet there can only be one winner, and the biggest factor that kept coming up as we discussed our Game of the Year categories, was one of simply being fun.
Before we get to the winner, a quick reminder that you can make your own opinion heard in our Community GOTY vote. Make sure to get your votes submitted by midnight tonight!
It’s felt like quite some time that Insomniac Games were seeking an opportunity to do something amazing, branching out from pure PlayStation exclusivity to partner with EA and Microsoft to varying success. However, within that, with Sunset Overdrive, you can see the foundations for the fluid open world adventure and free-flowing combat that has made Marvel’s Spider-Man such a success.
The heart to that, and to any good Spider-Man game, is being able to swing around New York City and feel awesome doing so. Insomniac’s superlative web-swinging is a real treat, and it’s baffling how so many games have failed to get this right in the years since Spider-Man 2.
However, Insomniac’s real trick is in respecting your time as a player. The open world might be filled with items to collect, photos to take and specific crimes to fight, but they’re all clearly marked for you, easy to pick up and act as minor detours on your way from one plot point to another.
Similarly, we all know Spider-Man’s origin story, so why would it need to play out yet again in their original take on the fiction? Here we have a mature character with established relationships, and that can provide the bedrock for the emergence (and reemergence) of some of his most famous arch–nemeses, as well as more than a little fan service across the decades of Spider-Man comics, films and spin-offs.
Marvel’s Spider-Man is just a fun game, and a worthy winner of our overall Game of the Year.
God of War – Runner Up
Where fatherhood and loss were mere excuses to have a seething ball of rage in humanoid form for the God of War series through the PlayStation 2 and PlayStation 3 years, God of War in 2018 used it to bring out a side in Kratos that we hadn’t ever considered existing before. Here was a character dealing with the responsibility of caring for a child and their growth as a person, trying to pass down their wisdom…. whilst fighting their way through a newly twisted take on Norse mythology.
It also saw Studio Santa Monica completely overhaul how the series plays, bringing the camera in over Kratos’ shoulder, giving him the Leviathan Axe and more visceral and connected feel to the combat. It’s the start of a new era for the series, a more mature and considered game that feels more relevant and up to date for 2018.
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate – Runner Up
For a long time, people simply expected Nintendo to port across the Wii U version of the game to Nintendo Switch, and that would have been fine. Instead they tasked Masahiro Sakurai and Bandai Namco with making something even bigger and better. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is exactly what it says it is.
This is an all encompassing compilation of every character, stage, and soundtrack that went before, with several notable additions on top of that. However, if that weren’t enough, the gameplay and every character has then been tweaked and rebalanced with the competitive scene in mind – though button bashing newcomers can still have a lot of fun with the over-the-top trophies and Final Smashes.
It’s a fantastic party game through all of this, but it’s also great for the solo player, whether adventuring through the huge World of Light campaign or simply delving into the constantly cycling Spirit Board, both of which show a huge amount of inventiveness in creating scenarios that pay homage to countless games, characters and series.
If you have a Switch, this game is nigh on essential.
Monster Hunter: World – Runner Up
Monster Hunter has been around for a long time, but while you’ll find a number of ardent fans in the West, the series was always too convoluted, too much of a grind, and too restricted by platform to find success in the mainstream. Monster Hunter: World really only changed two fundamental things – streamlining the hunt and putting it on the dominant home consoles – and suddenly everyone else got it.
There’s never been a better looking entry in the series, and the amazing monsters look more lifelike than ever before, taking them from cartoon villains to hyper-realised adversaries, while the tough combat simply doubled down on what had gone before. Monster Hunter: World achieved that rare thing of satisfying existing fans while bringing hundreds of thousands more to the gathering hall. With the release of the Iceborne expansion in 2019, there’ll be plenty more hunts to come.
Red Dead Redemption 2 – Runner Up
Few companies could have even come close to the amount of pent up excitement and expectation there was for Red Dead Redemption 2. Yet Rockstar pulled it off, creating a vast and exceptionally detailed world for you to explore, presenting a cast of characters for you to bond with and witness how adversity challenges and changes them.
Ultimately, what keeps it off the top spot here is the gameplay. For too many of us, we grappled with the controls, the combat, the painstaking devotion to letting animations play out. That being said, this remains a towering achievement that advances the artistry behind video games and how they are compared to films, televisions and art.
So, those are our picks for Game of the Year 2018, but what about you? Obviously you can sound off in the comments below, but don’t forget to make yourself heard in our Community GOTY voting which closes a second before midnight tonight!