Regardless of where you play, 2018 has been an amazing year for games. Sony delivered a phenomenal one-two punch in Spider-Man and God of War, Nintendo came out swinging with the best Super Smash Bros. game yet, and Red Dead Redemption 2 pushed AAA gaming to new heights on both PS4 and Xbox One. Celeste and Donut County highlighted a deluge of incredible indies, while titles such as Moss and Tetris Effect showcased the magic of virtual reality. From massive blockbusters to smaller, more surreal adventures, here are our favorite video games of 2018.
Northgard is far from the most famous or recognized game of 2018, but it deserves a spot on this list. You control a clan of Vikings fighting for control of the continent of Northgard. Each clan brings unique advantages, quirks and strategic considerations.
Some elements of the game will be familiar to those who frequently play real-time strategy games: Your scout uncovers new lands as the game progresses, villagers gather food and wood, and you trade resources for money. But other mechanics present a unique challenge for all: blizzards and other natural disasters threaten your resource production, and you can even trade with giants and kobalds to woo them into joining your clan. Plus, you'll fall in love with the graphics and the classic Norse soundtrack. — Monica Chin
Credit: Shiro Games
24. Donut County
Hilariously, the puzzle game Donut County has you play as its villain, who doesn't know he's the bad guy. As a raccoon named BK, you navigate a series of remote-controlled sinkholes around towns to devour everything in sight. While the game is super-simple at first, you'll soon find yourself creating virtual Rube Goldberg devices, triggering events by pulling certain objects into the sinkhole, to shoot them out at others.
BK's doing all of this to earn enough points for a sick drone, a reward cool enough to make him forget that he's ruining peoples lives and destroying landmarks. After you pull every piece of an area down to your level, you'll see BK and his human friend Mira interrogated by the neurotic animals whose lives they've ruined. These scenes feel like a mix between Animal Farm and a contentious local town meeting with an absentee congressman, and give audiences a real reason to see Donut County as a significant work. — Henry T. Casey
Credit: Annapurna Interactive
A major measure of a mobile game can be found in how long it lives on your phone. In that regard, the puzzler Holedown — which feels part Tetris (you're facing wave-after-wave of bricks) and part Peggle (you attack them by shooting reams of rounds of balls at said bricks) has a near infinite return on investment. I've played it all the way through twice (progress doesn't transfer across new phones) and I keep playing its unbeatable, infinitely deep, final level to try and get a new score.
How is this puzzler so replayable? The physics engine in its ricocheting balls makes each move mean something, as you can make a ton of progress in one shot, if timed properly. Also, Holedown features a clever, elegant design, where the patterns on its bricks subtly change as they slide around the map, but its original soundtrack is a calming, bloopy bit of brilliance from Salkinitzor. — Henry T. Casey
Credit: Grapefrukt Games
Squeeeeeee!!! Moss won me over as soon as I strapped on my PlayStation VR and saw Quill, the adorable protagonist. On an epic quest to save her uncle from an evil, fire-breathing snake, it was my job to assist her and keep her safe as the Reader, an unseen force for good. Navigating the world of the first-person action title felt like moving through a literal storybook. I would help Quill solve puzzles and if I got stuck, she communicated via sign language. Overall, Moss is a fun, exciting romp through an engaging world and a great example of what PSVR is capable of. — Sherri L. Smith
Credit: Polyarc Inc.
21. Fist of the North Star: Lost Paradise
"You're already dead." When I learned Sega was making a game based on one of my old anime faves, Fist of the North Star, I was geeked. Following the exploits of Kenshiro, successor of the assassination art Hokuto Shinken, Fist of the North Star: Lost Paradise is a mish-mash of postapocalyptic mini-games and bloody, brutal combat. On a quest to find his lost love, Yuria, Kenshiro battles many familiar foes from the series including Shin and Jagi. But it wouldn't be Fist of the North Star without Kenshiro's pressure point-based attacks. Hit the right combo, and your enemy's body will swell and explode in grand fashion, accompanied with one of the protagonist's deadpan, time-honored phrases. And while the fights can get repetitive, there's enough fan service and wacky side-missions to keep you entertained. — Sherri L. Smith
20. Call of Duty: Black Ops 4
Step aside Fortnite, Black Ops 4 has the best Battle Royale game mode yet. In Blackout mode, you're air-dropped into one large map where you'll need to scavenge for weapons and items in order to outlast 99 other players. Black Ops 4 doesn't bring any revolutionary ideas to the young genre, but the game's fluid mechanics, weapon variation and breakneck pace amount to a better experience than what other Battle Royale shooters offer. Don't worry if you haven't jumped on the Battle Royale bandwagon yet, Black Ops 4 gives you tons of ways to play online, from classic rounds of Team Deathmatch to killing the undead in Zombie mode. Everything else about Black Ops 4 is what you'd expect from a good Call of Duty game: exhilarating (often unforgiving) firefights, endless customization options and tons of maps. — Phillip Tracy
Credit: Activision Publishing Inc.
19. F1 2018
F1 2018 isn't just a great racing simulator — it's one of the finest sports games ever made, that was clearly built by a team of fans who love and understand what makes the world’s top level of motorsport truly special. It's a dream to drive, but so was Codemasters' previous licensed F1 efforts; it's actually the game's ancillary content that puts it over the top. The career mode has been bolstered with a new skill tree system that is uniquely designed for each of the sport's 10 teams, allowing you to put R&D credits earned during practice toward neutralizing your squad's shortcomings. Additionally, most sessions are bookended by interviews with the press, and how you respond to them bears a direct impact on your team's morale and your reputation around the paddock. It's a comprehensive on- and off-track experience that any racing fan is sure to become addicted to. — Adam Ismail
Credit: Codemasters Software Company Ltd.
18. Hitman 2
The clockwork murder-sim is better than ever. Hitman 2 once again puts you in the suit of Agent 47 who needs to bring down the worst of the worse using whatever means at his disposal. In most cases, it means donning a ridiculous disguise to get close enough to your target, or set a series of events in motion resulting in a very convenient ‘accident’ to take place. One such accident can be sabotaging the race car of one of your targets while dressed as a member of her pit crew. This is literally one of dozens of ways to take out your target in this wonderfully open-ended assassination sandbox. — Jorge Jimenez
Credit: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment Inc.
17. Battlefield V
You'll want a good set of headphones to get the full effect of the sensory onslaught you'll experience when you first jump into a round of Battlefield V multiplayer. Not only is the game's soundtrack serene, but the audio effects are outstanding. I can't count the number of times I felt compelled to look up at the ceiling as a Spitfire rocketed over my head. As always, Dice's Frostbite engine produces breathtaking, practically photorealistic graphics, and dynamic weather effects add a new dimension to online play. BFV takes everything we love about its excellent predecessor and builds on it with more responsive gameplay and greater customizations options. The shooter isn't without its problems, but you'll soon forget about its questionable amount of launch content and underwhelming campaign when you're thrust into an epic, 64-player firefight on the cliffs of Norway's gorgeous mountain ranges. — Phillip Tracy
Credit: Electronic Arts Inc.
16. Return of the Obra Dinn
Return of the Obra Dinn is a stylish murder mystery that is a marvel of storytelling from indie developer Lucas Pope, who created beloved indie darling Papers, Please. You play an insurance adjuster who needs to piece together what happened to the missing crew of the Obra Dinn. You'll search the ship and relive the final moments of each crewmember as more clues are revealed in this creative black-and-white puzzle adventure game. — Jorge Jimenez
Credit: 3909, LLC.
15. Pillars of Eternity II
Suppose you're in the mood for an epic, high fantasy gods-versus-mortals narrative. But suppose you're also in the mood to play as a pirate. Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire delivers the best possible version of this unlikely combination, complete with nuanced combat, detailed exploration and unforgettable characters. After creating your perfect adventurer (or importing him or her from the first game, complete with all of your story choices), you'll set off on a daring chase across the Deadfire Archipelago, where trading companies, native populations and privateers vie for control. Their interplay makes Pillars of Eternity II's world feel alive and real, while the choices you make can shape everything from your relationships with your party members to the fate of the world itself. And, for nautically minded players, there's naval combat, ship management and even a collection of Deadfire-inspired sea shanties for your crew to sing. — Marshall Honorof
Credit: Obsidian Entertainment Inc.
14. Dead Cells
Dying isn't that much of a problem if you're already dead. That's the case for the protagonist of Dead Cells: a nameless prisoner stuck in a deadly, multitiered dungeon that restructures itself each time he meets an untimely demise. Combining elements of roguelikes and Metroidvanias, Dead Cells achieves a perfect balance between fun and frustration, tempting you with incredible new weapons and abilities, then taking them all away between dungeon runs. But Dead Cells isn't absolutely merciless, as it lets you purchase a variety of permanent upgrades, and discover a number of helpful platforming abilities to open up new areas. Between its fluid animation, carrot-and-stick gameplay loop and innovative core concept, Dead Cells is one of those delightful indie games that came out of nowhere, and clearly isn't going anywhere. — Marshall Honorof
Credit: Motion Twin
13. Yakuza 6
Your favorite Yakuza with a heart of gold is back. Though the Dragon of Dojima is little older and isn't quite caught with the latest tech, he can still throw a mean right hook against the crooks and thieves in Kamurocho. This over-the-top open-world crime drama follows the similar formula from previous entries but still manages to keep things fresh with a revamped combat system and gang battles. Back again are the bizarre side stories. It's easy to get distracted helping people with their unusual requests, much like when you're asked to become the manager of a sorry baseball team and lead them to top of their league. Yazuka 6 Song of Life is a fun, silly game that will always find a way to put a smile on your face. — Jorge Jimenez
12. Into the Breach
Sometimes in order the save the human race all you need is a little bit of luck, a squad of mechs and some time travel. The turn-based strategy game pits your team of mechs against a horde of monsters from beneath the Earth. The beauty of Into The Breach comes in its simplistic presentation and visual language that opens up new moves and strategies for your various mech teams. Another interesting mechanic comes in its fail state. Whenever you fail to save the world, you abandon that timeline and try again. Games are fast, tense and you become better at it everytime you play. At its greatest moments, you can take one look at the battlefield and know exactly how you end the match in one turn which is beyond satisfying. — Jorge Jimenez
Credit: Subset Games
11. Monster Hunter World
I'm 250 hours into Monster Hunter: World and I still haven't beaten the Behemoth yet. I’ve dealt with run after run of endless failures. Despite all of my suffering, you know what kept me going? The community. With Capcom introducing a ton of quality-of-life improvements, the action-adventure role playing franchise was reborn to welcome newcomers while somehow retaining its relentless difficulty.
On top of the layers that showcase the magical environments, in-depth combat system and adorable charm, the best aspect of World is its glorious sense of teamwork. Nothing brought joy to my heart more than to watch people come in hordes to the gathering hub during a festival, feast and go on ridiculously tough hunts together. By handcrafting an experience that's designed to take cooperation to a whole ‘nother level, Capcom managed to not only create the best Monster Hunter game of all time but the best multiplayer game of the year. — Rami Tabari
10. The Messenger
The Messenger starts charmingly enough, delivering nostalgic, Ninja Gaiden-style 2D platforming complete with an irresistible chiptunes soundtrack and some truly hilarious fourth-wall-breaking humor. But Sabotage Studios' debut side scroller becomes something even more special as you dig deeper into it, seamlessly blending together tight 8-bit action with more expansive 16-bit Metroidvania adventuring. Not since 2014's Shovel Knight has an indie platformer done this great a job channeling the classics while still standing out with a style all its own. — Mike Andronico
Credit: Devolver Digital
A hybrid of classic 2D side-scrolling and Dark Souls death-fest masochism, Celeste is one of the biggest indie gaming success stories of the year. Set to an amazing 8-bit soundtrack, Madeline's quest to scale the treacherous Mount Celeste will test your abilities to double-jump and evade, as each screen has a fistful of opportunities for you to fall to a spiky death.
Those feats alone wouldn't be enough for a Game Of The Year candidate — especially one that ranks this high — but Celeste's story ties it all together. The game's difficulty is actually tied directly to Madeline's narrative, as you find that she's climbing this dangerous mountain to overcome her own personal demons. Oh, and that's not just a metaphor: nega-Madelines will chase you around stages, creating moments that will drive your blood pressure higher than your nearest zenith. — Henry T. Casey
Credit: Matt Makes Games Inc.
8. Octopath Traveler
Octopath Traveler is a love letter to the Japanese role-playing games of old. In this turn-based, RPG, players will step into the shoes of one of eight different characters as they explore the world on a mission to complete their respective quests. And just like on any RPG worth its pixels, side quests, optional dungeons, secrets and (NPCs) with varying degrees of helpfulness abound. In Octopath's sprite-based artwork, 2D characters move in a gorgeous 3D world that's covered in 16-bit textures. Similar to old-school JRPGs like Final Fantasy Tactics, Octopath has eight main job classes (and four secret ones) that you can swap among the characters. But despite all the old-school elements, Octopath does offer some modern twists on turn-based combat, which executes a clever break system. If you're a fan of JRPGs, I highly recommend you spend some time with Octopath Traveler. — Sherri L. Smith
7. Forza Horizon 4
Forza Horizon 4 really isn't about racing — it's about exploration. It's an adventure game where the world's most beloved automobiles serve as your conduit to discover the British Isles. And as fun as it is to compete head-to-head with your friends in a cross-country rally, Horizon 4's most memorable moments come when you get sidetracked, as you often will in its sprawling, lush open world. There's an intangible authenticity to the environment Playground Games has crafted here that is rare among all sandbox-style titles, and not just the ones that have cars in them. The addition of seasons into the mix definitely deepens the immersion, as does Horizon Stories — the game's side missions and objectives that span everything from moonlighting as a cabbie in Edinburgh to participating in a UNSC Warthog-piloting simulation. Horizon 4 is rife with surprises like those, and it happens to be one of the greatest arcade racers ever made, just for good measure.— Adam Ismail
Credit: Microsoft Studios
6. Dragon Ball FighterZ
Dragon Ball FighterZ is the rare fighting game that excels on every front possible. It offers frenzied, fluid 3-on-3 brawling that's accessible enough for button mashers while packing plenty of nuance for tournament pros, all wrapped up in a stunning cel-shaded art style that makes every bout look like an episode of the anime. Factor in a varied roster of favorites like Goku, Vegeta and Broly and a meaty, endearingly goofy story mode, and you've got a fighter that's so good that it made me, a known anime hater, sign up for a Funimation subscription. — Mike Andronico
Credit: Bandai Namco
5. Tetris Effect
Tetsuya Mizuguchi's spin on Alexey Pajitnov's classic puzzler turns Tetris — an ordinarily addictive game on its own — into a transcendental audiovisual experience. Every drop and rotation adds notes to the polyphony and embellishments to the backgrounds, which shift and respond dynamically to your actions. Tetris Effect isn't a rhythm game, but the music is an indispensable part of the experience. It's a force that helps you focus, and plunges you further into the controlled chaos onscreen. And you're going to need that focus, because Tetris Effect can be soul-crushingly difficult when it wants to be. When it doesn't, it's a life-affirming, therapeutic and synesthetic stroll into another dimension.— Adam Ismail
Credit: Enhance Games
4. Red Dead Redemption 2
Red Dead Redemption 2 is overdesigned, overproduced and an absolute marvel. The prequel to the 2010 masterpiece is somehow bigger, with a huge map and tons of activities. The game approaches cinematic levels of beauty, and while it sometimes can get bogged down in its own complexities, the story is dramatic and expansive, showing vast swaths of a fictionalized, rowdy United States. It's a long game, but worth all of the investment that you're worth putting into this massive world and to see how we got to the original Red Dead all those years ago. — Andrew E. Freedman
Credit: Rockstar Games
3. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
Why is this the best Smash game of all time? Because everyone is here! But the reason that Super Smash Bros. Ultimate ranks third on our list is due to how much time, love and devotion that director Masahiro Sakurai and his team spent crafting an experience that would make any Nintendo fan, or fan of video games in general for that matter, gush.
If throwing in all of the characters in the previous Smash games wasn't enough, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate fine-tuned the combat, added a wicked Adventure Mode that's longer than you'd expect for a fighting game, created fun, unique bosses for Classic Mode and threw in even more characters on top of that. The game also introduces Spirits: hundreds of characters from different franchises that assist you in battle by providing stat boosts or specific equipment. The latest Smash is indeed Ultimate in every sense of the word. It's so addictive and infectious that hardly any work is getting done around this office anymore. — Rami Tabari
2. Marvel's Spider-Man
There are plenty of stellar action games on this list, but none of them feel as good as Marvel's Spider-Man. Swinging through Insomniac's stunning open-world New York City is one of the greatest video game joys I've experienced this year, thanks to a tight traversal system that captures the thrill of being ol' webhead better than any game before it. The game's story upends much of what we know about the Spider-Man universe while still feeling like a classic piece of Spidey canon, and its satisfying combat system channels the best parts of the Batman Arkham games into something even more acrobatic and fun. But it's the sheer rush of being able to nosedive off of the Empire State Building and zip through Manhattan's skyline that truly makes Marvel's Spider-Man the best Spidey video game yet. — Mike Andronico
Credit: Sony Interactive
1. God of War
There's never been a bad God of War game, but there's also never been a particularly deep one — until now. Kratos, the Greek god-killer, has hung up his Blades of Chaos and retired to build a family in the Norselands. But when the emotionally distant Kratos and his young son Atreus must make an arduous journey together, they attract the attention of the Norse gods, and the whole cycle of deicidal violence threatens to begin all over again.
God of War is an incredible game, partially because it deconstructs and humanizes one of gaming's least sympathetic protagonists. But it just wouldn't be a God of War game without balletic, furious, gory combat, and the game delivers that in spades as well. Kratos and Atreus combine their upgradable abilities and weapons to fight off undead warriors, trolls, ogres and Norse demigods, all while trying to hash out and deepen their unsteady relationship. The series has never been so thoughtful, so ambitious — or so good. — Marshall Honorof
Credit: Sony Computer Entertainment