2018 wasn’t a great year for me personally, for the world in general, and after 2017’s stellar line-up, it was always unlikely to deliver on the games front too. And for me, this year certainly didn’t live up to the last couple. With Red Dead getting delayed, it seemed like publishers just moved games back into 2019, which certainly looks fairly promising so far.
2018, for a variety of reasons, also saw me personally playing less games than for the last 3-4 years at least, and so it seems like my list of unplayed or unfinished games has grown to its longest and most unmanageable this decade.
Even though it will be top of many people’s lists, I’ve barely made a start on Red Dead Redemption 2, and whilst it seems like it has all the usual Rockstar qualities, it would be unfair to include it on my list having played for barely 5 hours so far. Because of a delay in getting a code, I’m also not far enough through Thronebreaker. I love Gwent, and although this little single-player storyline has far too many foibles and crash bugs to be GOTY, I could have seen it creeping in towards no 4 or 5 on my list.
I’ve also not had the chance to play a number of big games at all, including (but not limited to!): Super Smash Bros Ultimate, Spiderman, God of War, Donut County and Celeste, all of which look like they could have been contenders.
And finally, before we get onto my own personal list, I’d like to shout out to a few excellent games which I really enjoyed but didn’t quite make the grade: Kingdom Come Deliverance, which has an amazing world and characters, but a number of gameplay annoyances; Gravel, which is the best truly arcade racing game to have been released in years, and finally shows off Italian studio Milestone at their best; and Florence, which is a beautiful love story and growing-up tale, but lacks a bit of content and clarity around the break-up of the key relationship.
Anyway, here at Gamerknights we hope you had a fantastic 2018, played all the games you wanted, and we wish you a happy and prosperous 2019 both in your gaming and personal lives.
Now, please enjoy the TOP 5 lists from reviews editors Ian & Joe.
5. Assassin’s Creed Odyssey (Joe)
I think it’s safe to say that 2018 was a great year for open world games. There are three of them on my top 5, after all – and I don’t even like the genre that much. Odyssey offered a world – the beautiful stretch of Ancient Greece and its many, many islands – that was incomprehensibly big. I put over a hundred hours into that game and I maybe saw 60% of its landmass.
But that stand-offish size was never to Odyssey’s detriment, instead embodying its namesake. The bloody path of revenge I cut as the incredible Kassandra – Assassin’s Creed’s best protagonist to date – was indeed an odyssey, and one that I will cherish for a long time.
5. Vermintide 2 (Ian)
The first Vermintide was a really fantastic update to the Left 4 Dead format, and the second game made some smart improvements.
Whilst it launched in a bit of a state on the PC, by the time it got to Xbox One most of these kinks had been ironed out. Its also a huge visual leap over the first game, and the inclusion of Chaos powers gives the levels far more variety. Fatshark have also supported the game with several level packs since release, and the player count has remained relatively healthy.
My favourite co-op experience of 2018, hands-down.
4. Dead Cells (Joe)
Dead Cells is my kind of game. It’s an insidious little title that worms its way under your skin and stays there until you either beat it or you see a doctor. I opted for the former, sacrificing thirty or so painful, wonderful hours to the altar of its completion.
A roguelike with a smorgasbord of loadout options that changed your gameplay experience significantly for every run into its dark dungeons, a title that truly rewards varied, careful play as much as it does all-out, second-to-second hack-and-slash combat, Dead Cells deserves a spot amongst the genre’s best.
4. Hitman 2 (Ian)
Much like Vermintide 2, Hitman 2 makes numerous sensible updates and quality of life improvements to turn an already excellent format and make clearly defined improvements. Why isn’t this my number one game then, you ask (as Hitman made number 2 a couple of years ago).
Well, despite Sean Bean being murdered, and some amazing new locations and costumes, Hitman 2 doesn’t have quite the novelty of the original reboot. Having said that, if you never played the original, this would be the perfect time as you can replay the original levels in the new engine with the new gameplay improvements, and even earn achievements for doing so!
3. Red Dead Redemption 2 (Joe)
What can I say about RDR2 that hasn’t been said a thousand times already in the two short months since its release? It’s an open world game quite unlike any other, with a pulse and a personality all of its own. It’s a vacation away from real life, taking you to the romance and bloody heartbreak of the wildest of wests.
Objectively speaking I can admit it’s the best game released this year – quite possibly this generation – and it’s an absolute masterpiece in world design, storytelling and its ability to transport you entirely.
Whilst the price of admission may be high – and I’m talking about its learning curve and change of pace from regular gaming, rather than its impact on your wallet – it’s absolutely worth the investment.
3. Yoku’s Island Express (Ian)
I like pinball enough, although don’t quite have the nostalgia for any actual old-school tables to invest in any of those pinball games, even though the concept has always intrigued me. And I’ve always enjoyed a good Metroidvania game. But put the two together? Yoku’s Island Express just works, and on top of that, it has a charming world, characters and story, and bright, breezy graphics and music that kept me smiling through morning commutes on the London underground.
YIE isn’t the longest game ever, but it’s perfectly pitched in my opinion.
2. Spider-Man (Joe)
Whilst I can admit that Red Dead is the best game, and one of the most impressive achievements in the industry to date, it doesn’t mean I didn’t have more fun elsewhere. Whilst filling the spurred-boots of Arthur Morgan was an experience I’ll never forget, fitting into the tight spandex of Peter Parker was a joy from start to finish. As a huge spider-fan, I was nervous about Insomniac’s wall crawler Spider-Man, but I needn’t have been.
Zipping around the beautifully rendered New York, swinging between the skyscrapers and beating up bad guys on the rooftops high above, is an absolute gaming treat. Packed to the brim with fanservice and content, and the best swinging mechanics since Spider-Man 2, would have been enough to secure this game a spot on this list – but it also came packed with a story so good, so heartfelt and meaningful, that it topped every time Hollywood has ever attempted to adapt Spidey for the screen.
2. Into The Breach (Ian)
I only picked up Into the Breach in December, but I’ve barely put it down. I’ve even stopped playing Pokemon Let’s Go on my commute… Into the Breach is more puzzler than turn-based strategy, and you can never really screw up as a result of the AI.
It’s brilliantly simple, cunningly designed, and has more replay value than you can shake a stick at thanks to the Rogue-like elements like unlocking new mechs and carrying a pilot through your runs.
Add in a great dystopian sci-fi setting and some super pixel-art graphics that amp up the Advance Wars feel then ratchet it over to something much darker, and you’ve got a game that everyone should be playing.
1. Monster Hunter World (Joe)
Monster Hunter World was a rebirth for Capcom’s legendary action series. So often neglected in the west, MHW finally saw a more approachable entry point into an intimidating series – without sacrificing any of the depth or nuance that makes the series so worth playing. It masterfully balanced the new with the old, the casual with the hardcore, and trimmed the fat the series had built up over the decades.
MHW is a streamlined experience that is wonderful fun to play for every minute you’re in it, and going through the lengthy campaign (and the massive end game) with a group of friends, each forging our own paths via our class and armour builds, made for a gaming experience I’ll never forget. I’m giddy with excitement for next year’s expansion pack if only to make brand new memories to sit alongside the first time I took down an Anjanath, or the incredible one on one battle I had with the Nergigante, or the heartbreak and shame I felt when I single-handedly wiped our team from a Behemoth victory moments before it happened. Monster Hunter World is a game full of these moments, where after every session I’d put the controller down, wipe my sweaty palms on my jeans and commit another incredible instance to memory.
MHW is gaming at its absolute best.
1. Forza Horizon 4 (Ian)
Into the Breach was nearly number one. Maybe I’ll think it through again. It was certainly close. But there was one game that just kept me coming back for more. Kept me playing again and again. Kept me from playing other games on my list. Always seemed to reward me with something for whatever crazy stuff I was doing in game.
And that game was Forza Horizon 4. A game, which on the surface, appears to be just more smart iterations on a previous franchise. But Horizon 4 is so, so much more. The events have been smartly upgraded. There’s more silliness, more of a plot.
The game is creative and clever in keeping you engaged, keeping you playing, and changing up your vehicle in ways the main series has never been able to emulate. The addition of seasons is just fantastic, and it genuinely does change the way you’ll play the game.
I can (and will) keep going back to the well with this one for months and months.
So … that might be a surprise for some of us … I bet everybody thought RDR2 would be GOTY? Hah, well almost according to our reviewers.
Hope you liked our GOTY list and see you again in 2019!
Happy New Year from all of us!
The GamerKnights Team
Bjorn, Ian & Joe.