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Man, 2018 was another great year for video games. And while a lot of the blockbuster games I was looking forward to delivered, I fell in love with a bunch of unexpected indies this year.

I even have a game in my top 10 that made me a believer in VR! That’s something I never thought would have happened earlier in the year. Still, if you know me well, my top pick for 2018 isn’t going to surprise you.

10. Monster Hunter: World

Above: Get em!

Image Credit: GamesBeat

Developers: Capcom
Publisher: Capcom
Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC

So many online-focused games launch in a rough shape and then become better after months of updates. Monster Hunter: World was fun and felt complete from the very beginning.


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I never was into this series much before, but World turned me into a fan. Fighting its giant monsters feels satisfying, the hub town is gorgeous, and the game manages to be enjoyable both with friends or on your own.

9. Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon

The 8-bit spinoff of a game that hasn't come out yet.

Above: The 8-bit spinoff of a game that hasn’t come out yet.

Image Credit: Inti Creates

Developers: Inti Creates
Publisher: Inti Creates
Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch, 3DS, Vita, PC

We got a lot of awesome retro side-scrollers in 2018, but I’m worried Curse of the Moon isn’t getting as much attention as the others. A lot of 2D games take inspiration from the more open Castlevania games (aka Metroidvanias), but Bloodstained is a celebration of the franchises’ earlier, more linear titles on the NES and 16-bit systems.

Specifically, Curse of the Moon is a spiritual successor to Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse, arguably the best game in the Castlevania franchise. But it’s more than just a tribute. Bloodstained has some of the best pixel art I’ve seen in any game, and its bosses are gigantic and clever. If you like Castlevania, you need to play this one.

8. The Messenger

Now in blazing 16-bit!

Above: Now in blazing 16-bit!

Image Credit: Steam

Developers: Sabotage Studio
Publisher: Devolver Digital
Platform: Switch, PC

Hey, look! Another retro side-scroller! The Messenger takes inspiration from a bunch of different classic franchises, including Ninja Gaiden, Mega Man, and Castlevania. But it manages to combine those elements with enough of its own ideas to create something that feels new.

The game is also surprisingly funny, and a fun twist halfway through the game has you shifting between 8-bit and 16-bit worlds. The platforming also feels great, thanks largely to a creative jumping mechanic that gives you extra leaps every time you hit an enemy or projectile while in the air.

7. Astro Bot Rescue Mission

Astro Bot demonstrates how precision 3D platforming can become considerably easier in VR, thanks to stereoscopic displays.

Above: Astro Bot demonstrates how precision 3D platforming can become considerably easier in VR.

Image Credit: Sony

Developers: SIE Japan Studio
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Platform: PlayStation 4

I hadn’t bought into the latest round of VR, mostly because I didn’t find any of the software compelling enough. Astro Bot is so good it makes me a believer in VR.

This PSVR exclusive is a fantastic 3D platformer that has the same level of charm you’d expect in a Mario game, but it also uses VR to do things you couldn’t do in a normal game like this, like having to peek your head around a corner to keep track of your character or watch as rescued robots fly into your controller. Astro Bot has me smiling the entire time I play it.

6. Dead Cells

Dead Cells plays and looks incredible.

Above: Time to start over.

Image Credit: Motion Twin

Developers: Motion Twin
Publisher: Motion Twin
Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch, PC

Oh, boy, its retro platformer No. 3! Dead Cells is hard to put down. You try to get through the game in a single go. Death means you have to start back from the beginning. But you can earn some character upgrades that persist through death.

But more important, you can feel yourself get better at the game each time. And its combat and platforming are so responsive and satisfying, you never really mind having to play though the same randomly-generated levels multiple times.

5. Mega Man 11

Run, Mega Man!

Above: Run, Mega Man!

Image Credit: GamesBeat

Developers: Capcom
Publisher: Capcom
Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch, PC

I like Mega Man. Anyone who knows me knows this. Even my mom knows I love Mega Man, and she isn’t really sure what a Mega Man is. So I was looking forward to Mega Man 11 all year.

Much to my delight, it turned out to be great. Not only is is it pretty (it uses 3D character models, but they capture the feel of the 2D originals), but the levels are some of the most creative in the franchise’s history. I love how the typical ice level turned into an adventure inside frozen natural history museum and how levels would revolve around specific gimmicks (like running from a wall of fire or bouncing off of balloons). We’ve had a lot of great Mega Man games through the years, and Mega Man 11 doesn’t fall short of its predecessors.

4. God of War

The game's hero looks up at the character he must protect.

Above: The game’s hero looks up at the character he must protect.

Image Credit: Sony Santa Monica

Developers: SIE Santa Monica Studio
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Platform: PlayStation 4

I thought I had outgrown God of War. The series’ focus on gore, violence, and an almost comical level of rage didn’t do much for me in its later installments. So I was delighted to see this new entry take a more thoughtful approach. Kratos’ anger is no longer something that we cheer and laugh at, but a flaw he has to work through.

Of course, God of War revolves around combat, and the fighting is always great here. Kratos’s magic flying axe helps make the action feel different from past games while still focusing on satisfying combos. The scale and beauty of the game’s Norse-inspired world also helps make God of War feel special.

3. Celeste

Above: You gotta climb that mountain.

Image Credit: Matt Makes Games

Developers: Matt Makes Games
Publisher: Matt Makes Games
Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch, PC

OK, I swear this is the last retro side-scroller on the list. But, wow, Celeste is special. The platforming — which has you jumping off of walls, dashing through the air, and navigating evolving and challenging levels — is about as good as it gets in gaming.

Celeste is also just so darn cute. I feel like a grandma while playing it. I just want to reach through the screen and pinch everyone’s cheeks while telling them they’re adorable.

2. Marvel’s Spider-Man


Above: Spider-Man kicks butt.

Image Credit: Sony

Developers: Insomniac
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Platform: PlayStation 4

Insomniac’s take on Spider-Man gives us the webslinger’s best gaming adventure yet. This excels at everything that should be important for a Spider-Man game. The swinging is thrilling, New York is a gigantic playground for your acrobatics, and the fighting showcases gadgets and agility.

This game manages to modernize Spider-Man without sacrificing the core of the character. Peter Parker is still an all-around good guy who’s always in just a bit over his head. It captures the Spider-Man’s heart.

1. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate

Fountain of Dreams is my favorite level.

Above: Fountain of Dreams is my favorite level.

Image Credit: GamesBeat

Developers: Bandai Namco, Sora Ltd.
Publisher: Nintendo
Platform: Switch

I love Super Smash Bros., and Ultimate may be the best installment in the fighting game series yet. The roster is huge, the new characters (like Metroid’s Ridley and Donkey Kong Country’s King K. Rool) feel great, and the single-player offerings are more substantial than they’ve ever been.

My only real gripe revolves around the game lacking online services. But, honestly, I spend much more time playing these games with friends on the couch. Yeah, I wish the online stuff was better, but it’s not enough to knock this game off my top spot. More than any other game on this list, I know I’ll be playing Ultimate well into 2019 (and likely beyond).

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