As 2018 draws to an end, it’s time for us to reflect on the year gone by and highlight the most outstanding, the most exceptional, and the most enjoyable games of the year. It’s never easy to pick just 10 games deserving of recognition from any given year, especially in a year brimming with creatively and technically phenomenal games. Although after the entire Checkpoint crew put their heads together, we were able to create a list that’s absolutely worthy of the highest praise.
You can even check out our top 10 and why they mean so much to us in audio form below!
#10 – Into the Breach
Taking the turn-based strategy genre and reducing it down to its core concepts, Into the Breach is a delightful and brilliant indie gem that released earlier this year. The game seems so simple yet has a huge amount of depth hidden behind the surface. It’s a game that has deep strategic elements yet is very easy to understand and engage with. The game balances that delicate tightrope between challenging and accessible. It’s that balance that makes the game so clever, so ingenious, and so effective.
Whilst Into the Breach may feel familiar to turn-based strategy veterans, it also manages to be unique. Watching as your foes set up their attacks and then having the opportunity to interrupt those plans is very satisfying. It also means that every turn is a mini puzzle you’ll need to solve in order to succeed. Plotting your perfect move involves moving pieces around in your mind, thinking of every single possibility, and then employing your perfect counterattack. With clean design, unique mechanics, and incredibly deep and rewarding gameplay, Into the Breach manages to stand out in an already very impressive year of video games.
#9 – Octopath Traveler
Octopath Traveler is a game that reminds us that if it ain’t broke, it doesn’t need fixing. An unapologetic love letter to the golden age of 16-bit Japanese Role-Playing games, Octopath Traveler delivers on recapturing what made games like Final Fantasy VI and Chrono Trigger classics. Dive into the adventures of eight different heroes, all of whom go through engaging arcs as you explore the continent of Orsterra. The combat system contains many layers of strategy, such as a job system, and the ability to exploit enemy weaknesses to delay their turn. All of this is tied together with immaculate presentation, from its gorgeous mix of 16-bit sprites and 3D environments to the energetic orchestral score.
There are some complaints to be had about how the main characters rarely interact in the story, or how it becomes necessary to grind a lot later on. However, Octopath Traveler’s combat system is so engaging, and its setting so fun to explore, that I still came away from my experience with a smile on my face. Whether you are pining for the glory days of the JRPG, or are totally new to the genre, Octopath Traveler is a fantastic mix of old and new gameplay mechanics that absolutely deserves your attention.
Originally releasing in 2005, Shadow of the Colossus created ripples in the world of gaming that have affected future games ever since. The impact it had on the industry cannot be ignored. Unfortunately though at the time of its release, while enthralling, the game was a concept limited by the hardware available. Shadow of the Colossus pits a single hero against a lonely and empty open world inhabited by 16 gigantic beasts that you are determined to fell in order to bring back your beloved.
It is unorthodox to reward a remake with a Game of the Year nod, however when a remake is this good it deserves to be recognised. This isn’t just a simple HD revamp, it’s a game built from the ground up for modern technology. Shadow of the Colossus creates not only stunning landscapes but also brings real weight to the Colossi that you will be clambering over to plunge your blade into their weakest points. Shadow of the Colossus is a nod to the idea of pairing back the game to create the tight boss fights and atmosphere. If anyone is ever considering remaking a game in the future, this is the new benchmark, elevating the original experience without sacrificing what made it special.
Choices. It’s a mechanic that video games continue to try and tackle, with varying degrees of success. Popularised recently by the Telltale Games releases, Detroit: Become Human took on the very ambitious task of making a narrative experience that had impactful decisions, interesting characters and a branching story that really felt like your each experience was unique to the player. Shockingly to most, it succeeded pretty well in achieving this. The genius of it all is that no longer are the choices you make hidden behind some formula that you can’t access – Detroit allows you to see the multitude of pathways you could have taken, almost challenging you to go back and try it again to see what happens differently.
Yes, it’s heavy-handed in its delivery, and the whole “robot versus human” story has been done to death. But there is enough nuance here and enough strong performances from the actors (particularly Bryan Dechart as robot Connor) that you can forgive the odd bit of cringey dialogue or questionable morals and just enjoy the ride. It should be said that the game truly looks stunning with some fantastic animation work, but Detroit: Become Human should always be remembered as the first game to really make you feel that your choices mattered – not just in a “which character should I choose to save” way, but in a meaningful, complex way.
#6 – Celeste
Celeste is a heartfelt climb up a treacherous mountain. It’s a game that offers a challenge to even the most determined gamer. And yet, even in its difficulty, Celeste feels very fair and well paced. There’s an absolute boatload of content to be found in this game for those who really want to test themselves. But even for the more casual player, Celeste offers an experience full of fantastic design and clever mechanics that perfectly marries gameplay and theme.
Celeste goes beyond the parameters of your standard hard-as-nails platformer. It rewards the player with strong narrative beats, well-written dialogue, and powerfully emotive themes. The game is a journey of self discovery that doesn’t shy away from difficult issues such as self-loathing, self-doubt, and depression. It’s a game about climbing a mountain, both literally and metaphorically. It’s earnest, raw, emotive, and unlike anything I’ve played before. Celeste, within a relatively short timeframe, is able to capture the struggles of mental health so beautifully and succinctly. For anybody capable of overcoming Celeste’s difficult platforming, you’ll find a game with surprising depth and painfully relatable motifs.
#5 – The Gardens Between
The Gardens Between is one of the most endearing and charming video game experiences from this year. It tells a subtle yet powerful story of two young friends exploring their imaginations and embracing their time together. As the player you’re not controlling the characters, but instead controlling the passage of time. You assist the two characters on their journey by fast-forwarding and rewinding time and watching as elements within their imagination break from the standard flow of time. It’s a novel and captivating mechanic that works to create an engaging puzzle game full of whimsy and brilliant design.
The Gardens Between manages to capture a small slice of Australiana. From Hills Hoists to Zoopa Doopers, the game is unquestionably Australian. It’s developed by a local Melbourne team as well, which explains why the game feels so grounded, so recognisable, and so relatable. As a fellow Melbournian, I could insert myself into the game and into the characters so easily. It was as if somebody had reached into my own memories and placed them on a screen in front of me, allowing me to have an experience with a game unlike anything I’ve had before.
Monster Hunter as a franchise has always felt pretty inaccessible to the western audience, not only with a range of complex systems and lack of tutorials, but also in the sense that it was only available on very specific platforms. Monster Hunter: World was the first in the series to be launched simultaneously worldwide on PS4 and Xbox One, but not only that, it refined and improved in many ways to make it entertaining for long time veterans and newcomers alike.
Smart additions like being able to track a monster in many ways across a luscious open map, hunting, killing and crafting with your friends online has never been as enjoyable or exciting as it is here. With ongoing support for the title and some of the most interesting monster AI that we’ve seen in a video game, it’s no wonder that this became Capcom’s fastest selling game ever. It’s by far the best the series has ever looked, and it simplifies its tricky gameplay to make it much more palatable but still incredibly challenging and rewarding. It may have released way back in January, but it holds up strong as one of the best experiences in gaming this year, with strong foundations now in place for future sequels.
Red Dead Redemption 2 was, for many, at the top of the most anticipated game’s list for 2018. The scope and depth of its open world is unrivalled, and the dynamic story has left most people who’ve played it with nothing but praise to give. From trudging through mundane frontier life to high-stakes robberies and crime, the game melts away the lines between simulation and power fantasy and instead becomes something more: a testament for where games are and where open world gaming is going.
Red Dead Redemption 2’s cast of characters, variety of locations, and plethora of side content gives players a veritable smorgasbord of content that could keep even the most ravenous of gamers sated. It is not unusual to spend multiple hours hunting rare animals for pelts, only to then spend another 3 or 4 hours robbing your way across the heartlands to turn a profit on stagecoaches and horses. Add to that the rollercoaster of main missions and side quests, and Red Dead Redemption 2 may just be the most robust gaming product on the market this year.
On top of all this, you’ve got Red Dead Online – the most robust open-world online offering on offer. It’s cowboy vs cowboy out in the wild west; posse up with you friends and complete missions, enter playlists of deathmatches & battle royales, or spend your time hunting and completing open world challenges. The frontier is open to you, so strike out and stake your claim.
#2 – Marvel’s Spider-Man
While there are plenty of video games based off of comic books, there haven’t been that many great ones. With storytelling that rivals that of the cinematic universe, Marvel’s Spider-Man succeeds narratively in so many ways. It also so clearly understands the subject matter beyond the idea of a mask. This game works because it offers more than just high octane action. Spider-Man has one of the most beloved characters in pop culture, it has heart. Mask on or off you will become invested in Peter Parker and his web slinging antics as he fights to protect not just his cast of characters but also the city in whole.
Beyond strong narrative though the game is just fun, travelling through an open world map has never felt better. Web swinging through the buildings of New York is exhilarating and an absolute delight. Combat is smooth and fast, inspired by the Arkham series. Although unlike the Dark Knight, Spidey handles with acrobatics and speed. Playing as the Web Slinger feels right, he controls just like you would imagine and that’s not an easy feat for a character that’s so nimble. Both the game’s traversal mechanics and a story that understands what makes its hero special help create a game that gives you one of the truest Spider-Man experiences that modern media has ever been able to provide, including the movies.
#1 – God of War
A long running series and important to Sony’s history, the new God of War that rebooted a popular franchise into something truly incredible absolutely took our breath away. Taking a character like Kratos and making him personable, emotional… hell even likable as a father trying to survive a harsh world full of epic foes while protecting his son Atreus throughout made for an experience that was unforgettable in many ways.
You only have to glance at the game in motion to see how beautifully detailed the environments are, how slick and satisfying the combat is and how each scene flows perfectly into the next as you explore a divine, dangerous world. Not to mention the axe you wield, Leviathan, is a game changer in and of itself. Not only does it allow you to chain together combos like a beast, but using it as a throwing tool to hit enemies long distance and solve a range of tricky puzzles before you call it back to your hand never gets old. The game also cleverly intertwines its narrative with some open world areas to explore at your own will, with secret quests to find along the way.
On top of all that, the experience is a technical marvel: the game can be played from start to finish, all the way through, in one continuous camera shot. No loading screens, no editing into cut-scenes… just one take all the way through, making you feel more involved in the game’s universe than I’ve ever experienced before. But beyond the technical achievements (and there are many of them), it’s the relationship between father and son that still resonates as one of the most memorable pieces of storytelling in years. God of War and Kratos himself have been completely re-imagined, leaving us with a spectacular adventure that truly raises the bar in game design.
So there you have it, our top 10 games of 2018! How do you feel about our list? What games would make your list that we may have overlooked? Let us know and get ready for more continuous gaming goodness as we approach a brand new year.