It’s hard to top a year like 2017. Last year saw some of the biggest names in video games reinvented and rejuvenated, from the lush open world of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild to the heart-pounding Resident Evil 7 to the manic wackiness of Super Mario Odyssey. Meanwhile, we were surprised and delighted by brand-new names like PUBG, Horizon Zero Dawn, and Cuphead. There was even a great Sonic the Hedgehog game, which doesn’t happen very often.
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But this year was also surprisingly strong, offering up an incredibly varied mix  of interactive experiences. There are the blockbusters, of course, like the free-wheeling Spider-Man and the meticulously detailed Red Dead Redemption 2. But 2018 was also a fantastic year for smaller games. Florence used interactivity to show what it feels to fall in love, and Return of the Obra Dinn is perhaps the best whodunit to ever grace the medium. Meanwhile, Tetris Effect made the case that stacking blocks can be an emotional experience.
There was a lot to choose from, and we’ve whittled it down to the best 15 games of the year. Check them out.
Beat Saber


It took much longer than anticipated, but virtual reality finally has its killer app. Beat Saber is a mashup of Star Wars and Guitar Hero: blocks of color fly toward you in time to the music, and you have to swat them away with a pair of humming lightsabers. The concept is simple, but when you strap on a headset and get in tune with the music, it’s an absolutely absorbing experience. It manages to satisfy that long-held desire by many of us to wield a Star Wars laser sword, while also just being a great rhythm game. It’s also a workout: it’s unlikely any other 2018 release will make you sweat quite as much as Beat Saber.


A challenging climb up a daunting, pix-elated mountain, Celeste looks like a typical platforming game, but it’s so much more, telling a powerful story about overcoming mistakes. But in order to enjoy the game, and luxuriate in its gorgeous retro visuals and phenomenal soundtrack, you’ll need to accept that you will die… many, many times.
Dead Cells


Konami has largely left the Castlevania series to flounder, but thankfully indie developers have picked up the slack. There are no shortage of so-called “metroidvanias” — games that mimic the open-ended structure of Metroid and Castlevania — but even still, Dead Cells manages to stand out. Its combination of brutal combat, constantly changing world, and incredibly fun abilities to unlock makes it nearly impossible to put down. More than that, though, Dead Cells also evokes a very Castlevania-like sense of style, as you venture through ruined landscapes battling all manner of Gothic monsters. It feels like a classic while remaining very much its own game.


Florence lasts less than two hours, but it manages to tell an incredibly powerful story within that short time. It’s a familiar story, chronicling the ups and downs of young love. But what Florence lacks in originality, it makes up for by telling its tale in a way that only video games can. As you go through the life of the titular lead, you use simple interactions to mimic her everyday life, whether it’s riding the train or brushing her teeth. But when she falls in love, those interactions become more powerful, and eventually stressful; racing to win an argument, or choosing what to keep when you move. It’s short, sweet, and sentimental, and it will absolutely melt your heart.


The biggest surprise isn’t that God of War is good; the surprise is the things the game succeeds at. Over the course of several games, the series has made its name primarily on violence and spectacle. Iconic lead Kratos had exactly one personality trait: he was very, very angry. The soft reboot of God of War for PS4 manages to take what the series is known for — namely, over-the-top action set pieces — and combines it with a story and characters you’ll actually care about. The relationship between Kratos and his son builds naturally over the course of the game, resulting in one of the most compelling video game narratives of the year.


Into the Breach does things a little differently than most strategy games. The turn-based game, which pits human-piloted robots up against gigantic kaiju forces, is focused on small-scale battles that usually involve just a few moves. You also get to see how your opponents will act before you decide on your strategy. This makes every single decision an important one, and early on, Into the Breach will absolutely kick your ass. But as you learn how to play over the course of several in-game timelines, a world of strategy opens up. Think of it like chess, but with tanks and giant bugs.
Monster Hunter World


For years, Monster Hunter has been one of those series that seemed resistant to change, offering up very similar experiences designed explicitly for its hardcore fan base. That all changed with Monster Hunter: World. The new game brought modern sensibilities to the series, with a huge world made possible by modern consoles, and a more seamless design that made venturing out into the wilds feel more natural. It still has all of the tense, often unpredictable monster hunting you’d expect, but this time it’s in a much bigger and more approachable package.

Pokémon: Let’s Go


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