Please note that this is not a Top 10 Best Video Games of 2018 list. Rather, this is a list of the best video games I played in 2018, as in it doesn’t have to have been released in 2018 to make it, only that I had to have finished (a majority of) it in 2018.
This is a list that will likely be comprised of games no one has ever heard before. With my job as a video game review for KeenGamer, I come into contact with a lot of indie games, and it tends to have an influence as to what I find interesting within the video game industry. If one comes here expecting things like Assassin’s Creed Odyssey or God of War, they will be disappointed to know that not only did they not make this list, but I haven’t even played them. My experience with video games has slowly become a niche of two types: indie and Nintendo.
I’m not completely sure of how many video games I played in 2018, but I know the quantity was plentiful. There could certainly be more (including games I would play outside of review work), absolutely, though I think this list covers a nice variety of games I’ve come into contact with that offer different things to the general gamer. With all that said, presenting the best games I had the pleasure of playing in 2018.
10. Soulcalibur VI
This game was actually somewhat of a disappointment for me. I was in absolute hype mode in the months leading up to this game’s release. It looked phenomenal; the franchise was going back to its roots and the gameplay looked quick and succinct. When I finally got my hands on it, my early impressions were rather negative, and the feeling dragged on for a decent portion of the game for me.
As my playtime grew, I became more and more fond of it. Not for what I expected, but what the game ultimately provided. I ended up pretty saitsfied with it, though still somewhat disappointed. I enjoyed its approach to the narrative, and its focus on developing the characters and their relationships with others. There hasn’t been a game within the franchise yet that has done that to this level. For that, I think the game should be applauded.
When it came down to it, there was only one mode that I thoroughly enjoyed (Chronicles of the Soul), one mode that was a major downgrade from previous games (Character Creation), and one mode that was just not my cup of tea (Libra of Souls). One would think that would garner a negative score, but the overall gameplay experience has never been better, which saved it from a mediocre score. It’s an up-and-down experience that generally pointed upward. Deep down, though, I wish it were better.
9. Incredible Mandy
Definitely one of the more interesting experiences of 2018. Incredible Mandy touched my heart in a way most games of its quality wouldn’t. I could feel its soul reaching out to me, and the passionate guy that I am, took it in and gave it a warm home and a hospitable meal.
There are a lot of little nagging issues with this game that make it a little hard to recommend. For me, the intrigue of the story and the overall dream-like aesthetic pulled me in past the first level and never let go. Complete with tranquil soundtrack and hand-drawn animated cutscenes, there’s a lot to take in outside the gameplay. This complete package helped in absolving the slow pace of the game’s levels.
Perhaps most of all, this game is fairly d e e p. A somewhat convoluted and open-ended story that touches upon tragedy and fate. Even now, I’m not really sure what the creator was trying to state exactly, but it didn’t hurt trying to theorize upon completion. Wonderfully varied and only occasionally annoying as hell, Incredible Mandy is in the title.
8. The Spiral Scouts
This one’s just odd. Really odd, really dark, and borderline offensive. The abrasive comedy is part of the fun with this “Dear God, please do not judge the game by its design” title from the creator of Huniepop.
A weird amalgamation of satirical girl scouts and point-and-click adventures, this puzzle game was incredibly difficult. I’ve mentioned a few times
to anyone who would listen about the infamous safe puzzle that had me sitting in confusion for two hours, only to give up and cry for help in the Steam forums. Other puzzles took me anywhere from three seconds to forty-five minutes to figure out. The range of difficulty is pretty skewed, but almost always rewarding. And the dialogue is a hoot!
While I don’t find myself all that interested in Huniepop, if the creator were to make a sequel or spiritual successor to The Spiral Scouts, I’d absolutely check it out. His writing style is charming (for those who enjoy dark humor) and he knows how to craft a good puzzle. I just wish he made the game a little more varied, y’know, like something other than travel, puzzle, travel, puzzle, dick joke, and so on.
Among my most played games of 2018 (outside of my #1; hint, hint), Spoorky kind of came out of nowhere and took a good thirty hours of my time around the its release. There’s a lot of potential for this game that makes it so addicting to play (for a while).
It’s a lot like Super Mario Maker, though in my opinion, better. There’s less resources in its stage creator mode, but what one can do is a lot simpler in execution with the fast-paced platforming ability and the attack feature. I’ve developed such a rapport with it that I’ve found myself at the top of its leaderboards after a few weeks. I am just far too competitive for my own good.
I haven’t played it in some time, yet the absence will probably only create better opportunity for new levels being created. Shortly after the game’s release, there weren’t that many levels to choose from, which worried me slightly. Now, there’s far more levels than one would even care to have, always having something new to return to. It’s a fun game, assuming the platforming genre is your thing.
6. Pokémon Ruby
– I Never Posted Any Extended Thoughts Anywhere. Oops.
Like with my 2018 Best Anime List, I’m willing to give replayed games a pass if it’s after a million years of not playing it. In the case of Pokémon Ruby, I can’t remember giving it a full playthrough at any point past having it for my Gameboy Advance SP in 200(?). A tragic memory I still have is mysteriously losing the game one day as a young teenager, never to find it again.
Here’s an interesting (debatable) factoid about myself: Groudon was, at one point, my favorite pokémon ever. I thought it looked so goddamn great that I dubbed it my favorite the moment I laid eyes upon it. Love at first sight. Its influence even had me dubbing the ground type as my favorite pokémon type. Outside the gushing, it made me want to play the game just so I could catch it. Even outside this petty goal, I found the game to be really mesmerizing.
The spritework for this game is really superb. The upgrade from the second generation to this one is an amazing achievement. Not to mention the hammering out of certain in-game mechanics to make the game more concise and strategic. Pokémon Ruby (with Sapphire) was a great next step in the Pokémon franchise… even if it started a trend of Pokémon narratives that would eventually bore the shit out of me. Replaying it as an adult, I didn’t find myself that turned off by the story in this game, perhaps because the legendaries weren’t thrust onto you the moment the game starts (like with Diamond/Pearl). I also liked the game’s heavier focus on trainers outside the main rival.
What I ended up discovering was that postgame content was severely lacking. I did not care at all about anything that came after the end credits. There was basically nothing left to do, a far cry from Silver and Gold. Without that, it felt somewhat shorter in comparison, leaving a strand of disappointment near the end. Regardless, it’s a solid adventure/RPG that still stands up very well to today’s standards.
I don’t know if I ever actually confirmed this, but I liked Deltarune more than Undertale. It feels like a more advanced version, with all the charm and soul that went into the previous incarnation. Toby Fox stated after the game’s release that this was closer to his original intention for Undertale, and it definitely shows.
I almost think the writing is stronger in this game than in his previous work—and I’m referring only to the comedy aspect. I never really found Undertale that funny, but Deltarune made me snicker a few times in a third of the time. This title also boasts a much better dedication to developing characters in a natural fashion. Suzie is a great edition to the universe, and her friendship with Lancer, whom I originally thought would be just as irritating from start to finish, is heartwarming. Fox has a good imagination for the most basic components of RPG-esque storytelling, which wonderfully complements his text-heavy games.
I like the game a lot. It’s a shame that Fox doesn’t think he’ll be able to release any sequels in the near future, as what he’s provided thus far is a great two-hour treat for the masses, which was completely unprompted. If there ever comes a time where he manages the resources to create at a faster pace, I think he has a genuine future within the gaming industry—with some arguing he’s already become a legend.
4. Rising Dusk
I said it best in my review: “Do you like Donkey Kong Country?”
Me? I fucking love Donkey Kong Country (the latter two, anyway). Rising Dusk took everything that was good from those two games and made something completely new.
It’s like Donkey Kong Country meets eastern mythology, sporting lo-fi tunes that one can bob their head at while trying to remember how to do math. Indeed, this game requires some number-counting, spinning the coin-collecting genre by its side. It’s so controlled, so methodical that I can’t help but feel invigorated trying to figure out every little trick the developer throws at me. It’s great fun.
And this game is on Steam for seven dollars! That’s an amazing deal considering the original Donkey Kong Country games were probably $40-50 in their time. It may not be as loaded in content, but the variety and soul is there, down to the very map-traveling aesthetic and secret compartments to be found throughout the game. It has great style, a fun shtick, and a smooth-as-silk soundtrack. A truly underrated gem.
The more I think of this game, the more I like it. It’s bizarre, chaotic, and mind-bending, and orange, and green, and explosive. You shoot at things and they explode, in hues of green and orange. When you travel to the next level, it goes to black. Emptiness. You wake up, and you’re flying again, destroying and slaughtering anything and everything. You are fighting the enemy. Never lose sight of your goal.
It’s so weird I almost love it just for that. This game could be a broken mess and I’d still probably try and justify it as intentional. The gameplay itself is already fun and visibly wacky. It’s the implied story that really pushes this game over the top. I can’t even fathom what’s happening, but I know it’s awesome. Just kidding: I can fathom it. I promise you I can. Just don’t tell me I can’t. I wouldn’t be able to handle that. It would make me want to hide away.
Multiple references to other forms of fiction (Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann; I also theorize the story is influenced by Neon Genesis Evangelion) only adds to the game’s massive scope. It’s much larger than it seems, and even repeated playthroughs feel motivating and never cumbersome. One even accumulates energy for multiple continues the more they play. It’s only a matter of time before the player becomes the best fighter. Then everything would be solved. There would be no more conflict. Finally. Peace. Justice. Harmony. Silence.
2. Mortal Manor
I feel like I have talked about this game way too much already. It may not seem like it here, but I’ve made my case for this game on a variety of other platforms. It’s just that great.
I adore this game. It’s the best game I’ve reviewed for Keengamer thus far and it’s an absolute shame that the developer seems to have disappeared off the face of the internet. There’s a great chunk of creativity here that takes one back to the olden days of ultra-hardcore video game difficulty. That isn’t what I love about this game, of course, but the dedication to showcasing that vision makes it great for me.
This game is extremely difficult near the beginning, when the character is weak and slow. As the game continues, one’s strength only increases and their resources grow along with it. The more powerful one is, the more fun this game is, and the progress from weakling to masterclass is so invigorating. There was one point in the game where I was gliding through rooms like I designed the game myself. It was a blast. I loved it. This game pissed me the hell off, too.
The patience is worth it. This, like Rising Dusk, is fairly cheap on Steam, so it’s a tremendous deal for the overall quality. Mortal Manor does exactly what it promises to do and more, and I love it for it. I hope the developer’s doing alright.
1. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
Is anyone surprised? Better question: Is anyone surprised that this is one of only two Nintendo titles on this list, and the only one actually released in 2018? It’s kind of odd to me. It’s like Nintendo only released this game and that’s it. It’d still probably be worth it.
I didn’t like Super Smash Bros. Wii U. It felt like an incomplete, jumbled mess that solely focused on the multiplayer experience. This means nothing to most, I’m aware, but I’ve always cherished a great solo experience, one that that game didn’t provide whatsoever. Ultimate solves this with the inclusion of World of Light, an adventure mode the heights of Brawl‘s Subspace Emissary. While it doesn’t have the narrative significance, it’s an incredibly fun and rewarding adventure mode that made me love Smash Bros. again.
While the game mode content seems a little less than its predecessor, Ultimate makes up for this by making the modes feel more creative, like the returning Classic Mode and boss battles during it. The expanded roster, stage listing, and soundtrack makes this feel like an amazing deal for only $60. Nintendo created quite possibly the ultimate Smash Bros. experience, and I can’t see how they could ever top themselves. This has become my favorite Smash Bros. game ever, and I have sunk more time into this game than any first-party Nintendo title since Breath of the Wild; before that, I can’t even recall.
It’s an amazing game, and its quality rivals that of Super Mario Odyssey. This might be the best game Nintendo has released in the last decade, maybe more. I’d be willing to look back and see if I’d agree with that, but for now, I’d like to soak in every inch of this phenomenal game. If this game at all interests you and you have a Switch lying around, it’s a must-buy. Take it from me: Nintendo’s bitch since 1996.