This article is available in both written and video format. The video shows the games in action while I read the article as a voiceover, so if you watch the video you don’t need to read the written article that follows since it’s the same ‘script’.
Well, 2018 has finally come to an end and I’ve got to be honest with you: yer man Scullion is absolutely knackered.
This has easily been the busiest year I can remember. Not only have I been juggling my 9-to-5 job at the same time as running Tired Old Hack, I also finished my NES Encyclopedia book and, of course, have the small matter of my gorgeous baby daughter to take care of too.
That said, I did still find time to get my fair share of gaming this year, and since it’s basically illegal not to have an end-of-year list, here’s my ten favourite games of the year.
Just a couple of points:
• It’s in alphabetical order, not best-to-worst. I can’t be arsed deciding whether a game was my 6th or 7th favourite of the year. They’re all great: get them all.
• Before you even think about writing a comment saying this, I didn’t “forget” anything. I haven’t played every game released this year, and this is my personal list. So no, I didn’t forget Spider-Man, or God Of War, or Tetris Effect. I just haven’t played them yet, and I’m not going to add games I didn’t play in case I end up not liking them. Which is unlikely, but possible. For example, I think The Last Of Us is pish.
That said, let’s get cracking!
Forza Horizon 4
I’ve always been a huge fan of the Forza Horizon series ever since it started on the Xbox 360 six years ago.
After games set in Colorado, the France-Italy border and Australia, the fourth game takes place in my native United Kingdom and (even better) dedicates a sizeable portion of its map to my current home city of Edinburgh.
I haven’t been able to race through Edinburgh in a game since Project Gotham Racing 2 on the original Xbox, so doing it again has been an absolute joy.
That would be great enough for me on its own, but the fact this version of Edinburgh comes via Forza Horizon – easily the greatest modern racing series in my eyes – is nothing short of glorious.
With breathtakingly realistic graphics (especially on an Xbox One X where you can race at 60fps) and a near endless supply of races to take on throughout its enormous open world map, this isn’t just one of my games of the year, it’s the best racing game of the entire generation.
I don’t often go for artsy fartsy indie games caked in metaphor and wordless stories that are left wide open to interpretation, so any that manage to win me over must be something pretty special.
Gris is indeed extremely special: it’s easily one of the most gorgeous games I’ve ever played, and the closest I’ve felt to playing a painting.
I’ve often said that the horror film Suspiria – the original, not this year’s remake – is so beautifully shot that you could take any single frame from it and hang it on the wall of an art gallery.
Gris is the video game equivalent of that: you could randomly hit the capture button on your Switch controller at any point while playing and you’re almost certain to end up with a visually stunning screenshot.
At around three hours long it may be a little short for some people, but given that this year I’ve been juggling a 9-to-5 job, a 270-page book and the small matter of a baby daughter, its brevity only made me appreciate it more.
This is a game that enters your life, charms your heart, then nips out before overstaying its welcome, leaving you with nothing but positive memories.
Horizon Chase Turbo
For years I’ve been crying out for a new Out Run game. Not literally crying out, mind you: that would be a bit odd. But still, a new Out Run would be nice.
With no new Out Run on the horizon – at least, none officially announced yet – luckily another horizon appeared this year to fill that blue-skied gap.
Horizon Chase Turbo is an immaculate-looking arcade-style racer clearly inspired by the days when Out Run and its ilk dominated the racing genre.
It’s smoother than a milkshake made by Pepe Le Pew, and its enormous helping of over 100 tracks means you’ll be playing through its World Tour mode for ages.
I’m so happy this game exists.
Immortal Redneck was nowhere near my radar until I was asked to review the Switch version for Nintendo Life.
It’s an FPS set inside a series of giant pyramids, where the aim is to work your way through a maze of rooms, defeating the enemies in each one until you find the staircases that eventually lead you to the top.
Given that I generally dislike procedurally generated games, I wasn’t really enthusiastic to try it out. But I ended up loving it so much that after finishing the review I immediately bought the Xbox One X version.
That’s because it’s only procedurally generated to an extent: while each time you enter one of its pyramids its map consists of a completely different arrangement of rooms, each of these rooms has actually been designed beforehand, and the quality shines through as a result.
What you get, then, is a brilliantly fast-paced shooter that feels a lot like the old-school days of Quake, Serious Sam and the like, and really doesn’t take itself too seriously. Brilliant game.
Monster Boy And The Cursed Kingdom
There have been so many hand-drawn 2D platformers in recent times that it takes something extremely impressive these days to catch my eye.
As I’ve already mentioned, Gris did just that. And so did Monster Boy And The Cursed Kingdom, a brand new platformer designed to be a spiritual successor to Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap.
It’s a brilliant old-school Metroidvania game where you can turn into various animals, each with their own special moves and unique abilities to help you progress. The result is a fun platformer with a bunch of ability-based puzzles.
The most impressive element of the game, though, is how stunning it looks and sounds. You’d swear this was a big-budget title rather than an indie release but, amazingly, that’s not the case.
It won’t be to everyone’s tastes, especially at a price point of £34.99. But anyone who can appreciate that 2D titles don’t always have to be punished with a budget price point will certainly get their money’s worth with this one.
Night Trap (Switch)
The snazzy 25th Anniversary Edition of Night Trap – one of my favourite games ever – was released last year on PS4.
Developer Screaming Villains (aka one-man ‘team’ Tyler Hogle) delivered a fantastic remaster by rebuilding it from scratch, taking the original master tapes and piecing each segment together.
The result is the best looking version of Night Trap by a country mile, as well as a pair of fantastic documentaries and even a playable version of Scene Of The Crime, the VHS Night Trap prototype that before this release had never even been seen in its entirety, let alone fully playable.
So if it was released in 2017, why is it in this year’s list? Well, because it was ported to the Switch this year and I’ll take any excuse to mention Night Trap again. Look, I told you this was my list.
Red Dead Redemption 2
Many were expecting Red Dead Redemption 2 to be the greatest game ever made. It isn’t – it has too many irritating bits and pieces for that – so it’ll have to settle for being a mere masterpiece instead.
Rockstar’s open world may be little more than a set of predesigned set-pieces masquerading as spontaneous moments (find a funny clip on Twitter and you can almost be sure of finding a bunch of other people who had exactly the same experience in the same location), but it’s so brilliantly crafted it really doesn’t matter.
Since GTA V was originally released on the Xbox 360 and PS3 before being ported to the Xbox One and PS4, that means Red Dead 2 is Rockstar’s first proper current-gen game and it really shows, as the environments are jaw-dropping at times.
It’s sometimes a bit too clever for its own good – as you’ll no doubt agree after having to clean your gun for the umpteenth time – but there’s no denying that it’s easily one of the best attempts at creating a cinematic experience to date.
I’ve always been an enormous fan of the Road Rash series from the ‘90s, but when I first played the very early alpha version of Road Redemption back in 2014 I wasn’t really too impressed.
As such, much like with Immortal Redneck, I’d paid no real attention to Road Redemption until I was asked to review it, at which point I still fully expected to be faced with a 5/10 game.
Instead, I got a fantastically addictive racer that really does feel like the modern evolution of the Road Rash games, with plenty of over-the-top violence including beheadings a-plenty.
In fact, the whole thing felt a lot like my Immortal Redneck experience. It was a game I wasn’t fussed about, I was asked to review it, I was wary of its procedural generation, it ended up using it in a way that wasn’t intrusive, and – once again – I liked it so much I got the Xbox One version as a result of reviewing the Switch one.
If you’re looking for a fast-paced racer that’s all about action and planting bombs under trucks, then Road Redemption is a hilariously violent solution.
SNK 40th Anniversary Collection
In a year full of cracking retro compilations (take a bow, Street Fighter 30th Anniversary Collection and the Mega Man X Legacy Collection games), this helping of SNK games is the best of the bunch.
Exclusive to the Switch, it consists of 24 vintage SNK games from the company’s pre-Neo Geo era. Even better, a number of these games are available in both their arcade and NES versions, meaning the real total is actually 32 titles.
The flawless emulation and the fact that many of these games are fairly rare is good enough, but the real magic in this compilation is the Museum Mode included.
Developer Digital Eclipse is well known for adding impressive Museum Modes in its retro compilations: check out the Disney Afternoon Collection and the aforementioned Street Fighter and Mega Man collections for proof of this.
With this SNK collection, however, the studio has gone to ridiculous levels with ‘SNK Complete Works 1978-1990’, one of the most detailed galleries of artwork and behind-the-scenes information ever seen in a game. I spent hours and hours just reading through its 74 chapters, and learned so much about the company’s games in the process.
Its games are fun enough as it is (though some are a little prehistoric by today’s standards), but anyone with a keen interest in the history of retro gaming should consider this essential.
Super Smash Bros Ultimate
Finally, my Games Of The Year list wouldn’t be anywhere near complete without the absolute beast that is the latest Smash Bros game.
As a single-player gamer, my initial fears that the ditching of trophies would give it less longevity were completely reassured with the Spirits system.
I’m going to be collecting these wee bastards for a long time to come, and I’ve been having such a great time just dipping in and out of the game every now and then to add a few more to the collection.
Naturally, the game itself is great fun to play too, otherwise it wouldn’t be on here no matter how many pieces of glorified character art there were to collect.
With more than 70 characters, more than 100 stages and more assist trophies, assist Pokémon and weapons than ever before, this is a game that almost guarantees that no two fights will be the same purely in terms of raw numbers.
It’s easily the best Smash Bros game ever made, which is why it’s a no brainer as the tenth and final game in my Games Of The Year for 2018.
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