As 2018 comes to a close, we gamers have the opportunity to reflect over our favorite games from the past year. Below, GameLuster staff pick their 2018 games of the year. Note that this list is not in a best-to-worst order or vice versa, so neither the first nor the last game listed is necessarily our Game of the Year. That single pick will come in a later story.
picked by Austin Suther and Elizabeth Christopher
Austin: I'm not a huge fan of JRPGs, but something about Octopath Traveler hooked me right from the start. The art and music are absolutely incredible. The combat system is simple but fun, and has a nice rhythm to it. The characters are all interesting and unique as well. SquareEnix outdid themselves this year. (Read Austin's review here.)
Elizabeth: Octopath Traveler is my game of the year. For starters, it has fantastic art direction - both the visuals and the music in the game are stunning. I enjoyed the gameplay as well. It is rare to see a single-player RPG like this game in this day and age, and it is definitely a worthy title in the genre. The turn-based combat system is akin to the older games it pays homage to, but the boost system is a more modern twist that creates some really fun gameplay. Story and characters are also very important to me in a game, and Octopath's diverse cast of characters is what really drew me in. Even with eight different protagonists, each one felt fleshed out, with every one of them sharing an equal role in the overarching story.
Return of the Obra Dinn
picked by Richard Costa
From Richard’s review at TechRaptor : “Structurally flawless and beautifully executed in gameplay and technical flair. It’s not without its minor flaws as a product, like all great games, but it rises above them. The writing, voice acting, and soundtrack are all first-rate, full of gusto, vim, and verve. Lucas Pope is a virtuoso game designer whose mature use of the medium transcends a crude sense of fun or bang-for-the-buck. This is craftsmanship of the highest order. Gaming as a medium often tries to seek validation through comparisons with cinema, and we often see critics use embarrassingly banal expressions such as “Citizen Kane of video games.” Return of the Obra Dinn shows there’s more to the medium than lurking the shadow of the seventh art and that it should aspire to something more ambitious and yet undiscovered.”
(See the full review here: https://techraptor.net/content/return-of-the-obra-dinn-review)
picked by Ofir Ben Dor
I played quite a few difficult games this year, and Flat Heroes feels like one of the only games that mostly handled its difficulty properly. While some of the levels felt unfair, most of them were absolutely great. Even though I am not that good at 2D platformers, it genuinely felt as if the game was teaching me how to play it and beat it through its level design. I also have to mention the amazing soundtrack that I never got tired of, the fact that there is never any downtime due to the game's smooth, quick animations and that there are not only multiple modes but everything can be played in co-op. This game was seriously overlooked during the year and there is no reason why; it is absolutely phenomenal. (Read Ofir's impressions here.)
God of War
picked by Michelle Kruse, Haley Sampson, and Tow Min Yi
Michelle: To me, Game of the Year is about what game came out and helped define games for the year as far as art, music, direction, story, and technological achievement. In a year full of so many great games that you couldn't wait to play, God of War stood tall as the cream of the crop. From a beautiful art style that felt more realistic than anything we've seen before to a touching story that did the impossible: made us like Kratos, God of War deserves all of the recognition it can get. Cory Barlog and his team have really come up with a masterpiece and sold myself, and many others, on the story of God of War when it felt like there was nothing left to that universe. It's very telling that Studio Santa Monica went from a project being cancelled and rumors of their studio shutting down to a GOTY quality game in just a few years.
Haley: God of War, hands down. The story was amazing and the voice acting was on point. My feelings for this game run deep as I became extremely invested in unpacking the world and all the lore. It is straight forward while allowing you to do things your own way. The team really took an older, almost forgotten game and revamped it into a deeper, beautiful, and captivating video game. (Read Haley's impressions here.)
Tow: God of War for GOTY is a no-brainer. Kratos and Atreus' journey is fraught with tension as they tried to understand each other, forced together by the absence of the mediator and the person they love. Kratos tries to be a father and wrestles with his bloodied past all while trying to set a good example for his son. Atreus tries to look past his father's strict demeanor and love him for whom he is. Not only that, but the game's portrayal of grief is done with respect and is a heartfelt representation of what it normally feels like for regular people. With excellent character development coupled with gorgeous graphics, it is practically a shoe-in for Game of the Year.
Red Dead Redemption 2
picked by Brennan D’Elena and Amin Hasan Hossain
Brennan: Rockstar's colorful cast of characters breathes life into the wild west once again with the likes of Arthur Morgan, Dutch Van der Linde and company. Blackwater, Saint Denis, Valentine, and other recognizable locations are home to some of the most immersive single-player gameplay and narrative moments that rival those of the first game. While the game is not perfect, especially in terms of multiplayer, Red Dead 2 is a must-play for those who enjoy a glimpse into the life of an outlaw, hellbent on surviving whatever life has left to throw at him.
Amin: This, because anything Rockstar does sh*ts gold. It takes the multiple elements of Red Dead Redemption and builds on them in a phenomenal way. Cowboy Simulator 2018, 'nuff said.
(Read GameLuster's review here.)
picked by Robert Scarpinito and Arshad Mawla
Robert: Thwip! You hear that? It's the sound of everyone's favorite wallcrawler swinging to the top of my Game of the Year list. Marvel's Spider-Man achieves on all fronts. The webslinger has been around long enough that his stories have been told time and time again, with different twists or details each time. Yet, this game's story has the staying power to rival Spidey's webs. The combat is derivative of the Arkham games, but the Spider-gadgets, free-form movement, and endless supply of quips earn the title's identity as a true Spider-Man game. To top it off, swinging around the Big Apple has never been so satisfying. While there are so many games that deserve the coveted Game of the Year prestige, Marvel's Spider-Man wins it for me with its clever treatment of established canon and unrivaled locomotion.
Arshad: My pick for GOTY is Spider-Man. It perfectly captures the essence of Spider-Man's character and does so without using the same old teen-aged hero trope. The web swinging is fluid and some of the best movement controls in any video game. It's so good that I was never tempted to use quick-travel. Combat was also fun but not overly complicated. Overall, the game managed to strike a balance between fun, challenge and story. It's the best Spider-Man game ever made and also one of the best superhero games, right up there with the Batman: Arkham series.
BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle
picked by Mike Arrieta
My Game of the Year would have to be BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle. Many of the games that I played this year were fighters, and Cross Tag Battle was the most enjoyable. The combat and large roster of characters kept me coming back for more. The art style was beautiful, and the soundtrack was great. It was also nice to see some of my favorite Persona characters appear in Cross Tag Battle, as well as team RWBY from the series of the same name. If anyone is looking for a fighter to sink their teeth into, this is the game I would recommend. It was one of the tightest fighters this year, and definitely one of the best games I played all year. (Read Mike's review here.)
Xenoblade Chronicles 2: Torna the Golden Country
picked by Simon Smith
If I had the chance to go back to 2017 I would have named Xenoblade Chronicles 2 as my Game of the Year. Unfortunately, due to the length of the game I was not even a quarter of the way through at the time. Thankfully, 2018 gives me the opportunity to rectify this dilemma with Xenoblade Chronicles 2: Torna the Golden Country. More Xenoblade 2 is never a bad thing, and Monolith Soft used this expansion as a means of further building the world of Alrest and its lore, letting us explore a location and story that was only ever hinted at via cutscenes in the main game. What a journey it was; the characters were each likable and fun to travel with, and it expanded upon the Xenoblade Chronicles 2 antagonist and Torna protagonist, Jin, and made us understand him more. Better still, Torna improved the gameplay system, and I thank them for that. Yes, there is still a slight monotony through the auto-attack system, but now you can strategically switch control between driver and blade for more attack diversity.
Torna the Golden Country was an expansion done right and easily the most satisfying experience I had in 2018; even if I already knew the ending right from the beginning. This is the Grave of the Fireflies of videogame expansions, after all. If you played the main game right from the start you know how Torna the Golden Country is going to end.
picked by Sean Pyle
Celeste transcends platformers, escaping the typical limitations of the genre, and delivers a powerful theme of battling mental health struggles. I gave this game a 10/10 when I reviewed it this past January, and I stand by that opinion. The game's beautiful score accents the experience perfectly, and no other game spoke to me in such a profound way this year. (Read Sean's review here.)
picked by Trevor Whalen
Dusk is exceptional because it's a throwback shooter that successfully captures the spirit of the games it hearkens to. This is not an easy accomplishment: it requires ingenious level design above all else, while also giving the player a fun, balanced roster of weapons and interesting enemies to shoot. Well, Dusk is ingenious and impressive top to bottom, in every aspect. The audio received as much care as the level design, weapons, and enemies, and there's a spooky atmosphere throughout. It's my GOTY because I grew up on these kinds of games, but also because it transcends nostalgia. Dusk is clearly inspired by Quake, Doom, Blood, Redneck Rampage and so on, but it is very much its own game - its own world, its own atmosphere, and its own style. This is a triumph of FPS design no matter what era you're in.
Like our staff's picks? Disagree with them? What's your Game of the Year, in either case? Let us know in the comments below!