The best games of 2018

The Best Games of 2018

Superheroes, super-dads, and Super Mario parties brought the joy in 2018 to millions of players who ate up the year’s impressive achievements in gaming, from stunning storylines and gorgeous designs to novel new mechanics featuring familiar faces. EW editor Marc Snetiker and writers Nick Romano and Evan Lewis tick off their top 10 games of the year.

1. God of War

The God of War franchise confronted its troublesome past this year and delivered the most unexpected console entry of 2018. Where previous games featured overt misogyny and controversial quests, this next chapter served as a soft reboot for the Ghost of Sparta, transplanting Kratos from Ancient Greece to the land of Vikings. Burying his chained blades — a symbol of a savage history — the antihero faced his biggest battle yet: fatherhood. To honor his late wife, Kratos vowed to spread her ashes from the highest peak, kickstarting an odyssey across lush, mythic realms with his son, Atreus.

A giant World Serpent, vengeful Gods, and Hannibal-istic visions of antlered dark elves satiate the player’s battle thirst but never taint the story’s emotional center: that of a father struggling to keep his child untouched by the evils of his own past. With a narrative that made grown gamers weep (thanks, Matt Sophos), director Cory Barlog reinvented the game — from the open-world setting to the very fighting mechanics — and brought humanity to a character forever reconciling with his (and the series’) inner demons. Five years in the making, God of War marks a fresh start for a franchise that now has the potential to go anywhere.

Kratos will never be the same – and neither will the series. —Nick Romano

2. Red Dead Redemption 2

If some of the Wild West personalities are broadly drawn in Rockstar’s most ambitious open world to date, the beautiful, barely tamed vistas of the American South are broader. The gradual disillusionment and ultimate redemption of rough-yet-wistful gunslinger Arthur Morgan as the sun sets on the outlaw era warrant a lengthy ride for any player. —Evan Lewis

3. Marvel’s Spider-Man

It’s all in the swing; no swing and Spider-Man falls flat. Luckily, the team at Insomniac Games perfected the webslinger’s aerial acrobatics for this sprawling PlayStation 4 release. Bolstered by sinister comic-book villains, a heart-pounding score from film composer John Paesano, juicy post-credit scenes, and a cameo from Stan Lee, the game rivals even Marvel’s biggest big-screen adventures. —NR

4. Assassin’s Creed Odyssey

The 21st (!) entry in Ubisoft’s series lays down a stunning new milestone for the action franchise. Set in a spectacularly rendered ancient Greece, Odyssey is as ambitious in its storytelling (the ancestral passage of main heroes Alexios and Kassandra is more than epic, not to mention funny and fiercely sentimental) as it is effortless in its sandbox freedoms and groundbreaking LGBTQ story lines. Future Assassins have a new north star to follow. —Marc Snetiker

5. Celeste

Matt Thorson and Noel Berry’s mountain-climbing journey evolved from a game-jam prototype to one of the year’s more touching experiences. Synergizing pleasant pixel art, uplifting music, arduous challenges, and a relatable story of learning to understand anxiety on an individual and social level, the platformer highlights the triumph of meeting lofty personal goals. —EL

6. Monster Hunter: World

Despite the complexity of its systems, Monster Hunter is a pure distillation of a certain type of RPG. There’s little plot or character development to speak of, but the central reward loop of slay monster, take bones, make gear, slay angrier monster is endlessly entertaining. Add adorable kitty sidekicks, and you’ve got yourself a hit. —EL

7. Florence

Monument Valley designer Ken Wong’s latest mobile game is a gently interactive, dialogue-free exploration of routines, relationships, love, and self-actualization. Told poignantly through artistic visuals and a cello-led ensemble score, Florence is impressive for the honesty and thoroughness of its succinct encapsulation of young romance. —EL

8. Shadow of the Tomb Raider

Lara Croft has finally reached her full tomb-raiding potential, and so have her games. Centered on the Mayan apocalypse, the best chapter yet from the prequel saga turns the jungle into a living weapon. Finessed stealth options now make battle more thrilling, and with play controls at last in the sweet spot, we’re gonna need another sequel. —NR

9. Super Mario Party 

If time has made you doubt Toad’s party-planning skills, this seminal installment should offer gleeful proof otherwise. Bringing the sleepover staple back to surprisingly effective basics, the Nintendo Switch sequel combines its always-innovative minigames with refreshingly simplified controls and gameplay—a major boon in and of itself that gives Party-goers license to enjoy the little things, like the manic Ally feature which utilizes the series’ biggest-ever playable cast of characters. Not that that’ll do anything to lighten your temper when one of them steals your Star. —MS

10. Fortnite 

No, it didn’t debut in 2018, but the impact of Fortnite can’t be ignored this year. The online multiplayer answer to The Hunger Games became a cultural phenom (which most parents probably still don’t understand, but definitely heard name-dropped more than once this year). The game keeps reinventing itself, with new Battle Royale seasons (including an Infinite-ly awesome Thanos crossover) and a map that’s constantly being reworked as players rise in the ranks with new gear. May we suggest a Star Wars crossover for 2019? —NR

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