The 15 Best Videogames of 2018 (So Far)

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The 15 Best Videogames of 2018 (So Far)

The internet thrives on instant nostalgia. 2018 is four months old, which makes it one-third dead, which means we’ve spent just enough time gallivanting through its days to justify an early stab at a best games of the year list. This is a rough draft, a first pass, an early access look at the games we’ve most loved and will most remember from 2018. It’s effectively an overview of where the industry is today and what its current strengths are, at least according to the viewpoints of those of us here at Paste’s games section. That’s our right—we run this section, and we say what goes. And here’s what went so far in 2018, the year that we are somehow currently living under, and a year that has suffered no drought of worthwhile videogames.

15. Shadow of the Colossus
Platform: PlayStation 4 

Normally we don’t include remasters or ports in this kind of list, but the PS4 version of Shadow of the Colossus is a weird little number. It’s not just a spruced up HD version of Team Ico’s classic, but a completely new version, built from the ground up for the PlayStation 4, that almost identically recreates the original. Many comparisons to Gus Van Sant’s baffling shot-for-shot remake of Hitchcock’s Psycho popped up in reviews, and for good measure: there aren’t a lot of examples of this kind of slavishly faithful remake in any medium. The new game might give you a weird, creeping case of déjà vu, but the original design of this one can’t be denied. The new Shadow of the Colossus retains the epic grandeur and unforgettable sadness of the original, and reasserts the original’s impact upon games as a medium.—Garrett Martin


14. Dead in Vinland
Platforms: PC, Mac

Dead In Vinland is difficult to describe. It’s a game about managing a family, and eventually a small band, of refugees displaced by vikings, storms, shipwrecks and other nightmares of the pseudo-medieval era. It’s a game about managing resources like water, food, lumber, and ore to keep your small colony operational. There are jobs, skills and emotional levels of colonists who have to be managed. And, on top of that, it’s a game that tells a story about a group of people brought together by tragedy and violence. Somehow it all coheres into something wonderful. Dead In Vinland is one of the most interesting games I’ve ever played.—Cameron Kunzelman


13. A Case of Distrust
Platforms: PC, Mac

Detective game A Case of Distrust is immensely charming. Designer Ben Wander did a superb job of coming up with an eclectic aesthetic on such limited resources. While the game is more or less like reading a book, the restrained use of a few slick animations keep the visuals interesting. Not a single page stagnates or feels stale. The music, a light noir-style jazz, supports the simple but stylish presentation, accentuating its minimalist appeal. In A Case of Distrust, the verdict is in: guilty of being an enjoyable game.—Holly Green


12. Where the Water Tastes Like Wine
Platforms: PC

Just sit back a spell and let these humble words suffice as Paste’s official opinion on this shaggy exploration of the power of folktales and storytelling: SGOOD! The folklore game made by a Gone Home designer and co-written by just about every prominent videogame critic is good. Like the folktales that inspire it—hell, like America itself, the country that inspires it—it’s not perfect and it’s not great but it has moments of greatness within it. It’s a messy, awkward, poignant journey into the heart of America and the legends, jokes and horror stories that we’ve created about ourselves and our country. Whatever you think about it, you pretty much have to admit it’s a true original in the games world. Also the score, inspired by a variety of traditional musical idioms, is a beaut. (Disclosure: So many people who worked on this game are friends with Paste’s games editors and/or former contributors to Paste. Like, too many to list here.)—Garrett Martin


11. Monster Hunter: World
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC (later in 2018)

The Monster Hunter series, as the title suggests, has primarily been about striking down massive beasts and using their remains to fashion new armor, weapons and food. While Monster Hunter: World certainly maintains that emphasis on killing giant beasts, the game also asks us to care about the monsters we slaughter, and understand our own hand in maintaining and destroying the ecological system.—Shonte Daniels


10. God of War
Platform:   PlayStation 4  

More than most action games, combat in God of War has the pacing of a rhythm game. You have to tap various buttons in the right sequence to strike and block at the right times, unleashing your extra-powerful attacks when needed. When you’re surrounded by enemies and dancing over the various attack buttons, calling in arrows from Atreus while blocking at the exact right moment to stun your enemy, you might find yourself entering a kind of trance where you’re locked so tightly into the rhythms of that combat that everything else momentarily fades away. From the pulse of that violence, to the feeling of that axe chopping through a monster as it flies back to you after a perfectly aimed strike, to the sweeping range of the weapon that’s unlocked later, the combat in God of War is about as satisfying as action games get.—Garrett Martin


9. Battletech
Platform: PC

Battletech presents combat as a cascading series of desperate choices. It is nearly impossible to escape a mission without taking damage in some form, and Battletech knows this, and plays on the cruel randomness of ‘Mech-on-‘Mech strategy. At its most gratifying, it is a struggle against impossible odds, with brave pilots constantly fighting for the slightest edge on one another. At its lowest, it feels like your squad is outmatched and outgunned at every turn.

But even when I found myself banging my head against a particularly hard mission, I never felt unsatisfied. Battletech shows a cruel and vast universe of empires and kings and queens, and narrows the lens of storytelling to a tight and contained thread of a queen regaining her throne with the help of a mercenary crew. You never feel like an army, and that’s to the game’s benefit. This isn’t a game about a war, even though it is set against the backdrop of one. Battletech is a game about battles, in all their sad and joyous desperation, and the machines that they so lovingly destroy.—Dante Douglas


8. Dragon Ball FighterZ
Platforms: Xbox One, PC, PlayStation 4 

Dragon Ball FighterZ is both the fighting game and Dragon Ball spin-off I never realized I always wanted. The production values are better, and the narrative tension is vastly improved. Given how Dragon Ball FighterZ amps up the drama on existing Dragon Ball storylines, increases engagement by allowing the player to take dialogue sequences at their own pace, and puts a polished, beautiful spin on the old cartoon, this isn’t just my favorite Dragon Ball game. It’s my favorite Dragon Ball anything.—Holly Green


7. Yakuza 6
Platform:   PlayStation 4  

What makes Yakuza 6 so compelling is that it succeeds in making the insignificant seem significant. It focuses on the minutiae of the world, from the detailed shop interiors that serve no purpose other than to ground you in the setting, to the nearby citizens who go about their daily business as anarchy unfolds around them in your wake. But perhaps the greatest feat of all is that the game trusts you, the player, to find it all yourself. By refusing to hold your hand and lead you from A to B, it gives you room to explore, to procrastinate and breathe between story steps, and it’s in those moments of respite that you’ll find the best of what the Yakuza series has to offer.—Andy Moore


6. Florence
Platforms: iOS, Android

Florence is refreshing in that it frames a past relationship not as a failure, but rather, an event that can be cherished even if it doesn’t end on ideal terms. Its redemption narrative is based not on trying to salvage what might not be worth saving, but of growing and moving on. It’s an empowering message amid so much romantic fiction that encourages women to self doubt, self neglect, and suffer for love. And it reminds me that I can make the decision to be okay.—Holly Green


5. Celeste
Platforms: Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, Mac

Matt Thorson’s follow-up to Towerfall employs a familiar aesthetic and language from videogames past to tell a story about mental health and self-actualization, using the mountain the game is named after as a representation of a young woman’s struggles with depression and self-doubt. Celeste is an inspired triumph, with art that recalls the early ‘90s, and requiring a precision to navigate its levels that comes straight out of the heyday of platforming. The vibrant use of color and warm, stylistically varied score elevate the retro aesthetic beyond mere homage. It’s a touching and occasionally insightful depiction of what it’s like to live with anxiety and depression.—Garrett Martin


4. Dandara
Platforms: Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, iOS, Android, Linux, Mac

Long Hat House’s first game might play fast and loose with history—its hero, Dandara, is a real-life figure from Brazilian history—but its Metroid-style design and unique approach to motion make it compulsively playable. It’s part myth, part dream, all wrapped up in an occasionally psychedelic sci-fi action game heavily indebted to the aesthetics of the ‘80s and early ‘90s, and one of the best new games of the year.—Garrett Martin


3. Minit
Platforms:   PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, Mac, Linux

Minit is an adventure with a twist and also a critique of capital split up into tiny bite-sized chunks and told through adorable animals in a sparsely drawn fantasy land. After enough stop and start minutes you’ll realize a factory is running roughshod over this place, polluting the land and working some of its employees to the bone while firing others whose jobs can now be done by machines. Behind it all is a maniacal manager prioritizing productivity over all else. After all these minutes and all these lives the true story reveals itself, and to reach the end you have to collect item after item, life after life, to eventually have the skills necessary to grind the factory to a halt. Even after realizing this it’ll take many minutes and many lives to finish everything you know you need to do, tiny bits of incremental progress in-between passages of rote, mundane, repetitive busy work. If it starts to feel like a job, well, maybe that’s the game’s point. The factory is Minit itself, its employees all of us who play the game, and its dictatorial boss the developers who put us through these paces again and again and again in hopes of the smallest iota of progress. Like the unending and uncaring work shifts that eat up our days until we die, we expend most of our vital energy redoing the same soul-killing nonsense over and over. It is one of the most effective metaphors for the exploitation of the working class seen in videogames. The minutes pass, we experience multiple tiny deaths every day doing the job we’re expected to do. And we press a button, and we do it again.—Garrett Martin


2. Into the Breach
Platforms: PC, Mac, Linux

Into The Breach is interested in you, as a player, gaining skills and developing new ways of thinking about the puzzle-like battles it puts in front of you. The island regions threatened by the Vek are small tactical boards, and you control a small cohort of giant, Pacific Rim-style robots who are there to smash and push their enemies around. Critically, these giant robots have mass, and Breach is very much committed to showing that big stuff smacking into other things has real effects. The idea is to prevent the Vek from attacking civilian buildings, prevent them from killing your mechs, and to kill them. Importantly, the game’s concerns are in that order.

That’s the puzzle-y part of the game. Each map has a turn counter that’s slowly ticking down, and at the end of it the remaining Vek will disappear. Into The Breach’s most interesting qualities come from the fact that you do not have to kill your enemies to win the game. You don’t have to annihilate each and every Vek on a time limit, and you don’t ever have to put your mechs in too much danger. You just need to be able to use your punching, shooting, artillery-firing robots to keep scooching enemy Vek around until the game is over.—Cameron Kunzelman


1. Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom
Platforms:   PlayStation 4, PC

If you pay attention to what we write about here at Paste’s games section you probably realized there was no other feasible option for number one on this list. This is the game, remember, that made me question my lifelong ambivalence towards anime. That’s a massive achievement. Ni no Kuni II is a big leap forward from the middling original for a few reasons, one of which is that it more elegantly unites its gameplay loop with the anime aesthetic of its cut scenes. The camera seamlessly transitions into action when the talking is done and it’s time to take control of your characters, and the new real-time combat scheme also breaks down the off-putting distance found in the first game’s fight scenes. On top of all of that is a surprisingly thoughtful political storyline and characters that are deeper and more human than you might expect from their extremely anime appearances. If you’re remotely interested in role-playing games or anime, you should play this one.—Garrett Martin

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