2018 may have been the longest year of my life. A ton happened this year and I played a lot of games but when I try to remember what I played this year, I can barely recall the specific titles. I started making my list of my favorite games of this year and I could only recall 5 games that really resonated with me.
So I started to sit down to fill in the remaining 5 slots and a thought occurred to me, if I can’t remember a game just a few months after playing it, does it really belong on this list? Maybe but I’m just going to keep it to these five that I remembered right away. I’ll have two more lists coming in the coming weeks.
#5 Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom
Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom is a RPG, metroidvania, platformer created by indie studio, Game Atelier after eight years of development. You play as the titular protagonist, Jin as he travels the world after his uncle turns the entire land of Monster World’s population into anthropomorphic animals. To do this, you have to collect five magic orbs which give you the ability to transform into a myriad of animal forms, each with their own unique skill-set to help you solve puzzles.
Monster Boy is an incredibly well designed, well rounded game. As a platformer, Monster Boy is as close to perfect as you can come. The controls feel really good, the puzzles are challenging and constantly asking the player to think outside of the box, without being needlessly confusing.
On top of this, the order you unlock your new forms is incredibly smart. You start as a pig. The pig can find hidden objects, use magic, and a couple other tricks. You have to push these mechanics to their limit to unlock the next form, the snake. The game forces the player to learn each form’s abilities ridiculously well to progress. My favorite part of the game was unlocking the second to last form. The area primarily uses the lion form’s charge ability. It’s deceptively simple but you can use it to walk across water, gain a triple jump, smash objects, and on. And the game guides you to each application without telling you exactly what to do, necessitating experimentation.
But I never got stuck for an unacceptable amount of time. When I got close, it was easy for me to back out and do something else until I felt more prepared. Which brings me to the amount of collectables and equipment you can get in this game. There’s a lot of it and, surprisingly, every piece of gear is genuinely useful and worth obtaining. Nothing is fluff. And in a game world of its size, that’s an impressive feat.
Wadjet Eye Games’ newest point and click adventure is also one of its best. Unavowed follows the story of the New York Branch of a secret society of magical creatures tasked with protecting the “mundane world” from magical influence. You play as a protagonist, fresh off the heels of a nasty exorcism as you track down the evil spirit that once used your body to commit a long string of heinous crimes.
The game is like waking up hung over without any knowledge of what happened at a party the night before but you knew you did something terrible. The writing is what really sets this game apart from other adventure games. Both the character writing and the structure of the larger narrative are really captivating. The characters are super endearing and convincingly voice acted.
Aside from a couple of small quibbles related to party restrictions, Unavowed is near flawless adventure game that I feel everyone should give a shot. And the diverse cast of characters is voice acted by a diverse set of voice actors which is very special.
Note: I wrote a review up on the defunct Old Grizzled Gamers. Here’s an active link for now, if it breaks, contact me and I will fix the link.
#3 Pokemon: Let’s Go, Eevee!
Pokemon has been reinventing itself every year for a while now but I feel they’ve really hit gold with this one. Pokemon Let’s Go takes the basic Pokemon formula and dispenses with all the crap you’ve convinced yourself you enjoyed for the years. The grinding has been simplified overall IVs, EVs, and natures have all been made more manageable and random encounters are gone.
In essence, Let’s Go Pokemon is the first truly modernized Pokemon game in years. And the production qualities live up to that title. On a personal note, Pokemon Yellow is one of my favorite games and this remake is really faithful to the soruce material while also making the meta way better. God bless modern move pools so I can finally counter physic types. I really adore this game and almost everything about it. I do wish abilities and held items were included but I also don’t care that much that they were excluded.
Also I really enjoyed being able to take a non-linear approach to the game. I was able to cheese my way to the GO Park in Fuschia City before I got mt 4rd badge and that flexibility is something I’ve really missed in the series.
#2 Tetris Effect
Tetris is a perfect game. It’s simple, it’s fun, it can be challenging, it can be relaxing, and almost everyone who has played it, likes it. It’s so good that it’s remained largely untouched since its original release in the 80s. I think that it is probably a good thing. As a general rule, it’s a bad idea to mess with the classics too much and yet, I definitely have to make an exception for Tetris Effect. It’s the original game, but set to music that changes whenever you manipulate a block or clear a line. And oh boy, it is good.
But it’s good in a way that is hard to explain. The game does everything in its power to bring you into its world. Each song comes with its own set of mesmerizing visuals and sound effects, each song contains a number of transitions and the speed of the game follows the speed of the song. The controller vibrates along with what’s going on in the music. You become a part of a beautiful and complex light show that’s more than the sum of its pieces. I’ve linked a video but watching it doesn’t do the game justice. There’s a physicality to the game that you need to feel.
#1 Monster Hunter World
Monster Hunter has been a historically infuriating series to care about. It’s this lovely and complex world marred by awful inventory management, awkward controls, and a monstrous (hah) amount of game systems the game never tells you a thing about. But that all changed with Monster Hunter World. MH: W is a undeniable improvement for the MH series. The game is stunning from tip to toe, the monsters, character models, and environments. But even more than that, MH: W is one of the most believable game worlds of all time.
Each monster has its own set of quarks, weaknesses, and behaviors to exploit. The first time I saw a Great Jagras getting jacked by a Anjanath. The Anjanath was utterly terrifying, violent, and mean. It picked the Jagras in its mouth and tossed him across the map, giving me enough time to sprint to safety. Monster Hunter World is chalked full of this type of moment and they never get old. Particularly when you can use them to your advantage.
That really speaks to Monster Hunter’s main strength, which is to say, its skill at giving players reasons to really and truly get to know the inner-workings of the world. When you start out, you know nothing. You get to try out tons of weapons and explore new maps and figure out what works for you. You master the basics of tracking monsters, knocking them down, and dodging attacks but that’s only half of the game. As you revisit the same few maps, you start to learn about how you can use the map.
If you break a rock here, you can wash a monster down a waterfall doing massive damage, or lure them into traps. The possibilities are extensive and even in my group of friends, we’ve all developed unique play styles. And that’s a mark of a good game. Additionally, I think in a post-Read Dead Redemption 2 world, we need to think about how a game can be lush and large without having a map the size of fucking Texas with crappy fast travel. Monster Hunter World 2 was the most detailed and complex game of this year, fight me.