2018 was a pretty monumental year for gaming, with some huge AAA releases and indie surprise packages, gracing our consoles with their mere presence. With that in mind I asked our esteemed group of contributors to choose their favourite game from the past year and explain what made it so special to them. Without further ado…

James Lynch – Red Dead Redemption 2

So this one might be a little obvious, but it’s obvious for a reason. Rockstar have managed to pack so much into the game world that its actually a little daunting at first. With that in mind, the excellent narrative provides a more gentle way into understanding key mechanics and features of the game, like the large gunfights, abundant wildlife and traversing the landscape.

This sequel had a lot to follow, the first being one of the most well received games of all time, but it really exceeded all expectations. With this release the devil is absolutely in the detail. Whether it be shooting your own paddle boat just to watch yourself sink into a lake and get eaten by alligators or wiling away the hours watching your horses gentleman vegetables grow and shrink in the inclement weather, this really is a unique experience. Of course, a ton of you will have played through this ten times already but if you haven’t, then what are you waiting for?

Elijah Gonzalez – God of War

It’s hard to think of a game that better embodies the transition of modern AAA games than the recently released God of War. What was once a juvenile power fantasy based around fairly straightforward character-action combat, has transformed into an immersive narrative-based experience.

Kratos is no longer a perpetually raging meathead, but a flesh-and-blood person. Sure, he is certainly still quite gruff, his laconic demeanor the frequent butt of jokes. But instead of screaming at the heavens in a constant state of blood-thirsty anger, he now gazes mournfully at his distant objective, a mountain where he intends to deposit his dead wife’s ashes as per her final wish.Although that objective is quite grave, he is accompanied by his son Atreus, a beam of warmth whose presence forms the bedrock of what makes this reimagining of the series so successful. The relationship between Kratos and his son is used to convey a multitude of themes concerning parentage, familial selfishness, and the burdens of power. Their interplay, Atreus’ naivete clashing against his father’s world-weariness, is a constant delight. We see the crushing weight of godhood on Kratos’ conscience, his terrible decisions recontextualized in the context of his son’s morality. While he may be a far more relatable character, he is still clearly connected to his past transgressions, his bubbling anger just barely in check.

However, God of War doesn’t only rework the series in terms of its storytelling, it also is a complete overhaul in terms of its gameplay. Instead of the isometric perspective of previous games, we are given a third person view that fits better with the more grounded tone of the proceedings. Taking a small degree of inspiration from the Souls games, combat is much more methodically paced, requiring weaving through waves of enemies with well-timed dodges and parries. The action gameplay is mixed with RPG elements to create a gratifying core loop, as crafting better armor improves your defensive capabilities, and progress in tech-trees increases your moveset. The world of Midgard is a semi-open world that is both imaginative and thoroughly technically impressive, a well-considered intersection between fantasy and reality that is grounded via its strong characters. Overall, God of War is one of those games that feels as though it is almost universally successful. Although the progression systems break somewhat in the closing hours, the combat system remains responsive and engaging throughout. Creative director Cory Balrog and the rest of the team at Santa Monica Studio have succeeded at transitioning a lineage of entertaining but facile action games into something with a heart. And that is certainly something worth celebrating.

Emily Shiel – Life is Strange 2

If there’s one game that stood out to me this year it’s Life is Strange 2! I’ll admit I was a little upset that Max and Chloe’s story had come to a close but I fell just as much in love with Daniel and Sean in season two. LiS 2 brings heart, great storytelling, characters to root for and that little bit of mystery that is ever present in the LiS universe. Even if you haven’t played the first instalment you can still enjoy this game, making it all the more inclusive for new players. Definitely one to recommend from 2018!

Alyx Salfiti – God of War

The only repeat appearance on this list, it’s second showing is a testament to the profound nature of this game. In a world full of Sandbox releases, where that style of game has been exhausted, God of War showcased what can really be done with semi-open world exploration, exquisitely written dialogue, intriguing and excellently paced action and story driven content. When paired with a not too complicated combat system that felt meaty and devastating, and with some of the most beautifully rendered environments and characters I have seen in a title, you’re on to a winner. God of War was the best showcase of beautifully written narrative blended with a world that was just large enough to feel fleshed out, but not too big to seem impossible to overcome without giving it 100+ hours (looking at you Odyssey)! God of War stood out as a release that went against the grain. How can God of War not have been the GotY? Oh, and it was a Playstation exclusive, so what’s not to enjoy?

The PlayStation bias is real and upsetting – Ed

Ben Gibson – Monster Hunter World (PC)

In 2018, PC users finally got a new Monster Hunter game on their favourite platform, and it did not disappoint. The latest iteration in this series does a far better job than its predecessors at easing new players in and explaining the mechanics of the game, which was great news for PC players who may not have tried a Monster Hunter game before, and would not be familiar with its many intricacies and quirks. The downside of this means the game has a bit of a slow start to get to the interesting monster hunts, but the experience is well worth the wait. New weapons and monsters have been introduced, and the combat is as fluid as ever. If you want a unique RPG that is also great to play with friends, it’s hard to go wrong with this title.

Dominic Camelli – Pokemon: Let’s Go, Pikachu & Let’s Go, Eeevee

The game from 2018 that you should definitely give a chance is Pokémon Let’s Go, Pikachu and Let’s Go, Eevee. If you own a Nintendo Switch and are looking for a trip down memory lane with a fresh coat of paint, this game is a great option. It combines the classic story of the Kanto region with mechanics that are reminiscent of the impossibly successful mobile game, Pokémon Go. Kanto is beautiful and the game itself poses little challenge to seasoned players until the post-game. The difficulty may be explained by it being the first game in the series to allow co-op play, making this the perfect entry to the series for younger players and families. Definitely check this game out if you are trying to relive the past or introduce the next generation to the first generation of Pokémon.     

Brandon Key – Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age

Editor’s note: We know this technically came out in 2017 in Japan but, y’know, we’re not in Japan.

As the first console entry into the long-running Dragon Quest series since the early 2000s, Dragon Quest XI is a crowd pleaser for longtime fans and new players of the series. The game’s classic turn-based combat, coupled with gorgeous visuals and just enough modern JRPG elements which perfectly balances feel both familiar and new, makes this a must play for RPG fans. And that’s not even mentioning the 80 plus hour story and charming, memorable characters.

So there you have it. Basically all of these games are wonderful and if you have any of the prerequisite platforms to play them on then just bloody well get on with it. Okay?