2018 was an incredible year for video games, and we certainly saw some masterpieces that became instant classics right away. However, we here at LosHarrow wanted to do something a little different than a Game of the Year list, and instead show you some of our favorite games we played this year. That’s right. We’re going back in time, baby! So while some of the games I mention may be from 2018, the majority are either favorites from yesteryear that I wanted to revisit, or oldies that I never quite got around to. I personally had a hell of a year – according to my trophy/achievement list – so let’s take a little peek at my favorites, in no particular order!
I really should have just labeled this as “The David Cage Trilogy.” I played all three Quantic Dream epics – Heavy Rain, Beyond: Two Souls, and Detroit: Become Human – in 2018, and after some careful deliberation, I decided I enjoyed Heavy Rain the most. Having played Detroit for a review (which you can find a discussion about here), I, unfortunately, experienced it before the previous games from the twisted mind of David Cage. Detroit‘s sheer brilliance, however, launched me into a quest for more. I quickly jumped into Heavy Rain and Beyond, and I was not disappointed. While both games begin with a distressingly slow burn compared to Detroit, Heavy Rain comes out on top for its focus on multiple simultaneous storylines, all of which deliver their own unique points of view following a serial killer’s trail, and culminating in a mind-blowing twist that threw me for a loop, eight years after its initial release. I still think back on Heavy Rain daily, as no other game (aside from Detroit and Beyond) has ever told me a story through such a brilliant formula. The way Quantic Dream grabbed hold of my emotions and took me for a ride across three extensive games was something I’ve never experienced before. I felt driven to play more, and take in all of these fascinating tales because they’re just so…smart! Call David Cage what you will, but to me, he’s proven himself to be a storytelling mastermind, and I’m thankful for all the fun he provided me with this year.
The Walking Dead:
The Final Season
I’m so glad this isn’t a Game of the Year list, and I can actually include an unfinished product on my list. I suppose that makes an argument for games in early access, as they technically aren’t “2018 games,” but alas, that’s not what I’m here to talk about. For this entry, I want to say a little something about Telltale’s The Walking Dead series. Honestly, I want to say a little something about Telltale in general. The world simply will not be the same without Telltale, that’s a given. What they could do with an established intellectual property and an episodic game format is completely unrivaled. I’ll miss their monthly releases keeping me entertained for chunks of a year at a time. I’ll miss the passion they put into everything they made, whether it’s based on a comic book series, a television show, or another video game franchise. Every time I jumped into a Telltale game, I was like a kid in a candy store, because I knew I was going on the adventure of a lifetime, every time. In 2017, my Game of the Year was Telltale’s Guardians of the Galaxy. I kid you not. Now in 2018, they brought us Batman: The Enemy Within, and half of The Walking Dead‘s Final Season before their devastating studio closure. Thankfully, Skybound has given the former employees money and space to finish out their baby and give 2019 a run for its money with two more episodes. I’m hopeful for the rest of the season, and I’m hopeful these Telltale team members find new homes that treat them well and respect them for what they are: geniuses.
While 2018 saw the release of quite a few incredible single-player experiences, sometimes you simply can’t beat the classics. I found myself falling in love all over again with some forgotten franchises through the many sequels and remakes of recent years that I had missed. Shadow of the Colossus comes to mind, which had a remaster in 2017. I remember watching my dad play that back in the day on PS2, and it was wonderful getting to relive my childhood memories in glorious full HD. I also played Watch Dogs 2, and The Crew 2, two of Ubisoft’s latest titles and sequels to some of my favorite games ever. Everything Ubisoft makes holds a special place in my heart, but these two games had me enjoying the ride the entire time. Lastly – and most recently, seeing as I beat this a couple weeks ago – I replayed Portal 2, one of my favorite games of all time (check out my complete list here). Remember when I said, “sometimes you simply can’t beat the classics?” Well, consider Portal 2 exhibits a-z. This game will forever be timely, topical, and perfection from start to finish. Even at its most stressful – that goddamn repulsion gel trips me up every time – Portal 2 is fun as hell. It’s the perfect blend of stupidly hard puzzle game and hilariously dry comedy, making something so beautiful that you can’t help but want to experience it over and over and over again. I can’t even recall why I wanted to go back and play Portal 2. It was just there, and I said: “why not?” It’s simultaneously not too long but not too short, it has some parts where you need to think and some moments where you can just sit back and laugh, and compared to the first Portal which can get somewhat repetitive, Portal 2 never gets old. So yeah, I played it again, and you should, too. Spice up your 2019, and treat yourself.
Yet another title that’s better suited as a category: “Games With My Sister.” My 13-year-old sister, Sutton, and I have played games together for years. Starting with LEGO games, we soon progressed into harder puzzle game territory – she’s a huge fan of Never Alone –and throughout the years we’ve enjoyed finding couch co-op games to play together (as hard as that may be). This year we busted out a lot of older games to play, as 2018 itself wasn’t very kind to us in the co-op department. Granted, we don’t have a Nintendo Switch yet for those exclusive Mario party games, so that may be part of the problem. Fortunately, a lot of games kept us entertained this year, from the PS4 version of Gang Beasts (a must-have party game, by the way), to the remastered LEGO Harry Potter Collection, to last year’s Knack 2, the sequel to a game we’d never imagined adoring as much as we did. But I think if you were to take a poll (between the two of us), you’d find that our absolute favorite game we played this year was Cuphead. Let it be known, we are not the best at video games. Let it also be known, Cuphead is an insanely difficult video game. So above all, let it be known that we didn’t exactly finish Cuphead, per se. I’ll admit, we played the whole game on simple and were never able to confront the final boss. But that’s beside the point. What matters is I found a game to play with my young sister that genuinely put our skills to the test. Not only were her video gaming abilities questioned, but our teamwork as a whole was, as well. We died and died and died until we found out the perfect solution to every boss fight, and getting to this point was as fun as it was strenuous. Even though we hated the game, ourselves, and each other a large majority of the time, we still walked away from Cuphead feeling satisfied and delighted. While the music is incredible and the aesthetic is brilliant, the gameplay is downright brutal. But we low-key loved every second of it.
I couldn’t leave without mentioning some actual games of 2018! Of course, Red Dead Redemption 2 needs to be on any list there is. I don’t care if it’s “What game to get this holiday season,” “What game to get for your new Xbox One X,” or “Best video game horses,” Red Dead 2 should top nearly all of them (Epona is really hard to beat). It is a thoroughly excellent game that deserves all the recognition it’s receiving. However, my personal Game of the Year is something completely different, albeit just as red…and blue. Insomniac’s Spider-Man was expected to be something truly special from its inception. While a lot of Spider-Man video games before it have been hit or miss when it comes to doing the web-slinger justice, 2018’s rendition was projected to be as spectacular as they come (“ultimate” or “amazing” would’ve worked there, too). So finally, when Spider-Man was released on PS4, it quickly took the gaming world by storm, fulfilling every promise and delivering one of the most epic comic book video games in history. As you can probably tell by now, I wasn’t disappointed either. Fluid combat mixed with upgradeable super abilities and gadgets made for the most true-to-life Spidey experience I’ve ever had the pleasure of playing. Couple this with an awesome story that includes some of my favorite supervillains, and the most satisfying traversal system in any video game – ever – and there’s no question that Spider-Man is hands-down my Game of the Year, as well as one of the greatest video games I have ever laid eyes on. It’s beautiful, it’s fun, it’s courageous; it’s a joyride from start to finish. I thought I couldn’t thank Insomniac any more for giving me such an incredible childhood with games like Spyro the Dragon, but now I’m even more grateful for how they handled my favorite superhero, and made my 2018 one for the history books.
As a matter of fact, thank you to all the developers that played a part in my 2018, even the ones who didn’t make the list. Thank you to those people making PC exclusives, and PlayStation VR games that I don’t have the luxury of experiencing just yet. Thank you to every single person in the video game industry who works tirelessly every single day to deliver a fantastical escape from this sometimes bleak world we live in. 2018 was a year full of political turmoil and crime after scandal after war. But at the end of the day? We have video games to take us away from it all, and it’s all thanks to the industrious, passionate developers. You guys are the real heroes of the modern age. So thanks again, and keep on doing what you’re doing. Here’s to yet another life-changing year.