The 30 Best Videogames of 2018

Games Lists Best of 2018
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The 30 Best Videogames of 2018

You can say a lot a things about 2018, but you can’t say that it didn’t have a large and diverse batch of really good videogames. The constant churn of this job makes it hard for me to remember what I played last week, much less years ago, but I can’t recall a recent year with such a wide-ranging assortment of games worth playing and crowing over. Last year’s one-two punch of Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey is a titanic twofer that’ll be hard to ever surpass, but there’s more to love in 2018 than 2017, and I bet we’ll be revisiting an unusually large number of these games in the years to come.

The best games this year focused on relationships—a sad breakup, the murderous turmoil of a crew at sea, the codependent (and repetitive) nature between time, play and work. That’s not really that unusual—what game can’t be boiled down to how its characters, story and mechanics interact?—but 2018 has seen an uncommon number of games that smartly and confidently comment on life without getting treacly or having to resort to predictable videogame thrills. 2018 has been so full of fascinating games from all corners of the industry that some of the most successful and acclaimed big budget games weren’t able to crack our list. (Sadly one of the year’s last major games, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, didn’t arrive in time for us to consider it for this year’s list. Maybe we’ll grandfather it into 2019.)

These are the games that made the greatest impact on us in 2018—the best games of the year.—Garrett Martin

30. Vampyr
Platforms: Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC

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Dontnod’s Vampyr has more in common with Remember Me, the studio’s first game, than Life Is Strange, its commercial and critical breakthrough. Like Remember Me, Vampyr is an ambitious, idiosyncratic oddity that doesn’t quite fit into any recognizable genre. It might not be as slick or smooth as the biggest action games or most popular franchises, but it has more personality and more spirit than most of them. It can feel faintly embarrassing one moment, and then do something unexpected and with surprising confidence just a few seconds later. There’s probably an equal chance that you’ll hate it or love it. In an industry that constantly obsesses on trends and often disrespects the taste and intelligence of its audience, Vampyr is another refreshing and anomalous cult game from Dontnod.—Garrett Martin

29. A Case of Distrust
Platforms: PC, Mac, Switch

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Detective game A Case of Distrust is immensely charming. Designer Ben Wander did a superb job of coming up with an eclectic aesthetic on such limited resources. While the game is more or less like reading a book, the restrained use of a few slick animations keep the visuals interesting. Not a single page stagnates or feels stale. The music, a light noir-style jazz, supports the simple but stylish presentation, accentuating its minimalist appeal. In A Case of Distrust, the verdict is in: guilty of being an enjoyable game.—Holly Green

28. Where the Water Tastes Like Wine
Platforms: PC

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Just sit back a spell and let these humble words suffice as Paste’s official opinion on this shaggy exploration of the power of folktales and storytelling: it’s good! The folklore game made by a Gone Home designer and co-written by just about every prominent videogame critic is good. Like the folktales that inspire it—hell, like America itself, the country that inspires it—it’s not perfect and it’s not great but it has moments of greatness within it. It’s a messy, awkward, poignant journey into the heart of America and the legends, jokes and horror stories that we’ve created about ourselves and our country. Whatever you think about it, you pretty much have to admit it’s a true original in the games world. Also the score, inspired by a variety of traditional musical idioms, is a beaut. (Disclosure: So many people who worked on this game are friends with Paste’s games editors and/or former contributors to Paste. Like, too many to list here.)—Garrett Martin

27. Fire Pro Wrestling World: Fighting Road
Platforms: PlayStation 4, PC

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Fire Pro Wrestling World originally came out last year for the PC, but it finally hit the PlayStation 4 in August, with a whole new story mode centered around New Japan Pro-Wrestling in tow. (PC players can purchase Fighting Road as DLC.) Fighting Road doesn’t just add a few dozen top New Japan wrestlers—it’s basically a wrestling visual novel, complete with static screens of Hiroshi Tanahashi and Kazuchika Okada doing what can only be called a manly, wrestling-centric version of flirting with your character, but with Fire Pro wrestling matches largely deciding the story’s outcome. Fighting Road achieves something that most wrestling career modes don’t. Despite the lack of motion in its cut scenes, and its often unrealistic story beats (at one point I have to go to New Japan’s corporate offices for a meeting, and when I get there it’s led by wrestlers Yugi Nagata in a NJPW t-shirt and Super Strong Machine in his mask), the thorough text and first-person perspective make me feel closer to this character and more deeply embedded in this world than anything I’ve ever seen in a WWE game. Oh, and the actual in-game action remains the best videogame recreation of wrestling ever seen.—Garrett Martin

26. God of War
Platform:   PlayStation 4  

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More than most action games, combat in God of War has the pacing of a rhythm game. You have to tap various buttons in the right sequence to strike and block at the right times, unleashing your extra-powerful attacks when needed. When you’re surrounded by enemies and dancing over the various attack buttons, calling in arrows from Atreus while blocking at the exact right moment to stun your enemy, you might find yourself entering a kind of trance where you’re locked so tightly into the rhythms of that combat that everything else momentarily fades away. From the pulse of that violence, to the feeling of that axe chopping through a monster as it flies back to you after a perfectly aimed strike, to the sweeping range of the weapon that’s unlocked later, the combat in God of War is about as satisfying as action games get.—Garrett Martin

25. Assassin’s Creed Odyssey
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC

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There is too much of a good thing. Assassin’s Creed Odyssey proves that. As a game it has a strong core of enjoyable action built upon a reliable and slightly upgraded foundation. As a story it’s an intriguing personal journey with good ideas but lackluster storytelling set against the backdrop of war between Sparta and Athens, with a strong, charismatic pair of leads making up for a lot of dull dialogue and meandering conversations. As an Assassin’s Creed it turns Origins from an outlier into the start of the new status quo, sacrificing a bit of its identity in order to bring it more in line with Ubisoft’s other open world games. It still captures much of what makes these games special, though, from the historical setting, to the dynamic action, to one of the few stealth combat systems that isn’t too slow or frustrating to enjoy. Embark on this journey with confidence, but be prepared to lose a lot of your free time along the way.—Garrett Martin

24. Pokémon: Let’s Go Pikachu and Eevee
Platform: Switch

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Pokémon: Let’s Go, Pikachu and Pokémon: Let’s Go, Eevee are the first core Pokémon games to grace a console and, in a sense, the first Pokémon games. Modeled closely after the original Pokémon Red, Blue and Yellow games from the ‘90s, much of what made up the originals is alive and present in this Nintendo Switch revival. It provides the perfect opportunity for novices to understand the full scope and balance of the Pokémon universe, both by offering a starting point for newcomers and by tapping into the mechanics of the lucrative mobile phenomenon in Pokémon Go. So how does a game built entirely on the sensibilities of one released in 1996 hold up in 2018? Pretty well, actually. The core premise of catching and batting Pokémon still holds a lot of tension, and the new refurbishing details are a nice little face lift to seal the deal.—Holly Green

23. Just Shapes & Beats
Platforms: Switch, PC

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Just Shapes & Beats is not a rhythm game per se, but rather, its obstacles, how they move, and how the player responds to them are informed by the beat of the backing track. As the player hurtles through each level, they navigate a two dimensional, sidescrolling plane of polygons that explode and shift in a vibrant blur of hot pink, fuchsia and purple, using a dash move to speed around obstructions or blast through fading barriers. It’s cool in a way that is just unfair. It’s like being able to play my SoundCloud playlists as a videogame, or as I put it two years ago, like playing a music video as a videogame. For a game with such short levels and simple pretense, a perfect harmony between length, price and difficulty has been adequately achieved. Whether you’re a bullet hell aficionado who blasts through the main campaign in a few hours, or a fumbling novice preserving through each level by sheer luck, Just Shapes & Beats is the whole package.—Holly Green

22. Battletech
Platform: PC

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Battletech presents combat as a cascading series of desperate choices. It is nearly impossible to escape a mission without taking damage in some form, and Battletech knows this, and plays on the cruel randomness of ‘Mech-on-‘Mech strategy. At its most gratifying, it is a struggle against impossible odds, with brave pilots constantly fighting for the slightest edge on one another. At its lowest, it feels like your squad is outmatched and outgunned at every turn.

But even when I found myself banging my head against a particularly hard mission, I never felt unsatisfied. Battletech shows a cruel and vast universe of empires and kings and queens, and narrows the lens of storytelling to a tight and contained thread of a queen regaining her throne with the help of a mercenary crew. You never feel like an army, and that’s to the game’s benefit. This isn’t a game about a war, even though it is set against the backdrop of one. Battletech is a game about battles, in all their sad and joyous desperation, and the machines that they so lovingly destroy.—Dante Douglas

21. Monster Hunter: World
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC (later in 2018)

The Monster Hunter series, as the title suggests, has primarily been about striking down massive beasts and using their remains to fashion new armor, weapons and food. While Monster Hunter: World certainly maintains that emphasis on killing giant beasts, the game also asks us to care about the monsters we slaughter, and understand our own hand in maintaining and destroying the ecological system.—Shonte Daniels

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